Me and Homer

Homer Simpson, that is…

Cruising around the Catholic blogosphere, I am frequently struck by this excellent line from The Simpsons, when Homer realizes that he has just freed the Babysitter Bandit after Bart captured her:

“Lord help me, I’m just not that bright.”

A big part of the problem is that I haven’t read enough about the faith I’m so proud of. When I read, it’s mainly novels. I’ve got a few shelves full of Catholic stuff, but it’s nothing like my parents, and nowhere near as frequently visited. My friend the carpenter brought some Hubert Von Zeller with him when he visited. The only Von Zeller I’ve got is Brother Choleric’s Cracks in the Cloister. This needs to improve.

But apparently, I’m not alone in my dimness and lack of bookish investigation. Amy has gotten around to opening her guns on the PW piece on Why Catholics Don’t Buy Catholic Books. I think it’s a good critique, and that there are some good comments following. My only contribution, and it’s a weak piece of blame-laying: investigation of the faith is a habit. Reading is a habit. Habits are often best formed in youth. I did little reading as part of my years of Church School prior to Confirmation. I did little real investigation of the faith – and I paid more attention than some. Poor catechesis rears its ugly head.

UPDATE: And what of the Domestic Church, what of the catechesis of the home? Well, that was the source of what little reading I did do – the Lewis, the Chesterton, the various saints. If I don’t pick it up a bit, my own children won’t even have their father’s example.


  1. AnotherCoward says

    Don’t be so hard on yourself.

    Many Protestant readership is institutionally instigated as one of Amy’s commentors noted. It’s part of the Protestant identity.

    Catholicism is a bit different. You’re not going to find a priest advocate a book from the pulpit. I’m not exactly certain it would be appropriate if he did.

    There’s this dichotomy in the Catholic Church between the Liturgy of the Word and Catechesis – at least in practice. You’re just not going to get an in-depth exegesis (because it takes too long) or a theological series (because the liturgy doesn’t lend itself very well to that) for a Homily. These kinds of things are motivated by reading and encourage reading in those who receive teachings from them.

    Which gets back to the whole need for the Church – especially that of America – to re-evaluate its catechetical/evangelical/discipleship role. Right now it’s an extra-curricular and optional program. It’s encouraged … but not really supported with any kind of weight. The people who attend these extra parish gatherings are those who know it is important – not merely think it important and something to get around to.

    My parish has institude faith sharing groups – a clever name for Bible study. It gets a lot of play around Lent and Advent as something you should do – especially if you have any semblance of free time for TV. I’m not certain how the numbers have been post-Easter, but I know participation has grown for each Holy Season since its inception.

    This kind of organization and participation is what lends itself well to any kind of group of people to read. It’s what the Protestants have been doing for years. Those Catholics who do read usually do so in groups – though informally.

  2. Matthew Lickona says

    Thanks, AC, for the post.
    My Jesuit chaplain at TAC actually did do theological series in his homilies. We had three daily Masses, and he always said the noon. My whole Sophomore year was a series on the Sacraments. It was marvelous. But it was daily Mass, and we were students at a Catholic college – not your typical setup.

  3. Well, these blogs seem to be a step in the right direction. It really seems a lot of Catholics are starting to catch up on learning the faith. I know a relative of mine asked the parish priest to start meetings on learning the faith. They turned out very nicely, and helped a lot of mis-conceptions. Even among 70 year olf cradle Catholics! 😛

  4. Anonymous says

    Well, to my mind to respond to Amy’s post practically requires a dissertation, but here are some thoughts. The printing press is partly responsible for the Reformation. Catholics learn their catechesis in church—statues, stained glass windows, smells and bells–and an oral proclamation of the gospel. The printed word certainly made the rejection of the sacramental system possible–and even made a mockery of it possible. The “good book” becomes the new super-sacramental.

    Another thought: Protestants are the ones who have kept pace with the media. For better, but mostly for worse. Books have become more like television, and the protestants have kept up. Most really popular books are not terribly deep–like Chicken soup for the soul. Nothing like Chesterton, Peguy, Bernanos, etc.

    A third thought. The so-called heyday of Catholic publishing came about when Catholics were still a ghetto religion. Now we are dispersed. Which is, in some sense how it should be. Now the real work must begin. Read Vatican II. It is time for the domestic Church–we must all become students of the Word at home in order to transform the culture.

    A fourth thought: the Catholic view of nature and grace. To my mind, good literature is good because it participates in the Good which is God. I don’t have to baptize it with a moral or Catholic characters. Same with the True and the Beautiful. Protestants are always having to baptize things–think veggietales–funny, but not the way I serve the bible to my kids. I’ll a wonderful children’s movie any day over those veggies.

    The sister-in-law

  5. Matthew Lickona says

    Well said, sis.

  6. AnotherCoward says

    Lisa, you had me nodding with you right up until you started beating up on those defenseless, arm-less veggies. Why do people have to go knocking veggietales?!? They’re good cartoons. But they’re certainly not perfect and so need to be complimented with other material.

    Other than that, excellent thoughts.

  7. Matthew Lickona says

    Ah, but she makes a point. They may be good cartoons, but if they color the way children perceive Scripture – being based on Scripture as they are – and skew its character in the process, wouldn’t that be worth your concern? I’m not as bothered by them as Lisa, but I see her point.

  8. AnotherCoward says

    If I saw something intrinsically disrespectful of or morally inconsistent with Scripture, then I would be concerned.

    That an episode isn’t wholly consistent with the story elements of a section of Scripture doesn’t bother me so long as it remains consistent with the whole Bible.

    I had to listen to someone rant over the Rack, Shack and Bennie episode once being about resisting peer pressure and not about not worshipping false idols. I still think the rant is pointless – certainly a large part of the struggle in avoiding false idols is resisting peer pressure. The fact that we weren’t beat over the head to not worship false idols in the episode doesn’t mean that teaching is now lost on the children. Supplement supplement supplement.

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