The Friday Pickle: What Can We Learn From Catholic Worshippers?

Posted by Craig Borlase on 27 March 2015

Perhaps you, like me, grew up with a slightly suspicious view of Catholicism. On a French exchange visit to the crypt of a Parisian cathedral, I took extra care not to direct my prayers in Mary’s direction, fearing that if I did Jesus would be severely annoyed with me.

These were the 80s it was, a time when Evangelicalism was feeling pretty good about itself. We had the best preachers, the biggest stadium crusades and the best sounding worship. Or so I thought.

Fast forward a few decades and the world has changed. The gap between Catholics and Evangelicals has narrowed, introducing the likes of Matt Maher, Pope Francis and Henry Nouwen as significant influences on how we do things. Difference still exists, but much of a that suspicion has gone.

And there are still things we can learn...

Like the power of traditional liturgical worship. Evangelicals are no stranger to liturgy, though our service structure, prayers and songs might be a little more modern. But perhaps it is the traditional forms that have something to teach us.

According to Joseph Pavicic writing here http://www.hprweb.com/2013/02/what-evangelicals-can-learn-from-catholics/, traditional liturgical worship aligns a church more closely with the early church that thrived so well during the first few decades of Christianity. Once Rome declared for Christianity in 380AD, things changed.

‘A final reason for embracing a liturgical worship,’ explains JP, ’is that it provides a counterbalance to modern culture. In his book, Beyond Smells and Bells: The Wonder and Power of Christian Liturgy, Anglican Mark Galli writes:

Liturgy helps us enter a counter-intuitive story. In an individualistic culture, the liturgy helps us live a communal life. In a culture that values spontaneity, the liturgy grounds us in something enduring. In a world that assumes truth is a product of the mind, the liturgy helps us experience truth in both mind and body. In a world demanding instant relevance, the liturgy gives us the patience to live into a relevance that the world does not know.’

Perhaps the best input on a topic like this comes from Pope Francis himself. Speaking at the World Evangelical Alliance in late 2014, he said:

“If we really believe in the abundantly free working of the Holy Spirit, we can learn so much from one another.

“From the beginning there have been divisions among Christians, and sadly, even today, conflicts and rivalries exist between our communities.”

However, he said he was hopeful “that the Holy Spirit, who inspires the Church to persevere in seeking new methods of evangelization, will usher in a new era of relations between Catholics and Evangelicals, so that the Lord’s will that the Gospel be brought to the ends of the earth may be more fully realized.”

So perhaps the question at the top of this is redundant. It is not ‘what’ can we learn, but ‘how’? And the answer to that is clear; through the Holy Spirit. That same spirit that draws people to God, that exhales unity and builds a stronger church. With the Holy Spirit as our guide, surely there are whole mountain's worth of good things for us to learn from each other.

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