By JEAN DRISKELL, Special to the Bulletin | Published January 1, 2016
DECATUR—A long-planned prayer breakfast focused on the theme of God’s love had even more significance and import when it was held Saturday, Nov. 14, at Sts. Peter and Paul Church.
When the Knights of Peter Claver Ladies Auxiliary, Court 313, opened their annual prayer breakfast, Father Bryan Small, pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Church, gave the invocation and remembered the people of Paris who just the previous night had experienced terrorist attacks on their city that killed 130 people.
The breakfast theme was based on John 13:34, “I give you a new commandment, love one another. Such as my love has been for you, so must your love be for each other.”
“Our Lord gave us this verse as a new commandment,” said Joi Parks, Grand Lady of Court 313, “so that we all may be known as his disciples by the way we have loved one another.”
Monica Kaufman Pearson, 37-year news anchor at WSB-TV and in her retirement active in writing, broadcasting and teaching, was the guest speaker. She was Atlanta’s first woman and first minority to anchor the daily 6 p.m. news.
Before beginning her prepared talk, Pearson spoke briefly to the 170 people at the breakfast about the violence in Paris the night before.
“Today we are here to talk about love, and when I wrote this speech, Paris had not happened,” Pearson said. “How can people kill in the name of God when God is love?”
She said she went to the computer that morning to learn what Islam says about love.
Pearson continued, “So I went to the Koran. One of the tenets said peace is a cornerstone of your faith. It said the word Islam is derived from the word meaning peace in Arabic. Islam is a religion revealed to mankind with the intention of presenting a peaceful life.”
Another tenet is “no one should be forced to believe in Islam,” Pearson said. “And when you hear the terrorists, they talk about trying to change everyone to their faith. Those who are terrorists do not know their faith. They only know hate.”
She asked people not to equate Islam or all Muslims with ISIS terrorists.
In her prepared talk on John’s reflection on love, Pearson said, “Love is the theme of songs. Finding love and keeping it is the theme of the lives of very many people.”
Pearson said that the word love has four different meanings in Greek: love between husband and wife, friendly or brotherly love, family love and unconditional or agape love.
“Agape … is the highest form of love,” she said. “It is that perfect love. It is selfless. It is sacrificial. It is a love that God shows first to us. We are to love the same way since we are made in his image. But the question is, do we?”
St. Paul’s words on love are unequivocal
Christ loved us to the point of giving up his life, she said.
“Love is an action verb from Christ’s viewpoint. We must do something to show people that we care, not only for the people we know but also for the people we don’t know,” she said.
Pearson said that means stepping out of one’s comfort zone, showing love to the homeless, to the hopeless. It is volunteering in charitable organizations within the church and also “providing a meal to a homeless person begging on the side of the road.”
“Christ talks about loving our neighbors as we love ourselves,” she said. “But that can’t happen until we first know our neighbors.”
Pearson asked if people really know their neighbors anymore. At a time when many people live in homes with alarm systems, there’s a tendency to stay isolated in our homes, feeling loneliness, “not experiencing what it means to be part of the body of Christ.”
She asked, “Do your actions with your neighbors, with your co-workers, with your friends, reflect God’s love?”
“Christ also tells us to love our enemies,” Pearson continued. “That’s a whole lot easier said than done. He tells us to pray for those who persecute us, who talk about us, abuse us, people who show hate, jealousy, fear and no love.”
She said that it is easy to pray for those who are like us, but “it’s saint-like to pray for those who get on your last nerve or people you just don’t like.”
“But in praying, it releases you,” Pearson said. “The more we pray for those who try to unhinge us, the closer we come to that agape, unconditional love, that selfless love, that God-like love.”
She said that St. Paul writing in 1 Corinthians 13 on love says, “It doesn’t matter how smart you are, how much you believe in God and the power of prayer; if you operate from a loveless point of view, Paul says you’re nothing.”
“If I’m doing what I’m doing without caring, truly caring for the person, not expecting thanks, but truly acting out of love, sacrificing for their well-being, my actions are worthless,” Pearson said. “Love must be in the midst of everything we do.”
She said St. Paul wrote love suffers long. “Things are going to go wrong in your life, and you have to love your way through it.”
“Love does not parade itself,” Pearson said. “You do something for somebody, you got to let the whole world know? When you have to shout it out, that’s parading love.”
She said the “only person who needs to know is God and the person you do it for. If you do it in love, you really don’t want anybody to know.”
“God’s love for us never fails,” Pearson said. “All the things we do, the sins we commit, the things we say, he never stops loving us. … And since we are created in his image, that means our love should never fail.”
The prayer breakfast was held during Black Catholic History month, a commemoration started by the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus. In keeping with that theme, each table had a card on it with a picture and a biography of a saint.
Parks, leader of Court 313, said, “We celebrate the presence of our ancestors who kept the faith and are models of living the Christian faith.”
The Ladies Auxiliary is the women’s division of the Knights of Peter Claver, a Catholic fraternal organization founded in 1909 to provide opportunities for its members to be actively involved in their faith through church and community projects. The Knights of Peter Claver and the Ladies Auxiliary were chartered at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in April 1990, along with the Junior Division of the Junior Knights and Daughters for Catholic youth 7 to 18 years old.
The annual prayer breakfast is a fundraiser for scholarships for the Junior Daughters and youth of the parish. These scholarships are provided for graduating seniors of the Court or for students attending Catholic high or primary schools in the archdiocese. This year the Court was able to provide a $1,000 scholarship to a graduating senior, $250 to a high school student, and three $250 scholarships to students attending St. Peter Claver Regional School in Decatur.