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.
I've fixed it.)
[Edited on 20/1/06 by Saint Kurt]
[Edited on 13/5/06 by Saint Kurt]