Friday, March 7, 2014

Attending a Catholic Church as a non-Catholic

Hello, Again!

I get this question from time to time from my non-Catholic friends so I figured I would address it here.

Non-Catholics are very much welcome at a Catholic Mass! In fact, I encourage everyone whether or not you are interested in becoming Catholic to go to a mass and see what it is like.

What happens there?

Well, depends on the day but you may show up before mass and be greeted by a greeter at the door. Once inside the sanctuary they may be praying the rosary or people may simply be sitting or kneeling in prayer.

When mass begins a layperson will announce it and then the priest enters the sanctuary in a procession with the alter boys/girls in toe with the Bible in hands. The priest and the alter servers will bow to the tabernacle/alter. From there the priest will start with the opening prayers which beginning the mass.

If you are Christian from another faith you will notice that in most Catholic churches we kneel a lot during mass. You will also notice that the mass is the same in structure every time and there are prayers recited during every mass. You will notice that the Mass is much more regimented that some other churches may be in their services. The amount and way music is played varies a lot, some churches have a full quire or band and others may have neither but music is generally played for the hymns in most churches. Some parishes are much more the singing types than others are. However, do not expect there to be a concert going on during mass.

I think that anyone who attends a Catholic mass with an open mind will see the inherent beauty there is in it and it will help people understand why we do what we do. For instance, many people don't think that Catholics regard the bible all that highly and don't really read it. However, if you go to mass you will see that a large portion of it (3 readings from the bible) is reading the bible and the homily (similar to a sermon) is generally based on the readings. In fact if you went to mass everyday for a year you'd have heard the entire bible read to you.

I know you are wondering, "so what do I do while there?".

Simply follow along the best you can and attempt to do what the others do. It may also help to study the Order of a Mass a bit and even bring a copy with you to mass. This will make you more comfortable because you have a better idea of what is going on and what to say and when. However, there is nothing wrong with not being able to recite anything, so don't worry if you can't keep up. You'd be surprised (should you choose to comeback again) at how fast you can pick up the mass.

If you feel inclined you may want to practice the sign of the cross by saying "In the name of the father" while touching your forehead with fingers of your right hand, then saying "Son" while moving fingers your chest, then "Holy" while touching your left should and crossing over the right shoulder while saying "spirit". You will likely be doing the sign of the cross a few times during your visit if you choose to participate. Also, most Churches will have a bowl or fountain with holy water in it near the entrance of the sanctuary and it is tradition to dip a finger in it and do the sign of the cross.

The only part of the mass that could be tricky and potentially cause an issue if you are not Catholic is the Eucharist. Because Catholics believe that the bread and wine become the true body and blood of Christ during the mass, it is asked that if you are not a confirmed Catholic that you do not participate in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the pinnacle of the mass and of paramount importance to Catholics and it would be offensive if a non-Catholic took part in the Eucharist. This is not meant to be non-inclusive just that we want to be sure that those who take part in the most holy experience in the Mass believe what we believe and understands the importance of it.

Instead, your very welcome to go up and be blessed and that is done by crossing your arms across your chest. This identifies to the priest or Eucharistisc minister that you are only seeking a blessing.

Also, if at all possible ask to go with a Catholic friend if you have any as they can help walk you through the mass and help you feel more comfortable.


Fasting During Lent

Hello, there!

It has been quite some time since I posted to this blog and if figured it was high time I did.

I have covered Lent and fasting in two previous posts:

Breaking You Lenten Fast on Sundays

Solemnity of the Annunciation, the Non-Fasting Friday of Lent

They covered mostly days you are not required to fast or observe abstinence.  This post will cover what you can or cannot eat during lent.

First there is a difference between abstinence and fasting, both of which you are required to observe.

Abstinence is simply doing without something. The only thing Catholics are required to abstain from is meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all Fridays of Lent. That means no eating beef, pork, chicken and basically meat from any mammal pr fowl. Seafood such as fish, crab, lobster...ect are permitted.

I often get asked why fish/seafood is allowed. From what I have read the reason is more a long standing tradition than anything else. When abstinence during lent started, many people lived near the sea or body of water and seafood was readily available and relatively cheap. Meat from a cow or pig and fowl was much less abundant and much more expensive. So, the thought was that eating seafood was a less extravagant meal than eating something like a steak. By abstaining you were denying yourself what was considered an extravagant meal during that time.

The intent behind abstinence should be kept in mind. It is my opinion that going out and having an expensive, extravagant meal with or without meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday or any Friday during Lent is outside the intent of abstinence. So, when planning meals during days of abstinence,keep in mind the meal should be relatively humble regardless of the content of the meal. Remember, the idea of abstinence is to deny yourself something meaningful or noticeable.

Many people also abstain from other things during Lent as an added dedication but it is not a requirement by the church. It has been a long standing tradition to give up a vice or something else that distract you from the Lord and the Gospels but it isn't a requirement.

Fasting in the purpose of Lent is a simple reduction of meal sizes. Catholics are required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday which means that you get only one full sized meal that day and two meals not equalling a full meal. The idea is to have one main meal and two meals smaller than your typical meals. So, it is not a complete fast from food the entire day, just a reduction in meal sizes.

If you typically have a bowl of cereal and a banana for breakfast, maybe you just have the cereal or just the banana. If you normally have a sandwich, orange and yogurt for lunch maybe you drop the fruit and yogurt...ect.



Thursday, May 5, 2011

Can Catholics Attend A Protestant Church Service, Wedding or Funeral?

The short answer is yes.

There are many Catholics in mixed marriages (A Catholic married to a spouse of another denomination) and to keep peace they attend both our Holy Mass and  their spouse's church service.

Catholics may also question whether they should go to a Wedding or Funeral of a non- Catholic at a non-Catholic church.

It's important to note here that the Catholic Church does not prohibit attending any non-Catholic church for any reason.

Some may argue that you are giving legitimacy to non-Catholic churches and practices or somehow showing approval of their way of faith. However, most protestant church services are about prayer, hymns, bible readings and a sermon.

Prayer: Prayer is prayer. Protestant pray Christian Prayers and some of the ones they pray are also used by Catholics. There is absolutely nothing wrong with participating in prayer with anyone, even at a protestant church.

Hymns: Again, hymns are prayers and some of them may be common to what we sing in our Catholic churches. There is nothing wrong with signing along, in prayer.

Bible Readings: Again, we read the bible, they read the bible. You may not agree with some added commentary by the pastor but there is no sin in listening to it in church.

This may be a surprise to some but the Catholic church encourages you to do at a non-Catholic church as it's members do. This includes preaching and doing the readings if invited by the Pastor. The one exception is that a Catholic must not participate in a non-Catholic communion.

A Catholic must not take communion at a non-Catholic church because it is not a valid Eucharist. Only an ordained Catholic Priest can see over at valid Eucharist. So, any Eucharist performed by a non-Catholic pastor is invalid by nature. Since we take the validity of taking in the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist very seriously, it isn't acceptable to participate in an invalid one.

Here is the Catholic Church's stand:
Sharing in Non-Sacramental Liturgical Worship
116. By liturgical worship is meant worship carried out according to books, prescriptions and customs of a Church or ecclesial Community, presided over by a minister or delegate of that Church or Community. This liturgical worship may be of a non-sacramental kind, or may be the celebration of one or more of the Christian sacraments. The concern here is non-sacramental worship.

117. In some situations, the official prayer of a Church may be preferred to ecumenical services specially prepared for the occasion. Participation in such celebrations as Morning or Evening Prayer, special vigils, etc., will enable people of different liturgical traditions—Catholic, Eastern, Anglican and Protestant—to understand each other's community prayer better and to share more deeply in traditions which often have developed from common roots.

118. In liturgical celebrations taking place in other Churches and ecclesial Communities, Catholics are encouraged to take part in the psalms, responses, hymns and common actions of the Church in which they are guests. If invited by their hosts, they may read a lesson or preach.


Monday, April 25, 2011

My Thoughts on RCIA, Easter Vigil and Confirmation

As I've noted elsewhere on the blog, I was in the process of converting to the Catholic faith through RCIA.

RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) has been a great experience for me. I had enrolled and started the process several years ago but a sudden change in jobs, moving and other life issues resulted in dropping from the program. Over the past several weeks (7 months, I think) I have met several great Catholics who have influenced my conversion and faith. We had a great group of RCIA leaders, a mix of parishioners, priests and a Sister. They were all great and very knowledgeable in the faith and I'm glad to say that they are in my faith "family tree".

Our RCIA group was lead by a Benedictine Sister. Each week either a parishioner, priest or the Sister would cover one of the several topics ranging from Church History, moral issues, what Catholics believe, the Scripture, prayer, and just about anything else that is important to our faith. We had nice handouts and then the leader for that week would most of the time have some extra tidbits to hand out and talk about. We also read the coming week's Mass readings and discuss the meanings of them. The result is a very good education on the Church and Faith.

Again, we had a great group. The leaders were great as mention above but we also had an outstanding group of candidates. Our group of candidates was 6 people, two men, four women. We had a very social group and I think we would all say that we've made several new friends and have learned a lot from each other over this process.  Everyone has a level of dedication to the program that far exceeded my expectations.

I guess this long process of conversion is what weeds out those who are serious and those that are not and I think that's a good thing. I think it's great that before you are confirmed, you will be informed of exactly what you are getting into and what is expected. I think that it's not good for the church to be just confirming people to boost numbers, but it's great to boost numbers with informed, educated members who understand the faith.

I will miss RCIA when we finish next month.

I was confirmed and welcomed into the Church on Saturday at Easter Vigil. This was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I didn't feel like this was just some thing we do and we'd just get it over with. To me, it was the ultimate welcome to the Church. I was surprised at how genuine and excited the members of the church were to welcome us to the Church. I guess I just assumed that most people would just think, "good for you, now lets get this done". This was far from the truth. As my classmates and our sponsors stood up front and went thought confirmation I watched the parishioner's. So many had such big prideful smiles on their faces.  Another very nice thing was that our Church has a school attached and every grade and the youth group all wrote us each a nice welcome letter.

The church was decked in white and gold, the priest wore great vestments of white and gold. There were many more candles, and a fountain blessed near the altar. The dark church, the lighting of the fire and the paschal candle. The prayers in candle light. It made for a great atmosphere of symbolism to open the mass, an aspect of the Catholic Church that I find far underrated by most people. This was to be the culmination of the Resurrection and through God's Grace our conversion.

You couldn't help comparing the candidates situation and part in the Mass to the Resurrection. The comparison is that Jesus has Risen and in a sense the candidates are experiencing a transition to the light as well. All in all, this was a great experience and I couldn't think of a better way to initiate new members (RCIA process, Easter Vigil). I think it also highlights depth and thought that the church puts into all things. Everything has a reason, everything is meaningful and has a correct way of doing them.

My next objective (besides, obviously, living faithful Catholic life):

Joining The Knights of Columbus. After Easter Vigil I was asked by a couple members of our local KoC chapter if I'd like to join. Having done much research on the KoC, I think it's right up my alley.


Friday, March 25, 2011

Solemnity of the Annunciation, the Non-Fasting Friday of Lent

Today is the Solemnity of the Annuciation!

On the Solemnity of the Annuciation we celebrate the Angel Gabriel's visit to the Holy Mother. Gabriel appeared to Mary in Nazareth and :

 26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
 34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:26-38, New International Version, ©2011)

So, today we celebrate the Holy Mother Mary saying "YES" to God and taking on this huge undertaking and later suffering her child's tourture and death. The thing to meditate on today is saying "YES" to God. Too often we deny him, most people probably deny him everyday in some small way (me included).  Today, we focus particularly on just saying "yes" to what God demands of us and try to continue it for the rest of the year.

Fasting and Abstinance:
Do Catholics fast or abstain from meat on the Annunciation?

No, you are not required to fast or abstain on the Solemnity of the Annunciation.

The reason is that Solemnities are condsidered the "feasts of feasts". Solemnities are Holy Days and we are not required to fast or abstain on Holy Days, we are to celebrate on holy days.

Canon 1251  Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless (nisi) they are solemnities; abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ. 


Falling Upward by Fr. Richard Rohr

I just recieved my advanced reader's copy of this Fr. Rohr's newest book, "Falling Upward".

It's a book about the world's focus on the first half of life at the expense of the second half. It appears to be targeted at the 50+ crowd so it should be interesting to see if it applies or has a use for someone my age (mid 30's),

For those that don't know, Fr. Rohr is a very prolific Catholic author. He's Franciscan with a master's in theology and currently loves in a hermitage. Fr. Rohr is also a great speark much like Fr. Corapi.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Contemporary Catholic Theology: A Reader

I'm in the middle of reading this book. Great stuff if you are a theology/bible nerd.

From what I can tell. it's a complete guide to the theology of the Catholic Church. It' written in a format of an anthology of articles of some of the best minds in the Catholic theology.

The book covers scripture, dogma, history, morality.... just about everything. Now it's not a comprehensive guide to all of the subjects, but it's a great overview of most of the theology of the church.

It's very detailed and very dense so it does not suite anyone with a short attention span and I wouldn't recommend it to total newbies.

It's a cost effective read as well because copies can be found on Amazon for a couple bucks.


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