Sunday, March 25, 2007

How Catholics Pray...

The other day in the Cathedral at lunchtime Mass, I was merrily sailing through the Lord's Prayer, only to find myself (to my horror and embarrasment) ringing loud and clear in a solo tenor: "For thine is the Kingdom..." Oops. Spot the Protestant. I've been Catholic for six years, but sometimes old habits die hard!

I led grace at a gathering of my Lutheran friends on my birthday, using the Grace from Luther's Small Catechism "The eyes of all look to thee, O Lord..." But of course, I said it the decent pace required of any ritualist, and thus got the comment at the end: "Praying like a Catholic..."

So what is the difference between how Catholics and Protestants pray? You may think the only difference is that we pray to Mary and the Saints and Protestants use a lot of "we just's" but no, my friends, the difference is much greater. Here's how to spot a Catholic at prayer:

1) He prays fast. Very fast. Quicker the better. Liturgy can often turn into a race between the priest and the people as to who can get the response in quickest.

2) This is related to the fact that Catholics love to say memorised prayers. Book prayers don't frighten us. Why make up your own prayer when someone has already said it much better? AND in Latin?

3) And finally, the best way to pray is to say memorised prayers as fast as you can and REPEAT them over and over again. Three Our Father's, three Hail Mary's, and three Glory be's? A doddle! Favourie repeated prayer: The Rosary.

Now a Protestant will point to all this and call it "False Prayer". He points to Jesus' saying in Matthew 6:7 "And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words."

So here's how to spot a Protestant at prayer:

1) He makes his prayers up as he goes along. The best prayers are "ex corde", from the heart. Or "ex sleeve", as one of my old Seminary lecturers used to put it. Spontaneity is a virtue!

2) He says his prayers slowly. You have to "mean it". If you have to use rote prayers (like the "Lord's Prayer") take about five minutes to say it. And "think about every word".

3) By definition, such prayer cannot and is not repeated.

Not that Protestants mind using lots of words, mind you. And contrary to Jesus' instruction in Matthew 6:5-6, it is taken as a sign of spiritual maturity if you are able to pray freely out loud in a prayer group. Silent prayer doesn't cut it, and using memorised prayers... well, as I said above.

All this is, of course, a complete characterisation. But a warning to the wise if you are a Catholic going to a Protestant Church service: Make sure you pause at least a second before saying any response printed in your service order, or they will "Spot the Catholic!".


At Sunday, March 25, 2007 6:09:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

How true. I remember when I first started attending Anglican services with the woman who has since become my wife. I couldn’t believe what a production they made of reciting familiar prayers like the Our Father. “Come on, people,” I wanted to say. “What’s the matter here? Don’t you know the words?”

Wisely, I think, I kept these sentiments to myself, not sharing them even with my Reason for Living until much later. But the impression created in me – and I fully accept that this is a reflection on me, not on the Anglican tradtiion – was that prayers were being said in an artficially slow, stilted and formal fashion, to give them a theatrical sense of weight and signficance. This was in Ireland, after all, and we Irish are not noted for speaking slowly. As a liturgical decision a solemn pace is perfectly defensible, but it was very far from creating an aura of reflective sincerity, which I think would have been the desired effect.

At Sunday, March 25, 2007 8:00:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

You just reminded me of an exception to this rule. Many, many years ago, when I was a real little tacker, my family visited my father's aged uncle and aunt. They were fourth generation Barossa Deutsch Lutherans of the sort that had to learn English during the Second World War to avoid being interned. (Did I ever mention my father--a fifth generation Australian--only learnt English when he went to school in 1947?). When Uncle Otto said the Lord's Prayer, it was at 75rpm--he paused for breath just once (between "Give us this day" and "our daily bread") from start to finish. It had me spell bound!

And you never told us before you were married, Peregrinus! There's more to you we learn every day!

At Sunday, March 25, 2007 8:43:00 pm , Anonymous Tony Bartel said...

Dom Gregory Dix was an Anglican Benedictine monk of the Anglo-papalist persuasion.

Accordingly he said Low Mass everyday according to either the Tridentine Missal or the English Missal (a translation of the same Missal in Tudor English).

However, I was once told by a person who had served at one such Mass that Dix took over an hour to celebrate Mass. I believe many a Roman priest could rattle through it in twenty minutes.

So even when Anglicans do not consider themselves protestants, and do not necessarilly think that prayer from the heart is superior to liturgical prayer, there are some important cultural differences between Anglicans and Romans.

At Sunday, March 25, 2007 8:51:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Wasn't there a story about one of the chaplains to one of the kings of France who could say the mass in nine minutes?

At Sunday, March 25, 2007 9:46:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Ah, now for a little nachtmusik!

You and I are alike also in this, dear brother, than we are now in churches that hold themselves to be the correct -- there's a better word, but it's far too late where I am to work over "subsists in" to fit this sentence -- manifestation of the church from which we came.

Apart from the revisionism that plagues your church and us out here in the ecclesial communions, is I think American Lutheranism was influenced as much by American Protestantism, and particularly by the Anglican Communion, we being after all a union of former colonies.

I come to Lutheranism much as Lutheran Number One did, straight out of the RC church. I have no more problem than Martin did making the Sign of the Cross, for example, or ending the Our Father (or for that matter calling it that rather than the Lord's Prayer) without the "For thine ...", which as even our synodical editions of the LC state, was not in Luther's text -- because it isn't in the prayer!

Here at home we start our grace with the Sign of the Cross, and say it in the same prayer Luther quotes with the wording as commonly taught (or at least it was, I cannot say what the Revolution, er, Vatican II, has wrought) to RC kids: Bless us O Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive through Christ our Lord.

I love it when dining with my "Catholic" friends, who always get all "ecumenical" and ash can the Sign of the Cross and the traditional grace and say some generic grace around me, I ask if I may say a grace as Luther recommended, and proceed to say exactly what they wouldn't. But at Grandma's, who comes from lifelong LCMS stock, we also join right in with what is here, don't know about the LCA, the "common table prayer" *Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest ...". I think most American Lutherans would be amazed to find that not making the Sign of the Cross etc comes not from Lutheranism but earlier attempts to refashion it according to Protestantism than the one we are now enduring. One of these days I'll haul off and make the Sign of the Cross at church -- there are Lutheran parishes where this is done.

Speaking of being amazed, I am not amazed that a fourth generation Aussie of German descent only learned English on going to school, but I am amazed at Germans showing up in Aussieralia that long ago! How did that happen?

Of the many vivid memories I have surrounding 9/11, none is more vivid than when the NYC firefighters gathered to say the Our Father in the street later on, which was televised at least on the channel I was watching. As you many know, in the past fireman and policeman was one of the few career paths, as they say now, open to Catholic immigrants, and to this day many of them are several generations into the profession. And there they were, those genuine heroes, the guys who go running in when everyone else is running out, because that's what they do and who they are, and at the end of the prayer there wasn't a single "For thine ..." to be heard! And not from me either, because be it unionism and syncretism or not and I frankly don't care, I was saying it right along with them, one in form as well as content, and full of tears and the end. Matter of fact I'm teary now just remembering it.

We altar boys had a real good sense of how long each priest took to "say" the Mass -- important when you want to know if you'll be late to class!

At Sunday, March 25, 2007 11:06:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Lutheranism began in the Adelaide Hills (Hahndorf) and in the Barossa Valley (both in South Australia) in 1838. The first Lutheran settlers (among whom were my ancestors) were pietistic Silesian refugees from the Prussian king's attempt to combine the tiny Calvinist Church with the dominant Lutheran Church at the time. His new "Church Book" (which the king prepared himself) was basically Lutheran but fudged on the distribution formula for Holy Communion suggesting that the bread was not the true body of Christ. This was enough for whole villages and their pastors to up roots and emigrate to the States (mainly) and Australia. Almost all my ancestors were in this movement.

What do you make of Missouri's refusal to pray with other Christians on the basis that it is "sinful unionism"?

At Monday, March 26, 2007 1:32:00 am , Blogger Past Elder said...

Escapees from Unionism then! Bully for them!

Amazing that so many of the descendants of those who came here (the US) appear to now want us to do to ourselves what the Prussian king tried to do, combine real Lutheranism with current forms of Protestantism!

At one of my first REALLY Lutheran events as a Lutheran -- a pot luck, you're not a real Lutheran unless you keep plastic utensils with you at all times in case you run into one -- the regular coffee was labelled Lutheran and the decaf Protestant! There's all you need to know in a nutshell!

As a WELS member, I was not supposed to say grace even with my LCMS relatives, let alone when one of the Catholics by marriage led it! Also as a WELS member I was not supposed to commune in the LCMS church I was attending to scope out. But I did -- because they offered it; the printed in the bulletin their beliefs about Communion and said those who so believed were welcome, which is not exactly what CFW Walther may have had in mind re closed communion, but is closed of a sort anyway, but a sort that is one of the reasons why WELS and LCMS are no longer in fellowship.

As to the whole Yankee Stadium thing, for one thing let me say I am a member of Red Sox Nation living in the Diaspora (meaning a baseball fan of the Boston Red Sox not living around Boston) so from the get go I can tell you the only thing good that EVER happens in Yankee Stadium is when the Yankees get beat and it's all downhill from there! If you ever wanted to see a town in absolute convolutions you should have seen Boston the year three major religious events happened on the same day: Passover, Good Friday, and opening day of the baseball season, and as just about everybody is a member of two of those religions, juggling things so the none of three conflicted!

I have mixed feelings about the unionism/syncretism thing, unlike most confessional Lutherans. Doctrinally, I agree with them. Yet I cannot deny that, though WELS at the time, I was really glad to see a Lutheran up there, someone at least I could identify with, along with all the other guys. Excusable as serial prayer? Don't know frankly. What bothers me about Behnke and his ilk is not so much what they did in Yankee Stadium but what they are doing in the synod!

I guess there were things that bothered me more than Behnke. If you wanted to see unionism and syncretism at its worst, the official ceremony in the National Cathedral (which in a vestigal remain of our colonial past, is Episcopal) was absolutely awful and had a Lutheran participated in it I would be the loudest voice crying foul. The presiding Episcopal minister, female, specifially voiced that all faiths were equal here, this in fulfillment that my house shall be a house for all peoples, and so it was presented. Nonetheless, I watched it not as a religious event but a national one, and as such it was fine.

What bothered me more about the Oprah Yankee Stadium thing was that it seemed to be the 60s counterculture come of age, holding its own national service apart from the official one, complete with its "President" though functionally just out of office.

So religiously though on different grounds I did not approve of either one of them, but at the same time I think the lack of understanding about not having establishment of religion -- a state church -- which is in our Constitution as opposed to "separation of church and state" which is not is one of the worst confusing complicating the American political conversation.

I don't find the real Lutheran position much different than what I was taught as a Catholic -- that one may attend but not participate in, non Catholic services because they are, if not outright false, not the complete and real deal either. Another of the things gone in the Brave New Church, where participation in ecumenical worship has been approved by the bishop as satisfying the Sunday obligation, or when a past girlfriend's Methodist confirmation was recognised as valid upon her conversion to the "Catholic" church and she was not confirmed but simply received. Should have tossed a copy of the old Abjuration of Heresy over the transom on that one! Oh well, when in Rome do as the Romans do, even if it ain't Roman any more (and don't go to Rome if you can avoid it)!

As to the rest, now that I'm LCMS it doesn't really come up all that much even with the Catholics in the family because lately Grandma has been execising her matriarchal rights and leading prayer. But, should you and I ever have tea, don't tell anybody but I'll say grace with you and make the Sign of the Cross too.

Speaking of tea, I enjoyed the pictures of the Orthodox ordination. One of the most happy memories I have is attending a Melkite Rite Mass in Miami some years ago (pre Lutheran days). There is a link to a Lutheran version of the Ukrainian Orthodox liturgy on my blog.


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