On Tuesday evening of this week, I was at the United Center to cheer on the Chicago Blackhawks; they were hosting the Vancouver, Canada Canucks. When a Canadian team plays the Blackhawks at the United Center, the pre-game festivities include the singing of the Canadian national anthem, O Canada, followed by the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner. Truth be told, I just love the Canadian anthem and I get emotional each time I join in singing it. When I sing the words, "my home and native land," I recall my ancestors who emigrated to the United States from Canada. I am French-Canadian by ethnicity and ancestry through and through. I have come to love Canada, chiefly because of the marvelous people I have met and befriended in my many trips there in the last thirty years. They embody hospitality.
When the festivities on Tuesday evening turned to the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner, I began to join in the singing, just as I had done with the Canadian anthem. But then I stopped singing. I just couldn't sing it anymore. It was as if the entire election cycle, and the ensuing months since President Trump's election, came crashing down around me. I thought about the Afghanistan refugee family that we have helped sponsor here in Chicago. I thought about my ancestors who were welcomed into the United States as immigrants in the last century. I thought about the wonderful craftsmen, all Polish immigrants, who are currently remodeling my home; I thought about the great pride they have in their craft.
I just couldn't sing it anymore. I thought about "the wall." I thought about the fear that our president has planted in the hearts of too many; a fear that is based on non-Christian principles of exclusion and alienation. I thought about relatives and friends who have been duped into believing in someone who treats women like trash. I thought about how proud I have been of this country and how quickly that pride has been eroded. Folks, I hate the fact that I have to say these things, and this blog is probably not the place to do so; I have rarely, if ever, "talked politics" here. For someone who's "gotta sing," I found my reaction on Tuesday night deeply troubling.
A few minutes ago, I came across the statement on immigration just issued by the bishops of the United States. It made me want to sing a song of thanksgiving for their prophetic voices, because I've "gotta sing" about something in these very troubling days for our country. Please read the statement and let's all do what the bishops ask us to do. Here you go:
To live as a people of God is to live in the hope of the resurrection. To live in Christ is to draw upon the limitless love of Jesus to fortify us against the temptation of fear. Pray that our engagement in the debate over immigration and refugee issues may bring peace and comfort to those most affected by current and proposed national policy changes.
Let us not lose sight of the fact that behind every policy is the story of a person in search of a better life. They may be an immigrant or refugee family sacrificing so that their children might have a brighter future. As shepherds of a pilgrim Church, we will not tire in saying to families who have the courage to set out from their despair onto the road of hope: "We are with you." They may also be a family seeking security from an increased threat of extremist violence. It is necessary to safeguard the United States in a manner that does not cause us to lose our humanity.
Intense debate is essential to healthy democracy, but the rhetoric of fear does not serve us well. When we look at one another do we see with the heart of Jesus? Within our diverse backgrounds are found common dreams for our children. Hope in the next generation is how the nation will realize its founding motto, "out of many, one." In doing so, we will also realize God's hope for all His children: that we would see each other as valued sisters and brothers regardless of race, religion or national origin.
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh (Jn. 1:14), strengthens us to bring our words to life. How might we, as Catholics and in our own small way, bring our words of solidarity for migrants and refugees to life?
1. Pray for an end to the root causes of violent hatred that force mothers and fathers to flee the only home they may have known in search of economic and physical security for their children.
2. Meet with members of your parish who are newcomers, listen to their story and share your own. Hundreds of Catholic parishes across the country have programs for immigrants and refugees both to comfort them and to help them know their rights. It is also important to reach out in loving dialogue to those who may disagree with us. The more we come to understand each other's concerns the better we can serve one another. Together, we are one body in Christ.
3. Call, write or visit your elected representative and ask them to fix our broken immigration system in a way that safeguards both our security and our humanity through a generous opportunity for legal immigration.
As Pope Francis said, "To migrate is the expression of that inherent desire for the happiness proper to every human being, a happiness that is to be sought and pursued. For us Christians, all human life is an itinerant journey towards our heavenly homeland."
If you are offended in any way by what I wrote today, please know that I respect your own opinions and ask you to respect mine. I just couldn't keep silent, since our bishops called us to "reach out in loving dialogue."
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.