Several of us went last night to watch the new movie Selma. It was a powerful experience, and each of us was moved to tears during different scenes of the movie. The film was especially meaningful to me because my father lived in Selma during the years of violence and protest, though he was too young to remember anything. I think it’s too early to post any reflection on it yet – we’re still working through our response in conversations around the table and after evening prayers.

In other news, the Vatican announced this month that this year’s World Day of Peace would focus on the theme “No Longer Slaves, But Brothers and Sisters.” In a beautiful encyclical, Pope Francis called for an end to all types of physical or economic bondage. He specified subjugated laborers, migrants, those forced into prostitution, child soldiers, victims of trafficking, and those held by terrorist groups. Yet he also called attention to a more insidious form of slavery, which “is rooted in a notion of the human person which allows him or her to be treated as an object.” He wrote: “Whenever sin corrupts the human heart and distances us from our Creator and our neighbours, the latter are no longer regarded as beings of equal dignity, as brothers or sisters sharing a common humanity, but rather as objects. Whether by coercion or deception, or by physical or psychological duress, human persons created in the image and likeness of God are deprived of their freedom, sold and reduced to being the property of others. They are treated as means to an end.” All of us are guilty at times of attempting to enslave others in this sense.

Edward Braxton, bishop of Belleville, penned an excellent reflection on “No Longer Slaves” honing in specifically on the racial divide in the Unites States in light of the recent events and the experience of black Catholics. His treatment is balanced, and includes practical steps that individuals and churches can take to combat racism in our communities.