A Flag of Many Colors

June 4, 2019

These blogs are part of a five-part Pride Month series, Pride with Mercy. They grew out of the Sisters of Mercy’s Chapter 2017 Declaration challenging each of us to respond to those who suffer from oppressive systems and to “become better educated and to participate in engaged dialogue on issues of gender identity and sexual orientation.” We encourage you to forward these posts to someone who might need to read them. Together, may we grow in our tolerance, acceptance and understanding, and extend a hand of welcome to the LGBTQ+ community.

By Sister Janet Rozzano

Every June in our country, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ+) community and its allies come together for a month-long celebration of love, diversity, acceptance and pride. Parades, concerts, memorial services and speeches are scheduled. Rainbow flags pop up everywhere.

And what does this have to do with us as Sisters of Mercy? Perhaps it gives us an opportunity to heed the call of our Chapter 2017 Declaration to respond to those who suffer from oppressive systems and “become better educated and to participate in engaged dialogue on issues of gender identity and sexual orientation.”

In looking for ideas for my reflection, I discovered that the rainbow flag originated in my home town of San Francisco in 1978, and over the years it has become an internationally recognized symbol. I learned, too, that the six colors of the flag symbolize different qualities. They are:

Red – Life
Orange – Healing
Yellow – Sunlight
Green – Nature
Blue – Harmony
Purple – Spirit

I think these qualities can represent some of the gifts that the LGBTQ+ community celebrates in Pride Month. They rejoice in the fruits of their spirited work for justice and inclusion for their community, especially over the past 50 or 60 years. For some LGBTQ+ folks, after years of hiding “in the closet,” they are free to live their life more fully and honestly, out in the light, healed of the fear that kept them hidden. They can love as the persons they were created to be, true to their nature. In harmony now with their deepest self, they are strengthened to work for greater harmony, justice and understanding within the wider community. These are indeed gifts worth celebrating!

The pride flag

I wonder if those qualities of the rainbow flag also suggest a message to others who are not part of the LGBTQ+ community. And do they give some direction for us as Sisters of Mercy in responding to our Chapter call?

Perhaps the following are some questions for our reflection during the Pride Month celebrations:

  • What healing needs to occur in me so that I might be more open to understanding the experience of LGBTQ+ persons? What will enable this healing to occur?
  • With whom might I talk, or what can I read, that will enlighten me and deepen my knowledge of gender identity and sexual orientation?
  • Do I see each person as a beloved child of God, whose life is worthy of respect, justice, welcome and compassion? What does that vision call me to do?
  • How can I help to counteract the violence toward LGBTQ+ persons that exists in our world today? By my words and actions, can I suggest paths to greater harmony and understanding?
  • What will fire up my spirit for this work of opening hearts and minds to the blessings of diversity?

You might ask why we should give time from our busy lives to this work. These words from “The Merger Poem,” by feminist artist Judy Chicago, express a few important reasons:

And then all that has divided us will merge

And then compassion will be wedded to power

And then softness will come to a world that is harsh and unkind…

And then all will be rich and free and varied…

And then all will live in harmony with each other…

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  1. Rose Marie Tresp

    Beautifully written; thank you for sharing.

  2. Mike Poulin

    Important questions. Thank you, Sister Janet.

  3. Sheila Harrington, RSM

    Powerful reflection. Thank you!

  4. Ruel Santos

    The answer to all your questions…a deep relationship with Christ will give great freedom wherein the truth of who we really will be revealed that will make us responsive to the Gospel of penance…go and sin no more.

  5. Deb

    Actually, I think Stonewall was the first use! But I love the sentiment

  6. Cristina Caballero

    Thank you for the article Janet. I loved it!

  7. Katie Hughbanks

    A beautiful reflection. Thank you.

  8. Anne Marie Miller

    Thanks Janet for your beautiful reflection. Your words witness to all of us the call of Jesus to “love another as I have loved you”.

  9. Lenore Harriman

    Thank you for this, Janet! You’ve written important things beautifully.

  10. Joan Marie odonnell

    Thank you for giving us impetus to “ widen our tents” and engage in deeper learning and understanding around these issues. Looking forward to the conversations!

  11. Maureen King

    Janet, your words are filled with Mercy and Tenderness. Thank you for calling us to take a closer and insightful look into our Chapter call.

  12. Eileen Pazmino

    Gracias, Janet, you said it so well and with feel and being MERCY.

  13. Maureen Mulcrone, RSM

    Thank you, Janet, for your inspiring reflection. May I share it with the Fortunate Families group that meets at my parish? I know the members will appreciate it.

    Last week the Methodist Church down the street from McAuley Center had a bright rainbow flag and a welcome to the LGBTQ+ community on the electronic sign in front of the church. I wonder how long it will take a Catholic Church to make such a public welcome.

  14. Terese Marie

    As usual, beautiful, human compassionate. Terese

  15. Michele

    Well said! We are called to honor all God’s children.

    And the poem’s message is perfect.

  16. R.S.

    To Deb: Stonewall was (one of) the first major LGBTQ protests to receive national attention, but Sister Janet is correct. Gilbert Baker first created the flag in 1978 for the SF pride parade that year.
    To Sister Janet: Thank you for writing this article. As a queer person from a Catholic family, I really appreciate the questions you pose and hope my family, who respect the Sisters of Mercy, will engage with them with open hearts.

  17. Michelle Gorman, RSM

    Thank you, Janet, for this great introduction to Pride Month and for helping us relate our lives to the Rainbow Flag. Great poem too by Judy Chicago:-)

  18. Celeste Marie

    THANK YOU Janet! What a wonderful and helpful reflection. And beautifully written in a fashion we can remember and act on.

  19. Judy Carey

    Janet, thank you for your meaningful reflections and questions!

  20. Maureen

    This gives me hope. Thank you!

  21. Sheila Stevenson, RSM

    Thank you for your reflection, Janet. The questions are excellent and worth our reflection both personally and communally.

  22. Mary Daly

    Thoughtful reflection, Janet. Thank you

  23. Josie Byzek

    Thank you.

  24. Cecilia Baranowski

    Thank you for letting us know and understand more.

  25. Angie Franco

    Thank you for your compassion. When I meet persons who condemn gays I tell them my God is a loving God and He made my daughter with His love.

  26. Krista

    Thank you, Janet, for your honesty and wisdom.

  27. Mary Budrejko

    The one color of the rainbow that was discarded was indigo, symbolizing atonement. I wonder why that is.

  28. Betsy Linehan RSM

    Janet, I love this! Many, many thanks.

    Betsy Linehan

  29. Katie

    Thank you for this. It is beautifully written.

  30. Kathleen McClelland

    Janet, thank you for a lovely and thought provoking article. I didn’t know what the colors stood for and am glad to know now. I’m grateful that you took the time to write this.

  31. Soph

    This month is devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The question I ask myself is how may I charitably bring my brothers and sisters to Christ? And if Catholic, to align themselves to the teachings of the church, not vice versa.
    In Peace.

  32. Beth Gorman

    Thank you Sister Janet and thank you Sisters ofMercy for your Chapter 2017 Declaration! It is wonderful to get a positive and spiritual tribute to our LGBTQ+ especially from good Catholic Religous women as yourselves! We Catholic LGBTQ+ need to feel the love and the healing!?❤️?

  33. Diane Guerin

    Thank you, Janet for your reflection that calls and challenges us to more inclusivity, acceptance and love. Mercy is not selective; it is extended to all as our gracious God has extended it to all. With pride we celebrate this month together as ONE.

  34. Joy Mehrtens

    Thank you for seeing the God in each of us and helping to open the eyes and hearts of all.

  35. Mary Bridget Lawson

    Thank you for being a powerful example of supporting love and dignity. Two Irish Catholic “married Mary’s” in Duluth, Minnesota ???

  36. Sharon Schmitz

    What a beautiful reflection and with such a gospel orientation. Thanks so much.

  37. Wyktoria

    So many posts on “LGBT Pride.”I get compassion, but it seems as if the sisters have gone beyond compassion, forgetting their Catholic identity. Compassion? Absolutely! Yet compassion should never overturn the truth found in Scripture and Tradition.

  38. Jeannine Burch

    Beautiful reflection! Thank you for sharing it and the poem!

  39. Beverly Palumbo, RSM

    Challenging reflection…very moving poem….may we have the courage to accept each human person as the person is….God bless and thank you.

  40. DONNA RYAN rsm

    What a joy to know that M ercy is part of the heart of this important human issue,

  41. Lori Pinkerton

    Beautifully written, thank you for your compassionate insight and words. I was not aware of the values expressed through rainbow colors. I like that and it promotes understanding which narrows the divide. Be well, Sr. Janet!

  42. Lori Pinkerton

    Beautifully written Sr. Janet! I didn’t know about the colors of the flag and the beautiful qualities they represent. This understanding and your insight help to narrow the divide. God is good…in and for everyone!

  43. Dorothy Kline

    I loved the poem. Thank you.

  44. Mary Trainer

    Janet, I missed this first time round. So grateful for the grace it brings today.
    Your witness -living your life true to your God-given humanity -for so many years has brought”softness to a world that is unkind”,
    Thank you for continuing to open my eyes and heart illumining layers of ignorance.I have joyed in the awakening of your mutual relationship with the “nones and nuns!