Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee
I really don’t like to travel. I am a homebody, and I like the comfort of my La-Z-Boy recliner. Now, my sister Penny? Her bags are always packed. And my predecessor, Cardinal Dolan, was always on the road, generously responding to invitations. So, it’s strange that this summer, I, the non-traveler, have traveled to Greece and Turkey — and now today, with God’s providence, I find myself in the Philippines visiting the missions supported by Catholic Relief Services (CRS). Their worldwide missions give American Catholics something to be very proud of.
However, there are a couple of suggestions that I could offer to the novice traveler if you find yourself outside the good ol’ US of A. To borrow a line from Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz: “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Some Americans will judge everything through the lens of their own personal creature comforts. Sometimes, you’ll hear them say, “Well, I can get this back home, why can't I get this here?” or “Why don’t you do it this way, the way we do it in the states?” As a guest in another country, there are certain things that you accept. When you visit a neighbor for an overnight, you don’t expect them to refashion the bathroom or bedroom because you’re staying there. In a different country, you should expect things to be different.
Remember, language is a key to good communications. Most citizens of a foreign country are proud that you would try to use their language. However, realize that literal translations of idiomatic expression may find you receiving something that you never ordered or wanted. Once in Rome, a friend was practicing his Italian. When we went into a restaurant for a pizza, the waiter approached and asked us what we desired. Each of us ordered an individual pizza and described the toppings. My friend, translating his desire into Italian, asked for a pizza “without anything on it.” The waiter returned to serve us, and placed before my friend the baked pizza dough – no cheese and no tomato sauce. Unlike the United States, a pizza with nothing on it means only cheese and tomato sauce. In Italy, “nothing on it” literally means nothing on it.
As travelers, you should be a little adventurous, so try some local dishes. Although located throughout the world, McDonald’s is not the place to dine in a foreign country. Mindful of dietary restrictions, test the locals’ favorite dishes. Believe me, it will give you fodder for future dinner conversations.
Once when I was in Ghana, there was a local chicken dish. When it was served, the sauce was tasty. However, the chicken was tougher and a bit stringy. The priest I was with, Fr. Roger Scheckel, the Director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, said, “Bishop, you’re a city boy, and what you are eating is not a plump Perdue chicken, but a free-range chicken.” Free-range chickens are not penned up, but roam freely until the cook is in need of their contribution. Therefore, they develop muscle from hunting for their food.
As Americans, we are spoiled by a world that often speaks our language. We are at a loss when people from other countries do not speak our tongue. I’ve watched Americans ask for directions from someone, speaking very clearly in English. The person responded with this quizzical look, meaning they didn’t understand what the American was saying. Unperturbed, the American repeated the phrase in English with a louder voice, as if speaking louder would somehow bring understanding.
Remember that you’re a guest, so be grateful to your host and realize that your visit is bringing a greater understanding of the world that we live in. Pope Francis spoke of the need for global solidarity; realize that discovering new brothers and sisters requires us to do more to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Note: This blog originally appeared as the July 10, 2018 "Love One Another" email sent to Catholics throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki. If you are interested in signing up for these email messages, please click here.