Monday, October 7, 2013

The Byzantine Catholic Inferiority Complex

If you are Roman-rite Catholic, you know the drill. It is time for Little John's First Communion. Did he sign up for catechism classes on time? I hope you didn't miss the first meeting! Yes, that's right. That will be two years of weekly classes in the evenings if you are public schooled or homeschooled. And everyone does what the pastor and DRE deemed necessary to receive the sacrament.

Your lovely family of seven wants to become Roman-rite Catholic? How wonderful! It is too bad that you didn't notify the parish office in time for the first RCIA class. Yes, you will have to delay entering the Church another year. Sorry, if we change the rules for you, everyone will want to skip out on a few classes. That wouldn't do at all. So everyone does what the pastor deemed necessary to receive the sacraments.

If you are Orthodox Christian, you know the drill, you can't just waltz into any Orthodox church and receive the Holy Gifts of Jesus' Body and Blood.  How would the priest know if you had just been to confession? How would the priest know if you had conformed to his eparchy's guidelines for fasting? How would he even know if you are a baptized and confirmed Orthodox Christian? So, the Eucharist will be denied to those who did not make arrangements with father. So everyone agrees and does what the pastor deems necessary to receive the sacrament.

Demanding the 'right way to do things' and impressive within their respective traditions, Roman-rite Catholics and Orthodox Christians are this way and can be this way because they are confident in their place in the world. The world isn't perfect. Actually, the world hates Christians of any sort, but Orthodoxy is a state-supported religion to some true super-powers and Roman-rite Catholics are secure in their magnitude and also the culture ties to many, many people. There is still power and numbers behind both Roman-rite Catholics and Orthodox Christians.
(really- less than 1%- as I have been reminded)
While Roman-rite Catholics and Orthodox Christians are the lion and the eagle (I'm not sure which should be which), The Byzantine rite (and other Eastern Catholic rites- but I don't have real-life experience with them, regrettably) is the mouse. The mouse hides quietly, trying to survive even though there is really no reason why it should. If the mouse is quiet, maybe the enormous animals will leave it be. The mouse is nothing- just a mouthful. Maybe the mouse will be permitted to live another day. We Byzantine Catholics wait with bated breath; will this Pope permit our tradition of married men being ordained priests? Will my local Catholic school force my child to take First Communion classes even though he has been receiving since he was 40 days old? Some Byzantine Catholics are eager to throw off the term catholic so that the Orthodox will welcome us. Once there is unity we won't exist! We are truly "Orthodox in union with Rome!" I suppose so, but did St John Chrysostom use the label 'orthodox?' 

The Byzantine, with his inferiority complex, sees himself as nothing- as something that Rome can crush and that unity with Orthodoxy will make redundant. The Byzantine welcomes visitors and converts, knowing in his heart that they will most likely leave for the convenient pastures of the Roman-rite or the strict-never sit-vegan-Pope-free waters of the Orthodox. Or perhaps this is all too serious, debating pews or no pews, skirts or pants, veiled or non-veiled, married or celibate- and the visitor decides to save himself the aggravation and just listen to AirOne with his Sunday morning coffee and internet news. The Byzantine doesn't think much of himself or his religion, so even he will be tempted to leave once the priest breathes in the wrong place while singing the Gospel or the priest isn't totally flexible with sacramental prep's time and place (what else is he doing with such a small community?) or the cantor's singing isn't as exquisite as the Orthodox parish or a special new Bible study opens up at the local mega church "The Branch" or his children demand to attend the Roman-rite parish like normal kids. 

This is anecdotal, but 100% truth. This is the kind of post that upsets my lovely Roman-rite friends who say, "your husband is an amazing priest and we hear that the Byzantine rite is lovely!" But they have never visited...I suppose with my bordering-on-despair-attitude, they don't have a reason to visit. 
The joy of the Lord is my strength- not my joy.

28 comments:

  1. I am shooting for 2% and our pastor is looking forward to telling our visitors why all his parishioners have the same last name. So far we got 7 and there are still many "pews" left to fill.

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    1. thanks for visiting, Ric! I bet you are such an encouragement to your pastor

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  2. Glory to Jesus Christ! Here is a sequel to that image, as it were:
    http://prayerofsaintephrem.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/on-1-and-memes/

    In XC,
    J Andrew

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  3. A ha, I recognize the monks of Holy Resurrection! I love Fr. Moses' smile. The Byzantines are sick between a rock and a hard place but where they do the work of God there is fruit. It is the fruit that is rewarded even if it seems like a small harvest.

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  5. FWIW, this Roman found his way into a Byzantine Catholic parish and couldn't be happier. Still trying to coordinate with Father about the rest of the Sacraments for my kids so they can be admitted to the Holy Communion. We found it small, friendly, and very lively. And we have never been so well-fed spiritually.

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  6. Dear Priest's Wife,

    I don't know where you live, but in my neck of the woods, the Byzantine Catholic, Ukrainian Catholic, Maronite Catholic, and Orthodox parishes have a good number of refugees from the Roman Rite. People who could no longer stand the Modernists who have taken over the Roman Rite or their banal liturgies. I think it's fair to say that some of these Eastern Rite parishes would have closed up shop years ago were it not for the Roman refugees. The Eastern Rites have provided a refuge and a sanctuary from the diabolical disorientation that has affected the Roman Catholic Church these past 40+ years. For that, I and my family, and many others, are grateful.

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    2. Dear Mr. Ballard,

      Who said anything about trying to make your spiritual home better? I called it a refuge and a sanctuary. You mention Byzantine bishops influencing changes in the Roman Rite. Seems rather presumptuous to me, especially when you seem to dislike influences that travel West to East.

      And I did not abandon my spiritual home. It was destroyed. You speak of returning to your traditions. I could not agree more, and pray that the Roman Rite returns to its traditions as well, and abandons a fabricated liturgy that is more Protestant than Catholic.

      I thought that welcoming travelers and fellow pilgrims was part of the Eastern tradition. You sound like you'd just assume the Westerners leave you in peace rather than seek refuge in your rich liturgical and theological heritage until better times prevail in their rightful spiritual home. No matter. The Easterners in my neck of the woods are very welcoming, and are happy to have us in their ranks.

      One final note. Don't think that we have abandoned our Western Rite. We support the traditional religious orders, and sponsor celebrations of the traditional rite of mass in Western parishes, and try to rebuild. We just have to do it from an Eastern base. As I said, we are grateful for the refuge and sanctuary, and hope that we would do the same for you if the situation was reversed.

      Pax.

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    4. James Ignatius McAuleyOctober 17, 2013 at 1:32 PM

      Ric,

      What is this, Ric, a Reading from the Book of Hypocrisy? Do not be so hard on ATW. After all, did you not write a column on your blog titled "Don't go to my Church"? ATW, read it over at Ric's find blog Eastern Catholic Spiritual Renewal -- Ric is saying one thing and doing another.

      Ok. in fairness to Ric, let us make a Scotistic (oops, quoting a Latin scholastic and beati, the utter blasphemy of it all! But hey, our St. Gregory Palamas understood scholastic philosophy - just read Marcus Plestad's Orthodox Readings of Aquinas) Distinction - In that article he is not talking about people abandoning their church, but in his article Ric makes it abundantly clear that if folks, like ATW find their parish (Which could be a Latin rite one) spiritually toxic, they should leave it. In such a case, would it not be better for them to go East? They may find more than a refuge, and like you once did, Ric, they may find a home. We should introduce them to our beauty and spirituality. They should be introduced to our treasures, such as the Byzantine Book of Prayer or the Melkite Horologion. Do we not want to bring souls to Christ, and help these hurting sheep? Why are you implying ATW is a coward? Even if you are not, it certainly comes across that way.

      The Latin Church has many treasures, such as the Liturgy of the Hours, that are not known to folks such as ATW. The LOTH would be wonderful if all of the Latin Hymns were translated and their was a better psalm translation, Dom Olinger's or Baron DaVinck's translation would be much better than the dreadful 1963 Grail psalms. Even more, most laity and priests of the Latin rite are ignorant of the fact that many of the religious orders have their own wonderful propers for the LOTH. You want to help Latins? Introduce them to their treasures! Show the relationship between the LOTH and the Horolgion! They are your brothers and sisters, so treat them with love! AS Saint John said, "little children, love one another."

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    7. James Ignatius McAuleyOctober 18, 2013 at 7:32 AM

      Ric,

      To quote Spock on Star Trek, "You are very illogical in your assumptions, Dr. McCoy." You assume on limited fact that provide insubstantial evidence that ATW is a Latin Trad, and you then go on to imply he is toxic to our Church. Is this fair? Is this just? Is this done with love?

      Ric, we are all aware of toxic refuges from the Latin Rite. This was actually a huge problem in many parishes in the 1970s and 1980s, also. The question, is, what do we do with such people? Help them in charity. Some will stay, others do transform into good Byzantines.

      Analogously, the same issue happens to Orthodox with Protestants who come on board with them, and import their anti-papal view points and even bring their antipathy to Mary with them. I had a discussion with an Orthodox and Melkite priest about this. It is a problem, especially when they pick up the worst anti-Roman sentiments of folks such as John Romanides.

      I am very aware of the problems of those who dislike certain effects of the Second Vatican II, all you have to do is read the comments that were on Rorate Caeli, the Eponymous Flower, etc.. However, in all fairness to those Latins, many have suffered egregious liturgical abuses that are spiritually toxic to them, all in the name of the "spirit" or zeitgeist of the Council. They have suffered a great spiritual hurt.

      You make a point of raising the issue of kneeling. I know of parishes in the Eparchy of Stamford, Ukrainian where kneeling during the anaphora still takes place. As Orthodox Father Emmanula Hatzidakis points out in his Book, The Heavenly banquet, kneeling does have a history and place in the Orthodox Church (Page 266-268, "Do we stand or do we kneel?"). It is just one of the tired liturgical anti-Latin myths promulgated incessantly. This is like the myth promulgated in American Latin Church in the early 1980s when communion inn the hand was introduced, that the Eastern Rites take it in the hand too. So when Latins come and kneel, I take Father Hatzidakis's approach and leave them alone, and then explain, after a time, our viewpoint.

      Anyways, Ric, I like your blog and have it tagged as a favorite. Keep up the good work and do not get discouraged or angry. We need you. I met your blog through Dom David Bird O.S.B's site Monks and Mermaids. This is a man who is truly "Roman-Byzantine." He is comfortable in both worlds and in one sense he already sees the heavenly liturgy of which our Byzantine liturgy and the Latin liturgy are only dim reflections of.

      And, this is a glorious day - I received my rebound in leather, ribbons, and gilded page edges Book of Akathists. Happy, happy day!

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  7. Priest's Wife -

    Very well said. Unfortunately, we know this all too well.

    Fr. Richard and Mother Emily

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    1. another illusive priest's wife...welcome!

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  8. We're restarting "Theology on Tap" in our region after it went under last year. [For those who've never been to one or it's 'new' to you, "Theology on Tap" is primarily aimed Catholic young adults ages 18-35. You meet at a local restaurant, eat and drink, and listen to an invited speaker on topics on the faith] I suggested Eastern-rite Catholicism as an upcoming topic to one of the organizers and she thought it was a great idea! Since we're all from Roman-rite parishes, it's not something we're not familiar with.

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    1. very cool- where are you? It is a small world for us Byzantines, so I might have some good speakers for you...

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  9. Hey! I know those monks. Fr. Nicholas baptized two of my children. We really miss them since they moved to Wisconsin. We're not "officially" Eastern Catholics, but for many years we worshiped at Byzantine Churches. My husband was cantor at one and one of my sons, server. Now we don't have any near us, so we have been attending the local Roman parish. We just had an inferiority issue this weekend. My youngest received the Eucharist for the first few years of his life at Divine Liturgy, but we were advised not to bring him up to communion until he was seven in the Roman rite since it might cause confusion in the congregation. So we waited until he turned the "right" age, which happened to be this past Sunday. He was so excited about receiving communion on his birthday. However, when he went up, the pastor wouldn't give him the Eucharist and said over his head to me that it was his right to discern if he was ready. Grrrrr. My husband had already told Fr. when he first came to the parish a year ago about our children's sacramental life. My husband talked to the pastor after mass and Fr. insisted that he had to see documentation that our son had made his first communion already. My normally hot-headed husband was very patient even though Fr. got pretty huffy. He wouldn't take our word. What really made me mad was Fr. said he was protecting the sacrament from sacrilege! He doesn't have the same qualms about the rest of his congregation. He acted as if we were trying to pull a fast one. I think he's upset that we didn't do the (pathetic) CCD preparation; even though I teach my children religion every single day, not once a week. We're being "singular" and non-conforming. Now we're trying to track down an "official" certificate of his initiation sacraments. If anyone has any helpful advice in dealing with this, please pass it on. We're really tempted to move so we can attend an Eastern rite church again.

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    1. Most dioceses don't require that First Communion be recorded on the Baptismal certificate, anyway. I don't know how you would get written proof, other than perhaps a letter from a former Byzantine Rite pastor. I'm sorry you're dealing with this. I have come across a number of Latin Rite priests who will happily give my young children Communion. My 2 year old and 4 year old received at Mass this morning.

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    2. For Latins there is a space on the form and it's something that is supposed to be noted. Not so, I expect, among Byzantines because it is normally done at the same time as baptism and confirmation so one note should suffice.

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    3. There is a space on the form, and it is common practice in many places, but canon law does not require that First Communions be recorded. I'd quote the relevant canons for you, but it is more a matter of omission. For Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage and Holy Orders, canon law specifically states that they must be recorded in the parish register. For Holy Communion, Reconciliation, and Anointing of the Sick, it does not say that. Some individual dioceses might require it, but not as a matter of law.

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    4. Hi Anonymous, I can sympathize. We're Orthodox Christians who briefly returned to the Catholic Church about a year ago. I'm a born Catholic and my husband is an adult convert to Orthodoxy from nothing. Our children had been Orthodox from birth.. Even though my son had received Communion from his Baptism, we were told it would be a "scandal" if he received Communion. My 3 year old son would cause "scandal" by receiving communion but there's no scandal when almost every single adult at Mass receives communion? My husband was told that he needed to go to RCIA and then be brought into the Church at the Easter Vigil even though he was baptized and chrismated as an Orthodox Christian and had been receiving the Eucharist for years.

      We considered attending the local Byzantine Catholic Church and I spoke to the priest about my son receiving communion which of course they would have allowed. However, he told me that he advises his parishioners not to present their children for communion at Roman Catholic Churches. IMHO, it's a kind of excommunication to deny the Eucharist to children who have already received in accordance with the tradition of their Church.

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    5. Anna, I'm so sorry this has happened to you. I have, thankfully, had the opposite experience. My children have been enthusiastically welcomed to Communion by the handful of priests that we have approached.

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    6. It really bothers me whenever Roman Catholic priests say it would be a scandal if the children receive. You know what is a bigger scandal? The priest excommunicating a child because of his lack of understanding of the Eastern Catholic Tradition. The *only* reason a Roman priest can refuse and Eastern Catholic child communion is if there really is no way to give the child communion without disrespect to the Holy Mysteries (example: spilling of the precious blood, however, the priest may even dip his finger in the chalice and touch it to the lips of the babe if need be.)

      Being raised Orthodox and married to an Irish Catholic (we are Melkite now), we have encountered some of these issues. I put my foot down and do not allow priests to pass by my children because they are uncomfortable. What a great moment to explain to the parish about the "other lung". Teachable moment.

      For what it is worth, I find religious priest (Dominicans, Benedictines, etc) much more amenable to communing children than secular priests.

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  10. Anon -- if y'all are Latins all the documents should be up to date in the parish where the child was first baptized. If a monastery does the baptism, they need to file it with the local parish of the correct jurisdiction (Latin diocese, Byzantine eparchy).

    Successive sacraments (Confirmation, Eucharist, Matriomony, Holy Orders) should also be kept on that record in the original parish. You should only need to get the original parish to send a certified copy of the up to date sacramental record.

    Now where you will have a problem is if the proper paperwork wasn't submitted or the sacramental record not updated. And to answer that question you might need to reach out to the good Fr. Abbot in WI.

    I hope that is helpful and I will keep your family in our prayers. Your husband sounds a lot like me. We left a parish over a Latin Rite priest playing fast and loose with his interpretation of Canon Law and lying to me about communication with the appropriate bishop.

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  11. This year will be the third year in a row that our local Byzantine priest is invited to celebrate the Divine Liturgy at the Roman cathedral on the fest of St. Josephat. The priests who staff the cathedral parish are keen to make sure that their parishioners are not totally ignorant/unaware of the East, even those who normally wouldn't visit a Byzantine parish on their own initiative. And one of the three local Catholic schools buses all the students to the Byzantine parish on the feast of St. Nicholas every year. Sometimes they will come to you, and sometimes you have to go out and invite them in. Of course, sometimes people will also just be stubborn and refuse to participate, which is too bad.

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    1. Jane- that is so cool! I'm working on some 'official' looking letters/info packs to send to the local Catholic schools- maybe their theology teachers would give extra credit for a visit?!

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