Saturday, August 6, 2011

Catholicism, Diversity, and Star Fleet

I've been reading a book I picked up at the Catholic Marketing Network's trade show. The book's language reminded me, indirectly, of how catholic (lower case "c") the Catholic Church is.

The author's writing style is a little old-fashioned: which is quite appropriate for a sort of 'in-house' publication, written for Catholics living in America. My guess is that many Americans - Catholics and Protestants alike - expect a retro writing style in 'religious' books. Or a book dealing with religious, Christian, topics.

Two important points:
  • I could be wrong about all that
  • It doesn't matter
What does matter is the book's content: an account of Father Vincent Robert Capodanno, Servant of God. I plan to get back to the book and Father Vincent's life - in another post.

One Church, Many Styles

"Styles" isn't a conventional ecclesiastical term for what I'm talking about: but as I've said before, I don't do "conventional." Actually, I do, sometimes. And that's another topic.

Catholics aren't all alike. We're supposed to be a diverse bunch. Take me and Father Vincent, for example.

Two Catholics in America

I was born about 22 years after Father Vincent: in the Upper Midwest, about 1,000 miles west of his home. My father came from a Catholic family, but by the time he met my mother he didn't believe much of anything: as he put it. My parents belonged to a nice mainstream Protestant church. My childhood and youth, unlike his, weren't immersed in stories of the Saints, the Sacraments, and Latin. I learned some Latin: and that's yet another topic.

Like I said, I:
  • Grew up in the Upper Midwest
  • Experienced
    • the '60s
    • Disco
I wouldn't expect someone with my background to be like an Italian-American who:
  • Grew up near New York City
  • Experienced
    • The Great Depression
    • WWII
But my background alone doesn't make me more - or less - of a Catholic than anyone else. Father Vincent's acts earned him the title "servant of God," and that's another topic.

"Faith of Our Fathers"

Folks who grew up in a devoutly Catholic family, as part of a tight-knit community of fellow-Catholics, may have a sort of faith that I can't experience. Knowing that your ancestors, and those of your neighbors, were Catholic as far back as records go, may relate to songs like "Faith of Our Fathers" differently than I do.

As far as I know, some of my forebears may have gone straight from worshiping Thor and Odin, to worshiping Jesus the Christ - as members of a Protestant denomination. That's not a criticism. I hope and pray that they made the best decisions they could, given what they knew.

Faith: Simple and Otherwise

Someone whose world consists entirely of the few miles around a village, and whose knowledge of ages past consists of genealogies and accounts of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, could live a full and complete life. And be a devout Catholic. I'm about as sure as I can be that this is the case. And I certainly hope so.

What I'm trying to say is that having great knowledge isn't required of a Catholic. What a Catholic has to know, and believe, is pretty much what's in professions of faith like the Apostle's Creed. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 185-197, for starters)

On the other hand, having knowledge doesn't have to get in the way of faith. Take St. Catherine of Siena and St. Thomas Aquinas, for example. And I'm getting off-topic again.

Personal Preferences

I grew up with American popular culture, and enjoyed the '50s Superman show. I also liked science fiction: tales of vast interstellar societies, galaxy-spanning empires, beings "with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men." (

I also grew up where a few folks seemed convinced that things they didn't like were Satanic: maybe even part of a commie plot. And that's not quite another topic. Their 'don't like' list could include:
  • Everything since about 1880
    • Or 1940
    • Or whenever
  • Science fiction
  • Rock music
Most of that lot also seemed convinced that Catholics were ignorant dupes, worshiped Satan, and were pretty generally icky. After a while, I stopped trying to make sense of what they said: and eventually became a Catholic.

From Home Parish to Bright Immensities

There's a song that starts with: "And have the bright immensities received our Risen Lord, where light years frame the Pleiades, and point Orion's sword...." I like it, but some of the frightfully-faithful Christians I've known didn't. I don't think it helped that one phrase was " altar candle sheds its light as well as any star...." Candles and altars are just simply crawling with Catholic cooties - and that's yet again another topic.

I became a Catholic in large part because I learned that the Pope's authority had been passed on, in an unbroken chain, from Peter. I already knew that my Lord had given Peter "...the keys to the kingdom of heaven...." (Matthew 16:19) Discovering that this authority had passed through a documented succession of Popes, through bishops, to the local parish priest, was impressive.1

Embracing the Catholic Church was easier on an emotional level partly because of my youthful enthusiasm for tales like Asimov's Foundation trilogy: and even 'Doc' Smith's Skylark tales

Yes, I know: Science fiction isn't a "Christian" genre. Some, but not all, authors are openly hostile to the idea that things of the spirit exist. Others accept that idea, but make very odd assumptions. I also know that humanity isn't independent of God. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 301) On the other hand, quite a few sci-fi stories assume, at least tacitly, that humanity has "...'dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the cattle, and over all the wild animals and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.' " : an idea I don't have a problem with. (Genesis 1:26)

Those stories left me with a taste for vast expanses of time and space, people unlike any I'd meet in the Upper Midwest, and institutions whose goals and history spanned centuries. Or longer. Joining a church whose name means "universal," rooted in Eternity, marching through time under orders from someone who died - but didn't stay dead? That suited my taste just fine.

It's sort of like joining Star Fleet - except that our mission is different: and the Catholic Church really exists. ;)

Related posts:

1 See Matthew 16:17-19; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 816, 857, 832-838, 857, 880-887, for starters.


Brigid said...

'The'? "accounts of the Abraham"

Doubled up word, sort of. It just sounds kinda odd. "I'm about as sure about that as I can be that this is the case."

Was this supposed to be an editing note? "[cite 'sustains and upholds']"

Again: "that humanity is [Genesis quote]"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian Gill said...


Found, fixed, thanks!

[Note to self: try to be awake when writing posts.] ;)

Brian Gill said...


And, yes: that [brackets] text was supposed to be researched, citations inserted, and the bracketed text removed, before posting.

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.