Since 2000, Ottawa Archbishop Marcel Gervais has expressed his opinion on a variety of faith topics. These texts were initially published in the "Ask the Religion Experts" column which appears every Saturday in The Ottawa Citizen. As of June 2005, Msgr. Patrick Powers, Vicar General, will be taking on the responsibility of the weekly articles.

A wife asks you what she should do about her husband's boss who makes racist jokes at every gathering. Her husband has asked her to continue attending these frequent functions but not to say anything to the boss. What should she do?

Because her husband has asked her to continue to attend, she must be thinking of not attending. So I see the question is in two parts: Should she continue to go and if she does, what should she do?

I would say she should continue to go. Why? We have been sent to preach the Gospel to the whole world. We are called to bear witness to Christ by the way we live our lives, which can be powerful "sermons by example" to those we meet. If we simply avoided difficult or sticky situations, we would never have the opportunity of proclaiming the good news! As a Christian, she is certainly not someone who can go along with any types of derogatory or discriminatory remarks. Chances are that others dont quite know what to do as well.

The gospel story of Nathaniel can inspire us here. When his friends want to introduce him to Jesus of Nazareth, Nathaniel coyly asks what good could ever come out of Nazareth which didnt enjoy a great reputation at the time. Instead of reacting in any way to the statement, they ask Nathaniel to come and see for himself - and as a result, his life is changed forever. What a great example for all of us. Rather than reacting in any way to a pejorative comment, they go beyond it. Ignoring the remark, they lift the situation up to a higher level. She also, then, is handed the opportunity to be true to herself, and to break in with a comment that changes the direction of the conversation - without embarrassing the boss.

A psychiatrist friend tells me that the boss probably thinks he is entertaining them. After a while, without any reaction to his jokes, he will move on to another form of humour - because more than anything else he wants to make them laugh.