Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Diversity in the Church: Part 2

The Catholic Church is one, holy, catholic (universal) and apostolic
Let's contrast the meaning of "one" and "catholic/universal." When I asked the question, "diversity in the Church-can you handle it?" yesterday, I was really thinking of the universality of the Church and what that really means. Yes, the Church is one, but also universal. This means that we Catholics have essential aspects in common (certain liturgical actions, moral doctrine, importance of both Bible and sacred tradition, the dogma of a male priesthood) but because we are universal there should be an openness to a great diversity or universality- and this goes beyond welcoming those with different skin colors, languages and cultures into our own parish.
This means that not everybody sings Gift of Finest Wheat during the Eucharist. This means that not everybody uses a lasso during the wedding ceremony. This means that not everybody celebrates feasts on the same day and not everybody gets 'ashed' on the first Wednesday of Lent. We like to pretend that our parish is the 'way it is done'- not realizing that there is a big world out there with different valid ways to worship as a Catholic (even as a 'conservative' Catholic- I say Gift of Finest Wheat might be fine even while I prefer other songs but ten foot puppets and Lord of the Dance and liturgical dance are not Catholic ways to worship during the Mass. Maybe around the campfire?)
Most Catholics stand during the Gospel, but some sometimes kneel. Most Catholics kneel during the Eucharistic prayer, but some stand. Some Catholics fast about two days a year; some fast almost a third of the year. Some Latin-rite Novus Ordo churches use extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist and altar girls, others don't. Some Tridentine parishes use a 'dialogue' style in their Mass, others don't. Many Byzantine parishes have no benches- and hence- no kneelers. Other Byzantine parishes are navigating the difficulties of de-latinization by introducing the Akathist even while still praying the rosary as a community. Some Byzantine parishes use boy altar servers while others only allow men at the altar. 
I pray that we are seeing a time of unity in the Church. The SSPX are in talks with the Holy Father. If they are united with Rome, their Liturgy won't change. Perhaps they will work with FSSP (a Tridentine- 'old' Latin-rite order in union with Rome). The Anglican ordinate is another group that is adding to both the unity and diversity of the Church. Perhaps more Orthodox groups will come into unity as well! It is well and good to prefer where one is. It is well and good that you love your parish (I pray you do!) and your little parish family, but the Church does not stop there. The world is a big place. Get out of your comfort zone. Go to a daily Mass or prayer service at a parish (and maybe even rite) that is not your own. Expose your children to the 'Italian' church in town even though you are Irish. Visit the Romanian Byzantine parish's church festival even if you are Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic. Tell them priest's wife sent you!
Coptic Catholic
photos from &
This quotation, falsely attributed to St Augustine, can be a great help with the diversity 'problem.' The first important idea is "in all things, charity." So I suppose it follows that we must tolerate and love our Church family members who sing off key, obsess over birthday cakes, and speak our language with a heavy accent as we hope that others are merciful over our own foibles.  But then there is the dilemma- what is essential and what is non-essential? For Liturgical Christians and fellow Catholics of all rites- what do you say is essential?


  1. This is true diversity at its best. Seeing all the different expressions of Faith are wonderful and scary. There's so much to learn about in this wonderful world we were born into. Our minds were meant to wonder at all sorts of people and beliefs, yet belong to Him and try to make Him known through our lives, lived for Him. I'm fortunate to have a firm enough foundation to learn these things, probably it's my "advanced" age and ways of believing I've experienced, and understand how they fit or don't fit into my life. Great picture post. Food for much thought.

    1. I'm sad I am so busy on the weekends- I'd like to visit the Armenian and Coptic- they aren't that far away!

  2. my example of 'essential' and 'non-essential'- for Catholics- not using artificial birth control in marriage is essential to our faith but the rest is marriage, we can be 'providentialist'- we can use NFP (of many different methods) to space pregnancies- we can live as 'brother and sister' for a time

  3. Gah I posted my comment before you posted the words! I thought it was just pictures! Good thing I came back here to see if there were more comments.

    I guess we're pretty diverse as we've gone Roman many times, Ukrainian Byzantine a few times AND even once to a Latin Mass, even though we're Ruthenian. We want to go to an Orthodox DL...just to see how similar they are. But we'd have to make sure we also went to our DL too. The husband went a few times when he was younger with his step-grandfather.

  4. But to answer your question at the end...

    Essential: The Body of Christ AND the Blood of Christ. The Creed. The Gospel. A Priest. QUIET :) (and NOT from the kids, from the ELDERS!!!! Lining up for Communion is NOT social hour!)

    Non-essential: Singing. Chanting. Two readings before the Gospel. Altar servers. Deacons. Instruments. "Smells & bells." Tons of people.

    However, I don't know if my essentials/non-essentials are skewed as I've worshipped on both sides. Someone who's been ONLY to one Rite might have a much different list.

  5. I have been only to Latin rite, not because of choice, but because of location. I would enjoy seeing how the other rites worsip. As for essentials, as Rabbit listed The Eucharist as celebrated in the consecration of the Mass, the Creed, The Gospel. items that are of importance, quiet, and wearing respectful clothing and shoes, ( if you don't have them, fine, but when I know you have more money then you can shake a stick at, and still look like you borrowed from your daughters closet and wearing flip flops, well really)

    non- essential but nice to have: chanting, singing,

    completely unacceptable, bands, puppets, lack of respect on the part of adults. kids... they don't know better, until they have been properly shown.

    I have more then once mentioned to some friends who are either non practicing Catholics, or other denominations, "Catholic means here comes everyone." we may have small individual traditions (small t) but the essentials are the same.

    1. ladytats- even within the Latin-rite and one parish, there can be a lot of diversity- my first church (Latin-rite) had an early Mass with just a cantor, a folk Mass, a choir Mass, a Spanish-language Mass and a Vietnamese Mass and a 'last chance' Mass with lots of college students on Sundays. But even within the same Mass, you are right- 'here comes everybody'- and Jesus died for us all, so let's love each other!

  6. That's a good point...even in a "regular, old" Roman rite Mass, with a pretty heterogeneous population (ethnically speaking) you could have people who go every day, people who go every Sunday, people who go once a month, etc.

  7. I LOVE the diversity that our Church offers, but I have great, great difficulty with those within the Church who think their way is the "most true" way.

    1. I'm mulling over a post for Monday about the 'non-essentials' in the Catholic Church

  8. Lost my comment and trying again (with brevity). Before I went away to college, I would have described myself as a "child of Vatican II." I was attracted to liturgical reverence, but felt comfortable in the presence of drums/guitars in one parish and piano in another. I thought that singing a song in Spanish was diverse. The more familiar I become with true diversity in the church (the Novus Ordo, The Carmelites, the Russians, the Benedictines, the Romanians, the Greeks, the Tridentine Mass, the Antiochians) the more I believe that "smells and bells" and chanting (when God provides a chanter, ahem) are "essentials." Reverence is non-negotiable. I find myself increasingly uncomfortable with my discomfort at some parishes where things are relaxed and modern. Lord have mercy.

    (I love how you contrasted "one" with "catholic." I've been pondering these lines of the creed and this dichotomy is very helpful. Thank you.)


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