There is a popular idea that so-called “traditional Catholics” are mostly grumpy old men. As a traditional Catholic in a “progressive Catholic” institution, in a post-Christian country, in an atheist’s world, I am faced with this idea frequently.
It comes from the fact that traditions are passed down from generation to generation and older generations are oftentimes thought of as somewhat stingy, grumpy, and generally joyless, even though human beings are individuals, with various personalities and the ability to make their own decisions.
So, I am going to generalize in the same way that they do and count down the five types of Catholic people you will meet in Church.
The first is the welcoming Catholic. The only reason this person is on the list is so that I can debunk the popular ideas about this type of person. From talking to progressive Catholics, one might get the idea that 99% of people in the progressive Church are welcoming and that there are no welcoming people in the traditional Church. That is absolutely not the case.
Out of the dozens of parishes that I have been to, I have had to already know someone in order to be actively welcomed in all but two, and both of those parishes were obviously dying since fewer and fewer people were coming to Mass in those places. So this type of Catholic is not terribly common, but that might be for the better. It forces people to become active members of the community of their own power, rather than being asked to join.
The second is the hip Catholic. This is probably who progressive Catholics think is the most predominant group of progressive Catholics. These people are young, extroverted, and are all about what is cool. These Catholics are the attractive “too cool for school” types of people who most of the older people seem to live vicariously through, given how much sway these kinds of Catholics have over them.
These Catholics are either few and far between or just about the only people at Mass, depending on where you go. I sometimes go to Mass at my college, and so I can expect to see a bunch of young faces there, just barely out of high school. But then I go to my geographical parish and see that there is nobody there, except ten, maybe twelve, mostly older people in the congregation, two servers, and two to three fewer people in the choir that there are in the congregation.
The third is the devout Catholic. Now, most progressive Catholics do not deny that there are devout people in the progressive Church, but they consider the devout Catholics of the traditional Church to be overly distant, somber, and reverent. These are the people whom they generally consider to be unwelcoming. These Catholics, I have found, are quite abundant in the traditional Church, though, they can also be found in the progressive Church. But, in the progressive Church, they are usually older people, like my grandparents. In the traditional Church, everyone tends to be a devout Catholic.
The fourth is the uptight Catholic. This is the person who, outside of Mass, still seems to be the mentality that he or she has better things to do than to say “hello.” This person can be found on both sides of the Church, but progressives would say that there seem to be more of them in the traditional Church, though are abundant in the College Masses that I go to. An unwelcoming personality seems to be more the norm than the exception in America at this point in history.
The fifth and final Catholic is the regular Catholic. This is the Catholic who defies simple description. He or she is unique, complex and fascinating, beloved of God and worthy of the respect of everyone. I am proud to be a member of this group, and you should be too.
Maybe everyone really deserves membership in group five. I revise my original statement. Let us count down the one type of Catholic that you meet at church: