CFoYC, part 1, The Basics.
So a discussion got me thinking about how culturally Catholics and evangelicals are a world apart. Thus, I’m beginning a series of posts entitled, “Care and feeding of your Catholic.”
So you’ve got yourself a Catholic in the family! Congratulations! With a little understanding, and liberal feedings of chocolate, you’ll probably have a happy Catholic for years to come. This is the first in a series of posts designed to get the most out of your Catholic.
1.) The one thing central to a Catholic’s life is the sacrifice of the Mass. Odds are in this country, your Catholic is Roman Catholic, one of 4 rites within the Church. This site does a pretty good job of explaining all of them. Any one church within the Catholic Church will count for one’s weekly obligation.
2.) The Mass is a sacrifice. Communion in the Catholic Church is offered daily. Catholics believe in the Real Presence–Christ is fully present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. This is non-negotiable and dogma (there’s actually precious little that’s defined as dogma. We’ll get to that later.) How exactly it happens is also a mystery.
3.) Your Catholic is obligated to go to Mass on Sunday. Other non-feast days are encouraged. Additionally your Catholic will be obligated to go to Mass on certain feasts, non-Sunday days called Holy Days of Obligation–Jan. 1, the Solemnity of Mary; Thursday of the 6th week of easter–the Ascension; August 15–the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin; November 1–All Saints; December 8–the Immaculate Conception (doesn’t refer to Christ…); December 25–Christmas. Now if Jan 1, Ascension, or All Saints falls on a Saturday or a Monday, your Catholic may not be obligated to go to Mass. Also, some bishops may make a solemnity–what these feasts are called–on a Sunday. Confused yet? It all depends on what the bishop decides for the diocese in which your Catholic resides.
4.) The Catholic liturgical day starts the night before. So your Catholic could go to Mass on Saturday night, and it would count. Ditto for the night before any Holy Day of Obligation. These are “vigils” of the feast.
5.) There are only two days your Catholic is obliged to fast and abstain: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. (These aren’t days of obligation, although some Catholics will attend services on them. Good Friday never has a Mass.) A Catholic between the age of 14 and 59 must fast as one’s health will allow. The rules for fasting are one meal plus all the fluids a person can drink. Two smaller meals plus one larger are allowed, so long as they don’t go over the one meal limit.
6.) Abstinence: no meat, except for amphibians, reptiles, bugs, and fish. (Anything cold-blooded is acceptable, although personally my ass is not going to eat salamander, no matter how much hot sauce is served with it.) Also broth in something is acceptable, if you forget and make something with chicken broth on a Friday. Catholics must abstain on all Fridays of the year, plus Good Friday and Ash Wednesday. (So for the meal, your Catholic can’t eat meat.) The Friday abstinence during the year (not during Lent!) may be substituted with something else, if you forget and bust out a pot roast when having your Catholic for dinner.
7.) With fasting and abstinence, common sense applies. Obviously a big smoothie from Jamba Juice is pushing the line on the fluids during a fast day. Sushi is acceptable for a day of abstinence, but it’s questionable about the spirit of the law. (Since in this country sushi is a luxury.)
8.) All Catholics are required to fast for an hour before receiving Communion. Only exceptions to this fast are water and medicine. (So don’t offer your Catholic breakfast before Mass…afterwards breakfast would be appreciated.)
9.) Your Catholic may make the sign of the Cross before and after a prayer, or anytime the formula “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” is used. This is done in remembrance of one’s baptism (always Trinitarian).
10.) Upon entering a Catholic church, your Catholic will cross him/herself with holy water, conveniently placed at the entrances, or from the baptismal font. Again, this is a remembrance of one’s baptism (how one enters the Church). In a non-Catholic church, your Catholic may forget and cross him/herself with water from your baptismal font, anyway, not finding little holders for holy water at the entrance. (Yes, I’ve done this.) You aren’t required to do this, but if you were baptized according to the Trinitarian formula, you’re more than welcome to do so.
11.) If you go with your Catholic to Mass, you’ll notice that he/she will genuflect before entering a pew or leaving it. This is because the Real Presence–in the consecrated hosts–are reserved in a special container near the altar or to the side of it called the tabernacle. You aren’t required to genuflect. A Catholic doesn’t genuflect on Good Friday, because the tabernacle is emptied out the night before. If your Catholic goes to your worship service, he/she may forget and genuflect anyway.
12.) Did you offer to take your Catholic to your worship service? If he/she goes, your Catholic will still be obligated to go to Mass that day. It is not a commentary on your worship! Catholics are obligated to attend Mass on Sunday. Why not go with him/her? Or better yet, if you’ve got one of the funky other rites within the Catholic Church nearby, why not go to one of them? Both of you will be on equal footing.