What a beautiful thing diversity is. What a gift it is to embrace, engage and learn from another culture! Cristina and I feel so immensely blessed to have both come from such different backgrounds, now finding ourselves trying to bring two worlds together for the greater Glory of God! Hence the title of our post and blog: “Cafe con Leche” which is the name of a famous hispanic coffee concoction of coffee and milk….(Andrew and Cristina…..get it?!)
As I count down the 20-some days left until our wedding, I am beyond grateful to our Lord for all of the wonderful things He has done in bringing us together. The diversity of our two families is such a stark contrast yet when they are mixed together, they form something more beautiful than the most delicate watercolor painting.
Only once before, a few years back, have I experienced such joy and amazement in diversity as I did this past weekend – the kind of joy that gives you goosebumps and overwhelms you with tears.
It was a late night in the mountain village of “Kukinka” in Honduras and the entire town had gathered to worship Our Lord in His Body and Blood, something that they are only able to experience in the celebration of the Holy Mass once every year or two. (Due to a lack of priests)
Ten young-adults who had arrived from the US to serve on this 2-week long evangelization mission knelt among hundreds of native Honduran villagers as we worshiped Our Lord as One Body. (Think of rice and beans) As my khaki pants wore stains from the dirt of the humble floor-less church, I couldn’t help but feel unworthy to be praying among such saints. I stared at the crowd of my brothers and sisters, who possessed nothing, and thought to myself “Who are we to be visiting with and bringing the Gospel to a community of people who are already so humble and holy?!” At that moment, the Lord revealed to me the true meaning of the word catholic and my faith meant more to me than ever before.
So back to 2011. 2 weeks ago, Cristina and I traveled from New York City to Virginia Beach via NYC Chinatown Bus (the cheapest deal in town!) for her bridal shower. Together, the Pocta and Rivera family gathered to celebrate the coming-together of two very different families and cultures, all in the name of the Sacrament of Marriage. Cristina reminds me daily of how she had prayed for her future husband’s family, fearing that somehow because of cultural differences, our families might not get along or have anything in common……..she couldn’t have been more off, for the Lord has outdone Himself in generosity to us! As Cristina opened gifts, read cards aloud and thanked each family member that had gathered with us that day, I had to hold back my tears at how beautiful the sight was. She described her experience to me later that evening:
“While sitting there with everyone staring at me, I was so overwhelmed by the love of our two families! I looked around and saw our family and friends – of all different colors and languages, ages and sizes – together as one, enjoying the beautiful day that the Lord had given us. This must be what heaven is like!”
Truly, this must be what Heaven will be like. If you ever get the chance to go to a bilingual Easter Vigil or Patron Feast day, you will know what I’m talking about. Once you get past the language barrier and the frustration of not knowing what is going on, the universality of our Faith – the True Faith meant for all – will overwhelm you!
Blessed John Paul II consistently recognized the importance of preserving culture and in fact he often suggested that the preservation of the traditional culture of Poland was one of the key weapons in it’s battle against communism.
As we continue to prepare for marriage, God has placed on our hearts the desire to preserve and teach our children about the cultures of our family. We see the profound beauty in teaching our future children about the best qualities of both of our cultures and languages, and instead of assimilating into one very “broad” culture, we hope to raise children who through culture, will help be a part of redeeming the modern culture of our world!
Our Lady of Częstochowa – módl się za nami!