Tuesday, June 14, 2005


In Defense of "Cruise Ship" Spirituality

In the past few years, Catholic apostolates such as apologetics organizations like Catholic Answers and Envoy Magazine, and Catholic singles groups like Ave Maria Singles and CatholicSingles.Com have hosted cruises, providing a vacation option for like minded Catholics.

This has drawn the ire of certain Catholics denouncing it as "cruiseship spirituality". One would wonder why, unless they see Catholics taking vacations and choosing a cruise as a vacation option as spiritually harmful. Along these lines, one would also wonder what in the world is wrong with Catholic apostolates providing Catholics an opportunity to take these vacations in a Catholic environment that helps better form their minds and souls (and maybe meet that special someone in the cases of the singles apostolates).

The response of the "more altruistic-than-thou" peanut gallery would be that such folks are "taking apologetics tours while the poor suffer". Sigh! First of all, how is the suffering of the poor alleviated by people not going on cruises? I don't think the poor are so steeped in self-pity so as to expect people to stop taking vacations because of their woes. Blessed Mother Teresa once said that, "[t]he poor do not want your pity; they want your understanding."

Secondly, those who wring their hands about many Catholic apologetics apostolates not having "an active heart for the poor" fail to understand that the poor are helped not only by assistance vis-a-vis the soup kitchen and homeless shelter, but also by providing them the opportunity to make a livelihood for themselves by placing their talents and labor at the service of others.

As one who has taken a few cruises myself (mea culpa, mea culpla, mea maxima culpa), I have noticed that many of those working on these cruise ships come from poor countries and poor circumstances. Working in the cruise ship industry give them a chance at a better life by earning more than they ever would in their own countries. And the opportunity to travel afforded by the industry enables these people to expand their cultural horizons.

On the last cruise I took, I remember having a conversation with a cheerful young man from Honduras who worked as a waiter in one of the main dining rooms. Being the inquisitive (ok nosy) type, I asked him how he liked his job. He responded by enthusiastically stating that he enjoyed his job very much and how it enabled him to support his family.

So how does the "cruiseship ship" spirituality leave the poor out in the cold, again?

Of course, underlying this hostility exhibited by these "more compassionate-than-thou" Catholics is the presumption that those of us who enage in "cruise ship" spirituality from time to time don't engage in the corporal works of mercy toward the poor in either soup kitchens or other venues of the kind. This is quite a presumption considering the fact that those make these criticisms have no way of knowing whether or not those they are criticizing do such works or not.

The fact of the matter is that many of those who take part in these cruises, whether as vacationers or as those involved in hosting the cruises have assisted the poor by either educational outreach, volunteering in kitchens and homeless shelters or by fighting it out in the trenches of the pro-life movement opening up their homes to women choosing life for their babies in the face of difficult circumstances, often making great sacrifices to do so.

Many of those who use the poor as a weapon against the "rich" are often those that as Fr. Neuhaus says are "in love with being in love with the poor and suffering." Their sense of worth seems to depend upon the poor remaining such and therefore always dependent on them. This is not love. It is tyranny of the worst sort.

The soup kitchen and the market are not meant to be enemies, but collaborators serving the common good. And "cruise ship" spirituality is a part of it.

For further reading:

Live Simply? Live Shrewdly
By Donna Doornik


<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?