From a recent talk:
“The people of this land were called Christians before they were called Americans. And they were called this name in the Spanish, French and English tongues. From this history, we learn that long before the Boston Tea Party, Catholic missionaries were celebrating the holy Mass on the soil of this continent….
This is the missing piece of American history. And today, more than ever, we need to know this heritage of holiness and service — especially as American Catholics…
When we forget our country’s roots in the Hispanic-Catholic mission to the New World, we end up with distorted ideas about our national identity. We end up with an idea that Americans are descended from only white Europeans and that our culture is based only on the individualism, work ethic and rule of law that we inherited from our Anglo-Protestant forebears.
When that has happened in the past, it has led to those episodes in our history that we are least proud of — the mistreatment of Native Americans; slavery; the recurring outbreaks of nativism and anti-Catholicism; the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II; the misadventures of “manifest destiny.”
There are, of course, far more complicated causes behind these moments in our history. But, at the root, I think we can see a common factor — a wrongheaded notion that “real Americans” are of some particular race, class, religion or ethnic background.”
(Hat tip: Michael Sean Winters).