Any likeness to actual living people is merely coincidental. Merely very coincidental.
I live in a small town. It is an important component in one of the most conservative ‘ridings’ in the country. We perpetually return conservative representatives to the House of Commons and to the Legislative Assembly in Toronto, well, ever since the great long-gun registration debacle made us realize who are true friends are. It is a town settled predominately by Polish immigrants – although the Irish got here first and bought up all the good land and then put the Kashub Poles to work in the lumber industry as the serf class. This is perhaps the only place in the world where the Irish make up the upper class – not even Ireland can boast that!
Before I came to this town I thought all Poles were grim, unfriendly and hardened. And then I met Kashubs, a kind of hybrid race created when you introduce comely Polish lasses and iron-willed Prussians. What came out of this mixture, and was transplanted in the Ottawa Valley, was a people who have become very dear to me, a generally simple, traditional, guileless, friendly people, hard-working, resourceful and creative. They have every reason to be ‘traditional’ – there have been but few incursions here from big business and of ‘city-people,’ the latter staying just long enough to rest and catch few bass before heading back to their type of existence. It has been a Catholic existence – that the Poles and the Irish have had in common. I don’t know what the mass attendance is in our town, but it is as close to 100% as any town has been since Luther’s day.
We can lament the loss of some vestiges of Kashub culture – very few young people can speak to the grandparents in their own language. Kashubian is a Polish dialect, kind of like Newfoundlander is to English. Dobje we all know, bardzo dobje. And the names. One of the most common for men here has been Ambrose. I like Ambrose – the baptizer of Augustine no less.
And then on my drive the other day I saw on the sign in front of the town’s community centre, “Best Wishes Crystal and Kyle.” Haven’t I seen that sign before? Didn’t a Kyle and a Crystal get married last year? Maybe a Crystal and Kyle get married here every summer now. I guess ‘Ambrose’ and ‘Clementine’ decided not to name their children from the traditional Kashubian canon, which we can also most definitely refer to as a Catholic canon.
But, I ask, upon what, then, shall we base our hope that our ‘best wishes’ for Crystal and Kyle will pay off, if we can no longer rely upon the kind of a heavenly patronage that Ambrose and Clementine were set up for by their parents when they chose names of such high heavenly pedigree for their children?
It reminds of a story I heard a few years ago. When a superioress was asked why her sisters don’t take religious names at their profession she replied that they will as soon as they have to deal with the prospect of a Sr. Crystal.
This very same weekend that the church decided to marry two young people without heavenly guardians, a couple celebrated their sixtieth wedding anniversary. Now the times are very different from how they were sixty years ago. World War II was then a recent memory. My town must have looked quite different back then. I can tell you one thing it didn’t have back then: very many divorces. Crystal’s and Kyle’s world is now full of them. The couple that got married sixty years ago, well, Jesus and Holy Mass is still front and centre in their lives. I see them at mass all the time. I am sure they, like everyone from that generation, had their fair share of hard times. Marriage is never easy, no matter when you lived. But one thing they had, which Crystal and Kyle don’t, was tradition with its strong Christian principles and powerful role models to guide them.
What hope do Kyle and Crystal have? Their parents must have thought that the prayers of the Church Triumphant don’t do anything for you anyway, so why not chose a name you like, something different? And by marrying them, the church confirmed this. There was a time when baptism, confirmation and marriage meant a transformation in Christ, a new life. I suggest that in situations like this that the church not marry someone who has not been confirmed, and not confirm someone who hasn’t been provided with heavenly patronage. It’s not right to fail to provide young people every spiritual leg up we can.
Catholicism is not a culture, but it exist in culture(s). Its purpose is to renew all things in Christ, not to passively leave things as it finds them.