Unifying the Universal

Most groups seem to do whatever they can to create cohesiveness and unity among its members.  From secret handshakes to technical terms understood only by those who practice the profession, doctors, physicists, plumbers, and Moose all have ways of staying together.

One of the most impressive examples of this to me was the way in which the existing Jewish community in Indianapolis in and around 1860 helped other Jewish immigrants to the city regardless of where those immigrants began their journeys.  Again, the Jews living in Indianapolis did not care in the least whether the immigrant was from Spain, Hungary, or Palestine.  He was a Jew and they were going to help him become established in his new home.  The wonderful part of this story is that the Jewish community in Indianapolis is still doing this kind of work for both Jews coming to Indianapolis as well as Jews moving to Israel.

Catholics, on the other hand, seem to be doing all they can to divide themselves into more and more groups within the Church and to prevent any kind of unity.  Upon coming to this country, Catholics divided along ethnic lines.  In the South, where Catholicism was not to be found, in many cases Catholic immigrants gave up their faith, but retained their ethnic identities.  In the cities of the North, ethnic neighborhoods grew up and each had its own Catholic Church.  Even in Huntington, IN, a small town southwest of Fort Wayne, IN and my father's hometown, had an Irish Catholic parish and a German Catholic parish.  For Catholic immigrants, it was more important to be Irish, Polish, German, or Italian than it was to be Catholic.  There is an anecdote that an Irish priest would not marry a German Catholic man and an Irish Catholic woman on the grounds that it was a mixed marriage and, therefore, forbidden by the Church.

These mindsets still linger today.  A woman with whom I worked was a life-long resident of Chicago and had grown up in an Irish neighborhood on the South side.  She was close to retirement now and on this day had decided to tell me whom I could trust and whom I couldn't.  As she pointed out co-workers and supervisors, she would say, "You can't trust him.  He's a wap.  He's a Polack, so you'll never get anything out of him."  I couldn't believe that this Catholic woman living in the 21st Century was still segregating other Catholics with whom she worked by their ethnicities.

Ethnic parishes in most cities have faded with the waning of ethnic neighborhoods or have been replaced with new ethnic groups, but Catholics seem to be finding new ways to divide themselves and to stay conquered.  And conquered we will remain until Catholics begin to learn, to accept, and to believe the faith they claim to profess.  Catholics are meant to be a light in the darkness and salt on the acidity of this culture of death.  Instead, we drift aimlessly along in this stream of decay content to join ourselves with the flotsam of apathy and the jetsam of avarice along with those we are supposed to be evangelizing.  We Catholics must begin to take seriously either our Catholicism and become more faithful or our commitment to the culture of death and leave the Church.  If you do not feel like leaving the Church, then take advantage of the sacramental graces of the Church to find the strength to leave the culture of death.

In every profession, there is a body of knowledge that must be learned and understood and that unites those who practice that profession.  Likewise, in our profession of faith, there is a body of knowledge that must be learned and understood and that unites us in our practice of the faith within the Body of Christ.  We have spent enough time dividing ourselves.  We must start uniting ourselves so that we can start conquering instead of always being conquered.


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