Not really sure where to post this so I figure here might be the best spot...
I'm from a Protestant background as is most of my family. And while I haven't joined RCIA yet (I've been moving around a lot but hopefully coming very soon..), my family knows that's the direction I feel like the Lord has led me.
To get to the point of this post, I was raised in a (Free Will) Baptist Church and I recently entered into a discussion with a family member about why a Catholic Mass is organized the way it is. The exact church I grew up in had a service that was not nearly as structured as a Catholic Mass. Lots of times the pastor would request the choir sing another particular song that they might not have prepared for. Many times he would not have a sermon prepared and would just get up and speak about a subject that he felt like the Holy Spirit had put on his heart. Almost every Sunday we had a section of the Service where anyone that had prepared a song could just get up and sing (sometimes we’d have 5-6 people sing, sometimes none). Even the sermons that were planned out would be accompanied by a Powerpoint presentation with slides to accompany the sermon. As another example, I was a piano player and many times he would many times ask me to come play a certain song at the end of a service while he was doing an altar call without any advance notice. I can remember him saying plenty of times that he liked not having a structured service because it left the service open to being determined by God.
Now the person I was discussing this with definitely doesn't mind preparing a sermon beforehand as they realize there is a definite difference in quality between a prepared and an ad-hoc sermon. But I guess it's just the lack of any apparent choice or what my previous pastor would have called 'openness' to letting God lead the service. They realize that homilies will differ from parish to parish, but for the most part (Scripture readings, prayers, responses etc) anything that is chosen is chosen from a pre-set list. Also, the Mass just has a different ‘feel’ to it ala the Powerpoint slides.
While I do have a hard time refuting his point, I disagree with him on what I prefer. I really like the structure of the Mass . I love the feeling that I know that all around the country/world there are many people studying the exact passages that I am on that day. It just gives it so much more of a 'community' feel than everyone being completely separate. I feel like keeping stuff (relatively) the same, gives us more of a chance to focus on God rather than what's going on around you. I feel like the spontaneity stuff is better suited to study groups and other things besides the Mass.
I basically told him why I prefer that type of service, but that certainly didn't go the full length to explain why Catholic services are so much more rigid than what we were accustomed to. While I prefer for worship the more rigid style, I can certainly see his point and I have a hard time making a better argument rather than just something based on style or taste. Having Ad-Hoc prayers could definitely seem more personal and more 'from the heart' so I’m not really sure how I should respond. I told him I would try to find more information about why it was this way and get back to him though.
Two points I did leave out but thought about later that seem helpful:
1. Having a pre-set schedule of Scripture readings helps to ensure that a wider variety of passages are read. (This doesn't really explain the prayer portion however)
2. Catholics view the Mass as a much more solemn event (The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass etc.), but I really have no idea where to start in explaining this one.
The point of this post? I’m not really sure. I guess I’m just looking on people’s thoughts on this matter. Have you ever run across this type of question about openness? How would you explain it? Would you guess it’s mainly just a difference in background where it’s just not what someone’s familiar with?
Sorry if this has been posted before/a lot. I tried searching for this to make sure but really had no idea how to frame a search….
Thanks for your input and sorry for the long post. I tend to ramble a lot…..