Monday, April 19, 2010

"The religious sense seems to be bred out of [modern people]...And it's bred out of them double quick now by religious substitutes for religion."
~Flannery O' Connor

I've just read that Maine ranked third for "most secular state" in a gallup poll on American religious views. It's something that isn't surprising in any way - though it is disappointing and sad. Yet at the same time the news is very hopeful.

It's hopeful because the practicing Catholics we meet here are often the least "Catholic" in their "religious sense." As far as theology goes, they can be more-or-less orthodox, but in their worldview, in their sense of mystery and sacramentality, many Catholics tend to be down-right secular; whereas the "secular", non-religious types are often more able to see the magic of God at work in the world. This, I'm certain, is in many ways the fault of a New England "puritan" approach to Catholicism that, for example, admires and studies the saints, without attempting to know them personnally. It's a business-style Catholicism that leaves those who are truly searching for an intimate relationship with the Creator feeling as though they don't belong.

While I don't understand how one can be Catholic without falling into the delightful world of mystery and magic, I do understand how one can immerse himself in mystery and still miss the Church - at least for a little while, and especially when the Church as he sees her represented lacks any awareness of her own powerful presence. I'm certain that when we Catholics in Maine stop thinking of the Church as a corporate and political entity and learn to live again as the Body of Christ, the beauty of the Catholic imagination will attract those who have learned elsewhere to see the world with eyes of wonder.

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