By Fr. Kyle Sanders
I’ve noticed that when I’m explaining New Orleans to people from somewhere else one particular phrase ends up coming out of my mouth: “We’re always looking for an excuse to party.” Without a doubt, we always seem to have a festival going on, especially during this time of the year before the weather has turned extra balmy. We just finished up April and May, when music is abundant at French Quarter, Festival, Jazz Fest, and Festivale Internationale.The Strawberry Festival wasn’t too far ago either. In South Louisiana, we seem to find things to celebrate: the Oyster Festival, the Frog Festival, the Pecan Festival, the Crawfish Festival, the Gretna Festival, and the list can go on and on…
“The phenomenon of genuine celebration … is really present only in religious acts in which man, a creature, can grasp the truly ‘other’ and absolutely ‘new’ world of the glory of God.” – Johannes Pinsk
Have you ever wondered why it is that we are so eager to celebrate? Why are we NOLA Catholics, at any moment, ready to get together, cook food, toast, dance, sing and drink? I submit it’s because our area is so culturally Catholic. Catholicism has been so inculturated into South Louisiana that we do things Catholic-y without even intending to. It has become an inheritance from previous generations. “That’s what we’ve always done.” I turn here to the quote, from the German theologian Johannes Pinsk, that started us.Genuine celebration is really only present in religious acts that show us, as St. Catherine so simply put it, “He is God and we are not.” In so doing, the dramatic glory of God is revealed. Catholics for nearly four centuries have experienced that profound mystery every Sunday and many, every day. Such an experience begins to shape the way we see the world, whether we were faith filled or not. We form, after years of attending (maybe not even participating) in Sunday mass a sense of celebration, of festivity.
This is where my favorite German philosopher comes in, Josef Pieper. In speaking of festivity, “To celebrate a festival means to do something which is in no way tied to other goals, which has been removed from all ‘so that’ and ‘in order to.’ True festivity cannot be imagined as residing anywhere but in the realm of activity that meaningful in itself.” Festivity, then, is just because. Worship is just because. Worship is done for the sake of the one worshipped and for no other reason.
The difficulty now is that many people have substituted the fruit of a culture of celebration and cast aside the tree. So the “that’s what we’ve always done” syndrome, with regards to the celebrating, begins to settle in. No longer are those next generations attending mass that inspired the current culture. When one settles for the fruits and by doing so uproots the tree, eventually the fruit will rot and we will starve for festivity.
So try this… Enter into the whole ecosystem of the celebration of our Catholic faith. Don’t just eat the fruit but settle in the roots of the tree. Dwell within the true celebration and culture of festivity that is Catholicism.
Fr. Kyle Sanders grew up in Kenner, graduated from Archbishop Rummel High School, and entered the seminary after graduation. He has been active in blogging since 2007 over at reverencedreading.com where he co-writes about seeing God in the mundane. He’s appeared as a guest on several other blogs and podcasts and is a part-time participant in the podcasts Steampunk Chesterton and SportsFathers. He was ordained a priest in 2012. He is the parochial vicar at St. RIta of Cascia in Harahan and is the chaplain at Cabrini High School. He loves to read, play music, write fiction, and collect fountain pens. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out Fr. Kyle’s other projects at: