Over the last two weeks one of my brothers from India, Dominic, came with his family for a visit as his daughter, Nikki, would be graduating from NYU. It was great to spend time with them. I was able to drive them to Niagara Falls and I accompanied them for the graduation of my niece in New York. I have been to the Big Apple several times before, but this visit seemed to have given me a clearer picture of that great big city. It was overwhelming.


As we walked through Times Square, I saw people from all over the world. In the city neighborhoods the diversity that we encountered was impressive. Even at the graduation, the graduates represented many ethnic groups, religions and social backgrounds. It is there that I came to realize firsthand how our country is veritably the “melting pot.” I felt proud as an American because this nation has embraced people from all over the world.

While I was mulling over these thoughts, certain questions arose in my heart. If we are the melting pot then why are we unable to get along? Why are there so many divisions in our society? Why can’t we be respectful of each other even though we may not agree on everything? Why is there so much intolerance? Why do we attempt to silence voices that express views different from our own?

These questions became even more pressing as I read the news stories that recounted how across campuses freedom of speech has been stifled by student protests. Universities are usually known as the bastion of free speech. In recent times the so-called liberal groups have either protested or shut down speakers whose political and social views they oppose. A few weeks ago, students at Berkeley prevented the conservative writer and speaker, Ann Coulter, from speaking on campus. Over the last weekend a few graduates walked out during the commencement speech that was delivered by Vice President Mike Pence. During our college years we are supposed to expose ourselves to all sorts of ideas and views, and attempt to engage in honest dialog. How can we learn and grow if we shut down opposing views and opinions?

These events occurring on our university campuses reflect also the mood of the country. We are so polarized that we do not even bother to listen to the other side. People on the right read and watch news and editorials that reflect their views. People on the left do the same. If we are totally stuck in our own corner, how can we build democracy? Differences of opinion are inevitable. Each one of us is a free agent who comes with a unique history, background, intellect and a special set of experiences. Even within the family we all do not agree on many things.

Strange as it may seem, I think that the present intolerance is the result of our carrying tolerance too far. The one value we seem to cherish in the American society is tolerance. “Live and let live” is our mantra. I should be allowed to live as I please and no one has the right to challenge me on my choices. If we do not fall in line with the “fashionable trends” in the society, we will be rejected. If we uphold the sanctity of life or the sacredness of traditional marriage we will be labeled as haters. The words of Samuel Taylor Coolidge are relevant in this regard. He said: “I have seen great intolerance shown in support of tolerance.”

Such an interpretation of tolerance calls on us to fall into moral relativism. It denies that there are absolute moral values that one should hold on to. We create by our choosing what is right and wrong. If we subscribe to absolute moral values, then our stance is viewed as a critique of someone who does not adhere to such standards. In this post-modern era individuals claim that there are no overarching meta-narratives, no consistent, systematic perspective on human life. As Christians, we do have such a meta-narrative – our salvation history. We do believe in a set of values that are absolute and immutable. We know Who made us and what our destiny is.

Tolerance is not pretending to agree with everyone. It is a balancing act. Tolerance is respecting the other even though we hold opposing views. It is the openness to the other person’s views and the readiness to dialog with them in order to enrich each other. It is the refusal to condemn the other while we disagree. It is the willingness to enter into the other person’s world so that we can develop empathy and understanding. However, it is not the denial of who we are so that we can keep the peace.

No one can deny that Jesus was highly tolerant. He welcomed sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes, and he ate with them. He condemned no one. The same Lord did not allow those individuals to remain where they were. He challenged them to grow, to reform their lives. To the woman caught in adultery Jesus said, “Has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you. Go in peace and sin no more!”

Let us heed the warning issued by Karl R. Popper, a philosopher of science: “Less well known is the paradox of toleranceUnlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.”

May the God of peace teach us how to be tolerant of each other! May we hold firm to our beliefs even as we respectfully engage in dialog with our ideological opponent!

Mission Statement: As children of God, living in a Catholic community of faith, we are united by the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Aware that all we have is gift and grace from our Heavenly Father, we strive to give of our time, talent and treasure to build His kingdom on earth. We live this mission, challenged by the Word, nurtured by the Sacraments, and enlivened by the Spirit, to serve our brothers and sisters in peace, justice and dignity. All are welcome on this journey.

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St. Paul of the Cross

320 South Washington Street
Park Ridge, IL 60068

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Phone: (847) 825-7605
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Mass Schedule

Monday - Friday

8:30 am - Upper Church


4:30 pm vigil - Upper Church


7:30 am - Upper Church
9:00 am - Holy Family Chapel
10:30 am - Upper Church