On March 19, the Italians and to a lesser degree the Poles celebrate St. Joseph’s Day, claiming this paternal figure as an example of their adherence to faith and family. In many Italian parishes the St. Joseph table will proudly display sumptuous pastries that make one’s mouth water. The Poles are much more subdued in their approach to St. Joseph, highlighting the adoptive father figure of the Holy Family.
We are so privileged in this country to have a diversity of cultures which feed our interests and inform our humanity. As Catholics we are especially proud of the influence of the Christian culture in our lives through our nationalities. We take pride in the struggles of the men and women who fought extreme odds in order to preserve and maintain their faith. It is the strength of this witness that we carry to this very day, maintaining and preserving our Catholic faith in a culture which is more and more devoid of its Christian roots.
The late John Paul II understood the importance of the cultural influences. I always noted the gleam in John Paul II’s eye and the smile on his face when he interacted with the vast crowds in St. Peter’s Square as peoples from various parts of the world would serenade him in their native tongues, when they were presented to him in their native dress, and when they proudly waved their countries’ banners. The pope’s joy was experiencing the baptized of these nations expressing their living faith.
It’s hard for us to imagine just how young America is as a country. When I was a student in Rome I would occasionally walk with some of the Dominican fathers from The Angelicum. They would point out various buildings and explain to me that this building was in existence 200 to 300 years before our American Revolutionary War. You are a young country, they would say, with tremendous potential for good. We only pray that you use your vast resources and generous spirit wisely.
I have often reflected upon their words, especially during times when our country has been called upon to support our brothers and sisters overseas because of a natural disaster. But now I think of how important it is to use our resources wisely to assist those here in our communities, those troubled by unemployment, those denied access to quality education, those who are in need of health care. We are a rich and generous nation, but the gifts that we have demand that we exercise good stewardship.
As we become more and more a secular society we become less and less dependent upon God. In my estimation this is a formula for egotism and selfishness. It is God who is the objective truth that makes a demand on our talents. It is God through his Son that demands our consideration for brothers and sisters. The practice of our faith will not allow us to ignore the needs of others, and will challenge us to use our resources wisely as we grow and age as a nation.
So, proudly wear the green or the red or the blue or the white and understand that the pride in our culture is an expression of what is best in all of us. On March 17, I’m Irish; on March 19, I’m Italian; on May 5, I’m Mexican and Polish; in October I’m German; June 12, I’m a Filipino. But every day, we all belong to Christ and he belongs to us and in him we are one.
See you at Mass!