Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Freedom of Catholic Culture

Yesterday, I had an awesome Holy Spirit experience.

I was reading the blog of Sara Janssen, whose amazing photo montage of the homebirth of her daughter makes me cry every time I watch it  (which might be...way too often to be healthy!!). The more I read her blog, the more I really admired her spirit - her desire to be truly radical for Christ, to be unafraid to be countercultural. She's uber-crunchy, and very serious about her walk with Christ...which I think are two things that go together easily.

It got me to thinking how wonderful it is that there is "Catholic culture" that one must be a part of to be Catholic. Catholicism, unlike Judaism, is not a culture or a race. Unlike other religions with a strong moral code, we do not require our members to worship in any one language, to dress a certain way, or to even agree on most things. Catholicism is incredibly diverse. One can be Catholic and be single, married, gay, straight, a working professional, a homeless radical, black, white, Asian, super crunchy, super corporate, rich, poor, middle class, imperfect, intelligent, dumb, educated, uneducated, homeschooled, public schooled, unschooled. We are not limited by anything, and we are united by the Greatest thing: our ancient, deep, and forever new Faith.

Anthony van Dyck

Unlike what most people say of us, Catholics are incredibly free, and that freedom is frightening. We want to choose labels and stick to them: conservative Catholic, Tridentine Catholic, peace and justice Catholic. These give us comfort, but not holiness.  God only calls us to be ourselves: united in belief, we do not have to be anything. It is not holier, objectively, to be any one thing (married, working, religious, priest, head cover, poor) - but it may be a holier choice for one person or another, subjectively. That vastness of options can be so overwhelming: we long for community and to a degree, conformity. We want to belong. Being comfortable belonging by virtue of belief is difficult: we must realize that we are not called to conform in any outsider consideration, but are called instead to be one in the Spirit, one as we are all single-mindedly devoted to the Gospel.  

This reflection has really given me a sense of a deeper freedom, and a desire to claim that freedom in my own life. As I shared with some friends lately, I have felt slightly confined since being married - wondering if my role as wife meant embracing a new personhood separate from who I had always been. And while I think my role has come with greater responsibility, and hopefully greater holiness!, it does not mean changing who God made me to be - it means deepening that vision.

I am so blessed to have received this message in time for Pentecost. I hope that wherever you are, you experience the freeing power of the Holy Spirit to bring Beauty to the world - that which God gives you to give to the world, cannot be given by anyone else! Come, Holy Spirit!

Jean II Restout, Pentecost 


  1. Great post! The world needs each one of us in our own uniqueness, the person God created us to be! Labels are so damaging and divisive. We are "many parts, but one body."

    1. Amen, girl! I'm anti-labels...except for Catholic, of course. :)

  2. "These give us comfort, but not holiness."
    so so so true!!!


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