Finding Freedom Through Unbound

I am weak! I need freedom from my weakness. This is how I used to think. Now I am attempting to embrace my weakness.

No, I am not throwing myself a pity party, nor am I being self-deprecating. Rather I am attempting to exercise my freedom. Confused? Let me explain.

Society states that what is important is success, wealth, and happiness. Al these things we should strive to grasps or possess. But what if you don’t have those things? Are you helpless? Are you unlovable or discontent?

These are the thoughts I wrestle with and it is easy for me to fall into despair. Yet the good news of Jesus Christ frees us from these thoughts and attitudes. It tells me that it is okay to be weak. The God, who loved me, created me with all my imperfections, doubts and fears. Freedom comes when we receive the good news.

How I viewed Freedom

Often it’s easy to view freedom as walking away from something rather than walking towards someone. I heard the following example:

Imagine you are a slave. You are being bided on when out of the corner of your eye you see a man. He pays the highest price for you. You cautiously go up to the man worried about your fate. Then you hear the words, “I freed you.” The man tells you to go live your life, but don’t fall into slavery.

I know that in my own life that is how I viewed God. To me, God is like the man, who paid the highest price. I thought I was right with God if I did not fall into sin. Yet my thought process is slowly changing.

“ Freedom is not just the absence of slavery to sin, but the presence of a love relationship with God”

My thought process began to change when reading the above quote. While I strive to not sin, to be in freedom requires more. It requires a relationship with God my father.

Freedom Through Unbound

I first read the quote in the workbook for the Unbound course; so what is Unbound?

Unbound is a book and class that offers Christians a practical guide to Deliverance. Now when my small group leader approached me about doing this course, I had no opinion. I didn’t really know about deliverance.

Honestly, If I had known I probably would have stayed away. I tend to be rational and logical. I am not the type of person to diagnose every problem as a spiritual disease.

But I knew nothing and therefore have sat through three lessons on deliverance. So what is deliverance?

Neal Lozano defines deliverance as, “ the breaking of power behind habitual patterns of thinking and acting that limit our freedom to accept God’s love and turn away from that which blocks His love.”1

Thus deliverance is much less about casting out evil spirits. Rather it is about renouncing the lies the spirits make us believe.

What I Want From Unbound

I am excited about the journey. God wants to deliver me from lies of my own making. I have come to realize that I lack trust in God’s promises. I want to be able to say with the Psalmist:

Even though I walk through the valley

of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff

they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 (RSV second Catholic edition)

I want to know that God’s got me regardless of the circumstances. I think renouncing fear will help me trust God’s goodness. Renouncing perfectionism will help me rely on God and not myself.

I am weak, but my God is strong.

  1. Neal Lozano, Unbound: A Practical Guide to Deliverence(Chosen Books 2010), 67

Click here if you want to learn more about freedom.

Misogynistic Attitudes in the Catholic Church

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, “the church is misogynistic.” It treats women differently. It sees women as nothing more than baby incubators.

As a woman, who hopes to work in ministry, I see more men than women leaders. A look at the top Catholic apologetics proves my point; they are all men for the most part.

Yet it has not always been that way.

I remember being challenged and intrigued by St Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle. Thus, I believe the church as always given a voice to women in ministry. It’s not always single women either. In fact, my confirmation saint, Elizabeth Seton, was a mother and widow before founding the sisters of charity. She founded the first Catholic free school in America. Oh, and I can’t forget that she was a convert like me.

So there has been and always will be a bunch of amazing Catholic women in the church. So where is this supposed misogynistic attitude coming from?

Confronting Misogynistic Attitudes

So I am facebook friends with this guy, who created a facebook group for Catholic converts. We agree on almost everything except women in ministry. He argues that women cannot teach men. Respectfully I believe this is a misinterpretation of St Paul.

Is St Paul Misogynistic?

A lot of liberal progressive Christian’s dismiss the writings of St. Paul. They claim that his opinion regarding women reflects a misogynistic culture. Yet everyone is cool with St. Paul when he writes,

”There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

Basically, you can’t agree with St Paul only when he says things you agree with and only claim cultural misogyny when you disagree. Instead, let’s look at some conflicting passages.

St Paul’s writings

” Women should keep silent in the churches, for they are not allowed to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. But if they want to learn anything, they should ask their husbands at home. For it is improper for a woman to speak in the church. Did the word of God go forth from you? Or has it come to you alone?” 1st Corinthians 14:34

Ok, this looks bad in modern society.

How can a person say that men and women are one under Christ and demand silence? Furthermore, St Paul contradicts himself in the same letter.

1st Corinthians 11:5, “But any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled brings shame upon her head, for it is one and the same thing as if she had had her head shaved”

If women are to be kept silent, then why are they praying and prophesying out loud to God. Has St. Paul gone crazy?

No, of course not.

1st Corinthians 14:34 refers to certain duties such as giving homilies. Women were not to speak within sacred structured worship. Rather a male clergy was commissioned to preach and teach. This is true of Jewish synagogues and is also true of the early church.

Modern Day Catholic Church: Still Misogynistic?

Catechism on Women

When I began writing this, I wanted to know what the Catechism said about women’s role in the church.

Surprisingly I didn’t find much.

Man and woman have been created, which is to say, willed by God: on the one hand, in perfect equality as human persons; on the other, in their respective beings as man and woman. “Being a man” or “being a woman” is a reality which is good and willed by God: man and woman possess an inalienable dignity which comes to them immediately from God their Creator.240 Man and woman are both with one and the same dignity “in the image of God”. In their “being-man” and “being-woman”, they reflect the Creator’s wisdom and goodness. (CCC 369)

So there is just one paragraph on men and women’s roles. The Catechism emphasizes the shared dignity of both men and women. Yet, it also stresses the being a man or being a woman is willed by God. This seems to imply an inherent difference.

Code of Canon Law: Women

According to the 1917 Code of Canon law and the 1912 encyclopedia article, women were not capable of receiving sacred orders. Thus, women were forbidden from ministering at the altar.

In religious and moral matters, the common obligations and responsibilities of men and women are the same. There is not one law for a man and another for a woman, and in this, of course, the canons follow the teachings of Christ. Women, however, are not capable of certain functions pertaining to religion.

I will address why women are not capable of sacred orders in my next blog post. For now, let’s accept that as a valid claim. Yet women do serve the altar in most modern masses. How is that possible?

Enter Code of canon law of 1983.

Canon law 230 section 2 is the problem. It states that both male and females can serve as liturgical functions on a temporary basis.

Since section 2 does not specify gender; it is okay for females to be altar servers on a volunteer basis.

In traditional Catholicism, altar servers were considered to be a minor religious order required in order to be a priest. Now they are on a volunteer basis.

Future of the Catholic Church

I live in a world where women pretend to be like men to survive. Thus, it can seem wrong to claim that men and women are made differently. It can seem wrong that men may be better at something. So when the church yet again stops women from serving, the world will cry out that the church is misogynistic. Yet we faithful Catholics know the truth. We know that we have a special role to play beyond the altar.

To learn more about amazing women doctors of the church,
check out this article here

Adoration with monstrance

Adoration is my favorite devotion, why?

Imagine a date with Jesus.

You get dress up because you want to look nice for the king. You arrive early because you don’t want to keep the king waiting. Sitting across from Jesus, you wonder what to say to the creator of the universe. All of a sudden, he speaks. He asks you, how are you doing? At first, you try to give a generic answer, but Jesus is having none of it. He wants the truth.

Through Eucharistic adoration, I’ve been on that date.

What is Adoration?

I began adoration at the 24-hour chapel. Admittedly I was nervous. Despite being an introvert, staying one hour in silence did not sound appealing. Yet I had wanted to challenge myself. In Matthew Kelly’s book, Rediscovering Catholicism, he challenges the reader to devote one hour to adoration.

Thus, it began as a challenge

Radical Encounter

It turned into a radical encounter with the Lord

And he came to his disciples and found them sleeping and he said to Peter, “So could you not watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray so that you may not fall into temptation; the spirit is willing but the flesh is indeed weak” Matthew 26:40-41

I have been tempted. I have heard the lies whispered in the shadows of the night.

Satan tells me that I am:

  • unworthy
  • unlovable
  • should be anxious about my future

Yet for the one hour in front of the blessed sacrament, I get to lay all of that down in front of the king of the universe. Jesus, who loves me, wants desperately to hear me and spend time with me. He tells me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

Jesus came so that you can have an abundant life. He doesn’t want you to fall into the lies of the evil one. I challenge you to spend one hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament weekly. Your life will be forever changed.

Ecumenism: Why I attend Protestant praise and Worship concerts

blue and pink lights shine as people perform on stage. The word Jesus is in the background. The crowd has hands lifted up

# Introduction

What Is Ecumenism

Ecumenism promotes the idea that Jesus calls all Christian denominations to unity. Jesus speaks of this in John 17:20-21

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

Vatican II stressed that a valid baptism makes our Protestants one in the Catholic faith. The question remains, what does that look like practically speaking? I have encountered fruitful ecumenical relationships by attending praise and worship events.

Bridge Live Worship Night

I was on the outreach team for New Creation Charismatic fraternity. We had decided to host a praise and worship concert. After reaching out numerous bands, we booked Bridge Live. Ryan Knight is the lead singer and worship pastor. I heard about the night of worship because Ryan and I had become Facebook friends. I decided to attend to support him since his band had supported us.
Unlike most Catholics, I have no problem attending protestant nights of worship. As a convert, I have experience with raising hands, dancing, praying over people, and speaking in tongues. None of those activities freak me out or make me uncomfortable. Thus it is easier for me to blend in and go with the flow

Radical Encounter or Emotionalism

A lot of potential ecumenicalism gets lost due to skepticism. Catholics are skeptical about the advert emotionalism on display at these events. St. Teresa of Avila once said, “From silly devotions and sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us.” God gave us emotions and joy is one of the fruits of the spirit. Thus I would rather believe the joy I receive from these events is authentic. I receive the same joy from adoration of the blessed sacrament.

When I attended the night of worship on July 22nd, I had a powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit. The pastor had prayed from an outpouring of the Holy Spirit to fall upon us. He prayed that we would bring renewal to our churches. Afterward, the band just played instrumental music while others continued to invite the Holy Spirit into their lives. Most Catholics never have such an encounter. A consequence of making confirmation into an educational program rather than a relationship. Most Catholic apologetics dismiss these encounters as illegitimate. We are better off helping fit such encounters into sacramental theology. Thus, I appreciate and support the efforts of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal

Being Unapologetically Catholic

I have learned that I must maintain my Catholic identity in order to not lose myself too deeply. When asked, I always insist that I am Catholic. This leads to some surprised looks. When the associate pastor introduced me to his wife and kids, he said, “this is Sarah and she’s Catholic.” The wife was instantly curious. She asked a lot of questions. She was curious about the Mass. She wanted to know how I could enjoy both when the Mass is so different. I explained that I was a convert so that I was used to this worship style. Rather I had to get used to the Mass, but there were other avenues in the Church for Charismatic expression. She asked me why I had converted. I shared my love for The Eucharist and how I believed it was the real body and blood of Christ.

Conclusion

Dialogue like the one above I believe is important for bridging the gap. I believe they respected me more because I participated in praising and worshiping Jesus. I prayed for them and with them and they also prayed for me. In the midst of supporting one another, we were able to discuss key differences. I’m aware that it does not always work out this way. I had a friend, who had attended a Protestant service. While there, a member had accused her of not being Christian or reading the Bible. Ignorance does exist. If they never see us or interact with us will it ever be corrected? We need more ecumenical worship events.

Why Praise and Worship is Important to Catholics

Left side is man raising hands praising and right side is a church choir practicing

Introduction

Catholics tend to criticize praise and worship music. I’ve heard it described as sappy emotionalism that has no place in worship. Catholic rightfully criticize its presence in Mass. Yet, praise and worship may have a legitimate place in Catholic spirituality. St. Paul speaks of spiritual songs in Colossians 3:16

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God

According to this verse, we are to keep the words of Christ in us. St. Paul offers two ways of doing so by teaching and admonishing each other and through singing. According to Paul, we are to sing: 1. Psalms, 2. Hymns, and 3. Spiritual songs. Most Catholics are familiar with singing Psalms and hymns because it happens at Mass. Yet, I’m sure the concept of spiritual songs would confuse most Catholics. I argue that hymns are distinct from Spiritual songs. I also argue that one needs both in order to “let the word of God dwell in us.” Praise and worship songs fall under the category of spiritual songs. I will use both spiritual songs and praise and worship interchangeably. First, I need to explain the difference between Hymns and Spiritual songs.

What are hymns

Hymns are a piece of music that the church uses to give glory to God. In a Catholic context, a piece of music qualifies as a hymn when it also qualifies as Sacred Music. A hymn qualifies when it is: 1. Holy, 2. Has beauty of form and 3. Is universal.1 Traditionally the church only allowed for Gregorian chant and Polyphony. Since Vatican II, the church has allowed newer composition. Newer compositions do not automatically include modern songs. To understand why we need to understand the philosophy behind beauty of forms.

The criteria that allow Forms to be Beautiful 2

The philosophy of Thomas Aquinas helps define these criteria. If you hate philosophy, you may want to skip this section as the concept can get pretty confusing. Aquinas stated that a person conceptualizes beauty. A person bases beauty on actuality, proportion, radiance, and integrity.

Actuality

Aquinas argues that everything is beautiful in proportion to its own form. Every object that exists has a form. A form helps distinguish different objects. For example, the body of a human takes a different shape than the body of a dog. When a human possesses all the correct body parts, that is beautiful according to form. The object must have action. In other words, the object must be doing a thing that makes it different from other objects. A dog must be acting like a dog. A human must be acting like a human. So to summarize, actuality requires existence, a form, and action. All this is necessary for anything to have beauty.

Proportion

This pertains to the idea that all the parts relate to the whole in a balanced way. Going back to our human example again. We can imagine a human with all the typical body parts, but those parts are out of proportion. For example, if one arm is longer than the body, then it would be impractical and not beautiful.

Radiance

Radiance refers to the shine that comes from the object and seizes the attention of the beholder. Music has radiance when it captures the attention of the listener.

Integrity

An object has integrity in two ways. The object must be perfect concerning it’s being. Likewise, the object must be perfect in operation. In other words, the object is not missing anything.

Hymns conclusion

So, Aquinas laid the groundwork to argue for an objective nature of beauty. So the church states reference the above criteria to determine beauty of form. If an object has beauty of form then it will have universality. Holiness refers to the purpose of the music, which is to give glory to God alone. So a perfect hymn must honor God, be beautiful to everyone. At the very least it must honor God and be in harmony like choir music.

Are praise and worship considered spiritual songs

These are songs inspired by the Holy Spirit. They are spontaneous and have no proportionality. They incorporate multiple instruments. Modern praise and worship music incorporates all of these characteristics. One such example would be Bethel, who will often sing spontaneously. They also create a mashup of two different songs. Catholic artist also performs this style of music. One artist that comes to mind is Emmanuel worship. Some people will mention that praise and worship are repetitive and emotional. This serves the purpose of spiritual songs. Spiritual songs help us reflect on God and his relationship with us. Hymns on the other hand help give God honor and praise. Thus spiritual songs are more meditative. Repeating over and over that God is a good father may sound simplistic, but it helps internalize the truth.

Conclusion

My frustration as of late stems from Catholics wanting to have their cake and eat it too. Some want traditional chants and to look down on praise and worship. Others want the mass to incorporate praise and worship. The songs may not be appropriate to function as a hymn. The former while correct denies the power of praise and worship. The latter waters down the Mass. I would like to see a balance. I would like to see beautiful harmonized music during Mass. The church can also have monthly spontaneous worship events. Yes, I can listen to praise and worship in my own time. Yet, there is something exuberant about worshiping spontaneously with the body of Christ.

Why Mass under 40 Min?

Why Mass under 40 Min, Pope Francis’ unusual request

Introduction

I attend the 9am Sunday mass on 9/16/18. I got out at 10:05am. I guess I should alert my bishop. My parish is refusing to adhere to Pope Francis’ guidelines about the Mass. Cindy Wood, Catholic News Service’s Rome Bureau Chief, tweeted out the following:

#PopeFrancis in Sicily garners big applause when he says a homily shouldn’t last more than 8 minutes. “A 40-minute homily? NO. The whole Mass should last about 40 minutes!

When I saw this, my blood began to boil. This tweet gave me the inspiration to address the elephant in the room. Why is there a pervasive apathy in Catholic culture to the Mass?

This apathy stems from two intertwined issues. First, the Mass as an obligation and second a lack of understanding about the point behind Mass.

Mass as Obligation

I must admit there are days, where I do not want to attend Sunday Mass. I find it especially hard when I have not slept well or I do not feel well. Yet I choose to still attend, why? Sometimes I feel guilty. However, the guilt is not because I would be neglecting an obligation imposed on me by the church. Rather my guilt is the same response I would have if I neglected a friend. Mass is one of the only times Jesus gets to feed me through his word and body. Just like you wouldn’t want to rush time spent with a friend, why do you want to rush spending time with Jesus.

Yet so many Catholics attend Mass out of obligation. They attend because it is something they’ve always done or because they are afraid of sinning. Now fear of hell is not necessarily a bad reason. After all, fear of hell is an important motivator for imperfect contrition. Yet we should strive for perfect contrition or the idea that we can motivate ourselves out of pure love for God. We should strive to attend Mass out of pure love for God. If that is our motivation then we should be able to spend at least an hour with God.

Protestant Experience

As a convert, I attended Protestant worship services. The top criticisms I heard about those services from Catholics is that 1. They express interest in entertainment only and 2. The attitude of the people are fake. In response to the latter, I know from my own personal experience that I did not fake my attitude. I was genuinely happy to be there. I think a major difference was that I actively chose to be there. I didn’t need it. Most Protestant churches either live stream their services or record it. One does not need to attend to hear the message. If so, then why do so many people attend. I know for myself I attended for the community; I felt like the church wanted me.

Shortening the Mass to 40 minutes is a short-term solution to a long-term problem. Catholics need to reclaim a desire for the liturgy and community. Shortening the Mass may make it more convenient, but it will not change hearts. Catholics need to feel like they’re wanted at church. They need to feel like Church is feeding them.

The dual purpose of Mass

The church divides Mass into two parts: The Liturgy of The Word, and The Liturgy of The Eucharist. During the Liturgy of the Word, The lector reads scripture and the priest gives the homily. During the Liturgy of the Eucharist one brings up the gifts. Then, the priest consecrates the host. Finally The extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist distribute the host to the faithful. The priest gives the homily from the ambo and consecrates from the altar. The ambo and the altar represent the two tables by which the church feeds faithful. Hence the point of mass is to feed on the word of God and the Eucharist

The Homily

The Homily assists in the overarching goal of Mass. According to the General Instructions on the Roman Missal,

“Although in the readings from Sacred Scripture the Word of God is addressed to all people of whatever era and is understandable to them, a fuller understanding and a greater efficaciousness of the word is nevertheless fostered by a living commentary on the word, that is, by the Homily, as part of the liturgical action.”

Thus the homily offers a living commentary. This commentary includes a reflection on all the readings, not just the gospels. Priests have the responsibility to present us with this commentary regardless of time-constants. I would rather hear a well-researched well-articulated- passionate long homily, than a short 8-minute reflection. We, as Catholics, should not concern ourselves with the length of the homily. Rather, we should ask does it speak the truth, does it help me understand the scriptures, and does it convict.

Conclusion

The tweet reminded me of the story in Acts 20:9-10

“And a certain young man named Eutychus, seated by the window, was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell from the third story and was picked up dead. But Paul went down, threw himself on the young man, and embraced him. “Do not be alarmed!” he said. “He is still alive!”…”

I wonder if Pope Francis would criticize St. Paul. His homilies were so long that a parishioner fainted out a window and died. We need to have a hunger and desire for the word of God. We need to demand living commentary regardless of how long they take.

Liturgy: How to restore Balance:

Last week I attended a potluck with New Creation Charismatic Fraternity.  While at the potluck I struck up an interesting conversation with a fellow convert to the Catholic faith. He, being much older than I, shared with me some insightful commentary on the liturgy. He made the statement that as a high Episcopalian he feels he has downgraded in terms of liturgical quality. This statement comes as no surprise to me; however, it makes me sad. How is it that the Catholic Church known for its beautiful art and music produce such mediocre liturgies; the likes of which causes my friend to feel as if he has downgraded? 

Liturgy as a play

We can imagine the liturgy as like a play. If we went to a play with ugly props, and a bad score,  you would either leave or demand a refund. Yet so many people attend parishes that either have tacky decorations from the 70’s (felt banners anyone?) or no decorations at all. We attend parishes, where the music is bad and uninspired.  If the liturgy were a play, we should demand our money back. Luckily for parishes, the liturgy is not on equal footing with a play. One does not attend for entertainment value, but to receive the nourishment that comes from partaking in the Eucharist. However, even though entertainment is not our ultimate goal, reverence does demand a certain quality to the liturgy that I feel is lacking from today’s parishes. For that reason, I seek to address two questions: why should we care about the liturgy and what would my ideal liturgy look like?

What is the liturgy and why is it important?

Introduction

One of my blog readers wrote in the comments, “as long as Christ and unamended Scripture are at the center, I’m less concerned if the music comes from a little blue-haired lady at an organ or a bearded dude playing an electric guitar wearing skinny jeans.” This begs the question, aren’t certain aspects of the liturgy culturally subjective? Why should we care what the music sounds like or what the sanctuary looks like as long as the Mass is valid?

Licit verse valid: what is the difference.

I’ve gone over valid and licit in the past, but I will provide a brief recap. A valid Mass is one in which the priest says the words necessary for the bread and the wine to be consecrated. These words are: this is my body…this is my blood. A licit mass is one in which none of the rules outlined in the General Instructions of the Roman Missal are violated. These rules allow the liturgy to be uniformly celebrated. A uniformed liturgy separates Catholicism from Evangelical Protestantism. Hence as Catholics, we have a right to demand a universal experience not depended on the whims of the congregation or the preferences of the priests. 

Liturgy and our Christian call

Not only is the liturgy defined by the church, but it also encompasses our call as Christians.

Those who with God’s help have welcomed Christ’s call and freely responded to it are urged on by love of Christ to proclaim the Good News everywhere in the world. This treasure, received from the apostles, has been faithfully guarded by their successors. All Christ’s faithful are called to hand it on from generation to generation, by professing the faith, by living it in fraternal sharing, and by celebrating it in liturgy and prayer. (The Catechism of the Catholic church, “prologue” section I paragraph 4 pg. 8)  

The Catechism cites Acts 2:42 as a reference. This scripture states that “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and to prayer.” The Catholic Church seeks to retain the practice of the early church through its liturgy. Every liturgy contains the reading of scripture, including a reading from the apostles typically Paul. Every liturgy includes prayer; those said by the priest and those recited by the faithful. Every liturgy contains the breaking of the bread through the shared eucharistic meal.

Christian Liturgy has dual dimensions 

The Catechism describes the tension present in the liturgy.

On the one hand, the Church, united with her Lord and “in the Holy Spirit,”5 blesses the Father “for his inexpressible gift in her adoration, praise, and thanksgiving. On the other hand, until the consummation of God’s plan, the Church never ceases to present to the Father the offering of his own gifts and to beg him to send the Holy Spirit upon that offering, upon herself, upon the faithful, and upon the whole world, so that through communion in the death and resurrection of Christ the Priest, and by the power of the Spirit, these divine blessings will bring forth the fruits of life “to the praise of his glorious grace.. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The sacramental economy,” part two section one paragraph 1083, pg 281.) 

One one hand the liturgy is meant to be a joyous occasion where we give adoration, thanksgiving, and praise to God. On the other hand, it is meant to be a sacrifice in which we offer ourselves to God. Thus the liturgy should be a balance of both exuberance and solemness. It is this balance that seems missing in today’s liturgies.

Restoring balance: my ideal Liturgy

Sacred Art

 First thing I would do is restore the use of sacred art. The Catechism defines sacred art as being true and beautiful when,

its form corresponds to its particular vocation: evoking and glorifying, in faith and adoration, the transcendent mystery of God.

The current trend to remove art means that our churches no longer testify to the mysteries of God. I would like to note two things: depictions are not idolatry and art can’t replace evangelization.

Depictions of Jesus are not Idolatry

It is a common misconception that depictions of the divine constitute idolatry. We as Catholics understand that Christ’s incarnation means that we are free to detect God through the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus alluded to this himself when he declared, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the son of man must be lifted up.”John 3:14 For those not familiar with the Old Testament story Jesus references, the Israelites were suffering from snake bites due to their disobedience. God took pity on them and instructed Moses to build a bronze serpent. The Israelites were instructed to look at the serpent to be healed. This story shows that statues and icons are not idolatry in themselves, but only when they take the place of worship owed to God. 

Sacred Art Doesn’t Equal Evangelization

I disagree with those who claim that fallen away Catholics will return by the revitalization of beautiful churches or that the dwindling church attendance correlates to a lack of art. If this were the case, the cathedrals in Europe would be full and the warehouse churches would be empty. I do not think art should be used as an evangelization tool, rather I believe good art sets the tone and brings people to the truth.

Embrace digital art

I also think that the church needs to expand its definition of art to encompass web design and communications and multimedia. This would include print media. Church lobbies should not look like a bad kid’s craft project nor should bulletins contain clip art instead of pictures. Free software such as Canva can help design beautiful bulletins.   

Sacred music

Next, I would work with the music director to focus on quality music. The next time you go to Mass, I want you to focus on the date of every song used. Depending on your parish, you may get songs from the 1800’s or earlier or every song will be from the 1970’s and 80’s. I’ve always wondered why.  It seems that there has been no innovation in Catholic music since the 70’s. If you do get more current songs, it is usually from Protestant composers or Matt Maher. We need more innovation. 

Not only do we need more innovation, but we need to stop focussing on the type and style of music and focus on intent. The Catechism states that,

Song and music fulfill their function as signs in a manner all the more significant when they are “more closely connected . . . with the liturgical action,”22 according to three principal criteria: beauty expressive of prayer, the unanimous participation of the assembly at the designated moments, and the solemn character of the celebration. In this way, they participate in the purpose of the liturgical words and actions: the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful.

Contrary to popular opinion, the church does not require a specific form of music. The church does hold chant and polyphony in high esteem; however, it’s much more important that,

      1. the song fosters participation
      2. It expresses prayer
      3.  fits what is occurring in the liturgy
        1. As much as you may like an upbeat song, it is not appropriate for the moment of consecration 

For example, you may have a beautiful latin polyphony song, but if no one is singing then it fails on equal merits as a loud contemporary worship song that everyone knows.

Bring latin back

Lastly, I would bring back latin chanting for the following songs,\

      1. Kyrie
      2. Gloria 
      3. Santus
      4. Angus dei

We need to blend traditional music from our Catholic heritage with newer styles when appropriate, to invest in musical innovation and to compose hymns for this generation. 

Fellowship

I’ve been to parishes that make fellowship a priority. They are exuberant, loud, and noisy. Everyone greets each other, and they know when you are missing. Conversely, I’ve been to a church that prioritized silence. Nobody greats you, or knows your name; however, there are plenty of opportunities for contemplation and prayer. I personally think both are out of balance. Catholics seem to think that sacred silence means no fellowship. It’s a me and Jesus mentally. For these Catholics, the needs of the community are not important. I think if not kept in check this attitude can overvalue ritualistic formality over the messiness of community. For example, An elderly women consumed by praying her rosary fails to acknowledge the new person besides her. Now praying the rosary before mass is a good thing; however, loving your neighbor is the higher good. I purpose the following to achieve balance:

I would like to see the sanctuary become a silent zone. Having ushers stand outside the sanctuary door could achieve the establishment of a silent zone. They could politely tell people to please enter respectfully. On the flip side, I want to transform Catholic Narthex to look more like Protestant church’s lobbies. There should be a maned welcome desk, where newcomers can get information. There should be lounge spaces for Catholics to fellowship and a coffee bar available after mass. Parish staff should have name tags. Greeters should be at the front door of the church, welcoming everyone. Catholic parishioners should not be afraid to greet new people. 

Conclusion

I was inspired to write this post due to a series of tweets posted by Katie Prejean McGrady: https://twitter.com/KatiePrejean/status/10239663298025144320 

In this conversation, she describes how “we could argue that we don’t go to Mass to just build community but to receive the Eucharist. But the community is important too.” I think American parishes are in desperate need of balance.

What is worship?

I attended David’s tent, which is a 24-hour worship event. They have many different acts from many different Christian faith traditions performing worship songs. It provides people with an opportunity to worship and pray. There are different stations such as the dancing station, the Bible reading station, or the art station. One can choose to visit one of these stations or sit quietly soaking in God’s presence through the music. I decided to do the latter for the 8 hours I was there. For the record, I didn’t do 8 hours straight, I did 4 hours Saturday night and 4 hours Sunday afternoon. Saturday night was an interesting experience. They had scheduled a Christian music DJ to come in. A lot of people were turned off by the loudness of the music. Others questioned the talent behind it by remarking, “is he singing or just playing music?” Meanwhile, I stayed just to try it out. To me, DJing is an art, just like any other art. You have to feel the music and make sure it is in the right order. Yes, a good chunk of the songs were played straight, but some of them were mashups. The most notable was Hillsong’s Ocean and a rap song I’ve never heard before. Midway through people had started playing the bongo drums. It was a cool effect in that it sounded like thunder. It made me think about heaven and how our praise will be a mishmash of sound from all different sources.
Sometimes I wonder how will I experience heaven? Will I experience it as somber, peaceful, or serene like the Liturgy? Will I experience it as a loud joyous dance party?  Regardless of what the experience is like, I know I will experience the fullness of Jesus’ love unhindered by sin or my own unwillingness. I think experiencing different worship styles can help us focus on what truly matters, Jesus. I think exubrierent loud joyous noise can co-exist with the liturgy.  Catholic churches should offer both if for no other reason then the universal nature of music. Catholic’s fear that such praise overlies on emotions and entertainment; however, God created both as a vehicle to experience his glory. David’s tent made me realize the importance of praise and I hope that one day more Catholics learn to appreciate the benefits of such pursuits.

Is liturgy worship?

When I first became Catholic, one of the hardest things to understand was the uproar over liturgy. I had seen an ad in the bulletin for Catholic match. I had decided to try my luck. I never did have any luck romantically (online dating is hard), I did make a couple of friends. I still remember staying up to 3 am arguing with my friend about liturgy. See, my friend had a very narrow view of the liturgy. For example, he was adamant that hand-holding during  Our Father is wrong; you should wear suits to church, you should kneel during the consecration. He was always complaining that Catholics were driving miles away to other liturgically incorrect churches. Looking back I can see that he was correct about everything, but at the time all I could picture was a somber unloving church. My basic response at the time was that aren’t those a matter of worship preferences. His response was the fact that you call it worship means you understand nothing. As a baby Catholic enjoying the milk of her vibrant but liturgical irreverent parish, I was thoroughly confused. However, I have graduated to solid food and am ready to settle the debate once and for all, what is liturgy and is it worship?
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Why do we worship?

So here I am again on my podium sending my thoughts through the internet hoping that it will connect with someone. The reality is that I don’t know any more than you; in fact I probably know quite less. Yet despite my somewhat lack of inexperience, I still feel the need for my voice to be heard. You might be asking yourself, “after months of silence, why speak now?” If I’m honest, I’m asking myself the same thing. I sometimes think that my voice cannot make a difference, it doesn’t matter what I think or feel. However, I was reminded quite recently that, “Death and Life are in the power of the tongue.” (Proverbs 18:21). Thus the words I speak and write are important. I want to take the time to address a question that has been muling in my mind; what is worship and why do we worship?
This question first came to me in the middle of Lent through Redeemed online. On March     20th, the devotion challenged the reader to consider why do you go to church? The answer is obvious; as Catholics we go to church to attend Mass and receive the Eucharist; right? Apparently not, for as Father Dave explains, “we go to church to encounter Jesus.” Now I am not saying that one can’t encounter Jesus in the Eucharist or that one shouldn’t strive to encounter Jesus there, but what is more important is that there is an encounter.
If I am being honest, I have not encountered Christ in the Eucharist. I partake because I believe what Jesus said is true, which is that, “my body is real food and my blood is real drink and whoever eats from me shall have eternal life.” (John 6:55). However, I tend to personally encounter Jesus through music, message, and community. I know that I am not alone in this.
I think that as Catholics we forget this. I think that we expect people to walk in and get it and if they don’t “get it” then they shouldn’t be Catholic. However, even the I believe in every teaching of the church and I will defend her at every turn, I don’t want Mass to be a Eucharistic obligation, where I attend just to adhere to Jesus’s words,. Instead, I want to attend a Mass service, where I encounter Christ. I know that one day maybe the Eucharist will be enough for me, but until that day the church needs to make sure I have other avenue’s to encounter Christ. It reminds me of 1st Corinthians 3:2, “I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready” Some of us need the milk of the gospel and yet the church tries to give us solid food straight away.
I would like to know:

  1. why do you attend Mass?
  2. How do you encounter Christ and does Mass help you to encounter him?