I firmly believe that the most assuring thing about being Catholic is how normal we are. Yes, there have been many saints who have lived exceptionally holy lives, but most of us Catholics are masters of the mundane parts of life, fulfilling routine tasks with patience and humility. To see the beauty in the everyday lifestyles of common Christians throughout the ages is to see the Body of Christ alive and well.

Consider the wisdom of St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, and her Little Way to heaven that showed how we don’t have to be extraordinary to get to paradise. The main reason her message rang so true among the Catholics of the mid 19th century -- and still today -- is because the Little Way has been the way of common people for centuries. Now consider how we often look back through history and focus mainly on the big events involving well-known historical figures. Where are the common people? What were they doing? What was it like to be on the Little Way?

The Catholic historian Christopher Dawson noticed this oversight. He saw how most histories were written only by and about the leaders and scholars of the time. It’s no wonder so many Christians come out of school with little interest in Christianity. The history we learned didn’t tell us about the everyday mores and customs of the merchants and peasants, our ancestors. A glimpse into that history would reveal an authentic Christian culture.

Seeing history as a collection of major events, great minds and rulers, we say, “We’ve learned what we could from those times and have moved on to our fast-paced, high tech, virtual, digital and social media-driven lifestyles,” as we progress towards ... well, it’s hard to say what. Immersed in such an environment, it’s easy to lose touch with reality. Imbued with lessons, documentaries, books and movies that tell the story of our past through the eyes of some abstract ideology, it’s easy to forget that Christianity is the story of people just like us.

As Dawson wrote, “The makers of history, the men and peoples of Destiny, are unconscious and instinctive in their creative activity.” He says a culture is “a living whole from its roots in the soil and in the simple, instinctive life of the shepherd, the fisherman and the husbandman, up to its flowering in the highest achievements of the artist and the philosopher...”

In southern Indiana there’s a Benedictine abbey called St. Meinrad. Established in 1854, it is one of only nine archabbeys in the world.  I’ve never been there but I’ve heard about it. Sometimes authentic Catholic culture seems just like that abbey; something reminiscent of a past golden age, something I’ve never fully experienced,  a piece of historic regalia representing our heritage. Around the abbey there are simple, quaint homes complementing the simple lifestyles of the monks. I see this in various areas throughout the places I go. It’s the familiarity of a Christian culture that has endured for generations.

When I see history in this light, I can enter a Gothic church in Ireland and say, “My ancestors went here amidst great persecution.” Then I see it all as part of God’s great story.

In these times when wrong is right and right is wrong, the most important trait of Christianity to remember is its resurrecting quality. History has shown that, no matter how trying the circumstances, when the dust settles it is the Christian culture of the people that emerges triumphant; the everyday folklore that parents tell to their children and the small stone church with its steeple rising from the village skyline. Christ rose from the dead once, but the Body of Christ has been rising from the ashes in cultures around the world ever since.

Kilby is a longstanding freelancer for The Monitor and editor of Rambling Spirit magazine. He is a member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Yardville.