The area I lived in, though, was very anti-Catholic. I wasn't taught about the "Whore of Babylon" at home: but I couldn't help running into the malignantly virtuous tirades against the Church. Which got me curious - and indirectly led to my conversion to Catholicism. That's another topic.
I can see how people get the idea that Catholicism is a cesspool of superstition. Catholic churches don't, generally, follow the 'sensory-deprivation chamber' motif of many Protestant sanctuaries. We often have pictures and statues - which non-Catholics may assume are idols. They're not. I've written about that before. (February 22, 2010, for starters)
Then there are practices like kissing the cross during Lent; saying the Rosary just about any time; and wearing a crucifix, like I do.
I've heard that people committing crimes in some cultures wear a string of rosary beads, crucifix included, while committing crimes: as a good luck charm. I've no reason to doubt it.later. Short version: don't. (Catechism, 2117))
Someone who thinks that just burying a statue of a saint - or of Elvis, for that matter - on their property will cause their property value to go up is being superstitious. Unless, I suppose, the statue is made of gold, and the buyer knows about it. In which case they're engaging in a sort of under-the-counter kickback. Or, rather, under-the-dirt.
Someone, somewhere, has probably said that:
- They were Catholic
- They used to wear rosary beads as a good luck charm
- Now they've
- 'Seen the light'
- Cut up their rosary
- Smashed their statues of saints
- Burned their pictures of Jesus
It's not to keep me from stubbing my toe. I'll get into the 'why' later.Catechism of the Catholic Church and read it. And then talk to the priest.
I don't necessarily suggest doing this, but one time I talked to a Bishop in the Diocese of Fargo, North Dakota, to get a straight answer. My wife was a bit embarrassed, I think: but I got my answer.
Where was I? Being superstitious, doing superstitious things. Right.
This post, in another blog, got me started thinking about superstitions today:
"Catholics and Superstition"The question seems fairly simple: Is it okay to leave pennies at the statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross?
Aggie Catholics (July 13, 2010)
"Q - I would be interested to see what you think about the Aggie tradition of leaving pennies at the statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross, as a 'good luck' for doing well on tests. To me, this is a clear no-no as a Catholic; I never did it, although I think many who have don't mean much by it. I do consider it to be offering sacrifice to a mute altar in hopes that some supernatural benefit might come during one's exam. If you aren't hoping for there to be an effect, why throw away money, after all?..."
The blog's authors gave what I've found is a fairly common answer among informed Catholics: 'It depends.'
No wonder folks think we're "vague!" (July 18, 2009)
The reply includes this quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which says what superstition is.
"Superstition is the deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It can even affect the worship we offer the true God, e.g., when one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition.41"I've put coins in a fountain - once, a very long time ago. The bottom of the fountain was harvested regularly, as I recall, for some fundraiser or other.
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2111)
I really don't think I was being superstitious: because my intent was to be able to say that I'd tossed coins in a fountain, I could afford it, and the money would go for something useful. Not because I thought the action would bring me good luck, grant me a wish, or cure my baldness. (I wasn't quite as bald then - but I'm getting off-topic.)
If I'd 'really believed' that the fountain fairy would grant me three wishes, or something of that sort - that would have been a superstitious act.
The way I see it, it's a matter of intent.
"...For instance carrying a crystal in the pocket for 'luck' would be superstitious. Carrying a crystal in your pocket to remember your grandpa is a good practice.Vague? In context, I don't think so. As with so much else I've run into from informed Catholics, what goes on inside a person's mind - particularly intent - is important. What we do is important, but so is what we're trying to do.
"So, putting a penny at the statue of Sully for luck is bad. Doing it because you think it is a fun tradition at A&M is not.
"Still, we should be cautious about any action that could lead to superstitious practices and not take them too lightly. I hope this helps."
Which could be confusing for someone who expects 'religious' people to rant about what kind of musical instruments may and may not be played in church, and whether or not candles are Biblical.
That chaplet is a knotted cord with a crucifix attached: in this parish, used in Lenten prayers; and worn as an outward sign that we're Catholics.
Do I think that chaplet will save me? From anything from a stubbed toe to eternal separation from God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit?
It's a bit of metal and string, shaped in a particular way and blessed by the Pope. (That's yet another topic.) It serves as a reminder to me of my relationship with my Lord. Not as a good luck charm.
Definitely not. I remember what happened when folks decided, on their own, to use the Ark to help them win a battle. (1 Samuel 4:3-22) It didn't work: rather dramatically.
Sure, the Ark had been involved in a river crossing: but that time the people involved had been ordered to use the Ark in a particular way. (Joshua 4) When the Lord of Hosts gives an order, that's one thing. When you figure you'll use something connected with Him for your own purposes, that's something else.
Besides, I've read the Catechism, and what it says about wearing charms as a magical practice: don't. (Catechism, 2117) Then there are "charming" bits of jewelry, like charm bracelets. Same word, not necessarily the same thing. As I said before, no wonder some folks think we're vague. The Catholic Church isn't big on dropping arbitrary rules on people, based on accidents of culture and language. Which is yet again another topic.355) But that is still one more topic.
- "Catholics aren't Klingons"
(April 27, 2010)
- "Scapulars and a Crucifix: Showing Where You Stand"
(April 20, 2010)
- "Jesus Christ, Beer, Tobacco, Idols and Indian Law"
(February 22, 2010)
- "Public Displays of Devotion, a Diverted Flight, and Me"
(January 21, 2010)
- "Accommodating Indigenous Cultures: Including Ours"
(January 10, 2010)
- "Caritas in Veritate, Charity in Truth: 'Purposefully Vague'?"
(July 18, 2009)
- "Catholics and Superstition"
Aggie Catholics (July 13, 2010)
A tip of the hat to newadvent, on Twitter, for the link to the Aggie Catholics post. And, to ZephyrK9, on Twitter, for starting the train of thought that led to writing this post.