Friday, February 7, 2014

Just Visiting: don't change to the Byzantine rite, please...

...if you are a Roman-rite Catholic.
You are so welcome to visit! We love 'normal' Catholics to visit; we'll try not to stuff you with too much sarmale/perogies/kolache. Just make sure that the priest doesn't give your four-year old his First Communion a few years too early.
And you are really welcome to be a 'permanent visitor.' Maybe our Divine Liturgy is at a good time and place for your family to get to on Sunday. Maybe you enjoy the fact that Father encourages/forces the boys and men to serve at the altar. Maybe you appreciate the reverence of the Liturgy that we are trying to instill. Maybe you feel called to pray in this way at this time in your faith journey. Maybe your great-grandparents were born in the old country and you suspect that they might have been Eastern-rite. You want to learn. You want to prepare for the unity that will happen someday, so you want to experience the way other Christians worship. Despite this sour post, I love it when believers find a (usually temporary) home in our church.
but -as a Roman-rite Catholic- should you actually change rites to be Byzantine?
I say---no.
It would be tempting for us Byzantines to encourage Roman-rite Catholics to officially change rites (it helps us feel less small), but we shouldn't push it.
If you want to become Byzantine because we don't play guitars and sing 'Gather Us In,' you will be gone when a local (meaning an hour away or less) Roman-rite parish starts a Latin Mass. 
If you want to become Byzantine because sacraments of initiation are free and easy (no two-year, three-hours a week First Communion program for us), you'll go back to Roman-rite when you realize that Byzantine catechism programs are too free and easy. It's pleasant to not go to catechism every Wednesday evening for two hours, but thirty minutes every other Sunday just does not seem like enough.
If you want to become Byzantine Catholic because we are so 'hard-core' with our meatless Wednesdays, Fridays & longer fasting periods, our no-women-at-the-altar-ways, our tendency to stand a lot, and our lack of guitars, you'll leave when that isn't hard-core enough. You will journey on to the Orthodox because they all seem to be vegan (and not even olive oil!) for half the year and the women are more likely to veil. And they never sit down or kneel! Or you might go on to a SPPX chapel where all the women are sure to veil. 
So please stop by. We love visitors. At our missions, if you come celebrate with us once every three months, you are a treasured friend. A few believers 'supplement' their faith journeys with an occasional Divine Liturgy with us, but they do not miss their geographical Roman-rite parish. This is as it should be. 
I know too many people who have officially changed their rite to Byzantine who no longer attend a Byzantine rite parish. They didn't 'quit' because they moved away, or the Divine Liturgy is scheduled for a truly impossible time, or the priest is an abuser (either sexually or financially). They leave because the parish got big enough to need a meal and clean-up sign-up sheet (they and some other families left- now this parish is small enough again not to need a sign-up sheet). Others leave because their local Byzantine parish is not perfect in its expression (the chant isn't perfect, some of the people sit or- gasp!- kneel) of the Eastern Church; so they save a half-hour drive on Sundays to attend the closest Roman-rite parish where 'Gather Us in' is on a regular rotation and their daughters might get to be altar servers. 
But I think the true reason why these families (anecdotal, I know) who officially changed their rite from Roman to Byzantine but now attend a Roman-rite parish 'quit' the Byzantine rite is that the Eastern Church did not become part of their soul. They are still Roman at heart. In most cases, it is best to stay as one is. Have your parish be the touch-stone of your and your children's lives. Stability is such a good way to live. Visit different parishes of your own rite and those of other rites to learn and live the universal way of the Catholic Church. But don't use us by officially changing rites and then tossing us aside. It hurts.

31 comments:

  1. I agree with your thoughts...I've been praying about making the switch myself....The things you mention are bonuses...but really for me it's more of a spirituality growth, When I went back on vacation, I was at a Roman Rite parish, and felt well, lost, I guess because my heart has always been more Eastern in prayer even if I didn't know it (I've crossed myself from right to left since I've learned to make the Sign of the Cross, lol)...The Divine Liturgy has a special place, in front of the TLM even....Certainly I keep my gestures separate, but I'd agree with the advice that you've given. I've been going to the Byzantine Parish in my city for a while now. I don't miss the low Mass, culture at all :)

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    1. it does take a 'change of heart' - becoming to love the spirituality enough that it overcomes all the 'cons' of the Byzantine rite (in the US- being a micro-minority, drive times, poverty of the church so the priest works a different job, etc)- I think a similar change of heart would be needed to become Catholic from Orthodox- can you respect/love the Holy Father in addition to the rites hierarchy?

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  2. In a way, you gave me the best advice I could have gotten: live the liturgical calendar for two years; and I haven't looked back. What i see you describe is just becoming Byzantine on paper, for all the wrong reasons. I'm considering a switch because I'm a bad Roman Catholic, but a very dedicated Greek one. My spirituality, ethos, and practice is decidedly Eastern. It wouldn't be honest to remain a member of the Latin Church, but rather becoming a Russian Greek Catholic, since my spirituality is quite Russian

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    1. ...it might be in your blood- there are Byzantine communities in the Philippines

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  3. Even though I am a hard-core Latin Rite Catholic, nevertheless I sympathize with the Latins becoming Eastern Rite Catholics. I admit that the Greeks are more reverent in many of their liturgies nowadays than the Latins, who wanted ecumenical dialogue with the schismatics and heretics than preserve their venerable Rite. Alas! the Latin Rite as we knew is now destroyed and replaced with a fabrication, a
    banal-on-the-spot product of secularists and freemasons. The REAL Roman Rite (TLM) is now confined to a few parts of the globe, like a pearl of great price. I definitely sympathize with the Latins who became Greeks, but I never wanted any Greek to become Latin, for I know that it would cause them their ruin. ( I mean, do you want to sing "On Eagle's Wings" than to sing the Akathist Hymn of the Blessed Virgin Mary?)

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    1. I like On Eagle's wings: quite biblical, and the TLM isn't the traditional Roman rite. Find a parish using a good hymnal book, not the books you often find in parishes of the Roman rite. The Novus Ordo can be well executed, if the right material is in place.

      I sought Greek Catholicism because it resonates more, instead of disparaging the Roman rite. I find much in the current liturgy usable for catechesis.

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    2. 'Eagle's Wings' is one of my favorite songs- it was the 'theme' song at the mother-daughter retreat I went to with my mom just a year after we became catholic (I was 13)

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    3. Ecumenism is a very sticky subject and as for everything else- "Love and do what you will." Of course "love" is God and perfection....so if we are perfect and 'like God' (theosis)- we can do anything!

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    4. about less traditional music- 'Eagles Wings' versus the Akathist is apples and oranges. I understand your point- that simpler, less traditional music has replaced the ancient hymns and chant and that is very unfortunate. But singing Eagles' Wings at a retreat breakfast is fine. The akathist requires clergy, a church, etc- (you can sing it alone, but that it's the usual way)- I like to listen to contemporary Christian music in the car- it is much better than talk radio and news (especially if my children are with me)- would I want that 100% of the time- no!

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  4. I think you touched on something here that most Latins aren't willing to admit. Too many wander around with an "any port in a storm" mentality and rather than ates issues in their particular church they correct it by changing Sunday attendance.

    It must be really difficult to feel like you are just a boarding house and seeing people stop in on their way elsewhere.

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    1. yes- we have 'lost' people (usually permanent visitors) for many reasons- usually we are just too small- we can't give people the extra program that a 5000 family parish can do. That is understandable and I'm glad the US has freedom to worship (or not)- but it does get a bit disappointing when a family leaves because 'Fr looks tired' .....um....

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  5. Please see my comment on your previous post re martyred bishops. And right now we are watching EWTN which is televising the Byzantine Rite Divine Liturgy and ordination of Father Kurt as Bishop. God bless you and your entire family.

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  6. this reminds me of some Protestants who might come wandering through any given Orthodox parish, actually.

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    1. ...visiting at a local OCA parish- ALL of the people present before the DL were ex-Protestants (including the priest, sub-deacon, cantor, and lector)- maybe the cradle Orthodox come late? ;)

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    2. "maybe the cradle Orthodox come late? " LOLOLOLOL

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    3. amy- you sound like you know what I am talking about.... ;)

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  7. I've gone on many rants about banal Roman liturgy in the past, and waning Western faith, but then I have forgotten to drop off food at shelters and serve meals. Love is first and foremost primary for the Christian. To paraphrase good St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, if you have smells and bells that can elevate the human senses to divine arenas, but do not have love, then you have nothing. High Church Anglicanism (also known as Anglo-Catholicism) is famous for its austere environment and its sublime liturgy; genuine worship of the Lord. Anglo-Catholics were also notable for diving into the muck of inner cities of London and elsewhere and planting churches. Doing the work that Christ would want us to carry out that most of us (myself included) are afraid to do.

    That being said:

    My problem with modern Western spirituality is that it appears to lack... spirituality. For the past 50 years, modern Roman parishes have done their darndest to appease the secular world and the ever-fluctuating modern spirit, and I feel the results have been devastating. I love guitars, I love all forms of musical instruments, and that is why we have parish halls. Let us sponsor concerts for musicians to manifest their excellent talents. I've walked out of too many Masses, because I can't stand the modern Western treatment of God.

    To be clear, I am just bickering about the liturgy. All of the parishes I attended have organized outstanding social outreach programs, had very active Knights of Columbus, and so forth. They were, to paraphrase St. Francis, preaching the Gospel without using words. Yes, the moral teachings of the Roman Church are profound and true, yet the Church must intrigue at all levels, including the Mass. The modern Catholic Church is like Ben Stein giving a lecture. The truth is still true, but my God it puts you to sleep.

    The modern Roman Mass is not going to be the mode of worship that re-ignites Western faith. Perhaps it is up to the Byzantine Catholics and the Orthodox to perform that miracle.

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    1. there's a local RC parish here that has a very reverent NO...I have friends who lean traditionalist, but they feel very good there. The only problem is that they still have the OPC music. No, they never sing 'gather us in'- but there is a real lack of holy music in OPC. I don't understand sticking with that book- it is like all music sung had to be written between 1970-1985...

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    2. Oh, pardon me, should have changed that to "Kumbaya" or anything. Sorry.

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    3. This past Palm Sunday, they managed to make the Reading of the Passion boring, for the first time ever. And the bishop was the main celebrant. Amazing.

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  8. Lol I feel the Byzantine rite is a part of my soul personally...coming your way.

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  9. Our Roman Catholic church in Oregon for many years used OCP (Oregon Catholic Press) hymnals. Recently we changed over to St. Michael Hymnals and World Library Publications (Liturgy Division) missals. A great improvement over the OCP stuff. Thanks be to God !

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  10. This is also a good argument for choosing the right Eastern Church, if one chooses to go that way. A lot of Romans think all the Eastern Churches are more or less alike, but they are not! Some friends of mine are Melkite. There is no Melkite parish here, and they are trying to make themselves at home at the Byzantine parish, but it is not the same.

    My husband and I have more or less decided not to try to change our ritual church, although we've talked about it for years. We LOVED attending St. Andrew's Russian Catholic parish when we lived in Los Angeles, and my husband has a very definitely Russian heart. Unfortunately, there are so few Russian Catholic parishes. The odds of us ever living near one again are so slight that it would be difficult for us even to make a case for why we'd want to change, because we cannot attend a parish with any regularity (the nearest one is 3,000 miles away). The other reason is that in order to participate fully in Eastern parish life, my husband would have to change careers. He is a professional organist and church choir director, and not many Eastern parishes have the money to pay a full-time choir director, nor do they have any need of organists! So, we hang around our local Byzantine parish when we can, fill our home with icons, and sometimes wistfully wonder if the West will ever change its views about the age when children should receive First Holy Communion. Our Roman parish is blessed with wonderful priests and good, orthodox liturgical practice. It doesn't quite feel like home, but it is a spiritually nourishing place, and we must be content with that.

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    1. Jane- it sounds like you have found the best for your family! You are so right that the different jurisdictions can be very different- we have (very lovely) 'slavic' types that can get upset that there is no Old Slavonic here in our Romanian church...and you sound like the ideal 'frequent visitor' for the local Byzantine church

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  11. Love the post- changing rites is a serious matter- and your hospitality is flawless. Miss you.

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    1. we miss you! I don't blame you for moving away from the expensive craziness..... :(

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  12. I attended a Byzantine parish exclusively for 5 years, but you are right, now that there is a Vetus Ordo mass here, I am also drawn there. Also, my previous pastor was more "Roman Catholic of the Byzantine Rite" in orientation, but the current one is more "Orthodox in communion with Rome" in orientation (although the people here remain more identified with Catholicism, use the Rosary etc.) I don't know how to react when the current priest says things from the pulpit like "There were only 7 ecumenical councils. " That is not what Rome teaches. Perhaps someday it could be considered legitimate to call the rest "General Councils of the West" but it isn't now. That sort of thing creates internal conflict for me. (I think the rest of the parishioners probably have no thoughts whatsoever about ecumenical councils so this comment passed unremarked.)

    I am torn, now. I am attached to both forms of worship.I definitely prefer having babies receive all the sacraments of initiation and begin communing as infants. I appreciate married priests at the parish level. Theologically, though, I was formed in the Western tradition. I like Aquinas and the scholastic influence is definitely there in my thinking. I don't think I am ever going to be able to "think Eastern" all the way through. At this point I attend each rite about half the time, and some Sundays I attend both. (I also try to attend my husband's Evangelical Anglican church with him, or else I would attend both every Sunday.) I don't think this is ideal, but it seems to be my fate to be caught in between.

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    1. you must be called the pray for unity! ...as for the priest saying there are only 7 ecumenical councils....you wouldn't hear that at our parish! and we are pretty darn 'Orthodox' in our spirituality (at least I think so- we are very Byzantine- but Catholic)

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  13. Presvitera, I really appreciated your post. I switched rites (coming from the Latin Church) one year and a half ago, after 3 years chanting in an Eastern Catholic Church every Sunday. In fact, I had a background chanting gregorian chant for five years before getting to know the Eastern Catholic Church in which I'm presently enrolled. And I do have a Tridentine Mass only 15 minutes away from my home that I could go to. So, I really identified myself with the byzantine rite. That's why I changed Churches sui iuris. I even got tonsured as a reader/chanter by the eparchial bishop, with the possibility of using a cassock during Divine Liturgy.

    Unfortunately, I'm in the category above mentioned of someone who left the Eastern Catholic Church because of an abusive priest (the priest almost physically assaulted my pregnant wife right in the middle of World Youth Day 2013 due to a sudden burst of rage - in a benevolent interpretation, I prefer to believe that he was undergoing some serious psychiatric illnesses).

    The whole matter was reported to the eparchial bishop over the telephone, who lives in another city and could do nothing (in fact, I found out the eparchy is under intervention by Roman authorities). Since there is no other parish or priest of the catholic byzantine rite in my city (the closer is around 120 miles away, which in my country would take around 3 hours to get to by car), there is nowhere else to go.

    With the knowledge and approval of a latin rite priest and canonist who once acted as the vicar for Eastern Catholics without their own bishops in my country, whenever I have the opportunity, I go to the only Greek Orthodox Church in the city, in order not to lose contact with the byzantine rite. However, the said latin rite priest told me that it's fine for me to go to the Orthodox Church (due to my special condition) as long as I also go to a Catholic Mass to fulfill Sunday obligation.

    This personal testimony is a warning to anyone thinking about switching rites - you may find some insurmountable obstacles when dealing with small Eastern Catholic Churches in Western countries. If you switch rites and the only Eastern priest in the place does not like you, you will be in trouble and you will have no other place to go to than the Latin Church, even if you truly love the byzantine rite (which is my case). Moreover, if you are an outsider - someone who in not ethnically linked to the community -, it really doesn't matter if you are canonically one of them - people will not regard you like one of them and they would do nothing about things such as these that happened to me.

    Keep up with the good work! I love your blog and all the Eastern Catholic stuff you find in it - since not only I feel like an Eastern catholic, but I'm canonically one!

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    1. Vitor- thanks for this comment- it is horrifying what your and your wife had to go through- it is very sad...

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