Monday, May 17, 2010

Wu Li and Catholic Multiculturalism

I have to admit that I am not always the biggest fan of multiculturalism. It often seems to spiral out of control into an intolerant ideology based upon a hyper-relativism and a relentless, unyielding egalitarianism. It goes without saying that this brand of multiculturalism is deeply antithetical to the claims of the Christian faith. Now, I'm sure some would counter that Christianity is also an intolerant ideology with its own subjective, relativistic conceptions of truth and morality. I am not interested in rebutting those claims this evening. I would simply reply, "Bah! Humbug!"

Not all forms of multiculturalism are inimical to the Christian faith. In fact, quite to the contrary, there are many wholesome and meaningful cultural expressions that are perfectly compatible with the faith. I present you with one tonight: the art and poetry of Wu Li, a seventeenth and eighteenth-century convert to Catholicism. His paintings are widely celebrated in Chinese culture and some of his poems are quite beautiful as well. I stumbled upon this wonderful artist and Catholic convert (and eventual Jesuit) yesterday by random chance while scrolling through various articles on the Catholic news aggregator, New Advent, and alighting upon Mr. Frank Weathers's blog post on the topic. The painting at the beginning of the post is by Wu Li as is the following poem, written to commemorate the reception of Li's friend, Kuo, into the Catholic faith:
The gate of eternal blessings
this day has opened for you;
the light of grace and felicitation
have come to you from Heaven.

Extirpated are your former taints,
repulsed the Devil's troops;
now you will enjoy the real bread;
formed in the Holy Womb.

How dignified! Your name has entered
the register of the righteous.
How glorious! Your heart
becomes an altar for the Lord.

I know you will prove worthy
to console the people's yearning;
the great hall now is in need of pillars
raised on rock.
I plan to use Wu Li in my English 1 class next year when we cover Chinese poetry. What a wonderful opportunity for interdisciplinary work and the evangelization of the boys! Talk about killing two birds with one stone.

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