Thursday, June 07, 2007

Dust off the icons, and shine that Communion spoon.

I had a thought today while listening to Ancient Faith Radio. Then this thought was replaced by another thought so perhaps I will type it out so you can share your comments.

I have a good amount of affection for the eastern churches, particularly the eastern Catholic but by no means excluding the Orthodox. But here in the States these parishes are in decline as ethnic families disappear into history. (How many Ukrainian or Greek immigrants do you know?) Today these parishes are continued on through descendants of immigrants but it is not enough to sustain them. I also heard that the average age of the Orthodox American is somewhere above 65.

In fact just up the road from me a Byzantine Catholic church has a big for sale sign on it, which makes me sad. I saw in a bulletin of another Byzantine Catholic church (which I posted about my first visit, check the sidebar) that the closing parish only had 13 people and $105 collection from a previous Sunday. Ouch.

Not being an eastern Christian I am not going to presume how to pump up their numbers here in the States. But then again I remembered that in some countries these Churches are growing. This is particularly true in the countries emerging (still, after 10 years, things are slower there) from Communist bloc. Countries like the Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, Russia, and others are now able to pick up the pieces from the ruins of the former Atheist state. There are a lot of books out right now about how atheism is the only answer and that religion does nothing but harm. Bollocks. Atheist states have destroyed human life without any care or mercy to a degree unimaginable or believable by todays standards. But I digress...

Since the fall of the Iron Curtain many Eastern Churches are growing again in that region. I recently viewed a program on EWTN about the Ukrainian Catholic Church emerging from the ashes over the past 15 years. Their seminaries are filling up but they don't have enough money and space to support them all. It is probably true that many of these men need jobs so they apply. However the years in the seminary and more intense screening weed out the false vocations. After all, the priesthood or religious life is not the easiest thing to go into, and most of the negative skepticism regarding the seminary growth comes from detractors of Christianity anyway. So take that for what its worth.

I am certainly not going to tell the eastern Churches what to do here in the United States. But it would be a terrible loss of culture for these places of stunning beauty to disappear. As a Latin rite Catholic I plan on attending several Divine Liturgies this summer while my choir is off. I would even recommend visiting one of these places to lapsed Catholics or practicing ones in a spiritual malaise. Heck, I would love to see the Orthodox church evangelize more to non-Catholics because if nothing else they would get the sacraments. And of course we all look forward to the day when Catholic actually means Orthodox and Orthodox actually means Catholic in the proper sense once again. I guess things get muddled through the years and disputes take on a life of their own.

There are quite a few ministries out there working towards unity aside from the high level talks between the Vatican and (several) Orthodox prelates. One of my favorite podcasts, Light of the East Radio, is one such work. I have also recently discovered Ancient Faith Radio which is an Orthodox station that can be heard over the internet. As soon as possible I will be donating (the tiny amount I can afford) to Aid to the Church in Need for the cause of the Eastern Churches.

Here are some more links for ya:
Church flow chart timeline - "The Particular Churches of Christendom"
What is a Byzantine Catholic?

8 comments:

Deacon John said...

Hi Matt, I agree with you about the Divine Liturgy and how sad it is to lose the beauty of their worship and churches as they close one by one. Once in awhile I get to a Ukrainian Catholic Church about 30 miles from me and I am awe-inspired with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in English. Unfortunately only one or two people show up and the Ukrainian language Mass at 11am later on has about 25 people. Really sad.
I love the Music on Ancient Faith Radio but I get upset with them when they have someone attacking the beliefs of the Roman Catholic Faith, especially regarding Baptism and original sin, Purgatory and the Papacy! I usually turn them off at that point and I cannot donate to them because of it. "The Church in Need" is a great cause . . .
Praying for unity!
Deacon John

Matt said...

deacon john,

to be honest, I just listen to the music on there. I've never actually listened to them attacking the Catholic faith. Since they are so much smaller, not even half the size of the RC Church, they probably are a bit more defensive about us than we are of them.

When I hear the beauty of their music or see a Byzantine Catholic Divine Liturgy it makes me want unity even more.

Moonshadow said...

it makes me want unity even more.

That's fine, but I'd hate to see you pull a Neuhaus and cross over prematurely.

I have a difficult time believing that anyone chronically critical of Catholicism is in union with Christ. That would be a house divided ... it's impossible.

Matt said...

Hey Moondshadow,

Do you mean Fr. John Neuhaus? I wasn't aware of him when he wasn't Catholic so I don't know what he had to say about us before then.

I personally have no intention of becoming Orthodox or switching my rite to Byzantine. I do appreciate the Eastern Catholic churches and do with unity with the Orthodox would become reality.

Matt said...

(I hate that you can't edit your comments..)

I meant to say, more fully, that I hope in the future the Orthodox Churches will again unify with the Catholic faith. Though I realize there is a lot of talking and work that needs to be done on both sides for that to come about.

Moonshadow said...

re: Fr. Neuhaus has said on The Journey Home that he (and some of his colleagues) expected reunion but, personally, his patience ran out. Reunion wasn't happening fast enough, so he crossed over.

The thing is, and again taken from The Journey Home, there must be folks seeking reunion on both sides of the divide. If everyone seeking reunion crosses over, dialogue is done.

PS: I'm not saying that Fr. Neuhaus was hostile towards Catholicism as a Lutheran. In fact, I believe that he thought of himself as "Catholic", as a Lutheran, if you can understand that. IOW, I believe that he felt quite an affinity with Catholicism ... as a Lutheran.

Matt said...

Ok, I gotcha now. I didn't understand what you were getting at in your first comment. All clear now. :-)

Michael said...

I'd like to see EWTN start broadcasting Divine Liturgies.

I'm blessed to live not all that far from the parish that puts out the Light of the East program. It is doing better than the Byzantine Catholic churches you and Deacon John mentioned, possibly because Annunciation makes an active effort to let people know that it is there and that its people welcome visits by non-Ruthenians. I believe converts comprise half the parish.

Latin Catholics can visit Byzantine Catholic churches! If your readers go to masstimes.org , they may find a Divine Liturgy close to where they live. All Roman Catholics should worship at a Byzantine Catholic Divine Liturgy at least once, if only to become aware of the beautiful worship that is being offered to God by another part of our one Catholic Church.

"The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice." - G.K. Chesterton