“Ask a Priest: What If I Don’t Want Foreigners in My Homeland?”

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Q: I am in my late 20s, Irish, but live in New York City. I deeply love my homeland, I am a nationalist and a patriot. I am also a renewed Catholic – I was raised Catholic back home, then lost the faith in college but regained it when I left to work in London for three years. That is where my love of Ireland turned into an anti-English mindset (in my defense, I was on the receiving end of anti-Irish racism a few times). Since moving to America, my anti-English mindset became an anti-foreigners-in-Ireland one. I know this is ridiculous as I am a foreigner here in America, and the world took millions of Irish in when we had to leave. Firstly, I ask you to pray to God to guide me into a better direction, and secondly, how can I love my country but not be in violation of God’s teachings? – K.M.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: As Catholics we are called to build a better world, which in practice often means being good citizens.

The Catechism in No. 2239 says, “It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. The love and service of one’s country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity.”

In practice this means we can have a special love for our homeland. But that shouldn’t interfere with our Christian duty to help others in the world. This should include immigrants, especially refugees. We are, after all, all sons and daughters of the same heavenly Father. And Jesus’ own words point up our obligation toward expatriates and refugees: “I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35).

Given the tendency of many immigrants to enrich their adopted countries, you could try to see the immigrants in Ireland as people who will benefit the old sod – just as the Irish helped enrich North America and Australia and other places that became their new home.

It might help to cultivate a spirit of gratitude for all God’s gifts in your own life, not least of which was the grace of regaining your faith.

This might be a moment to take all this to prayer and see where the Holy Spirit is leading you. This could a moment to see immigrants of all backgrounds as people for whom Christ suffered and died. And if they were worth the blood of Our Lord, that speaks volumes of their value in his eyes.

Finally, it might be useful for you to spend some time reflecting on what St. Paul describes as a kind of “dual citizenship” enjoyed by every Christian. We are citizens of this world, but only temporarily. Our true and everlasting “citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Savior from there, Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).

For more reading see the U.S. bishops’ conference posting on immigration. I hope some of this helps.

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