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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Further Distinctions on Culture

My continued reading of Ron Luce's book about youth ministry again brings me to consider even more deeply the essential differences between Catholic and Protestant culture. I have reflected on this for some time, and some of the things that have been coming to me have slightly concerned me. Therefore, more than wanting to know what the OBJECTIVE and essential differences are in culture, I'm beginning to be more concerned about the cause of the SUBJECTIVE essential differences are in the two cultures. For two of these I will be presenting as something in which I see as a problem in the Catholic Church. For a few it will be things I see as advantages.

Hierarchy and Role

One of the things that has bugged me about this book is that Ron Luce keeps talking about Youth Pastors preparing weekly/monthly "sermons". Sermons in my mind are reserved for Sacramentally ordained ministers during the celebration of liturgy. While there are other (sacramental) issues here, the first thing that this brings to mind is the Catholic focus on hierarchy. I love this about the Church... there are defined boundaries and roles that, while at first may seem limiting, are really just expressions of varied divine-given authority.

God gives us different roles in the Church, and while some may be called to teach, not all those who are called to teach are to do so in the same capacity or with the same authority. I am a DRE, I teach youth and to some extent parents as family, as well as evangelize to my friends (which is not done in a formal and public manner). I am not called to to shepherd a parish, a diocese, or an entire Church... that is for people who have been ordained by God. I give talks and lead discussions, I do not give sermons, letters, or encyclicals.

I feel as though this is a difference from protestants, both in the obvious differences in dependency on hierarchy (one of the major schism points in history), but also on the adherence to implicit boundaries. In a Catholic Church, not just anyone can give a formal and public exposition on faith (sure... privately is fine), but must be found to have some qualification of doing so. Perhaps my perception that protestants don't adhere to such rules is incorrect, but this is the first difference I perceive.

Sacramental Economy

One of the other things that defines Catholic Culture, and which I truly love, is the Sacramental Economy of the Church. The CCC (1076) defines the Sacramental Economy as "the communication of the fruits of Christ’s death and Resurrection through the sacraments". Basically its our participation in certain rituals that directly impart grace to us. The Sacraments are the life-blood of the Church and, all seven together, provide the necessary basis for living an authentic Christian life if practiced correctly. This is one area where my heart aches for protestants who don't have these, or don't recognize the depth and beauty inherent in every one of these. Sacraments are the primary way in which Catholics encounter God on earth, and thus formidably shape our culture by giving us an appreciation for ritual, liturgy, mediation, "mysticism", tradition, and the literal infusing of the Holy Spirit.

Depth of Emotion

This brings me to the first concern I have for my beloved Church. I'll begin with a Caveat though--this may just be a personal struggle that I am dealing with. It may not be characteristic of the Church as a whole, but it seems to be something I have noticed.

There seems to be a lack of depth in the Emotion of the Church. For some reason we are afraid to talk about how God makes us "feel", or how Jesus Christ is "moving in our lives", or how we have "received Jesus into our hearts". Many people would say we don't talk about it because they are "overly protestant terms". I disagree--I think there is a reason they are overly protestant. It seems to me that, in many cases, especially in certain populations in the Church, we become "surface Catholics"--focused on the intellectual and theoretical aspect of God, and not so much the Spiritual-relational aspect of Him. It's not that we don't have deep feelings of love for Christ, it's not that Spirit doesn't move us, it's that, for some reason, we seem to be afraid of talking about it (which will bring me to my next point).

This is one thing I think we need to learn from the protestants. They don't seem to fear expressing themselves... they can stand up and yell, "Amen". They talk about the intimate relationships they have with God... why don't we? I'm not saying we all need to be charismatic, I for one get a little uncomfortable with that and while a beautiful thing, is not for everyone... we just need to be open to expressing the Spirit more than we are.


This issue follows closely with the last one. We as a Church (in my perception) are afraid to be vulnerable. Sure, we talk about it, we preach it, we right about it, but when it comes down to the individual practice of it, most lay people (and probably many ordained as well) are scared to be vulnerable. This is a part of the human condition unfortunately, but not only are we afraid to be vulnerable to each other, but to God. Many people are afraid to let the Spirit move in them. This is probably just a way of looking at the Emotional depth in a different way, so I won't go into too much depth about it.


I love my Church and my God with the depths of my heart. I am convinced that it is the fullest truth available to humans, and the fastest way to union with him. The Church is alive, we are the largest single denomination in the world, we serve, we evangelize, we worship, we teach, and we love. I feel we need to go deeper, we always need to, as Christ said, "put out into the deep". We need to challenge society's notion of privatism, individualism, and ego-centrism. Catholicism at its core is communal, and while we do a good job at worshiping in public, of praying in public, and engaging in community--if we want our numbers to grow and if we want to truly change hearts, we must not be afraid to be vulnerable and to show emotions.

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