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Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The Lack of Catholic Identity in Europe and Blogging for the Catholic Community

Part I On Catholics and the Media

Having traveled in Europe during the past year, I am struck again and again by the lack of Catholic identity among families. Obviously, there are exceptions, such as the families of children which attend the Latin Mass on Sunday in two locations where I have been in Ireland. But, the lack of Catholic identity is a hole in the spirit which seems to be filled with another identity, which is not even European.

It is as if Europeans do not want to be Europeans. The youth wear clothes which look like any styles popular in any large city in the States. The most common tee-shirt, and I am not kidding, which seems popular, besides those with band logos, is the Che Guevara tee-shirt. I wish I had a euro for every time I have seen a young man or woman with a Che shirt. I wonder if these young people have actually read his biography, which I have.

The lack of identity is not merely superficial. It reflects the death of the soul of Europe and, indeed, the national identity of many nations. Language is not the only mark of national identity. But, there is an insidious, slow, chipping away of the family, wherein customs, habits, consciousness of person-hood develop. One notices even in small towns the lack of identity-partly because of the EU regulations which allow all EU nationalities to go and live in other countries and work, creating a pan-European identity. This pan-European identity seems chic, but it has a downside. This identity is not based on the Catholic Faith.  Two young Catholic men-each from two different European countries, told me recently that they have no one with whom to discuss the Faith in their communities. They rely on the Internet Catholic connections and blogs, which seem to be more important than one realizes at first.

For those of us who grew up with Fulton J. Sheen, for example, using the media for an encouragement of our Faith is not a new phenomenon. Resources such as the Catholic Encyclopedia online and other such study guides, including the Vatican website and other websites with the Encyclicals and teachings of the Church provide great sources of information-solid and true.


To be an adult Catholic, one must study the Faith. Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman's famous quotation comes to mind: An ignorant Catholic is a Protestant.  Fulton J. Sheen repeated that truism. And, history shows us that the Catholic Church has always used the media of the day-letters, bulls, documents, etc. to pass on the Faith. The Catechism of the Council of Trent, for example, was widely published, as were pamphlets, such as St. Edmund Campion's tract on Catholicism- his "brag". Using the media of the day marks Catholicism. With the lack of Irish or Maltese identity, or Portuguese or Spanish, comes the lack of a Catholic identity. The Churches are full in Malta, Ireland and elsewhere, but the average Mass attender is older than I am, which is old.

The children from the Catholic schools do not attend daily Mass anywhere that I have seen, coming occasionally. This seems odd to me, as someone who grew up going to Catholic schools where daily Mass attendance was normal. In the States, I am familiar with many NAPCIS schools which have daily Mass, either joining the parish Mass, or having their own, if the schools are fortunate enough to have a chaplain.

The town where I am now literally is full of unemployed men in their twenties. They could be going to daily Mass, which would help them in many ways, I am sure. They lack the center of their being-their Catholic Faith, and the identity which would help them through life to become the person God created them to be.

Catholic media has become more important than ever. Catholics who want the Catholic identity watch Catholic television and such videos as The Vortex in places through-out the world. In my last blog, I had people in Indonesia and Australia, Russia, etc. reading about Catholic issues daily. This is true for most bloggers. The Internet at this moment in time is a key instrument for catechesis and evangelization.

The virtual Catholic community is an important resource for young people and the not-so-young. That we can share ideas and ideals gives many the identity and strength needed. Obviously, Catholic identity must be internalized and that is the job of the Catholic adult. But, until that happens, and perhaps even after that identity is solid and true, the Catholic virtual community remains essential.

3 comments:

New Sister said...

Here is a scary stat: according to a professor at Sciences-Po I once had, Islam is the most practiced religion in France.

Ste Jeanne d'Arc, pray for France -

Elizabeth said...

Part of the problem is that we have so many people in positions of authority in the archdioceses, hospitals and schools who are Catholic in name only or else pretty darn close. I am an American, but I work in a Catholic school near London. We have about 1 Mass per term, which most of the teachers are vocal about complaining about. The Masses themselves are typically full of liturgical abuse - our most recent one was on the feast day of the sister who founded the teaching order that founded the school, and we had the whole sermon devoted to how Mary Ward (no mention of her being a nun and no mention of her being Blessed, nor any reference to God, Christ) was the first feminist. Literally, while walking the students over to this Mass, I overheard 2 talking about how one of them had lost her virginity that weekend....on the way to Mass! With no sense that she shouldn't mention this in front of a teacher. Religious Education is a joke - I have yet to meet a student who understands the difference between Catholics and Protestants, or who is aware that here in England, it was illegal to be Catholic until about 150 years ago. I also know that some of the RE teachers (presumably through ignorance rather than bad intentions) have taught things which are completely contradictory to what the Church actually says, for instance that abortion is morally fine if the life of the mother is in danger. I also had one of the heads of science ask me for a list of main differences between what the Catholic Church and the Church of England (her church) teach, because although she has worked here for years, she has never learned what the Church teaches. In my department of approximately 20, I am the only practicing Catholic...we have one other woman who identifies as Catholic, but actually attends an evangelical church, and a couple of lapsed Catholics. And given that I'm particularly unholy, this is a big source of concern! As a whole, I would estimate that less than 5% of the total student body are practicing Catholics, and I imagine more leave lapsed than come in. I think the Holy Father is right - we will become a much smaller church, but I would argue that perhaps we are already. Theoretically, our senior management and all our students are Catholic. In practice, including staff, I'd guess about 2-4% attend Mass at least twice a month. And even the ones who do have no exposure to things like the rosary. The two most devout and openly Catholic people in the whole school are the two little girls I work with who both have Downs Syndrome. Catholically speaking, they are a bright spot - when they've done something naughty and you tell them that you forgive them, they point at the crucifix and say 'Jesus,' since that is their whole concept of forgiveness. I'm hoping exposure to them will increase the faith of the other students, but it's certainly a long shot. The sad thing is that my boyfriend, who is lapsed Church of Scotland, knows more about what the Church teaches and has more respect for the Church's doctrines than many of the 'Catholic' students and staff I see each day. Unlike (seemingly) so many of the 'Catholic' population of England, he understands that raising our future children in the Church means attending Mass every week, regular prayers, baptism, first communion, etc. Saddly, most of our students seem to have been baptised (cynically, I suspect because of the academic bonuses associated with Catholic schools in the UK) and then nothing since.

Supertradmum said...

Elizabeth, the Church in England did not make the teachers take the oath and promise set out by Blessed John Paul II for Catholics. I say, shut down the not-real-Catholics schools and start home schooling.

Parents must take responsibility for educating their own children. The schools, the good ones, are there to help support the parent,not to replace the parent