Catholics have more than one way to pray and more than one sacrament. Yet it often seems as if our only prayer is the Mass and our only sacrament is the Eucharist. According to some liturgists, the worship style mainline Protestant churches use was adapted from a form of evening prayer and preaching Catholic churches used in the 15th century. And today we have the Liturgy of the Hours, Taizé prayer, solemn benediction, an increasingly common praise and worship style, and all sorts of other traditions. But one would hardly know it from the schedule posted at most Catholic parishes: “Mass times.” Mass and Eucharist itself are indeed the source and summit, but endless repetition punctuated by Stations of the Cross on Fridays in Lent runs the risk of taking the splendor and majesty of the Mass for granted rather than letting it truly be the source and summit of our worship. Similarly, in so many of our churches it seems as if our only instrument is the electric organ, played in a certain style. But our church has been around for two millennia and instruments of all kinds have come and gone, just as singing styles have ebbed and flowed. In our own time there is increasing use of electronic and digital media, something to which the church will adapt and become accustomed in the same way it has done case with other great cultural and technological transformations. Today, worldwide—never mind across different time periods—we know more than ever that Catholicism is about unity, not uniformity. Yet if we were truly convinced of our unity, comfortable in our Catholic diversity, and focused on building a flourishing church, wouldn’t we more frequently have different sorts of public worship during the week, different ways to worship through music, and a true openness to catholicity, the universality of human expression? © 2008, Bryan Froehle.
Authors Bryan FroehleRestricted
Evangelicals were instructed to grow their churches on sameness by Donald McGavran, one of the key founders of “church growth theory” among evangelicals. Called the “homogenous unit principle,” the idea was to start churches where the members would be alike and so more effectively reach people of that group. This is not to deny that the gospel is for all – each church was simply to focus on a single people group. This is not quite the Catholic approach. “Here comes everybody” in the memorable phase of James Joyce, is more the Catholic way. Everyone is there: all cultures, all backgrounds. Thus there are 24 self-governing churches within the Catholic Church, seven major liturgical traditions, and more. The critical reason for all this stems from the Catholic notion of sacrament – both Church as sacrament and the effects of Baptism as sacrament. The sheer mystery that is Church makes it more than a mere organization and quite capable of embracing across time and space even those with tenuous ties. The permanent, indelible effect of Baptism after all is that once baptized, a person has very little recourse: the Church simply will not give up to the very end. If that person ends all formal religious practice or joins some other tradition, that person with very few exceptions is seen by Catholicism as Catholic. Catholicism’s wide embrace is there for all. Everyone matters, all belong.Authors Bryan FroehleRestricted