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The Nightcrawler as a Roman Catholic Superhero FAQ

Posted: Sun Dec 18, 2005 4:33 pm
by Saint Kurt
This is a new area of the FAQ I've been thinking about for a while.

Marvel's writers have chosen to make Nightcrawler a Catholic character, but to me it seems that the representation of his faith is somewhat limited. If you are to take the artwork and often his own words at face value, he's more of a lapsed Protestant. Yet the stories told clearly indicate that he's meant to be a devout Roman Catholic.

I've discovered that much of society in general doesn't understand what Catholicism is about and what Catholics really believe. That means, given how much of an emphasis is made on him as a religious character, there is a whole side to who he is – that is missing for many readers.

So I decided that a great resource to have here, along would everything else we have about Nightcrawler, would be a FAQ about Catholicism – and specifically how it might apply to a certain blue mutant superhero. I'm hoping it could be useful to comic book readers as well as artists and writers of fanfiction.

Because religion can be a touchy subject, there are a few things I must say before we get going:

1. The purpose of this FAQ thread is not to convert you to Catholicism. If you think you want to be Catholic, I suggest finding a Catholic church and talking to them. They won't try to convert you to Catholicism either, but they will suggest you attend RCIA classes where you can learn more about the faith. THEN after about 5 months of learning about the faith, you can decide if you still want to convert. :) And if you do, you will attend another three months of classes so that you can make absolutely sure.

2. I will not argue whether or not Catholicism is better or worse than your faith tradition. If you are concerned that your beliefs are lacking in something, I would suggest a visit to your own pastor, rabbi, or spiritual leader rather than discussing it on the internet with me. ;)

3. One of the reasons we can do this is that we have an Admin willing to watch the thread and make sure that it remains unbiased and authoritative. There is an excellent thread of religious debate in the Off-Topic forum, this one has a totally different purpose.

The point of this FAQ is to provide information about how Catholic rituals work and what is said during them, about what Catholics believe and why they believe it. If at any point you find that I am not being totally impartial, let me know.

Feel free to add questions or comments, but it is my goal to give authoritative information using sources such as the Catechism, Vatican writings, "The Catholic Source Book", and occasionally the Bible. I know that there are many Catholics and many churches with many traditions of their own. As I am trying to be an impartial purveyor of facts, I would like to avoid "Well, here's what we do at my church…" The word Catholic itself means "universal" so it is important that we focus on those universal elements that would exist the same in the U.S., Germany, and elsewhere.

So, that's what the Nightcrawler Catholicism FAQ is all about. Now that the ground rules are laid down I will try to keep it interesting, related to Nightcrawler, and fun to read. If you have any questions in particular, please feel free to ask them here. If not, I'll just pick a topic that seems relevant.

The first topic I'm working on will be about confession, since it figures so prominently in the last arc of the Nightcrawler Solo Series.


The Nightcrawler as a Roman Catholic Superhero FAQ

Posted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 10:03 am
by Nandireya
DareDevil is a Roman Catholic Super-Hero too, isn't he?

The Nightcrawler as a Roman Catholic Superhero FAQ

Posted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 4:54 pm
by Saint Kurt
Yeah, he is. And so is Gambit actually. And there are others.

But since this site is about Nightcrawler, I wanted to focus on him in this FAQ.


The Nightcrawler as a Roman Catholic Superhero FAQ

Posted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 11:22 pm
by Angelique
I think it may be worth noting that of all those mentioned, Nightcrawler is by far the most likely to be Catholic by choice rather than by culture, even though he was brought up in predominantly-Catholic Bavaria.

The Sacrament of Penance

Posted: Fri Dec 23, 2005 1:45 am
by Saint Kurt
Referred to in the Catechism as the "Sacrament of Penance", sometimes called the "Sacrament of Reconciliation", or called simply "confession", they are all the same thing, the opportunity for a person to receive forgivness from God for the sins they have committed. It is one of the seven sacraments that Catholics believe were instituted by Christ as a vehicle for their grace. Penance, along with the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick (last rites) are together called the Sacraments of Mercy - they are a demonstration of God's love.

In order to understand the importance of God's forgiveness, it is important to understand the Catholic conception of sin. Catholics believe that being in a state of sin (ie having committed a sin) prevents them from functioning properly on Earth AND prevents them from entering heaven should they die. A Catholic in a state of sin may not partake in the eucharist (communion) and thus spiritually separates them from the church community. Being in a state of sin is like being sick and the sacrament of penance is the cure.

What happens during reconciliation?
Reconciliation has 4 parts:

1. Contritrition - or an internal attitude of sorrow for having committed those sins. Without contrition, along with the desire to no longer sin, confession would be little more than a "get out of jail free card" as the sinner repeats the cycle of sin and confession without truly being sorry. It doesn't work that way - contrition is the most important aspect of this sacrament.

2. Confession - this is where the penitant tells the priest the sins he has committed.
There is a traditional formula for this part, usually: "Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been x amount of time since my last confession."

It is important to note here that the penitant is asking the priest for a blessing, not for the forgiveness of the sins; Catholics believe that only God can do that. So, after the priest gives the blessing, the penitant continues, listing their sins for the priest to hear.

3. Once the penitant is finished the next step is Absolution. The forgiveness of sin comes directly from God, delivered via the priest.
When he celebrates the sacrament of Penance, the priest is fulfilling the ministry of the Good Shepherd who seeks the lost sheep, of the Good Samaritan who binds up wounds, of the Father who awaits the prodigal son and welcomes him on his return, and of the just and impartial judge whose judgment is both just and merciful. The priest is the sign and the instrument of God's merciful love for the sinner.
The above quote is from the Catechism, Catholicism's "law book" and it explains how, during the sacrament of penance, the priest is acting as an instrument of God. This is why they wear a stole while hearing confessions - when a priest puts on their stole, regardless of how else they may be dressed, they are acting in their priestly office as an instrument of God's will.

4. Satisfaction - Generally at the end of confession, the penitant, now absolved of their sins is given a "penance" by the priest to help them understand their mistakes and stay away from them in the future. This can be anything the priest wants from reading a particular prayer, to saying the rosary, to doing something kind for three random strangers. (These are all penances I have received and performed.)

What is this "Seal of Confession" I hear about?

Anything said to a priest during confession is totally confidential and doesn't leave the room. The seal is so absolute that even if the penitant confessed to a crime like murder, the priest is bound to secrecy (even under oath in a court room!)

Kurt and Confession
Like every Catholic Kurt would be obligated to attend confession at least once a year. However I could imagine that in the course of his X-Men duties he may find himself in a state of sin a little more often than comfortable to be happy with a once a year visit.

Now a days, the tradition of separating the priest and penitant by a screen has fallen by the way side. In many churches Confession is preformed face to face, however it is not the case everywhere. If Kurt were uncomfortable showing his face in a church, he would still find it fairly easy and anonymous to confess in an old fashioned screened booth.

The Nightcrawler as a Roman Catholic Superhero FAQ

Posted: Fri Dec 23, 2005 3:14 am
by Nandireya
Originally posted by Saint Kurt
Now a days, the tradition of separating the priest and penitant by a screen has fallen by the way side. In many churches Confession is preformed face to face, however it is not the case everywhere. If Kurt were uncomfortable showing his face in a church, he would still find it fairly easy and anonymous to confess in an old fashioned screened booth.
Kurt has been shown in confessional many times...but he has had a close bond with a few priests…Michael Bowen (Uncanny X-Men #196) and Father Whitney (Nightcrawler mini…Uncanny X-Men #423), both of whom accepted him (more or less) for who he is…

The Nightcrawler as a Roman Catholic Superhero FAQ

Posted: Fri Dec 23, 2005 6:44 am
by Saint Kurt
Cool. I was thinking of adding some various comic references to the above but I ran out of time, and there's no way I can think of all of them. Nor was I implying that Kurt couldn't attend a face to face confession, just that like many, if he felt uncomfortable, the other option was available.

2 other comic book instances of Kurt giving confession I can remember are:

Nightcrawler #7 (of course)
"And the Devil Went to Church on Tuesday" - it was a little extra story that was in the back of an Excalibur comic. I can't remember the number.


The Nightcrawler as a Roman Catholic Superhero FAQ

Posted: Fri Dec 23, 2005 10:01 am
by Nandireya
Originally posted by Saint Kurt
"And the Devil Went to Church on Tuesday" - it was a little extra story that was in the back of an Excalibur comic. I can't remember the number.
Excalibur #75...

The Nightcrawler as a Roman Catholic Superhero FAQ

Posted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 2:54 am
by Saint Kurt
So, when I started this thread, it had been my hope to update it weekly or at least bi-weekly. We can see how well that worked out. But at the very least I'm going to tell you my plan so I can be accountable for it.

I'd planned on starting with things I've seen Kurt doing in the comics, hence why I started with the Sacrament of Confession before explaining in good detail what a sacrement was. I think Kurt is shown in confession more often than anything. He's also shown attending Mass a few times and praying the Rosary (particularly in X2). So Mass and the Rosary are the next two I'd planned on talking about.

My goal remains to describe Kurt's faith in as unbiased language as possible so if you think I'm staying from that goal, please let me know. Thanks in advance.

Now, on with the Holy Sacrifice of Mass!

Weekly Mass figures big into the lives of Catholics and each Sunday is a "holy day of obligation" in which they are required to go to church and attend. The word Catholic means "Universal" and during Mass Catholics participate "universally", in other words: physically with all the kneeling and the standing, sensually with the incense, stained glass windows and other ornaments, and by hearing the readings, and vocally when responding or singing. A lot goes on during a typical one hour Mass and all of it is designed to help the participant attain better "communication" with God. (Whether or not they actually do is up to them.)

Procession and Penitential Rite
The Mass begins with procession in of the priest and any altar servers, a blessing from the priest, and then a "Penitential Rite" in which the members of the congregation (including the priest) acknowledge their sin and ask forgiveness from God. Catholics are really big on sin if you hadn't already noticed. The penitential rite does not negate the need the attend confession. It is the equivalent of putting a bandaid on a wound until you get to the hospital. The Confessional is where the wound is treated.

After that Mass is broken down into two "Liturgies", the "Liturgy of the Word" in which the Bible is read and the "Liturgy of the Eucharist" in which the congregation takes part in the Sacrament of the Eucharist or "Communion". (I know - another Sacrement! I will get to the bottom of what a sacrement is very soon. :))

Part 1: Liturgy of the Word
The Liturgy of the Word is where the priest gives the homily or sermon. It is also when the church as a group recites the "profession of faith" which is an oath of Catholic beliefs and then "offers" the mass for various causes such as "on behalf of the pope" or "for those suffering and in need" or "for world leaders as they work toward peaceful solutions". You get the point... The idea is that the church prays as a community both for internal unity (by saying their oath) and for the outside world.

Part 2: Liturgy of the Eucharist
The Liturgy of the Eucharist closes the Mass. The Liturgy of the Eucharist and the Eucharist in general is also where Catholicism gets really weird for non-Catholics so you'll have you just bear with me and nod your heads yes at the right times. It's what Catholics believe and have believed for a very long time.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist takes place at a large table called an "altar". Before 1962 this altar used to face the back wall so that the priest performed the entire mass with his back to congregation whispering under his breath in Latin*. Now though, the Mass is performed in the vernacular tongue and the altar has been spun around to face the congregation so everyone can follow along. The priest begins by taking "gifts" of bread (host wafers) and wine that have been brought up to the altar and then starts the "Eucharistic Prayer" in order to "consecrate" them. In other words, he is going to transform the little wafer cracker things into the Body of Jesus and the Wine into the Blood.

There is an important moment at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer called the "epiclesis" where the priest stops speaking of Jesus in the 3rd person and starts using the 1st person. This is because, from that moment forward, for the purposes of the consecration, the priest is Jesus. Like the wafers and the wine are about to be, he too has been transformed, but only for a little while. (I know, it's crazy. Just keep reading. You'll make it...)

The moment of consecration is the holiest moment of the Mass. It is so important that bells are rung so people don't miss it. The priest takes the communion wafer or "host" and then a chalice of wine each in turn and says "This is My Body" (or "My Blood" if it's the chalice). Each of these are elavated for the congregation to see and set back down on the Altar. Now the bread and the wine are no longer bread and wine - they have been "consecrated". Catholics believe that they have taken on the "real presence" of Christ through transubstantiation, the changing of substances from one to another by the priest acting on the authority of God and in the divinity of his office.

There's no way to explain this in a way that doesn't sound insane so I'm not even going to try. Scriptural references point to Jesus telling his followers to "Eat my flesh and drink my blood" several different times in many different ways. During the Last Supper (from which the words of the Eucharistic Prayer come) he explicitly says so, even passing around bread and wine that he "consecrated" for everyone in order to demonstrate. Many denominations of Christianity have a form of communion, but few take it as seriously as the Catholics do. The Catholic belief that the true body and blood of their savior is present in the host wafers means that they kneel before them as they would before God. It is not "like God", it is God.

This is a very important part of the Mass to every Catholic and is the reason the Mass is called a "Sacrifice". At this point the congretion partakes in the sacrifice by eating some of the Body (the wafers) and/or drinking some of the Blood (the wine). Any of the host that is not consumed is protected in the "Tabernacle", a special locked box near the altar. Any remaining crumbs must be disposed of carefully and all Catholic Churches have a special sink in the sacristy (the room behind the altar where the priest can prepare for mass etc) that doesn't go into the plumbing system, but into the ground so that the crumbs of the consecrated host can be given a "burial".

Once the altar is cleared the Mass ends with the priest giving his blessing and dissmissing the congregation. Then the priest and the altar servers process out.

You made it!

So, that's Mass. I didn't include and actual prayers etc, but the formulae for the Profession of Faith and the Eucharistic Prayer etc. can be found here:
Order of the Mass

Though I have seen Kurt attend Church in the comics (most recently in the last issue of the solo book) I don't think I've ever seen it referred to him participating in communion. As a Catholic, missing this sacrament would be a major blow as it forms the core of their worship. When Catholics are ill and unable to leave their homes their priests will come to them to offer support, but almost as importantly, to provide the spiritual sustenance that the Eucharist gives them. It seems that Kurt would have really been missing something in his life.

Then again, they're just comic books and they can't show everything. It's just something I wonder about now and again given the number of years the comics showed him as "in hiding".

I hope this was interesting and not totally confusing.


Addition: Someone sent me this link to correct a mistake I'd made (I mixed up the purificator and the corporal. The horrors! :)) and I thought, "wow, that's the best description with pictures I've ever seen of a Catholic Mass." So here it is -

The Holy Mass Explained

And it's from Scotland. Cool!

* This pre-Vatican II style Latin Mass is still performed. I have been to several and it is as mystifying as it is fascinating, but I swear everyone but the priest was lost for most of them.

(edit - You know what makes a person feel really silly? Doing all this research and taking the time to write this carefully, but spelling the word "sacrament" wrong the entire time. :doh! I've fixed it.)

[Edited on 20/1/06 by Saint Kurt]

[Edited on 13/5/06 by Saint Kurt]

The Nightcrawler as a Roman Catholic Superhero FAQ

Posted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 3:22 am
by Angelique
You might also want to address clerical garb, vestments, and such, as NC has been shown (quite inaccurately, too) wearing them.

The Nightcrawler as a Roman Catholic Superhero FAQ

Posted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 2:42 pm
by Saint Kurt
I thought I would address that when I talked about the "Liturgical Calendar" since what is worn (the colors and how they're worn) is all tied into that anyway.

For the Mass I wanted to concentrate on the Eucharist which I knew would be confusing.

But the rosary is easy so maybe I'll do that afterwards... hmmm.


The Nightcrawler as a Roman Catholic Superhero FAQ

Posted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 7:56 pm
by BAMFCentral
Wow very informative : )

I have a meager listing of a few Religious instances of Kurt in the books.

hope it helps a bit.

Its mainly just Uncanny and Excalibur haven't added in the Icon NC mini yet.

The Nightcrawler as a Roman Catholic Superhero FAQ

Posted: Sat Jan 21, 2006 1:54 am
by Saint Kurt
I moved the discussion about Kurt's choice of vestments and their appropriatness to his priestly office to a more appropriate thread"so... Was he a priest or wasn't he?"

I will talk about vestments that priests and other clergy wear when I write about the liturgical calendar.

I also plan on writing at length about the process of discernment and formation of seminarians and their journey to the priesthood because this may be one of the most confusing things ever to happen to Nightcrawler. Ever.

Thanks for your understanding.

The Nightcrawler as a Roman Catholic Superhero FAQ

Posted: Sat Jan 21, 2006 2:40 am
by Angelique

The Nightcrawler as a Roman Catholic Superhero FAQ

Posted: Tue Mar 14, 2006 4:57 am
by Garble

The Nightcrawler as a Roman Catholic Superhero FAQ

Posted: Tue Mar 14, 2006 4:55 pm
by HoodedMan
Wow, that really is a very good article. Very well-documented and thorough.

The Nightcrawler as a Roman Catholic Superhero FAQ

Posted: Tue Mar 14, 2006 9:25 pm
by chicory
Thanks for the article Garble!

I love what Nightcrawler's spirituality and religion give to the character - and those moments, like the conversation with the Logan after the brood encounter and the power that the cross and the star of david had when wielded by a person of faith were high moments.

The animated episode though really got on my nerves when I saw it recently. (It was nice being able to catch X-men at the convenient 11:30pm time slot whenever I remembered too - which I now think wasn't often enough since they replaced it with Power Rangers :cry)

But, I preferred the subtle message offered in the comics to the heavy-handed way they did the animated story. Like on the brood ship Logan, who's lived a long time and seen a lot and possibly lost his faith a long time ago is allowed to keep his own religious beliefs. (That was a great exchange where Kurt tells Logan he can't imagine how lonely he must be and then Logan just replies that he has Kurt and then suggests they go and find some beer :D. Very subtle.

I didn't like how in the cartoon it's all presented as though there's only one correct way to think and one place to be in that way of thinking. With Jubilee and then the end where Rogue finds Wolverine in the church playing.

I'm not sure why that bothered me so much. I thought that Nightcrawler's place worked for him in the monastery - I just didn't like how the other characters reacted to his 'message' I guess.

(Oh, and because I just have to say it! I can't believe Nightcrawler wasn't included in the core X-team - since he's so integral in the original books! Instead they replace that crucial friendship with Wolverine by inventing a new character (I think) Morph! How insulting! I would have :love'd if NC had been included more!)

Though they did do an excellent job of including sooo many other Marvel characters...

/rant (sorry this was so long - hope it's okay how off-topic it got)

The Nightcrawler as a Roman Catholic Superhero FAQ

Posted: Wed Mar 15, 2006 1:02 pm
by Saint Kurt
That is a good article Garble. And it's kind of the opposite of what I'm doing here with this FAQ (saying "okay, so they made Kurt Catholic - now what does that mean") so it fits together really well.

The author actually went to the comics to look at Kurt's faith (which is a bit like going to Hellboy to research the Nazi party) but he used the best examples and did a really nice job with it. I especially like how much he quotes the Greg Rucka issue of Wolverine, because I think that really gets to the core of it. When he gets to the "Chuck Austen Controversy" he's a little obvious in his bias, but then that wasn't exactly one of Austen's shining moments as a writer. Leave out the anti-Austen bias and I'll agree with him on nearly all points: Making Kurt a priest wasn't well thought out at all, writing him out of the priesthood was clumsy too. It all could have been done better and it's not just one guy's fault.

Though he doesn't come out and say it directly, I think we're both in agreement that the original intention was to simply make Kurt "Christian" and he slowly became Catholic due to the large number of obvious visual clues Catholicism has. It was easiest for the writers and artists to include his faith in the story by sticking a rosary in his hand etc. rather than use up valuable spoken plotspace. In many ways though this has been poorly researched and often contradictory. (Such as showing Kurt walking into a church but not genuflecting, or having him quote from various Protestant versions of the Bible...)

Still, it is a comic book and Nightcrawler isn't real so if you want to take interest in that side of his character - it's there for you.


The Nightcrawler as a Roman Catholic Superhero FAQ

Posted: Wed Mar 15, 2006 7:04 pm
by Angelique
Actually, it occurred to me that there may be two very good reasons why Kurt would quote the KJV. One is recognizeability. The other is that the KJV is public domain.

The Nightcrawler as a Roman Catholic Superhero FAQ

Posted: Wed Mar 15, 2006 7:32 pm
by chicory
I'd love a description of genuflecting:) That's making the sign of the cross when entering a church or passing the alter and kneeling before entering a pew? But, why is it done?

And about the Liturgy of the Hours - is that whole book - or is it like one prayer?

The Nightcrawler as a Roman Catholic Superhero FAQ

Posted: Wed Mar 15, 2006 10:09 pm
by Angelique
Genuflection, as I understood it, was for centuries, at least in Europe, a customary way of greeting higher-ups like royalty and such. However, what too many movies and such get wrong is that for mere people such as kings, queens, or popes, the proper way to genuflect is upon the left knee. Using the right knee or both is reserved for God.

The Nightcrawler as a Roman Catholic Superhero FAQ

Posted: Wed Mar 15, 2006 11:43 pm
by Saint Kurt
Genuflection = easy!

When Catholics enter a church they kneel down on the right knee (for the reasons angelique said) in reverence to the altar and the tabernacle in which the real presence of Jesus and therefore God is kept. (See my description of the Mass for why this is.)

Catholics genuflect differently for different situations. When entering a church that is empty with nothing going on, a simple right knee genuflection is typical. Sometimes they will drop the right knee and make the sign of the cross, but that is personal preference. (I have a friend who genuflects and makes the sign of the cross twice and I have no idea why, for instance...)

Another form of reverence shown in these situations is the "profound bow" at the waist or a simple bowing of the head. These are used mainly by servers before, during, and after Mass who have things in their hands that make it awkward or impossible to drop to one's right knee (like because you're holding a big brass cross that's 13 feet high or you've got something that's on fire etc...) It's also an option for those with bad knees.

The big thing that changes the way a Catholic genuflects is the presence of the Eucharist on the altar (rather than inside the tabernacle). Many churches have something called "Adoration" where a consecrated host is placed on the altar for people to come and pray in God's presence. Now, if you don't believe in God or think the Catholic concept of the Eucharist is wonky then, yes, it's a bunch of people praying to a cracker. To Catholics though, it's the Body of Christ and thus deserves special reverence and so they genuflect on both knees.

So that's Genuflecting...

Liturgy of the Hours = Hard!

I have never been able to find a definition of the Liturgy of the Hours that is less than 5 pages long and they are always so filled with church rhetoric that you'd need to have seminary student translating for you. I will attempt to be the first person to write a short description for the general public.

The Liturgy of the Hours has several names and they are even used in the comics occassionally. It is also known as the "Divine Office" or simply "The Office" or "The Breviary" (though this seems more common in Europe - Nightcrawler always refers to it as this). I'm just going to call it "The Office" because that's shortest. The Office is what Catholic Priests pray every day. It is a requirement for them. It is not a single prayer but 5 prayer "cycles" that get prayed throughout the day, hence the name "the Hours". The two longest take about 10-15 minutes each, the shortest, about 5 minutes. The hours of The Office are: Morning, "the daily office", Afternoon, Evening, and Night. The one that's called "the daily office" is where it gets its name and it is not a prayer but usually a piece of liturgical writing like a sermon from a past pope. It can be read at any time during the day.

The "hours" of the Office change on a daily basis and keeping track of them requires the use of 5 colored ribbons because the book itself is divided into sections. (Did you ever see one of those "Choose your own Adventure" type books where you had to go to different sections to finish the story? It's like that only the choices are made for you based on the day of the week, liturgical season, and the Catholic calendar. I told you it was complicated...) If you looked at my 12 of 12 thing you saw my copy of the office open on my desk in the second picture down. You can see the colored ribbons and the two laminated prayer cards that I use to eliminate some of the ribbon flipping. :) What you can't see is that I have ChocoKitty on the zipper of my book cover and that's just a shame.

To make it even crazier, it's not 1 book, but 4 books. When the liturgical seasons change, the books change. The one in the picture is the volume for Lent and Easter. There is another volume for Advent and Christmas and then 2 general volumes for what is known as "Ordinary Time". Praying The Office is a prayer committment and I used to know a priest who referred to his Breviary (he was Italian) as "his wife". I thought he was exceptionally clever until I learned that just about all priests are in on this joke.

So, where do all these prayers come from? Well, from the Jews of course! The bulk of the Office is praying the Psalms, prayers to God written before the time of Jesus. There are 150 psalms and many of them were written by King David himself. These 150 psalms are carefully divided into a 4 week cycle within the larger 4 volume yearly cycle - the core of each book that is known as "The Psalter". When one prays an Hour of The Office one prays 3 psalms, plus a reading from the New Testament and a closing prayer. Depending on which hour it is, there may be more or less. The Morning and Evening hours include a hymn and a series of prayer intentions similar to those said at Mass. The Our Father is said as well. Night prayer is the shortest and generally only has one psalm and ends with a prayer to Mary.

When lay people, such as myself, choose to pray this devotion they often only pray the Morning and Evening hours. This is what I do unless something else is going on where I have lots and lots of time. (like that ever happens) It can be useful though, when I was looking for work I prayed all five hours everyday just to keep a schedule - so there is value in the discipline when it is wanted.

The writer of that Roman Catholic Comic Affiliation article questioned Chuck Austen's research of Catholicism (and admittedly the Church of Humanity's plan was pretty insane from a plot/research point of view) but he did seem to actually know what priests were supposed to do with their time. Kurt talks with Father Whitney about not being able to keep up with his Breviary - he was referring to his inability to pray all 5 hours of The Office each day as was his duty.

And on a personal note - The Office, when prayed regularly is really beautiful and always lifts my spirits. I love how it is every changing and yet always the same. The complexity of the books and the ribbons, really isn't that complex once you've learned the system and there is a certain mathematical beauty just in the way it all falls together. I know it's hard for someone who is not religious to read through this explanation and understand, it's like "I have enough complexity in my day!", but just like we add into our lives things like workouts that make ourselves better, this is something I make an extra half hour in my day for. And it's pretty cool.

So I hope that's a good definition of the Liturgy of the Hours. Simple, yet complex... :)

Sacraments and Sacramentals

Posted: Sun Mar 19, 2006 3:40 am
by Saint Kurt
I keep threatening to explain what a sacrament is. Now, I'm going to do it!

First: Sacraments
There are seven "sacraments" that were instituted by Jesus during his ministry in order to give us visible signs to symbolize the grace given by God during these particular moments. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines them as such:
The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament. They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions.
Normally I like the Catechism, but that's confusing. Every time I read it, it seems to say "The sacraments are the sacraments". A much cooler way of looking at them was pointed out by St. Thomas Aquinas who attributed each sacrament to a stage of human development - in other words, the sacraments simply correspond with the natural events of our lives.

Birth: Baptism
Spiritual "food": The Eucharist
Growth: Confirmation
Spiritual Healing: Penance (confession)
Recovery: Annointing of the Sick (or once known as "last rites")
Family: Matrimony
Leadership: Holy Orders

The first 3 of these describe how someone born into the Catholic church becomes Catholic themselves. They are Baptized as infants, later they learn about the Eurcharist and have communion at Mass for the first time, and at last there is "Confirmation" which happens at an age where they can say, "Yes, I want to be Catholic" and mean it.

The goal of all of the sacraments is "consecration" - or the designation that this is something for a special purpose. Just like the chalice used during Mass is consecrated and therefore can't be used as a juice glass or for any other purpose other than Mass, the thing consecrated by the sacrament now has a special purpose.

In the case of Baptism, it's the "consecration" of a person - reserving them for God by clearing them of all sin. The most controversial sacrament is probably Marriage because it creates so many other issues. The sacrament of Matrimony consecrates the relationship between a husband and wife for the creation of a family. This consecration of course is why Catholics do not use birth control other than forms of abstinence - it is a "sacrilege" or an abuse of a sacrament, in this case the sacrament of Marriage.

Some sacraments can only occur once in a person's life and once they have occurred they are irreversible, others can happen more than once. The sacraments that can happen more than once are Communion, Penance and Annointing of the Sick. Communion happens every time a Catholic goes to mass, which should be on all "Holy Days of Obligation" - or Sundays and certain special celebrations such as Easter and Christmas. Penance can happen as often as one wants, but not less than once a year. Annointing of the Sick depends on how sick the person is and how often. It used to be reserved for a person's last moments before death and was known as "Last Rites" but this was a "liturgical abuse" or an improper interpretation of the meaning of the rite. Now, it has been restored as a sacrament of healing and recovery. (Not that it's not performed right before death - it still is. Last September I was given an accidental overdose of a migraine medication and ended up in the ER. It was a Catholic hospital and when I temporarily stopped breathing, a priest came and annointed me. A few months ago, I asked that the sacrament be performed again for my migraines when I was awake and friends and family could be there. It was a much cooler experience.)

This means though, that the other four sacraments are binding and permanent. A person who is Baptized and Confirmed into the Catholic church is Catholic even if they stop going to church and stop believing in what the church teaches. The same goes for Matrimony - it is a sacrament for the life of the two people who are bonded. An "annulment" isn't a form of Catholic divorce, it actually says that the sacrament never validly occurred, that the people were never married in the first place. (But it is a legal matter of Catholic "Canon Law" rather than a religious one. It does not cause children produced by that marriage to become illegitimate for instance.)

I think most important here though, is the sacrament of Holy Orders or the Priesthood, because it is permanent too. Only a Baptized and Confirmed man can be ordained a priest and this ordination can only be performed by a bishop or above. (In other words priests can't ordain other priests). Once a person is ordained a Catholic priest, they are always a priest, even if they stop acting like one. It makes the whole "Was Nightcrawler a Priest thing" even messier than it already is. It should be mentioned though that while a priest can never have their Holy Orders taken, they can lose the right to practice their ordained ministry. Unlike Protestant Pastors, priests are assigned to their parishes by the Diocese. A priest who behaves immorally can be "defrocked" and one who simply wants to be relieved of their priestly obligation can be "laicized". Either way they can no longer wear clerical clothing, are no longer called "Father", and lose the right to celebrate the sacraments. Laicization is pretty rare though and permission can only be granted by the Vatican.

So that's what a sacrament is.

Sacramentals then, are, surprisingly, objects that have nothing to do with the seven sacraments. Sacramentals are objects that have been blessed by a priest for use in prayer. Unlike the sacraments which were instituted by Jesus, they are created by the church making them subordinate to the sacraments. They are nice to have, but totally optional.

Examples of sacramentals would be blessed rosary beads, statues, icons, and crucifixes. Anything can become a sacramental once it's been blessed, but owning a sacramental item has its own responsibilities. A Catholic who owns them may not sell or destory them, or use them in any manner other a holy manner. That means not wearing your blessed rosary beads out to a party or selling your blessed Virgin Mary statue on ebay. Sacramentals are generally disposed of by burial.

Holy water is also a sacramental. It is water that has been blessed by a priest and though it plays a big role in The Exorcist, it normally is a simple reminder of one's Baptism. Small basins of holy water are placed at the entrances of churches and Catholics make the sign of the cross with it as they leave or enter as a way of reminding themselves of that promise that was both made to them and that they made to God.

Large quantities of holy water are blessed before Easter, a traditional time of Baptism, but it can be blessed at any time during the year. As a sacramental it too is reserved for use in a manner that is "holy".

I didn't go into much detail about each of the Sacraments because I thought it would be dull. If you really want to know more, browsing a site like beliefnet can tell you more.

For a look at rosaries that are NOT sacramentals, you should go here: :)


The Nightcrawler as a Roman Catholic Superhero FAQ

Posted: Fri May 12, 2006 1:18 am
by Chlorine
I liked reading this...Very well written/informative...I don't have a question to ask, I just wanted to say that this is an interesting thread.

The Nightcrawler as a Roman Catholic Superhero FAQ

Posted: Mon Jun 26, 2006 11:58 pm
by Saint Kurt
Thanks Chlorine.

I have a few things I want to cover but I'm not sure in what order yet. I know I want to talk about the rosary, how one becomes a priest, and the liturgical calendar. I know the liturgical calendar sounds really dull, but it's actually really fascinating. Like did you know that "Mardi Gras" was orginally a Catholic celebration meant to clear out all the good food before the fast during Lent? It used to be called "Carnival" which means (literally) "Farewell to Meat" in Latin. There's all kinds of stuff like that.

But I think I'll talk about the rosary because I can do that with little or no research.