Sunday, August 4, 2013

Living in a Big World


(From Grand Canyon, National Park Service, used w/o permission)

I was flattered, and surprised, when two tourists from Thailand asked me if I was Jewish. That was four decades back, at Grand Canyon National Park, near the visitor center.

I'd brought a big topographic map of that massive gulch, spreading it out at intervals to see what I was looking at, and taking photos. That's not one of mine, by the way: it's from the National Park service's website.

After mulling it over, I think they'd noticed that I had a full beard and never took my cap off.

Quite a few gentiles in America wore caps indoors and out at the time, and still do: but not many American men have a 'haven't shaved in years' beard. The plain black jacket I wore probably helped, too.

Although I enjoyed being mistaken for one of my Lord's closer relatives, my ancestors are about as gentile as it gets, west of the Urals. They probably hadn't even heard of Abraham or Isaac until missionaries arrived, and that's another topic.

As 'Normal' as the Folks Next Door

Catholics were around when the Roman empire's road system was the latest thing in transportation technology.

We have regional headquarters in Albania, Zambia, and just about everywhere in between except Antarctica.

We've occasionally been identified with a particular nationality; but we are literally καθολικός, universal. Wherever we are, we often look as 'normal' as the folks next door. Sometimes we are the folks next door.

Some of us wear a uniform as part of our vocation, but most of us wear the same sort of clothes and follow most customs that 'normal' folks do in our native lands.

I like being part of an outfit that's been "all over the world" for two millennia and counting. Some folks are diffident, or worse, about 'those Catholics,' and that's yet another topic.

Some of my take on American attitudes and assumptions about Catholicism:

Being an American

I grew up learning that folks drive on the right side of the road. I wore pants instead of a kilt, seldom ate with chopsticks, spoke English with one of the American accents, and used "guess" as a verb.

When I became a Catholic that didn't change.

In a sense, I became 'more of an American.' Being a good citizen isn't an option for Catholics. We must contribute to the good of society and take part in public life, wherever we are. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1915, 2239)

That's not the same as doing whatever the local ruler says, and that's almost another topic. (Catechism, 2242)

The Church doesn't expect me to insist on a monarchy, or any other particular form of government. As long as a local regime works for the common good, and the citizens are okay with how their country's authorities work, Catholics can live with any system. (Catechism, 1901)

Dealing with Difference and Dignity

I'd say that we're expected to see everyone as equal: but that would be silly. Not even identical twins are entirely identical: still more topics.

Each of the seven billion or so folks living today are unique individuals, and that's the way it's supposed to be.

On the other hand, we're all alike in some ways: made in the image of God; with a rational soul and equal dignity; able to decide whether we will help or hurt others.

There's a pretty good discussion of humanity's unity and diversity, and what can go wrong, in Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1934-1938.

All the rules about how I'm supposed to act boil down to a few simple principles:
It's quite simple: not easy, but simple. And that's yet again another topic. Topics.

Somewhat-related posts:

1 comment:

JohnL said...

Hi Brian, again enjoyed rreading your article and reflections.

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

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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.