I was having a conversation recently with a friend about the how the Catholic faith is perceived from the outside.
We were coming at this from different perspectives. I am a “cradle” Catholic, meaning that I have been a Catholic since birth (or since my birth into the Catholic faith, so my baptism at 2 months old). My friend is a “convert” Catholic, meaning she decided to enter into this faith about a year ago.
These two perspectives will be interesting depending on what topic you start on, but this was talking about how MY perspective has changed in the past of the faith.
If I think way back, to when I lived in Ireland in the early 1980’s: our local Parish church mass was the highlight of the week for my Grandma. She used to insist on our “Sunday best” (another blog post is coming about church attire VERY soon), and the whole family would walk to the church and socialise outside the gate until near the start of mass.
This is where it was different.
Men and women back then sat on different sides of the church. I have no idea why this was the case, and nor did I think it was unusual. All I remember was sitting next to my Grandma whilst looking out onto a sea of flat caps, trying to work out which tweed-clad farmer was my Grandad.
We then continued to whizz through mass at a pace. The prayers were said as fast as possible (I still cannot to this day get my head around singing the Our Father rather than reciting at speed with an Irish accent), the Priest stood red-faced and bored at the front, and I remember one time when he actually collapsed and a gaggle of women went rushing to his side. He had dropped the gospel and there was a collective synchronisation of people blessing themselves in response to this (I think I remember some people actually going to his aid as well).
At this time, there was no Children’s Liturgy. I was told sit, be quiet, and say my prayers. I was also told to bring my rosary as that would be said at the end too. I feared the Priest, the adults didn’t speak to me, and I struggled to understand the prayers as they were recited too fast.
Church aside, worshipping at home was a very solemn occasion. 6pm would come around and the telly would switch over to the statue of Our Lady whilst we recited half the rosary as quickly as possible, kneeling in front of our chairs. I remember having my heart in my mouth as my Grandma would ask me to say one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be as I was under immense pressure to get it right. I remember one particular time that I stumbled over the prayers and got the Our Father and Hail Mairy mixed up. My Aunt had to take over, but it was done with no sympathy. It was with a tut and a faint “Jesus” under her breath before she continued.
There is little wonder why I wasn’t keen on pursuing religious activities when I was left to my own devices (i.e. after my Confirmation).
Fast forward 30 years, and I sit now with my children in a congregation that is not only mixed sex, but mixed nationalities as well. We sit before a Priest who is welcoming, joyous, clever, informative, and delivers thought-provoking homilies. And, as yet, has never dropped the gospel.
And I look at my children and wonder how they would have coped in my era, and then remember – I knew no different. As they know no different.
They will no doubt bring THEIR children to church in 30 years’ time and tell them of the time when they had to physically receive communion, and not the dispenser that is there now (!!). Explaining this to my friend made me feel nostalgic as well as shocked at how far this faith has come in a few years.
Which is not too different to the fitness industry.
We have become a health conscious nation who now frowns upon smoking and a sedentary life, is open to MANY ways of eating (Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian, plant-based, etc), and we are spoilt for choice at type of fitness classes we can attend.
We should be the fittest we have ever been as a nation but, in fact, we are the most obese and unfit ever recorded. Because we have SO much choice, we are conflicted.
How many people do you know who diet hop? Who change classes on a regular basis because it is the next best thing for fat loss, before giving what they do now a chance to work?
Quite a few I bet.
So whilst we have changed as a Catholic faith (for the better in my opinion), the fitness industry has just become more confused. Which is why it is important to choose one direction that you can resonate with, and stick with it.
What do you think?