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Being Catholic the Rest of the Time

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Nov 22, 2005

The feedback we received a couple of months ago on the question of recreational discussion forums led to some serious thinking here at CatholicCulture.org. The result is a new plan to address the issue of how to form Catholic culture during those times when we are not engaged in specifically Catholic activities. In other words, what does it mean to live Catholic the rest of the time?

Grace Perfects Nature

The guiding principle of Catholic culture is that grace perfects nature. It does not replace or diminish it. There are many human goods which, while not the products of Catholicism, are brought to perfection and made easier to enjoy in a Catholic context. For example, the celebration of holidays with family is a human good. But when a family actively attempts to live the Catholic faith, its bonds will be strengthened and its charity increased, with conversations elevated, celebrations freed from excess, and gratitude expressed to God. This is a case of grace perfecting nature.

For this reason, it is not necessary for Catholics to feel guilty about enjoying human goods unless they develop an inordinate attachment, allowing them to interfere with their more serious obligations. Nor must we inject something specifically and exclusively Catholic into every human activity to make it good and worthwhile. At the same time, there will be subtle and important differences in the ways in which well-formed Catholics enjoy all human goods if only because of the subconscious effort to give everything its proper weight and emphasis, to permeate everything with charity, and to refer all things to God.

Culture and Catholicism

Clearly Catholics have a serious obligation to evangelize, catechize and defend their Faith, to support the Church, and to engage in works of charity. But the lion’s share of culture is built “the rest of the time”, through the everyday activities of family, work and recreation. It is largely through the perfection of nature by grace in these areas that culture as a whole is gradually transformed from an alienated wasteland into an oasis in which every human good can flourish for the greater glory of God.

In the past, Trinity Communications has focused on the more serious side of Catholicism, providing materials Catholics can use to better understand, teach, implement and defend their Faith. The original PetersNet web site was devoted almost exclusively to these goals, especially through the document library and web site reviews. When we opened CatholicCulture.org, we added the liturgical year resources in an effort to enable Catholics to live the Christian year more fully in their homes, that is, to develop the culture of the domestic church. This was our first foray into what I call “the rest of the time”, including all the seasons of the year, not least of which is ordinary time.

Enrichment, Recreation and You

Without weakening our commitment to our existing resources, we now intend to introduce a new set of materials for living Catholic the “rest of the time”. We’re working on the following new sections:

  • Arts & Entertainment
  • Food & Drink
  • Places & Pilgrimages
  • Hobbies & Crafts
  • History & Culture
  • Fiction & Humor

These new sections will serve not only as rich resources in their own right but as a fresh and colorful gateway to the full depth and range of material available on CatholicCulture.org.

One of our prime sources for these new materials will be our users. We’re looking for magazine-type articles about trips you’ve taken, hobbies you enjoy, holiday recipes you’ve served, craft projects, or anything else you’d like to share which shows how your Faith shapes and influences your leisure time, or how your leisure activities have deepened your Faith. Submissions should deal with concrete activities, not theories or arguments, and they should be accompanied by photographs, diagrams, sketches or charts which help make each experience or activity clear and enjoyable for readers.

Our staff may have to write the first few articles so that you can see what we’re aiming at, but some examples may help. Have you traveled to an interesting place where you learned something about your Catholic heritage? Send us the story and the photos. Do you love working with wood? Give us a primer with diagrams demonstrating how to build a stable for a Nativity set. Aching to spin a good Catholic yarn? Write it down and send it in, preferably with an illustration. Does hiking in the mountains bring you closer to God? Document one of your treks and show us why. And don’t forget your favorite holiday recipes, accompanied by photos of special ingredients as well as the finished work of art.

Specifically Catholic

Considering how grace perfects nature, you may be wondering why I’m now insisting on at least a small Catholic point for all these materials. The short answer is that this is the easiest way (though not the only way) to use a medium like CatholicCulture.org to enrich our Catholic lives. We do hope that some of our articles will capture that special spirit of Catholicism in human activity without making any specifically Catholic point, but this is more difficult, and we expect that ability to be rare. In most cases, ensuring that the Catholic element is visible will work best.

The long answer, however, is that we all need specific guidance and help in “living Catholic”. Consider this example. If I’m a somewhat secular person and I visit a profoundly Catholic home for Christmas, my reaction to the family celebration may be something like this: “Look how they always have to make a religious point out of everything. Is that all they ever think about?” But the reality is otherwise. That Catholic family very likely began with a more secular way of celebrating Christmas. At a certain point, the parents began to alter their celebration to eliminate certain excessively secular practices and replace them with specifically Catholic practices. At first, this was very deliberate and self-conscious. But after several years it became natural and unforced. Now it gives the whole range of their human celebration greater perfection and joy.

This is how Catholic culture begins. To this end, we plan to launch these new sections next Spring. Meanwhile, we’re collecting materials and invite your participation. Please send submissions to editor@catholicculture.org.

An appeal from our founder, Dr. Jeffrey Mirus:

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