Catholicism - Worship: Where and How

This GCSE RE quiz on Catholicism focuses on the where and how of worship. ‘Worship’ can carry many meanings, but in original and general essence it means the way in which one person, or a like-minded group, expresses devotion to a deity ~ in this case, the Christian God in the three Persons of the Trinity. At one time or another, Catholic worship may include no fewer than seven Sacraments, many accompanied by rich and potent gestures and sensory experiences: to those from perhaps simpler or humbler religious backgrounds, the ‘specialness’ of the space and behaviour in a Catholic church can seem particularly striking.

For many centuries ~ we might even say 98% of the time of the Church’s existence ~ worship was done in the Latin language, but within the past 50 years it has been officially liberalised into the vernacular, i.e. approved forms of service in the everyday local language of the worshipper (something the Protestants insisted on about 10 times as long ago, at the Reformation … which kicked-off pretty well exactly five centuries back, in 1517).

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New words and congregation-inclusive musical settings have breathed fresh life into the venerable forms of worship.

Of course, worship is not just something done in church at the weekend ~ a worshipful attitude should spill out of believers’ daily deeds and attitudes in the wider world.

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  1. You might almost certainly see more robed people in the sanctuary party ('up the sharp end of the church') during a Mass, than during its broadly equivalent ritual in 'lower' denominations. Indeed, aside from the celebrant himself, all the following would probably be present ~ although, at a pinch, ONE of them might be done-without. Which would this be?
    We believe that the Thurifer's assistant is more dispensible than the Acolytes. If you have ever seen (admittedly, somewhat extreme) footage of any Papal Masses, at St Peter's in Rome or elsewhere, you will know how much ritual and even choreography goes into making any Mass such a special spectacle. These would presumably include a Crucifer (cross-carrier), Book-Bearer and Episcopal Attendants to hold the Pope's (or Bishop's) staff and mitre while he is busy presiding. There will also have been a Sacristan ~ the church equivalent of a Stage Manager ~ who provides and checks the 'set and properties' before the event begins (the right vessels, cloths and garments; enough of the Holy Elements for the expected congregation, etc.).

    People of a simpler religious tradition sometimes look askance at all these 'smells and bells' etc., perhaps since they are not attuned to God being offered earth's very finest in worship. All true worship should entail elements of specialness, dignity, focus and 'the numinous', and these contributory sensory elements are intended to harmonise to create that effect. Some more traditional Catholics, on the other hand, may find certain types of Protestant worship 'aesthetically thin' or even tinny, alarmingly direct rather than more contemplative, and bafflingly informal rather than recognisably liturgical. Their reciprocal label for such events and their music might well be 'happy-clappy'. The debate continues ... but usually almost anyone can find a style of worship that suits their culture and personal disposition. (If you're a Catholic, it's probably in the blood!)
  2. According to the phrase in the Nicene Creed (also shared in Protestant worship), the Church is described in four distinct ways. As ever, here we have taken the liberty of subverting ONE of them: which one?
    'Roman' (Ans.3) is the decoy here: delete this, move-up 'Catholic', and insert 'Apostolic' as the 4th correct epithet, because this references the origins of the Church on earth through the ministry of the Apostles ~ formerly, Disciples (in 11 cases out of 12, anyway) ~ beginning on the original Pentecost Sunday
  3. The individual Catholic journey (rather than 'pilgrimage', perhaps) begins at Baptism ~ at various levels of which, each of the following apart from ONE is held for true: which one?
    You may have reached the correct ('wrong') answer and wondered whether you had missed something. The catch happens to be that if no two suitable Catholic godparents are available, the place of one of them (only) may be taken by a baptised Protestant in good standing
  4. The Christian Church at large, across its many diverse denominations, remains broadly agreed and loyal to the principle of offering its members regular chances to attend a partial reenactment of the Last Supper, in which Jesus (originally to his Disciples) foretold and illustrated the coming sacrifice of His body and blood 'for the forgiveness of sins'. This ritual, perhaps unsurprisingly, goes by a variety of titles ... but which one do Catholics almost always use for it?
    To all but the most puristical, Answers 2-4 inclusive are virtually interchangeable, but Catholics habitually go to Mass; the Lord's Supper (Ans.1) is more a lower-church, perhaps Scottish Presbyterian way of referring to it ~ though, by denotation or connotation, it could hardly be dubbed 'wrong' even by a Catholic, since it refers back directly to St Paul's key account of the Last Supper in 1 Corinthians (11:20) and, in turn, to Luke 22:19. The title 'Mass' derives from its final phrase in the old Latin: 'Ite, missa est' effectively means 'Go forth into the world' (cognate with the words 'mission' and 'missionary')
  5. Besides incense, another traditional scented element in Catholic worship is the Oil of Chrism used for various ritual forms of anointing (at rites of initiation such as Baptism and Confirmation). What ingredient, added into the oil itself, gives it its distinctive fragrance?
    Once smelt, rarely forgotten!
  6. Since time almost immemorial, the Catholic church (in common with more traditional or ritualistic other denominations ~ but characteristically, more so!) has used colour symbolically in worship, principally by changing such linen as altar frontals and sanctuary-party vestments according to the liturgical season. The Roman Rite distinguishes up to seven of these (it's That Number Again), four of which we detail below, but ONE of these we have ~ as ever ~ mismatched with its liturgical reference ... which one?
    Answer 4 is almost complete rubbish. 'Green is used', but only during Ordinary Time, which runs from after the special days of Whitsun / Trinity / Corpus Christi (usually around June), right though until Christ the King, which in turn comes immediately before Advent Sunday, i.e. typically within the last decan of November. So if you have visited a church during the summer holidays or autumn (including, coincidentally, Harvest), the chances are it was dressed in green anyway for this reason. The green will of course be interrupted for such festivals as All Saints' and Souls', and Remembrance (although this latter ~ along with Harvest and its fellow-festival of Rogation ~ does not seem to be formally bargained-for in the Catholic system)
  7. Given how outwardly similar Mass appears to a communion service in many Protestant churches, and indeed how pivotal its central commemorative meaning is to all sincere participants, it may seem surprising that non-Catholics are not allowed to share in it. (There is no such reciprocal prohibition ~ i.e. by Protestants on would-be Catholic co-communicants ~ but most strict Catholics wouldn't 'let themselves go', however friendly and well-intentioned the ecumenical circumstances, because the Vatican prescribes one absolutely crucial difference.) So... what is it that Protestants, by definition, would themselves not be able to accept within the Mass?
    These are clearly serious obstacles, however abstract they may seem. That being said, your author can safely reveal that, particularly during his 'year out' in nominally Catholic France as an undergraduate modern-language student circa 1980, he was actively welcomed as a young churchman in good faith at a number of Catholic services and events ... not just while he was playing the organ for Masses. Indeed, on one occasion he was even seated next to the local RC bishop at the supper between a Mass and a discussion meeting (possibly as a 1-off novelty for the bishop ~ who hadn't batted an eyelid at going through at least the visible motions of giving him communion, a few minutes beforehand, and seemed not at all nonplussed when this was clarified afterwards!). The ecumenical community at Taizé in Burgundy welcomed Christians of all denominations, and presumably still actively does so. How the relevant Catholic clergy square this up with their consciences and superiors, probably lies beyond the remit of this quiz!
  8. In the eyes of the Catholic Church, is there any other way for anyone to become right with God except through the water of Baptism (and the other significant ritual details that go along with that)?
    Ultimately, nobody is beyond the loving reach of God; how could anyone be so, when the God in question is all-powerful?
  9. What usually comes next after the Greeting, at the beginning of Mass?
    The General Confession (Ans.1) is a Protestant step in its equivalent service, since Prots would probably not previously have been to individual confessional; Catholics move more swiftly into a symbolic absolution (getting-rid-of; neutralisation) of any sins that could block congregants' spiritual channel to God. The other mentioned stages would come later within the service
  10. Apart from the great cathedrals of course, and several significant networks of monastic communities, most Catholic worship takes place in parish churches. Which of the following is almost certainly the LEAST likely sign that you are in a Catholic church, rather than one belonging to some other Western Christian denomination?
    The Catholics do not have a monopoly on organ music; some more progressive Catholic churches barely or never use it. Any of the other answers might also be discernible in (for instance) a 'high' Anglo-Catholic church: but if you detected all of them, this would be overwhelmingly likely to be a Catholic environment

Author: Ian Miles

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