Saint Louis University

From the Pastor's Desk

Fr. Dan White, S.J.



July 19, 2015

Recent events have reminded us of the power of symbols. The tragic church murders in South Carolina have led to a much-needed discussion on the symbolism of the Confederate battle flag. The Civil War ended 150 years ago but only now do we seem capable of rejecting the symbol of something so painful for most Americans.

Symbols matter. They are powerful because they reveal an entire host of meanings far beyond the actual object itself. No one believes what was going in South Carolina was simply a piece of cloth tied to a pole. Symbols operate on an intellectual, emotional, and psychological level. They do so for good or ill.

Catholics, of all people, should understand this. An appreciation of symbolism is part of our religious DNA. Our sacramental spirituality is founded on the belief that ordinary objects like water, oil, bread and wine convey the deepest truths about God. Even our magnificent church building is symbolic of our faith. Beauty leads into God’s presence.

I would like to believe the rejection of that particular symbol will enable us move a bit further along as a nation. It also should serve to help us remember there is no such thing as a “mere” symbol.


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