Thinking of Converting... Need Help!

I’m thinking of converting to Catholicism. I’ve been to mass twice, but I’m not really sure what was going on…

I’m also taking a class called Ethnographic Fieldwork, in which I have to do an ethnography on any culture. I decided to kill two birds with one stone and do my ethnography on a Catholic church. It’s turning out to be more difficult that I thought it would be, though, so I need help!!

One of the things I have to do for my class is conduct surveys, where I ask everyone the same questions. I’ve decided to make my survey entirely from the questions that I have about Catholicism and converting. I’d really appreciate it if you could help me with this. I promise everything will be anonymous, so you can email your answers to me (rhodes.heather@gmail.com) or post them here. You can answer as many or as few questions as you like. Thank you!

  1. How long have you been Catholic?

  2. If you converted, when and why did you convert?

  3. What does being a Catholic mean to you?

  4. What makes you different from a Protestant?

  5. What does the mass mean to you?

  6. What does it mean when a priest blesses something?

  7. How does one have something blessed by a priest?

  8. Are saint medals common? Do you have any? What is their purpose exactly?

  9. What exactly is a rosary?

  10. What is the mass, and what does it mean to you? What do all of the things that the priest does mean?

  11. What is the tabernacle?

  12. What does the crucifix mean to a Catholic?

  13. Are prayer cards common?

  14. What is the purpose of the candles that I saw on a table in a corner of the church?

  15. Is there anything else you think is relevant?

Again, thank you all so much for your help!

hi i’ll try to answer as best i can

  1. this coming week tuesday 8 years
    2.i converted because after attending mass for a while i believed that Jesus was truly present in the consecrated bread
    3.everything
  2. i think the way we live but that’s just my opinion
    5 the mass is us revisiting the moment of calvary
    6 makes it sacred
    7 just ask
    8 yes and yes reminders
    9 a rosary this is a hard one but i’ll try okay there is 5 sets of ten beads in which you pray one of 15 mysteries of the birth life and death of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother at the begining of each mystery the is a single bead on which you anounce the mysery and pray the our Father theres 5 of them as well there’s a bit more to it than that but i’m still learning
    10 the mass is the sacrifice of Jesus being re enacted and revisited and much more
    11 the tabernacle is where the consecrated bread rests until the next mass and for adoration
    12 a reminder of his sacrifice
    13 yes
    14 not sure
    15 the catholic church is the only church that was founded by Jesus Christ i hope i’ve answered correctly if i got anything wrong anyone please correct me

And don’t you need a fuller consent form for a survey? My university would go nuts if we don’t have the full statement from the human research people.

Thank you all so much for your help! It really means a lot, and I understand much better now.

My professor has decided that we don’t have to go through the IRB for this assignment because no one but her will see it. So we don’t have to have consent forms or anything.

Thank you guys for helping. You’ve answered all of my questions even better than I expected!

You’re on Facebook! I did your survey in the “We’re not Crazy, just Catholic” group. LoL.

If you have any other questions feel free to pm or email me. Truly. Prayers to you coming Home to Rome!

The next three days are very important in the Catholic Church - Easter Triduum, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. They cover the Last Supper, Betrayal of Christ, and Crucifixion of Christ. If you can attend, they’re usually very moving and interesting celebrations, especially for your class.

For example, tonight, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, we celebrate Our Lord instituting Holy Communion. The Priest will wash the feet of twelve Parishioners as a symbol of his following Christ, and being a servant of the People. EVERY Catholic Priest does this in the world - even The Pope (Who is sometimes called "The Servant of the Servants of God)

Hi!

becoming one this Easter =)

  1. If you converted, when and why did you convert?

I decided to become a Catholic around a year ago, because I felt that this was God’s will for me, and because I believe it is the truth.

  1. What does being a Catholic mean to you?

It means that I’m in the same Church that Jesus started, (He said to St Peter, "you are Peter [meaning: the rock] and upon this rock I will build My Church…) It also means to me receiving Jesus truly present in the Eucharist!

  1. What makes you different from a Protestant?

I’d say the Sacraments…and some different teachings.

  1. What does the mass mean to you?

the Mass is participation in Heavenly worship, with the Angels and Saints, where we receive Christ’s Body and Blood and He unites Himself with us in a unique way.

  1. What does it mean when a priest blesses something?

it’s like God is giving the blessing through him.

  1. How does one have something blessed by a priest?

you just ask :slight_smile: and the priest says a prayer over it, and commonly puts holy water on it too.

  1. Are saint medals common? Do you have any? What is their purpose exactly?

Saint medals are reminders to us… they’re also blessed objects so God can use them as an occasion of His grace (think of Christ using the mud to heal the blind man in the Bible!). They are pretty common. I have the one called the Miraculous Medal: amm.org/medal.asp
It might seem superstitious at first, but it’s not like magic at all, the power is in God and not in the object itself… :slight_smile:

  1. What exactly is a rosary?

The Rosary is a form of prayer. it’s said on prayer beads (called a rosary). :wink:
During this prayer, we reflect on various events in the Bible and in the life of Our Lord, and at the same time, ask Blessed Virgin Mary to pray for us to God. It’s very Scriptural, in fact the Hail Mary comes from the Bible. :slight_smile:

  1. What is the mass, and what does it mean to you? What do all of the things that the priest does mean?

the Mass is the primary way Catholics worship God together… it is not only a celebration but a holy event where Christ’s one sacrifice at Calvary becomes present before us. That is why it is so important that it is reverent. First we prepare our hearts by hearing the Word of God and responding… and then during the Liturgy of the Eucharist (the second part of the Mass), the priest takes bread and wine and asks God to transform it into Christ’s Body and Blood, just as He did at the Last Supper. :slight_smile: The priest repeats Christ’s words “this is My Body”, “this is My Blood”… and at that moment, the greatest miracle happens, and Jesus becomes physically present before us. We only see bread and wine, but He is there, it’s not a dead object but our living risen Savior. Then we go up and receive Communion - receive Him.

  1. What is the tabernacle?

It’s sort of a golden box in the church where the consecrated Eucharist is kept :slight_smile:
(there are always Hosts left after Mass). Catholics sometimes come to church just to pray before Jesus in the Tabernacle and spend time with Him.

  1. What does the crucifix mean to a Catholic?

It’s a reminder of Christ’s love for us on the Cross and of His sacrifice.

  1. Are prayer cards common?

pretty common… I have several, and you can get them at any Catholic bookstore.

  1. What is the purpose of the candles that I saw on a table in a corner of the church?

candles generally symbolize our prayers, and also that Christ is the light of the world… I think…!

God bless! :slight_smile:

here’s a website that might help you answer some questions :wink:
davidmacd.com/catholic/index2.htm

Thank you all so much for your help! You’ve really helped me understand what’s going on a lot better.

I went to mass this morning, and I have a few more questions. There were 3 priests there… I think were they all priests, or were they something else? Also, they walked through the congregation and sprinkled holy water on everyone. What’s the name of the thing they used to do that?

Hi, Formida. :slight_smile:

I’m just going to stick to one question: why Catholicism?

I converted this past Easter Vigil. It was a beautiful, wondrous, solemn, uplifting ceremony. I cannot describe the feeling of receiving the Eucharist for the first time. It made the seven, eight months of waking up early and going to RCIA on two or three hours of sleep (or no sleep) worth every second.

It’s not just bread and wine. The one time I became emotional was when I was receiving our Lord.

I converted to Catholicism because history led me to the Catholic Church. My faith came from researching history.

Consider this quote by John Henry Cardinal Newman: “And this one thing at least is certain: whatever history teaches, whatever it omits, whatever it exaggerates or extenuates, whatever it says and unsays, at least the Christianity of history is not Protestantism. If ever there were a safe truth, it is this.”

And Cardinal Newman should know, Formida; he was an Anglican who converted to Catholicism at about age 44 — a year older than me.

I hope by this time next year I can welcome you home the way these many great folks here have welcomed me. :slight_smile:

Go to Mass. Read the Gospels. Watch. Learn. Research. Get into an RCIA program. Ask questions. Grow spiritually.

And, if you should encounter resistance from friends or family, don’t let it get you down. When Jesus leads you, there is no wrong road. :slight_smile:

God bless you, Formida42, and all who are entering the Church this year! Have a wonderful Easter!

It’s late, so I’m just going to answer a few of these. I’ll try to do the rest later.

  1. Since Saturday at the Easter Vigil.
  2. April 11, 2009. I converted because I felt something missing in every Protestant church I attended. The first time I went to Mass, I felt God in a way I had never felt Him in a Protestant church, and thereby found that “missing something.”
  3. It means being part of the original Church, one that remains true to the precepts of the Gospels.
  4. Transubstantiation, the communion of saints, Marian dogma, and a true sense of reverence and respect for that which is holy that seems lacking in some Protestant churches.

To be continued…

  1. How long have you been Catholic? 3 or 4 years now… it’s too early for me to be doing math :smiley:

  2. If you converted, when and why did you convert? **I am a convert, and I had a long journey… it started with me being irritated and unfulfilled at the Baptists churches my husband and I were trying out in a new area. I’d always gone to Baptist churches, because that’s what I was raised around (though not raised in). It felt sort of empty to me, and a bit hypocritical, so I gave it up all together. I started searching for different denominations, and started reading the history of the Christian church to figure out which denomination was the most faithful throughout the years, and the more I read, the more the history pointed to the Catholic Church, as it was the only church around for 1000 years. **

  3. What does being a Catholic mean to you? Constant conversion. The thing that bothered me at other Church’s was the belief that no matter what you do, you’re saved, as long as you believe in Jesus. It didn’t make any sense to me; I knew people at these churches who did awful things, but it didn’t matter, because they were “saved”. It seemed to vague for me. But since my conversion, I’ve learned that being a Christian means to be constantly in conversion… there is no “safe” point, you’re constantly learning, constantly falling, and constantly getting back up again. If I don’t constantly strive to please God, then I fall into a sort of lukewarm faith, that gets me nowhere. But now I’m rambling!

  4. What makes you different from a Protestant? The Catholic Church has the full deposit of the faith of Jesus Christ. Not just bits and pieces, though those bits and pieces are just as important (Baptism, Marriage, etc).

  5. What does the mass mean to you? **It means more than anything in the world to me… it is Jesus Christ, fully present to us in this world. **

  6. What does it mean when a priest blesses something? The priest is basically asking God to send special graces to the person using that object, whether it be a Rosary, medal, home, or anything else. It’s not necessary, but it is nice!

  7. How does one have something blessed by a priest? The same way you would use it if it weren’t blessed… if it’s a Rosary, pray with it, if it’s a medal, wear it as a reminder to yourself, asking that saint for their prayers. The only difference in how you treat it is that you should never throw it away, but bury it, because it has been blessed.

  8. Are saint medals common? Do you have any? What is their purpose exactly? I actually have 3: a 4-Way Medal, a medal of Padre Pio, my Confirmation Saint, and a medal of Blessed Theresa of Calcutta, because once a month I visit the sick in the hospital, to give them comfort and bring them the Eucharist.

  9. What exactly is a rosary? It’s a set of beads that we use to pray. The Rosary prayer is a meditation, and has many, many layers. While we pray the Our Faith and the Hail Mary, we meditate on the life of Jesus. It’s a very powerful prayer meditation. But you don’t even need the Rosary itself… I count on my fingers sometimes. :slight_smile:

  10. What is the mass, and what does it mean to you? What do all of the things that the priest does mean? See #5. The things that the priest says and does are VERY Biblical. I would recommend getting a book on the Holy Mass that explains these things from the Catholic Bookstore. I was very surprised to see that nearly everything the priest says and does is from the Bible in some way, whether from something Jesus said, or something that was done in the Old Testament.

  11. What is the tabernacle? **A tabernacle is the place where the priest places the consecrated Host (the Body of Jesus) when there is no Mass. **

  12. What does the crucifix mean to a Catholic? **It’s a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross. **

  13. Are prayer cards common? I have prayer cards, but I rarely actually use the prayers written on them… I really like the art, and seeing them in some places reminds me to behave. :shrug: Like next to my computer, or in my car, or in my wallet. I think they’re fairly common.

  14. What is the purpose of the candles that I saw on a table in a corner of the church? The candles are there for you to light if you have a certain intention, and each candle represents the prayers and intentions of someone else. Personally, when I pass the table, I will say a quick prayer for all who have lit them. It’s a way for the community to pray for each other.

  15. Is there anything else you think is relevant? Research, research, research! Read as much as you can on the Church and what she teaches. Find a good Catholic Bookstore in your area (or the library in your parish church, if they have one) and read away :slight_smile:

I would need to know more to know if they were bishops, priests, or deacons. They were probably all priests.

The sprinkling of Holy Water on the congregation is done as a reminder of their baptism. The rite is sometimes known as the Asperges, from the Latin chant which is traditionally sung during the rite, * Aspérges me, Dómine, hyssópo, et mundábor: lavábis me, et super nivem dealbábor.* (Psalm 51:9) The chant is different for the Easter season (from Easter through Pentecost): Vidi aquam egrediéntem de templo, a látere dextro, allelúia: et omnes ad quos pervénit aqua ista salvi facti sunt et dicent: allelúia, allelúia. (cf. Ezekiel 47:1)

The sacred item he uses to sprinkle the Holy Water is called an aspergillum (from the Latin word aspergere, “to sprinkle”).

1. How long have you been Catholic?
My whole life; at least, since I was baptized soon after my birth.

3. What does being a Catholic mean to you?
It means I have chosen to form a relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church according to the tradition handed on through the centuries by the Apostles and their successors. It means I am in a covenant-relationship with God, not in virtue of myself, but because of the sacrifice of His Son. Because of this, I am beholden to live a life of grace, doing the good works that I was created for.

4. What makes you different from a Protestant?
I accept the authority of the visible Church that the Lord founded, as well as the visible hierarchy that he gave this Church. I accept all that the Catholic Church teaches as revealed by God. This includes, in particular, the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, the infallibility of the Magisterium of the Church in certain circumstances, the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome (the Pope) over all local churches, and that the sacraments were instituted by Christ to dispense grace to the Church and her members.

5. What does the Mass mean to you?
The Mass is the Church’s corporate (bodily) worship of God, offering the eternal and holy sacrifice of the Son, through the Spirit, to the Father. It is the source and summit of my life. In the Mass, I am present mystically in the heavenly worship of God. It is the means by which the perfect sacrifice is eternally presented to us as it is presented before the altar of the Father in Heaven, and, because God is so gracious, it is also the means by which the Eucharist is made available to us in Holy Communion.

6. What does it mean when a priest blesses something?
An object blessed by a priest is essentially a “sacramental”. The purpose is to consecrate the object to God so that by devoutly using it, we may be brought closer to God.

7. How does one have something blessed by a priest?
You simply present the object and ask the priest. I had a priest bless a crucifix just a couple of evenings ago, because it was a gift to someone entering the Church this Easter Vigil.

8. Are saint medals common? Do you have any? What is their purpose exactly?
These are time-honored sacramentals of the Church. Their purpose, generally speaking, is to call upon the intercession of that saint to pray for those who use the medal.

9. What exactly is a rosary?
Some history is in order. A traditional practice of monks was to pray all 150 psalms daily. For lay-people who could not devote the time to this task (nor to memorizing the psalms), other prayers were substituted, such as the Our Father or some pious ejaculation to Christ like “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner!” The Hail Mary became a popular “substituted” prayer. This practice became known as the Rosary. Through an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Dominic around the year 1214, the Rosary was cultivated into a particular devotional prayer, meditating on fifteen (now twenty) mysteries of the life of Christ.

Long story short, the Rosary is a meditation on the mysteries of the life of Christ, set against the backdrop of the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Glory Be, and prayers for the salvation of souls.

10. What do all of the things that the priest does mean?
The Mass is a liturgical rite. It’s not something we make up as we go along. Each of the prayers, postures, movements, gestures, and other actions have a deep symbolic meaning. The Mass can be looked at from many perspectives; here is one way to understand the Mass, starting from the fact that the word “Mass” comes from the Latin word missa which means “dismissal”, and is the origin of the English word “mission”.

The Mass is an entrance into the conclusion of Christ’s ministry on earth. The entrance procession commemorates the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday before his death. The Penitential Rite (praying for mercy for our sins) corresponds to the cleansing of the Temple and the healing of the sick that Christ did upon his entrance into the city. The Gloria (which begins with the song of the angels from the nativity of our Lord) is a joyful response to the Lord’s mercy. The Liturgy of the Word corresponds to the teaching that the Lord did in the days between Sunday and Holy Thursday. The Liturgy of the Eucharist is a re-presentation of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, which he mystically pre-presented to the Apostles on Holy Thursday in the Last Supper; it is also re-presents to us his Resurrection. The Concluding Rite, which is comprised of a final blessing and the dismissal, brings us to the hill from which the Lord blessed his disciples and bestowed on them the mission of going into the whole world to preach the Gospel and baptize: just as the disciples received this mission, so do we. And the Mass provides us the graces necessary to fulfill such a daunting mission!

11. What is the tabernacle?
The tabernacle is an ornate box in which the Blessed Sacrament (the consecrated hosts, the Eucharist) is reserved for safety. It is reserved for emergency use (giving the sacrament to those who are sick or dying) as well as for adoration: because the Eucharist contains the WHOLE Jesus Christ as God and man – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity – the Church rightfully gives the Blessed Sacrament that worship which is due to God alone.

12. What does the crucifix mean to a Catholic?
It reminds us that Christ bears forever the wounds he received for our salvation. To paraphrase the late great Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, the cross without Christ is a burden without a redeemer, and Christ without the cross is a man without a mission. As St. Paul wrote, we preach Christ crucified. (1 Cor. 1:23) The cross itself is an important sign (cf. Ezek. 9:4-5).

*13. Are prayer cards common? *
Yeah. Prayer cards, at a purely functional level, are reminders of what a particular prayer is. They also often contain images of saints or of a scene from the life of Christ; this image is meant to offer a spiritual “direction” for the thoughts of the person praying.

*14. What is the purpose of the candles that I saw on a table in a corner of the church? *
Lit candles are symbols of Christ, who is the light of the world. As a candle burns, it gives off light and heat and is consumed: it makes a sacrifice of itself for the illumination and warmth of those who need it. It is a common pious practice to light a candle when offering a prayer.

15. Is there anything else you think is relevant?
I am writing a book series on the upcoming new English translation of the Mass. It might be something you find beneficial to understanding the Mass as something much more than just a bunch of words and movements, but as the greatest prayer and sacrifice that can be offered to God. When the first volume is completed (hopefully in a month or so), I will make a point to publicize it in this forum (unless that is against forum rules, in which case I’ll just send private messages to users).

  1. How long have you been Catholic?

*Since infant baptism, 54 years ago. *

  1. If you converted, when and why did you convert?

*Every faithful and humble Christian is on a journey of continuous conversion and, if we progress far enough, an effort to become more sanctified and more Christ-like. In our fallen way, few or none of us, perhaps only the holiest of saints, ever get there before our earthly death. *

  1. What does being a Catholic mean to you?

*It means that I am a fully initiated member of the Church founded by Jesus Christ on the Rock of St. Peter, that I have the grace and comfort of the sacraments, and that I have the fullness of God’s revelation. *

  1. What makes you different from a Protestant?

The three things mentioned in response to the previous question.

  1. What does the mass mean to you?

*The Mass (always captitalized) is the re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary. It is also the most important sacrament and the principal form of divine worship; “the source and summit of the Christian life,” as the Vatican II fathers taught. *

  1. What does it mean when a priest blesses something?

*That the priest has asked God to set the object apart from the run-of-the-mill; often for some inspirational or devotional application. *

  1. How does one have something blessed by a priest?

*Just ask, or show up on an occasion when you know a blessing of objects will be provided (most prominent example of the latter, a papal audience). *

  1. Are saint medals common? Do you have any? What is their purpose exactly?

*Common? I guess so. Yes, of course I do. The purpose is to remind us of the moral example to us of the saint’s life, or to serve as a devotional aid in praying for interecession with God on our behalf or for our intention by that saint. *

  1. What exactly is a rosary?

*A set of beads, consisting primarily of five sets of ten beads, used as a devotional aid in contemplating the infinite while praying for the intercession of the Blessed Mother. *

  1. What is the mass, and what does it mean to you? What do all of the things that the priest does mean?

“*Mass” is defined above in response to Q5. And yes like most Catholics I understand the various parts of the Mass, most of which refer to events documented in Scripture. *

  1. What is the tabernacle?

*The original tabernacle, as amply documented in the Pentateuch, was the physical structure in which God dwelt among his chosen people of Israel. In the Church, the tabernacle is the physical structure in which the Blessed Sacrament, the True Presence of the Lord, is reserved. *

  1. What does the crucifix mean to a Catholic?

*It is the symbol of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary and thus is also an important symbol of our salvation. *

  1. Are prayer cards common?

Sure. Often called “holy cards,” these typically have a picture of a saint or a Scriptural event on one side, and some sort of prayer, devotion or invocation on the other. They can be used in a number of ways, often as keeepsakes of important events such as weddings, confirmations, ordinations or funerals. People vary quite a bit as to whether and how they are used as devotional aids. The use off holy cards as devotional aids is a pious individual practice, not a matter of dogma. You don’t have to have holy cards to be Catholic (though it helps).

  1. What is the purpose of the candles that I saw on a table in a corner of the church?

Dare I say again, “devotional aid?” Surely you didn’t expect me to admit that Catholics worship candles (or statues, or medals, or cards).

  1. Is there anything else you think is relevant?

*Yes, I think it is important for you to understand that what Catholics seek, and receive, are Faith, Truth, the grace and comfort of the sacraments, and formal opportunities to express our grateful submission to God. It would be a mistake to focus too much on peripheral matters. I want to thank you for the opportunity to respond to your survey, because, whether or not my response changes the heart of anyone else, it has given me the opportunity to reflect on my own faith.

Alleluia, Christ has risen!*

Again, thank you all so much for your help!

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.