Cult Cultivates Culture

This weekend members of a small faith-based community called Regnum Christi are at Saint Charles Parish to help cultivate the very essence of our religious belief, which we commemorate during the annual Triduum rituals.  It is the third consecutive year that this group whose members range from infant to elder, though mostly families with school-aged children, have spent these holy days with us.  Their work includes getting dirty by planting and working the soil of our campus, getting vulnerable by going door-to-door to pray with area residents and invite them to deeper communion with God, and getting joyously hope-filled by visiting nursing homes and reaching out to marginalized members of society who more consciously ponder life, death, and resurrection.

Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day, co-founders of the Catholic Worker Movement, spoke often of cult, culture, and cultivation.  Though “cult” usually refers to a small group of religious people focused on an object or person of veneration, some argue that Catholicism qualifies.  Though most of us participate in seeking to imitate The One we revere in worthy ways, few of us truly emulate Christ through sacrificial works, healing actions, and humble character.  Though most of us grasp the reality that unless a seed dies and is buried in the earth it will not grow, bring new life, or nourish others, we don’t normally use that reality as our guiding compass.  Nevertheless, we desire to impact our culture through our commitment to Christ who died, was buried, rose to new life, and nourishes us.

Catholic Workers, as Maurin and Day prescribed, seek to cultivate a greater sense of Jesus in themselves and their community through discussion, prayer, study, and interactions.  In a like manner, our Catholic cult can better impact the society in which we live, work, and learn.  Much as agrarians work the earth and cultivate the ground by turning it over, getting their hands dirty, and essentially being one with it, so does it work with disciples of Jesus.  People of the earth, we are tied intimately with other earth-beings; so we should be unafraid to roll up our sleeves and get dirty, get vulnerable, and get joyous by engaging them in important factors of life that can bring growth to us all.

It is similar to the action-reflection model of Ignatian Spirituality in which a group with whom we share beliefs (cult) converses with and encourages other members to reach out to the vulnerable or marginalized of our society.  After events of encounter, the group meets to reflect further upon the success and failure of the venture so that they can engage to greater levels in future encounters.  The action-reflection cycle can continue indefinitely.

In this church season, we focus upon the resurrection of Jesus and, more than any other time of year, we pledge to imitate His purpose in hopes of impacting our culture.  His purpose was to teach and advance the will of God and He started with a motley crew, a cult of twelve apostles and some other disciples.  It is not easy to cultivate a society that, like in Jesus’ time, has different values.  When so many of us are chasing our own will via power, prestige, fame, fortune, beauty, brilliance, youthfulness and usefulness, it is difficult to pay attention to the resurrection cult that tells us about a more noble pursuit.  Our Catholic cult’s mission is to cultivate the culture, to teach and advance the will of God by turning it over—like working the earth’s soil—through our interactions with others.  We cultivate within community; we cultivate through conversation and discussion; we cultivate by encouraging one another; we cultivate through the ongoing cycle of action and reflection that helps us improve; we cultivate by a willingness to get dirty through engaging in the lives of others and learning from those encounters.  By doing what Jesus did, cultivating the culture around Him starting with a cult of Twelve Apostles, we will better understand the will of God and impact our culture for the good.

Here are a few questions to ponder as we celebrate and live the fifty days of Easter this year.  Is your engagement in our Catholic cult enough to actively cultivate growth toward God and the divine will in your locale and among your acquaintances?  In what ways are you able to impact the culture that surrounds you?  Would you be interested in being part of a small faith-based community that encourages your communion with God and others?  I pray that our parishes and groups within them can shape and strengthen our world, as Regnum Christi does, so we will courageously advance the mission of The Risen Christ in our times.