How does Catholic expression differ from country to country?

Hi everyone,
This is addressed to those who have attended a CathoIic Mass outside the USA in a country whose population is majority Catholic. I would like to know if there are any material differences in the order of the Mass in those countries compared to the USA and/or any major differences in cultural expression of Catholicism in society. I assume that the major tenets of the Catholic faith are expressed and believed by the faithful everywhere. I am mainly interested in knowing what unique cultural expressions or different religious emphasis exist among Catholics in different countries. For example, would a Catholic from the USA recognzie the Mass in Europe or Latin America and be at home in Catholic society (besides potentially having a language barrier) or would it be a lot different than in the USA? Just curious.

The main reason I ask this question is because a fellow protestant told me (in response to my telling him that I perceived that catholics and protestants weren’t as different as I thought they were) that catholics in the USA are on their best behavior and that “If you really want to see how Catholics really are, you need to see how they practice the faith in predominantly Catholic countries where Catholics make up the vast majority of the population and where their superstitious behavior is rampant and unchecked”. “In those countries”, he said, “you will see a different side of Catholcism that is not displayed much in the USA”. I am trying to determine if there is any merit to his assertion.

My inclination is that there may be culturally influenced differences but nothing that would significantly alter the faith in any substantial way. Your thoughts?

Those Filipinos that whip and crucify themselves on Easter might be something to note. I have never seen that in American Catholicism.

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The Mass would be the same, in any country of the world, if you were to attend Mass. It would have the same readings, gospels.

The difference maybe in the local customs or traditions that have been adopted locally.

An example is in the Philippines, there is a tradition of the misa de gallo or the dawn mass…where the faithful attend a dawn mass, usually around 5 am, 9 straight days before Christmas.

Why do you assume that is “Catholicism” and not a recreation of the Lords Passion, what about Oberammergau Germany where the Passion play is reenacted? what about the Hispanic community in my parish (USA) that performed the Lords Passion? this has nothing to do with the OPs question.

To answer the OP I have been to Italy where Catholicism is the major religion, and also in Japan where Catholicism is not. either way it was the same. Catholic = “Universal”. .

Well…do you think those that actually had themselves crucified were acting out of a superstitious belief or of a devotion and love for the Lord Almighty?

Thanks wmscott and pablope for your helpful comments. It helps put things more in perspective. Little by little I am getting a better grasp of Catholic beliefs and customs.

Pablope said:
“Well…do you think those that actually had themselves crucified were acting out of a superstitious belief or of a devotion and love for the Lord Almighty?”

I am in no position to answer that because only God knows their hearts and intentions. Perhaps they were acting out of devotion and love for the Lord or perhaps they were attention seekers with a flair for the dramatic. I tend to give my fellow Christians the benefit of the doubt (or charity, as my Catholic frineds would say) and assume the best, but that’s just me.

May God bless you all today and always.

You are welcome, Tommy. How I wish though some of these local traditions, like the Misa de gallo, would be adopted here in the USA.

You may be interested in reading these other customs or local traditions:

The Moriones Festival based on the story of Longinus…

In Canada we say Aw-men instead of Ey-men :stuck_out_tongue:

But more seriously. The worst thing I have seen was in Spain where people didn’t line up for communion, they’d just- go for it… So as everyone rushed forward, we Canadian pilgrims were shyly waiting for our turn in a neat line :blush:
Also, most of the churches had hard wooden kneelers so they tend to kneel for less long hahah.
On the other hand, they have very beautiful traditions, especially that of having huge processions. Stations of the cross, Marian feasts- most occasions are good for taking some statues out into the streets. Beautiful. Maybe your friend considers these devotions to specific representations of saints “superstition”?

There is certainly very little difference in the Mass though.

Hi Margsy,
I enjoyed your comments. I like a Christian with a good sense of humor and it sounds like you have one.

One example my friend cited was mixing indigenous pre-Columbian beliefs with Catholic Christian beliefs in Central America where he had gone (Guatemala, I think), but I don’t remember the specifics. Personally, it sounds like those differences may be more cultural than religious but I don’t know for sure. Thaat’s why I was curious to see if there was any substance to it. From what I am hearing in this forum, it sounds like the differences are minor and Mass itself doesn’t vary much between countries.

A better case study in the Philippines if you are looking for a belief that the ritual will cause the supernatural occurrence is the procession of the Black Nazarene

I have attended masses in Malaysia, Singapore, US and Australia. They are identical. Perhaps there are variations in when you kneel or stand.

In parts of Malaysia, sometimes the mass may be in multiple languages during celebrations such a Christmas or Easter.

For example, in a multi-racial community, the homily may be in English followed by Iban (a tribal language). During Christmas, homilies may be in 3 languages, English, Chinese and Iban and songs are in multiple languages too. Yes , the service can be lengthy. :smiley:

In other parts of Malaysia, the service may be in a mix of English/Malay/Chinese/Tamil depending on the mix of the community. And homilies in local Chinese dialects too.

In Singapore, occasionally the Filipino community may have some contributions too. The ones I have attended include songs sung in Tagalog alongside with English songs.

Of course you have the local flavors during local festivals such as Chinese New Year and Gawai Dayak. Red packets (ang pows) and mandarin oranges are distributed to children during Chinese New Year. Gawai Dayak is just round the corner. Perhaps we shall see some cultural twists. The main service (Offertory - Communion) ) remains totally unchanged though.

Thank you for sharing your experiences, ericc. Sounds like you have traveled a lot to that part of the world.

In South America the Mass is pretty much the same, except for the music which definitely has a local flavor. However that is also the case at Latino parishes in the US. There’s also a long tradition of street processions in South America.

Tommy, another tradition in the Catholic Church is the Liturgy of the Hours. Morning and Evening Prayers, with mid-morning, mid-day, afternoon and night prayers included. The Priests, Deacons, and religious, with those of the laity who participate, are praying for the Catholic Church and for various other intentions every hour of every day, 24/7/365 all over the world. This is a wonderful solidarity the Catholic Church has. It does not matter what time of day it is, there is someone praying the Liturgy of the Hours somewhere. The neat thing is this is another aspect of being Catholic or Universal. I believe the Orthodox also prays the Liturgy of the Hours but I am no sure, an Orthodox brother or sister or someone in the know better than I would have to confirm that. Sorry if this was off topic.

Not off topic at all, wmscott. That does sound neat and I’m glad you shared it. It comes across to me as an expression of solidarity and unity of purpose within the faithful, which is pretty awesome. Hopefully they occasionally pray for us non-Catholic believers, too. :slight_smile:

Since you mention it, it’s also a common practice for many Catholics (myself included) to always pray for “the conversion of sinners”, which includes both those inside and those outside of the Catholic Faith (because we’re all sinners). So, I think that pretty much covers everyone in the world. :thumbsup:

Excellent point/clarification :thumbsup:
Thank you.

Thanks to both of you (wmscott and Telstar). I am honored that you include me in your prayers and for responding to my post. I used to not touch Catholicism with a 10-foot pole out of fear and ignorance. Little by little I am finding out it is not something to be afraid of, unless you include reverential fear to the Lord.

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