#17 — Universality

“Catholic” means “universal,” and that is an apt description. Fr. Dwight Longenecker, a local priest with a reputation that extends well beyond the region, explains it better than I could:

We had confirmation at Our Lady of the Rosary parish on Tuesday. What I love about the Catholic Church is her universality. In the congregation were Vietnamese, Palestinians, Nigerians, Poles, Philippinos, Mexicans, El Salvadoreans, French, German and more…why there were even a few converts there too.

We were all united in one church, one faith, one baptism. The bishop was there and our priesthood was united with his and with the gift of Our Lord to the Apostles.

In addition to the ethnic mix there was the socio-economic mix–executives from Michelin and BMW mixing with Mexican immigrants and everyone in between. (Source)

Another measure of the universality of the faith is the number of languages used to celebrate Mass at a given church. The church we attend has Mass in English, Spanish, and, once a month, Polish. Other, larger cities certainly have even more variety.

 

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4 thoughts on “#17 — Universality

  1. Bill Phelps says:

    I take a bit of exception with this – I think you are describing diversity or multiculturalism more than universality. The quote you gave was nice, but in practice there is a widely different set of standards and customs depending on the part of the world one is in. I’ve lived in Ecuador, Poland, and the U.S., and Catholicism is quite different in each place in terms of beliefs, holy days, and tolerance towards other Christians.

    Let’s look at a section of the Nicene Creed:
    We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
    We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

    But if you are a Christian who wants to join a Catholic parish, you must be baptized again in your new parish by a priest. I guess some baptisms are more “valid” than others. Moreover, notice the use of “catholic” as an common adjective not as part of proper noun phrase (i.e. The Catholic Church). In this sense, all Christians belong to what many Lutherans and other mainstream Protestant denominations refer to as the “church catholic.”

    At my wedding, I was denied communion by two separate priests even though in the 1990s the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation (a consortium of various branches of Lutherans) signed a concordance affirming common beliefs, recognizing each others’ practices, and agreeing to the right to share communion together. When I tried explaining this, I was told that I (and the Vatican) was wrong in this manner. when I offered to share the document with the priests, they demurred, telling me that since I, as a Lutheran, did not see marriage as a sacrament, I had no right to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion. That is not a very universal view of a community of believers. Many Catholics refuse to take communion in other Christian churches. I have heard various explanations of why, but this is not necessarily the time to delve into that. I will end with what one of my pastors said every Sunday for any guests who might have been attending our worship for the first time:

    It is the Lord’s supper. It is the Lord who invites. All are welcome at the table of the Lord.

    Of course, exclusionary practices are not unique to the Catholic Church. I just think what you are describing is more the diversity of the Church than its universality. Corpus Christi/Boze Cialo have completely different levels of importance for Catholics around the world – from a week-long carnival to an afterthought. How does K feel on Easter Monday when she has to go to work? R hates it…

    • gls says:

      “if you are a Christian who wants to join a Catholic parish, you must be baptized again in your new parish by a priest.” Not necessarily. If you provide a baptism certificate, there’s a good chance you won’t have to be baptized. And if there’s any doubt, it will be a conditional baptism.

      In this case (and I would say in many cases), universality and diversity are two sides of the same thing: within this universal framework of beliefs, you find great diversity. Conversely, among all these diverse people, we find the same beliefs. That a particular feast day is celebrated with inconsistent fervency is a minor point compared to the theological points that bind (theoretically) all Catholics. The fact also that the Church doesn’t force completely identical patterns on various cultures, instead letting diversity and local traditions play a role, testifies to its universality.

      As for who is allowed to take communion, I don’t see how disallowing this or that group to take communion without prerequisites is a refutation of universality. If one believes all the things about communion and the host that the Catholic Church believes, one is obliged to ensure the host is treated with respect and is taken under conditions one believes spiritually healthy (i.e., not in a state of mortal sin). This is one way the Catholic Church keeps itself from splitting into all the thousands of denominations that we see in Protestantism. It is, in short, a question of authority — another in my “40 things” list.

      Re: Śmigus-Dyngus/lany poniedziałek: K doesn’t particularly like going to work, but I think she’s more irritated that she never gets off Good Friday.

  2. Bill Phelps says:

    I think the baptism issue depends on the parish or priest. I suppose we can agree to disagree – in my experiences, I have not seen much consistency in Catholicism in the three different continents I have lived in.

    The first half of my story to a certain extent illustrates my point about the centrality or universality not being true – when Rome makes a decision (like making a concordance with another group of Christians), it has very little power to make sure it is followed by the rest of the world. That begs the question of how much “authority” Rome has across the world if its decisions and agreements can be ignored by priests or bishops.

    If it comes down to accepting the Catholic Church’s “authority” to decide who is worthy of taking part in religious practices despite commonly professed creeds, it takes us back to some of the original questions that were posed at the beginning of the Reformation.

    • gls says:

      ” That begs the question of how much ‘authority’ Rome has across the world if its decisions and agreements can be ignored by priests or bishops.” How much authority can one individual have over another? Authority is ultimately a question of submission, unless we’re talking about physical coercion. That puts the onus on the priests and bishops, for how can the Church force anyone to submit?

      “If it comes down to accepting the Catholic Church’s ‘authority’ to decide who is worthy of taking part in religious practices despite commonly professed creeds, it takes us back to some of the original questions that were posed at the beginning of the Reformation.” I don’t think it’s a question of worthiness. I believe there are other questions the Church takes into account when determining those who can partake of communion. And since membership is strictly voluntary and there are other options, it seems one either accepts those decisions or moves to a place where those decisions have no impact. Then we get to the results of the Reformation: when a church says something or does something that angers or offends us, we go off and form another church. That’s why we have literally tens of thousands of Protestant denominations.

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