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Catholicism - Rituals
What are rosary beads used for?

Catholicism - Rituals

This GCSE RE quiz on Catholicism takes a look at rituals. We should distinguish between Rites (the formal words and gestures prescribed for Baptism, and in equivalent manner for the other six Sacraments) and Rituals, which to Catholics mean the book/s in which these Rites are codified. In a broader sense, the term ‘ritual’ is usually used to refer, generally or in specific detail, to formal religious ‘habits’ such as crossing and genuflection ~ in which a posture or gesture contributes extra meaning to the words of the Liturgy.

Rightly or wrongly, Catholics are widely taken to be ritualistically-minded. For instance, by the time a Catholic believer is sitting waiting for the start of Mass, they may well have done three or four things (including saying preparatory prayer/s) that practicants of ‘lower’ denominations would not bother with, but to a Catholic these are important and necessary stages of their churchgoing ‘etiquette’ and certainly not trivial nor dispensible.

Catholics will always (at least, as long as physically capable) go down on their right knee as a sign of homage when arriving for Mass. What is the technical term for this action?
Answers 1 and 3, at least, are relevant to the Mass; but only no.2 is the correct term
When ~ after all those centuries ~ did the Catholic Church mostly stop using Latin at its services?
Between the World Wars, i.e. during the 1920s and 30s (in broad parallel with other secular forms of modernisation ~ such as the more widespread coming of cars, radio and the cinema)
From 1970, after detailed work following the Second Vatican Council (1962-5, often more concisely known as 'Vatican 2')
Since about 1950, when the teaching of Latin in many schools fell into decline
As of the Papacy of John Paul II (a Pole by birth, and who was in office during the end of the Communist era), who believed the Church should be engaging all people directly in their own living tongue ~ rather than one of its own traditional choice
Assuming 'do-ers' of our quizzes are probably mostly of school age, you would have to go back to your grand or great grandparents' generation to find anyone in your family that had been brought up on the old Latin ('Tridentine') Mass ... quite coincidentally, Britain changed its currency from the old 'pounds, shillings and pence' at around the same time (15 February 1971), so those two indicators mark something of a cultural stratum!
The all-embracing qualities of a well-presented Mass, of course, include visual symbolism through actions and posture of the celebrant and congregation. But meanwhile, colour plays an important role in helping the church interior feel special and 'other'. Which of the following is NOT a consideration in the Catholic use of colour?
Candles are used to symbolise many divine attributes such as revelation, energy, purity and companionship
There are a number of conventions of 'colour-coding' such as that the Blessed Virgin Mary is garbed in blue, and the monstrance containing the Host (spiritually, the most precious thing in the building) is usually of gold, or at least, silver
The altar and lectern-hangings, and the vestments of the priest and sanctuary party, will probably be changed several times through the Church Year to symbolise a 'mood', such as red for the feast-days of Martyrs and the Spirit, white for festivals of Purity, solemn blue or purple for penitential seasons such as Lent or Advent...
Stained glass windows (often reminders of Bible stories, from an age where not all churchgoers might have been able to read these for themselves) can create distinctive and atmospheric lighting effects in a church interior
This is more to do with light than colour, though clearly of kindred visual interest
'What is that peculiar, distinctive smell you usually get in Catholic churches and rarely anywhere else?'
This comes from years and years of Ashings (on Ash Wednesday, when communicants may first be solemnly marked with a cross on their forehead, in an echo of the baptismal sign, using a paste made with the ashes of palms from the previous year's Palm Sunday)
The spicy smell comes from the burning of incense ~ representing a 'precious burnt offering', in a tradition stretching back to the ancient Jewish roots of Christianity
Catholic churches prefer to use only certain aromatic woods in the construction of their furniture and fittings, such as cedar, also referring back to the building of the original Temple in the Old Testament
There is an old Catholic tradition of adding a 'mystery ingredient' into the air supply of pipe organs in their churches, which keeps the pipes clear and helps keep the congregation alert
Incense (burned in a censer or thurible) is an important sensory element ~ no pun intended, honest! ~ of the 'specialness' of the Mass. Quite incidentally, it is widely claimed that the condensing particles from burning this amalgam of gum and spices have a deterrent effect on woodworm ~ though from the organist's point of view [please excuse your writer, though this is from years of experience in a 'high' Anglo-Catholic parish church] it is potentially a nuisance when the gum does recondense on delicate parts of the organ mechanism: some of the inner wind-issuing valves and 'lips' function on very fine tolerances (else the instrument would be a brute to play), and anything like 'sleepy-dust' can interfere with that
The long-term version of the Service Book (as formerly used, in Latin, by priests at the altar, and containing all the various texts, rubrics and instructions) is known as the Ritual. This function is usually now superseded by duly approved vernacular versions (i.e. in the local living language) ~ many of which are published, for greater ease of use, in separate physical sections for the various rites such as Mass, funerals or whatever. What, meanwhile, is the name of the slightly handier version that congregants would have in their pews?
The Vatican Volume/s
The Roman Road
The Missal
The Catholic Congregant's Companion
All the fanciful alliterative titles were pure fiction. The Missal (a word obviously related to 'mass', somewhat by analogy with a Hymnal in other churches) is also, indeed perhaps more usually, known as the Sacramentary
What is the principal difference between the Crucifix (cross emblem) you would see in a Catholic church ~ or even worn, in miniature, about the person of a Catholic believer ~ and the variant preferred by Protestants?
The Catholic version includes a figure of the suffering Jesus, whereas Protestants 'make do with just the plain woodwork'
The Protestant version includes a figure of the suffering Jesus, whereas Catholics 'make do with just the plain woodwork'
The Catholic version is always made with the Cross itself in black, and the 'corpus' (body) in paler colours of wood, metal or porcelain
Protestants would be unlikely to wear such a symbolic 'reminder' on their person, when their personal belief is essentially not dependent on physical tokens
Answer 4 has a measure of truth in it too. Certainly if you happen to be at a major Catholic pilgrimage site (e.g. Lisieux) and look in the nearby shops, you will find all the crucifixes on offer have (as a curious child once put it) 'a little man on'. As and when Protestants use the crucifix emblem, they generally prefer an empty cross (emphasising that death could not, and did not, defeat Jesus; and it's also simpler, and less aesthetically risky, to manufacture)
The symbolism of gesturing a 'cross' shape onto oneself is probably fairly obvious, but what wording (often under the worshipper's breath) usually goes with it?
'Holy Mary, Mother of our Blessed Lord, pray for us now and ever; Amen'
'Almighty Lord, bless this your servant with Faith, Hope and Love; Amen'
'In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; Amen'
'Creator, Saviour and Sustainer of this our earthly life: protect and preserve this your servant, today and evermore: Amen'
It is this clear Trinitarian prayer, usually spoken 'in time' to the shaping of the upper points of the Cross
What is a rosary used for?
As a personal, physical prompt for a sequence of prayers
As a floral tribute to the Blessed Virgin Mary
To represent the Crown of Thorns when telling the Crucifixion narrative on Good Friday, or at any other time
As a means of interpreting the stained-glass in the 'rose' window, e.g. of a cathedral transept
The rosary consists of a series of beads which act as reminders for a traditional, set and efficacious series of prayers. There is a range of variant uses within branches of the overall Catholic tradition
One of the major differences between Catholic and Protestant doctrine is that the Roman Church requires belief in Transubstantiation ~ i.e. that in the Mass, the representative 'tokens' of bread and wine, through divine action, are transformed into the actual body and blood of Jesus: while the taste of these items in the mouth remains as it would have been, their inner essence is understood to have been changed. Which of the following is the theologically correct term to explain this distinction?
Philosophically, the term 'accident' covers the apparent disjunct between what the outward senses perceive, and what the deeper essence and meaning truly are
Many faiths have their ways of invoking, or at least symbolising, cleanliness when entering their place of worship. What would probably be the first such distinctive sign of Catholics arriving at their church?
They remove their shoes (as, like Moses, they will be 'standing on holy ground', and at a purely practical level it is unhygienic and disrespectful to bring street-dirt in onto the floor of God's House)
They sign themselves with the gesture of a cross
They bend down on one knee towards the altar before taking their seat
They briefly rinse at least one hand in Holy Water at a small basin called a stoup, before doing anything else
After this, they will then probably cross themselves (Ans.2). Ans.1 was a decoy more applicable to Muslims, and Ans.3 (genuflection) can only usually come after they have reached the interior of the church. Water, of course, carries all sorts of symbolism ~ principally of baptism and the associated cleansing; Holy Water has a number of other uses and significances
You can find more about this topic by visiting BBC Bitesize - The Catholic Church

Author:  Ian Miles

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