Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres: Tell me who you walk with and I will tell you who you are

Posted on: October 8th, 2015

Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres:
Tell me who you walk with and I will tell you who you are

How do I understand social justice within the context of my professional life? How have I been inspired to act justly toward my neighbors in the various professional hats I have worn? What have been some of my personal and religious motivations in life?

I am the child of exiles who left Cuba as a result of socio-political injustice. This experience profoundly changed my life and has caused an ongoing impact on everything I do. Issues of justice have always been on my mind and heart. My service as the 9th U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See expanded my global perspective on such issues and deepened my commitment to the importance of acting justly toward others individually, communally, and as a nation.
I left Havana with my parents, possessing nothing but a suitcase in hand. I remember the generosity of family and strangers who acted mercifully and welcomed and supported my family in Spain and it happened again two years later when we arrived in the United States. To this day I remember this generosity and I try to pay it forward in the service I render as a writer, as a teacher, and as public-thinker.

As a Cuban-American living in Miami, I shared the Cuban exilic community’s devotion to Our Lady of Charity, patroness of Cuba. As a theologian I have reflected on this popular Catholic devotion, and its central invitation to practice charity as solidarity with the marginalized and oppressed (a floating image of Mary which gave rise to this devotion in the 17th century was found at sea by two Amerindian brothers and an African slave boy). So here is her recipe for justice: Walk in charity, practicing solidarity with our neighbors, especially the suffering, the marginalized, and the oppressed.

As a faculty member of Loyola University, I am delighted to write this post on the day we welcomed Pope Francis’ to the United States of America. The Spanish saying I cited above speaks about the importance of accompanying others, and how walking-with others impacts who we become as persons. Pope Francis, a prophetic voice on behalf of justice, invites us to denounce the globalization of human indifference, opt for the poor and marginalized and our impoverished earth, and practice mercy toward our neighbors.

In the spirit of John Courtney Murray, whose University Chair I hold, and consistent with the mission of our Jesuit University, I believe we need to continue to build-bridges of justice, starting with our closest neighbors near our campus and moving beyond to include neighbors within and outside our regional and national border. I look forward to working with undergraduate and graduate students in upcoming student-led conversations that will address issues of social justice within our campus, city, country and world at large. As the students brain-storming this project have made amply clear to me: We want to listen to the voices of suffering, oppressed, and marginalized all around us and we want to learn from them new recipes to address the social challenges of our time. That’s what I call walking with charity in solidarity with those most in need. That is also what I call putting into practice the mission and vision of this Jesuit university that seeks to discern God in all things, especially under the foot of the cross and with “the crucified of history.”

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