A Letter from an American who Attended a Catholic University
Start writing a post

A Letter from an American who Attended a Catholic University

The culture shock is real!

495
A Letter from an American who Attended a Catholic University

My dear reader, many have asked me to deliver an account of what it was like for me, somebody of a very strongly Protestant background who attended graduate school with Catholics. Alas, like every experience culture shock occurred. I had very little interaction with Catholics before graduate school, and I came from a country (the USA) which is very strongly Protestant- at least culturally. Religion strongly impacts a culture, even if the people of that country may be secularized. Spain, Italy and France will always have Catholic cultures and more of a Catholic way of seeing the world. Meanwhile, the United States, Germany and Norway will look at the world through more Protestant lenses.

Many casual readers may not understand how drastically different Catholic and Protestant cultures are, in fact- even a church service did not feel like church. However, a different culture is just that- it is different and not bad. The world is a diverse place full of many different beliefs, this differences must be discussed to allow dialog and understanding between cultures. When we pretend these differences do not exist, this is when negative stereotypes occur.

Church

This was the primary culture shock at first. While Protestant churches range from high church with pretty stained glass windows, all the way to low church "we play rock music and drink coffee while dancing to the beat of the drums!" and many churches fall in between. Catholic Churches have very distinct steps to follow and words to recite in a service.

Speaking from my own experience in my Protestant Church, "church" was very communal. We had no paid staff members and it would start with "breaking of the bread" which was when we had a reflective prayer service and passed around a plate of bread for each member to individually rip and little individual cups of wine and grape juice. In between services we had "coffee hour" where we all socialized, and drank coffee or tea. Afterwards the children would go to Sunday School and the adults would listen to a sermon exploring a theme in the Bible. We had new speakers every week, and nothing resembling a mass. Alas, I regret to inform you- we have no artwork in our churches! (except maybe some high churches)

Clergy

I can already hear the cries of "you anti-clerical revolutionary!!" alas, my dear reader I hope I don't sound too anti-clerical but yes, I do not think churches should have any clergy. From my background we had a group of unpaid elders carefully picked. Alas, I am no theologian but I do not believe it is right for a church to have structured leadership as it would be prone to attract usurpers.

Separation of Church and State

My dear reader, we should have no official church. Religion is a matter of your heart, it is the beliefs you hold most sacred within you that form your worldview. When leaders of old forced everybody to convert to their faith- genocide such as Saint-Bartholomew's Day and the Spanish Inquisition occurred. Power corrupts all, and religion and state should be separate or it will be easier for usurpers to seize power.

Religious Symbols

This made me feel rather like I was in another time period. Religious clothes? crucifixes? Such objects would never be spotted where I come from. Not saying it is wrong to have, but I was not aware how noticeable it is. Of course, faith is subject to freedom of expression and as an individual they have a right to do it. However, if this was a governmental space such symbols should be forbidden as a neutral government is a happy government free from factionalism of religious disputes.

We Talk Different

This is because we think different. Somebody of more theological training than myself would better explain it, but while Catholics "celebrate mass" this sounds funny to my ears, you "go to church" but you never "celebrate church." Or "the sacrements" We do not have this in Protestantism and in Catholicism "sacrements" are their religion's core beliefs. We do not have infant baptism either (except for Presbyterians) nor do we have "confirmation" or "first communion" which to my understanding are rites that Catholics take part in. We have nothing equivalent, except perhaps baptism when you are old enough to decide to be baptized. We have no saints for all men are created equal. Mary for us was a "nice girl" but still a sinner.

They do not trust "scripture alone"

The sole authority on religion is scripture! But for Catholics, they take great stock in traditions and scholars such as Aquinas. This is what gives Catholics a connection to the past Middle Ages, for somebody coming from a church where guitars are used in worship and the atmosphere was like one big family gathering this took me by surprise.

Communion

In Protestant churches we use a fresh loaf of bread and pass it around for everybody individually. Likewise, with the little cups. In Catholicism they have a clergy member hold a single cup and they have crackers instead of bread. They believe it is the literal body of Christ, where all Protestants believe it is merely a symbol. Consequently, they hold this to be the center of their service where for us it is a remembrance but all symbolism.

In conclusion, I never have been in a place more different in my life. This is not a bad sign, in fact I believe it made me gain a deeper understanding of the way other cultures work and think. It is rather heartbreaking at times when people will attack me accusing me of being "Catholic!" I thought that my country moved past our days of harassing suspected Catholics on the street. I do not believe in any Catholic doctrine, and am from a Protestant family. However, I should have noticed a troubling sign when I reflected that in my country's history all of the immigrants who suffered the most were from Catholic Countries. I believe the world is improving a little with embracing tolerance for all religions, but we need to have discussions with those who are different- and not accuse people of following a particular religion.

By pretending these differences do not exist, we are in danger of opening up a greater divide as different groups isolate themselves and do not interact with those who are different. Of course, we must find the similarities and what unifies us so we can fight together for justice and a better world. This does not mean ignoring our differences, but moving together realizing our difference but knowing in a free society we can all practice our faith without the fear of repression.


For liberty, equality, fraternity always!

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Health and Wellness

Exposing Kids To Nature Is The Best Way To Get Their Creative Juices Flowing

Constantly introducing young children to the magical works of nature will further increase the willingness to engage in playful activities as well as broaden their interactions with their peers

87031

Whenever you are feeling low and anxious, just simply GO OUTSIDE and embrace nature! According to a new research study published in Frontiers in Psychology, being connected to nature and physically touching animals and flowers enable children to be happier and altruistic in nature. Not only does nature exert a bountiful force on adults, but it also serves as a therapeutic antidote to children, especially during their developmental years.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

5 Simple Ways To Give Yourself Grace, Especially When Life Gets Hard

Grace begins with a simple awareness of who we are and who we are becoming.

115267
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

If there's one thing I'm absolutely terrible at, it's giving myself grace. I'm easily my own worst critic in almost everything that I do. I'm a raging perfectionist, and I have unrealistic expectations for myself at times. I can remember simple errors I made years ago, and I still hold on to them. The biggest thing I'm trying to work on is giving myself grace. I've realized that when I don't give myself grace, I miss out on being human. Even more so, I've realized that in order to give grace to others, I need to learn how to give grace to myself, too. So often, we let perfection dominate our lives without even realizing it. I've decided to change that in my own life, and I hope you'll consider doing that, too. Grace begins with a simple awareness of who we are and who we're becoming. As you read through these five affirmations and ways to give yourself grace, I hope you'll take them in. Read them. Write them down. Think about them. Most of all, I hope you'll use them to encourage yourself and realize that you are never alone and you always have the power to change your story.

Keep Reading... Show less
Entertainment

Breaking Down The Beginning, Middle, And End of Netflix's Newest 'To All The Boys' Movie

Noah Centineo and Lana Condor are back with the third and final installment of the "To All The Boys I've Loved Before" series

372802
Netflix

Were all teenagers and twenty-somethings bingeing the latest "To All The Boys: Always and Forever" last night with all of their friends on their basement TV? Nope? Just me? Oh, how I doubt that.

I have been excited for this movie ever since I saw the NYC skyline in the trailer that was released earlier this year. I'm a sucker for any movie or TV show that takes place in the Big Apple.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

4 Ways To Own Your Story, Because Every Bit Of It Is Worth Celebrating

I hope that you don't let your current chapter stop you from pursuing the rest of your story.

233722
Photo by Manny Moreno on Unsplash

Every single one of us has a story.

I don't say that to be cliché. I don't say that to give you a false sense of encouragement. I say that to be honest. I say that to be real.

Keep Reading... Show less
Politics and Activism

How Young Feminists Can Understand And Subvert The Internalized Male Gaze

Women's self-commodification, applied through oppression and permission, is an elusive yet sexist characteristic of a laissez-faire society, where women solely exist to be consumed. (P.S. justice for Megan Fox)

122027
Paramount Pictures

Within various theories of social science and visual media, academics present the male gaze as a nebulous idea during their headache-inducing meta-discussions. However, the internalized male gaze is a reality, which is present to most people who identify as women. As we mature, we experience realizations of the perpetual male gaze.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

It's Important To Remind Yourself To Be Open-Minded And Embrace All Life Has To Offer

Why should you be open-minded when it is so easy to be close-minded?

307553

Open-mindedness. It is something we all need a reminder of some days. Whether it's in regards to politics, religion, everyday life, or rarities in life, it is crucial to be open-minded. I want to encourage everyone to look at something with an unbiased and unfazed point of view. I oftentimes struggle with this myself.

Keep Reading... Show less
Swoon

14 Last Minute Valentine's Day Gifts Your S.O. Will Love

If they love you, they're not going to care if you didn't get them some expensive diamond necklace or Rolex watch; they just want you.

188825

Let me preface this by saying I am not a bad girlfriend.

I am simply a forgetful one.

Keep Reading... Show less
Student Life

10 Helpful Tips For College Students Taking Online Courses This Semester

Here are several ways to easily pass an online course.

127933
Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels

With spring semester starting, many college students are looking to take courses for the semester. With the pandemic still ongoing, many students are likely looking for the option to take online courses.

Online courses at one time may have seemed like a last minute option for many students, but with the pandemic, they have become more necessary. Online courses can be very different from taking an on-campus course. You may be wondering what the best way to successfully complete an online course is. So, here are 10 helpful tips for any student who is planning on taking online courses this semester!

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments