On empty rituals

birthday party empty ritual v2
Birthday parties are cultural rituals.

Let’s say you were good friends with your neighbor. She has a young son, and she invites you to his birthday party. You decide to go because you care about your neighbor, but you don’t really want to be there because he’s just a little kid, and a noisy one at that. So you go, but you don’t have a good time. The kids are laughing and having a good time, but you’re not. You notice, however, that other adults are having a good time. They’re smiling and laughing at the kids’ antics. Finally, as soon as you think you can get away, you make an excuse to leave.

Birthday celebrations are rituals. We might say that you experienced an empty birthday party, an empty ritual. What made it empty?

Did the son make it empty? Was it the other kids? The neighbor? The kids’ laughter? The fact that it was a birthday party? Why was it an empty ritual for you but apparently not for the other adults?

It might be that you didn’t fill the ritual with anything. Rituals require faith, hope, and love to see into them, to their meaning. It is possible that bringing faith, hope, and love to the neighbor’s son’s birthday party would have changed the event for you.

If the ritual seems empty, that might not be your fault. It could be that nobody taught you how to fill it, or that you even needed to fill it. I’ve seen that a lot. If you don’t know how to fill the ritual, then look around and see if you know anybody who does. I bet they can help you.

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It’s just Catholic, not Roman Catholic

catholic with a frame
Catholic: with respect to the whole, or, universal.

Generally speaking, it’s not correct to refer to the Catholic Church as the Roman Catholic Church. People do it all the time, but that isn’t how the universal Church refers to herself. It is too narrow of a name, and a bit contradictory if applied to the entire Church. Catholic means “universal,” or, “pertaining to the whole.” You will see some Catholic Churches use the phrase “Roman Catholic,” in their title, but this just means that they are Latin Rite. There are 23 rites in the Catholic Church. For example, there is a Chaldean rite, a Melkite rite, a Maronite rite, and so on. It would be improper to refer to a Chaldean Catholic as a Roman Catholic. Such a person is in full communion with the Catholic Church and the successor of St. Peter, but is not Roman Catholic.

So I recommend referring to anybody in full communion with the Catholic Church and successor of St. Peter as a Catholic, and the Church led by him as the Catholic Church. If you must use the term Roman Catholic, only use it with those Catholics who worship under the Latin rite, like I do. Don’t use it to refer to the entire Church–it’s just not correct to do so.

Melkite Catholic Church
St. Anne Melkite Greek Catholic Church, in Los Angeles. It is Greek Catholic, not Roman Catholic.

Here is a photo of a Catholic Church that is not Roman Catholic. I could go to mass here to fulfill my Sunday obligation, because it is in full communion with the successor of St. Peter. They don’t call it mass though. They call it Divine Liturgy. Check out their bulletin. It’s partially written in Arabic, even though it is located in Los Angeles. There is so much diversity in the Catholic Church!

Even though I worship under the Latin rite, call me Catholic instead of Roman Catholic. That works best for me.