Thursday, September 4, 2008

Different Catholicisms

It is an obstacle to community that is prevalent within a large crowd of Catholics, more so than one might want to admit. Though the conversations that arise from it usually take the form of hesitant openness or outright criticism, many either pretend that nothing is the matter or, more dangerously, retreat to their safe circles so as to avoid any confrontation whatsoever. The Rover recognized its error and attempted to correct it under the editorship of Matt Smith, but much has yet to be done within the various groups of campus who embody what some might call “different Catholicisms.”

The phrase itself should be like fingernails on chalkboard for Catholics who believe, in a very real sense, in the Body of Christ—the community of believers formed by God’s love and united in worship. This unity, moreover, is not amorphous or constructed under tenets so vague as to include everyone on this earth whether they know it or not. We are Catholics; we profess the same creed; we Eucharist together; we love together. In fact, there is only one Catholicism, just as there is only one Christ.

Alas, such knowledge does not prevent factions within our Catholic community, even—should I say, especially?—on the Notre Dame campus. Let me give you a brief rundown of three “different Catholicisms” and their roots in the soul, if the reader will grant my anthropological approach.

The first group is quite obvious in the university environment. Caricaturized, they are those who believe Catholicism is nothing but a set of tenets, which, if held to be true, unlock the secret to heaven. Perhaps the truth is sublime, perhaps it is profound, and thus, perhaps, it really challenges a person to change their life. They take philosophy classes and criticize the theology department from being too far removed from the truth of the faith. Their favorite words are Thomas Aquinas, Latin, and the intellect. They live by the answer to the question, “What is truth?”

The second group is also easy to spot on Notre Dame’s campus, due to our continuously blossoming Center for Social Concerns. Again, caricaturized, they are moved by an overwhelming concern for the poor and downtrodden; they believe Catholicism is primarily about empowering others, about progress and just institutions, about ridding the world of poverty forever. In direct opposition to the first crowd, they almost take offense at the fact that Catholicism has “tenets” as requirements for believing Christian. Their favorite words are Catholic Social Teaching and the anonymous Christian. They live by the answer to the question, “What is goodness?”

Finally, we have a group that is initially more difficult to identify and whose population is quite diverse. Caricaturized, some are partiers and some are awkward. They are A-Students, B-Students, and F-Students. They were most likely born Catholic, they are conservative, and come hell or high water, they will make it to Mass on Sunday. They love life. They think profound things, sometimes, and might volunteer here or there. For the most part, they are your “typical” cradle Catholic. Their favorite words are Sunday, pro-life, and the Rover. They live by the answer to the question, “What is right?”

Though these three groups of active Catholics avoid each other on large scale, there is some intermingling. What these interactions usually reveal is a remarkable phenomenon: despite their different emphases, Christ is the answer to each of their questions. What is truth? Christ, in whom the entire universe has been ordered. What is goodness? Christ, in whom lies our fulfillment and salvation. What is right? Christ, in whom lies the way, the truth, and the life. Despite this realization, we are still unable to talk about our singular love for God in Christ; we are still unable to express our joys and burdens with our faith; and all of this simply because we forget that there is something more “primitive,” something that comes before all else: love in the form of an intense, dynamic relationship with God in Christ.

Before all else, we must be able to share our experiences of God with those with whom we are close. We must remind ourselves that, though we have different vocations and different gifts, we are not different bodies and we are not isolated pockets of individual Catholicisms. This is a reminder for the Rover, and certainly a reminder for myself, who often finds himself caught somewhere between the 1st and 3rd group. We must continue to promote a unified and fervent love, first and foremost, for Christ, whose name no one should be ashamed to pronounce.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

amazing, dan, brilliant post...we F students and partiers (usually go together) are proud of you...let me know if you need any help, I might be able to help out the Rover on Sunday.