Catholics in a Secular World

My friend Sr. Julie writes: This morning I overheard some locker room talk at the gym. From what I could gather two of the women were school teachers. One mentioned that in her school (I don’t think it was Catholic) all of the religious holidays are no longer observed. Instead schools are going with national holidays such as International Women’s Day. While I am pleased that such national holidays are recognized, I do have some questions. How widespread is this? What kind of impact (if any) do you see in terms of catechesis? I would be most grateful for your thoughts. 

This is obviously part of the ongoing secularization of our society. When I was a kid, attending a Catholic grade school, holy days of obligation were often also holidays. In my entire life, I have never NOT had Good Friday off (except when serving as a parish staff member, of course!). I’ve always had time off for Easter and Christmas. All of this reinforced the Catholic calendar. I (many of us) grew up in a culture that was favorable to the practice of the Catholic faith. The example that Sr. Julie points out may not seem like a big deal, but it is part of the ongoing secularization of our culture. The most significant impact in my mind, and a positive spin on all this, is that, in order for us to live a Catholic lifestyle, we need to be more intentional and proactive in doing so, often taking stands that are counter-cultural (such as going out for pizza with friends on a Friday during Lent and asking that our needs for meatless pizza be met). Situations like this force us to think about why we do what we do and require us to prepare to talk about the reasons we do them. As catechists, we are called to help those we teach understand what it is that they do as Catholics. In other words, it calls us to live the new evangelization! 

About Joe Paprocki 2737 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at

7 Comments on Catholics in a Secular World

  1. Hi Joe, Thanks for addressing this issue. I like what you said … “in order for us to live a Catholic lifestyle, we need to be more intentional and proactive in doing so, often taking stands that are counter-cultural” … I think it is so important to be comfortable as a Catholic in secular spheres, not hitting people over the head with our faith, but also not shying away from standing up for what we believe in. Just yesterday (Friday) a mutual friend of ours had a talk with the manager of a local grocery store because they had absolutely no hot meatless options for lunch. She simply and graciously said, “You do know it’s Lent, don’t you?” The manager said he’d take care of it. That kind of action that she took can be such a powerful sign to others.

    Keep up the good work, Joe!

  2. I agree with our Sister. History has recorded and no one will disagree that Jesus did live and exist.
    The difference in our Christian Faith is that the day Jesus was in fact crucified and we see in the symbol of the cross and is the very basis of our Faith. As I teach my students, Holy Week and the Triduum is the true basis of our Faith.
    The fact that Holy week and all the days that encumber it our left to secular decision making seems to undermine our journey each year. Quiz the kids: when don

  3. I thought that it was no longer a requirement to eat fish on Friday – did that not change with Vatican II? I am just curious why you would ask the manager of the grocery store since there are people from all faiths and spiritital backgrounds? I live in a mid sized city )well for Canada at any rate, 150,000) and even here, we have representatives from so many different religions and spiritual heritage that I am not certain a date we consider Roman Catholic Holy Day would be on the mind of every person.

  4. Siobhan, the discussion above is about abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent which is still a discipline. At one time, of course, Catholics abstained from meat on all Fridays of the year. Although that regulation was removed, we are still encouraged to do so voluntarily as an act of penance. During Lent, however, the discipline remains.
    I think that the person Sr. Julie talked about who challenged the local supermarket owner was not asking him/her to make the store “Catholic” but to offer an option that recognizes the needs of Catholics who make up a percentage of their clientele in a very diverse area. Many establishments advertise “Lenten specials” to serve their Catholic clientele in much the same way that they offer a section of Kosher foods for their Jewish clientele.

  5. I agree that society is becoming increasingly secularized but it is also becoming religious diversified. Where I live in northern CA, there are many Buddhists, Hindus, Moslems, and Sikhs, as well as followers of many other faiths and sects. In the public sector where I work, it’s impossible to acknowledge the religious holidays of so many groups, so the tendency has been to avoid closing for any religous holidays–for example, we’re open on Easter. Employees must use personal or vacation leave for time off for religious observances, but their requests are always granted.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.