Wednesday, March 30, 2011

cough cough cough

another replay...I promise something new for tomorrow!

An Outsider's View of a Typical Catholic Parish

The big girls and I went to Sunday Mass at the closest Western-rite church this weekend because of all the Nutcracker craziness. I always feel unsettled when I go to a church that isn't 'mine;' I don't belong. Perhaps visitors to our missions also feel this way...

Humility- I whisper to myself. I always feel like people are looking at me, sympathetic that I am going to Mass alone with four children. I bet they imagine my husband is reading the Sunday paper in bed. I want to shout- my husband actually left early to replace the ill priest for a different community. He'll celebrate their Liturgy and then our mission's Liturgy until the priest is better. With God's mercy, the ill priest will be better before Christmas.

We frequently go to Mass at the hospital, but that is a speedy daily Mass and the chapel has no kneelers, so the Mass itself is as simple as it gets. A Sunday Mass is different. I always forget that we aren't supposed to kneel after receiving the Eucharist, so I stay kneeling. I worry that I am distracting the believers with my 'backwards' sign of the cross. I hope that everyone has the eyes on their own work. My girls are shocked when altar girls come up the aisle and admonish them to stop judging- even though I disagree with the concept of altar girls. My girls are doubly shocked to see a girl friend who used to faithfully attend the Byzantine Liturgy being an altar server at this church. They left our mission when my husband allowed the people to sing the old country anthem on a holiday during coffee and donuts; they insisted my husband was a liberal. 

This parish has three priests and two deacons. They do a lot of good works and have lots of  groups involved in the pro-life movement. All of their Sunday Masses are packed. I am sure that some of my misgivings are simply sins of jealousy that I need to confess- to one of the priests at this parish since I don't confess to my husband. I am jealous that we are so small and that people who identify themselves as Byzantine Catholic have never even visited us. 

The parish has the trappings of a modern church- clapping after the kids' choir rendition of "Soon and Very Soon" is finished, girl altar servers, lay people opening the tabernacle and distributing the Eucharist (the Blood being poured by a lay person from the priest's chalice into clear glass goblets), and a children's liturgy where they take the children out during the Liturgy of the Word. These things are disturbing to me.

But the lay reader was reverent during the readings, and the homily was dynamic, yet a hard-core teaching directly related to the Gospel. The tabernacle is in the center, and there is a beautiful crucifix as a focal point in the modern construction. There are normal confessionals and there are Knights of Columbus as ushers that also stay close to the Eucharist distributors to eliminate desecration. 

It was a bit discombobulating, but God was there and we were blessed to be there.


  1. I am a regular old Western Rite, and some of the things you mentioned also disturb me. Some of the things at my own parish disturb me as well. I say the same things to myself, that there are a lot of things that are done well, that God has me here, so I should embrace it as much as possible...I am coming from the other end of the spectrum, I am a convert. Many times I just have to cast my concerns on the Lord and trust He is guiding my pastor.

  2. Kelly- My family converted when I was 12 (Roman-rite- I'm Byzantine by marriage)- I still have great memories when singing "On Eagle's Wings"- my mom and I sang that at a retreat :)

  3. Every time I visit your site I find a small blessing. I'm so glad you write. Somehow your perspective as a Byzantine Catholic encourages me.

  4. Sorry to be inquisitive, but are you from the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church? If so, congratulations for your new major Archbishop. If not, I'm sorry (Though I think it is a joy for all the oriental Catholics to have at the head of the biggest oriental Church such a young man). I'm not myself of the Byzantine rite, but originate from a country where there are a lot off them (sorry for the broken English... I am not fluent).

  5. The Church must have unity but never uniformity. Just as you are disturbed by altar girls or lay people opening the tabernacle, there are western rite catholics (christians that have a relationship with Jesus) who are disturbed by some of the things on the divine liturgy. There is really no problem in having altar girls or holding hands during the our father or having lay ministers of the eucharist. The problem is in ourselves. We try so hard to impose our forms to others that we fill our hearts and minds with rules and forget what's essential.

  6. Henri- No- I'm not Ukrainian Greek Catholic and your English is great! :)

  7. I don't think I've ever commented on your blog before, but I thought of you last Sunday when I was a Latin-rite visitor at Divine Liturgy. I suspect fear of the unknown and feeling self-conscious keep people from visiting/coming back to your husband's mission. Luckily for me, I know that everyone around me has heard (probably ad nauseam) what a wonderful Catholic wife/mother/organist I am from my mother-in-law, so I figure they'll forgive me for making the Sign of the Cross backwards and not with 3 fingers and all the rest of it.

  8. For those who doubt the "Catholicity" of the Eastern Churches, I think this, from New Advent, sums it up well:

    "A short enumeration and description of the Catholic Eastern Rites will complete this picture of the Eastern Churches. It is, in the first place, a mistake (encouraged by Eastern schismatics and Anglicans) to look upon these Catholic Eastern Rites as a sort of compromise between Latin and other rites, or between Catholics and schismatics. Nor is it true that they are Catholics to whom grudging leave has been given to keep something of their national customs. Their position is quite simple and quite logical. They represent exactly the state of the Eastern Churches before the schisms. They are entirely and uncompromisingly Catholics in our strictest sense of the word, quite as much as Latins. They accept the whole Catholic Faith and the authority of the pope as visible head of the Catholic Church, as did St. Athanasius, St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom. They do not belong to the pope's patriarchate, nor do they use his rite, any more than did the great saints of Eastern Christendom. They have their own rites and their own patriarchs, as had their fathers before the schism. Nor is there any idea of compromise or concession about this. The Catholic Church has never been identified with the Western patriarchate. The pope's position as patriarch of the West is as distinct from his papal rights as is his authority as local Bishop of Rome. It is no more necessary to belong to his patriarchate in order to acknowledge his supreme jurisdiction that it is necessary to have him for diocesan bishop. The Eastern Catholic Churches in union with the West have always been as much the ideal of the Church Universal as the Latin Church. If some of those Eastern Churches fall into schism, that is a misfortune which does not affect the others who remain faithful. If all fall away, the Eastern half of the Church disappears for a time as an actual fact; it remains as a theory and an ideal to be realized again as soon as they, or some of them, come back to union with Rome."

  9. Hi Priest's wife!
    I have been thinking about you a lot lately, and, lo and behold, a great podcast about the Byzantine Catholic church appeared on Ancient Faith Radio ( today! It is the open-hearted Q&A with Melkite (Eastern Catholic) priest Father James Babcock about the similarities and differences between Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Catholics and the Roman Catholic Church.

    I myself had no idea where the "lines" were between the various theologies, so it was very interesting for me, and perhaps it would be interesting for you and your readers as well.

  10. :-( Yes, for those who have studied the faith, whether they be Roman or Eastern, these things make one cringe.


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