When a student at a Catholic university can write that dining halls should serve meat on Fridays during lent because such "penance" is an individual activity, meaningless if everyone else does it, and a matter of importance only between himself and God, ignorance and blindness converge in a monstrous concatenation. To be clear, that student seems unaware that one performs penance as an act of repentance for one's sins. One "abstains" from meat on Fridays during lent as an act of solidarity with the poor and hungry, and as a sign of unity with other Christians preparing for Easter.
The ignorance that resulted in misnaming abstinence "penance" is easily corrected. I have just corrected it. But how can one correct a worldview that blindly believes one's life of faith is entirely private - an affair between the individual soul and God and nobody else? I am no Church historian, but I bet it took many generations for the truth that Christians are "one body in Christ" to disseminate widely and become deeply meaningful. It has taken at most two generations to wipe out that truth, to make it appear repugnant to the average American, Catholic or otherwise.
The great vision of Christianity is that no person is an individual and no one exists alone. God created all things and keeps them in being through a personal act of His love. He creates us not separately, but for each other and in His Kingdom. The families, clubs and countries of which we are children, members and citizens are legitimate but relative analogues to our role as subjects of that Kingdom. When we worship together in mass, we perceive with our senses the fellowship of the Kingdom. When we pray in silence in a monastery, we experience that fellowship in the deepest part of our souls. Being part of Christ's spiritual body is what makes us most fully persons. From this perspective, there is no such thing as an individual, but only persons in one spiritual body (an analogue to the Blessed Trinity). [....snip] From the Notre Dame/St Mary's College Observer
Tip O' the Hat to Amy at Open Book