Friday, October 1, 2010

Being Byzantine Catholic- 7 QuickTakes

1. Are you really Catholic?
YES! Thanks for asking! While the Byzantine Catholic Church looks very Orthodox, we are proud to have the Bishop and Pope of Rome as our supreme pontiff. Thousands of Eastern Catholic bishops, priests, monks, sisters and lay people were imprisoned, tortured, and killed through the ages (recently during Europe's stint with communism)- simply because they refused to renounce the Holy Father. Theologically and liturgically, they would have remained the same- just without the Pope. They laid down their lives to remain in the Catholic Church. Now in Central and Eastern Europe, the Church is dealing with the consequences of this. For example, most of the Eastern Catholic churches were confiscated by the state and given to the Orthodox church- the state church.
2.  And your husband is a priest?
Be careful what you wish for! I prayed to God for a good Catholic husband who would lead the family spiritually- that's what I got!But seriously, this question deserves a longer answer- maybe next Friday's Quick Takes on Conversion Diary.
3. What's with all the incense and the priest having his back to the people?
While it might look very traditionalist, this is just the way we have always done the Divine Liturgy(Mass). Incense and having the priest lead the people during the Byzantine Liturgy is the way we do it! Liturgical reforms or changes have been very few since St John Chyrsostom developed the Byzantine Liturgy in the early days of the Church. 
4. Do you really abstain from meat every Wednesday and Friday and in Advent and Lent?
For the Eastern-rite Catholic, both Advent and Lent are seen as penitential seasons.We try to take both fasting and feasting seriously! I know monks and nuns who are much stricter than these guidelines, however.
5. Why do the Eastern Catholic churches have so few believers?
Even the largest, most successful Eastern Catholic church will have less believers than the local Western-rite parish. There are many reasons for this: in the U.S., Eastern Catholic immigrants were forced to become Western-rite if they wanted their children to attend the local parish school;  others were lost to Evangelical or Orthodox churches that fulfill ethnic needs better; others simply don't have an Eastern-rite church close by.
6.  So you can't say the rosary?
Of course we can say the rosary! The difference is this, the rosary is a Western prayer- we also have prayers that honor Mary, the Mother of God. These prayers are more liturgy-like and a priest leads them. So for a private devotion, the rosary is perfect! Eastern Catholics don't want to lose their traditions, however.
7. So the Pope is really, really your boss?
Really, really


  1. Very educational! I'll have to bookmark this.

  2. Well, I'm intrigued. I appreciate the answers (so far...) ;) But am looking forward to a few more if you have the time or inclination, and if the kids aren't pouring their juice on the keyboard to get your attention!

    I have to say though... the Priest's WIFE part has me a little freaked out...

  3. Regarding the Rosary, are you familiar with the Rule of the Theotokos as it practiced by some of the Orthodox? I have heard bits and pieces about it here and there and am interested in learning more, but apparently some take issue with the notion that the Rosary is a Western prayer. It is a Western form of a prayer common to East and West.

  4. John- Thanks for commenting! I am familiar with the rule of Theotokos- but 'around here' it is more Orthodox- we prefer to do the rosary for private devotion or sometimes before Liturgy and the Akathist and other more 'liturgical' prayers for Mary in line with our tradition. It is true that some people are very sensitive about losing tradition because in history this has happened. Personally- I feel that we are keeping a balance and don't worry that the rosary might "Westernize" us too much.

  5. Martha- Thanks for commenting! I'm writing a post on the 'wife' part of everything- Look for it on Monday. But the easiest explanation is this- this is our tradition which is permitted by the Holy See. In my husband's country of origin, it is weird when a priest isn't married! Allowing married men to be ordained priests also makes a big difference between secular priest and a monk.

  6. To be precise, the Rosary is a private devotion and is not a public prayer of the Church. Even the Pope leading thousands of people in reciting the Rosary is considered to be a private prayer.

    Public prayer of the Church is essentially liturgical: the Mass and the Office are the two public prayers of the Latin Church. Everything else - Rosary, Benediction, the Stations &c. - are private devotion.

    That being said, the Rosary was developed (and if the Dominicans are to be believed, the Virgin herself gave it to St Dominic) as a substitute for the Office for those not bound to the Office - hence the 150 Aves of the entire Rosary, each Ave substituting for one of the 150 psalms.

    It is absurd to then judge someone as Catholic (or not), or Orthodox (or not), based upon their using (or not) a particular pious private devotion. The devotions are private and will suit some people and not others.

  7. Bear- Thanks for your comment- you said what I wanted to say- just more elegantly.

    Some Eastern Catholics are reluctant to say the Rosary because it didn't come from the East- but as you said- it is a private devotion (I especially love the new Luminous mysteries)that is very convenient. Getting to church to say the liturgical Marian prayers isn't always possible. The only problem comes when we forget our beautiful traditions because we are such a small minority.

  8. Even though I knew there is an Eastern Catholic Church and even though I knew some Catholic priests are married, I never made the connection. It's nice to learn about this aspect of the Catholic Church. I'm converting to Catholicism and I love discovering the richness and diversity. After browsing the internet, I'm a bit disappointed that there are hardly any places in Belgium to celebrate an Eastern Catholic Mass. I'd love to attend one.

  9. In Belgium there is the monastery of Chevetogne, which is near Li├Ęge. It is a monastery of Benedictine monks and Byzantine monks (Russians). The Byzantine liturgies are celebrated there in Slavonic. I assume that this is what you found in Belgium.

  10. Thanks anonymous for the info! It can get a little 'sticky' with us Eastern Catholics in terms of info- my husband's second mission isn't advertised because we meet in the old, empty convent that used to be aligned with his hospital- The hospital's local admin is great with us being there, but they are nervous about corporate knowing- so we don't advertise. Pray that we will move to a Western rite chapel that has offered to let us be guests- then the general public can know of us!

  11. This journey of my life- blessings to you on your conversion journey! I was in Brussels years ago- had a raspberry beer in the main church square- unfortunately, we were only there for the afternoon- my friends and I were in Holland to babysit for other friends who were going to a wedding. Beautiful country!

  12. Anonymous, I found that information on the internet, but the abbey is on the other side of the country and unreachable for me (no car). There also seems to be a meeting each month closer by, maybe I could visit there.
    Priest's wife, thank you for your kind words. I love my country. If you're ever in the neighbourhood, let me know!

  13. confession: I'm Roman Catholic and I pray the Jesus Prayer!

    1. Which is totally appropriate, considering it is in the Bible and also considered one of the accepted forms of the act of contrition. ;)

  14. faithemmanuel- I forgot to mention the Jesus Prayer! This is a lovely- very Eastern- private devotion

  15. I'm not sure I would call the Pope my boss any more than I would call my husband or father my boss. My boss is they guy who gives me a paycheck for 40 hours work a week -- no more, no less. That doesn't come close to describing my relationship with the Holy Father.

  16. Katherine- I suppose my saying "The Pope is my boss" sounded a little flippant. I meant no disrespect. I get a little sensitive when- after a long conversation talking theology- many people still think I am Orthodox (in my husband's country, 12 bishops were killed because they wouldn't renounce the Pope's authority). Saying it this way certainly simplifies things!

  17. I understand.

    I am a long time benefactor of the CNEWA ( and was involved through my labor union with activities to promote human, labor and religious rights to nations under Communist rule.

    The story of the Eastern Catholic churches in Ukraine, Romania, Czechoslovakia and Russia is nothing less than heroic.


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