Even the National Catholic Reporter weighed in after Jimmy Buffett's passing, writing that "many outlets were fascinated to find that Buffett was raised Roman Catholic in the South. (Although astute listeners would have heard him say, 'I was supposed to have been a Jesuit priest' in 'We Are the People Our Parents Warned Us About,' and wouldn't be that surprised!) Is that surprise correlated to a feeling that Buffett's brand — a lifestyle of board shorts, frozen cocktails, and toes in the sand — could not connect with a sense of the divine?
Perhaps there is more to the story than a pair of sunglasses and sandy toes defining Buffett's mentality. Was the world Buffett's music crafted akin to the kingdom of God?
"The truth is, many people find that type of bliss-seeking escapism to be incredibly spiritual. (And certainly, this author finds being by the water to be profoundly sacramental!) Buffett's presentation was of serenity as a spiritual pursuit, through simple avenues: a boat at sea; a lost shaker of salt; or a ground beef patty layered with lettuce, tomato and Heinz ketchup.
"In our capitalist society and experience of adulthood, driven by how much we can produce and the glorification of busyness, Buffett's music challenges us to slow down, to set aside productivity in exchange for rest and renewal, and to see the beauty in the seemingly ordinary. His storytelling crafted a universe in which that slower pace becomes like a retreat, where turning off the noise and intensity of life allows for the voice of peace to be heard."
One example of Catholicism in Buffett's music: "'Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes' is practically Ignatian in its detachment to adjust 'if it suddenly ended tomorrow' and consistently pointing to laughter in the spiritual life."
And, this conclusion: "In the end, none of us can speak to Jimmy Buffett's spiritual state at the end of his life. We can only see the spirituality that ran through his music and the world he tried to create: one with less noise and stress, more peace and attentiveness; less hurt and grudges, more celebration and sunsets; and at least the occasional cheeseburger in paradise."
- KC's View:
To be fair, the Denver Catholic has what essentially is a rebuttal to this perception, with the writer saying that "we as Catholics so often feel like pop culture outsiders, so it’s easy for us to want to find commonality. Which may exist, to a certain extent. But it is dangerous when we try to claim public figures as “one of us” when they most decidedly are not."
I think that both the National Catholic Reporter and the Denver Catholic are projecting a little bit. I'd probably argue that while Jimmy Buffett was raised Catholic and occasionally used Catholic imagery in his songs, whatever spirituality he had probably was not connected to organized religion, but to something greater, more expansive, more natural. But maybe now it is me who is projecting.