Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Billion Ways to be Catholic, and the Spider-Man Principle

Sometimes a group's membership will be fairly uniform.

I'd expect an exclusive golf club's roster to include fairly well-to-do folks, and not many 20-something delivery drivers: and I wouldn't expect to find a designer of haut couture handbags to be in a neighborhood bowling league.

A half-century back, folks who wanted a 'successful' career needed to fit into a fairly well-defined mold.

I've mentioned "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit" (1956) before. Lockstep conformity didn't appeal to quite a few of the 'baby boom' kids: including me. I never yearned to be a company man.

I wasn't even a conventional non-conformist, and that's almost another topic. (January 12, 2010)

Expectations, Stereotypes, and Reality

Folks who make movies often rely on stereotypes, like the Irish cop, spunky girl reporter, environmental activist, or whatever. I don't have a problem with that.

When folks make decisions based on what they've seen in the movies: that's yet another topic. (January 15, 2012)

In real life, which of the following best describe Catholics?
  1. Live in secluded communities
  2. Have nine-to-five jobs with paid vacation
  3. Spend most of their time praying
  4. Raise families
  5. Aren't married
  6. All of the above
"All of the above" is the correct answer.

Many Parts, One Body

Some Catholics live in cloistered monastic orders, isolated from the world: which is more like volunteering for front-line duty, than running away from the world; and yet again another topic.

Some Catholics in monastic orders get up close and personal with the world. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta's outfit is an example. (August 18, 2009)

Many of us have the equivalent of nine-to-five jobs: whatever the bulk of people in our native culture do to get food and secure shelter. We're married, single, priests, deacons, and 'just ordinary people.'

We're smart, not-so-smart, famous, unknown, beautiful, ugly, and everything between.

And that's okay. We're not supposed to all be alike:
"Now the body is not a single part, but many.

"If a foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body,' it does not for this reason belong any less to the body.

"Or if an ear should say, 'Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body,' it does not for this reason belong any less to the body.

"If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?"
(1 Corinthians 12:14-17)

High-Profile isn't Everything

I've posted about 1 Corinthians 12 before. (June 1, 2011)

A list of field kits God issues includes administration. (1 Corinthians 12:28) We need administrators, but administration isn't as glamorous as speaking in tongues or prophecy.

That may explain why there aren't more administrators who form 'spirit-filled holy administrator' groups — and claim that all Christians should be administrators. Still more topics.

The point, I think, of 1 Corinthians 12 is that God doesn't make mass-produced people. Each of us is an individual, with a package that God expects us to use.

As I've said before, I've got the authority of "some guy with a blog." I don't speak for the Church.

Individuals and an Archbishop

On the other hand, I'm pretty confident that I'm right about individuality and the Church:
"...'Our efforts at national unity often depend upon bringing peoples' diversity into something of an artificial harmony that seeks to minimize the uniqueness and distinctiveness of people. The Catholic Church on the contrary focuses upon what we all share in common which is our faith and our oneness in Christ,' Archbishop Gregory said.

" 'To be a Catholic one need not abandon one's individuality. In fact, the Catholic Church is most perfectly herself when all of her children display that rich diversity that God has fashioned into the very heart of humanity,' the archbishop said. 'We are most Catholic when we reflect our oneness of faith and worship that is achieved in response to our rich mixture of human variety through the grace of the Holy Spirit.'..."
("Atlanta Archbishop delivers homily at Catholic Cultural Diversity Convocation," USCCB News Release, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (May 10, 2010))
[emphasis mine]

1,179,500,000 Ways to be Catholic

Of the 7,000,000,000 or so people alive today, 16.85% are Roman Catholic. ("World," World Factbook, CIA (page last updated November 17, 2012)) That's a little over 1/8 of the population, about 1,179,500,000 people: and each one of us a unique individual.

What got this post started was a remark someone made this week. He said that he 'really should' start a particular devotion. Maybe he's right, I don't know.

As for me, I have enough trouble being me: without trying to be someone else. I think devotions are a good idea, but I won't try to believe that 'Catholics should always practice a devotion to [insert favorite Saint's name].

Charisms and a Gift of Gab

I've got a quirky set of abilities, which are a lot easier to use now that I've got psychoactive pharmaceuticals sorting out my neurochemistry. And that's — what else? Still another set of topics.

Having the gift of gab means being able to speak "in a persuasive and interesting way." (Idiom: Gift of the gab, I don't know about "persuasive," but I've had folks tell me that I speak in an 'interesting' way.

No bragging there: my 'gift of gab' and love of language is just part of the package I was born with: along with blue eyes and (formerly) dark hair. All I did was cooperate, and develop what God gave me.

I don't think it's stretching the definition too far to say that how I use language is a sort of charism, a special grace from God.

It's not an extraordinary gift, like performing miracles or speaking in tongues: but like I said, it's something I was born with. I'm inclined to give God credit.

The Spider-Man Principle

"With great power there must also come —
great responsibility!
(Stan Lee, in Amazing Fantasy #15 (August 1962) (the first Spider-Man story))
I'm no Peter Parker/Spider-Man. But I recently learned what those "99th percentile" language ability scores meant.

During an evaluation session, the medico told me that I'd given the correct answer for every question in the language section.

Since tests like that give meaningful results only if the subject misses one or more, I was "off the scale:" with a degree of language proficiency that was too high to measure.

Again, no bragging: God saw fit to pack some special equipment in my kit.

Having a gift for language, or any other ability, is a mixed bag.

Good news: I've earned a living by using this knack for putting words together, and once in a while I get an ego boost when someone likes what I've written.

Unsettling news: I'm expected to do something useful with this gift.

Charisms aren't for the benefit of folks who have them: they're gifts that are meant to help "the Body of Christ, the Church:" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2003)
"...Whatever their character - sometimes it is extraordinary, such as the gift of miracles or of tongues - charisms are oriented toward sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. They are at the service of charity which builds up the Church.54"
(Catechism, 2003)
Oh, great: "...sanctifying grace ... common good of the Church ... at the service of charity...." No pressure.

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

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.