Field Trip Report- Western
The Roman Catholic faith has always been intriguing to me, and this project gave me a great reason to explore it more. Growing up in an Evangelical Christian Protestant faith, I have known the tenants of Christianity. My religious upbringing focused on a simple form of Christianity. Rituals and other forms of religious devotion were virtually non-existent. Only two sacraments were looked highly upon, Holy Communion and Baptism. The focus of Evangelical Christianity is a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Focus is placed on the individual and the heart and the individual relationship with God. Fundamental Christian protestant faith’s, such as the Evangelical faith, put a high emphasis on teaching the scripture and spreading the message of faith to others across the world. On December 4th 2011, I attended mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in La Habra. This is a large church in the city I live. Recently I have been questioning my traditional religious beliefs. Through that process of questioning, I had already begun to look into Catholicism, and wondering if maybe the oldest Christian Church is an example of Christianity more in line with what originally was envisioned by Jesus and the Apostles.
The first thing that really impressed on me in attending mass was the beauty of the church itself. It is clear that much care is placed in maintaining the simple elegance of the church. Inside the church are beautiful stained glass windows. The main window was a depiction Jesus on the cross. Many smaller windows showed different Apostles and Saints. There were several square wood carvings lining the walls along the sides of the church. A practitioner next to me told me that they were the stages of the cross, and used by Catholics to help them focus on particular prayers. The mass itself was a memorable experience for me. I really enjoyed the singing and the message by the priest out of the books of Isaiah and Mark. The order of events was similar to my own church, but there was a lot of kneeling, and recited prayers and creeds that the entire congregation participated in. I must say that coming from a background that sees church as a very relaxed affair, there was something very nice about the ritual and recitation of the prayers and creeds. I participated and tried to follow along with everything, and I found myself really in a place of meditation and heartfelt worship. Many people see Catholic rituals on the surface and think that they are excessive, unnecessary, or that they distract from the real message. I however found these rituals helped me to put myself in a place of true worship and reflection. The ritual and acts the Catholic Church performs were quite effective in bringing peace to the soul and allowing me to focus on the message presented and my heart before Christ. I went home and looked into a few more of their rituals and sacraments. Communion and Baptism are similar to my own faith, but things like the sign of the cross, prayers to Mary and the Saints, and recitation of creeds and prayers were quite foreign to me. I learned that these creeds and prayers, particularly the Lord’s Prayer, the Nicene Creed, and the Apostle’s Creed originate in very early Christendom. It seems like these are used to help with religious devotion while maintaining adherence to traditions in the church, dating back two- thousand years.
I decided to read a bit more about Catholic’s devotion to Mary. This is something that is absolutely not done in the protestant faith. I had always thought that Catholic’s prayed to Mary and treated her much like God or Jesus Christ. In reality, it appears that Catholics highly revere Mary and that they pray that her and the Saints will pray for them as well. The statues within the church are not idols to be worshiped, but reminders of religious devotion. Bowing before a statue is used as a sign of reference to the Almighty Trinity, and not the actual statue.
I need to do some more research into Catholicism, but the experience was so beneficial to me that I went back the next day for an evening mass. It was similar to the Sunday mass, but simpler and shorter. I very much enjoyed my experience and will be participating in more Catholic functions, classes and masses, in the future. I have a lot of questions still, but in all of the religions I have studied in this class, Catholicism seemed to resonate most with me. The genuineness that can be found in the Catholic religion was something that was somewhat foreign to my protestant experience. This alone makes me feel drawn to Catholicism as a potential religion for me to adhere to. (Word Count 845)