Southerners Make The Best Catholics 

Here in the South we’re used to bragging on ourselves. Of course what other folks (spelled y-a-n-k-e-e-s) call bragging is what we just call “telling the truth.” We’ve got the prettiest women, the fastest horses, the best bourbon, the greatest college football teams….well, you get the picture. As a native Georgian, I’ve heard it all since childhood. Generations of my Scots-Irish protestant ancestors have crafted the mythology of all that’s right and true about the South. But my ancestors never expected to beget a Papist like me in these pine-covered hills and here’s what I’ve come to believe: Southerners make the best Catholics. And I’ve got my reasons.

1. Apostolic Succession. For Southerners, this is being able to trace your family tree back to the Mayflower and beyond. We believe in the unbroken line of inheritance (especially of family recipes) just as our Bishops trace their authority to Jesus Christ. If you think this isn’t a serious comparison, then you’re not a Southerner.  

2. Momma. And everything that means. 

3. Language. Most of y’all can’t understand us anyway, so we may as well be speaking Latin. Dominus vobiscum.  

4. Charisms. These are the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit. Various Catholic religious orders are founded on different charisms. Dominicans are known for their preaching. Franciscans work with the poor, etc. In the South we have Bulldogs, Tigers, Gators, and others. Different charisms. Occasional fights.

5. The Communion of Saints. Those who have died in Christ are alive in heaven and they pray for us. This is a well-known Southern belief. Visit a cemetery on decoration day, or a front porch on any Sunday afternoon and you’ll soon realize how alive the dead remain to us. 

6. Everybody comes home for Christmas and Easter. No matter how far away they might live, our family knows that their place will be waiting for them at the table and at the altar when they return. Just don’t sit in my pew.  

7. We enjoy a drink or two. Catholics believe the Lord gave us wine and beer to enhance conviviality among friends and family. We see you carrying that flask to your tailgate party and sneaking behind the woodshed for a nip of some home brew. Y’all ain’t fooling nobody.  

8. Flannery O’Connor. She called the South “Christ-haunted.” She’s right.  

9. We believe in miracles. The grace of Baptism. The Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. We believe in the cooling goodness of an August rain shower. The unexpected colors of a glorious Gulf sunset. A Greg Maddux cut fastball at Fulton County Stadium.  

10. Beauty. We see God reflected in the windows and arches of a magnificent cathedral. We hear the angels sing “Panis Angelicus,” the hymn to the Bread of Heaven. Kneeling with the youngest, the oldest, the most saintly and the worst sinners (like me) as we worship the Lord together. The smell of incense rising up like our prayers rise to heaven. The wondrous God-made beauty of a thoroughbred horse, yearning and straining to the finish line. A baby named after her Mamaw, sitting in that Mamaw’s lap wearing her Sunday best. A perfectly ripe, homegrown tomato. The beauty of Catholicism and the beauty of the South reflect the Author of Beauty.

I was born a Southerner and I thank God for my family and my ancestors who saw fit to make a home here. And I chose to be Catholic because God called me to His heart in the Church He founded on St. Peter. I can’t imagine not being a Southerner or a Catholic. They are in my bones like marrow and lifeblood. Both are gifts from God. (No offense to folks from other places. Y’all can’t help it. Bless your hearts.) 
“When in Rome, do as you done in Milledgeville.”

          —Flannery O’Connor, Catholic writer and

               Milledgeville, Georgia native.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Brian H. Gill
    Jun 18, 2017 @ 23:29:10

    Excellent! That brought a smile to my ‘other folks’ face. 🙂


  2. Ruth Ann Pilney, T.O.Carm.
    Jun 19, 2017 @ 01:12:14

    This “Yankee” Catholic finds your comparisons delightful! She’s also pleased that the Catholic faith has taken root in the South!


    • tiberjudy
      Jun 19, 2017 @ 01:22:08

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! Our faith is growing like crazy here. We can’t build churches fast enough to keep up with the growth. Thanks be to God! Bless you and yours.


  3. Jay Toups
    Jun 19, 2017 @ 12:43:42

    As a fellow Southern Catholic: A smile, a chuckle and so true.


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