How things have changed. Now every other person in my extended family is fallen away. Now every practicing Catholic I know has a label. It began in the seventies with the charismatic movement. People who were charismatic were called "born again" or "in the Spirit." Since my parents were in the charismatic movement we naturally saw those who had been "baptized in the Spirit" as being more authentically Christian than the cranky old-timers still kneeling in the pews, telling their beads.
I remember being upset that I had never been "born again" in the Spirit— no gift of tongues...or anything. I was upset by this until realizing I had indeed received the Holy Spirit at my Confirmation and that a person could be filled with the Holy Spirit without gesticulating, fainting on the ground, or speaking in an ancient, unknown language. As a result, I began to receive the sacraments more often. I joined the Secular Carmelites.
I remember visiting the Carmelite nuns for the first time, and announcing that I was a "conservative Catholic." One of the sisters, still a good friend of mine, said, "No, you're not. You're just a Catholic." Just a Catholic. I still see myself that way, although the fact that I love the Pope, prefer the Latin Mass, and admire Marie-Antoinette (even though she was not a registered Republican), gets me slapped with all kinds of labels from time to time.
For instance, last week I had an interesting exchange with some local Catholics during which, in order to make my point, I quoted from canon law and some other documents on the Vatican website. As a response I received Scripture verses like shots from a gun, verses that had little connection with the topic at hand. The person, knowing little or nothing about me, just assumed that I was one of those people, the type that clings to Latin and the Pope, and therefore I needed to be enlightened about the true Word of God. He does not know that my formerly Protestant mother had me memorizing Bible verses as a child and, yes, the Bible is still something I read. Often.
How quick and how easy it is to judge people about whom we know little or nothing, making rash assumptions based upon a tiny bit of information. The older I get the more I tremble to think I have done the same thing in the past. May God forgive me.
This is the big problem with having so many labels. When we label someone, we make presumptions about them that may or may not be true. We put them in a box. We put an end to the conversation, if we even allowed a conversation to begin. We close ourselves up in little cliques, making the Catholic ghetto a dense and confusing labyrinth. I have no idea how the church will ever be restored to genuine unity with so many labels and so much name-calling. Only God Himself can lead us out of this dark tunnel. For our part, it would help if we stopped rushing to judgment. Even when we know someone very well it is dangerous to pass judgment; it is even more foolish when we do not know someone at all. Share