I’ve been seeing here and there on the Innerwebz how being Catholic, or Catholic things or individuals, as being described as “cool”. I have something to say about that, even if it makes me sound curmudgeon-y.
It isn’t cool to be Catholic. It’s not hip, rad, trendy, peachy, crackerjack, groovy, far-out or nifty. It’s anything but. Now, sure, there are other meanings of the word “cool” – so how about using those words instead?
There’s a site that sells “Cool 2B Catholic” clothing and accessories. I’ve seen tweets such as “5 New Cool Catholic Apps!” and “Check out these cool new Catholic books!”. I’ve read on blogs “Check out the eminently cool Father so-and-so’s new video!” and “Being Catholic is the new coolness” and “40 reasons why it’s cool to be Catholic”. And the tendency to Capitalize Every Word To Describe Behaviors Or Groups, in order to appear…cooler? Just stop that too. (I’m guilty of that, I admit. No more.) Trying to sound like the rest of the unrefined culture in order to be attractive or relevant makes no sense to me.
So can we please stop with the teeny-bopperism of the faith, and start displaying a bit more maturity? Or at least refrain from sounding like a gaggle of giddy geeks talking about the Rover landing on Mars, or the special effects of the latest Hollywood film? Those things are cool. Typhoon Lagoon at Disney World is cool. The Batmobile is cool (at least the one from Nolan’s franchise). But come on – stay away from vocabulary’s least common denominator and keep in mind what we’re talking about: the faith of the Church, handed down from the apostles, preserved from error and necessary for salvation. Along with everything else associated with the Church.
I assure you, Copts in Egypt didn’t think it was all that cool when their social services building was destroyed by a mob of angry Muslims wielding hammers and pipes.
Nigerians don’t think it’s all that cool to have their churches bombed.
Catholic business owners in America facing the contraception mandate and how it will affect them don’t think it’s all that cool.
Being joyful and experiencing consolations isn’t the same as being cool. St Paul tells us to pursue the good, the beautiful and the true. But not the cool. “Cool” has a worldliness connotation – being part of the “in crowd”. Who wants to be part of the “in crowd”? They’re usually on the wrong side of all things moral and virtuous, right? So what’s the attraction?
Bottom line – being Catholic is hard work, and an incredible responsibility, and every morning when we wake up, we have to decide whether or not we will remain Catholic. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been tempted to ditch the whole thing, because then certain things in my life would be cooler. I could stay in bed on Sundays. I could resume the use of contraception. I wouldn’t have to care for my neighbor if I didn’t feel like it. I could hate my enemies like so many of the cool people do. But I deny myself those things, not just because they’re bad for me – but because they would separate me from God.
Cool and Catholicism really don’t mix. Coolness speaks of pride and boastfulness, and being Catholic isn’t something we should be boasting about. It’s tough to swagger when you have a cross to carry. And to me, throwing around the word cool is verbal swagger. So stop it.
When I think of cool, I think of the time a number of years ago I went to a day-long seminar held at my brother-in-law’s non-denominational community. It was one of those rock n’ roll Bible schools, and I attended three breakout sessions, and at each one, each led by a different guy, I probably heard the phrase “How cool is that?” three or four times.
So stop it. Now. You know who you are. We’re not called to be cool, we’re called to be holy.
In My Imitation of Christ, in Bk 3, Chapter 30, Christ says “‘As my Father hath loved Me, I also have loved you,’ said I to My beloved disciples, whom I certainly did not send to temporal joys, but to great conflicts; not to honors, but to contempt; not to idleness, but to labors; not to rest, but to ‘bring forth much fruit in patience.’ Remember these words, O my son.”
Nothing cool about that, but it’s what we’re called to. So let’s start writing like it.
And get the heck off my lawn!!!