But am I as hipster as Tommy Tighe?
In The Catholic Hipster Handbook, writer Mary Rezac has a chapter on buying from the local farmer’s markets as a way of living the principle of subsidiarity, but she doesn’t go to the extreme of starting your own organic farm. Looking back on my life, I think I might have been a hardcore Catholic hipster for a while — especially the 3 years before entering religious life. At 16, my parents moved the family out of the city to a farm, which they turned organic.
Around that time, I began taking my faith seriously through media but Canada was, then, something of a Catholic media desert. I discovered I could listen to EWTN on shortwave, so I would go to bed listening to “Life on the Rock” rebroadcasts. The Catholic Hipster Handbook has a chapter on Catholic radio, too.
Yes, I was a Catholic hipster before it was a thing! I used hipster-type forms of transportation to get to events, including driving to a Youth 2000 event in an old Mazda B2200 (the smallest thing that can be called a truck) and with a heater would only blow in your face, in Canada, in January. When the event ended, my truck only started after a Franciscan friar blessed it with holy water.
The Catholic Hipster Handbook is a fun explanation of living the “Catholic hipster lifestyle.” Edited by Tommy Tighe, it contains 40 short chapters by 15 different writers, and covers most of the bases.
Having 15 different authors compose a book together has advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, we get to hear personal stories from many different people. On the other hand, the differences in ideas and style can feel uneven.
These Catholic hipsters do the things that Catholic should do – select a patron saint for your child’s Baptism, pray the Rosary, go to daily Mass, etc, but it’s done “hipster”: Growing a beard, doing things the hard way, Tweeting, etc. (My religious community eschews beards.)
Each chapter has a cool saint, a forgotten prayer, and an activity. Some activities take a lot of work, but the chapter by Katherine Morna Towne on naming Catholic babies had a quiz where I discovered that I’m an “I Love Weird Unusual Names, and the Church is a Goldmine” type as far as naming kids. As a priest I get no say, but texting pictures of some of the “hipster” names to my sister got an “LOL nope” response.
Although this book is generally lighthearted, it doesn’t shy away from the truth. Anna Mitchell writes in her essay, “The Catholic hipster knows that the Mass is not ultimately dependent on the presence of any one person in the congregation, and so there is no need for participation trophies in his or her spiritual life.”
The Catholic Hipster Handbook also discusses some Catholic traditions that even I, as a priest doing grad studies in Theology, did not know. For example, Mitchell explains Ember days, which I knew existed but never understood. So you’re not left hanging: they are days of prayer and fasting set aside to thank God for those gifts nature grants us and teach us moderation so we can help the needy. Three days of fasting, four times a year. Doesn’t that sound challenging and great?
Two small critiques: First, the St. Michael Prayer—perhaps the most commonly-known prayers in my experience—is listed as a “forgotten prayer.”
Second, some of this stuff changes so fast that a few chapters are dated by the time it was published. The chapter on radio, for example, doesn’t mention the large growth in recent years of Catholic podcasts and unlimited data plans for cell phones, allowing full-time streaming. Likewise, in an interview on The Crunch podcast, Tighe admits the “Catholic Twitter” chapter would have sounded a lot different had he written it today.
Overall, I think this is a great book for Catholics under 40 who want a fun, easy read to introduce them to some aspects of the faith that may have been forgotten. It seems Chestertonian, but I think this book shows us that we Catholics can take anything lightheartedly, except one thing: becoming a saint.
Speaking of lighthearted, I’m wondering if my religious superior would let me paint my Elantra with Our Lady of Guadalupe, as Tommy mentioned this was the most Catholic hipster paint job he ever saw.