I know your type. You keep holy cards of your favorite saints in your locker and wallet. You go to mass on Sundays and you’re ready before your parents are. You take notes on the homily and compare it with what Mark Hart said in his Sunday podcast. You have a paper chain in your room with a link for every day between now and next Summer’s Steubenville conference.
You borrow your youth minister’s Scott Hahn books and you drove your friends crazy singing along to the Latin the nuns sang in The Sound of Music (and 657 hipster points added if you can actually knew the sisters in The Sound of Music were not just sisters but nuns). You’re at church so often, you know where the secret bathroom is. (You know, the one in the hallways that everyone forgets about and is used so infrequently the automatic lights are never on and it always has extra toilet paper.) You’d like to keep a toothbrush and a hoodie in the youth room, but your youth minister keeps putting it in the Lost and Found.
You, my friend, are a hipster Catholic. You’ve love being Catholic and you don’t care what people think.
I Was so doing that first
You are my people. And I’ma let you finish, but I was actually a hipster Catholic way before you kids made it cool with your saint bracelets and graphic t’s. I have the cassette tapes of 90’s Steubenville theme songs to prove it.
But I want to tell you something, one hipster to another. Nothing you don’t already know, obviously. But some things are worth re-visiting, especially during Christmas time when (eye roll) everybody decides to make religion their thing.
This used to really irritate me. Maybe you can relate to this. Christmas midnight Mass, in addition to being a beautiful liturgy, is the place to see and be seen when I was in high school. I can remember selecting an outfit that was as trendy as I thought I could get away with and doing my hair and makeup. I felt so classy and Catholic.
Then, I saw “Tiffany” walk through the doors, a random classmate I didn’t even know was Catholic. Not only did she and her family take up the best seats… her hair looked better than mine.
Sitting several rows back, I glared at the back of Tiffany’s perfectly straightened hair, watching her family fumble through Mass, not knowing when to sit or stand or kneel, irritated that midnight Mass was being crashed by amateurs.
During the sign of peace, I wanted to go and tell her, “you don’t even GO here” (fortunately, I didn’t, cause this was before Mean Girls). After Mass, my church friends got together to wish each other a “Merry Christmas.” One whispered to me, “did you see Tiffany and her family here? I think I saw a tear fall from Jesus on the cross.” We both laughed.
Now that I’m older, I think back on this evening — and many other times when I treated Catholicism as my exclusive club — with deep regret.
I loved (and still love) being Catholic. I loved belonging to my parish, to my youth group, to the choir, and to the picnic committee. I wanted to be involved in anything that allowed me to express my faith. However, I now realize that sometimes my zeal for my faith made me act like I was part of an exclusive club — not the Body of Christ on earth, commissioned to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).
It wasn’t just when I saw random classmates at Mass. I regret the times a non-Catholic friend asked me about a retreat or conference I had just attended and I answered with a flippant, “It was so awesome, but you totally wouldn’t understand.” I regret the night a family I babysat for took extra care to order pizza without pepperoni for me on a Friday in Lent. Then, when they politely asked me why Catholics did that, I shrugged it off with a, “Oh, you know, just to be different.” I regret rolling my eyes and dismissing fellow Catholics as “not Catholic enough” when they asked me, “well, isn’t Mass on Sunday optional?”
I know now that the Holy Spirit was opening these doors for me to be welcoming to those who were searching and to share my faith. Yet rather than invite people to learn more, I slammed the door shut with aloofness or sarcasm.
Be Inviting before it gets Mainstream
Reading Evangeliii Gaudium right now, Pope Francis has cut me to the heart and challenged me to renew my commitment to sharing the Church — not my exclusive club. Citing Evangelii Nuntiandi by Paul VI, Pope Francis encourages us to…
“recover and deepen our enthusiasm, that ‘delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing… And may the world of our time, which is searching, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, be enabled to receive the good news not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervor, who have first received the joy of Christ” (Evangelli Gaudium, #10).
Have fun: go to Mass and youth group, go to retreats and conferences, hashtag your #CatholicProbz on the internet. We need the support of community to live our faith. But when a friend or stranger approaches you with a question, don’t do what I did and assume they wouldn’t understand. Give them a chance and welcome them with the joy of the Gospel.
Hurry, before it gets mainstream.