Verdict please: amihotornot.com?
What may capture the attention of the world may not be what really matters
By Tom Rinkoski
One of my favorite magazines, Commonweal, featured a brief piece about a website, www.amihotornot.com, and I confess to not really
believing it. Shades of my patron saint! I thought it was a first
rate comedy bit - really. Not! I checked it out and it is real.
The www.amicatholicornot.com website has not yet been baptized
which leaves me with a convienant entrepenurial opening. Basically, the format for these websites is simple. You look at a picture of a man or a woman and grade them on a scale from one to 10 on whether they are "hot." Why couldn't we do the same grading our Catholicism? Democrats and Republicans label each other. Choices of labels depend on your leanings. If your picture appeared, would you be classified as "conservative" or a
"cafeteria Catholic." At various times I have been labeled "liberal" or "radical" or not Catholic at all.
We can now put video feeds on the web. If we had a live webcam in
different people's homes or places of work, could we see if they
were Catholic? When you are doing the dishes do you do them
catholicly? If there were a video of your life for this past week
and we watched it would we know if this were Lent in your life?
It's a humbling thought.
I remember a movie, Defending Your Life, starring Albert Brooks
and Meryl Streep, which was based on this proposition. Brooks'
character dies and goes to a place, which isn't quite heaven nor
hell, but where he is subject to judgment based on a videotape
review of his life. His post-death lawyer tells him they will be
viewing nine video clips from his life to see whether he passed
the test. Brooks' character is appropriately anxious about this
arrangement. If they were to randomly pick nine video taped
moments of your life to use as material to judge your
Christianity would there be enough evidence? Watch out, they are
taping even as you read!
As I walked out of Ash Wednesday services and into the grocery
store, one of the high school clerks who knows me asked me about
the "dirt" on my forehead. The "dirt" on my forehead is one of
those clear tangible signs of what I believe. To this day, it
still amazes me to be there on Ash Wednesday and feel the bond
that ties us. I love watching the little ones who get to walk up
to be marked when they are ordinarily left unfed in every other
Communion march. Fingers tentatively reach up to feel the mark.
Imaginations soar. As we age, are we no longer touched by the
mark? Has the ritual lost its power? Is there just too much
"dirt" in our lives already?
One of the ironies of being Catholic is that the one time a year
we have a clear tangible marker, there is a general inadequacy in
our explaining it. I do not think it is for lack of information.
In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus feels exhausted waiting for
fruit on the fig tree. Behavior counts.
Warning! There is error to be found in extremes. Being Christian
is not necessarily about epics, actions of titanic proportion,
nor running away to become Mother Teresas. We like to tell
stories about saints and eventually shift them into stained glass
windows. But most of us live our Christianity in ordinary time.
The small stuff counts a lot more than we dare to care. Tucking
your child in at night is, perhaps, the last frontier of
spirituality. Even people who never pray at any other time of the
day or year offer stories and prayers with children at bedtime.
Parents with no pious practices tell me of rituals that include
backrubs, kisses, storytelling routines and other stylized good
nights that had the same quality of holy as I have experienced in
the most ritual of Tenebrae services. Fighting off sleep, even
while trying to induce it in her child through songs, stroking
and listening is the best example I know of the Paschal Mystery
lived out in real time. I would not hesitate to place before my
judges at judgement time movie clips from moments such as these.
Parenting is a sacred vocation, but at times a not very cinematic
one. Luckily, we are not called to be movie stars to be Catholic.
Anyone interested in starting a new website?
(Rinkoski is the Green Bay Diocese's Family Life director.)