While vacationing, many Catholics attend Masses in other states or countries and see similarities and differences from ways they worship in their home parishes. But unless they have the chance to travel the world visiting Catholic churches and families in remote villages or large cities, they might not get the full experience of the universal church.
A new website, Catholics & Cultures, created by the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, offers just that: a global snapshot of how Catholics around the world live out their faith and practice their beliefs.
The site’s founder, Thomas Landy, director of the school’s McFarland Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture, points out that “most people imagine the church through their own cultural lens, but we should realize that people around the world are living and imagining it in surprisingly different ways.”
He told Catholic News Service in an e-mail before the site went live last month that Americans make up only 7 percent of the world’s Catholic population. The largest number of Catholics live in Latin America and this number is rapidly growing in sub-Saharan Africa and the Asian-Pacific.
He also said the experience of the faith in different parts of the world is “often vastly different from our own” and realizing this can help people think about faith beyond their own experiences
Landy describes the new site — which includes articles, demographic data, videos, photographs and interviews — as the only resource of its kind where you can “learn about little known feasts and processions, the cults surrounding certain popular saints, and cultural influences on marriage, family life and death rituals.”