If the previous post was one of disillusionment with Christianity, perhaps this post is a restoration of faith.
From time to time I find myself enamored with the Catholic Church. I’m still a strong Anabaptist and I’m not joining the priesthood anytime soon (I have to ask my wife first) but as I look back on Anabaptist history, I often wonder how much of the baby we threw out with the bathwater during the reformation.
Yesterday I went to the St. Francis Hospital in Wichita to be present for a church members knee surgery. St. Francis is something of a unique hospital in that the Hospital is a big square with a courtyard in the middle. In the courtyard is the still functioning original church and convent. It so happened that I was around when they held their noon Mass. While I’ve been to Mass at this particular church a number of times, I was once again struck by a number of things. Most importantly I was taken by connection between the physical and the spiritual.
Let me clarify.
Many of the practices of the Catholic Church grew out of a situation in which the majority of the population was illiterate. This fact had many implications on various things from liturgy to building design. The Catholic Mass has many call and response sections as well as many elements that are repeated in every service. It allows for people who can’t read a bulletin to participate in the worship. In terms of the building design, the illiteracy issue is the reason that many Catholic churches have so many large paintings of Biblical scenes. When people couldn’t read, the building literally became the text.
I was also struck again by the presence of the Stations of the Cross. For those of you who don’t know, the Stations of the Cross are 14 different scenes in the procession of Jesus from trial to Cross. What struck me this time was the realization that the Stations of the Cross, in some form, are in every Catholic Church. There is a physical representation of theology and faith connects the churches.
After my visit to the Hospital chapel, on my way back through town I decided to stop by the Cathedral in downtown Wichita. I’d never been there so I thought I’d pop in. It was nice and big (although still not as cool as the Basilica at Notre Dame, In). As I left I picked up a pamphlet how to pray the Rosary. This was new information to me. The elements and prayers contained within it weren’t particularly new but understanding the whole structure was. Particularly the depth of theology contained within it. The Rosary contains a number of creeds including the Apostles Creed, the Lord’s Prayer (our Father), the Sign of the Cross, Hail Mary, Glory Be, Hail Holy Queen and 5 different “mysteries” or scenes from the life of Jesus (of which there are 4 different sets of 5 mysteries depending on which day of the week it is). When you break down any one of those creeds into their individual lines, each line winds up being a fairly profound statement of theology on it’s own with it’s own history. The amount of theology, belief and scripture contained within this one simple symbol is truly staggering.
The experiences of yesterday have both refreshed my faith and sent my mind and spirit into action. Here are some of my thoughts and questions that have come out of the day.
Questions for discussion
1. Should the printed Bible be like the painted walls, merely pointing us to the story rather than worshiped itself? The point of the images contained within the Catholic tradition (from walls to windows to icons) is to point you to the real person, story or event. Does scripture function in the same way? Should it?
2. What physical reminder of the faith would every Mennonite church have in it? The Stations of the Cross are in every Catholic church. Is there any shared physical representation of our faith that would be in every Mennonite church building? I’m not talking about doors or mailboxes. I mean something more intentionally tied to our faith. A pulpit…maybe?
3. What would an Anabaptist Rosary look like? I like the idea of having a physical reminder to help someone pray. I’m uncomfortable with the level of time given to repeating the Hail Mary as opposed to the Lord’s Prayer. (10 Hail Mary’s to 1 Our Father) And of course, I’m a good Anabaptist who feels no remorse about changing a time honored symbol belonging to the Catholics. This question will probably be the subject of my next post.
What are your thoughts?