Tag Archives: Bishop Madden

Listen with open hearts and minds in 2018

Five years ago tonight I joined friends at the Holy Family Catholic Parish in Gaza City to celebrate Jesus’ birth.

This year I attended midnight Mass in America’s First Cathedral — the Basilica in Baltimore — with Bishop Madden presiding.

Xmas Eve Mass Holy Communion 2

Holy Communion at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve 2017 in Baltimore’s Basilica

Bishop Madden is a very special man. I first met him in 2015 when a friend invited me to join his monthly “Bishop’s Walks” in different distressed Baltimore neighborhoods.

Bishop Madden October 2015

Bishop Madden and Lora – October 2015

He believes in putting words and prayer into action, and regularly leads groups (usually 30-50 people) around neighborhoods that have recently witnessed violence. I’ve probably joined a dozen or more of these “Bishop’s Walks” and participated in the songs and prayers for community peace and healing.

Bishop Madden leads walk

Bishop Madden leads a walk through a Baltimore neighborhood.

Then I learned that Bishop Madden had lived and worked in Gaza City many years ago, and my bond with him was cemented.  Every time I’ve prepared to travel back to the Middle East, I’ve ask him to pray for me. He does and he asks me to pray for him. I do.

Tonight on Christmas Eve his sermon focused (of course) on the birth of Jesus, emphasizing that Jesus came to live among humanity to provide hope and an example of how we must treat each other. Then he mentioned “September 23, 2017 in Albuquerque, New Mexico” and my ears perked up.

Bishop Madden spoke of a police officer in Albuquerque who responded to a burglary, and when he got to the scene he saw a man and woman both shooting up with needles in the yard outside. The woman was clearly very pregnant, it turned out later that she was 8 months pregnant. The officer talked with them and the woman said she didn’t want to keep her baby, she knew she couldn’t raise the child. At that moment, the officer knew that he could raise the child. He and his wife had 4 children at home, the youngest was 10 months old. He went home to confer with his wife, which drew chuckles from the people in the Basilica. They have since adopted the baby as their own.

Xmas Eve Mass nativity

Nativity scene at the Basilica

Bishop Madden shared a couple of other examples of how average people who have their hearts and minds open to possibilities, can hear the spirit lead them to do good things. In these troubled times at home and around the world, we must each keep our hearts and minds open to possibilities to do good.

His sermon resonated with me. At the end of the service, Bishop Madden told us he would pray for us to find the good that we are called to do, and then he asked the congregation to pray for him for the same reason.

Xmas Eve Mass Bishop Madden 2As everyone filed out of the Basilica, Bishop Madden stood outside greeting and wishing everyone Merry Christmas. I went up to him and gave him a card I made especially for him with a photo of the Christmas Eve Mass at the Holy Family Church in Gaza City. Bishop Madden’s eyes twinkled as he thanked me. And I wished him a Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to my family and friends, near and far!

May we each find the good that we are called to do in 2018.

Xmas Eve Mass card






Filed under Peaceful, People, Spiritual - Religion

Peace Walks are Good for the Soul

I joined Bishop Madden and about 50 other people for my second Prayer Walk for Peace through a distressed neighborhood in West Baltimore.

Bishop Denis Madden and Lora

Bishop Denis Madden and Lora

With a police escort to manage the traffic, we walked past the vacant, boarded up buildings, past the curious onlookers, singing all the way. We made quite a chorus!


This neighborhood has seen a lot of violence. We stopped at a street corner where a young black man had recently been killed. We prayed for him and his family.


And then we walked on, singing and greeting people along the way.


We ask, O God, that you bless our community;

as well as all our communities.

We raise up those in the darkness of addiction,

gang activity and violence.

For those who have lost their lives on the streets

and for those who still mourn and seek justice.

We pray for the conversion of heart

for ll who choose death over life.

We stopped at an elementary school where gangs regularly make their deals. Young kids are just as likely to hear bullets and police sirens as they are the school bells. Another young man had been shot to death right outside of the school.


Give us, O God, the Depth of Soul

to constrain our might, to resist temptation

and to understand that vengeance begets violence

and that we stand for peace —

not violence wherever we go.

I didn’t know that Justice Thurgood Marshall was raised in this neighborhood!


For you, O God, have been merciful to Us!

For you, O God, have been patient with Us!

For you, O God, have been gracious to Us!

And so may we be merciful,

And patient,

And gracious,

And trusting,

And be the instruments of Your Peace!

We Ask this in the Holy Name of Jesus!


As the sun began to set, we headed back to the church. I felt this Peace Walk was the perfect capstone to my 6 months in Baltimore. I’m leaving Saturday with gratitude in my heart for the love and support of good friends here.


Bishop Madden spent many years living and working in the West Bank and Gaza.  He recommended I visit with the Sisters of Saint Francis when I get to Gaza and wished me a safe trip. He said he would pray for me, and he asked me to pray for him. I will!



Filed under Gaza, Peaceful

Guns, Freedom & Human Dignity


Do Americans have a God-given constitutional right to own guns?

Do guns make us safer?

Is there a difference between the gun violence perpetrated at Columbine and the gun violence in West Baltimore?

What can we do about it?  What about the NRA?

These (and other) questions kept the 90-minute program popping.

Saint Ignatius Catholic Church in Baltimore organized a panel discussion tonight — Guns, Freedom & Human Dignity — with four speakers who were clearly knowledgeable and articulate on the subject.


Bishop Denis J. Madden, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, is a licensed clinical psychologist in both Maryland and Washington, D.C., and leads the Baltimore monthly “Prayer Walk for Peace”. He shared his experience working with violent offenders who resorted to guns in their anger because they had very little self-control. 40% of all guns sold in the U.S. are by private dealers with no background checks. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has been calling on Congress to enact gun control for many years.

The second speaker was Joshua Smith, an Urban Grassroots Baltimore Community Developer and the Director of Intentional Living at the Gallery Church in Baltimore. As an activist, Joshua has worked tirelessly to unite the city of Baltimore during the recent riots, and in the months since. He works with and mentors inner city youth, while helping them with life and occupational skills. He made the discussion very personal.

Bishop Madden (l.) and Pastor Smith (r.)

Bishop Madden (l.) and Joshua Smith (r.)

When he was only 5 years old, cocaine was exploding in the community along with gun violence. The police came to Joshua’s school to teach the students how to dodge bullets with a zig zag motion running down the hall. The gun violence has grown because “guns are as easy to obtain as a pack of cigarettes.” Even though the State of Maryland recently passed SB 281, the guns are coming from Pennsylvania where there are no restrictions, and they’re sold in Baltimore as stolen property — not just handguns but larger assault weapons with large magazines.

Smith said this summer in Baltimore was “horrible” with one act of violent retaliation after another. He noted that blacks are statistically more likely to be killed, and the evidence shows they’ll probably be killed by another black person. I found Joshua Smith’s testimony gut-wrenching.


Jesuit youth asked if there is a difference between the shootings at Columbine and the gun violence in West Baltimore. He noted that the media often portrays the two types of gun violence very differently.

Joshua Smith agreed and said the narrative that separates white gun crime and black gun crime is an example of the “weaponization of blackness”.  The white shooter is portrayed in the mainstream media as an anomaly with a mental or emotional problem that is responsible for the crime, while the black shooter is thought to be inherently dangerous and a product of his dangerous environment. We need to recognize these different narratives and how the media contributes to racist discourse. Smith believes blacks are killing blacks because of a lack of self-love. “I can kill another black person because I don’t like what I see in the mirror.” Smith said the riots in Baltimore earlier this Spring shone a spotlight on the hopelessness and helplessness prevalent in many neighborhoods in the city.


Chief Jim Johnson, the Baltimore County chief of police, and chairman of the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence, spoke to Congress in support of a bill in 2013 requiring a federal background check on gun purchasers.The bill failed by 5 votes!  He told us about another bill proposed by President Obama that hasn’t gained any traction. People who qualify for Social Security disability benefits are often required to have a fiduciary representative appointed to handle their affairs because of mental health issues. Obama’s bill would have denied gun ownership to these people, but Chief Johnson isn’t hopeful that there will be any significant reforms passed in Congress during our lifetimes. He also predicts that we will see a rising number of assault weapons used in cases of gun violence. A local NRA member said he believes that Maryland’s gun control legislation (SB 281 – ban on assault weapons) was politicized, and an unnecessary regulation of gun owners who pay taxes. SB 281 passed in Maryland in 2013, and was upheld by a federal court in 2014.

Firmin DeBrabander, Professor of Philosophy at the Maryland Institute College of Art and author of Do Guns Make Us Free? Democracy and the Armed Society, has studied the National Rifle Association (NRA) and had some thoughtful comments about NRA’s power as a lobbying force in Congress.  Why is the NRA so powerful?  DeBrabander believes the answer rests in NRA’s successful branding of guns with “freedom”.  The NRA connects the Second Amendment to the preservation of all of the other freedoms in the Constitution. The NRA magazine is America’s First Freedom. The NRA organizes freedom cruises. Guns = Freedom which sells well to the American public. Ten states now have “campus carry laws” allowing students and teachers to carry concealed weapons. Nine states are considering passing it. In 2014, Georgia passed a “Guns Everywhere” law. The United States is definitely an outlier in the community of nations in gun ownership and gun violence.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court in recent years (2008) has found that the Second Amendment provides an individual right to possess guns, the Heller decision also upholds the government’s responsibility to regulate guns. The take-away message for me was —- whether we are Catholics, law enforcement, activists, victims of gun violence or fit in another category, we must all work together to get strong federal gun control legislation passed

Bishop Madden

Bishop Madden

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Filed under Peaceful, People, Politics, US Policy