Skip to comments.In Praise of Popular Catholicism
Posted on 07/25/2013 2:17:41 PM PDT by NYer
At least 100,000 people came to see and hear Pope Francis yesterday, which means about 1,000 times the number who turned up in Miami last weekend to protest the Trayvon Martin verdict. Numbers alone don’t necessarily mean anything. A million people who believe 2 + 2 = 5 do not change the facts – or outweigh even one person who gets things right.
But large numbers of people, it’s been said, do make a constituency in modern societies. Or at least some do. Aparecida, where the pope said Mass, draws 10 million people a year (the most of any Marian shrine). Yet is all but unknown outside the region. It would be something to see what the reaction would be if 10 or 20 million Catholics showed up in NYC or DC every year for Catholic devotions.
As John Allen has observed, for most pilgrims, journeying to that shrine is a living engagement with faith. And Aparecida lies at the roots of the pope’s faith. When the bishops of the region wrote a document at Aparecida in 2007 (largely guided by then-Cardinal Bergoglio), alongside the usual recommendations about evangelization, they corrected a formula from a similar meeting at Medellin, Colombia in1968. Instead of “a preferential option for the poor,” they spoke of “a preferential and evangelical option for the poor.”
One dimension of the evangelical option often recommended in the document is an appreciation of popular devotions and even folk Catholicism. The bishops at Aparecida were profoundly rightly to do that.
I have on my mantle a statue of St. Barbara, which I bought in Brazil years ago. Brazilian friends tell me she’s the Catholic saint (she holds a chalice to her breast and leans on a sword conspicuously shaped like the Cross). But she also represents one of the African orixás, the gods and goddesses of Candomblé, who are a pretty fluid bunch. My Barbara is, variously, Olokun or Iansã or Oyá – and maybe it doesn’t stop there.
I wouldn’t have a merely pagan statue in the house. But this one shows a common and shrewd practice by Catholic missionaries. They built on indigenous beliefs and practices that embody some portion of the truth. The Jesuits who converted the Iroquois and Algonquins looked for, and found, the rudiments of Catholic “sacraments” in native practices and worked from there. Even the great image of Our Lady of Guadalupe has associations with the traditional Meso-American Mother-Goddess Tonantzin.
It’s what has come to be known as inculturation, in the best sense of the word. Instead of reducing the Faith to what people are willing to hear, as usually happens today, the wiser missionaries drew native spiritualities towards Catholicity. Anyone who has traveled with eyes open in Mexico or Central and South America knows that the process is far from complete, even more than 500 years after Columbus set foot on these shores. But if the spirit is flowing in the right direction, it works.
You can, I suppose, dismiss all this, calling it and many other practices “folk Catholicism” and try to ignore it, as if it would be better if we tried to turn the mass of world Catholics into strict philosophers and theologians. But your mother or grandmother didn’t have a devotion to the Sacred Heart or the Immaculate Conception because of some theory. Once upon a time, men and women saints – and even Jesus and Mary – were treated more like powerful members of the family. Mary especially, because it’s common knowledge that a good woman has the time to listen – and will help get the word to her busy Son.
Yesterday in Aparecida
Dogma, of course, is also important. Since Vatican II popular devotions dried up and, with them, most popular Catholicism. Some theologians I deeply admire – notably Cardinal Ratzinger – both valued those old devotions and said that they sometimes went too far, which they certainly did.
But we’re in a different moment now. John Paul II was the great world figure who brought Catholicism back onto the world stage as a respected moral voice. Benedict XVI was – and is – quite probably the most deeply intelligent man alive. Neither, however, was really able to turn the cultural tide that continues to overrun the Church in developed countries.
I’m going to use an exotic reference here to explain a crucial truth. Antonio Gramsci, the noted Italian Communist philosopher during World War II, used to advise the more supple Marxists to pay close attention to how the Jesuits carried out the Counter-Reformation. They developed a cultura capillare, a “capillary” culture, meaning it reached into every nook and cranny of society. As such, it was essentially impossible to dislodge. Communists, he believed, needed to do the same.
In many ways, that’s how we’ve gotten the modern liberal hegemony, even in large swaths of the Catholic Church.
Francis is not the charismatic figure JPII was, nor is he an intellectual like B16. But as his words at Aparecida yesterday show – and as his other acts and words are intended to be understood – he’s working in a line little appreciated in the developed world, but that forms the model for faith and practice virtually everywhere else. Popular Catholicism is Catholicism. What else could a universal Church be?
How this popular Catholicism meshes with the necessary dogmatic dimension, of course, remains a large question. Ratzinger was the culmination of two centuries of German scholarship in theology and Scripture studies – much of which took an unfortunate turn. He turned it right again.
It may seem unlikely, but there’s much in Ratzinger’s work that speaks to the need for a popular Catholicism and would be fruitful to read together with Francis’s actions. They are very different souls, of course. But this is just one more area in which Catholicism can bring together and harmonize – inculturate, if you want – things we might never otherwise suspect belong together.
In our current situation, it’s at least worth a try. Francis certainly believes so.
I read an article about how the President of a Catholic relief group gave an abortion group $2.4 million. Why would that be allowed to happen? It does not make sense.
Do you believe the mainstream media? It always helps to have a link to the article. Please post it.
It was on lifesite news.
Yes, it’s accurate alright.
It is one thing to do something like this but lying about it was worse.
Don’t get me started.
Here's the basics: as most American Catholics DON'T know, some 70% of CRS money comes, not from Catholics, but from the USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development), which is majorly into contraception, sterilization and abortion. Plus, CRS, like most international relief agencies, subcontracts, outsources, and practices flow-through funding. That means they are all intertangled with each other, which means huge overlaps of money, leadership, personnel, supplies,and programs.
This has been going on for decades. Some CRS programs are "clean," but many of them are contaminated with objectively evil junk like contraception, and very few of them actually have an identifiably Catholic focus which features spreading the Gospel and evangelizing nations.
The CRS needs to be evangelized, itself.
Pope Francis is aware of some of these problems, but the whole thing is so tangled up (like I said, overlapping personnel, flow-through funding, subcontracting) that I don't know how he's going to deal with it without bringing the whole thing crashing down.
That may be what needs to happen. Don't try to untangle 10,000 knots. Just cut the whole thing off --- slash it, dump it --- let USAID run it in their own name, since they substantially run it already --- and start over.
Pray or Pope Francis.
BTTT! Numbers tell a big story here. (And throughout the world as well)
Allowing pagan deities, rituals and theologies was NOT the way the Apostles went about evangelizing the masses. We are warned:
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. (Eph. 5:11-12)
Paul also told the Roman Christians (and us):
The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; (Rom. 13:12)
By not reproving the evil and darkness of false religions and, instead, using those false beliefs to "inculturate" Christianity into the religions of the native peoples, it is no wonder that even five hundred years after missionaries came to the New World, the paganism remains and some people see no contradiction in following Catholicism while STILL clinging to their rituals and superstitions (i.e., Santeria). We should be reproving darkness not joining hands with it!
Dear friend, who are you to question how God works to bring about a conversion of heart? Consider, for instance, the appearance of the Blessed Mother, to Juan Diego, an Indian convert. She left her image behind, on the Indian's tilma. It is handwoven from the fibers of the Maguey cactus, a fabric which has a life span of little more than thirty years. This authentic portrait of the Virgin Mary has remained fresh and lovely for nearly five centuries,
The Sacred Image is a pictograph or picture writing; every detail symbolic. She is brighter than the sun; her foot rests upon the moon; the stars on her mantle are in the same relative configurations as the stars in the heavens on the morning of December 12, 1531; the northern constellations on her right - the southern constellations on her left. Further, the golden filigree over her rose colored gown matches the topography of the Mexican lands once ruled by the Aztecs.
Despite more than twenty-two languages and almost fifty dialects spoken at that time, all were able to read and understand all that is contained in this Sacred Image. So it was in this manner eight million natives were converted to Christianity in the incredibly short span of seven years.
And where are the bishops in all of this?
I am just so tired of the lack of leadership. I see bishops allowing communion to pro-abortion politicians and then I also see the bishops funding abortion.
Sure, they speak up against abortion, but their actions don’t follow. It certainly makes me wonder exactly what their real position is on abortion.
Crowds watching the Miracle of the Sun, October 13, 1917
Not coming through -- try this: http://parishableitems.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/fatima_miracle_of_the_sun2.png
Photographs were taken by those journalists present
As for the Juan Diego tilma, it appears that this supposed "miracle" may be little more than a hoax or myth that simple peasants were easily duped by. From Mexican people, after more than two centuries of experiments, have faith only in the Virgin of Guadalupe and the National Lottery.:
Guadalupe is often considered a mixture of the cultures which blend to form Mexico, both racially and religiously Guadalupe is sometimes called the "first mestiza" or "the first Mexican". In the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Mary O'Connor writes that Guadalupe "bring[s] together people of distinct cultural heritages, while at the same time affirming their distinctness." One theory is that the Virgin of Guadalupe was presented to the Aztecs as a sort of "Christianized" Tonantzin, necessary for the clergymen to convert the Indians to their True Faith. As Jacques Lafaye wrote in Quetzalcoatl and Guadalupe, "...as the Christians built their first churches with the rubble and the columns of the ancient pagan temples, so they often borrowed pagan customs for their own cult purposes." An alternate view is that Guadalupe-Tonantzin gave the native Americans a hidden method to continue worshipping their own goddess in a Christianized form; similar patterns of syncretic worship can be seen throughout the Catholic Americas (e.g. Vodun, Santería). Guadalupan religious syncretism is both lauded and disparaged as demonic.
Many writers, including Patricia Harrington and Virgil Elizondo, describe the image as containing coded messages for the indigenous people of Mexico. "The Aztecs...had an elaborate, coherent symbolic system for making sense of their lives. When this was destroyed by the Spaniards, something new was needed to fill the void and make sense of New Spain...the image of Guadalupe served that purpose."
Her blue-green mantle was described as the color once reserved for the divine couple Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl; her belt is read as a sign of pregnancy; and a cross-shaped image symbolizing the cosmos and called nahui-ollin is said to be inscribed beneath the image's sash.
Yet another interpretation of the image is offered by the historian William B. Taylor, who recounted that Guadalupe has also been "acclaimed goddess of the maguey [agave]" and pulque was drunk on her feast day. A 1772 report described the rays of light around Guadalupe as maguey spines.
People can believe what they want about these so-called miracles of the Virgin Mary. That there is an inordinate amount of glory and worship afforded Mary with nary a mention of Jesus Christ - who IS the true Savior - I stand by my contention that God doesn't need pagan elements inculturated into the Gospel to win hearts to Christ. Flee the unfruitful works of darkness.
I don't blame you for quoting scripture ... it's your misguided, personal interpretation that I blame.
As for the Juan Diego tilma, it appears that this supposed "miracle" may be little more than a hoax or myth
Yes ... why am I not surprised that you would quote an article from flikr. That must be more authoritative than reality.
.- Researcher and physicist Dr. Aldofo Orozco told participants at the International Marian Congress on Our Lady of Guadalupe that there is no scientific explanation for the 478 years of high quality-preservation of the Tilma or for the miracles that have occurred to ensure its preservation.
Dr. Orozco began his talk by confirming that the conservation of the Tilma, the cloak of St. Juan Diego on which Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared 478 years ago, is completely beyond any scientific explanation.
All the cloths similar to the Tilma that have been placed in the salty and humid environment around the Basilica have lasted no more than ten years, he explained. One painting of the miraculous image, created in 1789, was on display in a church near the basilica where the Tilma was placed. This painting was made with the best techniques of its time, the copy was beautiful and made with a fabric very similar to that of the Tilma. Also, the image was protected with a glass since it was first placed there.
However, eight years later, the copy of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was thrown away because the colors were fading and threads were breaking. In contrast, Orozco said, the original Tilma was exposed for approximately 116 years without any kind of protection, receiving all the infrared and ultraviolet radiation from the tens of thousands of candles near it and exposed to the humid and salty air around the temple.
Dr. Orozco then discussed the Tilmas fabric. He noted that one of the most bizarre characteristics of the cloth is that the back side is rough and coarse, but the front side is as soft as the most pure silk, as noted by painters and scientists in 1666, and confirmed one century later in 1751 by the Mexican painter, Miguel Cabrera.
Following an analysis of some of the fibers in 1946, it was concluded that the fibers came from the Agave plant, however, noted Dr. Orozco, the researchers couldnt figure out which of the 175 Agave species the Tilma was made from. Years later, in 1975, the famous Mexican researcher Ernesto Sodi Pallares said that the species of the agave was Agave popotule Zacc, Orozco explained, but we dont know how he reached this conclusion.
Before concluding his presentation, Dr. Orozco made mention of two miracles associated with the Tilma.
The first occurred in 1785 when a worker accidentally spilled a 50 percent nitric acid solvent on the right side of the cloth. Besides any natural explanation, the acid has not destroyed the fabric of the cloth, indeed it has not even destroyed the colored parts of the image, Orozco said.
The second miracle was the explosion of a bomb near the Tilma in 1921. Dr. Orozco recalled that the explosion broke the marble floor and widows 150 meters from the explosion, but unexpectedly, neither the Tilma nor the normal glass that protected the Tilma was damaged or broken. The only damage near it was a brass crucifix that was twisted by the blast.
He continued, There are no explanations why the shockwave that broke windows 150 meters afar did not destroy the normal glass that protected the image. Some people said that the Son by means of the brass crucifix protected the image of His Mother. The real fact is that we dont have a natural explanation for this event.
Dr. Orozco thanked the audience for listening to his presentation and closed by reassuring them that Our Lady visited Mexico 478 years ago, but she remains there to give Her Love, Her Mercy and Her Care to anyone who needs it, and to bring Her Son, Jesus Christ to everyone who receives Him.
Salvation posted this article in 2011: Science & the Virgin of Guadalupe
Then there is the phenomenon of Mary's Eyes in the image, which reflect images that correspond to the shape and size of human figures located in front of the image. Whose testimony is more trustworthy .. the ophthalmologist or flikr?
For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who dont believe, no proof is possible.
Good article. Thanks.