Friday, August 01, 2008

Catholic Mythbusting

I've been learning about Catholicism for almost seven months now, and I'm finding that most Protestants have some serious misconceptions about their religious counterpart. As a non-Catholic, I'm sharing what I've learned. You can be assured that these rosary-related myths have all been presented to me at least twice by different people. I'm here to share what I've seen, not to persuade or dissuade. Believe what you want: this is what I've lived.

1. A Catholic worship service is all about Mary.
I've been to Mass several times since the beginning of the year, and I can only remember one place in the entirety of the service that refers to Mary, the Nicene Creed (partially quoted).
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, the only-begotten, born of the Father before all ages. Light from light, true God of true God, begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father, through whom all things were made. Who for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and Mary the Virgin, and became man...
Not exactly a huge part of the Mass if you ask me. I can't think of any other moments when Mary even comes into the picture, let alone a focus of the service.

2. Catholics vainly repeat prayers.
I was with you on this one for a long time. After a bit of thinking, though, I realized Protestants do this as well. Every time my family gathers to feast (okay, every time my family gathers we do feast), the mealtime prayer is exactly the same. We recite, "Come dear Lord and be our guest, and let this food to us be blessed. Amen." It's not fancy, but it is chanted in unison. How is saying this prayer any different than praying a traditional Catholic prayer? My concluding idea is that it's not so much about the words as it is the piety and honesty with which the words are said. Sometimes I find more comfort in the words someone else has written than I find in my own pathetic attempt at stringing together the right thoughts in vowels and consonants. Also, I don't think any attempt at prayer is vain. God listens to every prayer, right?

3. Praying the rosary is a waste of time: it's all about Mary.
Seemed like it to me until I knew what the rosary was for. How can saying all those prayers be any better than sending up a faster, easier prayer? The Holy Rosary is NOT all about Mary. In fact, the whole thing is about Jesus! While saying those Hail Marys, one is supposed to be meditating on the life and works of Christ. Furthermore, asking Mary to pray for you is no different than asking a friend to pray for you. One does not say, "Mary, we pray to you..." rather, "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners..." Catholics pray through Mary to God. The rosary is a string of beads (a sacramental if blessed) that helps keep track of all that prayer time spent thinking about God. And I don't know a single Christian that would argue against spending time thinking about or praying to God.

4. Catholicism elevates the rosary above the Word of God, and it does not encourage people to read the Bible.
Never, in seven months of attendance, have I seen a single rosary in church. The entire Liturgy of the Word (the first two-thirds of the Mass) is dedicated solely to the Bible. The other third of the Mass is the Liturgy of the Eucharist, which, if memory serves me, is actually in the Bible and was what Jesus said and did. Additionally, every time I've listened to any of the priests or deacons speak, they've actively encouraged the laity (parishioners) to read the Bible on their own time, to pray, and to spend some time with God in a Holy Hour. I'm pretty sure that trumps some beads on a string.

Are there any other myths, questions, or concerns I can address? Is there something else you want to know? I'm learning all the time, and your ideas might spark some for me, so ask away.

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