A twitch upon the thread

Webster Bull at his Why I Am Catholic blog reports his daughter, a college student in North Carolina, was received into the Church on Easter weekend.

A commenter writes:

I have recently told people that Secular colleges in the South are better breeding grounds for the faith than private colleges of the North, and Catholic Colleges in the North.

Just look at Texas A&M. There are more vocations out of Texas A&M to the priesthood and religious life than any other school in the country.

Go figure, your daughter being influenced by protestants in the South to take her faith seriously… Amazing story!

Another comments:

Sometimes I think the more orthodox and energized evangelical churches represent nearly the best antechamber to The Church to be found in the modern world.

Interesting. I remember hearing of a family friend, from a Massachusetts Irish Catholic background, who became staunch in his faith as a result of going to college at the Citadel, in South Carolina, where he was a rara avis.

I myself am the youngest of seven. My brothers and sisters all went to parochial school, and none are practicing Catholics today; I didn’t, and I am.

At any rate, compare the account at top with this one, from NPR, by a noted author who says she retains a Catholic sensibility while having left the Church:

When I left [the Church] in 2003, I was attending the church [my mother had] chosen, where I’d been confirmed and married, where my children had been baptized. Granted, it wasn’t a typical Catholic church. Made of cinder blocks and housed on a college campus, it had a hippie vibe. The Stations of the Cross were depicted in abstract art. I’d seen the liturgy performed by interpretive dancers and mimes. Our priest was brilliant, kind and funny. His homilies, both intellectually challenging and emotive, helped us see the divine. We cried openly in the pews, even my father. There was never talk about how we should vote, nothing about abortion or homosexuality. Contrary to church rules, our priest invited everyone to Communion, regardless of the supposed state of their souls.

At home, we did talk politics — the greatness of social activist and journalist Dorothy Day; the Berrigan brothers, peace activists burning draft cards; and an adoration of President Kennedy and Mother Teresa.

I went to a middle school run by nuns who worked their own fields on tractors in full habit, their veils billowing. Then I went on to a large Catholic high school and a Catholic college where I was taught Liberation theology, that Jesus was a radical figure, and that to be Christ-like you had to tend to the poor. It was an old-fashioned, anti-papal, anti-Rome Catholic education. Perhaps the church raised me to be an anti-church Catholic. That is, in fact, what I became.

Perhaps it comes down to what or whom you’re rebelling against.

Image: New York Public Library


10 responses to “A twitch upon the thread

  1. True in my life as well. I didn’t go to a “Catholic” school until grad school; one sister married a guy who went K-8 and was completely sick of it; brother and youngest sister are no longer practicing the faith. I sometimes wonder if I would still be Catholic with an earlier “Catholic” education.

  2. I went to the University of Kansas. Of course, the famous Integrated Humanities Program is responsible for over 200 conversions and many vocations including monks, nuns, priests (now 2 are bishops). The real great thing is the monks who came back and founded Clear Creek monastery which was just elevated to an abbey this weekend. I do know that when a detractor of the program asked one of the teachers who they graduated 10 students who went off to the monastery, he asked why every other university didn’t have 10 vocations.

  3. Alison, I was unaware of that University of Kansas program ~ Remarkable.

    Jane, I used to work at a Catholic college and greatly appreciated its mission — but also realized if I had kids there I would try to steer them clear of the actual Catholic chaplaincy. I wouldn’t try to steer them clear at the secular college where I am now employed. Go figure.

  4. It was so remarkable to be a part of it and I was on the tail end but we had the vocation to the Carthusians in my class. Sometime, do an internet search on Drs. John Senior, Dennis Quinn, and Frank Nelick. Also, if you make it to the midwest, go to Clear Creek. It was awesome to see the new abbot Phil Anderson with Bishop Conley and imagine them years ago walking across the KU campus with long hair. Plus, I loved seeing all the abbots that came to the abbatial blessing from all the great monasteries in France. I’ve always enjoyed your blog.

  5. Alison, thanks.

  6. Interesting comments.

    I never went to Catholic school. My best Catholic teacher was my father, who was simply quietly Catholic. He hadn’t gone to Catholic schools either. My kids don’t attend the local Catholic school, and for some reason (probably academics) it didn’t really occur to me to send them to it.

    I’ve always been a serious Catholic in spite of the lack of Catholic schooling. But what really greatly deepened my faith, oddly enough, was being a lawyer. Seeing what I see, and realizing the real depth of human failings, and what the only alternatives are, I’ve become much more devout. At the same time, I’ve nearly completely lost my faith in the law.

    I’ve sometimes also wondered if Catholic schools weren’t succeeding in raising Catholic kids as well as they should. One thing I wonder, social evolution wise, if it’s effective to have the church too closely associated with the day to day of a government institution in a secular society. In an earlier era, when public schools were quasi protestant schools, Catholic schools not only made sense, but were a necessary balance to the public school But not that this is no longer true, the role of the Church in education isn’t quite the same. It’s easy for people to resent or disregard an institution that’s too closely associated with the mundane of daily secular existence. Certainly the Lutheran Church in Scandinavia, which had a direct role in government, is suffering from this now, and I suspect that the problems being experienced by the Church in Ireland are also related to this.

  7. Yeoman, I wonder if all my Sixties brothers and sisters who went to parochial school saw the Church as part of the Establishment they were rebelling against. As a child of the ’70s and ’80s who went to public school and a secular university I didn’t have anything against the ’50s Church and nuns, as my siblings apparently did.

  8. Perhaps that’s correct.

    That brings to mind a couple of things. The first being that we should always remember that the Church is eternal, but individual humans and their individual views are not. When a person personalizes an institution based on a person, they’re making an error. Lapsed Catholics sometimes seem to view the Church as being some singular individual, or group of individuals, who they have now identified in a certain negative fashion, when in fact that is not the Church itself.

    So, for example, if a person was upset with The Christian Brothers, well, they should be upset with those certain Christian Brothers they’re upset with, but that doesn’t mean that they should be upset with the whole Church.

    Also, individual members of any one religious order may reflect, for good or ill, the times in which they live, or the culture they are from. So if the Nuns of the 1950s upset the generation that came of age in the 60s, that should mean no more than that. I sometimes find Religious that came into service in the 60s to be somewhat irritating on some occasions, but that isn’t the whole Church, of course.

    But perhaps the feelings of that generation that came of age during the 60s is simply generational. For some reason that 60s generation seems to feel that it is the most special generation of them all. If the parents of the 60s generation were the “Greatest Generation”, the true Boomers (not those included in that cohort late or early) are the Most Spoiled Generation, and have generally felt that no rules apply to them anyhow. They still don’t. The generations before and after them have, but that particular generation was sort of born with a silver spoon to some extent (speaking broadly, and not individually), and still behaves that way. That’s why I’m sure that, no matter what else, there will be Social Security for them, and no higher taxes. For the rest of us. . . well. . . but for them. They’ll be taken care of.

    But I digress.

    Anyhow, for those of us who came after that era, just being a Catholic is a rebellion. You have to stand out against the values of society at large to be a Catholic. We’re sort of vaguely like what the English Catholics were . . .we’re they’re in society, but if we’re really Catholic, well, we’re going to be Fighting Catholics just be being Catholic.

    As Chesterton said, if you really want to be a rebel, practice Orthodoxy.

  9. Sorry for the typos. A good typist I am not.

  10. Yeoman, fine commentary. Amen to Chesterton.

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