“I know a great little place where we can get some good, authentic Catholic cuisine.” How would you react if your date made that statement? If you’re being honest, wouldn’t you silently stare at that person with a blank look on your face, and think to yourself “Um…I think I’ll go home now?”
I have never actually heard of anyone experiencing this, but I’m starting to believe that it’s probably coming soon. More and more I hear of Catholics trying to find the “Catholic” version of everything in life.
It’s not good enough to have good rock music; it has to be Christian rock. The musician might be Catholic, but if he or she is not outwardly obvious about their Catholicism, then they are not Catholic enough.
Or it’s not good enough that a Catholic goes to Bermuda on vacation, better that they go on pilgrimage (and I’m not knocking pilgrimages, after all, I’m going on one in October!)
It’s not good enough that a Catholic couple go out dancing, better that they attend a Theology of the Body talk. Or an engaged couple feels like they should give their business to Catholic businesses rather than seek out the best price or (more importantly), quality service.
There’s nothing wrong with doing explicitly “Catholic” types of things, or considering the Catholic person for your business over someone who is not Catholic. But there is everything wrong with over-thinking this, or purposely excluding the explicitly non-Catholic things or people of our culture.
I recently heard about a parish announcing that a new Boy Scout troop was being started because they want to make Boy Scouting more “Catholic.” Boy Scouts is an American institution, and millions of Catholic boys have been Boy Scouts and become fine young men of character. To presume to make Boy Scouts more “Catholic” is to attempt to exclude non-Catholics, which is a very non-Catholic attitude.
I’m all for being mindful of how careful people need to be in the culture of death we dwell within, but there is such a thing as going too far, distorting the facts, and frankly getting it all wrong. This hyper-sensitive concern for what is “Catholic” risks individuals living in true freedom and losing the person.
Though there are destructive things in our culture, we are not to fear it. There is much more about culture that is good, and these things are gifts from God meant for us to enjoy, and relax as we partake in them.
Catholics seeking to meet a quality person who is a practicing Catholic have it hard enough. Setting the bar so high that a Catholic must think, speak, live, breath all things explicitly “Catholic” is a grave mistake.
To me, this is a red flag that you are dealing with someone who is likely a fundamentalist Catholic, one with little tolerance for mistakes in others. Often the intensely religious are harsh, cruel, controlling people.
It’s an interesting modern phenomenon to consider something or someone as having credibility or value because of the label of “Catholic.”
A Catholic store makes sense because it sells products that are for Catholic devotion and spiritual enrichment. A Catholic church makes sense because it is a house of good centered on Catholic worship.
But can you imagine if we started having things like a Catholic baseball team, or a Catholic supermarket? What is the message we are saying to the world? It says, “we exclude you.” Isn’t that the Protestant notion?
What is so beautiful about authentic Catholic culture historically is that Catholics are involved with the culture, and transform it by example and living their life; they embrace the cultural things, not escape them. They don’t bully the culture with the hammer of “Catholic,” nor behave condescendingly to all cultural things, only embracing it if it becomes labeled “Catholic.” There was no need to re-label the things of culture, just live as individuals within it, and perhaps simply transform the spirit of it.
Catholic dating tends to have this labeling mentality in a lot of ways. I did it myself just now. I called it “Catholic dating.” Dating, love and marriage are already implicitly “Catholic.” Unfortunately, we need the label of “Catholic dating” because dating in general has departed so far from a traditional moral structure, becoming quite reckless, hedonistic, and irresponsible. It’s just not what it used to be, and we need to make sure people have a way to know right away if they are on the same page.
But all dating and courtship is about love, and love is all about God, and is God. The extraction of God from modern love, dating and courtship is technically anti-Catholic. So I am in favor of some aspects of labeling in order to help people have some initial perspective.
But we go too far when we feel we have to distrust anything that we cannot outwardly define as “Catholic.”
We should not be imposing on the mystery of love an intense and rigid approach to culture in the dating process. Too many single Catholics get caught up in what might be the “Catholic” places to go or things to do, or the “Catholic” things to wear. Worse, they get caught up in determining if the person they are dating is “Catholic” enough for them, when it is a sinner that they will love and commit to in marriage.
We are becoming a culture of judgmental people with excessively high standards for the Catholics we date and choose to love, and a large part of this is because we cannot accept that we are culturally influenced people. Our Catholicism can be the most important part of us, and lived in every aspect of life, but is not the culture.
People make up the culture from God’s creation all around us. Creation itself is implicitly “Catholic.” We don’t need to put labels to everything in order to appreciate it or partake in it. A good cup of coffee is culture. A Catholic cup of coffee is redundant. The quality, delicious coffee already is “catholic” because it’s God’s creation coupled by man’s invention and industry.
We need to relax. Just because your date does not talk about Catholicism 24/7 does not mean they aren’t a good catch. In fact, they’re a much better catch than the person who feels they have to dominate all topics of conversation with religion.
So go out on your dates and have a delicious meal of the multiplicity of ethnic food choices, walking in a beautiful park with the delightful breeze of the night air, enjoying the talents of others at a theatrical performance or at a museum, or any of the endless cultural opportunities that your area has to offer.
None of it has to have the word “Catholic” associated with it, but the enjoyment of all of it together, drawing you subtly closer in heart, is as Catholic as it gets.
Anthony Buono is the founder of Avemariasingles.com. For thousands of Catholic singles, Anthony offers guidance, humor, understanding, and practical relationship advice. Visit his blog at 6stonejars.com.
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.