Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Church shopping

Baptist, Baptist, Baptist, Baptist, Church of Christ, Baptist, Baptist, Baptist. Oh! A Methodist Church! Baptist, Baptist.

(I don't own the rights)
On the drive to Mass down here on the southern North Carolina coast, there are many church buildings. The only Catholic Church in a 40 mile radius has to hire policemen to skirt traffic into the gigantic parking lot on Sundays.

The "built it and they will come" theory shows its fruits every Sunday here amongst the abundance of Protestant churches.

Don't mistake me, I'm glad to be surrounded by so many church buildings. It is wonderful to pass physical reminders of Christian faith constantly.

A few weeks ago, I met someone who mentioned that he doesn't go to church in Richmond because the pastor at the Methodist church he visited couldn't compare to his church back home. When he returns home, his mother "makes him" go to church, but the Richmond pastor just "doesn't do it" for him.

As he told me this, I felt immediately grateful for being Catholic. I don't have to shop.

I can go to Mass everyday of the week. The source and summit of the Church founded by Christ is the Eucharist, which He gave to us at the Last Supper. Saint Paul and early apostles write about the Eucharist for which they gathered to share.

As long as there is a priest on the altar, I can share in the true Communion feast with other Christians. The priest, ordained in the same line of priests that has existed since Christ started His Church and chose His priests, is a vessel for the Holy Spirit to transubstantiate the bread and wine in that moment.

When I go through the line and the Eucharistic minister tells me, "This the Blood of Christ," I know it is True.

Before I go to receive the Eucharist, with my brothers and sisters, I pray, "I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the Word and I shall be healed." I mean it with all of my heart.

And I thank God that I don't need to church shop to be healed.


Katy said...


Anonymous said...

AMEN! I do find myself church shopping still...except it's more defined. I go to church over 30 minutes away from where I live - passing at least 3 Catholic Churches on the way to the one I love.

Katy said...

Back to make another comment. This is something that my friends and I talk about a lot. We are so blessed to know that whatever Catholic Church we go to, we are getting the same Eucharist. We don't have to worry if the preacher will be good or not. What a relief!

Allison said...

So true! I especially love that I can go to mass anywhere in the WORLD when I'm traveling and even if they are speaking a foreign language, I can still participate and feel at home :)

LOVE being Catholic :)

Spence Ohana said...

"I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the Word and I shall be healed." Amen. No shopping around. We've lived in 3 different states now. And each time we just went to the local parish and felt right at home.

Kendra said...

Love it! I know exactly what you're talking about in NC. Even for the short time I was there, we drove around our area all over, ran into probably 20+ Baptist churches, a ton of other random denominations, and never saw anything Catholic. It's hard to find a Catholic church that's close, even in the city!

As for "church shopping" I'll admit that it's something I struggle with. What I mean by that is that I get frustrated two major things at churches: Congregations that look sad/pissed that they are at church/non-participating, and bad music. If a church has either of these things, I tend to feel upset during Mass and distracted because my mind races with ideas to "fix" the situation. I know it's a bad habit and sinful to a certain degree, but it's a constant struggle. I do need to continually remind myself that it still is Mass, I'm still hearing the same readings and prayers that everyone else in the world is, and I still receive the Holy Eucharist no matter what!

Michelle @ Catholic Unveiled said...

Amen amen amen! I agree so much. I love how the Church is so much bigger than we are - Mass is not about anything earthly at all. It's about Him, and no matter how bad the homily is, no matter how sinful the congregation (or the priest for that matter), no matter how awful the choir or how uncomfortable the pews, it is still Jesus, fully present. It really is a time to step back from ourselves and remember the big picture.

Elizabeth said...

Tina- Right, I hear you. We do prefer one atmosphere to another, but it's not necessary for us to receive the purpose during Mass. The priest could be 100 years old and deaf, but if he says the prayers and invites Jesus to the altar, we get it!

Katy- We are blessed!!

Allison- YES! I love that!! Being Catholic is internationally helpful!

Spence- That's wonderful! We make our happiness, we make our home. We are at home in Rome!

Kendra- Thank you! Yes, you'll have a quite a task at hand in finding a Catholic church here, but the long drive will make it all the more worthwhile. I understand. The most important part of the Mass is the Liturgy of the Eucharist, so as long as we have that, we can become part of the solution for whatever else needs "fixing."

Michelle- "the Church is so much bigger than we are..." YES! We concentrate on HIM, fully present!

Anonymous said...

Not all protestants shop churches, particularly the most fervent. We're converts from Protestantism and our "church shopping" was based on doctrine, not feelings.

Now, as Catholics, we DO shop for a church... which is most faithful to the magisterium? Yes, you receive the same Eucharist but practical understanding of the Eucharist and teachings differ WILDLY from parish to parish, even within the same 20 mile radius. It's difficult to imagine these parishes are in the same Catholic Church.

So, whether we want to admit it or not, there exists among Catholics a practical Protestantism. We may have an infallible interpretation of Scripture but we don't have an infallible interpretation of the interpretation.

You know as well as I that *everyone* in a diocese knows which parish is "most orthodox" and, in our parish, folks come from far and wide - driving past one or two parishes closer to their homes - to go to the "good" parish.

Let judgment begin with us.

Anonymous said...

By the way, you don't have to go to church to be healed, either. "Only say the word..."

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for commenting, Anonymous! I see what you're saying, but I think we're standing at odds only in how we're approaching this question.

I understand that Protestants choose a church based on doctrine, but how do they choose which doctrine is true, based on their belief? Protestants who subscribe to Sola Scriptura disagree on many points of doctrine, funneling them into different denominations. I would never argue that every Catholic believes exactly the same points of teaching that other Catholics believe, but we follow the Church that gauges doctrine with the traditions of those passed on by the first apostles and Sacred Scripture. We use the traditions to help understand the Scripture.

Catholics do tend to "shop" for a church atmosphere with which they best meld. However, they would receive the Eucharist from a boring, uninspiring priest just as they would from a vibrant, well-spoken one. Protestants' church shopping seems to be based on finding one that agrees most with their beliefs. As Catholics, we don't have to do that to receive the most important part of the Mass.

We are fortunate to receive the Sacraments, including Baptism, Reconciliation and Eucharist, which bring us into Communion with Jesus and His Church. He heals us.

Sr_Lisa said...

Brava Elizabeth! This post also reminds me, ultimately, it is not the minister (priest) that brings us together, but it is The Minister, The High Priest on the Altar - Christ Himself - who presides. This is truly what unites us, and is worth the 40 mile drive to share in it. Thanks for the reflection! God bless!

Allie said...

LOVE this post! I was a Eucharistic Minister this year at our mass on campus. It was truly an amazing experience every week!

Elizabeth said...

Allie, I've only been a Eucharistic Minister once, but it was one of the most incredible 15 minutes I've ever spent. I'm sure that is just beautiful to repeat every week!

Louise said...

I've been wanting to comment on this for over a week now! Bravo, Elizabeth, I *loved* this post. Although I echo some of the commenters who expressed dissatisfaction with elements of the liturgy at certain churches (fabulous food for thought along those lines, courtesy of Simcha, here), I completely agree that we needn't do any shopping at all to receive the same Eucharist. Whenever I go out of town during a weekend, I never worry about where I'll end up going to church. I simply find the closest Catholic parish and go to Mass there. Love it!

Anonymous said...

As somebody said, "You can't say you belong to the club, if you don't go to the meetings." I have dragged myself to Mass in the most remote of places and I must admit, not all of the happiest of Masses(!) but Our Lord is there where the red light burns in front of the tabernacle door. The Catholic comes everybody!

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