Miami Cathedral of Saint Mary. Photo by Jirodrig via Wikimedia Commons

Miami: A Meeting of Cultures

Living in Florida, Fr. Marino tells about his experience with the Hispanic world. Rather than a clash of cultures, he’s living an openness to all cultures.
Marco Bardazzi

In the Miami Archdiocese, 75% of the faithful understand the Gospel better if they hear it in Spanish, rather than English. In the parish that Fr Christopher Marino guides in this Florida city, one person out of five only understands Spanish. Figures of this kind are worrying big names in American academia such as Samuel Huntington (author of The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order), who cry panic about the “threat of Hispanicization” looming over America.

Father Marino knows these theories well, but hears them with a smile. “For me, the Church exists to preach the Gospel, to bring Christ, in whatever language can best be understood. If 20% of my parishioners don’t understand English, it means I have to be more attentive to them and bring them the Gospel in Spanish. The best way to make them feel at home, in their Father’s house, is to speak their mother tongue.”

The accent on hospitality
In Yale and Harvard, fortresses of American WASP culture, the Hispanic wave is frightening and evokes images of a near future in which the country is divided in two, with different languages and cultures. But in Miami, all this is lived with a good deal less anguish and, above all, with an accent on hospitality.

“When I speak with priests from other parts of the U.S.,” recounts Fr Marino, “they mention the need for specific pastoral plans for Hispanics. We in Miami don’t have any special pastoral projects; we just live the reality before us. If you go into the Miami Cathedral, you’ll find celebrations in English, Spanish, and Creole. There are 114 parishes in the Archdiocese and about 75% have at least one weekly Spanish Mass. It’s a way of responding to reality.”

Father Marino was born in 1967 in New York, of Italian-American parents, and grew up in Florida. While he was growing up, the southern part of the state was not yet the center of Hispanic immigration as it is today. But already in his seminary years, things were beginning to change. “My best friend was from Nicaragua, and most of the seminary students were Hispanic.”

The proposal of a Christian culture

Now, in Miami and surrounding counties, the situation is quite different from the past, and very fluid. “Now, the growing groups are the Colombians and Venezuelans,” says Father Marino, “and there are also a lot of Argentineans arriving, while the growth in the number of Cubans is slowing down a bit. My parish is dominated by Caribbean immigrants–Jamaicans, Dominicans, and people from Trinidad or the Bahamas. All this is positive–why should we see it as a danger? They’re bringing a Christian culture here that maybe southern Florida was losing. I’m happy that they’re here.”

Whatever part of the world they arrive from, Father Marino’s parishioners will certainly have the possibility of finding themselves before the proposal of CL. “My parish is completely available to the Movement, and anyone who follows with a bit of attention will at least know about the Movement’s existence, because I talk about it all the time. I tell them what I’m living personally.” For Father Christopher, “one of the most beautiful things about CL is its openness to all cultures. Everything that is good, true, and beautiful, whoever brings it, is celebrated and exalted by the Movement. In a reality like this one, marked by diversity, it’s good to live with this openness to reality.”