catholic

Exit 181. The one time out of the year.

Last night, I was at Christmas Eve Mass at the Catholic church where I grew up.  I was thinking about how Christmas is the one time out of the year when I still attend Catholic Mass, despite having left Catholicism for evangelical Christianity at age 20, and I thought, that would be a good thing to write about this week.  But in looking at old posts about Christmas on this site, I realized I already addressed the topic two years ago (click here to read).  In that post, I focused primarily on how all the prayers and rituals of the Catholic Mass are so much more meaningful to me as an adult, now that I know more about the Bible and the history of Judaism and Christianity.

There is another question I did not answer… why do I still attend Catholic Mass on Christmas, instead of attending my own church or a church more like the ones I have attended as an adult?  Part of the reason is practical.  I am always visiting my family on Christmas, and my mom, grandma, and some combination of other relatives who are here or visiting always attend Mass on Christmas.  This year, we attended Mass on Christmas Eve because my mom does the Scripture readings at church, and that was the time that she was asked to read for.  Depending on when exactly I come to see my family, I am occasionally able to attend Christmas service at my own church as well.  This year, the church I’d been attending the last two years had an early Christmas service last Thursday, and I was going to go there as well, but I decided not to at the last minute for reasons that this isn’t the time to get into here.

I guess the other reason I haven’t stopped going to Mass on Christmas Day is because I haven’t felt a need to.  I’m worshiping Jesus and celebrating his birth with my family.  The fact that this particular group of worshipers has other views regarding transubstantiation, for example, really isn’t that big of a deal to me.

I’m going to keep this short this week and emerge from my old bedroom to see what the family is doing.  (We already opened presents last night.)  Merry Christmas to all of you.

Exit 49. Learning is the first step to understanding.

Last night I was at a friend’s housewarming party.  I got into a long and intense conversation about religion and politics with one of her college friends whom I hadn’t met before.  At first, going by some comments I had overheard her make earlier in a different conversation, I had a feeling this would be someone I disagreed with, but she turned out to be really cool.  (Note: Before you get any ideas, she’s married.  That isn’t where this story is going.)  While there were things we did not agree about, she said that it is a good thing to hear other people’s perspectives on issues.  I completely agree with this.  But that’s not where I’m going here.

At one point, she was asking about my faith background.  She is Episcopal.  For me, though, that is not an easy question to answer.  I consider myself a Christian, but I don’t consider myself tied to any one denomination.  I attended Catholic Mass until I was 20, but have mostly attended evangelical churches since then.  I am currently a member of a Baptist church.  She went on to talk about some things she likes about the Episcopal Church, and some of the differences with Catholicism.  She said that anyone can take communion in an Episcopal church, but only Catholics can take communion in a Catholic church.  I said that I still attend Catholic Mass once a year, on Christmas Day at the church of my childhood because I’m always back home visiting my parents and brother and grandmother for Christmas.  I don’t take communion at Christmas Mass, though, or any other time I have occasion to be at my parents’ house on a Sunday and go to church with Mom, out of respect for the Catholic beliefs about communion which I don’t agree with.  I took a class in college on Christian theology, from the late Dr. Lincoln Hurst, and I wrote my term paper on transubstantiation vs. memorialism and took the memorialist view.

At this point, she gave me a look and asked a question which suggested that she wasn’t following what I was talking about.  So I explained.  I explained transubstantiation, how Catholics interpret the Last Supper passages in the Bible, where Jesus breaks the bread and pours the wine and says “This is my body” and “This is my blood,” to mean that when the priest consecrates the bread and wine during mass, they miraculously become the actual body and blood of Christ somehow.  Most Baptists and Pentecostals, on the other hand, believe that communion is a memorial act, strictly symbolic of what happened on Jesus’ last night on Earth with no actual change in the nature of the bread and wine.  In researching that term paper, I rejected transubstantiation because of the wording in Mark’s version of the story.  Mark clearly writes (14:23-24) that Jesus did not say “This is my blood” until after the disciples had drank the wine.  If one is to accept that the Bible is divinely inspired, then God would have not have allowed this wording in a divinely inspired manuscript, and those who compiled the Bible would not have considered this wording to be canonical, unless transubstantiation was never intended to be an essential doctrine.  Again, this is merely the opinion I put forth in a term paper I wrote at age 21, so if you disagree, I’m not going to try to change your mind.  These differences, I explained, were one of the first points of dissension between Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans in the early days of the Protestant Reformation.

Anyway, the girl I was talking to last night, she said, “I never knew that.  I always just thought Catholics were being mean.”

I’ve found over the years that many things that confuse and frustrate people, causing them to complain, have rational explanations behind them.  While not all of the explanations are good excuses for why things are the way they are, it helps to understand the history behind something before you complain about it or try to change it.  You think that the President of the United States should be chosen by a direct popular vote instead of the Electoral College?  Learn about the history of the Electoral College and the Connecticut Compromise, and about the difference between a democracy and a republic, a federation and a confederation, and which ones apply to the United States.  You find the US system of measurement confusing and wonder why it takes 12 inches to make a foot, instead of 10 like the metric system, since calculating with 10s is so much easier (in base 10)?  Learn about the Romans and their system of numbers, beyond I and V and X, and how they wrote all fractions in twelfths, because twelfths can be grouped evenly into halves, thirds, or fourths, whereas tenths cannot.  You live in Sacramento and wonder why there are two Highway 80s?  Learn about the Interstate Highway system, and what a business route is, and why the route numbers of these two routes were changed in 1983.  Now learning about these things doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll change your mind; I could probably tell you more about the reason there are two Highway 80s in Sacramento than 99% of Sacramento County residents, yet I still think that the numbers should be changed.  But, no matter what the issue, learning is the first step to understanding, which is crucial if any meaningful changes are to be made.