Monday, September 28, 2015

My Fellow Americans

With the historic moment of the Pope in the US, I could not imagine blogging.  I am still prayerfully reading through his words. Judging by the commentary, both inside and outside the Church, many people need to do the same. Too many of us are falling into the trap of locking onto the words or phrases that we immediately either like or dislike the most.

That is fine for a first step.  We should begin with those words which touch our hearts. Step two will requure  that we playfully embrace the truths he dared to speak that challenge our ways of thinking.

The overriding message of this Pope seems to be "Be who you are" If you are a Bishop, remember what it means to be a Bishop. The same for Priests, and Religious, Mothers and Fathers, Husbands and Wives, even just Human Beings. Over and over on this trip he took the time to remind us of our own American History, so that we could return to those foundational truths that made our country a great nation. He reminded us what it means to be American.

I have been reading him in Spanish because clearly that is the language in which his words are most his own. At Madison Square Garden he referred to "cociudadanos." Most would simply translate that as "fellow citizens" and move on, but there is a deeper point being made.

He was speaking of life in a city, the pros and the cons. In Spanish city is "ciudad." The Spanish word ciudadano like the English word citizen originally meant simply a person living in (denizen of) a particular city. We tend to think of citizen as a privileged position one who have rights that others do not. Our big obsession now appears to be dividing the city between the citizens and those who are not.

The Pope reminded us that it is easy for an individual's identity to get lost in a big city. He reminded us that we must go back to the most basic truths of our faith. That we are all created in the image and likeness of God, and endowed from the moment of our conception with an intrinsic dignity. Therefore, as we look at the faces of the others in each of our cities we must see not nameless strangers but "cocuidadanos."

Actually the English words have the same history. from city to citizen to fellow citizen. Remember of course that a fellow is a partner. Can we see every person around us as a partner in the life of our city, a  "cociudadano."

I know this word will make me look at people differently  as I drive through my new neighborhood. And even for those who live in outside the cities, it raises the question do you even know your neighbors. Can you name the people who live right around you?

How can we hope to be a great nation if we remain disconnected from those right around us?

The great city of which we are all called to be "cociudadanos" is of course the City of God. But perhaps even now we can make our earthly cities better places by uniting one person at a time.