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Catholics find community and orthodoxy in Maryland

Catholics find community and orthodoxy in Maryland

National Public Radio reported this week on an intentional community growing up in Hyattsville, Md., of orthodox Catholics. The community has gathered around St. Jerome Catholic Church and St. Jerome Academy, a school which has experienced a revitalization after shifting its curriculum to a more traditional, God-centered study and attracting young families to the area.

“The parish life was very important to us,” says Daniel Gibbons, 40, who teaches at Catholic University in nearby Washington, D.C., and moved to Hyattsville with his young family four years ago. “I know from my own childhood that it can be very hard to raise children as a Catholic if you don’t have a community of other Catholics who are trying to make the faith real in their everyday lives and raise the children in ways that are harmonious with their faith.”

The town also attracts residents for its old-fashioned, it-takes-a-village small size and “walkability”:

The town of Hyattsville itself, with a population of barely 17,000, is also an attraction to these young Catholic families. Though located just beyond the D.C. limits, the historic community was established before the automobile age and is highly walkable. A key gathering spot is the Vigilante Coffee Roastery & Cafe, situated around the corner from the church and the school. Young mothers, many with babies in tow, congregate there each morning. The cafe manager is a former teacher from Los Angeles who also serves as the youth minister at St. Jerome.

Most of the families live within a 2-mile radius.

“Our kids are continually at each other’s homes,” says Michelle Trudeau, 48, a mother of six who home-schooled her four oldest children before enrolling them at the parish school, where she is now the assistant principal. “As parents, we know we can trust what’s going on in that other house,” she says. “We know that if something goes on with our kids, other parents are looking out for them. We all become parents of each other’s children.”

NPR interviewed author Rod Dreher, who just released his book The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Era and included the Maryland community in it:

Dreher urges conservative Christians in America to withdraw from culture wars and partisan politics and focus instead on deepening their own faith through a semi-monastic life. Dreher’s model is St. Benedict, the sixth century monk recognized as the founder of Western monasticism.

“We have to develop creative, communal solutions to help us hold on to our faith and our values in a world growing ever more hostile to them,” Dreher writes. He describes the Hyattsville Catholic community in his book as “a strong model of being in the world but not of it.”

In an interview with NPR, Dreher lamented the replacement of “traditional” Christianity with “pseudo-Christianity,” which he described as “all about feeling good and happy about yourself.”

“For a lot of people in modernity,” Dreher said, “religion has become sort of a psychological help. It has become a way of rationalizing what we want to do anyway and putting a little Jesus sauce on top to make it go down easily.”

Images from St. Jerome Catholic Church webpage and Vigilante Coffee webpage


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JC Fisher

Whoa, I came here to debate the so-called “orthodoxy” of this select set of social conservative Roman Catholics, and instead got a debate as to the propriety of the Passion narrative(s)!

Let’s just say I feel far less ambiguous re the former (i.e. you just KNOW their “monastery” will turn into ramparts they from which they will direct their weaponized dogma outwards) than the latter. [I am glad my parish used Matthew today, rather than John’s horrifying “Jews” this and “Jews” that.]

The REv. Peter D. Snow

Good Friday: My Non Observance
It is Good Friday, and I find I cannot face another Good Friday service with readings that I am supposed to participate in. My final revolt played out on Palm Sunday, when in my own parish church we in the congregation were instructed, scripted and required to all chant, “Crucify him, crucify him. His blood be upon our heads and upon our children.” Every year this happens, but this year we had Matthew’s account and there the words were printed in the bulletin for the convenient use of us all. Now todasy, all over the Episcopal Church, congregations will be asked to repeat those words, and be expected somehow to feel a smidgin of responsibility for the crucifixion almost 2,000 years ago.
I don’t object to the dramatization of the story. I just wish there were more of it in our services. No, it is the mindless reading of those words that have been used by the church for 20 centuries to justify the horrendous treatment of the Jewish people in pogrom after pogrom, in crazed mob attacks, politically motivated persecutions and terrible torture of individuals. The history of Europe, both east and west is stained by these recurrent persecutions, and often spurred on by the clergy, including bishops and high officials. The holocaust, still lodged in the memories of people alive today, was floated on a back drop of accusations of Christ Killers. Those words in Matthew’s Gospel were still at work preparing the soil for Hitler’s final solution. So no. I will not participate in this tragic farce today or next year.
Matthew’s Gospel arose in an atmosphere of vigorous if not violent debate between Jewish Jews and Jews who were followers of Jesus of Nazareth. After 70CE. those who escaped from Jerusalem set up shop in Sepphoris, and the area north into what is now Lebanon and Syria. Great theological debates were held between the various schools, not least between followers of Jesus, variously referred to as Christians, and the emerging rabbinic groups. Matthew, true to his own people of northern Israel and southern Syria accused his fellow Jews not of his own persuasion, of their complicity in Jesus, their messiah’s death. Further, those words I now object to, “His blood be upon our heads and upon the heads of our children” were given as an explanation for the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. As far as Matthew and his fellow Jewish Christians were concerned, those Jewish escapees from the wrath of God, were proved wrong by the events of history. Jerusalem lay in ruins as a direct result of Jews like them refusing to accept Jesus as the messiah. It had nothing to do with the Jewish nation.
Understood in a broader and more accurate way, Matthew’s Gospel gives us an important view of attitudes extant 40 years after Jesus’ death. The church has avoided educating its people in the more complex view history of that period, preferring to adopt for its liturgy the subject of the old medieval morality plays that generated the hatred that still feeds our class distinctions prevailing today. How many Episcopalians serve on golf club committees that until very recently would not accept Jews as members? Why? The old superstitions survive in sub-conscious attitudes that blight our common life in 2017, and all over the Episcopal Church this weekend those words will be chanted without any instruction or historical perspective. Ignorance in support of assumptions and confirming old superstitions belongs in present politics not in the church.

Rod Gillis

Thank you for your courageous post. I’ve have had very conflicted feelings about Good Friday liturgies for a great many years. They confront us, as you indicate, with long standing NT anti-Judaism and Christian antisemitism.

Since retiring from the parochial system, some years I have attended, others not. I attended today, and came away again feeling conflicted.

The Canadian book has a set of reproaches which includes the following in Anthem one ( taken from, From Ashes to Fire, Abingdon 1979):

“I grafted you unto the tree of my chosen Israel, and you turned on them with persecution and mass murder. I made you joint heirs with them of my covenants, but you made them scapegoats for your own guilt” To which the congregation responds with the trisagion as a common refrain.

But you know, it is just not enough.

John-Julian , OJN

I agree in general with the ideal of a “Benedict option” for a close Christian community, but I would ask the same question David asks. The word “orthodox” these days—especially among Catholics—tends to carry with it an unpleasant aspect of a narrow ethical certainty and unassailable judgment. And such certainty is a dread, dark cell in which God is locked and made powerless.

David Allen

We are everywhere, even in small town USA, so I have to wonder how the LGBTQ folks who may have lived here before the “Orthodox” Roman Catholics moved in feel and are being treated?

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