My Mother in law and I have had many discussions about what exactly being a Catholic is. I have learned a lot by moving to a new part of the country, but lately I've learned much from those in the World Wide Web. It has taught me many things so I thought that I would discuss them. Mostly I want to emphasize that all these groups have taught me that there is no wrong way to be a Catholic.
Group 1: Charismatic Catholics- There are many Catholics in my area that have formed charismatic prayer groups through their parish. I had never heard of this movement or group before. I ended up looking it up on the internet to figure out what exactly this meant. Apparently this group is the more vocal end of Catholics. They believe that speaking what you feel and even speaking in tongues is acceptable. I've never gone to a formal meeting, but I've met some people who I would describe as charismatic in a Bible study group. Whenever we would pray especially for intentions you could hear audible "yes, Lord Jesus." and things of that nature. This reminded me of when I would go to various Protestant churches with friends. It's very common in the South to be vocal, but I would get the weirdest looks if I did that at a Catholic church. My husband described the experience as being around Catholic Jesus freaks. It's not something that I would say is for me because I like the meditativeness of prayer. I guess being a musician has made me enjoy the silence as much as the noise.
Group 2: Latin/Traditionalist Catholic- Although I have never been to a Latin Mass, I have friends who became traditionalist Catholic. It is interesting to listen to how my family grew up worshiping through the eyes of someone my own age. My friend was very devout and was very surprised at the huge differences and liberality of the Ordinary Mass style. I've recently been toying with the idea of going to a Latin Mass just to see for myself, but right now it's easier for me to go to my regular church because it's up the road. Labor and all. It's not a good idea to be in an unfamiliar place further from the hospital.
Group 3: Eastern Catholics- There are many "varieties" of Eastern Catholics. I don't know to much about the worship style except that it's more in line with the Latin Mass sans Latin. We have a Byzantine Catholic church in my city, but like the Latin Mass I've never been to it nor will I probably check it out any time in the near future.
Group 4: Plain Catholics- This group I have been most recently exposed to through the internet because I did not know that such a group existed. Plain Catholics believe in getting back to the simpler things in life. Similar to the Mennonites and Amish, Plain Catholics dress plainly and engage in things like farming. They are different in that they don't adhere to a certain code so how far they go to dress plainly is debatable. It is also the same with technology. Plain Catholics do use technology but they prefer to use it in moderation and to enhance their connection to their faith. I like this philosophy of living in moderation and putting the emphasis on God and people and less on stuff, but I don't think that I'm going to buy a farm anytime soon.
How these groups have changed me as a Catholic:
I will say that learning more about what Catholicism was like before Vatican II and what the different cultures do to express their faith is eye opening. Many people feel that you need to pray the rosary daily and that sort of thing to have a good relationship with God. I feel that God is my guide, which is why I prefer to meditate more than use vocal forms of prayer. I like the idea that God is there and if I just open up a door He can walk right in and put things in perspective. This is why I don't see myself as being a Charismatic Catholic.
As for Traditionalist, I don't think that I will suddenly learn Latin and start singing in chants (which is funny because I like chants and have had to learn how to transcribe them but I digress). I will take from it that meditative air and modesty. I've recently felt that God has called me to be more modest in dress. Maybe it has something to do with becoming a mother and being more matronly. So I've started covering my head when I go to Mass. I will probably go back to wearing dresses and skirts full time (I sort of fell off the wagon when working with small children and not being able to find any maternity skirts that I could afford). I'm still debating how much of my body to cover (skirts past knees or to ankles, shirts to elbows or are short sleeves okay) and if I should cover my head full time. This I continue to be open to God about. I figure that He will let me know when I need to cover up more in public.
And the Plain Catholics go hand in hand with me caring about the environment. The less technology we use the better. Why do I need an electronic food processor when my hand held chopper does just as good a job? Why do I need cable tv or caller id? (my digressions are getting bad but my mother can't seem to understand why I screen all my calls. She said "don't you have caller id." I said no and I don't have call waiting either. I also hate cell phones, but hubby and mom made me take one. I never use it. This leads to many arguements with Mom.) Natural things are better. I want to use natural cleaning products and learn how to make my own soap. I love to sew my own stuff too. I don't think I will take it to the extreme, but living simplier and spending more time with your family playing monopoly rather than sitting in front of the tv is how I want to live my life. Technology is great especially in areas of communication, information, and medicine, but I don't need the latest new gaget and I don't want it. What's wrong with that?
I'm blessed to be Catholic because it is so culturally diverse. I know that people use the term Cafeteria Catholic to describe those who pick and choose what to believe, but I think that we should focus more of our attention on those who pick and choose how to express their Catholic identity. I want people to know that I am Catholic and that that doesn't put you in a box. People I've met people who get this strange impression that to be Catholic is to be repressed somehow. Being Catholic is not like being a Protestant where you go and choose a denomination because they believe what you believe or act how you like. Catholicism means "universal" and it's totally true.