I have over time considered the thoughts of Plain Catholicism. There is indeed a desire amongst some Catholics to live a simpler lifestyle modeled on earlier ways of living. This past Saturday I attended an Auction in an Amish town in SC Kansas. It was inspiring seeing all the people dressed in their simple, but very useful and workable clothes. The little girls had long skirts and scarves around their head because it was a cool morning. I was wearing my amish straw hat and thus was mistaken by a couple of older Amishmen as being Mennonite or Amish. I'm afraid that I shocked them when I explained that I was Catholic. This particular Amish settlement is very liberal and has allowed most modern conveniences in some way or another. Only 2 horsedrawn buggies graced the side of the barn when we pulled up in our gas guzzling Jeep.
I continue to contemplate my own and my family's calling to this agrarian lifestyle. The only real model for an agrarian based community left today is the Amish. Yet, even the Amish have given in to many cultural conveniences and depend often on the industrialized world to provide many of the things they use daily such as their flour, sugar, and farm implements. It seems to me that some of this interaction is necessary, but alas I am going off topic...again. Plain Catholicism is mentioned on several websites on the internet, but it seems the apostolate is still small and without a great amount of leadership. The ideas are not very set and seems to be open to discussion. I would like to put my thoughts forward on this movement and why I am somewhat drawn to it.
I would like to start out with a caution about such an endeavour. Plain Catholicism is indeed a noble thought, but we as Catholics must be careful when we model a movement off a heresy. The Anabaptists adapted their way of life out of necessity in order to preserve their beliefs in the midst of heavy persecution. Their ideas about Baptism represented a significant threat to the established Traditions of Christendom. They were so far out that even the other Protestants felt threatened by them. Nonetheless, these groups of Anabaptists survived and moved to the new World. Today they are the only group that has kept a significant portion of our agricultural heritage alive. However, as Catholics we must be careful to differentiate our own beliefs from theirs. Anything that is not truly Catholic or cannot be reconciled and made Catholic must be left out of Plain Catholicism. Care must be taken that we not confuse people and make them believe that we are Amish or Mennonite. Possibly something that would distinguish Plain Catholics as specifically Catholic could be added to the apparel and Plain Catholicism could possibly become a lay movement. I myself wear and Amish straw hat because it is extremely functional and made much better than the ugly garden straw hats. It also represents an agriculural heritage that does not belong exclusively to the amish.
I would like to put forth a few proposals about Plain Catholicism. First, I don't know if there is another name that would be fitting, but Plain Catholicism does seem to work well. It includes the part of the Amish tradition that we seek to continue in our own lives with out including the religious part. Also if a lay association of the Faithful was begun then possibly a certain style of functional clothing based in the agrarian traditions of our forefathers could be chose, and possibly some of this could be based on the Amish tradition since they really have just preserved the peasant and farmer clothing of Post Reformation Europe. The goal though would be to not confuse people and wear things that are agrarian based, but not confusing. This style of clothing could act as a sort of glue for people living this charism.
I think another consideration is that the clothing and ways of life and beliefs of faith in the Amish peoples are all linked together. The Amish lose their way of living and all the outward appearances when they leave their faith. It must be considered then how taking just one aspect from this tradition will hold together once separated from the body. The Amish beards, hats, hooks and eyes all signal a separation from the World for the Amish. These are marks of distinction that shout "Amish" in a clear way. As Catholic we do not want to scream "Amish." Thus caution would have to be taken in style of clothing.
The possibility of living together on the land with other families would make Plain Catholicism even more plausible. A community would provide support for agrarian Catholic families. However, I believe once again that such a community is extremely difficult to do in our world. Maybe with God's providence this will one day come into being.
Plain Catholicism is very intriguing. I am attracted by it, but also very cautious at the same time. We must be truly Catholic, however the Catholic Church says to spread the faith by all legitimate means. Maybe an agrarian movement of Catholics would be a spark in the Church and a place of agrarian renewal in our broken World.