Engaged Encounter/Mass/Confession Rant

I had some pretty bad experiences at Engaged Encounter this weekend and wondered what some other folks think about it. First off, let me say that I enjoyed the weekend as a whole. I thought the married couples were great and the experience was generally a good one and I think my marriage will benefit from it tremendously. I won’t say where the weekend happened because I don’t want this to reflect badly on any of the couples who organized or led it.

All that said, however, I was horrified by the Mass that closed the weekend. After the liturgy of the Word and before the creed, all the couples were asked to form a circle around the altar (I think there were 15 - 20 couples in all) we each read from what was called a “betrothal letter” to our fiance (it was basically an anticipation of wedding vows). This I had no problem with. But after we read, we stayed around the altar for the rest of the communion prayer. We stood the whole time. I figured that no one would kneel when it came time, but I decided that I would. When it came time, however, I didn’t, because I was afraid that everyone would think that I was trying to be this show-off pious person. It nearly killed me. I spent the rest of the Eucharistic prayer fighting back tears. I was so ashamed of myself, particularly when it came time for the benediction (“This is Jesus, the Lamb of God . . .”). Esentially, what happened was that I told Christ, “I can’t kneel before you because I’m afraid everyone will think I’m trying to look devout.” I just wanted to scream at all the other couples, “Don’t you know Who that is?!?” Most of them weren’ even paying attention (some were whispering and giggling). Afterwards, my fiance and I left and I broke down driving home. I’ve gone through life thinking of myself as this real believer in the Eucharist, and I failed such a small test.

I’m sure some would think that I was being melodramatic, but think of it this way. If you were to encounter the risen Christ on the street, would you fall to your knees (or onto your face)? If you would, then do you believe in the Real Presence? If so, point made.

The other thing is that at the beginning of the weekend I told the deacon who participated that I wanted to go to confession. I really needed to go to confession before I could go to communion on Sunday. He told me that all I had to do was make a good act of contrition and my sins would be forgiven. Later I went to one of the married couples and asked them if they could help me get a hold of a priest to hear my confession. The husband did help me, and I am grateful for it. However, he acted like he was really just indulging me by helping me out.

I hope this kind of attitude isn’t as widespread as it appears it must be. I don’t see how people cannot realize what they’re leading the church to when they say that we don’t really need confession. I believe God will forgive sins outside of confession, but I believe that He established confession as the ordinary means of forgiveness and He expects us to take advantage of the sacrament when it is available to us. If we say that we don’t really need confession, then we can go on and say that we don’t really need the Eucharist because we can receive Jesus any time we want, and we don’t really have to get married if we’re in true love because two people who are in love know their commitment to eachother, and we don’t really need the church for anything at all because everyone has access to God, blah blah, et cetera, et cetera, and so forth and so on.

I’m sorry to post such a sprawling rant, but I’ve been really upset and disillusioned over this experience. Seeing people giggle and whisper when Christ Himself is being lifted up before them makes me feel very alone in the world. I hear all the time that there has been a new devotion to the Eucharist and to the Church in recent years. I wish I knew where this new devotion is. I wish I knew where those kinds of people are.

I’m sorry to hear about the bad experience. I found your post very touching. There are people who believe and love the Eucharistic Presence, and you are one of them.

Please take heart, and never lose your love for the Real Presence. It sounds like your fiance is lucky to have someone with such a strong and active faith.

(P.S. I’ve recently begun to read the works of St. Peter Julian Eymard on the Eucharist, and have found it a great blessing. You might want to check them out.)

I’m so sorry about your experience.
You are not alone, I got yelled at on the" Kneeling to receive", thread because I felt very uncomfortable (thinking I would be seen as Uber-pious) kneeling for Communion in a parish where everyone is standing. I stated that I felt so uncomfortable because of what people said here.
Of course someone took offense and said bascially that I was to Blame for not going.

I chose to skip the Eucharist and go to a latter Holy Mass at my own parish.
Sometimes you can’t win with these people.

[quote=Absalom!] I hear all the time that there has been a new devotion to the Eucharist and to the Church in recent years. I wish I knew where this new devotion is. I wish I knew where those kinds of people are.

BTW, where are you? Maybe someone here can help you find a parish that is more to your liking.

Dont worry about it. What those guys did was very wrong and you showed that that wasnt you. Remember Peter? There was more than a few times when he let the people around him scare him into doing things he would not have done otherwise. Jesus knew his heart and wasnt going to condemn him for it. Your fine, and there are people out there who have the same thoughts.

Here is a passage from StPaul’s letter to the Galatians, Peter was stuck in a similar situation. Peter came to see how things were going and was eating at a table with the new Gentile Christians, then a bunch of strict Jews came up to see how things were going and Peter freaked out, he didnt want the Jewish converts in Jerusalem to know that he was eating with “unclean” people.

The intent was not to do bad, you are not in trouble here, it happens to even the best. Peter picked himself back up and continued down the Chirstian path.

A somewhat similar experience happened on a high school retreat several years ago. During the Consecration, the group was invited to stand around the altar. At the time, I didn’t realize that this was against the rules of the Mass…actually, I felt incredibly privileged to be allowed so close to Christ as He came before us. It is very possible that everyone had similar thoughts at your retreat.

Abuse is not always a matter of disobedience, it’s often ignorance and what I would call “immaturity of thought”. The goal in this case was to draw the community closer to Christ. The retreat leaders obviously had the idea of doing this physically. But their thoughts were “immature” because they didn’t think enough about what this Eucharist was. Had they looked into the “mature” thoughts of the 2000-year-old Church, they would have seen that kneeling and following the rubrics of the Mass is a better way to draw the community together because it links them with the entire Catholic communion.

Knowing what I know now, I’d like to think I would have kneeled…but I also know that I too can be very afraid to do things if the crowd doesn’t join in.

Thanks a lot, folks. I really needed to get that all off of my chest. I’ve learned so much about the faith in recent years and have found real evidence for what the Church teaches. It blows my mind to see Catholics taking what they have for granted and not realizing what we have that other Christians do not. We are so privileged.

netmilsmom: I’m in Hattiesburg, MS, right now (but I’m from Alabama). I’m not altogether unhappy at the parishes here (I have to attend three different churches to fit my work schedule). I didn’t do my Engaged Encounter here. I’d rather not say where the EE weekend was, because I liked the married couples that did the Encounter and I don’t want this to reflect badly on them. One thing I have to commend them (and the deacon who I talked to about confession) on is that they definitely pushed NFP with us, even though not everyone at the weekend was Catholic. They never beat around the bush about it.

I’m sorry to hear about your expierences. HOWEVER, you are not alone. I am on a team that teaches a Marriage Preparation Program for the Couples for Christ (CFC) family ministry in Chicago. We here all sorts of stories but mostly about how the Engaged Encounter leaders instruct on birth control and do not teach NFP and when questioned, they say, “We have to be real hee.” CFC has even been asked to take over the EE teaching in some parishes around the world because of their strick adherance to the teachings of the Church.

I wish you all God’s blessings on your marriage.

You sound like you have it all together!

I can’t begin to tell you about my negative experience with EE, because, frankly, I’ve tried to suppress those memories and push them to the far corners of my mind. We attended one in the New England area over 2 years ago, and I do recall that less than 24 hours into it, my (now) husband and I were both trembling with outrage at the way the leaders and clergy tip-toed around Church teachings. By Saturday night, we had met with the leaders and expressed our heartfelt concerns (calmly) and were basically told, “the Church is big enough to embrace many viewpoints”.
When we left, we were grateful for the time we had set aside to spend together; however, the EE experience was largely irrelavent.
I’m sure there are many solid EE programs going on in the world somewhere, however, it was not the one I attended.

[quote=Absalom!]One thing I have to commend them (and the deacon who I talked to about confession) on is that they definitely pushed NFP with us,** even though not everyone at the weekend was Catholic.** They never beat around the bush about it.

Could this be the reason why some of them were giggling? Were they the nonCatholics? (one can only hope) If so, did they receive communion? (whole 'nother topic)

In any event, chances are many of the people on the weekend were not devout practicing Catholics, and saw the weekend as a “hoop” to jump through in order to be married Catholic. (I know that was the case for my husband and I 18 years ago) If so, your faith was probably a tremendous witness to them.

As far as the kneeling, I believe there is sometimes a grace in sacrificing the correct posture in order not to disrupt the mass, to maintain community, offering it up to Jesus all the while, begging His grace if it was not the correct action.

I would be tempted to drop the organizers a note explaining your concerns, quoting the GIRM about posture, and include any other documents necessary. They could be acting out of ignorance, and the priest is allowing them to in a misguided effort at pastoral adaptations.

my 2 cents.

Yes, some of the people giggling were not Catholic, but most were.

[quote=dhgray]. We here all sorts of stories but mostly about how the Engaged Encounter leaders instruct on birth control and do not teach NFP and when questioned,…

I wish you all God’s blessings on your marriage.

That’s pretty interesting, because the two EE leader couples I know are both C2CL Instructors and are some of the biggest voices against the contraceptive mentality I know.

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