I’ve been attending Mass for 6 weeks now (since Christmas) and I’ve been thinking, off an on, about converting for 4 years. Catholic writers like Chesterton, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, and Flannery O’Connor set me on the path, and more specific reading has brought me further- I’ve read The Paradoxes of Catholicism by Ronald Knox, On Being Catholic by Thomas Howard, Rome Sweet Home by Scott Hahn, bits of The Summa, bits of The Lives of the Saints, bits of the Church Fathers. I’m sure I’ll have some questions about theology at some point, but right now I feel OK. But there are things you can’t pick up from simply reading. So I have a few questions.
- What does the Church think about attending Protestant services? I’m a Protestant currently who’s grown up in a “non-denominational” tradition; needless to say, services are very different from mass. My conversion (or potential conversion) is mostly intellectual- I’m not necessarily revolting against Protestantism. There’s a lot about the Protestant service I quite like. So, for 6 weeks, I’ve been attending both. 9AM Mass, 10:30 Praise and Worship. Partly I’ve done this because I’m not actually Catholic yet and may not be for more than another year (I haven’t attended any RCIA meetings and it may be too late for this year). But I also wonder, could this continue after conversion? Provided I’m not taking communion?
I’ve known Catholics, especially younger Catholics, who do this. I was quite surprised to discover that a friend who’d been attending my Protestant service, regularly, for months, was a Catholic who also went to mass regularly- she thought of the Protestant service as a chance to interact with her friends. A kind of social club of believers I guess. Is this wrong? If not actually forbidden, would it be considered bad form? As I’ve read Catholic writings, I’ve noticed that the mass is, conceptually, very different from the Protestant service. Catholics think of themselves at mass as, as near as I can tell, as “receiving the Eucharist” and participating in ancient ceremony the apostles initiated. This isn’t how Protestants view church at all- for them (for us) it’s a chance to learn and to fellowship. Since the mass doesn’t necessarily focus on these praiseworthy aspects of Christian life, could you plausibly view Protestant services as a kind of “gathering of believers”, without seeing it as a replacement for the mass? It’s not wrong, presumably, for Catholics to fellowship with Protestants outside of church services.
How important is translation? I love the King James Bible. None of the Protestant churches I’ve attended have ever used it (they generally prefer NIV)- I just think it’s incredibly poetic and of immense literary value. It’s very hard to think I’ll have to give it up- the most influential book in English letters- upon becoming a Catholic. Would it be permissible to keep The King James, provided I get one of the versions that has the deutero-canonical books?
How important is saying ALL of the prayers? A few days ago I bought rosary beads and I’ve prayed the rosary a few times- it felt very strange but also very nice. I have no problem with the hail mary which is a perfectly biblical prayer but I can’t quite get myself to end it with the “Hail Holy Queen” as apparently I’m supposed to do. It seems a bit much. I’ve been ending it with an “Our Father” instead. Is this bad form? Supposing I accept the prayer as legitimate but simply don’t like it?
Along those same lines, I cannot get myself to accept “co-redemptrix” and “mediatrix” language (the former is more objectionable). I’ve read Catholic explanations galore and I think I understand well enough what is meant by them- I simply don’t understand the necessity of the language. From a practical perspective, it freaks Protestants out and generally goes on freaking them out once they understand what you mean. There’s quite a bit in Catholicism venerating Mary without these terms. I know neither are dogma at this point, but it would be pretty upsetting to join the church only to see them become dogma.