Before I begin my post, I must rejoic – albeit brielfy – in the dominating victory of the Vancouver Canucks over the San Jose Sharks this evening. 7-3! It is looking good for the Canucks to be going to the Stanley Cup Finals. So here is hoping they continue their dominating play :).
I was in New York for 6 days to attend the ordination of my friend – Fr. Brian Graebe. He and I met in 2007 at the Tertio Millennio Seminar on the Free Society. In fact, Brian is one of the guys who really helped me make the decision to finally enter the seminary, and I am grateful to him and the other seminarians I met there who motivated me to take the leap of faith.
I have a lot that I brought back from the trip that I am going to continue to reflect on, but I wish to point out only one thing today (I am zonked after 18 hours of travel yesterday!). I experienced in New York a Church in which its Catholic roots are both rich and deep. It was amazing to hear from many of the guys how natural it was for them to simply consider the priesthood because “that’s what Catholic boys do”. There was an ease in their faith, a joy in their lives, and a deep sense that being Catholic is not something that simply happens in the Church: it is something that pervades one’s entire life.
This really struck me because I am from a diocese who’s roots are old, but who’s impact on the lives of her faithful is not always as easily pervasive. It doesn’t come naturally for Catholics in this diocese to allow their faith to be lived out in every element of their lives. This is not universally true, but being in New York when coming from Victoria, it becomes very evident very quickly.
I was also amazed by the priestly culture there. I met priests in their 70s and 80s – not to mention their 20s and 30s – who were so very much in love with being a priest. It was contagious. I wanted in.
And, in a way, that is the best way to define culture – it is that lived reality by a mass of people which aids (or hinders) people from living lives of fulness, integrity, virtue, and holiness. Culture is not neutral. It aids or it gets in the way. Going to New York convinced me of asking myself one question over the coming years: how can I build this up, with God’s help, in my own diocese? How can I aid parishes in allowing the families to be penetrated by a culture of faith instead of a culture of secularism? This, really, is the answer in getting more vocations: living the faith in every aspect of our lives, allowing it to become our culture. I am thankful for the trip because this has really been brought to my mind. I felt at ease both in myself and in my vocation in ways I never thought possible while there for those few short days. Yet nothing extraordinary happened. What was beautiful was that the life of the Church there was perfectly ordinary, which to me was rather extraordinary!
What can be done? At this moment, I don’t know. Yet, now I have an experience to draw from in my coming years, an experience which gives me a goal to work towards and thus encourages me to continue on my path. To an extent, it is difficult to argue for the importance of a Catholic Culture. If you do not know what I am speaking about, then go to a Diocese with history and strong Catholic roots. Just spend time getting to know Catholics – lay, priests, and religious – and you will see what I mean, and you too will be convicted by it.
I really believe that we, at times, have a difficulty in living out our convictions as Catholics because we don’t have the support around us. This is why I think that we must attempt to create in an organic way that Catholic culture that will aid and strengthen us to live and bring our faith in and to the world. In the end this is nothing but the logical conclusion of the concept of the communion of saints, for culture is nothing than experiencing that communion in the concreteness of life.