In about 20 minutes the First Presbyterian Church of Dallas will be holding a Palm Sunday procession to celebrate the day on the streets of downtown Dallas.
Yesterday I read a story about the first Catholic church opening in Qatar and how no cross was put up, no bells were put up and no steeple was built. No one knows whether the church will be allowed to remain open. Christians have been asked to practice their religion in their homes.
And there was the kidnapping and death of our archbishop in Iraq.
I had some conversations this week about public witness as it pertains to faith. I am ever reminded of the risk some Catholics take by openly practicing their faith in parts of the world by not only news stories, but by personal stories of missionaries I've met and talked to over the years. This' is very different from what happens here in the U.S.
And then it occurred to me that having a visible disability sometimes puts me in the position of being a public witness. I don't have a choice about that in the same way I have a choice about telling people I am a Catholic, since my disability is visible, but I did have a choice when I started this blog.
There are many differences in the way this works, however. The similarity I do see is that when we act as public witnesses, we represent (voluntarily or not) members of a group. So when I leave my home in my wheelchair, I am seen as a person with a disability in a public way. And I'm treated in certain ways that I was not treated prior to using a wheelchair, including the role of teaching others about my disability. (This happens online as well, which is also 'public'.)
Naming my blog Wheelie Catholic obviously shows that I'm willing to publicly witness as to my faith as well as a person with a disability. The name of my blog, even in the US, has been questioned by some. Some have told me they can't put it in their sidebar because it has the word 'Catholic' in it while others have told me unless I change the name of my blog I can't write for their blog as a group member. I remain Wheelie Catholic.
Such is the state of our freedom to practice religion.
I understand the people who are strewing palms this morning in the streets of downtown Dallas this morning, their joy and their faith. I understand the people who are opening the Catholic church, those who attend as well as the clergy members. They are all in my prayers.
Having the right to openly practice our religion and act as a public witness is a precious one that we should not take for granted.
And having the right to mobility, to get to a church or wherever we want to go, as a person with a disability, is still not realized in our country. There are people who don't have access to the equipment - or care- they need in order to get out.
Yes, there are similarities, more than we realize. Some are even about our vulnerabilities as human beings. Those are, sadly, easier to see when we are struggling to achieve these rights than when we assume we have them. But these rights are, like all things temporal, fleeting.
This is why my blog is named Wheelie Catholic.