‘What color is God’s skin…’

Bishop Jorge Rodriguez

Thus says the chorus of the popular Spanish-language song by Ivonne and Ivette, “El Color de la Piel de Dios” (“The Color of God’s Skin”), which many Spanish speakers may well know and have probably sang before. The song says that God’s skin contains all colors: “black, yellow, red and white: All are the same to the eyes of God.” As the bright light, in its passing through a prism, expands into the spectrum of colors, as in rainbow, so is God’s family; so is the Church. We all proceed from the same Divine Light, which is God our Father, but upon the reception of that light, we lay it out in a multitude of skin colors, of cultural and devotional traditions, of music and song, of languages and of our expressions of the love of God.

Much has been said about the Hispanic and Latin-American community in the Catholic Church, among the American community that has received us. Yet, in the Archdiocese of Colorado there also other Catholic communities that make our Church beautiful and rich in tradition and traditions.

For example, in our Catholic Church and parishes live and pray the Native-American community (St. Bernadette Parish); the Polish community (St. Joseph Parish); the African-American community (Cure d’Ars Church); the Vietnamese community (Queen of Vietnamese Martyrs Church); the African community (Queen of Peace Church); the Italian community (Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church); the Korean community (St. Lawrence Parish); the Hmong community (All Saints Church); the Lebanese community (St. Rafka Church). Also, making our Catholic Church in Colorado even more colorful and beautiful, are the different liturgical rites, such as the Maronite (St. Rafka Church), the Byzantine (Holy Protection of the Mother of God Church); the Ukrainian (Transfiguration of Our Lord Church); the Roman (which the Hispanic community belong to) and the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (or the Old Rite, in Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Littleton).

The Catholic Church (which means “Universal”) is truly a feast of colors, sounds, languages and traditions, of which we must be proud – all united as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of one, same Father.

On Oct. 29, the Lord gifted me with a beautiful spiritual experience. I celebrated Mass for the African Catholic community of Denver at Queen of Peace. As I prepared my homily, I discovered that the African peoples have a very profound sense of the presence and action of God in everything that happens; great love for life and family; appreciation for nature and a grateful respect for the elderly and their authority, among other values. Their liturgical participation is dynamic, as when they bring up the gifts for the Mass, walking with devout and beautiful cadence. Their songs are full of life and rhythm and, in a away, express a unique spontaneity and connection with life. The joy of the liturgy is felt in every aspect. I also had the opportunity to partake in the reception, made up respectful greetings, colorful dresses, beautiful dances performed by children and youth, and a delicious meal with numerous dishes.

This last Nov. 5, I had the opportunity to celebrate and share with the Italian community at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church. Although now the majority speaks mostly English, we celebrated an Italian-language Mass, and they responded very well in Italian. They prayed as we pray, yet their love for their Italian roots was evident, as their love for their language and that Catholic faith embedded in the Italian soul and family. Their warmth, openness and delicious dishes of the Italian cuisine make you feel in Italy, even though the parish is in the heart of Denver! There I listened to the story of this immigrant community, also ingrained – as that of today’s immigrants – with nostalgia for their homeland, difficulties of hard labor, poverty and discrimination. But also with much faith! With that faith and love for the Church, they were able to build a beautiful church, as that of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.

May we always keep in mind the beauty of our Catholicity, learn to appreciate the different forms of being a Church and loving God, and maintain the unity of the same faith we profess and the same Eucharist, which allows us to acknowledge all as sons and daughters, children of the same Father; in Christ, our Savior; and in the Holy Spirit, who unites us all in the love of God. One God, whose skin color is expressed in the skin color of his children, who reflect the light of God when they are united.

COMING UP: God’s love has no walls

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God’s love has no walls

Bishop Rodriguez celebrates immigrant Mass in Spanish on feast of Christ the King

The Sunday after Thanksgiving took on special meaning for the immigrant community in northern Colorado. On the solemnity of Christ the King, Bishop Jorge H. Rodriguez celebrated a Spanish-language Mass in the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception for all immigrants, their families and those who support them.

The feast of Christ the King holds a special meaning for the Mexican community, since during the religious persecution at the beginning of the 20th century, many Christians bravely proclaimed the motto, “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long live Christ the King!”), before being killed.

Hundreds of immigrant and non-immigrant Catholics attended the celebration presided by Bishop Rodriguez. (Photo by Andrew Wright)

Around 1,500 faithful participated in the Eucharist.  They arrived early – some in buses chartered by their parishes – united in community to remember that Christ reigns in their hearts and to lift up their petitions to the Almighty.

“Many of our brothers and sisters hold a deportation order in their hands,” said Bishop Rodriguez in his homily. “They can’t sleep thinking about the moment the order will be executed and about what might happen to their families.”

The bishop spoke to the many youth who “see their dream of a good future turn into a nightmare,” and to those adults who “fear to be sent back to the places they fled because of the violence of drug trafficking or of gangs that destroy their children.”

The prelate then reflected on a passage from the Gospel of the day in which Jesus says, “I was a foreigner and you welcomed me.” He highlighted how “Jesus identifies himself with the immigrant and receives, as if done to himself, whatever is done to the immigrant: welcome or rejection. In the immigrant, Christ is welcomed or rejected.”

The faithful lifted up all those who await an uncertain future, in the hope of a comprehensive immigration reform. (Photo by Andrew Wright)

Bishop Rodriguez also united his voice to that of all the bishops who ask for a law that grants the youth not only a temporary pardon of deportation – as is the case with DACA – “but a full possibility of remaining in the country, without having to be separated from their families.”

Likewise, he pointed out the need of an extension of the Temporary Protected Status permits for the brothers and sisters of El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti, and requested a comprehensive reform that allows a way of legalization for immigrants: “May families not be separated, may the kids that come alone be protected; and may the migration system be revised with justice to fully respect the dignity of the human person and the family.”

Immigrants and refugees from all over the archdiocese prayed for families to remain united and for human dignity to be respected. (Photo by Andrew Wright)

After Mass, two women who have benefited from the DACA program gave their testimonies.  Aline Cervantes, 19, said: “DACA gave me the opportunity to attend college. But before being a dreamer, I’m a daughter of God. He gave me DACA, only he knows what will happen. Jesus understands our distress and pain. We must have hope and faith.” She also encouraged the youth present to not fill their hearts with resentment against their non-Hispanic brothers and sisters.

Meanwhile, Michelle Fierro, 24, said that on the same day she thought of buying her ticket to return to Mexico on June 12, 2012, she was surprised to find that an executive order could temporarily improve her status as an undocumented immigrant.  “I felt that God was speaking to me, telling me that this was the place for me,” Fierro told the Denver Catholic en Español. “I began to see many differences since I was very young. I felt that I was less, and I wondered why I should remain here if I couldn’t have a good future.” Although the end of DACA was announced, she holds a conviction: “We must have faith. It is God who governs us, we should say, ‘Jesus, I trust in you,’ and follow the plan he has for us.”

The congregation waves white flags with the motto, “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” during the final hymn of the Eucharistic celebration. (Photo by Andrew Wright)

At the end of Mass, the faithful sung fervently and effusively the hymn “Tú reinarás” (“You will reign”), waving white flags. They then began to yell, as many fellow countrymen did on the verge of death, “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” to the King who, as bishop said, “invites us to trust, and watches over us: for those on one side and for those on the other; since for his love, there are no walls. And he invites us, above all, to maintain hope: He will reunite those who are dispersed.”