Why the secular culture adopts religious practices

In recent years, there have been many new movements that are merely a secular spin on ancient religious practices. Meatless Mondays, intermittent fasting, and other trends are actually practices that religious people have observed for centuries.

Recently on St. Joseph’s Workshop, Fr. Matthew Spencer, OSJ brought up these secular practices that have religious roots, why people are drawn to them, and explained how we as Catholics should respond. Fr. Matthew said:

“There is a movement that is happening all over the United States, a movement called TRYBE. And it’s not an accident that this group joined together under the name of TRYBE in order to bring people together for what they call ‘evenings of community, ritual, and celebration.’ What’s interesting and distinct about TRYBE is that they are bringing people together using traditions of the Jewish faith, but without the religious elements or structure.

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The difficult thing for me to tease out is that TRYBE apparently wants some elements of spiritual things, and wants the traditions that connect generation after generation. But without all of the religious underpinnings. Now, I would have a hard time as a Catholic if I was watching someone appropriate the Mass and celebrate it in a way that is not what Jesus intended, because they are trying to only be spiritual and not have the religious aspect to it. I would find that very problematic.

To me, movements like this indicate that people have a longing for connectedness. We have a desire to be in communion with each other. We have a desire to build community, to belong, to form tribes, groups, and families – and to come together to share our traditions. And those traditions give us roots, don’t they? Those traditions give us a grounding in who we are, in our identity, and in what we believe.

That’s why it’s not surprising to me that people living in a secular world, with no connections to religion or spirituality, will seek out something like this. They will discover the beauty in some of these observances.

The world is yearning for these connections to God, and for something beyond themselves. How can you and I tap into that?  The world is yearning for truth, goodness, and beauty and the Church has Jesus present there. But somehow we have to connect this to the lived experience of others.

I don’t think it’s going to happen through highly-Instagramable liturgies. I don’t think it’s going to happen by appropriating these religious things and putting it into a different context. But instead, you and I sharing the fullness of what it means to be in relationship with Jesus. And then people will discover that void inside of their hearts that they haven’t even addressed, that they haven’t even identified in their lives.”

Listen to the full discussion below:

St. Joseph’s Workshop with Father Matthew Spencer airs weekdays at 7:00 p.m. Eastern/4:00 p.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio®.

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Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at relevantradio.com and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.