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Culture Wars, St. Patrick, and St. Joseph

[caption id="attachment_1463" align="alignright" width="200"]Catherine Arnold, OP Blog by Sr. Cathy Arnold[/caption] OK, so maybe my need to include everyone as often as possible, and to offer as many choices as possible is not always helpful or practical, but I feel a need today to say both Happy St. Patrick's Day and Happy St. Joseph's Day (March 19). I have been told that sometimes in the convent some Sisters of different ethnic groups felt left out when the major ethnic celebration was the "Wearing of the Green." Today Dominican Sisters of Peace are celebrating St. Patrick's Day! In addition, throughout the year we also celebrate big time any ethnic or regional celebration that someone wants to take time to plan, including Mardi Gras, TET, Kentucky Derby, Mission Bazaar, breaking of bread (oplatek) at Christmas, Super Bowl, March Madness, World Series, and others I am probably forgetting. These celebrations have actually served to help us get to know and appreciate each other and our various cultures. I connect these celebrations to situations of what are often called culture wars in our country today. All around us in print and online we are bombarded by the differences that divide us. We tend to allow these differences to push us farther apart rather than helping us to see the values in them. (I'm not saying there is value in verbal and physical attacks.) But I do wonder sometimes, what steps we can take as individuals and as communities or neighborhoods to engage these differences in ways that will help us care for and appreciate each other more? How can we who believe in a loving God and who believe in the reality that we are one with our neighbor, even when we disagree, how can we engage in different ways of behaving that demonstrate this love and compassion? As I read Anthony J. Gittins' book, "Living Mission Interculturally: Faith, Culture, and the Renewal of Praxis," I hear clearly that good will is necessary but not enough. We have to develop skills that help each of us to have a preferential option for "the other." So, as much as I may want to avoid the person that I don't like, I may be called to develop the skills and desire to include this person in my circle and/or outreach. This is not easy. It takes energy and prayer. Guidance can come from our brothers, St. Joseph and St. Patrick. Pope Francis says of St. Joseph, "Caring and protecting demands goodness, it calls for certain tenderness. In the Gospels, St. Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, or tenderness." A quote attributed to St. Patrick can also give us a guide as to how we can embrace each and every one, "Christ beside me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me;" and in my neighbor as well. These words are included in the song, "The Deer's Cry" (listen on YouTube). If you have a few minutes, take a look. And by the way, what resources do you use or know that can help a person develop cross-cultural competence? I would be interested in hearing from you. Happy St. Patrick's Day and Happy Celebrating!

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