Notes on a Catholic Mass

1:31 PM


For my Irish Studies program I'm required to study the differences between a Catholic Mass and a service at the Church of Ireland, so this morning I tromped though the rain to the Holy Rosary Church to experience my very first Catholic Mass. The service was very eye opening as I come from a long line of practicing Southern Baptists who are completely opposed to any sort of religious practice that is not blatantly Protestant. The service began as one would expect, a few short songs sung by a small chorus of older ladies and a man with a guitar. Then there was a reading of scripture, more singing, prayer, and the priest said a few words about the approaching anniversary of several deaths. After more scripture was read, the priest talked for a few minutes about the scripture and how it ought to be applied in our lives. The priest had a low, soothing voice with a rather muted Irish accent. His words had authority and even though it was not what I was used to the message still had an air of power that can really only come from the Word of God. In that, at least, it is comparable to protestant services. 
It is more clear to me now why a deviation from Catholicism would not be warmly received by those who had been raised in it. It has a tradition behind that really holds it together. These services are clearly routine and are never varied from day to day. There is something about consistency and tradition that is comforting to the human soul. To know that you are worshiping God in a way that has been practiced for hundreds of years must bring some deep reassurance that I can't even begin to fathom. I can see now why it offends people when protestant believers try to convert them to “newer” ways of worship. 
I was interesting to notice that the priest talked about praying for the dead and every pew had a gold plaque on it reminding worshipers to pray for "The Deceased Relatives of..." I've been noticing these subtle difference of faith whilst studying Irish culture. I may sound incredibly ignorant, but even though I grew up with Catholic friends, I never really learned much about their faith. All I've ever known is that there are differences. Some see them as slight difference, others see them as conflicting enough to start wars over. Praying for the dead is not something I've ever practiced. I've always been taught that once you die you're soul goes to either Heaven or Hell and there is no changing that. I'm reminded of the passage in Luke, the story of Lazarus and the rich man. When the rich man asks if Lazarus can bring him a drop of water Abraham tells him, "between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us"(Luke 16: 26). There's not much discussion of Purgatory in the protestant churches that I've attended over the years and I can honestly say I know very little about the beliefs and ideas concerning it. I know that it's seen as a state  before Heaven in which you are purified, but from a Catholic perspective what does that mean exactly? Is that why they pray for the dead? I guess I should do a little more research, maybe actually have a conversation with someone who knows what they're talking about rather than ramble on about how I don't know. I do find this all very fascinating and after spending the week soaked in Irish history I feel myself getting more and more involved in the background of this country. I actually crave information and for the first time in a while I'm actually drawn to learning. Perhaps it's because I'm in this beautiful place surrounded by people who are as enamored and excited to be here as I am. Maybe in the "Land of Saints and Scholars" I may actually become a scholar. 
-E

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