Monday, March 21, 2011

What a difference a day makes

This past Saturday evening- We met at the Roman-rite chapel in which we have been given permission to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. I brought a big pan of lentils and pasta and some potato salad. There was Slavic-style cabbage and potatoes along with mushroom ravioli. Others brought some yummy Mexican food. Liturgy is about an hour and a half and then dinner will go on for about 2 hours. We hurried into the church to celebrate the Liturgy of St Basil.  
Father was there as usual. He was going to bless four life-size icons written by a wonderful 85-year old woman who donated her talent to our mission. The icons make a portable icon screen to help the chapel achieve a more Byzantine 'flavor;' I am sure they will look less silly when the river rocks and empty clay pots are taken away from the center of the sanctuary space after Lent is finished. As guests we had a monk-priest who traveled far and a reader and two cantors who also traveled to be with us. We were about twenty people in total. 75 miles to the north and 60 miles to the south- this mission is the only Eastern Catholic church in a highly populated area. And we were twenty people total for this festive, reverent event.

Sunday evening- at the 'Last Chance Mass'- Father (having bi-ritual faculties for the Roman-rite archdiocese) substituted at the parish church that oversees the chapel in which we Byzantines meet on Saturday. This Mass is the 14th of the weekend for the combined church and chapel. There were at least 500 worshipers. The weekend will see a collection of about $20,000. Father had a challenging time 'wrangling' the three altar girls, but people were happy with his homily. Most likely because it is a late Mass, they don't have fellowship afterward, so he left after shaking a few hands.

So why the 'compare and contrast?' I see the final demise of the Eastern Catholic churches in this example. If I am able to do so charitably, I will continue this analysis of the disappearance of the Byzantine rite in a series.

15 comments:

  1. I'm curious, why the decline? Is the demise because Eastern Catholics are leaving the Eastern Rite for the Roman rite as they are assimilated culturally? Or are they leaving the Church altogether? Or some other factor or some combination of the above?

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  2. Melanie- I'll write on the history tomorrow and then actual personal reasons for Thursday- trying to keep it 'real' but also charitable!

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  3. Thanks. A very interesting topic.

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  4. Tiny ray of hope...when we began attending our teeny-tiny (Ruthenian) Byzantine Catholic parish about 5 years ago, we brought 2 other families with us. Between our 10 children (6 of whom are ours), we pretty much doubled the number of children in the parish.

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  5. Priest's Wife, to avoid confusion, do you think it would be better to post, on other blogs, as Byzantine Priest's Wife? Just a thought.

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  6. Victoria- well, maybe- but usually my name is 'clickable' so if someone is interested or confused or scandalized, they can find more info

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  7. Liking this series already! Thanks for sharing :)

    When I get a moment, I will link your series over at my blog and discuss it a bit since I have my own insights on both Rites. I do see the same things you've described above--and my husband also fears the demise of Eastern Catholicism. We had a parish meeting before Lent regarding how to boost spiritual life in our parish. I have a theory, which can apply to where we live, but I don't know if it holds true for other areas of the country.

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  8. I have a feeling part of the demise is due to birth control. :-(

    -sarah mosley
    sarahjonesmosley@gmail.com

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  9. Sarah- I can't judge why family sizes are so small- but yes- unless a family is in my Catholic homeschooling group where the family size averages 5 or 6 kids (we have 4)- I don't know anyone with more than 2 kids. Most couples have only 1, the occasional Catholic has 3- it is not easy having a 'big' family- we drive old cars, etc and ALL 4 are coughing- but micro families are going to have serious consequences- in France, they are thinking of having Muslims take over empty Catholic churches...

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  10. Though the problem of birth control is also rampant in the Roman Catholic church, I know many large RC families. And if you go to most Roman parishes, there are at least a couple sizable families. But in my experience of EC parishes, most couples have 1 or 2 children, in rare instances 3. And the conspicuous thing to me is that many of the families with 2 children have a boy and a girl.

    I've never even heard birth control\NFP\the whole issue talked about at the EC parish we are members of. We have 4 and are expecting a 5th in in July...and I can't believe the things other parishioners have said to us...

    I'd love to talk about this more, actually, but a public forum would not be the place to do it. Do you have Facebook?

    -Sarah

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  11. The Eastern Catholic faith isn't being effectively transmitted to the young so that it sticks, and in most cases, there is hardly any young to transmit it to!

    -Sarah

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  12. I think there are more reasons than ABC alone that families are smaller, and to say that ABC is the only reason why families are smaller is really no better than rude comments made about larger families.

    Obviously there are fertility obstacles which can limit family size. People can practice NFP and have no children or very few, even spacing them out. Especially if health issues are a concern.

    With doctors afraid of complications with VBACs, many women have to stop after 2 or 3 c-sections. They'd love more children, but doctors don't want to risk uterine rupture with either type of delivery. A close friend of mine has only two, both c/s, and has to stop as for her, the risks are too high and no doctor in her area will do a VBAC. Her youngest is 3.5 and as far as I know, she and her DH are still using NFP.

    Also, economics are a concern for many people, especially if husbands aren't in high paying fields and wives MUST work. Day care can be costly and employers aren't always keen about women taking FMLA every year! Although I have known a few... ;-)

    My take on family size comments, especially because I made a few when I was younger and much stupider--people are probably insanely curious as to why others want that many children and how they can be taken care of, OR they are insanely jealous that you are choosing to do that and they (for whatever reason) could not.

    But as for my theory, which is more about geography, I'll post it over on my blog and link back to here, as to not clog up your comments with my babble!

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  13. rabbit- keep writing :)

    - all of your comments about small family sizes are correct- unless we know a couple is using artificial birth control, we don't know (and I don't discuss this kind of thing unless it is a close friend)- but the truth is that most married couples use artificial means to limit family size- which is sad

    One must always tread lightly and not assume anything about family size- I have a friend who tried for 10 years to get pregnant and now has 2 children (praise God)- people assume stuff about her and it can be painful

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  14. To Victoria's suggestion that the Preoteasa ('Priest's Wife' in Romanian) post as 'Byzantine Priest's Wife', I actually hope not. The lead in the blog header certainly explains the point. (In addition to which, Catholics may need to become more used to the idea of priests with wives - given the anticipated influx of former Anglicans and some Lutherans into the newly established Catholic Ordinariate for same.)

    As regards the feared demise of the Eastern Churches, I think we need to pray, to learn how to evangelize (a neglected skill among we of the East), and to remember that the beauty of our prayers to God's ears is none the less because fewer lips speak it.

    Many years, Neil

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  15. I think in many ways Sarah is right. And before I say any more I have lost babies and all of my three live births have been premature. I have had stupid insensitive comments from well meaning Orthodox Catholic people. Women being the worst and heavan forbid you give your premature baby a bottle. Anyways in the EC parishes I have been at most of the RC's that come in have more kids than the Ethnics. Most priests do not mention it. A big exception would be Holy Angels in San Diego. The priest talks about it and the parish is growing with new people and converts.

    Another thing I see is that the East has been bad about sharing the Faith with non-Catholics. You know many people would be interested if they just had someone tell them.

    One last thing. Many people are a bit disgusted with the Latinization of the Eastern Churches. The Ruthenians have introduced some inculsive language and a hatchet job on the liturgy. A few people left and became Orthodox.

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