For this assignment, I decided to visit a local church near Florida International University. Though I am not Christian and wasn’t raised very religiously, I don’t want to come off as not very educated on the religion of Christianity, so prior to my visit I decided to do some research. I began by trying to understand the differences between Catholicism and its parent religion, Christianity.
Of all of the sects of Christianity, Catholics are the largest of the Christian group. Traditionally, Catholicism beliefs are similar to to Christianity as a whole. The most fundamental belief in Catholicism is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that the Pope holds a particular authority along with the Roman Catholic church. A distinctive believe that separates Catholicism from Christianity is the belief that the apostle, Peter, was the successor of Jesus Christ and was labeled the head of the church. Certain rituals found in Catholicism that are not found in other sects include confessions made to a priest. Another common tradition within Catholicism is having all-male priests (“The Difference Between Catholic and Christian.”) Having known this, I was not surprised when I observed in the church that there were no female figures on the stage.
Similar to other religions such as Hinduism, purification is a necessity that is important in one’s life. Though in Hinduism, the Gange’s enable one to become purified, baptism within Christianity enables purification. Unlike other sects in Christianity where one is capable of becoming baptized anytime in their life, Catholicism traditionally only performs baptism after birth. As I tried to learn more about the church I was visiting, I discovered that on October 4th, the church actually performed a baptism on a new-born girl. I wish I had been there to witness it.
The inspired and sacred text within Catholicism is the bible, however, I was not sure if it was the regular Christian version of the bible, or the Catholic/ Orthodox version. When entering the church recently, from the back of the sanctuary to the front of the stage were isles designed so people and bystanders could sit and observe. Behind every isle, facing each individual sitting, were holy bibles that were provided for believers to follow along. There was no apparent gender classification; allowing individuals to sit as they pleased. In the particular ceremony I attended, there were more females present than males. However, there was no specific reasoning for this. The ages of the audience also fluctuated. There was a majority of middle aged people and small number of young children (“Catholicism.”)
Prior to attending the ceremony and visiting the church, I struggled with what was considered appropriate attire to wear to a church ceremony. As I read more in my preparations, I understood that there is not printed dress code for what one should wear to a catholic church. However, as expected, it was important to dress conservatively as churches are seen as respectful sanctuaries and the home of the lord. With this said, I wore sweaters and jeans to all my visits. If I’m not mistaken, an interesting observation I made was of the attire of the praise team who spoke and sat next each other on the stage. They wore long white robes with gold accenting on the top. Other observations I made were on the podium located in the center of the stage, it read “Great is thy Faithfulness” along with “This do in remembrance of me.” The side walls of the sanctuary read messages asserting “Come holy spirit,” and “Not by Might, nor by power.” According to BestPlaces.net, just alone in the city of Miami, 21.99% of the population is Catholic, therefore there is a clear demand for Catholic churches within the region (“Religion.”)
As I arrived at the church, I was caught off guard and was hesitant in entering. The appearance of the building matched and resembled the outside appearances of the houses that surrounded the church. As I entered the building, signs aided me in locating the sanctuary and the area of prayer. Walking in, the speakers had already begun and the audience consisted of a good number of people. When I entered the sanctuary, I was amazed by the profound beauty. There were many colors, and on the sides of the room were brightly colored red windows. Straight ahead was a beautifully designed cross, so big it occupied most of the front wall. Behind the cross was another colored window consisting of colors such as blue and turquois. I was very surprised to see instruments occupying most of the stage. In movies you always see singing and music present in ceremonies, but never had I thought that they actually present live musical performances and go to the extent of having a full band prepared. The was a significant repetition of the Cross symbol. Pictures of the cross were hung on the walls and above the stage.
Similarly, to every other holiday, Catholics celebrate unique days through out the year that are seen and considered as sacred. Some of these holidays include, Good Friday (April 18th), Corpus Christi (June 19th), Christmas (December 25th), Holy Thursday (April 17th), and more. Traditional holidays are celebrated in south Florida include, but, are not limited to Christmas and Easter Sunday (April 20th). Because there are so many other Catholic organizations and churches located in South Florida, other festivals take place (“Catholic Holy Days of Obligation and Moveable Feasts in 2014.) The 12th Annual Polynesian Cultural Festival takes place in South Florida from February 20th– February 21st (FESTIVALS & OUTDOOR EVENTS.)
When listening to the Priest speak and provide guidance to the audience, he kept referring to the negative things that happen in people’s everyday lives. This made his message relatable to most of the audience, as he comforted them with the thought that God is always there. A major topic of discussion that appeared to be the theme of the second ceremony I attended, was family. The emphasis on unconditional love and the power of family support was a key factor to happiness in life. It was in that moment that I realized that some of the fundamental beliefs on Christianity can be applied to any and everyone. You don’t have to be a Christian to relate to love. You don’t have to be a Christian to stay positive when life becomes difficult. The music portion of the ceremony was very pacifying. The audience was clearly engaged in the meaning behind the songs. One of the tunes was actually very catchy and remained stuck in my head even after the ceremony ended. In the multiple church visits made, there wasn’t any significant American adaptations in terms of the service. Because of the great number of Latin population found in south Florida, there were two versions of the ceremony. There was a Spanish and English version of the ceremony in convenience to the general crowd.
Everything that I saw impacted me greatly. I never knew there was a significant difference between Catholicism and its dominant parent, Christianity. One of the most monumental things that religion provides people is inspiration and hope. Regardless of whether I practiced the religion itself or was listening from an objective standpoint, the ceremony itself felt fulfilling. The overall message of the ceremony was to trust in God and love one another. Through this, one can prosper and develop into the person they are meant to be.
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“Religion.” Bestplaces. N.p., n.d. Web.