Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Easterners in a Western World

Nutcracker Craziness(tm) makes for a crazy schedule. The studio we work with makes sure that Saturday evening rehearsals end before 6 PM and Sunday rehearsals don't begin before 1 pm. So, any normal person would be able to get to a church service with no problem. We are not normal people. So, for two weeks, we (not Father) miss Saturday vigil at the little mission and Sunday Divine Liturgy at the big mission. We attend Mass at the closest parish to fulfill our obligation and feel bad that we aren't completely together as a family. It isn't often, though- so we go with it.

This year, 4 year old boy and 2 year old girl were especially squirrely. Do you remember Steve Martin when he was a "wild and crazy guy" on SNL? Boy used exactly that intonation when he said, "This church is craaaaaazy!" while we were seated listening to the Epistle. I don't know what was so crazy about it. He might have been reacting to the fact that it was a woman lector reading the Epistle instead of a male cantor singing it, but my boy couldn't clarify over my shushing him. He has been to Roman-rite Masses before (but usually in a hospital setting), so I don't know what was bothering him. Sometimes small children have a real problem with change. 

Not receiving the Eucharist is the next hurdle. I prepped the four-year old by simply saying that they don't give the Body of Christ to little children at this parish. He was disappointed, but his age is perfect for accepting 'the rules.' The two-year old is another story all together. Going up the aisle to get a blessing from the priest, I had a pit in my stomach. I knew that she would throw a fit when she realized she would not receive Jesus, just a blessing. There was a little gap between the person in front of us and my family, so much so I guess that the priest decided that the line was done and went to the other side to help the Eucharistic ministers. So there was not even a blessing and a girl who was starting to throw a fit. So I communicated to my big girls to go hunt down the Eucharist if they desired to receive and to stay in church while I wrangled the two little ones outside. 

We waited outside for Mass to finish. There was a table selling religious goods, and a woman handed me some information about the Fatima Mary statue that would be visiting the parish in a few weeks. Baby girl was still crying a bit and the kind woman asked, "Why is she crying?" I decided to throw caution to the wind and told her, "Well, we are Byzantine Catholics so she usually receives the Eucharist and she is upset that she couldn't receive here." The three women at the table were shocked when I continued, stating that we receive baptism, confirmation and First Communion as infants. They asked "Why?" I tried to keep it very simple- that the historic order of sacraments for all rites was confirmation before Eucharist no matter the age of reception, and that the Eastern way emphasizes our need for grace above book knowledge, and isn't it wonderful that the Universal Church in union with Rome has so many diverse rites? The kind woman gave me a weak smile and waved her hand in the direction of the RCIA booth- she said "Perhaps you would like to look into RCIA classes?" It was nice to be invited, but since I am already Catholic, I declined her offer.


  1. Your boy made me laugh out loud with his comment. I love the random things little kids yell out in church. Are female cantors not common in your church? (Romanian, I mean) We have a female cantor at ours, which is nice to see.

    As for the ladies and baby girl...sigh. You tried. Much better than my evangelization FAIL from a few weeks back that I still need to post (it's written, just not finished yet). You should have told them that you are MARRIED to a PRIEST. The scandal! :D

    I was wondering what you do with the little ones when you attend Roman rite Masses; is it not a church you visit often enough that you could talk to the priest? The closest Roman church (5 mins from our house) currently has a bi-ritual priest (Syro-Malabar, IIRC), so I know he'd be OK with it, but there's always the chance he wouldn't be there in a few years...and what would the OTHER parents think!?

    Actually, that would be a great way to "infiltrate" Roman churches...(scheming) Get Byz babies to receive in front of Roman children, muahahaha.

    Ahh, I can dream, right? ;-)

  2. oh my!! RCIA? THis woman needed more than your simple explanation

  3. When we had to leave our little Byzantine Catholic church (long story, involving safety of children), one of my big regrets was having to "retrain" my two youngest at the time, that they couldn't receive the Eucharist. I do wish the Roman rite would "go back in time" when it comes to this lovely sacrament. My six year old is now taking catechism classes to prepare for First Communion, and is waiting prayerfully for when he can receive. That was rather boneheaded of that lady to suggest RCIA. Maybe you could carry pamphlets around explaining the Eastern "lung" of the church so people can learn about their own religion! :)

  4. That's so frustrating! I keep forgetting how blessed my family and I are. When we can't get to the nearest Byzantine parish (1.5 hours away), we attend the local Roman parish. While I certainly have some disagreements with the pastor (his homily yesterday focused--I'm not kidding--on how the Feast of the Presentation of Mary is really kind of silly and almost certainly not based in reality), he allows my children (3 and 1) to receive the Eucharist. Our one-year-old won't take the unleavened host, but that's another story.

  5. I'd like to see you write a post/posts about when you got married to your DH and how your family dealt with the fact that you'd be switching rites. If you'd like, I mean, I'm not trying to force you to share or give you more work.

    My parents know, obviously, that I don't attend RC anymore (and they don't attend any church anymore, period), but my mom has come with us to a DL, so she's now familiar with it. She also knows that our kids won't have three separate sacraments, but I'm sure when the time comes, she'll forget or need more explanation. My extended family is another story. I'm not sure what they know--it's not like we sit around and discuss religion--I mentioned something recently to my aunts about how I'm not Roman Catholic anymore and no one blinked. But there was a lot of commotion in the room, so it could be that no one heard. Or, no one cared.

  6. We have had mixed results with Roman-rite priest and our children receiving the Eucharist, although it has overall been positive. During the most recent experience, my husband approached the priest to let him know that we have a 5 year old who will be receiving Communion. He was holding the one year old, and the three year old was playing nearby. Father just asked if they would be receiving, too. We usually don't even approach the priest about the issue until they are asking to receive, as it comes up so rarely, but I was grateful to him for his knowledge and understanding of the situation, and willingness to work with us. In the local diocese, there seems to be a trend toward younger Confirmation (2nd grade, along with 1st Communion). It isn't extremely common yet, but it is becoming more so. Hopefully, as parents (and priests) receive catechesis on this subject, they can also be introduced to other ancient traditions of the Church.

  7. about talking with Roman-rite priest so the little ones can receive-
    we go so rarely (really just the two weeks of Nutcracker dress rehearsal and performance) that it isn't worth it- and this parish is a mega-parish where the priests probably don't recognize a lot of their parishioners

  8. Sadly, my Byz bro-in-law informs the priest that his children are Orthodox so that they can receive. He says that this is acceptable to the priest; and the times he has told the truth the children were denied. -F

  9. F- the priest who gives the 'orthodox' children the Eucharist would be surprised perhaps to know that it is a very rare Orthodox person who deigns to receive at a Catholic Mass- and we Catholics (of any rite)are not permitted to receive at an Orthodox Liturgy--- no wonder Jesus' prayer was 'that they all may be one as we are one'

  10. wow! the woman who suggested rcia... i have no words. the fact that i'm lutheran and knew there were multiple rites (and did even before discovering your blog) says something about the crappy catechisis of a number of parishes.

  11. How sad. I watched a video about baptism with my confirmation students (Latin Rite) and I remember that it specifically discussed how historically and still in the Eastern Rites children receive all their sacraments at once. I also said that there is talk (there's always talk) about changing the order of things since in RCIA the order for adults is different than children. It's baptism, confirmation, then communion (which is the traditional way).

    If those two ladies knew enough (I assume they are cradle Latin-rite), then they'd know all that stuff from their own catechism classes. But I'm guess nobody got that "deep" with them.

    I could only imagine what reaction they would have had if you told them that you were a Roman Catholic. That would have made for an interesting discussion.

  12. I'm not surprised the well-meaning women suggested RCIA. I am saddened by it, though. We've lost the sense of continuity and antiquity of our traditions. I only know of the Eastern Catholic Churches because they were a topic in a college history class on the Eastern Roman Empire. I didn't hear about them in my Parish's substitute for RCIA.

    My wife, a cradle-Catholic, laments how little she was taught about the richness of our faith. She knew what to do, with little of the why, and she had absolutely no sense of the rich tradition of the Western Church and no concept an Eastern Church. Religious education is hard, particularly when the program is not integrated with a school.

    While my children are in a better program than my wife was, I expect any formal religious education will cover the Eastern Churches as a footnote, at best.

  13. Roman kids throw fits about not getting to receive Jesus too. If there is one thing that tempts me to leave the Catholic Church for Orthodoxy, it's this.

    You should have gone to the RCIA booth and offered to do a presentation on the Eastern Churches. :) Even the best religious educators cannot be experts on everything. The junior high religion teacher at the school where I taught really tried, but having never been to Divine Liturgy and knowing very few (if any) Eastern Catholics, she was kind of out of her element. Our DRE/RCIA director was the same way.

  14. Preoteasa,

    I am not surprised by this at all. It even happens in families. I have heard the story of a much loved uncle who is Byzantine Rite (and a regular church goer) being visited by his 16 year old niece, whose mother is a very nice Roman Rite Catholic, but is very much into happy clappy "liturgy".

    The niece has recently announced that she is now an atheist, and one of her aims was to avoid going to church. The uncle was speaking with the mother, who gave instructions that niece was to be taken to church on Sunday, but it had to be in the Roman Rite, not Byzantine Rite, and in the vernacular, and preferably happy clappy. So the uncle had to give up beautiful music, good liturgy to be subjected to the blandness of guitars and emotion with a blancmange of a sermon.

    And this is not uncommon.

    What is also not uncommon (at least in the country I am living in) is that many Catholics of the happy clappy sort will gladly join with Baptists, Pentecostalists and other heretics in worship, but refuse to have anything to do with Eastern Catholics or other Orthodox Christians. It has more to do with familiarity.


  15. I'm a Latin. I don't get the whole thing about not allowing kids to receive Holy Communion. I'm 27 and I know two-year-olds who understand the Mystery better than I do!!!

    You might want to talk to the priest and explain that your children usually receive Holy Communion...


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