“Diversity is our destiny.” Such was the declaration I recently heard on a news report about the demographic evolution in our nation.
From a Catholic perspective, diversity is right at home. The word ‘Catholic’ after all means universal. St. Paul underscores the positive reality of diversity by likening different believers to different parts of the Mystical Body of Christ – each member being distinct but part of the whole. But this unity assumes and requires a common allegiance.
Demographic diversity is to be welcomed, but only if the ‘unum’ comes with the ‘e pluribus’. We cannot have ‘one out of many’ if there are no commonly embraced values and aspirations among the many.
Regrettably – and hazardously – we have witnessed in recent decades the diminishment of these commonly shared virtues. Once promoted and sustained by tradition such universally held values as family, self -reliance, morality (sexual and otherwise), and civic pride appear to be on the wane in large segments of our society. The weaker these bonds are that have traditionally held us together the greater the threat diversity poses to our social and individual vitality One result is that young people are having to launch themselves onto the seas of adulthood with no moral compass, no sense of serious purpose or direction. They consequently find themselves floundering on the shoals of promiscuity or, worse, lonely meaninglessness. Another result is, of course, the widespread derision of the so-called elites for limits of any kind, especially those perceived to be imposed by religion.
Some days ago, I came across this address given by the Catholic rebel, Marquis de Charette, after the execution of King Louis during the French Reign of Terror when the faith was under such attack: “It is as old as the devil, the world they call new and would establish in the absence of God. They tell us we are slaves of ancient superstitions. But in the face of these demons who are reborn from century to century, we are youth, Gentlemen! We are the youth of God, the youth of faithfulness! And this youth intends to preserve for itself and for its sons, genuine humanity and the liberty of the soul!”
This rally cry must have echoed in the ears of Curtis Martin two centuries later. It certainly resonated with the new evangelization of Pope John Paul II. In 1998, Mr. Martin established the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS: www.focus.org). Since then, trained volunteer missionaries have touched the lives of tens of thousands of Catholic college and university students throughout the nation. Through example, fellowship, bible studies and shared sacramental life, these students are introduced, or reintroduced, not only to the good news of eternal salvation but also to the awareness that ‘honest to God’ joy is possible now, the joy that lifts, guides, inspires and frees souls otherwise imprisoned by distraction and despair.
Vibrant joy – that vital bond of thriving diversity!
Dana Robinson is chair of the board of trustees of the National Catholic Community Foundation.