In the United States, there is the demographic rise of people who are not of American origin like the Asians, Hispanic, Africans and other communities which in turn leads to the growth of diverse cultures in Christianity. The Catholic Church is one of the major and most practiced denominations in the current world hence Catholic parishes are on the increase, and different cultures are fabricating their parishes to suit the needs of their culture like conducting services in their native languages and diversifying the monoculture of the Catholic religion. For this assignment, I being a Catholic, I decided to visit another Catholic church but of Hispanic culture.
Our church mainly follows the basic Roman Catholic Church criteria on performing mass and church values. However, some of the principals have changed to suit the American cultures. In our congregation, many people have no problem with gay priests, priests marrying, women being priests, or priests engaging in any sexual activity something that is not common in other Catholic cultures. English is the primary language used in mass, church readings and classes. The priest lives in his assigned parish and has his living quarters where he can either live alone or with other priests on missions. The church nuns live in a convent that is within the parish vicinity, and they are dressed in white or gray attires that mostly cover their bodies for decency purposes. The congregation does not use catholic terms like "May the Lord God Be Praised" in normal day to day activities. We enact prayer based on the season of the Catholic liturgical year based on the values each season encourages.
I attended a Hispanic church. One of the things I noticed is that the congregation held strongly to Christian Catholic values like the dress code while attending mass and conduct as the mass progressed, everyone was quiet and attentive. The women were in decent clothes that were not revealing, an aspect that is not taken into serious consideration in our church. Another difference was, the nuns and the priests were esteemed and shown a lot of respect among the church members. Their spirituality is also evident in their language, some of the common statements I heard was "Bendito Sea Dios" meaning May the Lord Be Praised and Si Dios or Ojala meaning "God Willing." I also noticed that their Catholic calendar is different from ours with the major annual events being:
Semana Santa-Holy Week
La Navidad- Christmas
Los Tres Reyes Magos- Three Kings Day
Our Catholic calendar is
Another significant difference was the esteem the church symbols was given. Symbols were perceived as instruments of keeping the Christians close to their faith. The primary symbols were the painting/sculpture of the Virgin Mary, the rosary, saints and the cross. Their church had more than ten sculptures and paintings of these symbols while our church had only three. They would bow down to the symbol of the Virgin Mary as they entered the church and made their way to the seats an unusual practice in our church. The congregation's prayer pattern was also significantly different from ours; they enacted the Novena, which is a nine-day prayer retreat that is dedicated to solving afflictions. Religion also influences their political and spiritual perspectives.
One of the practices that made me uncomfortable is the bowing down or praying to symbols. In our church we pray directly to God and in rare instances do we ask for the intervention of the Virgin Mary in interceding on our behalf in prayer. Bowing down to the statue of Jesus or of the Virgin Mary went against my biblical views as the Bible indicates that we shall not bow down to idols. In my personal perspective, I think the Virgin Mary was given a higher regard than Jesus Christ in this church. Most of their prayers were to the Virgin Mary and in times of need, they turn to her for relief. That is a characteristic in their cultural practices that I found to be eerie. The protocol of the mass was also too uptight. There are certain segments that everyone would strictly stand, there would be no minimal or movement during praise.
It would be difficult to connect with Christians from a different culture because they base their church activities on their cultural beliefs, an aspect that would be hard to change or get accustomed to if you are from a different culture.
3. There were some basic similarities like some of the prayers in the Hispanic church like the Lords Prayer and Hail Mary. I was also familiar with some of the songs sang in Praise and Worship segments. The protocol of the church regarding what was to be done when was similar to ours. The attires and residential areas of the priests and nuns were also similar. Some of the symbols of Jesus, The Virgin Mary, The Cross, and The Rosary I saw in their church were also akin to the ones we had.
If I were a member of the Hispanic Church, I would question the views of our church's congregation on Priesthood Celibacy. In the Hispanic church the priest should never be involved in sexual pursuits with neither men nor women. I would also find the lack of regard to symbols to be very bizarre since our church gives minimal regard to symbols except the Rosary and The Cross concerning the Holy Trinity. The Catholic year would also be unusual and hard to comprehend.
4. The explanation I would give a person from the Hispanic Church concerning Priesthood Celibacy is that in the United States the homosexual people have gay rights and citizens have free will when it comes to sexuality and in addition to that the involvement of the priest in a relationship would have no harm on his priesthood duties. I would explain the lack of emphasis on the symbol of the Hail Mary because the Holy Trinity is more significant as it resembles the Father (God), Son(Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit. The Bible indicates that after Jesus Christ was crucified the curtain of the priests temple was cut into two which resembles that we can now pray directly to God and seek for what we want directly meaning Christians do not have to seek the intercession of the Virgin Mary in prayer. Our church's Catholic calendar is based on the liturgical seasons and events in the life of Jesus from birth to Pentecost, to his betrayal and crucifixion. Catholic calendars vary in different churches, and there is not much deviation from theirs. With classes, one would easily accustom to a different calendar.
5. The explanation I would give someone from another background on Priest Celibacy is that in other denominations, the church leaders are given the choice of marriage and sexuality. They are also equally as effective as a priest who is denied the right of marriage hence marriage does not necessarily affect the intensity in which a priest performs his duties. Symbols are part of the unique traits acclaimed to the Catholic culture however I think the way people perceive them is different, and this affects the regard that an individual or church member gives a symbol. However, symbols should act as the depiction of faith and Christian values, not as passages of prayer. An example is that Cross as a representation that Christ paid for our sins and conquered the world. The diversity of Catholic calendar goes back to the origin of the Catholic religion, and all calendars have some similarity because they are based on the events of the life of Jesus Christ.
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