A Treasury of Rituals Practiced in Catholic Churches, a la NPR

A Treasury of Rituals Practiced in Catholic Churches, a la NPR May 22, 2022

 

I don’t want to talk about Nancy Pelosi or Archbishop Cordileone right now.

I’m not saying they shouldn’t be talked about; we’re going to have to talk a lot about them. But I’ve talked about a lot of serious things lately, and I need to blow off a little steam. The only thing I want to talk about just at this moment, is this plum of an article from NPR. Specifically, the paragraph where they try to explain Holy Communion.

The most egregious part of that paragraph has been edited; it now reads “Cordileone notified members of the archdiocese in a letter on Friday that Pelosi must publicly repudiate her support for abortion rights in order to take Holy Communion — a ritual meal of bread and wine that celebrates the life, death and resurrection of Jesus,” which is still not what Catholics believe but pretty okay for a secular publication. This is  replacement for a previous, gloriously weird description of Holy Communion that I am fortunate was screenshotted before it disappeared:

“Cordileone notified members of the archdiocese in a letter on Friday that Pelosi must publicly repudiate her support for abortion rights in order to take Holy Communion — a ritual practiced in Catholic churches to memorialized the death of Christ, in part by consuming a symbolic meal of bread and wine.”

What a very weird way of putting that.

First of all, “a symbolic meal of bread and wine” sounds like we’re pretending to eat Playskool plastic loaves of bread and drinking dyed water to me, but maybe that’s my own eccentricity. Beyond that, if you asked any random person on the street to name one fact about Catholic Holy Communion, I’m certain that none of them would come up with “a ritual practiced in Catholic Churches to memorialize the death of Christ, in part by consuming a symbolic meal of bread and wine.” They’d say “Catholics believe they’re really eating a body” or “Catholics think they eat  Jesus when they have those little cracker looking things.” I don’t expect everyone to believe what I believe, but I wouldn’t expect them to just make something else up either.

Something about this wordy, patronizing, theologically shoddy explanation has been bouncing around in my brain all afternoon.

When I was a little girl, I would sometimes amuse myself by pretending that aliens from another planet or humans from a very different era of history had come to visit me, and I would explain commonplace objects in my house to them in meticulous terms I hoped they’d understand. “This is called a bath tub, a vessel we use to clean oil and dirt from our bodies. You put the stopper in like this. Then you turn these round turny metal things to the right and they make water come out of this long skinny metal thing. This turny thing makes the water hotter and this turny thing makes the water cooler. You have to turn the turny things back in the opposite direction to stop the water when it gets near the top of the tub, or else the house will flood. You rub your skin but not your eyes with this bar of soap until it’s filmy, and then you use more water to get the film of soap back off.” It seems to me that NPR is playing the meticulously-explain-the-bath-to-an-alien game for their readers who might not know about Catholic sacraments, but badly because they didn’t bother to google the Catechism and learn about what they’re explaining.

And now I want to hear how NPR would explain other parts of Catholicism.

“Before Mass we went to Confession, a ritual practiced in Catholic churches to memorialize Adam hiding from God, in part by hiding in a symbolic closet full of mothballs and gently used furniture.”

“This weekend we went to my sister’s baptism, a ritual practiced in Catholic churches to memorialize Christ’s calming the Red Sea, in part by taking a symbolic bath in water and fragrant oils.”

“I was blessed to attend my cousin’s confirmation, a ritual practiced in Catholic churches to memorialize Saint Peter finding money inside the dead fish, in part by rubbing teenagers with essential oils, slapping them in the face with a codfish and giving them cards with money in them.”

“We were all very pleased to go to Sally’s wedding, a ritual practiced in Catholic churches to memorialize the marriage of Adam and Eve, in part by a symbolic throwing of the bouquet at a pack of aggressive bridesmaids and doing the chicken dance.”

“After church we all prayed the Rosary, a ritual practiced in Catholic churches to memorialize the tasteful necklace given to Mary by Saint Joseph as an anniversary gift, in part by falling asleep while an old woman in a mantilla says “HAILmaryfullagracethelordiswiththee” at 78 RPM. ”

“I won a toaster at the Bingo game, a ritual practiced in Catholic churches to memorialize Christ’s childhood pet dog, in part by reciting the names of letters and numbers while the congregation colors on cards with markers.”

Add your own in the comments.

 

 

Image via Wikimedia commons
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.
Steel Magnificat operates almost entirely on tips. To tip the author, visit our donate page.

 

 

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