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Catholic culture, What it really is
Eight days into 2012 and by now, the annual mind exercise of formulating those New Year resolutions, many of which hardly make it past January 31, would have been completed and serious efforts would have been made to “do better this year”, which in more ways than one, can prove to be a real struggle. While most of these resolutions are recurring, there are always new ones which can be found to be quite satisfying if fulfilled. So often however, these resolutions refer to material things—more exercise, better eating habits, better punctuality, more quality family time and less computer and liming time and the list goes on.
One resolution which can prove to be very fulfilling, if the required dedication is put in place, lies in one’s spiritual life. This year presents a great opportunity to become involved in parish work involving the Second Pastoral Priority—Revitalising Catholic Culture and Identity: My Church, My Parish, My Family. There is much work to be done in this area and a resolution to become involved in this area can redound to the benefit of many. To understand the importance of this priority, the reason for it must first be understood. The rationale for Revitalising Catholic Culture and Identity is to bring the people of God to reflect upon, become more mindful of and live more fully the fundamental aspects of their faith. This second Pastoral Priority is challenging and ongoing, since it calls on us to continually redefine ourselves in a secular world.
In the Priority booklet, prepared by Sr Juliet Rajah, “culture” is described as “the sum total of a people’s social and psychological organisation which shapes the way they perceive, relate to and interpret themselves and the world, including values, language, beliefs, customs, food, child-rearing practices, social organisation, educational systems, history, political structure and religious expression. For anthropologists and other behavioural scientists, culture is the full range of learned human behaviour patterns.” In his book Primitive Culture, English anthropologist Edward Tylor wrote, “Culture is a powerful tool for survival, but it is a fragile phenomenon. It is constantly changing and easily lost because it exists only in our minds. Our written languages, government buildings and other human made things are merely the products of culture. They are not culture in themselves.”
In the Priority booklet, Sr Juliet writes that the Pontifical Council for Culture “affirms that culture is for many people the means through which the meaning of human nature and life is revealed. Culture influences how the human person feels, thinks, acts and reacts in situations.” Culture operates at different levels. If one should use the image of the layers of an onion, one could say the outermost layer would incorporate practices such as the way houses and buildings are constructed as well as child rearing practices.
The next layer would refer to persons who display characteristics that are valued in a society. Another layer would represent the interaction of persons in society eg: how people greet each other, as well as social ceremonies, while the innermost layer often remains unconscious to those who imbibe it, since it becomes rooted in a person’s psyche. This innermost layer represents the values that are lived out in everyday life. Levels one, two and three are physical aspects of the practices of culture, while the fourth level represents the heart of culture. Former Archbishop Edward Gilbert once wrote in the Catholic News, “As Catholics we believe we have been created in the image and likeness of God. We are therefore called to live in a culture without becoming a prisoner of our culture. We are to live in accord with the truth of our being which is found in the Gospel.”
Catholic Culture therefore, is rooted in Gospel values and in the person of Jesus Christ. For the next few weeks this column would deal specifically with the Second Pastoral Priority—Revitalising Catholic Culture and Identity; My Church, My Parish, My Family—to bring home to the People of God the need to assiduously embrace the work involved in bringing to realisation the true meaning of the theme.
A Catholic Media Services feature
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