Today we did what every good Evangelical family does on a Saturday while visiting Toronto; we checked out the Catholic bookstore. If religious bookstores of any kind are places where you can purchase the essentials for worship and spiritual development, then I would say that Evangelicals and Catholics have very little in common if anything at all. I’m not saying that’s the case. I’m just saying if you had to judge by what’s in the bookstore, that’s what you’d conclude. This store, and the Christian bookstores I am accustomed to visiting probably have an “overlap” factor of about three percent. If that. My 3% figure is being charitable. And most of that was in the children’s department. But a lot of Catholics shop at the broader type of Christian bookstores (or the Christian department at Walden, Barnes & Noble or Books a Million) so you can’t judge every Catholic from the vibe you get from these pictures.
Needless to say, for Mrs. W. and myself, there were a few questions from our two teens, who have never been in a Catholic environment like this. I tried to explain that just as there are oodles of Christian Denominations (capital “D”) there are also dozens of different denominations (small “d”) of Roman Catholics. They all worship together on Sunday morning, but if you were to do exit interviews with them after mass, you’d find a large gradient of belief on both major items of doctrine (i.e. the veneration of Mary, the matter of church authority, etc.) and less essential items (i.e. spiritual gifts, the role of icons, etc.) In fact, I believe the Roman Catholic ‘spectrum of belief’ on some things to be much wider than anything you’d find in Protestant circles, be they Evangelical, Charismatic, Emergent, etc.
There’s also the issue of blurring lines. For example, some postmodern Evangelicals have no problems with using some kind of tactile device that is held in the palm of one’s hand as a focus device during prayer. This is not a rosary. Or is it? The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that, holding the rosary, as one repeats various prayers (i.e. the “Hail Mary” prayer and the “Our Father”) working their way through the decades (beads), one is to think about the various “mysteries,” which consist of four sets of five (see appendix below) that one uses depending on the day of the week, which remind us of various events in the life of Christ, except for the final two which focus on “the assumption of Mary,” and “the coronation of the blessed virgin.” Mary always gets the last word. It’s those last two parts of the last mysteries which prevent Evangelicals, Charismatics and other Protestants from even remotely considering praying the rosary. (Well, that and the “Hail Mary” prayers.) Yet, we find some postmodern Christians using somewhat similar devices. Guilty by association? BTW, in our own store, rosary beads are part of that 3% overlap. We always keep a few on hand because it just ticks Catholics off when we don’t have them, and we don’t want to prevent them from coming back for something else. We want them to feel at home. We stock six or seven rosaries with mixed feelings. But we don’t carry candles. I wouldn’t know where to begin. Or statues.
Anyway, that’s how we spent a half-hour this morning.
As a guy who spends some time each week blogging at USAToday, I realize that anytime you publish anything online with a Catholic theme, you do tend to attract people drawn to debate much like bulls are drawn to the colour red. So for the first time on this blog, much as we would like to get a volume of comments that better matches our page view stats, we are running this one with “Comments Off.” Sorry not here, okay? Just enjoy the pictures.
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Appendix to this article from Wikipedia article on the rosary: (with their fourth group of mysteries moved into the second position to conform to other websites on this subject.)
- The Annunciation. Fruit of the Mystery: Humility
- The Visitation. Fruit of the Mystery: Love of Neighbor
- The Nativity. Fruit of the Mystery: Poverty (poor in spirit), Detachment from the things of the world, Contempt of Riches, Love of the Poor
- The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. Fruit of the Mystery: Purity
- The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple. Fruit of the Mystery: True Wisdom and True Conversion.
- The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan. Fruit of the Mystery: Openness to the Holy Spirit
- The Wedding at Cana. Fruit of the Mystery: To Jesus through Mary
- Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of God. Fruit of the Mystery: Repentance and Trust in God
- The Transfiguration. Fruit of the Mystery: Desire for Holiness
- The Institution of the Eucharist. Fruit of the Mystery: Adoration
- The Agony in the Garden. Fruit of the Mystery: Sorrow for Sin, Uniformity with the will of God
- The Scourging at the Pillar. Fruit of the Mystery: Mortification
- The Crowning of Thorns. Fruit of the Mystery: Contempt of the world
- The Carrying of the Cross. Fruit of the Mystery: Patience
- The Crucifixion. Fruit of the Mystery: Salvation
- The Resurrection. Fruit of the Mystery: Faith
- The Ascension. Fruit of the Mystery: Hope and desire for Heaven
- The Descent of the Holy Spirit. Fruit of the Mystery: Holy Wisdom to know the truth and share with everyone
- The Assumption of Mary. Fruit of the Mystery: Grace of a Happy Death and True Devotion towards Mary
- The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Fruit of the Mystery: Perseverance and Crown of Glory