Monday, April 25, 2011

Catholic Identity

Tonight we watched a documentary film called Barnstorming. It is a wonderful story about two men who fly antique planes and in 1999 set down in a hayfield on a farm in Indiana. They form a friendship with the family who owns the farm, and year after year the pilots return to renew that friendship and spread the love of flight.

One of the interesting aspects of this film to me is the Dirksen family who own the farm. Matt and Paula Dirksen, along with their large family, portray their Catholicism in very quiet but visible ways. I first noticed the crucifix on a bedroom wall. Then there was the sweatshirt of one of the daughters, which read "Seton" (with a cross forming the "T" in the middle of the name). The family said grace at the table, using the common Catholic prayer of "Bless us, oh Lord, and these thy gifts...." There was the size of their family (six or eight children, I didn't get a certain count). And that was it. No more than that. But that was quite a bit. Quite a bit, indeed.

It's the little things that add up to big things.

I remember being at a faculty interview session a number of years ago where a candidate was facilitating an exercise. The exercise was geared to show how race is invisible for some and visible for others, but in this case it revealed something else to me that I never forgot. We were asked to describe ourselves with three words. I was thinking of words like "patient" (I forget the other two adjectives), focusing on descriptors that were pertinent to me and my individuality. However, one of the current faculty members included among his words "Catholic." That descriptor had never occurred to me. He said but a simple word, yet that example of faith and Catholic identity has stuck with me over the years, and I have tried, with varying degrees of success, to live up to his example.

Our Catholic identity is part of our responsibility to bring the Gospel to the world. It helps us to build a community that strengthens each other when challenged by a sometimes very hostile culture. It helps us to give witness to others that our faith permeates every aspect of our lives and is not a mere accessory. The resurrected Christ in His glorified body still bore the marks of the Cross. Those marks caused Thomas to believe. We, who are the Body of Christ, are marked through our baptism and confirmation. Those marks can be a source of faith for others if we just let them.

No comments: