How Catholic are you?
Is whether you show up for Sunday Mass a barometer of how Catholic you are? Many Church officials would argue yes, in fact, it is. But it is, perhaps, not the only measure.
What about the meteoric rise of religious apps available for the iPhone and iPad? What about the person who meditates while going for a walk? What about the person who has a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary or another saint?
Official and unofficial acts of worship intersect, and these interrelationships require the attention of all those concerned with worship and liturgy, argues Father Ricky Manalo, CSP. Father Manalo recently completed and defended his doctoral thesis entitled, “Scope and Spectrum: Interpreting the Interrelationship of Sunday Eucharist and Practices of Everyday Worship.” (Read the introduction to Father Manalo’s dissertation.)
“Catholics engage in many different forms of official and unofficial worship practices that converge and diverge with official Sunday liturgy,” said Father Manalo. “So Catholic leaders need to reevaluate how they come to measure Catholic identity and participation that exclusively focuses on Sunday attendance.”
Father Manalo spent seven years completing his doctoral studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif. During this process, he discovered “many Catholics have their own measure of faith. Sometimes it intersects with the official measures and sometimes it does not.”
People are very diverse in how they encounter the transcendent, Father Manalo said, and some people use unofficial worship as ways to prepare for official worship, such as Sunday liturgy. Some people, though, do use unofficial worship as a replacement for weekend Mass.
“But we can’t ignore things like popular devotions, which have been downplayed after Vatican II,” because that is where people are, he said. “They often practice unofficial worship acts to balance what they are not finding in Sunday worship. It tells the clergy and lay pastoral leaders that we have to take special care in how we prepare for Sunday Eucharist.”
What makes for good liturgy and worship experiences has long been a topic of interest for Father Manalo, an award-winning liturgical composer. Born and raised in Monmouth County, N.J., he studied at the Mannes College of Music, and went on to major in musical composition at the Manhattan School of Music. He was preparing for a career as a film composer, jingle writer and Broadway composer after his 1987 graduation.
God had other plans, however, and the future priest joined the Conventual Franciscans. It was during his seminary studies at the Washington Theological Union in Washington, D.C., that Father Manalo first discovered the Paulist Fathers. He was ordained a Paulist priest on May 27, 2000. Father Manalo served for five years at St. Philip Neri Church in Portland, Ore., and then spent two years in Beijing and Hong Kong preparing for his doctoral work.
Father Manalo said that unofficial worship is a great tool for evangelization – a major part of the Paulist charism – because it interrelates with official worship.
“They all touch one another; it is all interconnected,” he said. “People may not come to Mass every week, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t engaging and living out their Catholic faith. We have to reach out to them, recognize and acknowledge how they worship God in their everyday lives, and invite them back to Sunday Eucharist.”