Editor’s note: This blog is the first guest post on madisoncatholicyouth.com. This has been written by Madison Seminarian Bill VanWagner, who himself is proud of being a hipster and his Catholic faith. Check back often for weekly posts this Lent from Bill.
Let’s be honest, almost everyone wants to be a hipster. You can deny it all you want, but you know you have at least one Bon Iver album on your iPod, you love v-neck tee shirts, and you are always looking for an opportunity to wear those huge-rimmed glasses you found at grandma’s house. If you’re reading this–which you are–then you are also probably Catholic. This is good news. Being Catholic basically automatically makes you a hipster. Don’t believe me? Take Urban Dictionary’s word for it:
HIPSTER: Hipsters are a subculture of men and women that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter.
Boom. If that’s not Catholic, then neither is the Pope.
Counter-culture? We’ve got that down. This whole “Catholic, Jesus, not-being-pagan-or-Jewish” thing was illegal for the first 300 hundred years of it’s existence–and it hasn’t exactly been the “in-thing” for much time since then. Rule of thumb; you know you’re a part of a counter-culture when you get beheaded, burnt alive, or crucified for your very involvement in that culture.
Independent thinking? We do that, too. When the English government did this whole thing where King Henry VIII tried to claim authority over the Church–basically making himself more important than the Pope — Saint Thomas More — was not having it. This was a pretty big pickle, since Thomas More was himself was Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain (don’t worry, I don’t know what that means either). When it came out that Sir Thomas was actually going to be faithful to Holy Catholic Church, the locked him up in London Tower for a year and then beheaded him. I’d say that’s independent thinking.
Progressive politics? This one is easy. First of all, Jesus got himself into a lot of trouble for hanging out with the wrong crowds. In Jesus’ time, everyone was shoved into a nice and neat social class with essentially no chance of rising up, but a pretty good chance of falling down. The thing was, if you were in class D, you were alright, but you didn’t bother class A or B, and you had to straight-up avoid class E-Z. Jesus kind of ignored that whole concept. He hung out with tax-collectors–class C-ish–and lepers–probably class Z. Back then, that sort of thing really rubbed people the wrong way. No wonder they killed him, eh?
Appreciation of art? This is awesome, Catholics basically invented art. That might be a stretch, but hear me out. When you go to Europe, there’s no tour called “Discovering the Art of Ancient Atheists.” Point being, for 2,000 years Catholics have been building enormous glowing edifices that reflect the glory and beauty of God. Michelangelo, Raphael, Bernini, Caravaggio; all artists who built, sculpted, and painted glorious works in attempt to show the splendor of the Heavens.
Creativity, intelligence, and witty banter? Catholics are great at that. Just recently, the Holy Father created 22 new Cardinals, including 2 Americans. One of the Americans among the elect was Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, former Archbishop of Milwaukee. He was fortunate enough to bring his dear mother along to Rome for the ceremony. When he introduced her to the Holy Father, Papa Bene looked at her and said, “You look too young to be the mother of a Cardinal!” With the blink of an eye, Mrs. Dolan quipped, “Is that an infallible statement, Holy Father?” Catholic wit and intelligence has dominated the field of intellectual study throughout the entire history of the Church. St. Justin, St. Augustine, Bl. Duns Scotus, St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Ignatius, G.K. Chesterton, St. Edith Stein, Pope John Paul II — in nearly every century since the death of Christ, there has been a Catholic mind that has sculpted the intellectual pursuits of the time.
The great part about being super hip and super Catholic, is that all these complicated ingredients can be summed up into one. Being Holy. In today’s culture of death and hate, what’s the best way to stand out in the crowd? Giving your life to Jesus. Don’t believe me? Tell somebody at school you prayed the Rosary yesterday and see the look on their face. Heck, if you’re lucky, they might even call you “psycho” or a “cult-worshipper”. Don’t be discouraged, though, that’s just layman’s terms for totally hip. Case in point: it’s super counter-cultural these days to love Jesus Christ. The great part is that this isn’t just rebellion for rebellion’s sake. No, instead, loving Jesus offers us so many promises the world cannot fulfill: Eternal happiness, peace, joy, perfect love, and intimate communion with God the Father, the constant guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the intercession of the Saints and Angels. All of that sounds pretty good, even if it means getting martyred for it.