Someone said to me the other day - and I am paraphrasing greatly - that they are bothered by the way Catholicism is being lived today, that is, in a way much more impoverished than they had hoped it would be. The person is a convert.
I wanted to understand precisely what the person meant. I think I got the gist.
Let's apply an analogy with Theology. The Catholic theological tradition is rich and beautiful. But do you ever get the impression it is being reduced to Thomism? For some that would not constitute a problem.
Or, take religious orders - must they all be Benedictine or Jesuit, etc.?
Or, the saints we talk about - always Therese, Bernadette, Faustina?
I can identify with this feeling. I like learning about new things, trying new foods, exploring new parts of the countryside, fishing in rivers and lakes I've never been. It's not novelty for sake of novelty, it's a different beautiful thing, because it's beautiful and it exists.
We had a great talk here at OLSWA about a year ago by Dr. Peter Erb on Newman. The thing that struck me most was when he said something about converts being more appreciative of the richness of the Faith... I might add to this observation that perhaps Catholics do not love their Faith for the right reason(s).
I think that cradle Catholics often do not experience their Faith as possessing a sense of saving freshness. They have perhaps never known the complete emptiness of a life bereft of meaning, and so cannot really appreciate that the Faith offers us so much. Can they feel the sense of sheer grace and mercy that having faith in God brings?
Yes, certainly, even though I am a convert, there is a conservative, inherited aspect in my own faith. I am, in some ways, a 'Bible Christian,' at least relative to most of the Catholics I know. I prefer reading Scripture to praying the rosary, if that means anything. I do not prefer it to going to mass, and that is probably determinative. No probablies about it.
Our whole tradition is still completely available for us. Every aspect of it should be explored and experienced. If we seem to be focusing on just a few small parts of it today, it's up to YOU to remind us about what we have forgotten. Catholicism outside of Chesterton, Divine Mercy, TOB, etc.
My friend who made the remark, as I said, is a convert, and I am, as you know, a convert. As our Catholicism ages, things change. Excitement can diminish and focuses and concerns alter. They don't disappear. At 18 or 19 I wanted nothing more than to be a mendicant friar, going from place to place, begging and preaching, and wearing cool sandals. Then I wanted nothing more than to study and teach. Francis would not have approved. Now I want to be a good husband and father. Yet in this vocation I am attempting to live out in the light I take with me what was good and at the heart of my desire for mendicancy, and what was at the heart of my desire to teach and study the Word of God above all. It doesn't disappear, but it does 'age.' We do need to keep alive the fascination with Christ in these changing circumstances. There is something magical about our Catholic tradition, which includes everything from strange liturgical and ascetic practices to wonderful works on prayer and theology. We cannot box ourselves into a corner, and say Catholicism consists in this and only this. We do that. We tend to like the word 'best' too much. It keeps us from looking around at other aspects of the tradition.