Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Catholic Subculture is Cooler Than You Think

There has been some recent opining and criticism concerning the Catholic subculture of orthodox and faithful Catholics which I've found baffling. I know a thing or two about the Catholic subculture, and far from being a small subset of society of which we should be ashamed, it has become a vibrant, supportive, engaging, and vital community of people who not only fully profess all the teachings of the Catholic Church but also aren't hiding from the world and instead sharing the joy of faith.

There may not be many of us Rome-lovin' Catholics statistically, but what numbers we have cannot be so stereotypically shoved into the bin of judgemental, overrun-with-children, backwoods types who cling in darkness to our Baltimore Catechisms while tossing holy water at tv sets. The times have been a-changing.

As a cradle Catholic who was homeschooled, went on to attend itty-bitty (but wonderful) Catholic post-secondary schools, then married and had five children, I feel I've seen the full spectrum of the faithful Catholic subculture. It has developed and changed for the better since I was a child and was one of the only kids I knew who was practicing any type of faith AND homeschooled. I've witnessed a culture that thought sheltering their family from "the world" was the only way to develop faith to the culture of my generation which seeks to embrace the good of the world while offering it so much better with the truth of the Gospel.

Today's Catholic subculture is one of engagement with each other and with those outside the faith. It seeks to deepen our own love of Christ while inviting everyone to take another look. There has been an influx of Catholic writing, websites, blogs, books, schools and ministries that ten years ago I couldn't have dreamed of enjoying. We're Catholics with a sense of humour, who enjoy the home while taking on today's faulty modern philosophies, and taking about fashion or politics.

When I look around at the Catholic culture of my generation I see one that is not bent on judging either those outside the faith or those sitting in the pew next to us, but one of encouragement, support, and joy. Those of us who have a strong orthodox faith believe out of a passionate personal conviction either chosen from being brought up in the faith, or having converted upon investigating spirituality despite the tenants of the Church being so contrary to today's mainstream culture. My Catholic friends are not judgmental or puritanical because they eschew contraception and are stridently pro-life, they are compassionate and energetic in supporting life lived to the fullest. We're also trying to encourage one another in discovering new depths to our faith, how to incorporate the Church's liturgical year into our daily lives, sharing the triumphs and trials of family life and discussing moral themes of The Walking Dead and Arcade Fire.

We're not splitting hairs in judgement of how our fellow Catholics are using NFP, but we are talking about it for a change. We're talking about how using NFP isn't easy, how it needs a lot of grace, support and science; how it's ok to want a lot of children, and how hard it can be to experience infertility yet stay faithful to Church teachings.

We're not condemning those who don't understand the faith. We're engaging them. In the workplace, online, in the supermarket aisle when the checkout lady asks if all of those kids belong to us. We're in the culture in whatever form it wants to engage, because we're not running away to shelter ourselves, but trying to share the beauty of faith by just living our lives honestly, while not apologizing or hiding the joy it brings.

Great Catholic writing of all types is spreading throughout the internet and publishing. Many Catholic writers have become popular bloggers and have used their audience to attract publishers for books that can reach an even greater amount of people. With this example the hopes for bringing about more good Catholic art seems more attainable especially with new schools being formed and with the help of technology in spreading good art and connecting artists. It may take a while to trickle down to becoming better art in more places, but we're supporting beauty in our Catholic community and bringing it to others, by exposing our children to it, and maybe showing just our neighbours, coworkers or friends.

We may be homeschooling our children, but in case you haven't noticed homeschooling has gone mainstream. Many people are now homeschooling to further their children's education where traditional schools have failed, or to live a lifestyle that they believe to be more authentic to their beliefs; us Catholics are no different and simply want the best for our children, both for their education and for their souls to grow in the faith.

And while we may know a lot about the proper performance of the liturgy, we also know that denim jumpers aren't a dogma of the Church. We're a culture that seeks the goodness of a good beer, and loves to share a bottle of wine over a delicious meal while chatting about our favourite saints. We may bond easily with those who also profess a devotion to the Rosary, but it's out of a shared love for something greater than ourselves not a desire to further our clique or only befriend those who fulfill a Papist checklist.

The Catholic subculture of today is one that embraces the good of our world today while welcoming all to come take another look at the truths of a Church that changes our lives for the better. There is wonderful diversity of interests and talents in this subculture, a subculture that will only grow as we raise our families to know a big, beautiful Church full of Sacraments, devotions, and grace that the world so willfully misunderstands. We're not a self-centred bunch, we know there is so much more we have in common and face a culture so violent to our own that we must look to how we can support each other, and become what Pope Francis calls a "people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet."

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  1. I love this!!! It gives me hope for the future--for a vibrant Catholic culture filled with faithful Catholics who don't apologize for being who they are and believing what they believe. We have three small granddaughters (so far--more grandchildren to come, God willing), and I often shudder to think of the world that will be left to them. Thank you for this wonderful, beautifully written, and encouraging post.

  2. Love it, and love all the wonderful women I've met will dipping my toes into this awesome Catholic Subculture!

  3. Just what I needed to hear today. Thank you!...:)

  4. Yes! This is wonderful! As a "revert" to the faith, and one of the only remaining Catholics in my extended family, this is exactly what I needed to hear today, as I prepare to share the news with family that we are expecting our fourth. I think I will print this out and hand it to them with the ultrasound pics and tell them not to dive into their eye rolling and NFP bashing until they've read it!

  5. Standing ovation for you from this little corner of the subculture. Well done, Christy!

  6. I think you do a beautiful job of illustrating the vibrant parts of Catholic subculture which are good and beautiful and I'm so glad you've never encountered the subculture Zmirak is talking about. However, I get what Zmirak is saying. I think there are some--not all--Orthodox Catholics who make Catholicism look unattractive--the jumper wearing types he's talking about--and even worse...they treat those who don't think like they do (ie the divorced mom sitting on the bleachers at her son's parochial basketball game) like pariahs. And this hurts the cause of Evangelization as a whole. It only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch and if someone is teetering on the fence and encounters an overzealous Catholic with a brash way of presenting the truth, it can be a huge turn off.

    If you ever read Brideshead Revisited it's what Charles criticizes Bridey for with regard to how about he presents his faith:

    " D'you know, Bridey. If ever I thought about becoming a Catholic, I'd only have to talk to you for five minutes to be cured. You manage to reduce what seem quite sensible propositions to stark nonsense."

    (Don't we all know someone like this? Someone who makes the Catholic faith the most unappealing, unattractive thing you've ever seen? I know I do.)

    Anyway, I do think you're on to something and that is to be part of the solution--the fun-filled, faith loving type who desires to re-Christianize the world (which you are certainly doing with your blog). But I also think it's ok to point out problems we see within our own family. Like my husband and I do when we call our family meetings. :) It's how we "fix" some of the dysfunction that clearly exists. (Family meetings and a WHOLE LOT OF GRACE. :)

    1. Oh, I've encountered the subculture Zmirak is talking about, but I don't believe that these people are in the majority and thus shouldn't have the whole name of orthodox Catholic subculture. I feel as if they were more common in my parents generation but if you look around now they're fewer and farther between. Plus, it's interesting that he criticizes these people but at the same time uses terrible terms to describe people with many children. I feel it negates his point and proves him to be the one being judgemental. To dwell on this problem today when the reality is that there has been so much positive growth seems outdated and misguided.

    2. As a Catholic homeschooling mom of six, the types Zmirak critiques have been *most* of my experience in the orthodox Catholic subculture, so his points aren't that outdated or misguided. Perhaps his language could have been kinder, but I think his point is valid.

  7. Beautifully stated and so hopeful for the future :)

  8. Reading Zmirak's article was really off-putting to me (me being a Protestant who is hoping to join the Church next Easter). I was especially baffled and irked at his condescending tones towards those who use food stamps and Medicaid. Umm…from what I understand, practicing NFP means being open to life, except when grave circumstances call for the practice of abstinence. Is being completely financially self-sufficient a grave circumstance? If so, we should not have had any of the three children we've had and probably should be trying to avoid conceiving again for, I don't know, 5-10 years? When is it prudence to avoid and when is it just selfishness? Seems like he is saying that it is selfish to receive government support. Personally, seems to me that if we're asking everyone (including unwed mothers) to be open to life, we jolly well ought to support them with all available resources (including food stamps and Medicaid). But maybe I'm just misinformed…is it considered wrong to be "open to life" whilst you are unable to support said life on your own?

  9. I should also add that were it not for the "Catholic subculture" I likely would not even be thinking of converting. It has been largely through (A) Catholic radio (B) EWTN on Youtube and (C ) Catholic Mommy blogs and their authors who have graciously corresponded with me. Seems like this bloggy subculture is doing its job of evangelizing in a new and approachable way.

  10. You rock! I can't wait to read more of your blog. Hugs!!

  11. This is awesomely grand....and just the encouragment needed today! :)

  12. Thank you!!! This is great!

  13. a. i love this
    b. i had so much fun guessing who you linked to in each hyper-link; i scored about a 60%!
    c. i am typing with one hand bc of baby fusses

  14. This is great! I'm getting back into blogging and I'm having a great time discovering the Catholic subculture online. I discovered you through Haley Stewart's link and I can't wait to read more of your blog. My experience online and in real life is like yours. I have encountered some of the craziness Zmirak talks about, but I too am finding it much less prevalent and finding it easier to find other joyful souls to connect with. We might be more of a "hidden" subculture--because we're everywhere. Traddies and charismatics, homeschoolers and not, working and at home. We aren't so uniform. And so we can evangelize anywhere. You never know where the Catholic ninjas are going to strike.

  15. Amen to all of this! I am a working mom (outside the home - I know ALL moms work!) and for a few years was saddened by the dearth of what my husband and I affectionately called "Catholic hipsters." Even though I don't think we're true hipsters, and that's not what you're saying here, either, it reminds me of that feeling. I love reading all of the funny and erudite "Catholic subculture" content I've come across online about liturgical education, homeschooling, philosophy, raising kids, etc., and yet I still manage to appreciate fashion, music, and a lot of other "worldly" stuff, hopefully in its proper place. The more (frankly, women) I read about with similar passions, the more encouraging it is when I feel as though I'm on an ideological island surrounded by (beloved) friends with totally different and more socially mainstream views. Thanks for writing this!
    PS, like another commenter, I also found this via Carrots for Michaelmas ... :)


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