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A piece about one man's journey through Orthodoxy to union with Rome came out on the Coming Home Network earlier this month ( Coming Home Network http://chnetwork.org/2014/03/christ...earch-for-the-apostolic-faith-greg-cook/)and included thoughts about the importance of culture undergirding faith: "Looking back, I can see there were stages along the way that brought me to Catholicism. At first, I adopted the attitude of many Orthodox believers who define themselves primarily as ďnot Catholic.Ē We would mention with disdain the presumptuousness of papal claims to govern the entire body of Christ; there were also dogmas we denied, including the Immaculate Conception and the addition of the filioque (referring to the Spirit proceeding from both Father and Son) to the Creed. Then I tentatively began reading Catholic works. Next, I started examining my own familyís connection to Catholicism; this included attending Catholic services and investigating Western Rite Orthodoxy.

Orthodoxy is home to a very small Western-rite with liturgies based on either the Anglican or older Catholic Mass. Although there were no Western-rite parishes near where I lived, I bought a number of service books. I also started reading Catholic apologists like Fr. Dwight Longenecker, who has made his own journey from Protestantism and Anglicanism into the Church. Probably the most important decision I made during this time, was to start praying the rosary. Very quickly, I was in the ďSchool of Mary,Ē the first disciple of Christ. As Pope John Paul II noted, Maryís discipleship precedes Peterís. It was in the Church of Rome that I finally experienced the truth of Mary in its completeness.

Another feature that drew me into communion with Rome was culture ó literature, music, and art. So many of the great works of Western Civilization came from a desire to glorify God. As a college undergraduate, I gained an appreciation for the Christian Humanism of the Middle Ages. I did not find a comparable body of work in the Christian East, though there certainly were things of beauty such as Hagia Sophia and the churches of Russia. As much as I loved reading Dostoevsky and Solzhenitsyn, I hungered for more variety in literature, and so I read Waugh, Undset, and Flannery OíConnor; I continued re-reading my favorite author: the devoutly-Catholic J.R.R. Tolkien. I became attracted to Gregorian chant and the Benedictine way. St. Benedict (one of the patrons of Europe, along with Ss. Cyril and Methodius) seemed like a good bridging figure since he pre-dated the East-West schism and is honored on the Orthodox liturgical calendar. I investigated becoming a Benedictine oblate and living out the motto of ora et labora (pray and work)." In my experience, culture does matter (as it did to St. John Paul II.) Does anyone have some thoughts? (Sorry about link--still trying to figure out the forum's way of doing them.)

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It is a little silly to think that one can only imbibe the culture of ones own particular religious tradition. Maybe converts are like that (to either the RCs or the EO) but it smacks a little of Christianity qua lifestyle. Great Orthodox men like Fr. Seraphim Rose or Fr. Alexander Schmemann read broadly and deeply and I know Fr. Seraphim appreciated Western classical music. Of course, Roman Catholics are of all stripes and can appreciate what other cultures offer without a threat to their own faith. The East at its best is getting away from defining itself as "not Western"; it has taken some time to develop a lanuage to do this. This, of course, can be difficult in Eastern Catholic circles since they are a minority in a big sea. Roman Catholics do have a certain luxury in appreciating the East since, to be honest, what constitutes the East forms the core of what it is to be Catholic...and not just in terms of chronology.

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Christ is Risen!

This EWTN show can be very fascinating when it has former this or that on who discuss why they have become Catholics.

But I don't like the way they have former Orthodox Christians on who go into why they don't like Orthodoxy and have opted for Catholicism.

This is similar to the way CAF treats Orthodox on its website - it's as if all the ecumenical, for want of a better word, "hoopla" between Catholics and Orthodox never happened.

On the EWTN show, former Orthodox get into issues that really have precious little to do with faith matters. They emphasize how ethnicity, lack of a central church bureaucracy and the like turned them off Orthodoxy.

There is no critical commentary on similar "turn offs" within Roman Catholicism, such as the state of their liturgical goings on and a number of other issues (they are legion).

Orthodoxy is treated as if it were like being Evangelical, atheist or the like - the religious world is divided into "Catholics" and "non-Catholics" period.

When Pope Paul VI once stated that unity between Catholicism and Orthodoxy is "almost complete," what did he mean and how should that have impacted Roman Catholicism's stance toward Orthodoxy and also toward its own ecclesial/faith issues?

There is still a sense that the old monolithic RC ecclesial model has not moved or changed one iota.

And then why hasn't it? The ecumenical praxis on these RC shows, when it comes to Orthodoxy, really, well, stinks and I just turn to another channel.

Just my thoughts and I don't know how Recluse will react to all of this . . .

Alex

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Truly He is Risen!
Bingo, Orthodox Catholic. There is nothing in matters of faith for the EWTN crowd to criticise in Orthodoxy since they would paint themselves into a rhetorical corner. I like Marcus Grodi a lot -- he is the most polished of all on the channel, even more than Fr. Rutler -- but at least with former Protestants they are encouraged to express how Catholicism made them "completed" Protestants and they bear no ill will against their former religious tradition. If what you say is true, this is absent in re. to former Orthodox.
It is best sometimes to turn off apologetically flavoured Catholicism since that often is quite different from what Rome actually expresses. (Yes, I am a Catholic who attends Orthodox services, but I do see a core Orthodoxy in the Roman Catholic Church which I cherish as much as in the Orthodox Church.)

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Re: Orthodox Catholic and Mark: Amen, amen, amen.

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Well, as one Orthodox wag said about Papal primacy and infallibility, "When you're not going to change anything, nobody has to be infallible."

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I'm not really sure what the problem is here to be solved. Every church has a "culture". Even down to the individual congregation level, there are things which make each community of humans unique. The basics of the faith (Catholic or Orthodox) seem (to me) to be fairly simple and straightforward. The rest I have to say in my opinion is a mental construct.

I'm glad the guy is happy where he is, although I always wonder how someone could convert to something more than once. It just seems strange to me. Anyway very little of what I read seems to be about the actual culture of either church.

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AMM: Is it perhaps a case of an approach rather than "a problem...to be solved"? What is American culture? Or Ruthenian culture? Is the Roams Church the "natural" fit for an American, or does joining the Eastern Church(es)mean acting a part? To take another tack: could there be a Byzantine rosary using, say, excerpts from the Great feasts and Akathist? Or is that somehow inauthentic? And what about the question of literature mentioned in this article? As a long-ago English major, I know one way I get to know a culture is through its literature.

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I hope not to overstay my welcome, but if I may chime in again...It has a lot to do with how we mean "culture"...especially North Americans. Almost St. John Paul II's use of the term "culture" was meant as an antidote to the negative aspects embodied by terms like "nation" or "fatherland" (which is used frequently in Poland -- Nazis did not invent the usgage.)
Such negatives as chauvinism and xenophobia.
One must bear in mind that in a country like Poland cultures were in many overlapping layers: Polish noble, Polish peasant, Jewish, Roma (Gypsy), Lithuanian (usually peasant, meaning Byelorussian sometimes), Ukrainian (or whatever convenient term at the time).
The term culture, as recently used in retrenching Christian circles usually connotes a culture war. The high-jacking of this term is unfortunate...but then again, JPII also had the clumsy practice of using common terms in a narrowly specific way in his philosophy.
You cannot expect any culture to be a pristine monolith. They influence each other, for better or worse.

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And what about the question of literature mentioned in this article?


What is the question? I honestly don't understand what the issue is.

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The question is this: when one embraces orthodoxy does one need to "become" that particular ethnicity? My experience in the East suggests that the answer is that there is a certain amount of falseness in that approach: it is not possible to "become" Greek or Russian or Serbian or Syrian, and hence one can never advance in that faith if one is a convert. It also means that an American Orthodox Church will never exist and be accepted by the autocephalous churches. I'll stand by that until I see an American (or an Englishman or Kenyan) elevated to the Patriarchal See of Constantinople. Re. literature: there just is not much good literature (novels, poetry, plays) translated into English, whereas there are many good latin Catholic writers in English or translated into English. The Western canon of literature and art inform even the American mind and the generic American with little/no connection to ancestral culture is more a natural fit for the Latin Church.

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Iíve never felt that my ethnicity has been a hindrance to my church membership. Each individual experience is different I suppose. I have never considered whether a broad spectrum of English language literature should influence my church membership. I like Rilkeís poetry in English translation. I donít speak anything but English. I have read all the English language authors mentioned in the article plus others such as Newman and Graham Greene. I canít say any of them are my cup of tea. Iím not a huge fan of Russian literature personally (in English of course).

My church seems suitably American to me, and my bishop is American born. I donít see why the Ecumenical Patriarch should or would be anybody except someone from that local church, so I would expect them to be Greek or Greek speaking. This does not present itself as a particular problem for me. I donít see why someone from Kenya or the UK would be any more of my culture than the current Ecumenical Patriarch, other than they speak English, but as far as I can tell the current on does.

By your line of thinking Iím not sure how one could be a Byzantine Catholic in this country if one was a convert.

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My critique is two-fold: one, about the tensions in American culture; and 2) that yes, I think it is difficult to live as and Eastern Christian in this country.

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If I may add my humble comment: It is my experience, living in southern New England, that ethnicity influences Eastern Catholicism in this way: Eastern Rite churches are clustered in certain areas. These areas reflect the original pattern of immigration of the particular ethnic group that brought its particular rite to America. This seems to apply to Eastern Catholic churches--Orthodox churches are far more spread out and much greater in number. But for me, if I venture outside the NY-NJ-south CT area, Eastern Catholic churches are few and far between.

Even though the blessed generations who brought their rite to these places are for the most part in eternal repose, the original immigration patterns still determine the availability of Eastern Catholic Churches, but again, Orthodoxy is far more widespread.

The exceptions to this are Florida and California and other states that contain major retirement communities. Churches have followed the older generation to some extent this way. As a Ruthenian (not ethnically, but in worship,) there are no churches north or east of the Connecticut River, and few NE of New York City, although Ukrainian Catholic churches can be found as far north as Boston. The Ruthenian rite is clustered around NJ/PA.

When one is an American born "mongrel" such as myself (Irish/Austrian,) this seems to be the way that culture influences faith. Although few in my parish are not of Eastern European descent (which I am not, although on one side my ancestors were subjects of the Hapsburgs) I have never experienced any personal friction because of my ethnicity We are nearly all native born Americans. On the contrary, I have been fortunate to have been able to learn about ethnic customs and foods that I never knew before, and was made to feel very much welcome.

Outside the US, especially in lands of the former Byzantine Empire, ethnicity does seem to play a very large part in one's faith, or better said, one's particular liturgical expression thereof. Although I have never had the honor of visiting those places in the East (I very much want to visit Constantinople,) this is the impression that I get from what I have gleaned from the media about Christianity in the Middle East, overwhelmed in numbers by Muslims as those unfortunate Christians are.

If I may also quickly comment on the original post, I have been told often by clergy and it my own experience as well, that devotion to the Theotokos, by the Rosary or by Cannon and Akathist, is the surest and safest road to Jesus

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The one BC church I know of in Seattle seems to be predominantly "non ethnic" and possibly former RC's. No influx of new immigrants in this place except for the large numbers of evangelical Slavs.

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