(This is a guest post by Christie of Everything to Someone)
I went to a Catholic high school but knew very few people who were genuinely Catholic, what we’d call a “loyal Catholic” but of whom my spunky sister says, “Just Catholic Catholics. You’re either Catholic, or you’re not. You either follow the Magisterium, or you don’t.” (And she’s only twenty!)
There were slightly more classmates of the Star Wars-and-Hobbit persuasion than there were Catholic classmates who happily embraced Catholicism. But they were, how shall I say . . . often socially awkward beyond even my socially awkward ability to communicate! I wish them only the best, even now. I think when you have no “higher power” to unshackle you, to put things in perspective and help you prioritize, you too easily fall into worshiping little idols–things good in themselves but poisonous as your only food. In a word, they were obsessed. And that fact made me a little too uncomfortable to ever reach out and make friends.
So you can imagine my surprise when, thanks to the beautiful-wonderful-powerful internet, I discovered that there were actually people out there like me: both joyfully Catholic and healthfully otaku. And as I branched out from lurking in Tolkien forums and wasting time drawing Sailor Moon on deviantART to starting a blog and striking epic friendships, I discovered that this was not only something that existed. It was actually the norm.
Maybe it’s because I was the only one I knew like that in childhood, I don’t know. But I had two very distinct, potent feelings about this. The one was a kind of relieved astonishment. And the second was a smug, but-of-course pride; the kind of pride a child feels for a parent when she realizes the parent was right all along, and it was the world that was wrong. Both feelings coexisted prominently for some time, and without even realizing it, I was making connections. Noting an article here, observing a plot there. I guess it’s normal for human nature to want to put the puzzle pieces together, to make a complete picture. And what offers a more complete picture of everything better than the Catholic worldview? Which, as Catholics, we know is only the real world seen for what it is.
When musing on the nature of Catholic fiction, southern Catholic novelist Flannery O’Connor wrote, “the Catholic novel is not necessarily about a Christianized or Catholicized world, but simply [. . .] one in which the truth as Christians know it has been used as a light to see the world by” (Mystery and Manners). This technique can be applied to all art, indeed, any human endeavor. Any ancient temple, taken in the light of the Incarnation, is suddenly a cathedral reaching out to heaven. The songs of pagan bards, eternally sad, all share an instinctive and unspoken sense of the loss of Eden. The romantic tradition reached its height of metaphysical and poetic beauty with chivalry: the spiritualization, discipline, and ultimate sanctification of mere human love.
Any honest pursuit of truth and the human condition is Catholic, even though it be filtered through the half-blinded eyes of the unbeliever. It’s the groping-for that counts.
This is how fandom finds a complimentary home in Catholicism. We Catholics have the distinct privilege and ability to lay claim to any true pursuit of God. All Christians do, in fact, if they profess the Incarnation. But Catholics, by the nature of the Faith, are better equipped to see it: mystery and symbol, sin and suffering, sacrifice and redemption . . . we are acquainted with it all from infancy in the Crucifix. We may not even be aware of it, but we are preconditioned to digest and turn things to nourishment (avoiding the peril of my high school classmates mentioned above). So we can view a television show in which the characters aren’t clearly black-and-white but reflect the complexity of human nature and the almost tangible pain of the soul separated from God. We can say, “Ah yes, now he’s got it right,” and shake our heads sadly, wisely, when they get it wrong.
And we can still enjoy the goodness in it, for we can filter the failures. We can even examine it, debate it, meditate on it. See its relevance to our own lives. Take it with us to the confessional. It can make us better Christians.
There is something about the new series of Doctor Who, besides it’s incredibly conceived science fiction scenarios, that gives it this type of substance. It’s hard to put a finger on, but it has something to do with the Doctor’s profound love for humanity. Here he is, a practically ancient (by our standards), intellectually superior, alien being. And yet, he returns to Earth again and again, taking human beings for his companions. Though they all pass away or, what is worse, outgrow him, he continues to make himself vulnerable to heartache through their friendship. Now, he is far from an innocent, all-benevolent being himself, but he recognizes the very severe failings of human nature.
So why us? For a being who proclaims himself all-but-atheist and a devout adherent to scientific knowledge, the Doctor does not subscribe to his own beliefs. In the curtest sense, he is a hypocrite–though we are all, if we are going to try and match belief and practice, that. No, what impresses me about the Doctor is something which he did not choose and which he cannot explain: the inherent and inescapable sense that mankind is important. Though suns are born and die, and civilizations rise and fall, and eons turn like wheels, we remain. We are what matters. We are bigger than the universe. For we are created in the image and likeness of the One who created the universe from nothing. The Doctor is a non-human humanist, when he has every reason to disbelieve in the central place of mankind in the cosmos. He appeals to rationalism but chooses faith. He believes in the incarnational significance of man, though he disbelieves in the Incarnation.
And that gives me a great deal of hope for our world.
With sound formation in the Faith, we need not fear reading literature about prostitutes and tax collectors; or even watching films about them, provided we know our weaknesses and keep Christ near. There is almost nothing that a Catholic cannot be a fan of and find some resonance and reflection of Creation, a tool with which to hone his sanctity.
The word Catholic only means “universal,” after all.
Christie writes at Everything to Someone. With an MA in Arthurian Literature and an insatiable wanderlust, she’s a full-time mom, old-world Papist, and aspiring writer.