One of the most famous religious institutions in the world is the Catholic Church. It has rather interesting characteristics, traditions, and peculiarities. Going to a Catholic church is an easy decision as there are many people around who have chosen this religion and this tradition to follow. Besides, Catholicism significantly differs from other kinds of religion, for example, from Orthodox Christianity. Therefore, the paper aims to investigate the peculiarities of Catholic Church, its architecture, religious elements, specifics of Sunday Mass procedure, and general recollection of a visit to a Catholic temple.
During the process of investigation there such methods as interviews, formal and informal conversations, and personal observation were used. The acquaintance that became the guide into the world of Catholic Church is a neighbor and a family friend. He gladly agreed to help in the process of investigating peculiarities of Catholic world. His name is Robert Carter and he converted to Catholicism when he was eighteen. It was his personal decision, as the rest of his family are Lutheran. While being in the temple, it is possible to ask questions about the specific elements of the traditional Catholic Church architecture and decoration. During the discussion such questions as whether the altar barrier is essential, why it is possible to see the statues, what is the function of benches for kneeling, and many others were asked. It was also possible to learn the purpose of the bells and bell tower and get to know all its functions and meanings. Interestingly, a Catholic Church always has a rich sense of detailed points to certain aspects of Catholic beliefs and practices. Therefore, a number of questions from the non-Catholic representative provided an excellent chance to talk about faith and learn more about the Catholic Church.
Robert introduced Olivier Reiner, who works in a team of architects that builds churches nowadays. He explains the meaning of the word “sacred place”, Domus Dei, and discusses the phrase “dedicated to worship of God.” According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Visible Churches, Temples, is not just a meeting place ‑ they signify and represent a Church as a living being, the abode of God with people, reconciliation and unification in Christ. In this church the truth and the harmony constituting it, must open the Christ, present and active here,” says Mr. Oliver. The architects were building churches for centuries using special architectural language and with the main aim of creating a Church that will speak about its determination with its appearance. Oliver said, that “The church should look like … a church.” This can be achieved in many ways, but there are three main elements that determine aesthetics of building a temple: verticality, permanent features, and iconographic. It is important to note that when approaching the temple, even before the eyes gaze at the whole building or at least its pediment, people see the belfry.
This is one of the main vertical elements drawing attention to the church both visually, and audibly by ringing bells, serving as an addition to mark the time, and for the call to prayer or worship. The main room of the church is called the nave from the Latin “navis” meaning “ship”. The nave serves the congregation and its name means literally “Ark of Salvation”. It is divided into two or four sections of benches located in the center of its passage, leading to the presbytery and the altar. At the entrance to the nave, there are bowls with holy water. Here, people are blessed by it reminding themselves about their baptism and sins. People cross themselves in front of the Church with pre-moistened fingers in an ancient way to clear oneself coming into the Church. Inside there are many benches for seating, equipped with smaller benches for kneeling. The benches are made of wood and have backrest. Benches for kneeling are covered with soft pads. The nave is well lit with sunlight from the outside, and it is noticeable that the windows are actually frescoes. In front of the entrance, a huge organ is beautifully ornamented with metal shapes and forms. The priest is wearing special clothes that are embroidered and have bright golden parts.
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After the special sign of the priest, all people kneel on the benches and start reading the prayer, together with the chorus. The general image is rather interesting and people pray with spiritual expressions on their faces. It is notable, that a stranger’s presence during the Sunday Mass did not seem to change the whole flow of the service. Robert quietly explained all the steps, so it was easy to follow the process, as it was rather interesting and changed all the time. The other family that was present at the mass was a father and son who were from Mexico. They attend Sunday service every time and they pointed out that they need to visit this place to feel unity with God. Moreover, here they can talk to other members of the community and being a part of it is what makes it essential for immigrants like them.
Specifics of the Ritual of the Catholic Church are manifested in the liturgy, the Mass, and all other processes being conducted in Latin. Parishioners are involved in it sitting down. They stand up only during the reading of the Gospel. It is accompanied by organ music. The sound of the organ music emphasizes the uniqueness of the Catholic liturgy. The interior of the Catholic temple is dominated by sculptures and paintings, not icons as in the Orthodox tradition. The frescoes in the church recreate sacred history and illustrate biblical scenes, thus educating parishioners. Such decorations of Catholic Church deserve special attention, because it immediately reminds a newcomer that he is a Catholic, not Protestant. Catholics are crossing themselves with the palm from the left shoulder to the right as opposed to Orthodox Christians. The Catholic Church honors Catholic saints and relics that relate to their life and work. Catholicism has its own characteristics in the conduct of the sacraments, religious actions that “visibly communicate the invisible grace of God being faithful”, which changes the spiritual and moral life of a person. As noted by Robert Carter, parishioner, in Catholicism, as in Orthodoxy, seven sacraments are recognized, in each of which a person communicates a certain gift of grace. According to the doctrine of “opus operatum,” the validity of the sacraments and salvific actions does not depend on the qualities of the people committing them, but depends on the play of mandatory procedures. This includes compliance with the established procedure, participation of a “legally delivered” cleric, following a verbal formula as well as a special feeling to receive the sacraments.
The sacraments are divided into unique, such as Baptism, Confirmation, the priesthood, and repeatable (Ganoczy, 2008). The sacrament of baptism is a sacred act in which a believer in Christ, through the threefold body water pouring from the invocation of the name of the Holy Trinity, namely, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, becomes washed from original sin. He becomes reborn by the grace of the Holy Spirit in a new spiritual life that is a grace of Christ’s kingdom (Ganoczy, 2008). Sacrament of Confirmation is a sacrament in which the believer serves the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which strengthen his spiritual Christian life. In Catholicism, bishop performs a confirmation of children 7-12 years old, giving them divine grace. The sacrament of penance, confession is a sacrament in which the believer confesses his sins verbally and opens to God in the presence of a priest in the confessional, and receives forgiveness from the Lord Jesus Christ.
One of the seven sacraments was conducted during that Sunday service. It was the sacrament of communion, in which the believer or worshiper under the guise of bread and water tastes the very Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, and through this mystery becomes connected with Christ and becomes a partaker of eternal life. People come up to the altar, and the pastor and his assistant hands people small pieces of flat bread, dipping them in holy water.
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Parishioners eat these slices of bread, joining the universal worship of the Lord God in the Catholic Church. In addition, during the Sunday service, there is another sacrament of Anointing or Unction. During this process, people who have some illnesses, would like to protect themselves from disease, or are going to do an important things have to come to the altar, where the pastor and his assistant anoint the holy oil. The oil is supposed to call the grace of God for the healing of their physical and mental illnesses, fears and experiences, as well as to give them the strength of spirit and self-confidence for their future actions. During the service, people are listening to the chorus and organ music. The combination of both is tremendous. The priest is a very charismatic person. While he reads the prayer all people read it with him. His face is very spiritual, he enjoys his part in the process and people enjoy the service he performs. His commands and change of actions are smooth and happen the way they should be performed. The whole mass is very calm but at the same time people do not get bored. The role of the priest is significant and breathtaking.
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Some people who know the words even sing together with the chorus, and that makes the whole Church a place of one solid voice, sound and mind of the whole community of people. It is evident that all people enjoy the process of service. It does not matter whether they are children or adults. It is interesting that the mount of children in Church is significant, as people come there together with their families. However, during the interview with Martha Mitchell, it was mentioned that the person who is a true believer begins their day with a visit to church. For her and her family every day starts from a visit to Church where she listens to the chorus and prays, becoming blessed for the whole day and for all her actions.
Visiting a Catholic Church is a significant event, because it is interesting to have a look at the building, and take a notice of the interior. However, being present during the Sunday service is a good and positive experience that brings more spirituality into people’s lives and reveals specific characteristics of this religion. It is important to visit this service and be grateful to people who show everything, explained specific moments and introduce a part of the religion and its rituals.
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The meaning of the Sunday Mass is enormous, judging by the emotional level of parishioners after the service and how comfortable they were making decisions for the future and getting ready for action. Besides, this service helped other people become relaxed, stop thinking of their problems, and to find answers to all their questions. The service also kept people united with God and made them feel free to ask for help and hints for their future actions, as well as to get the answers to the most difficult questions for the current period. Moreover, extra characteristics of the event, like the organ music and the whole community that comes for the service, keeps people united and blessed. Such idea is rather positive for everyday life and brings stability and moral calmness to people. Overall, after the mass, one feels blessed and exalted.
If there was a chance to return there and investigate some other aspect, it would be interesting to be present during the process of the sacrament of marriage. It is known that marriages in Catholic Church significantly differ from other religions. It would be interesting to see the emotions of the couple during this sacrament and it would be exciting to interview them about their decision to make such a step.
In conclusion, it is important to point out that Catholic Church and that specific Sunday service present some other kind of religion that has its peculiarities and order of performance. The value of the service to the community cannot be overestimated as it helps people to keep together and feel that they are united with God and blessed. For further investigations, Catholic Church has a number of interesting spheres, like sacramental actions and the meanings of its interior parts, exterior design, and characteristics.