Catholics under 40 are well aware: The Church has a personnel problem. We're dorks. It's precisely why regular people don't take us seriously. We need to recapture our cool to spread the Faith to the world at large.
Think about it. What happens when an entire generation of quarterbacks, soldiers, prom kings and social media influencers is told Christianity is about reading books and being generally constipated and boring? A mass exodus ensues. And for no reason, mind you.
While sanctity is a must, Christians also need to be genuine, which goes hand in hand with being fun and interesting. And, note well, when those latter ingredients are missing, normal people jump ship — taking their talents and charm with them. The result is a stilted, maladroit Church full of doughy men and frumpy women.
This isn't to say there's no place in the Church for nerds. But having nothing but nerds is disastrous — just like having only cool kids would be harmful in different ways. As the late Bp. Onésimo Cepeda Silva stated in 2004, "I believe everyone has his place, his space, which is a very broad space in the Catholic Church where everyone fits. But each person fits in his own place and time, as it should be." Fine. So how come we've ostracized the in-crowd?
It wasn't always this way. Prior to the 1970s, Catholics were stellar cultural representatives. Former New York archbishop Fulton J. Sheen appeared on CBS's What's My Line in 1956 (a time when television was the coolest place to be). He even had his own highly rated TV series on ABC called Life is Worth Living, which ran for over three years.
Undefeated heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano was a daily Mass-goer. He regularly read the Bible and the lives of the saints. Marciano's favorite reading was St. Augustine's Confessions. What's more, he credited his undefeated record to his mother's faithfulness in praying the Rosary.
Saint Francis DeSales was a big-time lawyer and a brilliant swordsman before becoming a priest and a bishop — making him both intelligent and lethal. He became the first French writer to be named a Doctor of the Church, for his instrumental role in crushing Calvinist heresies.
Heck, Moses started out as a literal prince of Egypt — nothing cooler than royalty. He went on to liberate God's people from slavery and lead them to the promised land of Israel.
So, obviously, I'm not advocating ditching holiness and virtue to be cool. What I'm saying is put down the theology books once in a while and learn to recreate like normal people. For the sake of all that's good and holy, pick up an issue of Sports Illustrated. Perhaps — gasp — play some video games. Maybe, God forbid, lift a weight (something heavier than the Summa Theologiae).
You see, normal people enjoy these activities in their free time. And like everyone else, normal people are drawn to people like them. What this means is that insufferable Catholic LARPs will have to change. Because if we persist in being a Church of militant nerds, virile and charismatic people are going to steer clear.
So what precisely is the Church of Nerds? The Church of Nerds can be divided into two cliques: hippie Church of Nice Catholics (you know, the ones constantly working parish raffles and getting mad at you for wanting Gregorian Chant instead of David Haas' greatest sex-predator hits, all while sucking down contraceptives like Pez and living with their boyfriends); and Trads who dress like they're in Edwardian England on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution, the unhygienic ones resembling oily dead fish in the pews.
Newsflash: You're not a John Lennon groupie. Nor are you G.K. Chesterton's librarian. So quit acting like it. You're driving away recruits.
You think you're going to convert ex–high school jocks when you walk up to them in a tie-dye shirt and bongo drums blathering about a Jeff Cavins Bible study — or in an unlaundered tweed suit, blarneying about devotionals no one has ever heard of while practically snowing dandruff all over your prayer cards?
They'll think you're a cult member who was chained to a basement toilet for 70 years. So congrats, guys — your antisocial manner has lost a soul whom Christ wants saved. Young Catholics deserve better than a Sophie's choice between quasi-schismatic YouTube "trad dads" scolding them for watching UFC fight nights, and acoustic guitar-wielders serenading them with "On Eagles' Wings" ad nauseam. Give them relatable Catholic role models that, y'know, have hobbies.
Whether or not you fancy these boisterous in-crowders, they're needed in both the laity and the priesthood. They're potential Catholic trendsetters. And it's our job to understand their world. The faithful can't escape reality and build their own Catholic safe spaces. It's not 1970, nor is it 1870. It's — A.D. — 2022. Regular people don't recreationally read St. Thomas Aquinas. They also loathe bake sales. Sorry, Athanasius and Susan; this ain't it.
In all honesty, our demographic crisis falls on a feckless hierarchy, which has spread the most cucked and mundane interpretation of Catholic teaching possible, glorifying the weak and lame and denigrating the spirited and audacious. It's incumbent on us laymen to rectify this wrong on behalf of our spiritual fathers — the ones who think youth trendsetting means donuts after Mass or hosting parish movie nights featuring LaserDiscs of Cheaper by the Dozen 2 on a 30-year-old Zenith television.
Militant dweebs need to realize we need cool kids. Hardly anyone relates to today's dorky Catholic cliques. Yes, the normie in-crowd may come off as prideful or domineering. They may even have vices resulting from their worldliness that they'll need to work through. But just as a weak and nerdy person can become strong while remaining meek — a prideful and popular person can become humble while remaining a powerhouse of leadership, respect and faith for impressionable young people never exposed to how cool Catholicism truly is.