It is Walter Bruggeman who insists that good preachers must have the bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other, isn't it? The gospel and daily life have to have a conversation if any of it is going to make sense.
However, I'd like to invite Fr. Bruggeman to prison one of these days.
It happens, often enough, when there is a disaster somewhere in the world, or more specifically, in the United States, someone at the prison will have a relative in that place.
Remember 9/11? Someone way out here in the Northwest had a father working in the North Tower.
When the Columbia shuttle exploded? Right in the backyard of a man's sister in Texas.
Tsunami in Southeast Asia? Do you know how many Pacific Islanders are imprisoned in Washington State?
Hurricane Katrina? We burned up the computer wires trying to get in touch with the Red Cross and find families in the Diaspora.
Somehow we missed out on the Haiti connection, at least a direct one, but a young woman who'd attended high school in Tacoma died at the orphanage where she worked in Port au Prince.
Early last week, we got word that a man's brother was in the trauma hospital in Seattle with gunshot wounds. While I waited on hold to confirm the news, I pulled up the Seattle newspapers website and read about a man who'd tried to rob an armored car. The hospital couldn't confirm or deny his presence at the hospital.
And then there was the mother who called to say her niece had been killed in a drive-by shooting. Even while I got the information from her, I was pulling up another news site. It was on the police blotter, to be followed by longer articles later.
There is a shadow side to all this. Many of the men I work with have been in the newspapers themselves. Their sentencing may have warranted a paragraph or two. Maybe there were several articles, interviews with victims, drawn-out appeals that frustrated everyone. Not everyone makes the news, but many do.
I keep the newspaper in one hand, or in my computer bookmarks, not just to read the news, but sure that I will find a familiar name.