March may be a bit far off, but a St. Patrick's Day brawl has come early. No one seems happy by the recent decision to include OUT@NBCUniversal, an LGBT activist group to participate in New York's St. Patrick's Day parade.
For the sake of clarity: St. Patrick is the patron saint of the archdiocese of New York, and though Catholics have always been a big part of the parade, the parade is not run by the Church. And while the NBC group's position on LGBT issues does not gibe with Catholic teaching, it's somewhat consistent with the parade's history to let the group march, as the NBC group is not so much political as civic -- it's about fellowship, not politics.
And while most commentary is currently of the angry variety at the moment, this could be an opportunity, as New York's Cardinal Timothy Dolan has put it, for some "unity," for a celebration of common human dignity.
"We believe that love is our mission, and that this mission is the only way we can be fully alive and be who we were created to be," says a church text published in preparation for the pope's expected visit to America next fall, when he's scheduled to attend a conference on the family. "We believe that this love should be taught, shared and communicated in and through the family, the domestic church."
This "love is our mission" stuff might sound trite, but it is exactly that kind of basic renewal and what it could bring for men, women and families that so concerns the Church as of this moment. It's about people who live their faith in the world and thus serve as beacons to others, providing inspiration and an example of what concrete faith looks like.
Groups such as Courage, which serves and supports men and women attracted to members of the same gender who choose to live chastely -- joyfully, but by no means in a Pollyannaish or all-problems-solved way.
"Look at the face of the other ... discover that he has a soul, a history, and a life, that he is a person and that God loves this person," begins a documentary the group made, which can be viewed at everlastinghills.org. The quote comes from Pope Benedict.
In explaining his decision to be grand marshal of the parade even with the OUT group, Cardinal Dolan said "people with same-sex attraction are God's children, deserving dignity and respect, never to be treated with discrimination or injustice." This is in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It's been said again and again -- even by a pope -- but it sometimes takes a media circus for it to be heard.
Probably the best-known contemporary exemplar of practical faith, hope and love was Mother Teresa." Her love was concrete and enterprising," Pope John Paul II said of her shortly after her death. The Missionaries of Charities, which Mother Teresa founded, serve the "poorest of the poor," reaching out to the most forgotten and even feared. "It spurred her to go where few had the courage to go, wherever poverty was so great as to be frightening," JPII said. According to him, Mother Teresa "incarnated that love which Jesus indicated as the distinctive mark of his disciples."
Whether over green beer or after Mass, nothing about Church teaching is going to resonate if the love that Mother Teresa radiated is missing. Let's keep it in the parade.