What would Christ say about Catholic rituals?


I’ve been on the site quite a while now and have found it to be very helpful in trying to understand Catholicism. However, I’ve begun to wonder what Christ would say about the rituals, both public and private, used by Catholics. One poster on this site asked if praying the rosary was valid if not kneeling. Others have been upset when their priest makes a minor mistake at Mass. Does Jesus care about such details? In the Gospels, He was focused on prayer and repentance, and chastised the Pharisees for empty rituals. I greatly respect how Catholics live their faith, but I’m trying to understand this element of Catholicism.



The catholic rituals are not ‘empty.’


Sometimes I criticize some Protestants for being too “big picture” in their faith — e.g., if a Protestant feels that how you act in your day-to-day life is irrelevant because he’s “already been saved” and therefore doesn’t have to be nice to strangers, welcome the poor, help the sick, etc.

Some Catholics, on the other hand, sometimes get too “small picture” in their faith. Where that Protestant is looking only at the forest and missing out on the trees, we’re looking only at the trees and missing out on the forest. We get caught up in “the rules” and miss out on the reason they exist.

The correct response to God is in the middle between those two tendencies: yes, as you suggest in your post, we should remember the big picture — God became man and died for our sins, hallelujah! — while also remembering the little things (as Scripture reminds us, it’s wrong to celebrate God and then merely tell the poor “Goodbye and good luck! Keep warm and well-fed!” without actually doing something about it).

As humans, we have a tendency to want to know “the rules” so we can know what we need to do. This is true in our secular lives as well as in our spiritual lives, but sometimes it’s more obvious in our spiritual quest. “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” We want rules we can follow, and we tell ourselves that all we have to do is follow them.

The true answer in Catholic theology, however, is that it isn’t about following “the rules.” God isn’t a bureaucrat. We have to live the faith, which means that we have to stand on our own two feet and be responsible for our own decisions. That’s actually really hard. So we default to the fail-safe: we ask what the rules are and we try to follow them.

I got long-winded again. Sorry. Hope this helps.


As a former Baptist now coming into the Catholic faith, I definitely see moments on CAF were people seem too focused on externals and marginal aspects of discipline. However, I don’t get the sense that this is reflective of everyday Catholic existence.

What you have on CAF is a platform for asking those seemingly nitpicking questions with hopes that you will actually find a legitimate answer. I’ve also noticed that there seems to be a higher prevalence of OCD/scrupulousity on CAF. I think that also accounts for some of the nitpicking questions you find here.


Absolutely, this. There is a tendency on CF, or at least by certain individuals here, to get very detail focussed and seek to recognize problems or transgressions in the most innocent of actions.

On the other hand, many people are here precisely because they seek a better understanding of the faith, and also an intellectually challenging discussion about why things are as they are. Maybe questions that you don’t get the answers to in your average homily or after-Mass cafeteria chit-chat.

Maybe that critical asking and analysis sometimes comes across as being overly detail focussed.


In some cases, yes. In others, no.

Please be aware that sites like this one attract people with scruplulosity and OCD, which are mental health issues, mental illnesses.


Questions about kneeling during the rosary are silly, but Christ was not against liturgy or rituals. In fact, as a Jewish man, he routinely and perfectly observed these. Neither is the Catholic liturgy hollow. This is not to say all Catholics everywhere properly observe these things, and Christ might have a word or to to say about focusing on how it disposes us towards God, and not treating the ritual as an end in itself. Christ did not think all rituals were empty, only those done without keeping God and our disposition towards him in our mind and hearts. Another thing to keep in mind is that part of Christ’s issue with the Pharisees was their manipulation of the Law. The Law allowed the Pharisees to donate money to the temple, and this wouldn’t have to be used to care for parents or other things. However, some Pharisees in Jesus’ day basically used this as a slush fund, a work around so they didn’t have to use this money for other obligations under the Law. Im doing so they made a mockery of the Law itself. It wasn’t the Law Jesus was mad at, but the empty way they were treating it. That they (at least, a good many, but we do see righteous Pharisees, too) used these Laws out of corruption or as a superificial way to make themselves look good rather than out of love for God. That is what upset Jesus. He still enjoins his disciples in Matthew 23 to do as the Pharisees instruct, as they “sit on the chair of Moses,” but warns them against imitating the Pharisees in action, as they were hypocrites when it came to themselves. But not all rituals are empty, just ones down without love for God. Christ intended to start a new Church. There’s no reason to think that God gave the Jews the Law or Priests or the Temple or Rituals arbitrarily or as if He didn’t know how they’d use them. They foreshadowed the Church.


First thank you for your respect toward those of us who choose to be Catholic… I never really liked the word rituals, yet from someone who is not Catholic it may seem to be… I agree some people nit pick about things that are not even worth mentioning…Jesus looks to the heart of someone who calls out to Him and is united with His Merciful Heart. The most beautiful part of being Catholic for me is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, for it is during the Consecration we are taken to the words of Jesus at the ;Last Supper and He calls us to be one with Him 'This is my Body, This is my Blood. As you concentrate on this you feel His Love in your soul… My pray for you is that the Lord guide you and that you find your way to us. God bless you.


I believe God values obedience highly.


Our rituals are not empty. There’s a method to our “madness”. Some might choose to kneel for the rosary rather than sit or lay down in order to add that little suffering to their prayer. Others choose not to. The position you pray in doesn’t affect your prayer’s efficacy, and we recognize this.

What do you think that Christ would say about these little things?


Jesus was raised in a devout Jewish home. His parents followed the Jewish rituals such as circumcision and taking him to the Temple for the rituals associated with the birth of a first-born son. As an adult Jesus followed the rituals too, such as eating the Passover supper.

Jesus’ objections to rules and rituals generally came when the scribes and Pharisees etc were emphasizing some kind of rule or ritual over the practical reality of helping people, such as telling Jesus he shouldn’t be curing sick people on the Sabbath. He did not simply say, “All these old rituals are bunk”. He called for them to be performed sincerely, with meaning and understanding of what we were doing.

As several other poster said, this site attracts a lot of people who are overly rules-focused and nit-picky to the point where they are complaining about the footwear the priest has on at Mass. It also attracts people with mental illnesses such as OCD, scrupulosity, anxiety, and other conditions that would cause someone to worry that their rosary had to be said kneeling or the prayers wouldn’t “work”. Obviously Jesus isn’t concerned with a priest’s brand of shoe. And God hears every sincere prayer even if you are running for the bus when you pray it.

Having said that, the Magisterium does set some requirements and standards for public liturgy, which are quite reasonable and often designed to highlight the meaning of why we are saying a certain prayer or doing a certain ritual, and if you do not make a reasonable effort to follow these rules you are committing the sin of disobedience as well as missing the spiritual point of why we have the rule or ritual. Many of the discussions on here concern what is required as opposed to what is optional/ what options may the priest use, etc. and people have differing opinions on this, for example concerning what music may be used at Mass. Someone may well feel that a certain type of music carries a big spiritual benefit and another type no benefit at all, and someone else might disagree. Would Jesus care? He would certainly care that two people cared enough about trying to worship God in a sincere way that they spent time thinking about it and discussing it.


I didn’t mean to imply that Catholic rituals are empty. Poor wording on my part. In answer to your question, adding a little pain while praying is something He would probably appreciate. But wondering whether the consecration of bread and wine is valid because an element of the liturgy was missed is an example of something I don’t understand. Jesus simply broke bread and declared it his body and shared his cup, declaring it to be his blood. Very straightforward IMO, just as He was throughout his ministry. Others have explained it well here for me, which I appreciate.


Read Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Warren.

We do the same things over and over in our lives. Every morning we brush our teeth. We eat, we go to work, we drive a certain way. What makes these thing holy isn’t what we do, it’s who we do them for.

Everything we do can either be repetitive and mundane, or offered to our King an opus dei - a “work of God”. I believe that the Catholic liturgy - the basis for all Christian liturgical practice - is exactly that.


Yes, but Jesus was God, a woman only touched His cloth and was healed of a long standing malady and I’m sure you know of many other stories which attest to His power. A priest must follow the liturgy to facilitate transubstantiation.


Just to add here a word about ordinary standardization. There are some 19 or so rites in the Church which organize the liturgy differently.

The Roman rite is intensely Biblical and so adherence to the rite and solemn performance of it is very edifying to me. Moreover, the rite as I said was standardized. In his book The Spirit of the Liturgy P. Benedict XVI stresses the importance of the priest as an alter Christus taking the place of Christ for us. When the priest introduces jokes or novelties into the liturgy, that draws attention to himself rather than to Christ.

Yes, some things get rehashed over and over here, about shaking hands as a sign of peace versus germs, the problem is that these little things never get resolved. The deeper issue is that laity have little control over these things which breeds opposition and resentment,

THAT results generally in the recommendation to find a different parish which is more conducive to prayerful participation in the Mass.

Catholics are bludgeoned with the obligation to attend Mass on (Saturday) Sunday, which results in a lot of pushback. A standard complaint is that the Mass is not kid-friendly. I haven’t seen a lot of accommodation to children at Mass. I think the best resolution to that is a Sunday children’s Mass and people under 50 may forget that the Mass used to be in Latin. So a BIG kid accommodation was for the Mass to be said in English.

Changes in the Mass themselves, especially small changes, tend to ruffle feathers because again they distract from the solemn drama of the liturgy as a union of heaven and earth.


There is little emphasis on the major divisions of the Mass – the liturgy of the Word and the liturgy of the Eucharist. These two parts of the Mass are very complimentary – they point to each other. No one can receive the Eucharist except as an affirmation of the Word proclaimed by Christ. And, the participation in the Eucharist expresses our faith in the Word of God.

So, if the people around me are talking throughout Mass or chewing gum or elbowing each other or waging a duel with the kneelers, it’s a real buzz kill. SO…these forums are our chance to VENT about all the nonsense that goes on during the liturgy.



Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter,not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. John 16:12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

John 13:20 Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.”

why not, read in Matthew 5:48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Sirach 19 The one who does this will not become rich one who despises small things will fail little by littleLuke 16:10 “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.


I’ve wondered about that as well at times. He didn’t hesitate to call out the Pharisees for being so Set with their blinders on traditions, rituals and acts and forgetting about love of the person. I wonder if he’d walk into a Catholic Church today at Mass and just shake His head or cry or be pleased with what we are doing. But I guess one day we will find out.


I think He would be pleased with what we are doing and I say that because I have read of and know people who are blessed with a gift of seeing at Mass that which is invisible. I know someone who once saw the Holy Spirit in the form of an old man sitting in the Bishop’s chair in the cathedral. (The bishop wasn’t at this Mass.) The Holy Spirit walked from the chair and entered the priest, and the priest began to glow. I know someone else who saw the shadow of three crosses on the wall of the church during the consecration. I know these people very well and they have no indication of thought disorders that would indicate they were hallucinating.


I just wonder if He would think all of our bickering/disagreeing with this way is right and this way is not right was so off the mark. Would He say we are missing the whole point? Would He say we haven’t learned much in over 2000 years since He walked this Earth?

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