Thursday, May 3, 2012
Prudish or Prudent?
Posted by Andy Milam
I was having a conversation with a friend recently and she got me to thinking a little bit about some things which are inherently Catholic in nature. Bear with me as I flush out my brain on this one...
As Catholics (traddy or not) we're supposed to live in the world. We don't necessarily need to be of the world, but we do need to live in it. This idea that we are to deny ourselves the things in life which are part of our time isn't what it means to be of the world. I know that may come as a shock to some, but there is nothing wrong with TV, there is nothing wrong with video games, there is nothing wrong with going out and spending time with friends at a bar (if you're of legal age), there is nothing wrong with dressing like others of the time in which one lives. What CAN be wrong, is how those things are used by the person. I'm not saying that there are not bad things on TV, in music, in video games, at the bar, in clothing lines, etc...but the human person is a rational being. He can choose what to expose himself too. But to deny out of some perceived fear that he might be corrupted isn't how a Catholic should think. As a matter of fact, that is what got Decartes into so much trouble. That kind of philosophy is flawed.
As a traddy Catholic, there is this stigma that I should dress a very conservative way and that I should abstain from TV and that I should only listen to classical music, yadda, yadda, yadda....How are we to be witnesses to the masses, if we don't engage them? How are we supposed to live in the world, if we stay out of it?
Because we can reason, we have the opportunity to set an example to others that we can live in the world, do the things that others do and still be good Catholics.
Question: Do you think that prior to the Council and long before, people didn't dress, act, and live in the time in which they lived?
Ask parents and grandparents. I think that you'll find that this leap of austerity that is being promoted by some is a direct reaction to a subjective immorality. Does it exist? Yes. Should we practice prudence? Yes, but do we have to force our young people to be prudish in order to be Catholic? A resounding no. I am friends with a good many people, Catholic (both traddy and non), non-Catholic, and even non-Christian. If I can't engage them on the things they know, how can I minister to them? Doesn't the Church demand that we catechize, evangelize and be ecumenical? How can I do that, if I don't live in the world in which I am a part?
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that we shouldn't practice moderation, to the contrary, that is EXACTLY what I'm saying. As my friend put it who I was having the conversation with said, "Where do you draw the line?" Where is the line between Harry Potter and Narnia? Where is the difference between Lord of the Rings and Star Wars? Would I let a small child see that? No, but when a child is old enough to recognize that magic is a fairy tale and not real, then it becomes something which with help, they can discern. The inherent evil in life isn't from things, it is from people. We need to work to convert those people. That is what we are to do.
However how does wearing khaki's a button down with dress shoes to play baseball serve any purpose? Or how does wearing a skirt which comes to the ankles to the park on a 90 degree day serve any purpose? There are times when it is ok to dress in moderation, not inappropriately, but there isn't anything wrong with bermuda shorts and a t-shirt for a girl or wearing a knee length skirt or dress. Just like there is nothing wrong with a boy wearing bermuda shorts and a t-shirt or even both wearing jeans. I'm not condoning that for Holy Mass, don't get me wrong. I think that one should dress appropriately for Mass with all conservation and appropriateness, but in the world at large, it just doesn't make sense. It would be like asking a person from the 1850s to wear clothing from the 1740s. They didn't do it, why should we do it today?
This all comes down to two things for the person, first it comes to reason. Man can reason. He knows what is right and what is wrong. If his reasoning is wrong, then he should be taught what is right. Reason is objective, application is subjective. Second is moderation. If things are done in moderation, then it isn't so difficult to adapt and alter when necessary.
As Catholics, we need to be able to live in the world. I'm not saying that we fall into the traps of the world, but we can't live as if we were in Brigadoon, that's not fair to the faithful, it's not fair to the Church and it certainly isn't fair to the self. If we are devout as Catholics and accept ALL that she teaches, then there should be no problem living in the world without having to constantly fight being of the world. Catholicism isn't about being prudish, it is about being prudent. We all need to take a step back and think about that, in my humble opinion.