Skip to main content

Angel Unawares: Catholic Social Teaching on the Right of Migration

‘Angels Unawares’ Memorializes Migrants and Refugees

Arts, On Campus

Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz made a replica of the 3.8-ton, 20-foot long sculpture “Angels Unawares.” Pictured here at Boston College which housed this piece of art for the month of November, 2020. Depicting a crowd pressing together seeking a step forward, some of the figures depicted include Jesus, Mary, and Joseph fleeing to Egypt, a Cherokee walking the Trail of Tears, an Irish man leaving the potato famine, a Jew fleeing Nazi Germany, a Polish woman fleeing communism, a Muslim escaping civil war in Syria. Mother Cabrini, the patron saint of immigrants is depicted, as well as an angel assembled in following, showing God’s presence amidst people's movement toward better lives for themselves and their families.

A current event Oct 24, 2021 that invites papal reaction: “Don’t Send Migrants Back to Libya and ‘Inhumane’ Camps.”

 Pope Francis’ encyclical Evangelii Gaudium or The Joy of the Gospel no 233:

“Realities are greater than ideas. This principle has to do with incarnation of the word and its being put into practice: “by this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is from God” (1 Jn 4:2). The principle of reality, of a word already made flesh and constantly striving to take flesh anew, is essential to evangelization. It helps us to see that the Church’s history is a history of salvation, to be mindful of those saints who inculturated the Gospel in the life of our peoples and to reap the fruits of the Church’s rich bi-millennial tradition, without pretending to come up with a system of thought detached from this treasury, as if we wanted to reinvent the Gospel. At the same time, this principle impels us to put the word into practice, to perform works of justice and charity which make that word fruitful.”

Papal exhortation, eg. Pope Francis’ The Church of Mercy: A vision for the Church, Loyola Press, 2014. This class of public teaching, general audiences, homilies, instructions to bishops, or to a lay movement. This selection “Refugees and Those Uprooted from Life” was an address given to the Participants in the Plenary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, 24 May 2013:

“Above all I ask leaders and legislators and the entire international community to confront the reality of those who have been displaced by force, with effective projects and new approaches in order to protect their dignity, to improve the quality of their life, and to face the challenges that are emerging from modern forms of persecution, oppression, and slavery. They are human people--I stress this--who are appealing for solidarity and assistance, who need urgent action but, also and above all, understanding and kindness. God is good; let us imitate God.

[The condition of displaced peoples] cannot leave us indifferent. Moreover, as Church, we should remember that in tending the wounds of refugees, evacuees, and the victims of trafficking, we are putting into practice the commandment of love that Jesus bequeathed to us when he identified with the foreigner, with those who are suffering, with all the innocent victims of violence and exploitation. We should reread more often chapter 25 of the Gospel according to Mathew in which he speaks of the Last Judgment (see Matt. 25:31-46).

Here are Regional Bishop Conference source


(USCCB website on “Justice for Immigrants”)

(Umbrella USCCB website that has links to the two sites above)

Paulist Vision

“The main question of the hour is, How can religion be made compatible with a high degree of liberty and intelligence?”--Isaac Hecker

20 years before Pope Leo XIII started to speak to the world of the problems generated by the Industrial Revolution, Isaac Hecker attended Vatican I in 1869 as a proxy for Bishop Rosecrans of Columbus, Ohio, spreading his democratizing ideas, “but the times were not ripe for these new American ways of doing things.” --John J. Behnke. Isaac Thomas Hecker: Spiritual Pilgrim. Paulist Press, 2017. p47.


“The closer they are to God, the closer they become to one another; and the closer they are to one another, the closer they become to God.”--Dorothea of Gaza, cited in Roberta C. Bondi’s To Pray & to Love: Conversations on Prayer with the Early Church. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991.


Popular posts from this blog

Closing Guantánamo: 2021 in Review

7306 days open--and what are we doing about it? It is a credit to a committed coalition of human rights defenders that we have seen bi-annual attention to the issue since Obama left office. A closer look will show some of the minor victories month by month. This year in review is  partial.  Since a year ago, former prisoners of Guantánamo organized their  open letter to President Biden specifying demands --our role has been to amplify that letter.  Jan 11, 2021 Amnesty International publishes " USA Right the Wrong: Guantánamo Decision Time " Jan. 22, 2021 Ahmed Rabbani, still prisoner at Guantánamo has published in UK Independent a letter to Biden :  When I was kidnapped from Karachi in 2002 and sold to the CIA for a bounty with a false story that I was a terrorist called Hassan Ghul, my wife and I had just had the happy news that she was pregnant. She gave birth to my son Jawad a few months later. I have never been allowed to meet my own child. President Biden is a man who s

The Dragon's Story

Once she raised two eggs on a cliff on the moor. Word spread the Dragon had not been seen. Was she gone? Had she taken ill? Who would protect them! Armed bandits were the first to plan their raid on the nearby villagers. First they sent out a search party. As they neared, they saw she was in her lair. "Why are you here? I should ask you," the Dragon said. "I am the dragon but I fly no more. I fly no more yet am the dragon still." They thought she said, "I cannot fly now." They reported she was roosting eggs. That she did not fly. "Were they golden?" "How do you know?" "Is it true they have magic power?" On they talked until they believed it must be worth the risk. Now the Captain was a pious pirate, the best of the lot. He had risen as chief of them having some schooling in him before he ran from home and lettered, he added arithmetic, and map reading, and had made himself useful until he knew several of the seven seas. He was

Crucified Victims and Desecrated Earth

Photo shared by Art Laffin of Dorothy Day Catholic Worker with banner outside the Pentagon Good Friday, April 2, 2021       Today we mourn to mobilize and disrupt modern day crucifixions. (Revised from original script prepared by Art Laffin for vigil at Pentagon).  Crucified Victim #1--Victim of Torture   Jesus was a torture victim who was condemned by religious authorities and executed by the Roman empire. We remember all torture victims, past and present, who have suffered and died from the effects of torture. We remember those prisoners who died at secret U.S. military black sites, as well as the nine men who died at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo.  Last year Djamel Ameziane, a former Guantánamo prisoner, was legally and morally vindicated as the first complaint related to the "war on terror" in which the US was found responsible to a victim of torture, according to  the long awaited decision May 27, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) .      Let us c