introverts and extroverts in the catholic church

My previous post was on the extroverted nature of evangelical churches reflected in their style of worship, preaching, fellowship and evangelizing. The springboard for these reflections is Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

For me, the logical next step in this thought process is to look at our own Catholic Church. Are we a church where introverts or extroverts would feel most comfortable? What do you think?

One of my favorite things about being Catholic is our diversity. At it’s best, this diversity can accommodate many different personalities. We have a veritable smorgasbord of prayer styles, and liturgical traditions. We have Gregorian chanting Latin masses and guitar strumming folk masses. We have charismatic prayer groups that participate in a Pentecostal style of worship. We have communities that offer Taizé prayer, centering prayer and Eucharistic adoration.

We have lively, colorful parades and pilgrimages that reflect local culture and customs. We have private novenas and devotions.

Some of our clergy wear simple vestments; some tend to the more elaborate. We have religious sisters who dress in every-day clothing. Others prefer the public identification of full religious garb.

We have hermitages and cloisters. We have monasteries that open their doors to all who seek the silence within. We have retreat houses for solitary time and large gatherings alike.

We have World Youth Days that welcome thousands. And we have small, Theology on Tap evenings where faith issues can be discussed in the intimate setting of a neighborhood bar.

We have pastors and bishops who regularly make the head-lines with loud statements on the latest political events. We have many more that prefer to go about their work with a quiet commitment.

We have charismatic media preachers and reflective spiritual writers.

We are fortunate to have such diversity within our church, for it truly offers options to suit every personality. It’s sad when we don’t celebrate this diversity. It’s even sadder when one way is imposed as the only way, or promoted as better than others. Our world is made up of introverts and extroverts, as are our churches. A well balanced faith community will respect the different needs of each.

On the other hand, we all need to step out of our comfort zones sometimes for the sake of the community. You don’t want to exchange greetings at the beginning of mass? Well, maybe your neighbour finds it excruciatingly difficult to sit still during moments of silence. We can’t please everyone all the time, and we can’t expect to be pleased all the time. But, we can be sensitive to the different needs of introverts and extroverts in our midst.

11 thoughts on “introverts and extroverts in the catholic church

  1. From the outside looking in, I’ve always thought that the Catholic Church would be more hospitable to introverts. Simply being in a tradition that embraces liturgy and reflection lets introverts know that there’s room for them. Plus Catholicism has an active monastic culture, which I would think is also appealing to introverts. Though I’m Presbyterian, my introverted personality has been greatly comforted to learn about prayer and spiritual disciplines from Catholic and Orthodox perspectives.

  2. Hi Chris. It’s so true that there is so much in our Catholic tradition that reverences silence – so needed in our world today. And so welcoming to introverts like us. Catholicism itself has borrowed greatly from other faith traditions to explore spiritual practices like meditation and contemplation. It’s so good to hear from voices like yours that affirm how much we have to share among us. Thank you!

  3. Great post Isabella! I am not sure which one I am, an introvert or extrovert? I can see how both are needed and one is not better than the other, just different. You have opened my eyes again to the richness of the diversity in our Church, thanks. I also feel a nagging in my concience though, for not always being understanding or tolerant of ‘other ways’ within our tradition that don’t suit me. I need to change my attitude, thanks for that. I do get concerned, oh alright… bothered, when those on the more conservative side feel that their way is the only “right way” and want to impose it on us all. I pray that our church leaders have the courage to build the balanced communities you speak of. When we embrace diversity the result can be dynamic collaboration in the mission. I fear too many faith communities have become so drained by the differences within they have forgotten how to dream. Being caught up in the business of just maintaining a parish they have stopped dreaming of what their communtiies could become. When we stop dreaming passion and energy is lost and we quietly slip into simply surviving. We all need to step out of our comfort zones a little if our parishes are to grow and realize their full potential.

    • ‘When we embrace diversity the result can be dynamic collaboration in the mission. I fear too many faith communities have become so drained by the differences within they have forgotten how to dream.’

      You speak truth, my friend! Here’s to overcoming divisions and embracing diversity. Joining you in the dreaming….

    • Thanks so much, Cathy! It’s been a real thought provoking process for me, too. And it continues. I haven’t finished reading ‘Quiet’ yet…. 😉

  4. Awesome article in the Prairie Messenger (‘Mad men’ in the Church long for return to the past). As a male Catholic, I am looking for ways to participate in changing old paradigms regarding the role of women in the Church. I am troubled when I read articles telling about movements in some places to remove female alter servers or denying females the right to have their feet washed on Holy Thursday. Men need to join women in speaking about these issues as well the issues you raise in your article. By the way, I notice your dedication to the Marianists which are headquartered in St. Louis. In 1997, a very kind bishop from Saskatchewan arranged for my family to live with his Marianists brothers in St Louis while our son was getting life saving surgery and follow-up treatment at the nearby Children’s Hospital. Anyways, my son is now very healthy and will be graduating from Gr. 12 in June. I often think of getting in touch with this bishop who I understand is now retired. Is there a Marianists Directory online that might help me locate him?

  5. Thank you, Delmar. It’s so true that we, women and men, are in this thing together. In my life, I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by men who think like you. One of those men is the dear bishop you speak, of. He has been a friend since our university days. Raymond Roussin, SM, is the retired Archbishop of Vancouver and living in a personal care facility back here in Manitoba. Sadly, his health is not good and he is unable to keep up with communications as he has in the past. If you can, please do pray for him and his family in these difficult times.

    I’m so glad to hear of your own son’s good health! I’m not surprised that our brothers in St. Louis opened their doors to you. The Rule of Life for the Marianist religious communities is based on the Rule of Benedict, and they truly live the hospitality espoused by the great saint. We’ve be welcomed into Marianist communities around the world, and it’s always been a joy.

    It’s so good to make these connections…thank you!

  6. Thanks so much, Isabella for your thoughtful reply. You can count on my family’s prayers for the Marianists generally, and Archbishop Raymond Roussin specifically. We are so saddened to hear that his health is not good. His kindnesses to my family are too numerous to mention. Please pass on my family’s love and best wishes, and tell him that the little boy he helped through his kindness and generosity remains very connected to the Church, which is not always that common for young men of his age. He knows what Bishop Raymond did for him and he remains grateful, as do his brother and sister, and of course his parents. My son’s is Braden and when he was three he became a big hit among the Marianists in St. Louis who were all praying for him. We also have fond memories of Father Tim Dwyer who is Bishop Raymond’s friend. If you know his wherabouts, please also pass on my family’s greetings to him.

  7. My husband is an extrovert and I am an introvert. We have both found great richness within the Catholic Church. Christians are called to be “salt of the Earth”. Salt amplifies flavours. It is wonderful to celebrate the different ways we all have in expressing our humanity, and in communicating God’s messages of love.

  8. ‘It is wonderful to celebrate the different ways we all have in expressing our humanity, and in communicating God’s messages of love.’….AMEN! 🙂

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