By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published March 23, 2018 | En Español
Last week, I received an absolutely charming St. Patrick’s Day video greeting from the Christ the King School kids (accompanied by their always impish pastor, Msgr. Frank McNamee). Most of you probably also received greeting cards, text messages, telephone calls and emails from your Irish and Irish-loving friends last week. St. Patrick’s Day is a popular moment to recognize and honor our Irish neighbors and friends.
This week, St. Joseph takes center stage and is a patron saint for our Italian and Polish colleagues. St. Joseph’s tables will probably be set out in several of our parishes.
These two saints join together to break the tedium of the Lenten season. They also remind us of the great contributions that various ethnic folks have made and continue to offer to this nation. There are other festivities that belong in that same category, including Cinco de Mayo, Haitian Independence Day, the different Asian celebrations of New Year, and Bastille Day, to mention only a few.
We are a nation richly blessed through the presence and contributions of people who have settled in this land from other places and together now make us a truly fortunate people. Many of the festivals and saints’ days originated in faraway places but are now celebrated here to honor the heritages of the many people who today comprise a single nation under God.
Too many voices in today’s society would have us denigrate our multicultural and multiracial identity as they assail the dignity and the ethnic and racial identities of our citizens. The scourge of nativism that often seeks to deny the gifts of immigrant peoples has a regrettable and long legacy in our country. Many of the people who now proudly celebrate their cultural and racial traditions and the contributions that they have made to this land were once themselves victims of such hatred. The Irish, Italians, Poles, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Jewish and Muslim people can all recall their encounters with hatred, violence and discrimination that they have known throughout this nation’s history.
For some of us, the legacy of hatred has not diminished in spite of the courageous work of our civil rights pioneers and the extraordinary examples of bold leaders in education, science, the arts, business, politics and military service.
Today, our most recent immigrant communities are often targeted for brutal treatment that denies their God-given human dignity and disgraces the legacy of our country. America is the face of the world.
Whether people arrived on these shores in chains, as did my ancestors, or in crowded ships seeking relief from oppression, hunger and discrimination in the countries of their birth, they are blessings for us all. Whether famine brought them here or religious persecution, they came to this land hoping for opportunity for themselves and their children. Whether they spoke English with a brogue or now struggle to speak it with a Spanish accent, whether their faces are black or brown, they all arrived with gifts that enrich this nation that we love.
Nativism distorts the human heart because it proclaims that some groups have no gifts to offer and there is no place within this blessed country for them. It is always a serious sin—and sometimes even a crime—to discriminate against other people because of their race, their religious faith, their ethnic background, their language, their gender or their culture.
Last week when I received that delightful St. Patrick’s Day video greeting from the CTK students, I praised God for them, for their parents and grandparents, who taught them to love and to cherish their Irish heritage and their archbishop, who deeply loves them in return.
Erin go bragh (Ireland forever!)—and blessed too are all the many lands from which we have now become a singularly fortunate people.