Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
What do you imagine I’ll say next?
Actually, I want to draw a lesson from the saints.
Think of St. Louis, who was rich, and St. Francis, who was poor.
Think of St. Andre Bessette, who was a simple doorkeeper, and St. Francis Xavier, who was a worldwide missionary.
Think of St. Thomas More, who was a great scholar, and St. Therese of Lisieux, whose “Little Way” was childlike.
Think of St. Benedict, who had many spiritual sons, and Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin, who had many physical daughters (including St. Therese of Lisieux).
Think of St. Augustine, who had a sinful history, and St. Catherine of Siena, who had a very pure history.
Think of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, who was a convert to the faith, and St. John Paul II, who was a cradle Catholic.
Think of St. Charles Lwanga from what is now Uganda and St. Josephine Bakhita from what is now Sudan; St. Paul Miki from Japan and St. Andrew Kim Taegon from Korea; St. Juan Diego from Mexico and St. Rose of Lima from Peru; St. Sharbel and St. Rafqa from Lebanon.
There’s tremendous diversity among the saints! But notice this: Their diversity has value in relation to the Body of Christ. They’re complementary witnesses to the many ways Christ can live in us.
In this way, faith provides the key to something that our culture gets partially right but also entirely wrong: the issue of diversity. Is diversity a value? The answer most people give to that question is rooted in politics. Our answer needs to be rooted in faith.
Current culture tends to treat diversity as an absolute value: “All diversity is good!” But this approach leads to relativism. It refuses to admit that besides diversity of virtue, there’s also diversity of sin. We can’t build a culture on the failure to make that distinction. Or, rather, we can — but we won’t like the result because we can never say that something is wrong. The truth is, some things in the world are wrong.
The movement to support diversity has cultural momentum because there’s a partial truth in it. God writes different gifts into creation; there are many parts in the Body of Christ; the Holy Spirit gives different charisms. How do we both preserve the truth and correct the error that are mixed together in culture’s approach to diversity?
We can only do it if we provide a better way to affirm, integrate and assess diversity. Fortunately, the saints show us how. Where there’s diversity that’s rooted in God’s plan, we can and should rejoice in that diversity: It brings growth to the Body of Christ. Where there’s diversity that’s contrary to God’s plan, we can and must name that for what it is — diversity of sin, which undermines and divides us from the Body of Christ.
If we claim our heritage — and the saints give us a clear example of how to do so! — we can give the world a better approach to diversity.