I was raised in a protestant home (my father is a protestant minister), and I have always felt a close relationship to and deep love for Jesus. Over the years, I’ve developed a curiosity about Catholocism, and I have been researching the Church’s beliefs. I thought about converting b/c I feel the Catholic Church has a beautiful reverance for God that I sometimes miss in these modern mega churches. BUT, the problem is, I am now sooooo utterly confused about my relationship with Christ. I started on this journey feeling close to Him, but, now I feel seperated by ritual “formalities” that I must perform in order to please Him. Has anyone else felt this way? I miss just talking to Him without feeling like I did everything wrong in my expression of faith.
What “ritual” formalities are you exactly preforming as a non-Catholic?
now I feel seperated by ritual “formalities” that I must perform in order to please Him
I think I know what you mean. Sometimes you feel like God might be distant, and that you’re seperated by these ‘rituals’ like Mass, the rosary (or memorized prayer in general), crossing ourselves at the right time, and (what makes my protestant family crack up) making sure that our two small meals on a day of fasting are not equal to the proportions of one regular meal.
The thing I realized when I was doing all of this was that I was trying to live by the rule of the law, and not the spirit of it. In other words, because I was so concerned about making sure what I was doing was right in order to please God, I wasn’t pleasing God because I wasn’t paying any attention to what was REALLY going on. I was worried about getting the gestures right in Mass - but forgot all about what I was at Mass to do! I concentrated on keeping the prayers right in the rosary - and forgot to contemplate the life of Our Lord.
So I shrugged and ‘gave up’ trying to be perfect in my gestures and words, and decided to just constantly unite my heart to God. I found that, at Mass, if I’m concentrating on Jesus, the gestures all make complete and utter sense, and I desire to do them. Same with the rosary - contemplating Jesus, the words of the prayers became just as much mine as if I’d just made them up. I added more spontaneous prayer to my life too.
The ‘rituals’ aren’t there to seperate us from God. They’re there to unite us so fully to God that we’re one. The thing is though, that the rituals were formed by people who were already at that point, so they’re a little advanced for us newcommers. If we start in the right place, the rituals become the perfect fullfillment of our own spirituality.
“the mass explained” - free copies of good stuff-
the Rosary is scriptural. You need to meditate on the scriptural elements as you try to see things happening as if you were right there watching it all happen. I think there is even a site called scriptural rosary…
I wish I knew what in specific is the problem.
I may have not been clear in my post…but, Rawb, you got it EXACTLY!
It probobly was not you not being clear. Its hard to put into exact words something as personal as faith and how one feels about it.
God be with you
I may have not been clear in my post…but, Rawb, you got it EXACTLY!
Glad I could help. A LOT of people I’ve spoken with have this problem, and variations of it come up on the forums a lot too, so don’t feel like we’re the only ones! I think it’s probably very high in conversions too, because Catholic spirituality is so different from Protestant mainline spirituality. It’s quieter, and more still, but the end result, in my experience, has been a deeper and more meaningful relationship with God.
BTW - the reverence is what drew me to The Church too.
In my experience, when I feel the frustration with the “ritual formalities” coming on, I take that as a call from God to go deeper with Him.
Kind of like “souping up” an old street rod to get it at its peak performance. It’s running great, but all of a sudden the desire to make it run more power hits so one would have to break it down and do all the in depth research to know the workings of the engine and begin to adjust the fuel jets, bore the cylinders, put on a header, etc and spend a whole bunch of man-hours all to get the end result. But Wow is it worth it! So this frustration with ritual is like that in that if I feel it coming on, it’s time to make a “performance modification” and study the “manuals”, adjust how I’m spending my time with God namely in prayer, living and sharing the Gospel, etc. And if this keeps going on, the next thing I’ll end up having to do is wear a crash helmet to Mass!
Thank you all for your kind replies…your words of wisdom have greatly encouraged me! God bless!
One of the things that newcomers often don’t realize is that liturgical prayer isn’t for the ‘right now’ when you are enthusiastic and filled with consolation and the ‘feeling’ of the presence of God in your life. You harness the enthusiasm now to build a habit and a structure of prayer that will help you get through the inevitable dry times that will come.
Gee, toshio, I LOVE the ritualized formalities. . . just imagine that, right now, mass is being said somewhere in the world, with hundreds of thousands of people offering thanks to the Lord for His Love and Grace!
I think of that on Sundays.
I almost imagine the time zones perking up on the hour, all around the globe.
I also meditate on the words themselves. And I feel my voice is joining the others in the congregation.
Around here you could almost add the half hour too - at least of a Sunday morning
I think you, my friend, are very right in that you know that God wants from you honesty! Not ritualism! Not that rituals are wrong in and of themselves, but I too find them all too restricting in concerns to the way in which I worship; I understand how some like such order, and others do not feel it is as unnecessary. I think that so long as you are striving to please Christ your Savior, whichever form you choose is acceptable.
And do not think you will ever upset God in your seeking him! Don’t think seeking to form a friendship with him is anything but good news to his ears–anything less than his greatest wish.
It certainly shouldn’t be a choice between ritual OR informal/spontaneous. We can, and should, have both. I believe it is wrong to reject one or the other of these. When I was a Protestant there was little of what we would call ritual, but as I moved towards Catholicism one of the first things I noticed was that there is actually plenty of ritual in even the most free-wheeling worship. Protestants DO have a lot of ritual, they just avoid calling it that, because many of them are anti-Catholics who reject liturgical forms of worship, and think that anything smelling of format is perfunctory. There’s a lot to like about format, order, recitation, memorization. It gives you a grounding and helps you to develop your own personal methodology of prayer.
I like to use musicianship as an example. I was a professional jazz musician for most of my life, so I am very familiar with how one learns music. It comes from practice. You start with scales and patterns, and you repeat them endlessly until they become the lexicon of your musical language. Once they’re internalized, you start to modify them according to your own style. Then, when you improvise, you’re using these musical sentences, inverted, subdivided, rearranged, in your own personal, distinctive way. But, you can’t go anywhere without the language, and the only way to get that language is through repetition. Humans need repetition to learn. Is there anything we learn except through much repetition? Doesn’t it make sense that we would become better pray=ers by learning the prayers and forms of others, and then adapting them to our own styles and needs?
Yes, exactly and not just the dry times but when your faith is under attack as well, like when life suddenly deals you a rough hand.
When my MIL’s 4th child (3rd son) was 3, he was diagnosed with Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy. She was told that he would become increasingly disabled to the point where he could do nothing for himself and die at about 16. The family was in New York City, not their home town, to see the specialist who made the diagnosis. She was quite understandably distressed so she went to confession at a nearby church. The priest told her that her son was sick and was going to die because she was a sinful woman, that the boy was being punished for her sins.* Needless to say, this is wrong but coming from the priest, it was a severe blow to someone already suffering. It was not just what the priest said. My FIL could not handle it and retreated into the bottle and although he continued to supply the income, he left her to carry all the responsibility for caring for the family on her own.
It was the ritual that kept her going. She told me that if she had not had the ritual to fall back on, she would have lost her faith altogether. In many ways, she found the ritual comforting, perhaps the only way she could meet God in her life the way it was when her children were small.
- No, he was not afflicted because of her or anyone else’s sins but that the glory of God might shine forth, which it did from his witness, but that’s another story.
toshia_t: I miss just talking to Him without feeling like I did everything wrong in my expression of faith.
As Allweather said, it is not an either/or situation. You can still ‘just talk’ to Him. You can pray anytime, not just at Mass. In fact, it is recommended and encouraged. If you are blessed with being able to ‘just talk’ to Him, don’t stop. He said, “Pray without ceasing.”
Don’t worry so much about making the correct ritual movement or prayer at the correct time at Mass. I am a convert so I know how bewildering it seems at first. But it does make sense and come naturally after a while.
Are you going to RCIA? If you are, ask about the various postures and gestures at Mass and what they mean and why we do them when we do. It may be ritual but it is certainly not mindless, nor empty. Here is a link about postures and gestures.
Here is a specific 'for instance’
Yet another is the series of three small Crosses traced by the thumb of the right hand – one small Cross on the forehead, one small Cross on the lips, and one small Cross on the breast – just before the Gospel reading at Mass. The sign on the forehead is to show that we believe the Gospel, the sign on the lips is to show that we respect the Gospel and desire to spread the Good News, and the sign on our breast is to show that we love the Gospel and want it kept in our hearts.
Hi toshia_t, and welcome. Read the Psalms, David often felt that way and cried out to God even when he did not feel like God was listening. It is a common human emotion from time to time. Use it as a time, to draw closer to God by scripture reading, prayer, fellowship one on one or in a group, fast, worship, sing praises, confess sin, etc.,
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed He was walking along the beach with the LORD. Across the sky flashed scenes from His life. For each scene He noticed two sets of footprints in the sand. One belonging to Him and the other to the LORD.
When the last scene of His life flashed before Him, He looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of His life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times of His life.
This really bothered Him and He questioned the LORD about it. LORD you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.
The LORD replied, my precious, precious child, I Love you and I would never leave you! During your times of trial and suffering when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.