Is the type of worship an obstacle to people considering the Catholic Church?

By this I mean, liturgy and fixed worship practices as opposed to a non-liturgical style.

I don’t think this question has ever been asked before.

For certain evangelical/charismatic branches of protestantism it would be. I come from a mainly non-liturgical background and liturgy is looked upon as being “rote” and pointing to legalism. I don’t really get the issues with it personally (perhaps because I also have a Methodist background), but one of the main things I’ve heard brought up is that it is indeed seen to be “too Catholic” or too ritualistic. Because of the ritualistic trappings that is where some fundamentalists attack them as deriving from pagan practice.

Except that a familiarity with history shows that our liturgy comes from Christ Himself.
Clearly He was accustomed to strict liturgical practices.
Interesting question.
But all of our liturgy has Biblical sources…so, again, learning more about it is the key.

Yes, it’s an obstacle for many people, but not an insurmountable one.

I’d say the obstacle is two-fold. First is tolerating the ritual, second is taking the time to learn the meaning and beauty of it.

People these days like to kind of do what they want, and free form stuff, and have it be “natural” and “from the heart” rather than ritualistic, “dry”, or “automated.” So, I’d say, in our culture today this can be an obstacle for many people, for sure. They crave emotion, passionate sermons, entertaining music. Not ritual. It’s the culture of today.

However, it’s only a superficial obstacle. Once they delve in and learn (if they even care to take to the time to – another fault of the current culture) and discover the meaning behind the ritual, the depth and the history of it…it is no longer much of an obstacle. It becomes something beauteous, layered with meaning, and spiritually fulfilling.

In reality, humans are built for ritual. Our psychology craves it. All indigenous religions have it, without fail. We have ritual at home, at work, etc. It’s just a matter of getting wishy-washy “spiritual-but-not-religious” people to think of sacred ritual as something that is more relevant than they previously thought.

It can be, but generally among those who are unfamiliar with Jewish and Christian history.

It was a matter of stumbling for a good friend of mine. He was raised in a Holiness/Pentecostal community. His view of Christianity and “church worship” was 30 years of attending his small church in rural Alabama wherein people carried and read from the King James Bible into church, following extemporized sermons and spontaneous hymn singing that was selected “on the spot” ‘by how the Spirit moved’ the choir director.

Upon the release of the Revised Common Lectionary and his visit to a similar church community that had adopted it, my friend was highly aggravated, feeling that such “structured worship” was blasphemous. He did not return to this church, to say the least, nor did he accept an invitation to worship with me in Catholic community right away either.

Later on his own he learned the historical background of liturgy, how the Christian community universally adopted liturgical worship due to its Jewish foundations, and that even the Jews followed a liturgy. The Psalms themselves were composed under inspiration of God for this very purpose, liturgical Temple worship. He secretly studied for some time on how Christians made this there form of worship, and how “free-style” worship was really a relatively new innovation in Christianity.

He came to appreciate that his previous “judgment” of this “other” church was due to his own ignorance on the matter. But what was interesting was his realizing that ignorance was not the main obstacle.

Recalling his words the best way I can, he stated: “What keeps you from accepting that there is another way is the pride we simmer in our hearts that convinces us we are always right about our views on God. Nobody goes around thinking, ‘You know, I could be wrong.’ Even when I would bring up questions to other Christians, asking them what they thought of things, I was being dishonest as I was looking for an avenue to take to turn things into a reason to testify on how I a have the right way of worship and yours is wrong. Anything that speaks of saying that you are wrong, you ignore without giving a chance. I hated the feeling of being wrong, so I would not face it for a long time. I almost didn’t.”

We are all subject to this. We tend to never go about doubting our adopted views on religion. We are always thinking we are right and generally see other views are wrong, even those we have never fully investigated.

This is often a greater obstacle than any newly introduced forms of worship one may discover upon investigating the Church. We are not creatures of immediate humility. My friend above accepted the facts about liturgy years before entering a Catholic Church. His slowness of response was due to an obstacle greater than the liturgy. It was his pride. Some of us may never master it as completely as he has.

It is often stated, however, at the various non-liturgical communities that I have attended, in various continents and among different cultures - they seem very, very similar in their external expression. Almost as if they were trained by the same few people. Not “fixed and liturgical” but certainly expected and similar.

I’m sure it can be. It’s a problem my own church can sometimes share since we too are liturgical. But one way to think about it, and to present it if a convert is concerned about the ritualistic aspects as being ‘rote’, is to point out the aspects of mass that aren’t rote. Hymns change for example. The sermon/homily is always different. Even some of the so-called ‘rote’ aspects of mass can be changed up such as certain prayers being said, chanted, or even sung (had an Irish priest in my Catholic parish growing up who loved to sing the Our Father). Liturgical mass/services are not quite so repetitive as some non-liturgical Protestants would like to believe.

Protestant non liturgical services seem bland to me. Not much worship.

Good answers so far. When I was younger, having grown up Catholic, non-liturgical was intriguing to me. But after almost two decades in evangelical churches, I found myself longing for more. The more I studied worship in the Bible and the early Church, the more I understood the purpose behind liturgy and fixed worship.

Depends on the non-liturgical service. Some can contain quite a bit of worship, often expressed via singing or directed prayer in my experience. Some however do end up feeling like an overly elaborate bible study. I think it depends on how much emphasis is placed on the bible study component of the sermon in all honestly.

How does answer the OPs question?
Insulting the way other people worship does nothing for dialogue.

What has started to appeal to me in the liturgical style is the fact that people are indeed joined together all over doing the same or similar things; take advent or lent for example. I can see the power in that and how it can join individuals into one community or body. I have issues with many free flowing prayer styles (such as the “I’m going to preach to the audience while I’m praying” issue), and have never liked praying in public in the free form style, so I’m starting to value communal prayers.

I think that worship style is a big factor for people in choosing a church. We attend a large, contemporary, non-denominational church. Of those I know from church who are former Catholics (or Orthodox), a few left because of complex theological reasons. Most have the same story: they say they “weren’t getting anything out of it and didn’t understand it” and they stopped going. Later either by a friend’s invitation or through a mailer from our church they started attending this contemporary church and felt that the adult and children’s programs were ‘relevant’ and understandable and allowed them and their family to learn about God and grow in faith. So for this group of people, liturgical and “old fashioned” worship was a hindrance to them worshipping God.

I recognize that many people may prefer traditional worship and liturgy too and I am not intending to be critical of that in this post. Just pointing out that quite a few people I know choose to not attend Catholic (and Orthodox) services simply because of the worship style. These may not even be complex concerns about ritualistic practices, but just that “it doesn’t work for me” type of a thing.

I think that this is becoming a problem for many Protestant churches as well as Catholic/Orthodox churches. I feel like our society and technology are changing quickly, but many churches have changed their Sunday morning worship very little in the past 100+ years. The young adults of today have grown up in a world with language and social customs very different from a few generations ago. I think it is a big challenge for Christianity as a whole to know how to reach out to a young and struggling generation by knowing what elements can be changed while holding fast to biblical/Christian principles.

You may be on to something. Liturgical Churches are some of the hardest hit when it comes to decline of native membership in the west. Both Protestant and Catholic.

Good points.
I’m thinking perhaps it might be the maturity of the person, and not so much the type of worship. What I mean is, our society is rapidly acquiring attention deficit disorder. Shorter attention spans don’t mix very well with traditional worship, Catholic or Protestant.
If liturgical worship now bores generation Xers, the preacher’s half hour (or longer) sermons might do the same.

Not if they keep it cool, keep it hip, keep it Zima or whatever the kids these days are drinking. :wink:

Seriously though, that’s one advantage non-liturgical churches, particularly non-denominational churches, will always have over those in the liturgical churches, particularly Catholics. They’re able to much more readily evolve their core worship to appeal to younger generations so as not to lose their attention in this era of shortened attention spans. I mean they can provide a plethroa of things to keep young people engaged. I’ll preface what I’m about to post below by saying I’m not singling this particular church out. They’re just the largest non-denom in San Diego County so they’re an easy reference point.

Flashy sermons (in this particular case with a former NFL player from the local team as pastor (and mind you I’m not knocking the pastor as he’s a devout and earnest Christian)).

Engaging praise music in place of what many would view as musty old hymns

Actual Rock concerts in the sanctuary

I mean come on, they can even host boxing competitions in their sanctuaries or in invite in Super Bowl winning quarterbacks to speak on Sunday during their core services

Liturgical churches by comparison, even those without celebrating a mass, are not able to evolve as quickly. And those that actually celebrate a mass are not able to modify their core services much at all (nor would they want to). But it’s tough to compete on an even playing field for the shortened attention spans of the modern populace when you’re tied to centuries of tradition and holy practice. In many ways it’s not a fair fight.

I have attended both Protestant services and Catholic Mass for almost 15 years. The type of worship, when done poorly, is definitely an obstacle. All worship should have a sense of continuity to it. This is the main focus of a Protestant service IMHO - especially non-denom services. A particular emphasis is placed on the music (my involvement) and the “transition points” and socializing and ministries. The homilies are generally longer and often better developed, but I’ve found them lacking much serious depth given the amount of time they spend on them and, of course, I find they don’t reflect the full truth of Scripture most of the time.
The Mass needs to done in such a way that the Priest’s prayers, the music and the Homily form a unity of prayer and worship. Unfortunately the Mass in my parish is so disjointed - it’s virtually impossible to remain in a state of ongoing prayer or worship. If the homily happens to be decent (rare) it should challenge you somehow, or inspire you. It should cause you to reflect spiritually and to listen for God’s nudging in your heart/conscience. It should help you to prepare to receive Christ in the Eucharist. This takes a good homily and a little time for reflection. Once this period of silence is done - and it need only be a minute or so of pure silence, then the Priest should stand, offer a prayer of gratitude for hearing God’s word, acknowledgement of our need to grow in holiness in area xyz that corresponds to the readings/homily, acknowledgement of our need for God’s help and our desire to live holier lives and to reaffirm our faith together in the Creed ( or something along those lines). The communal prayer ties the readings and homily and personal reflection time together while also bringing them an end and directs (ie transitions) to the next event: the Creed. It’s called a transition and it’s needed to provide communal spiritual unity and continuity. Unfortunately that never happens at our Mass. When the homily is finished - and I’m trying to absorb, reflect and listen for God’s prompting - the Priest just abruptly stands up and starts reading the Creed from a piece of paper. Truly a terrible transition that simply says “We do this now because this is what we do now.” The reflection following the Homily is a deeply personal and interior event, while the Creed is largely communal and external. Anyone with the slightest sense of spirituality and a decent prayer life recognizes this. But week after week, year after year we get this abrupt, irreverent and disjointed approach. Almost as good are the announcements immediately following Communion. That’s just great - here I am trying to pour my heart out to Christ and some idiot is going to read the bulletin - that everyone can get immediately after Mass for free - out loud. I’ll just end it here without getting into how bad the music is, how difficult it is to find good Catholic prayer groups or study groups etc etc…


It may be an obstacle if people feel more comfortable in an Evangelical style church.

I really appreciate your honesty. I have attended numerous Catholic services and find it fairly rote and somewhat cold. I find the modern non-denom stage presence to “staged” for my liking. Maybe it is a sign of my age but I do like a church that reveals a genuine sense of being a caring community.

Imo, rock concerts and fights are not worship but schemes to insure more donations. I feel these type of presentations lead people away from God.

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