It appears that Reverand Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, is feeling a little chastened by remarks made by his boss last week about the “marginalistion” of British Catholics. He wants that poor hard done by minority to make their faith more visible. How does he envision they do this?
Even the simple step of more regularly using the greeting ‘God bless you’, gently and naturally, would make a difference to the tone we set in our daily lives, as would the more frequent use of the sign of the cross.
In other words, acting like self-aggrandised sanctimonious jerks, of the kind that everyone else would generally avoid. In the old days, you could recognise a Catholic by the way he turned the wheel on the rack you were chained to, or brandished the red-hot iron poker he was about to insert about your person. It was at least honest, and nobody could accuse them of being wet and pusillanimous. Not to their faces anyway.
It seems to me the best way to counter this is to draw attention to it. I can’t speak for anyone else obviously, but the first time I encounter anyone saying “God bless you” purely to rub my nose in their faith, I’ll respond by saying, “I don’t care that you’re a Catholic and I don’t want your blessing, thanks all the same. Save it for someone who’s interested.” I might even ask them which god they’re invoking to perform this blessing:
Agdistis, Ah Puch, Ahura Mazda, Alberich, Amaterasu, An, Anat, Andvari, Anshar, Anu, Aphrodite, Apollo, Apsu, Ares, Artemis, Asclepius, Athena, Athirat, Athtart, Atlas, Baal, Ba Xian, Bacchus, Balder, Bast, Bellona, Bergelmir, Bes, Bixia Yuanjin, Bragi, Brahma, Brigit, Camaxtli, Ceres, Ceridwen, Cernunnos, Chac, Chalchiuhtlicue, Charun, Cheng-huang, Cybele, Dagon, Damkina, Davlin, Demeter, Diana, Di Cang, Dionysus, Ea, El, Enki, Enlil, Epona, Ereskigal, Farbauti, Fenrir, Forseti, Freya, Freyr, Frigg, Gaia, Ganesha, Ganga, Garuda, Gauri, Geb, Geong Si, Hades, Hanuman, Helios, Heng-o, Hephaestus, Hera, Hermes, Hod, Hoderi, Hoori, Horus, Hotei, Hestia, Huitzilopochtli, Hsi-Wang-Mu, Hygeia, Inanna, Inti, Ishtar, Isis, Ixtab, Izanaki, Izanami, Jesus, Juno, Jupiter, Kagutsuchi, Kartikeya, Khepri, Ki, Kingu, Kinich Ahau, Kishar, Krishna, Kukulcan, Lakshmi, Liza, Loki, Lugh, Magna Mater, Marduk, Mars, Medb, Mercury, Mimir, Minerva, Mithras, Morrigan, Mot, Mummu, Nammu, Nanna, Nanna, Nanse, Nemesis, Nephthys, Neptune, Nergal, Ninazu, Ninhurzag, Nintu, Ninurta, Njord, Nut, Odin, Ohkuninushi, Ohyamatsumi, Orgelmir, Osiris, Ostara, Pan, Parvati, Poseidon, Quetzalcoatl, Rama, Re, Rhea, Sabazius, Sarasvati, Shiva, Seshat, Seti, Shamash, Shapsu, Shen Yi, Shiva, Shu, Si-Wang-Mu, Sin, Sirona, Surya, Susanoh, Tawaret, Tefnut, Tezcatlipoca, Thanatos, Thor, Tiamat, Tlaloc, Tonatiuh, Toyo-Uke-Bime, Tyche, Tyr, Utu, Uzume, Venus, Vesta, Vishnu, Vulcan, Xipe, Xi Wang-mu, Xochipilli, Xochiquetzal, Yam, Yarikh, Ymir, Yu-huang, Yum Kimil, Zeus…
… to name just a few.
As for that genuflecting thing, I’ll simply ask “Are you alright? You seem to have lost control of your hand there.”
And don’t forget: there are plenty of hand and finger gestures available to the truly creative.