Monday, November 18, 2013

The Catholic Brand

Why is it that non-Catholics know what constitutes the outward signs of Catholic culture, but Catholics often don't?

Take this little bit from Stieg Larsson's bestseller The Girl Who Played with Fire:
...Bublanski felt an urge to talk to God about the case, but instead of going to the synagogue he went to the Catholic church on Folkungagatan. He sat in one of the pews at the back and did not move for over an hour. As a Jew he had no business being in a church, but it was a peaceful place that he regularly visited when he felt the need to sort out his thoughts, and he knew that God would not mind. There was a difference, besides, between Catholicism and Judaism. He went to the synagogue when he needed company and fellowship with other people. Catholics went to church to seek peace in the presence of God. The church invited silence, and visitors would always be left to themselves. (pp. 376-377 of the Vintage paperback edition)
Catholics seek peace in the presence of God. Yes, that's exactly the atmosphere that ought to imbue every Catholic church building, both when nothing is going on, and when Mass is being offered. But in most American parishes, Catholic worship no longer invites silence; it treats silence as an enemy. If no one is doing anything or saying anything or singing anything, it means that people aren't actively participating. Oh, the humanity!

But why did Larsson, a thoroughly non-Catholic author, understand that silence is a part of the Catholic "brand" but most Catholics don't?