Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism

``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

Restoring "The Little Things" of Catholic Culture

If we want to live in a Catholic culture, big things need to be done. Some laws need to change. Schools and universities need to be reclaimed or re-created. New media need to be started up. Our economy needs to be protected from unfair competition with countries that have slave labor. We've a lot of work ahead of us.

Of course, too, there's the "big thing" of attaining eternal life -- of living Catholic lives centered on Christ. Obeying the six precepts of the Church, becoming virtuous, and making life a prayer while doing all we can to ensure the Good of the souls of the people we love -- these all go without saying.

But in addition to those big things, are "the little things" every Roman Catholic should be doing. On the page about Posture and Gesture, I write (links added),

In a speech Delivered at the Twelfth Convention of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, John M. Haas spoke of how certain Catholic practices made such an impression on him when he was still a Protestant. He wrote of how the "adverting to Our Lord" manifest in the Catholic custom of bowing the head in honor of the Real Presence when passing a Catholic church affected him:

And other Catholics could surely add innumerable other [Catholic practices]: some silly, some profound, some a source of comfort, others the source of light-hearted humor. Catholic practices make up the daily life of a Catholic individual and a Catholic society. The morning offering, the invocation of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the sprinkling of holy water on children at bedtime, the incantation to Saint Anthony ("Tony, Tony, come around; something's lost and can't be found"), the pleas to Saint Jude to prevent a bankruptcy, the novenas for a sick spouse. All of these many practices fill the lives of the faithful, enrich, comfort and orient them. Often it is difficult to trace their origin. Often the ones which seem most intimate and natural to a people were never even introduced by ecclesiastical authority. They emerged as natural, faith-filled expressions of love or joy or thanksgiving or grief or desperation.

The one characteristic these Catholic practices all seem to share is their ability to turn people away from the mundane, the worldly, the everyday, and direct them toward the sacred, the transcendent, the eternal. One could be travelling on the streetcar in Pittsburgh thinking about how to make new sales contacts or how to position oneself to meet the new girl in the office when suddenly, on the part of a half-dozen people, there was an adverting to another reality, another dimension, not separate from this realm, but permeating it, leavening it, making sense of it. Perhaps the adverting to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament by those on the street car was only fleeting, with virtually no break in the train of thought regarding increasing sales or meeting the new girl. But the adverting took place; Our Lord was acknowledged; and implicitly at least, the statement was made that increased sales was no end in itself and any future wife would, one would hope, be married in the Lord.

These little habits not only glorify God, they're subjectively good in that we stop what we're doing, if only for a moment -- like a five-second vacation -- to focus on what truly matters.

But they're important, too, in another way: they're a sign to others around us. For non-Catholics, they're an invitation, a small way of spreading of the Gospel. Or maybe sometimes they're just a piquing of curiosity that will precede further investigation. I can imagine a little non-Catholic child sitting in a restaurant, seeing a Catholic cross himself before tucking in. "Mommy, what's that man doing with his hand?" If Mom answers his question properly, the child will then come to at least have heard of Jesus, and will know that some people take the time to honor and thank Him before they eat. For other Catholics, these practices are a sign that "one of us" is present and, so, the other Catholic isn't alone.

Scattered throughout this website are various traditions that Catholics practice -- from creative uses of water and fire to seasonal customs that make the liturgical year come alive. We've got roadside shrines and Mary Gardens, and we make "domestic churches" of our homes. Yes, there are myriad things that Catholics do differently from others, like waiting until Advent's over to turn Christmas tree lights to understanding  Christmas doesn't end on December 25. But here, I want to focus on the top ten "little things" that involve not aspects of Catholic material culture or specific seasonal customs, but habits that Catholic should practice daily, as the proper contexts arise. These ten things are:

1. When saying or hearing the Name of Jesus, bow your head, no matter where you are or whom you're with.

2. When hearing the Name of Jesus being taken in vain, make reparation by praying "Sit Nomen Domini benedictum" ("Blessed be the Name of the Lord").

3. When passing by a Catholic church, cross yourself in honor of Jesus in the tabernacle and pray "Gloria Tibi, Domine" ("Glory be to Thee, Lord"). Men, remove your hats.

4. Pray before meals, even in restaurants, crossing yourself Catholic-style, no matter who's watching or whom you're with.

5. When hearing an ambulance, fire truck, or police car go by, pray an Ave (a Hail Mary) for anyone in trouble.

6. When passing a cemetery, pray the Eternal Rest prayer for the dead.

7. Honor Jesus, Mary, and Joseph by writing "J.M.J." on top of correspondence and homework.

8. Don't eat meat on Fridays, even if your Bishop doesn't explicitly mandate it.

9. Bless your children in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

10. Pray to your Guardian Angel and patron Saint.

Don't be shy about these practices! They are for God and for the purpose of making the world a more Catholic place! The changes we want to see start with us. With you. Let's do all we can to make a world in which, when a street car passes a Catholic church, all heads bow!

I've made a meme-sized graphic which I encourage you to download and spread all over social media. Right-click and choose "Save image as" to save:

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