Monday, February 07, 2011

The Modern Catholic--An Immigrant in One’s Own Country

It is a well known phenomenon that children of immigrants with a minority language, culture and religion will lose that language, culture and religion within the first 2 or 3 generations in a new country.  

How much of that phenomenon can be used to explain the choice of so many of today’s Americans to change or abandon their religion of origin?

Many aging parents blame themselves for the religious choices of their offspring and wonder what they could have done differently to influence those choices.

What is often missing is a realization that the very culture we live in puts Christianity and in particular Catholicism, in the position of being an unsupported minority religion within an alien culture. 

We are immigrants in our own country.

Where We Have Been
One hundred years ago, parishes were local and in many cases, ethnic. People lived within walking distance of their church, parochial schools were affordable even to those with large families, and a majority of the parishioners came from the same ethnic background, which influenced and colored the feasts and festivals throughout the year.

Lack of modern transportation and communication technology meant that many raised their children in the same neighborhood in which they themselves grew up. To leave the religion of one’s childhood meant leaving an entire cultural and familial experience.

Today things are so different as to be almost unrecognizable. Church shopping is de regueur with the ease of transportation and internet research possibilities. At the same time, it is often difficult to find a comfortable parish home in part because of the lack of common cultural ties among its parishioners.

Feast days are no longer a time for bringing parishioners together because many are on the road travelling to visit far off family members, and feeling out of place worshipping in their parishes, or, often, desperately Googling Mass times for a strange city, hoping to get to Mass with a minimum of “good-natured” teasing from family members.

Catholicism today is becoming a minority religion in America. Culturally it is an accepted practice to publically demonize the Church either in a veiled way through humor or in a more direct way through endless posting, forwarding and discussing the bottomless pit of negative stories about the Church in the media. This would be unthinkable in the same circles with other religions.

Where We are Headed
Pope Benedict XVI has said that he thinks the future of Catholicism will be stronger but smaller, and I agree. The cultural supports that held it in place a century ago just do not exist anymore, and the current challenges are many and severe. Christianity is a way of life. Those who cannot abide its precepts will not stay in the Church merely out of respect for its culture. Those who do stay must do all they can to follow the teachings of Christ and become Christ to others. 

What we need to guard against, though, is the temptation to become more aggressive as we feel more isolated. The challenge will be to insist upon respect for our beliefs while still giving respect to others for theirs. Jesus would do no less and expects no less of us.

To make Christianity into a political weapon is to enter into dangerous territory that Jesus never intended for His followers. Individual political issues should be pondered thoroughly and debated calmly and rationally. To use coercion of any kind as an excuse for converting others is dangerous and decidedly anti-Christian.

Prayer and confession are powerful. Beginning with poverty of spirit and true humility, they connect us with God and help to clarify His will. Prayer and the Sacraments will help us to navigate these difficult and rapidly changing times as we see Christianity go from being a part of the cultural air we breathe, to being an almost underground, or at least, a type of second-class culture within the larger culture which seems to be built around rebelling against its values.

Christianity is needed now more than ever. 


TACParent said...

Interesting post. I haven't run across much "anti-Catholic" stuff in my circle. I do see more inter-denominational churches showing up. These are primarily Christian in nature, but forego the title of one particular religion. This can be a good way of moving toward acceptanceof all. I can also see where this moves away from tradition and cultural beliefs. For myself, I try and have compassion for everyone. We are part of one family, created by God. And for those who don't believe in God (or a Higher Power, or whatever they choose to call Him), that's their journey -- I still send them love.

Dymphna said...

Sometimes I think anti-catholicism seems to surround those who practice Catholicism, which never ceases to amaze me, just from a politeness point of view. Some people seem to take joy in cutting down the beliefs of others. It surely makes me appreciate those who don't.

Michele said...

the reason why iam a traditional catholic is because i love the time less beauty of our faith. with the modernism that swept into the church in the 70s, it almost eradicated the memory of our Latin Mass, and the way it used to be before modernism got a hold. thankfully, the TLM is coming back. its not just the Mass, but it was the way of life. it had almost been entirely gone. but no longer. i believe we will see a resurgence in the TLM. and perhaps, people will learn to live traitionally as well. we have forgotten the beuaty of traditional life and most importantly, the Tridentine Mass.

Dymphna said...

The more traditional we are, the more we feel like immigrants in our own countries.

Michele said...

i don't know about that. i do know in our country, especially calgary, the TLM is over flowing every sunday and there is not enough seats for people. even the balcony is full. it must be different in the states than it is here. the more people that come to the Mass, be it TLM or NO, the more we draw closer to God as a Catholic family, and Christians the less likely we are to feel like immigrants in our faith.

Dymphna said...

I think I see what you are saying. I was thinking that the more people openly practice in a more traditional manner, the more *some* people will use that against them and step up the persecution.

Michele said...

i really enjoyed your response to my post. i did post back. you are correct of course:D

Anonymous said...

This is a great post. I, too, think that smaller and stronger is not a bad thing; better than watered down, that's for sure. I also agree that it's dangerous to politicize Christianity--you are absolutely right, we are first citizens of the Kingdom, and only second are we Americans (or Canadians, in Michele's case).

I do think it's possible and praiseworthy, however, to live traditionally in terms of values even in the modern world. God can use our witness in the world regardless of language and other externals; it's the inside that He cares about.

Dymphna said...

Living by Christian values is very important and difficult in today's world.

I like what you said--it is the inside that counts. My mom used to say that all the time.

Dymphna's favorite quotes

"Slavery ended in medieval Europe only because the church extended its sacraments to all slaves and then managed to impose a ban on the enslavement of Christians (and of Jews). Within the context of medieval Europe, that prohibition was effectively a rule of universal abolition. "— Rodney Stark

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