Since her beginning, the Catholic Church has been multicultural. For 20 centuries the Church has been inspiring people of all cultures to adapt their cultures to Christianity. Some of the most beautiful, heartwarming and deeply spiritual Catholic traditions and customs have their roots in the multiplicity of deeply imbedded cultural traditions of the different nations and peoples of the world. The Church has been able to take what was unholy and make it holy; to turn pagan holidays into days focused on Catholic spirituality; to take ancient customs and give them new life in service to Christ and His Church.
For example, the variety of foods, songs, and age-old customs that accompany the celebration of Christmas throughout the world is nothing less than a symphony of diverse cultures offering the best of who they are to the Christ Child. Whatever our national origins or ancestral heritage, we have something uniquely beautiful to bring to the celebration of Christmas in our homes and communities.
It is only in our "modern" day that we see the Church doing summersaults in an attempt to adapt herself to the cultures of the world. Today we are seeing the effects of being multiculturally-correct according to the standards of the Novus Ordo establishment. For whatever absurd reason, there is a concerted effort afoot to showcase the cultural customs of a variety of peoples within the context of the Church's public worship. We are made to believe that, especially certain minority groups are in need of feeling that their cultural customs, languages, etc. are acceptable to the Church. Therefore, what is left of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the New Order, at least in the melting pot of America, is now a stage for the display of multicultural correctness at the demand of whatever group insists that its customs be the focus. Presently, this mentality is causing division in parishes that once knew unity.
Once again we have to ask ourselves if this novel idea in the new church works to the betterment of bringing the Gospel to all peoples, engenders a deeper spirituality among the faithful and is to the Glory of God while encouraging believers to live a more virtuous life. Having grown up in a culturally diverse community, I'd like to offer some food for thought.
In the neighborhood of my youth, my Irish Catholic family lived among Catholic families of pure German, Polish and Italian descent. The larger Catholic community was composed of additional cultures including Hispanic and Czechoslovakian. Many of these people were first and second generation Americans.
The olive-skinned Italians were some of the most beautiful people I've ever seen; hardworking, with thick accents and friendly smiles laden with the aroma of garlic. The Hispanic women I knew were humble and genuine, often wearing head-scarves and ankle length skirts. The Polish and German households often smelled of mouthwatering traditional foods with strange names I could never pronounce. The coal mining Czechs warmed up on Saturday nights to the sounds of accordions playing spirited polkas while the old folks talked of times back in the old country. My Irish born grandmother danced an Irish jig on St. Patrick's Day after returning home from daily Mass. Everyone seemed to be comfortable with who they were.
The richness of all these cultures gave special meaning to the community, and I was never aware of any racial or cultural prejudices as I was growing up. The one thing that stands out in my mind to this day is that all of these people had something really special in common: the Catholic Culture, which transcended our national cultures. We attended the same Holy Mass, and listened to a language that belonged to the Church rather than to us. Everybody was the same on Sunday mornings, united in something much greater than ourselves and there didn't seem to be a need to focus the attention on our diversity. I'd like to offer the suggestion that this is the real meaning of being multicultural.
This Christmas, considering my combined Irish and Scandinavian heritage I will place three candles in the window on Christmas Eve to symbolize the three Persons of the Holy Trinity and to offer welcome to strangers passing by. My children will place an extra setting at the table to represent our expectation that Christ will come again, and to symbolize our desire to share our meal should a passing stranger stop by. My husband will offer a special prayer before we walk in procession to the nativity scene where our youngest child will place the infant Jesus in the crib and the older children will bring gifts of frankincense and holy water. Special holiday breads and puddings whose origins are far across the sea will grace our table on Christmas Day and we will celebrate the Birth of Christ by offering to God's glory the best of who and what we are. I'm sure that my readers will do the same in their own beautiful traditions and customs.
But most importantly we will set aside these favored customs of ours to gather at the Holy Mass, celebrated as it has been for centuries by men and women of every culture and every tongue. We will not be focused on ourselves and our native tongue nor our unique cultures. We'll be multicultural in our unity at the Mass rather than forcing our diversity to detract from the Holy Sacrifice.