Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Attend Mass?

Recently I commented in my Cajun Huguenot blog that I have been attending Catholic mass on weekdays when I work on Sunday and I’m unable to attend worship services at either Bethel Presbyterian or Covenant Presbyterian Churches. (I wrote about it here.)

I received a few comments about this from friends. Here is part of a series of email exchanges I had with a good friend about my attending mass now and then.

Friend: I see that you've been attending mass on a regular basis. I don't go to mass unless it's for a wedding or a funeral and there are parts of it that make me very uncomfortable. How do you reconcile those parts of the mass that clearly divide the papist from the protestant?

Me: For most of my life I only attended mass for weddings and funerals. Now I go to mass about once a month, during the week. I miss Reformed worship at least two Sundays a month. I enjoy corporate worship and that is the only corporate worship during the week that I can attend. I also have found that some Roman Catholics are more open to discussing the faith if they know that I attend mass once and a while.

I like most of the liturgy of the mass and seldom find problems with the shortened weekday version of the mass, but sometimes I have big trouble. The only place where I normally have trouble is with their version of the Eucharist, but the words of the Eucharist that they use are fine. It is the knowledge that they hold to transubstantiation and the fact that the priest does genuflex at that moment that gives me pause, but the words used by the priest fit well within my own understanding of the Supper, which is the same as that of John Calvin.

I do not partake of the Supper [but I do go up and recieve the priest's blessing] . They would not allow me to, and I do not agree with them on it... I do recite the creed and the Lord’s Prayer, which are important.

I don’t know whether I am farther from the Baptists or the Roman Catholics. Baptists have no understanding of the Sacraments as means of grace. Calvin’s views of the Sacrament are very high (and biblical) and are very unlike that of the Baptists, but I worship with Baptists even though I think they have jettisoned much of historic understanding of the sacraments and the history of the faith.

Baptists have stripped the sacraments of their sacredness and mystery, and Roman Catholics have made them to be almost magic. I believe the truth is somewhere between the two extremes. I believe Calvin and the Reformers of his school had it right.

I can worship with the Baptists and Catholics. I wish and hope they would both move to the Reformed understanding of worship. I don’t see it happening in my lifetime.

Friend: I asked [pastor] a similar question. His reply is below. In the past I haven't kneeled during veneration of the elements, but I've recently wondered if it may be ok to kneel, as long as I'm not venerating the elements.
(Friend to pastor: I went to a Roman Catholic (Catholic) funeral last week. I don't go to Catholic mass unless it's for a wedding or a funeral and there are parts of it that make me very uncomfortable. I don't want to offend anybody but most of all I don't want to offend God. How do I determine where to draw the line when it comes to participation?
Pastor’s reply to friend: Don't take communion and don't give your money. Genuflection and crossing yourself is up to you. The rest is fine.)

Me: I think his advice is good. I don’t take Communion and I don’t tithe. I do kneel, but I do not venerate the elements, which is a very serious error (to put it mildly). I sometimes do the sign of the Cross. I see it as a non-issue.

I do hope to visit an Orthodox Church soon. I’ve never gone to one of them. I do like the LCMS worship services that I’ve attended [.] I also like the worship at the Episcopal Church…but that denomination is too liberal. I would like to visit a Reformed Episcopal Church someday.

Friend: Some problems I have with the sign of the cross and genuflecting are, people are (or feel) conscience bound to do them, and/or they are superstitious about doing them. In addition they can often become physical habits only. In and of themselves I think they are good. I love the fact that, at the end of each show, before eating what he has cooked, Carl Breaux prays, including the sign of the cross. You can tell that it's sincere and heartfelt. You can catch Carl on KPLC on Sundays at 12:30. He's one of the regulars at the T-Coon's French Table on Tuesdays. He has a cooking show, "Cajun Karl" that features local culture.

The W----s in Lake Charles converted from Episcopal to Catholic partly due to the liberalism of the Episcopal Church.

Me: I know what you mean about the sign of the cross becoming a superstitious reflex and nothing more. I know some of my cousins who treat it that way. I’ve seen one of them forget to cross himself when he passed the church and so he backed up and did so. I do see it as a good picture of the Triune God.

I’ve read the oath that someone has to take to officially become a Roman Catholic. It is not an oath that I could take without lying while I took it. A friend of mine had a son join the RCC, before he married a RC. I spoke with him and explained why I could not take the oath. He told me that he was told that he really did not have to believe what he swore. He said that many RC’s did not believe those things.

I agreed with him that many of them did not believe these items, but I said that they did not have to take an oath affirming those things. He took the oath anyway. I guess I take such oaths much more seriously than he did…

That is the end of our little discussion about attending Roman Catholic Mass. My friend is, like myself, a former Roman Catholic. He left the RCC as an adult. Today we are both Reformed in our theology. We were both born, grewup and still live in Cajun Country of South Louisiana, which is still mostly Roman Catholic.

Coram Deo,