Since we are in the Oscar season of the movies, I remember a movie that was an Oscar winner some 40 years ago, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” with Spencer Tracy, Catherine Hepburn and Sidney Poitier among others. It touched me that time deeply because it shows us how difficult it is to overcome barriers between races, religions, social status and cultures. The movie is about an invitation to a mixture of guests of white and black Americans, for a dinner that surprises and even annoys all of them.
Let me explain: the plot of the movie centers on a young lady who returns home to the US from Hawaii bringing her fiancé, a young idealist black doctor, to dinner to meet her parents, but the parents are very hesitant to accept this black doctor as their future son-in-law. The doctor tells confidentially the father that he will not marry his daughter if they object to their marriage, but he adds that their decision must come before he leaves that evening for Switzerland for 3 months, during which time the couple plan to marry. Adding to the suspense are the parents of the doctor who fly in to attend this Despedida dinner, but don’t know that the young lady and boyfriend of their son, is white until they meet at the airport. At the end a Catholic priest and family friend is also present at the dinner and calms down the tension and argument as a voice of tolerance…..finally both families approve hesitantly the marriage.
When you are invited to a party it could happen that you see people whom you don’t expect or anticipate to see there. Sometimes cultural or psychological barriers prevent or hinder us to reach out to people. Children and young people are very often posing such problems for adults. Children are noisy and boisterous! Adults find it hard to listen patiently to them, to appreciate their concerns and demands to speak their language. Even the disciples of Jesus dismissed children who wanted to come close to Him. But He loved the children and all what is vulnerable, weak and defenseless. Therefore His command is straight forward: you must love them because each child is a person and has an absolute and eternal value.
Chiro is a Child friendly movement who invites the youth to play and recreate with one another and by doing so teaches them to form a group and learn to be more responsible, more supportive to one another in the spirit of the Gospel. This is easier said than done because our Parishes became bureaucratic, complex Institutions where there is less interest in such dynamic participation and interaction. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, also notices this in his Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” where he writes: “Young people often fail to find responses to their concerns, needs, problems and hurts in the usual structures” (105). Are we at home in our Parish Community? Do we do a real effort to involve our Parish Priest in our activities? Do we inform him regularly about our plans, do we share with him our problems and concerns? Are we working within the Vision-Mission plan of the Parish? The temptation for any small community or association to become a self-absorbed cluster made up of a chosen few is very real. Being a Parish based Youth Movement we cannot become a marginalized group of young people out of touch with the Parish and the formation of a small Parish Community. Chiro must always be a community within the community, a sort of sanctuary for the Youth where the hungry and thirsty are welcome for dinner even without formal invitation or ID. We can assume different contours and shapes depending on the creativity of the group and the need of the Parish. Chiro is flexible and therefore mission-oriented. You may guess who is joining Chiro, but certainly our members come from all walks of life.
Fr. Gerry Bouckaert, CICM