"This sense of moral obligation must be reawakened if we are to survive as a civilization" was said on a very warm evening September 11 of 1987 at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina. I was seated on the field about sixty yards away and to the right of His Holiness John-Paul II. I was one of several hundred non-Roman Catholic clergy invited to participate in this very special ecumenical. I was honored by the opportunity.
His passing yesterday set me to remembering that night. Coming out of the north tunnel onto the field to cheering (most who come onto the field from that tunnel get booed). It was all I could do not to cheer as well over what was happening. eighty thousand-plus people, Catholic and protestant, gathered together in the largly anti-Catholic South.
The crowd began gathering in the heat of the day, bear in mind now that September in SC is just as hot as July and August. Our "holding room" was crowded and the air conditioners couldn't keep up, and black polyester robes get hot!
None of us really minded. This was something that was unprecedented here and is unlikely to happen again. As I sat listening to the Pope I was struck by his grasp of the spiritual forces at work in the US at that time...and many of the things he said still hold true.
How many of our spiritual problems are simply "manifestations of the agge-old problem of selfishness" But the one line of the sermon that seered itself into my memory was, "You cannot insist on the right to choose without also insisting on the responsibility to choose good." As we look back on the events of the last couple of weeks, those words echoed louder in my mind than they had since I first heard him say them. As we insist on the right to choose, let us impose on ourselves the responsibility to choose good.