Be an (April) fool for Christ

Aaron Lambert

The Denver Catholic would like to announce it will not be partaking in April Fool’s Day. In other news, the Pope has decreed Denver Catholic the greatest Catholic publication in the history of the world.

Ok, you got us.

Everybody loves April Fool’s Day. It’s a free pass to play pranks and openly engage in tomfoolery, and who doesn’t love a good prank — or tomfoolery?

The truth is, if you’ve ever pulled a gag or caused mischief on April Fool’s Day, you have the Catholic Church to thank, according to some historical accounts.

It was Pope Gregory XIII who, in 1582, would unknowingly give rise to the world’s silliest holiday. He issued a decree ordering that all Christian nations adopt a standardized calendar, called the Gregorian calendar. This moved the new year from the end of March to the first of January, causing a great deal of confusion for some. Those poor saps who were ignorant to this new tradition or simply didn’t want to observe it were mocked as “fools.”

And thus a day practical jokes – most done in good fun, and some admittedly not – was born, one that endures to this day.

In many stories, the literary archetype of the “fool” is often portrayed as a bumbling, clueless jokester who lives up to his namesake. Being a fool is not an admirable thing to strive to be; quite the contrary, in fact. Why would anybody desire to make a fool of themselves? It’s a perplexing thought.

As it were though, the entire Christian faith is founded on the life of one man who was thought by many to be just that: a fool.

The Christian life, it could be argued, is a call to foolishness. As Elvis Presley once sang, “If I’m a fool for loving you, then that’s just what I want to be.” If anyone can lay claim to be a fool (and justifiably so) for loving a particular person (or in our case, group of people), it’s Jesus Christ. His teachings were radical – foolish, some might say – but as the human embodiment of God the Father, loving like a fool is what he came to teach.

When was the last time you loved like a fool?

Perhaps we’ve been thinking about April Fool’s Day all wrong. Instead of being a fool to someone, why not be a, as St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians, a fool for someone; namely, Christ. Don’t put a “kick me” sign on your wife’s back; put a “kiss me” sign on your forehead. Yes, April Fool’s Day is done in good fun and is not bad in and of itself, but as with any other day, let it be an opportunity for conversion, that our hearts might be more conformed to that of “Christ the Fool.”

COMING UP: Centro San Juan Diego to celebrate its ‘Quinceañera’ Oct. 11

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“The more prosperous nations are obliged… to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin” (CCC 2241).

With the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in mind and the vision and mission of answering the Church’s call to welcome and aid the newcomers, Archbishop Charles Chaput and Monsignor José Gómez created Centro San Juan Diego in 2003.

Fifteen years later, the mission of Centro continues more urgently than ever. On Oct. 11, the institution will celebrate its 15th birthday — or as it’s called among Hispanics, its ‘Quinceañera.’

Centro was created to meet the urgent needs of the growing Hispanic immigrant community in Colorado after the arrival of what was considered one of the largest wave of immigrants to the U.S. between 1996 and 2004, explained Juan Carlos Reyes, Executive Director of Centro San Juan Diego.

“The creation of Centro was necessary, not only so Catholic immigrants could find the Church welcoming them, opening its doors and helping them to actively participate in the Church’s life, but also, for the immigrant community in general, regardless of their faith, to offer them an area of social work,” Reyes explained.

Since its creation, Centro has helped thousands of people. In fact, nearly 5,000 Hispanics reach out to Centro every year to receive faith formation and educational services. With the Pastoral Institute, the family, children’s and young adult’s ministries, and the educational and leadership programs, Centro has become the main resource center for both long-term residents and newcomers in Colorado.

At Centro, students start by learning English, preparing for their citizenship, and/or becoming entrepreneurs by attending small business classes.

Twice a month, Centro offers a legal night (Noche Legal) to provide legal advice from lawyers in different areas of law to those seeking help but with no financial means to do so.  During tax season, Centro provides tax preparation services at a low cost. Additionally, a tax preparer certification is available for those who want to pursue it.

“One of the programs that has given us more recognition is the partnership Centro has with Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla (UPAEP), a university in Puebla, Mexico that offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Spanish that are valid in both countries,” said Reyes. This partnership began in 2012 and provides online education at low cost to any Spanish-speaking individual, regardless of their citizenship status.

A positive effect on families

One of the most touching testimonies shared by a Centro student came from Monica Chavez, who was the first graduate from the UPAEP program.

“During her graduation ceremony speech, she paused and, addressing her children, she said, ‘There are no excuses now [for them not to graduate],’” recalled Reyes. “The services at Centro are offered to help families, to help parents be the best parents they can be. The education this student [received] has had a direct effect on her life. We are almost certain that her children will graduate [due to her mother’s example].”

Centro San Juan Diego’s mission is continuous. Earlier this year, the “Sister Alicia V. Cuarón Education Fund” was created to honor the legacy of Sister Alicia V. Cuarón, the founder of the previous family services program and a lifelong advocate for Hispanic issues in business, leadership and empowerment. The education fund supports the family services and programs at Centro.

“This education fund is an effective tool to respond to the Church’s call to help immigrants, regardless of their ethnicity or economic status,” stated Reyes.

The future of Centro

When asked about Centro’s future, Reyes enthusiastically responded that among its promising plans, there is a great opportunity “to establish regional offices on the Eastern Plains and Western slope to reach the immigrant community in those areas.” They also plan “to extend vocation and education courses through the archdiocese and create new programs that will address the growing and diverse needs of immigrants, such as education, leadership development, job training and readiness, while ensuring easy access to its award-winning services.”