Monday, September 21, 2009

Who Are We?

I apologize for the length of this post. This afternoon I received some upsetting e-mails and this is my response and reflection to them:

As young American Catholics we need to ask ourselves “who are we?” in the broader context of the Church. What do we truly believe and how are we carrying out the gospel message? Today we are faced with many inculturation questions: in our personal lives, our work, and our parishes, and this is not just in Texas.

Two weekends ago my parish began to introduce a new Mass setting, “Misa Luna.” The bishop wants all parishes in the diocese to incorporate this into Sunday worship because this is the setting that will be used at diocesan-wide events. There is an option for doing it bilingual, and my parish has decided to use it. Most of the parts we sing are in English and only a couple we have sung in Spanish. They continue to introduce new parts week by week.

Today I, and many other staff members, received an e-mail from a young married woman. She said she is very sad today because her family is leaving the parish I work at. They have been here for 8+ years and it is where she went through RCIA. Her reason for leaving is the switch to singing bilingual Mass parts. She said she was sad, but her responses are what sadden my heart: “If you don't speak English, I think you should go to a Spanish-Speaking or Vietnamese-Speaking parish. We will drive farther and go out of our way to attend an entirely English-Speaking church because that's the language we speak.” And in a response to my e-mail she said:

“Why is it okay to have completely Spanish-Speaking Parishes, completely Vietnamese-Speaking Parishes but no completely English-Speaking parishes? Why do my children have to learn a language that is different from that of our Constitution, that which is printed on our Dollar Bill, that which our President delivers his national addresses in?”

I do not know why this woman has such strong feelings and perhaps she had a negative experience in the past. But isn’t this the American attitude that we need to fight against? Who are our neighbors? And if we cannot accept and welcome our neighbors into our lives and into our places of worship, then who are we as Christians? Paul fought against similar attitudes: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).

We cater our world to what we want. We fit things into our own boxes and make decisions and actions that are selfish and uncaring of others. Sure, communication would be easier if we all spoke English, but what about the beauty of inculturation. If we simply pass on the opportunity to learn about other cultures, the rich traditions they carry, and even their language, then we are rejecting our neighbor, our brother, our sister.

If we answer the question that Jesus asks us, “Who do you say that I am?” and proclaim him to be our Messiah, the Christ, and we profess to be followers of him, then we need to answer the question “Who am I?” in light of those responses.

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