I think we Catholics have lost a lot of our distinctive culture.
A chaplain friend of mine asked how people know that we are Catholics? She stated that people know we are Christians by the way we act and behave. She believes that showing mercy, compassion and love to others is displaying one’s Christian faith in public. I don’t disagree with her, but I think that showing someone mercy wouldn’t automatically make them aware that you are Catholic. Most people would just say that you are a “nice” person. Christianity wouldn’t even enter most people’s minds.
The only way people will know you are Catholic is if you show them. If I saw a Corpus Christi procession, I would know that the people involved were all Catholic. If I passed by a house with a statue of the Virgin Mary in the front yard, I would know that the person who lives there is Catholic. If I saw a group of people praying the Rosary in public, I would know they are Catholic. If I saw a man in a habit, I would know he was a priest.
The best way to witness to others is by practicing the time-honored traditions and customs of the Church. In years gone by, it was easy for people to know who was Catholic and who was not. It wasn’t uncommon to see Catholics “crossing” themselves as they passed a Church. Many Catholics carried a Rosary with them throughout the day. Catholics did not eat meat on Friday’s. Priests, Monks and Nuns all wore the habit. Corpus Christi processions were common. May altars and May crownings were also common. Most Catholics decorated their homes with sacred images and crucifixes.
Most Catholics, including myself, rarely show any public demonstations of faith. We have mostly abandoned those things which singled us out as Catholics, and I think this is a real shame.
Please share your memories with us. What things did you do as a child to show your Catholic faith to others? Was your house decorated with images of the Saints and Our Lord, for example? Did you have a statue of the Virgin on display in your yard? Did you abstain from meat on Friday’s? Did you carry a Rosary with you in public? Did your priest always wear the habit in public? Were you educated by religious?
What can we do to reclaim our Catholic identity?
Should our religious start wearing the habit?
Should we display religious art in our home, workplace, institutions etc?
These are just examples. Share your thoughts and memories about the things which separated us from the rest of the non-Catholic public.