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QUESTION: Dear Father,

I go to Mass every morning during the week. I find that the 1/2 hour services are easier to sit through. I go to Mass on sat.
night but not as faithfully as I do during the week mainly because I feel that an hour is too much for me.  I am lonely and want to
make friends but I have anxiety disorder too. Plus I've found
that in the Catholic Church people leave early and sneak out
during COmmunion. (I've been a Catholic all my life) The
Catholic Church just doesn't have the fellowship that PRotestants do.

So there's this Protestant Church (Calvary Chapel) that my husband and I went to for a while but we haven't been there for a long time. I like the Protestant music rather than the old hymns and I Find that the people don't rush out and they take the time to talk to one another. Therefore I could make friends.

I know it's a free country.. I've thought about going to Mass during the week and then going to the Protestant Church on Sundays. I realize that would be a big problem with the Catholic Church. My Catholic friend said that I COULD go to the protestant church on Sundays IF I went to the Mass and kept my obligation as well.

That seems like a lot of church and praying to do. (to be honest) I guess I Just don't know what to do. If I went back to the protestant church..they don't have services every day like we do.. and I NEED to go to church every day due to some mental health issues that I have.

ANSWER: First, let me say that I understand perfectly what you mean when you say that you like the Protestant music rather than the "old hymns."  I also perfectly understand what you mean about "fellowship" and the fact that the people in the Protestant service seem to want to be there.  I did grow up half Protestant.  I can also tell you that even though I am a Catholic Priest I actually prefer the Protestant style of worship myself.  I prefer their music and style.  The "ritualistic" manner of Catholic worship does not suit me well.  Perhaps that is because of my Protestant side.

HOWEVER: Catholic worship is SUPPOSED to be as it is precisely because of its nature.  Catholic worship in addition to being a mechanism of "Tradition" is designed to be CONTEMPLATIVE in nature.  As such it is geared towards appealing to our higher self: our intellects. It is geared towards raising our minds to the Divine transcendence of God and contemplation of the sacred mysteries of Redemption which unfold through the celebration of the Liturgical Ritual. There are many priests who try to make the Mass more  appealing---and it does not work well in my opinion.  Catholic worship is supposed to be "other-worldly" and it is supposed to be focused on God, not Man, and not the priest.  (This is why in the Old Rite, the priest did not face the people.  He is not praying to the people so why should he face them? He is praying to God the Father on behalf of the people.  He is interceeding for them as the "Altar Christus.")

I suspect that your problem with Catholic worship (and mine) is that we want a worship that appeals to our EMOTIONS, rather than our INTELLECTS.  Protestant worship and hymnody are designed to appeal to EMOTION, not the INTELLECT.  (Just go to a non-denominational Church, or watch Paula White or Joe Osteen and this is very clear) Protestant worship is not designed to be contemplative in nature, nor is it designed to raise the mind to the Divine transcendence of God, or the unfolding of the sacred mysteries of Redemption through the celebration of the Ritual.  It is EMOTIONALLY charged because the assumption made is that worship must touch us in some way emotionally.  If the people present do not have some kind of powerful emotional experience, the Protestants assume (falsely) that worship must be bad.  

Thus, the goal of Protestant and Catholic worship is far different, which means the NATURE of the worship is far different.  Those who come to Catholic Mass primarily looking for some emotional experience are usually not going to find it (though they CAN) precisely because that is not the GOAL or PURPOSE of worship in the Catholic Church.  

My question to you is this: Where did you get the notion that worship is supposed to be an emotionally charged or emotionally "touching" experience?  Emotions are useful, but they cannot be the basis upon which we determine the fruitfulness of our worship, or whether or not we encountered God.  The REAL fruits of worship are manifested in whether or not we experience a transformation and conversion in our lives. Read the lives of the greatest saints in the Church--you will see what I mean.

You also talk about "fellowship."  It is true that if you enter a Protestant Church prior to worship, people will be talking or greeting each other.  Again, the GOALS are different.  In the Catholic Church the time before Mass is used to prepare our hearts and minds for the celebration of the sacred mysteries of Redemption. Thus silence, prayer and quite are necessary.  Because Protestants do not celebrate the Mysteries of Redemption as Catholics do, worship for them can be more geared towards "fellowship."  Catholics do not see the Church building as the time or place for "fellowship" because the building is consecrated.  It is sacred.  It is not fitting to use the Church for anything other than worship of God.  Thus talk about the mundane things of life belong in the parish Hall, not the worship space, or the Church.  Fellowship is a wonderful thing---but the Sacred Space of the Church is for worship of God, not fellowship.

As for people coming late or leaving early: they are sinning plane and simple.  However this kind of attitude was prevalent in the legalism of the Church prior to Vatican II.  You were told your obligation to attend Mass was fulfilled if you arrived prior to the reading of the Gospel through the reception of Holy Communion.  Thus people would intentionally come late and leave early. Those who continue to do this miss the point of Mass, and they miss the point of what it means to have a relationship with God.  If one's attitude about Mass is "getting it over with" one is already starting off wrong. The people who do this should ask themselves the question "If it were me, how would I FEEL if my beloved treated me this way?" I preach against this attitude, unfortunately I cannot force people to stay save locking the doors and incurring the wrath of the fire department.

In any case I understand what you are saying, but as I said I think part of your issue is that you are looking to get something out of Mass that it is not primarily designed to give.  It might help you when you go to Mass to ask how it appeals to your intellect.

Secondly: It is a Mortal Sin to intentionally miss Mass on Sunday (Saturday) or a Holy Day of Obligation.  I think it is great that you go to Mass during the week and I want to encourage you to do so.  I also think there is nothing wrong if you want to attend a Protestant Church on the weekend.  But you MUST attend Catholic Mass on Saturday or Sunday as well.  Attendance at weekday Mass does not make up for our weekend obligation.  God does command us to keep holy the Sabbath.  Keeping holy the Sabbath means going to Mass.  I suggest therefore you do the best you can. If you miss Mass, make sure at some point (it does not have to be right away) you go to Confession.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you so much for clarifying things.  I have strong Catholic
roots.. so I don't think I was considering the protestant church for
worship style reasons. It was something more strange.  I have three friends who are 80 yrs old..and then 1 friend who is my age but I hardly get to
see her because she is a cardiologist.  What I'm trying to say is that
I'm lonely for a friend my age.  I thought going to the protestant church would be a perfect opportunity to make friends whereas Catholic Mass is
as you say contemplating.  I've chosen a terrible reason to decide what
church to go to. I'm not good at making friends though.
To be honest, I don't want to go to Calvary Chapel at all. Most of the
time I've been there, the pastor talks about how Mormons, Catholics,
Jews, Jehovah Witnesses , etc are on their way to hell (I guess because they are not a fundamentalist christian I don't know) and that makes me FURIOUS for him to have the nerve to spend time talking like that instead of the Gospel.
Thanks for listening Father.

Answer
If the pastor of the Protestant Church you attend is spending time talking about how everyone is going to Hell except the people that follow him or his Church that is not a Church that is spiritually healthy, or a Church that is Christian.

As a Catholic I do admit that I believe the Catholic Faith to be the purest form of expression of the Christian Faith, and I believe Mormons, etc to be well intentioned God fearing people albeit misinformed. However as a Catholic while I believe this, I also respect those of other Faith traditions and grant the possibility not only that they CAN be saved, but that some might be more Christian too!

I worked with a Muslim clergy person in a prison---quite frankly though he was a professed Muslim, I found him to live his life in a way that was more Christian than half the people that went to Mass on Sunday.  There was a Jewish person also whom I knew who though Jewish lived a life more Christian than I had ever seen.  Real Christianity is not in PROFESSING Jesus is Lord, but in LIVING the LIFE OF CHRIST.  You know---walking the walk, not just talking the talk.  That is what people like this pastor you speak of don't seem to get.  Christianity is NOT in how many Bible verses one has memorized and can quote on command.  Christianity is NOT in altar calls and the "sinners prayer."  Christianity is a WAY of life.  In the early Church, Christianity was referred to as "The Way."  

Christians might have the Truth, but that is no excuse to go around condemning other people.  Christians might be right, but that does not mean God wants us to hate other religions, or treat those who belong to other religions as second class people. We are called to respect all who try to do what is right and just, and all who seek God with a sincere heart.  That pastor will have a lot to answer for on the day of judgement.  His conduct and preaching is not what God wants in a minister.  God came that the world MIGHT HAVE LIFE and not come to condemnation.  That pastor should get the beam out of his own eye before he tells Muslims, Catholics, Jews, Mormons, and Jehovah Witnesses about the splinter in theirs.

It is alight if you want to go to a Church to make friends.  All I was trying to say was that you have to make sure you get to Mass too.  I don't care what Protestant Church you want to attend, or why you want to attend it, so long as you make Mass on the weekend too. Go to Mass on Saturday evening or Sunday morning, then go to whatever Protestant Church you want as much as you want for whatever reason you want---just as long as you get to Mass first.  

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Father Dave Bechtel

Expertise

I am a Catholic priest in good standing and in active ministry in the Diocese of Scranton PA. I can answer most any question about the Catholic Faith, however my area of specialization is Systematic Theology. Systematic Theology is a branch of theology that focuses on the fundamental tenants of the Faith and the Dogmas of the Faith. I have specialization on the Reformation and Catholic vs. Protestant theology/issues and answering Protestant challenges to the Faith.

Experience

I was ordained in June of 2008. Since that time the thrust of my ministry has been specialized. In my first assignment I was an assistant pastor. A year later I was sent to work in education. I spent six (6) years in education and have now assumed my first pastorate. While education was the thrust of my ministry, nevertheless I continued to have a hand in parish ministry, hospital chaplaincy and prison chaplaincy. Now that I am out of education I will obviously be focusing more on parish work than specialized ministry. I have two years of formal Clinical Pastoral Education and prior to ordination I successfully pursued Board Certification for health care ministry through the NACC. My certification needs to be renewed and I plan to seek dual certification in health care ministry (NACC and APC) when I renew my certification. I have a breadth of experience working with Protestant ministers and collaborating with them to achieve the goals of hospital pastoral care and chaplaincy. These ministers run the spectrum from the liberal to the conservative.

Education/Credentials
Bachelors of Science-- University of Scranton PA Masters of Arts Theology--- Saint Mary's Seminary and University Baltimore MD Masters of Divinity--- Saint Charles Borremeo Seminary Philadelphia PA Board Certified Chaplain (up for renewal)

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