Since the word “catholic” means “universal,” I guess to be “catholic” means, at least to some extent, to be a part of the universe—to know that there are no exclusions, only welcome. Or in the famous description of the Irish novelist James Joyce: “Here comes everybody!”
I am an American. But by background and heritage I am Polish and Slovak. By education I also share a heritage with the English and the Italians. And by my connection with our sister-parish outreach, I also claim Mexican. So all by myself, I am a diversity.
Our parish is that much greater in its mixture: besides the European ancestry of most of us, we also have a great presence of Filipinos, Vietnamese, and Spanish-speaking from the Caribbean and Central and South America: Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras… And speaking of Europe and the Middle East and the rest of the world, we have the presence of people from Poland, Germany, Italy, Russia, Lebanon, India, and Ireland. This is the diversity that we celebrate this weekend with our International Festival of food and entertainment. Dancing, singing, eating, drinking: who could ask for more?
The Eucharist invites us to recognize the catholicity of the Catholic Church in even larger ways. At the canonization of Cardinal Newman, for example, the Gospel was chanted in Greek; one of the Prayers of the Faithful was offered in Chinese. Our liturgical calendar also commemorates saints from Korea, Japan, India, Uganda, Nigeria, Egypt… We are clearly an “everybody” Church!
This is important for us because no one group has it self-sufficiently “all together.” Every group adds a distinct flavor, a tang, to the “soup.” And the experience of “the all” is greatly enriched by all these contributions. This is why concepts like “inculturation” are so important (and why they were advocated at Vatican II and now discussed in the Synod for the Amazon region). By allowing all people to bring their gifts to the table, the table begins to look like a (joyfully!) over-loaded banquet of Thanksgiving Day. And as Catholics, we know who the Host of that banquet is.
By the time most folks read this, our International Festival will be over. I pray 2 things especially: that those who came were filled with joy, and that that joy will carry over to next year with even greater participation and rejoicing for the ways in which we are “fully, actively, consciously catholic” in our celebration of the Catholic Faith.