"A Twitch Upon the Thread," A Statement on Yesterday's Violence in Washington, D.C.

Thursday, January 7, 2021
Bell Tower

Rockhurst University Companions,

January 6, 2021, was marked by the loss of life, the exposure of public servants to great harm, the destruction of property we considered “a temple of democracy,” and a rupture to principles we thought were cherished by all. Nonetheless, we can be consoled and encouraged with the psalmist who tells us that while the night might have left us in tears, the dawn brings the promise of joy. (30, 6)

We awoke January 7 to news that our legislators would not let an unruly mob disrupt the sometimes-messy work of democracy. They bravely returned the same night their safety was threatened to complete the task at hand. 

On January 6, we experienced a “twitch upon the thread.” It’s a metaphor from G. K. Chesterton. It’s found in his Father Brown stories. It is also referenced in Evelyn Waugh’s "Brideshead Revisited." Recently, Pope Francis recalled it in "Let us Dream: The Path to a Better Future."

The metaphor speaks to a line long enough to let us wander to the edge before God gently brings us back. St. Ignatius Loyola describes it as “the gentle disposition of God’s providence.” He is quick to add that it requires cooperation from us, his creatures. As co-laborers, we are invited, needed, and counted on to make the world better than it is.

The images we witnessed yesterday were disturbing and have left a wide range of emotions in their wake. Campus Ministry will offer an Examen at 4 p.m. today to provide some consolation and an opportunity for all members of the community to come together and process their thoughts and feelings around these events. The Examen is open to all, regardless of religious tradition. You will receive an invitation later with more details and a link to participate. 

“It is our shared insufficiency that is what unites us.” These words from Pope Francis’ "Let us Dream: The Path to a Better Future," call us to be humble enough to rely upon the help of God in all of our labors. We do not operate as individuals. And, we are doomed when we form into groups that exclude others or claim superiority. In fact, the great theologian and philosopher Augustine predicted a disintegration of the city of God when there is a “lust to dominate.”

At Rockhurst, we often claim that we are in the city for good. These words are intentional, reflecting our commitment to both longevity and place. Additionally, they reflect our desire to educate and form engaged citizens who will labor for “the city of God” that Saint Augustine described. In short, it’s about our collective efforts to bring about the kingdom of God that is rooted in justice — the right relationship with God, our neighbor, and our earth (environment). 

So, our consolation and hope consists in recalling that, through the gentle disposition of God’s providence, we experienced a twitch upon the thread. And, once again, we find ourselves invited to be in the city for good. 

As Vice President Pence stated at the time of certification of the votes: "It’s time to get back to work."

The Rev. Thomas B. Curran, S.J.