One Church Many Cultures The Good News of Cultural Diversity Fall/Winter 2020 Issue


Do We Want to Talk About It?

By: Mike Hayes

Mike Hayes

After George Floyd’s tragic death. I listened to an amazing homily by my friend, Fr. Steven Bell, CSP, who is African American. He noted, “I walk out my door every day to get in my car and drive to do whatever I need to do. And each day I leave with the thought, very present in my mind, that I might not return back home that day.”

For my friend, this is what being a black priest in a predominately white church is like. And in that listening, I am ashamed by my white privilege. I am ashamed not just of what I have never had to carry, but ashamed that I have never even considered that my friend carries it each day.

I am reminded of Fr Bryan Massingale, author of Racial Justice and the Catholic Church, who points out three obstacles in confronting racism:

1. “We don’t know what we are talking about. We lack clarity and agreement as to what constitutes racism.” 

2. “We don’t know how to talk about it—Especially in mixed-race settings.”

And perhaps most importantly:

3. “We really don’t want to talk about it.”[1]

In Journeying Together, my European American ministry colleagues and I have reflected on and discussed our experiences of culture and racism. During this process, I have been reminded by a colleague to keep in mind Jesus’ prayer: “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.”  (John 17:20-21)[2]

But are we all one? We are longing to get into these conversations, but we assume we are the minority. As White European-American ministers, our discussions have been uncomfortable, but we still feel safe in our enclave. Yet, we agree that we need to address this… but we fear the truth.

We seem to be a divided church. There are many Catholics that do not share our thoughts and they really “don’t want to talk about it.” However, our real work has to begin now. We must “disturb this peace” and to be brave enough to WANT to talk about it. This is our “difficult consolation.”[3]

We need to sit at the foot of this cross and listen as if on a retreat, when we listen and stand in awe of what others have had to carry, to notice their resilience and to simply admire their tenacity. In doing so, we will meet Christ in the listening. May that move us to see the suffering Christ in our midst and most importantly…. to want to talk about it.

[1] Massingale, Bryan, Racial justice and the Catholic Church, Orbis Books, 2010, preface XI-XII

[2] New American Bible,  (John 17:20-21)

[3] Thibodeaux, Mark, E: “There’s Such a State as Difficult Consolation: