Skip to comments.Where Are You from? A Reflection on Recent Tensions over Immigration, Race, and Ethnicity
Posted on 01/15/2018 7:38:02 AM PST by Salvation
A priest friend of mine who immigrated to this country from Jordan back in the 1970s is often asked, Where are you from? He humorously answers, I am from my mothers womb.
True enough! There is an even more fundamental answer, rooted in Scripture, which speaks to the origin of every human person: You are from the loving will and heart of God. Before you were ever formed in your mothers womb, God knew you and thought about you (see Jeremiah 1:5). He set into motion everything necessary to create you. He didnt just get your parents to meet, but your grandparents and great-grandparents, going all the way back. All of this so that you could exist just as you are. Having thought of you and conceived you in greatest love, He knit you together in your mothers womb. You were skillfully wrought in that secret place of the womb and you are wonderfully, fearfully made. Every one of your days was written in Gods book before one of them ever came to be (See Psalm 139).
This biblical answer is true of every one of us. Whatever our nationality, ethnicity, or race, our truest origin is from God, from His heart and His loving yes to our existence. This means that I am your brother and you are my brother or sister. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say:
Respect for the human person proceeds by way of respect for the principle that everyone should look upon his neighbor (without any exception) as another self, above all bearing in mind his life and the means necessary for living it with dignity. [F]ears, prejudices, and attitudes of pride and selfishness will cease only through the charity that finds in every man a neighbor, a brother.
The duty of making oneself a neighbor to others and actively serving them becomes even more urgent when it involves the disadvantaged, in whatever area this may be. As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me (CCC # 1931-1932).
This is Catholic and biblical teaching. One day we shall have to account for how we recognized and treated the Lord in others. God is our Father; you are my brother or sister. Christ the Lord is our brother, too, for He joined our human family; He is not ashamed to call us His brethren (Hebrews 2:11). Wherever youre from in this world, this origin from God is deeper and older than any earthly origin.
Here on this earth, human movement is constant. We emigrate and immigrate, as individuals, families, and groups. Wars, famines, persecution, economic conditions, the desire for freedom, and educational opportunity all play a role in this movement. Although the phrase seems clichéd, we really are a nation of immigrants. Most of us are from somewhere else, often only a couple of generations back.
Catholics bring a significant experience and witness to immigration to the United States. Many came here during a huge wave of immigration that lasted from about 1880 to 1950. When we came in those years, we were often coming from troubled lands and were extremely poor. There was famine in Ireland; economic and political turmoil in Poland, Lithuania, Italy, and parts of Germany. Many came here not knowing English and at first lived in tenements in large cities. With that poverty went many of social problems: crime, drinking, and so forth. The work of those first generations was anything but easy: laboring in coal mines, laying railroad tracks, working in steel mills, tedious work in textile factories mills. The jobs paid poorly and required long hours; they were jobs that no one really wanted. Additional scorn was heaped upon Catholics due to our faith. The Protestant majority of the time was troubled to see the country suddenly teeming with Catholics, whose religion they often scorned and whose loyalty to the United States they doubted. Slowly, that first wave of Catholics took its place and moved up into better paying jobs. They moved into more slowly into positions of political leadership. Yes, Catholics have endured great scorn in this land, both on account of their religious as well as their status as European peasants.
Prior to 1865, most African-Americans in this country had been brought here against their will. They then suffered great disdain and racism at the hands of the very country that brought them here in chains. The many Black Catholics I have known over the years, especially the older ones, remember well the double scorn they felt for being Black and Catholic.
The most recent wave of immigration into our country is largely from the south. Similarly, poverty and/or persecution are often part of what draws them here. Most of them are Catholic, and like so many immigrants before them, they perform essential services and often take jobs that no one else wants. As was the case during the 19th and 20th centuries, there is crime. And yes, some immigrants are successful, and others remain trapped in poverty.
It is alleged that recently our President, in a moment of anger, said some unacceptable, hurtful things. He spoke not only of nations, but implied that certain nations bring us better immigrants than others. I am not so sure that we have the scales to say who is better. Man sees the appearance, but God looks into the heart. It is true that people with technical, scientific, or academic knowledge contribute a lot to our country, but it is also true that we need immigrants at every level of the economy. We need those willing to do all sorts of work, and those with all different kinds of practical know-how.
Personally, I am quite happy with the immigrants who have come to the United States in recent decades. I think that they have added a lot to the economy and to the Church. They are hardworking and want to share in the American experience. By the second generation, most of them speak English well. While I cannot countenance those who enter the country illegally, I am perhaps more willing than many to view their illegal entry as stemming from desperation rather than flippant disregard for our laws.
I recognize that immigration reform is needed. It is a complex issue and concerns for border security are legitimate. We cannot take the whole of the worlds poor or be overrun with every refugee crisis, but we also cannot ever forget that these are our brothers and sisters. Whatever dysfunctional countries or economies they come from, remember that many of us came from similar ones. People dont typically leave an idyllic environment.
I do not know all the possible legal and social solutions, but something of a picture emerges in Catholic parishes of what things could look like. Cardinal Wuerl paints this picture:
The sight from the sanctuary of many a church in our archdiocese offers a glimpse of the face of the world. On almost any Sunday, we can join neighbors and newcomers from varied backgrounds. We take great pride in the coming together for Mass of women and men, young and old, from so many lands, ethnic heritages, and cultural traditions. Often we can point to this unity as a sign of the power of grace to bring people together (The Challenge of Racism).
Indeed, our parishes are ethnically and racially diverse. The rich beauty of diversity in the unity of our faith is manifest everywhere. Catholic means universal and it could not be more obvious in Washington, D.C (as in many other regions) that Catholics come from everywhere! This diversity is from God Himself, who has not only created the rich tapestry of humankind but also delights to unite us all in His Church.
Babylon and Egypt I will count among those who know me; Philistia, Tyre, Ethiopia, these will be her children and Zion shall be called Mother for all shall be her children. It is he, the Lord Most High, who gives each his place. In his register of peoples, he writes: These are her children, and while they dance they will sing: In you all find their home (Psalm 87:1-7).
Dr. Martin Luther King remarked on the role of the Church back in the days of the civil rights movement:
There is a more excellent way, of love and nonviolent protest. Im grateful to God that, through the Negro church, the dimension of nonviolence entered our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, I am convinced that by now many streets of the South would be flowing with floods of blood (Letter from Birmingham jail).
We are currently locked in many fierce debates. Our discourse grows ever more contentious, our language ever coarser. Anger (some of it quite understandable) reaches new levels. In the midst of the ugliness, consider this reminder:
Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building up the one in need and bringing grace to those who listen. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, outcry and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and tender-hearted to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you (Eph 4:26-32).
We who are Christians should lead the way in helping to lower the temperature. We are past the boiling point now and we are getting scalded more and more.
Maybe the answer begins in asking this simple question: Where are you from? Know the answer to this question theologically and religiously rather than nationally. The truest answer is this: You are from God and so am I.
If what I have written angers you, I am sorry. If you think me naïve, I ask you to remember something else about me: I am Charles, your brother.
Monsignor Pope Ping!
The difference between now and then?
Back then, there were no handouts, you knew life would be hard, but you had the opportunities if you were willing to work hard.
Today, we have handouts up the wazzoo, and people come here with the expectation of an easy life and no desire to blend in.
Get rid of welfare and the handouts first, then we’ll talk about letting more people in.
“She said nothing”.
The Msgr is naïve on this issue.
They did come here in flippant disregard for this country's laws.
Verry dissapointing. Usually he isn’t so dishonest on the most fundamental level.
He is definitely aligning himself with Francis.
Two peas in a pod.
2241 The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.
Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants' duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.
Illegal aliens, by definition, violate their duties to the country which they have invaded. Their immediate deportation is both necessary and just. Respect for the citizens of and the legal immigrants to that country demands the deportation of illegal aliens.
Yeh and when we came we were not jumping on food stamps and EBT cards for lifetime welfare. Were also all culturally compatible and sill ng to speak English, embrace capitalism and assimilate.
We must study and understand that "Progresssive" ideology has brought much nonsense upon us.
Beginning in the late 1800's, those who, then, self-described as "liberals" (more recently, identifying themselves as "progressive") called for "changes" which have been, in fact, regressive, in that they have carried America back to Old World ideas which limit freedom, opportunity, creativity, and plenty--just as they did in 1776.
Should any person who reads this doubt that such was the "progressive" agenda, read the following:
"Withdraw from Christendom the Bible, the Church with its sacraments and ministry, and Christian morality and hopes, and aspirations for time and eternity; repeal all the laws that are founded in the Christian Scriptures; remove the Christian humanities in the form of hospitals and asylums, and reformatories and institutions of mercy utterly unknown to unchristian countries; destroy the literature, the culture, the institutions of learning, the art, the refinement, the place of woman in her home and in society, which owe their origin and power to Christianity; blot out all faith in Divine Providence, love, and righteousness; turn back every believer in Christ to his former state; remove all thought or hope of the forgiveness of sins by a just but gracious God; erase the name of Christ from every register it sanctifiesin a word annihilate all the legitimate and logical effects of Christianity in Christendomjust accomplish in fact what multitudes of gifted and learned minds are wishing and trying to accomplish by their science, philosophy, and criticism, and what multitudes of the common people desire and seek, and not only would all progress toward and unto perfection cease, but not one of the shining lights of infidelity would shine much longer. Yes, the bitterest enemies of this holy and blessed religion, owe their ability to be enemies to its sacred revelations - to the inspiration and sublimity of that faith which reflects its glories on their hostile natures. They live in the strength of that which they would destroy. They are raised to their seats of opportunity and power by the grace of Him they would crucify afresh; and is it to be thought that they are stronger than that which gives them strength? Can it be supposed that a religion which civilizes and subdues, and elevates and blesses will succumb to the enmities it may arouse and quicken in its onward march? Are we to tremble for the ark of God when God is its upholder, and protector, and preserver? - Dr. Benjaming W. Arnett, St. Paul A.M.E. Church, Urbana, Ohio, Centennial Thanksgiving Sermon, November 1876. Arnett's "Sermon" is available in the "Library of Congress - Historical Collections" - "African-American Pamphlets from the Daniel A. P. Murray Collection," 1820-1920; American Memory, Washington, DC.Finally, in yet another section of that Sermon, Dr. Arnett warned of a movement then under way among what we would call "academics" which, if successful, would destroy the nation. Below is a relatively small excerpt from that Sermon's conclusion. In it, Rev. Arnett warned about a movement among "liberals" to remove the ideas underlying America's founding documents. See if you don't recognize those ideas in what you have observed in recent years:
"The Danger to our Country."Now we must not think that we have nothing to do in this great work," Bishop/Legislator Arnett said, "for the men who are at the head of this movement are men of culture and intelligence, and many of them are men of influence. They are led by that thinker and scholar, F. E. Abbott, than whom I know but few men who has a smoother pen, or who is his equal on the battle-field of thought."
"Now that our national glory and grandeur is principally derived from the position the fathers took on the great questions of right and wrong, and the career of this nation has been unparalleled in the history of the past, now there are those who are demanding the tearing down the strength of our national fabric. They may not intend to tear it down, but just as sure as they have their way, just that sure will they undermine our superstructure and cause the greatest calamity of the age. What are the demands of this party of men? Just look at it and examine it for yourselves, and see if you are willing that they shall have their way; or will you still assist in keeping the ship of state in the hands of the same crew and run her by the old gospel chart! But ye men who think there is no danger listen to the demands of the Liberals as they choose to call themselves:
"'Organize! Liberals of America! The hour for action has arrived. The cause of freedom calls upon us to combine our strength, our zeal, our efforts. These are The Demands of Liberalism:
"'1. We demand that churches and other ecclesiastical property shall no longer be exempt from just taxation.
"'2. We demand that the employment of chaplains in Congress, in State Legislatures, in the navy and militia, and in prisons, asylums, and all other institutions supported by public money, shall be discontinued.
"'3. We demand that all public appropriations for sectarian educational and charitable institutions shall cease.
"'4. We demand that all religious services now sustained by the government shall be abolished; and especially that the use of the Bible in the public schools, whether ostensibly as a text-book or avowedly as a book of religious worship, shall be prohibited.
"'5. We demand that the appointment, by the President of the United States or by the Governors of the various States, of all religious festivals and fasts shall wholly cease.
"'6. We demand that the judicial oath in the courts and in all other departments of the government shall be abolished, and that simple affirmation under the pains and penalties of perjury shall be established in its stead.
"'7. We demand that all laws directly or indirectly enforcing the observance of Sunday as the Sabbath shall be repealed.
"'8. We demand that all laws looking to the enforcement of “Christian” morality shall be abrogated, and that all laws shall be conformed to the requirements of natural morality, equal rights, and impartial liberty.
"'9. We demand that not only in the Constitution of the United States and of the several States, but also in the practical administration of the same, no privilege or advantage shall be conceded to Christianity or any other special religion; that our entire political system shall be founded and administered on a purely secular basis; and that whatever changes shall prove necessary to this end shall be consistently, unflinchingly, and promptly made.'
"'Let us boldly and with high purpose meet the duty of the hour.'
"He acknowledges that this is a religious nation and wants all men to assist him in eliminating the grand old granite principles from the framework of our national union. Will you do it freeman; will we sell the temple reared at the cost of so much precious blood and treasure? These men would have us turn back the hands on the clock of our national progress, and stay the shadow on the dial plate of our christian civilization; they would have us call a retreat to the soldiers in the army of Christ; the banner of the cross they would have us haul down, and reverse the engines of war against sin and crime; the songs of Zion they would turn into discord, and for the harmony and the melody of the sons of God, they would give us general confusion; they would have us chain the forces of virtue and unloose the elements of vice; they would have the nation loose its moorings from the Lord of truth and experience and commit interest, morally, socially; religiously and politically to the unsafe and unreliable human reason; they would discharge God and his crew and run the ship of State by the light of reason, which has always been but a dim taper in the world, and all the foot-prints it has left are marked with the blood of men, women and children. No nation is safe when left alone with reason.
"But we have no notion of giving up the contest without a struggle or a battle. We are aware that there is a great commotion in the world of thought. Religion and science are at arms length contending with all their forces for the mastery. Faith and unbelief are fighting their old battles over again, everything that can be shaken is shaking. The foundations of belief are assaulted by the army of science and men are changing their opinions. New and starting theories are promulgated to the world; old truths are putting on new garbs. Error is dressing in the latest style, wrong is secured by the unholy alliances, changes in men and things, revolution in church and state, Empires are crumbling, Kingdoms tottering; everywhere the change is seen. In the social circle, in the school house, in the pulpit and in the pews. But amid all the changes and revolutions there are some things that are unchangeable, unmovable and enduring. The forces that underline the vital power of Christianity are the same yesterday, to-day, to-morrow and forever more. They are like their God, who is omnipotent, immovable and eternal, and everywhere truth has marched it has left its moccasin tracks.
"The Conclusion of the Whole Matter.We have patiently tried to examine the record of the nations of antiquity and learn the cause of their decay and decline, their fall, why their early death; and why so many implements of destruction around and about their tombs, and everywhere, in the silent streets, mouldering ruins, tottering columns, mouldy and moist rooms, and the united voice from the sepulcher of the dead past is, "sin is a reproach to any people." We see it written on the tombs of the Kings, and engraven on the pages of time, "sin is a reproach to any people." These are the principles of governments, Right and wrong; and the people who are the advocates of Right have bound themselves together and by their united effort they have brought light out of darkness and forced strength out of weakness.
"We as a nation have a grand and glorious future before us. The sun of our nation is just arising above the horizon and is now sending his golden rays of peace from one end of the land to the other. The utmost extremities of the members of the body politic are warm and in motion by the commercial and financial activities of the land. Her face is destined to blush with beauty when peace and justice shall be enthroned. The grand march of progress shall mark her in her onward advancement in moral strength, intellectual brilliancy, and political power. Then we can say that we give to every man, woman and child the benefit of our free institutions, giving all the benefits of our common school and the freedom to worship God under their own vine and fig tree. Then will we see written, on the banner of our free, redeemed and disenthralled country, the sublime words written, not in the blood of men, but in the sun-light of truth, that "Righteousness exalteth a nation." It will fall like the morning dew on the lowly; it will descend like the showers of May on the poor; and like the sun it will shine on the good and bad, dispensing from the hand of plenty the blessings of a government founded on the principle of justice and equality.
"Standing on the threshold of the second century of the nation's life, with the experience of the past lying at our feet, we are saluted by the shout of triumph from the millions who left their homes and business and attended the Great Exposition of the skill and genius of the world, collected at Philadelphia. We were permitted to receive the greetings from the oldest to the youngest nation of the earth. Egypt and the United States clasped hands over the waste of 5,000 years, and lay their treasures at the feet of our civilization. The material, intellectual and mechanical deterioration of the one, and the unprecedented progress of the other, stand in great contrast; in all that makes the nation great,—morally, religiously and socially, the young nation is ahead.
"Following the tracks of righteousness throughout the centuries and along the way of nations, we are prepared to recommend it to all and assert without a shadow of doubt, that "Righteousness exalted a nation"; but on the other hand following the foot-prints of sin amid the ruins of Empires and remains of cities, we will say that "sin is a reproach to any people."
“whose religion they often scorned and whose loyalty to the United States they doubted”
Yeah. Scorn is usually what you earn when your religion includes sectarian massacres like the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in France (the reason my Huguenot ancestors left Europe), or the Inquisition itself (pretty much every Protestant remembers that), or all the other Catholic instigated wars against anyone who didn’t bow to the Italian Infallible Emissary of God in Heaven.
Translation: you came here. We left to get away from that kind of gangsterism, and it’s a BIG reason we don’t want to turn into a Latin country, where the same nightmare will be heaped on our children.
Guess the good Monsignor would rather see the Evil Protestant Enterprise known as the United States turned into just another South American S**thole (the most apt description ever) then live with the humiliation that the Protestants built the greatest country on the planet and it only took us about a century.
His church in Washington D. C. in mostly a black parish. But I’m sure there are mixed ethnicities there, too.
**dishonest; illegals; irrelevant; **
Whoever added these keywords does not really know the Catholic Church of Monsignor Pope.
To those in the Church who cry out for illegal immigrants I ask: How many? Is there an acceptable number beyond which we can say there are too many to assimilate? Or is the complete overturning of our entire culture the actual goal?
In addition, my ancestors worked very hard to become Americans and were proud of being Americans.
I usually love what Msgr. Pope has to say, but he is very wrong on this issue.
but do you remember the signs that used to say, “No Catholics Hired Here.” Or “Not hiring Italians.”
The has been around and is going around again.
After all, didn’t God make all these people in his own image and likeness?
No, I don’t remember those signs. I remember reading about them. Pretty sure that was about 100 years ago.
Of course, all people are children of God, including illegal aliens who break into my country. They certainly deserve to be treated with dignity and respect as humans, but they do not deserve to break our laws only to be rewarded with living off the US taxpayer.
God wants me to be charitable, but I don’t believe He requires me to endanger or deprive those in my household by taking in lawbreakers and dangerous people whom I support to the detriment of my own family.