Questions for Chapter 3

Thanksgiving Dinner (Norman Rockwell)

Almost everything we do is some sort of ritual or routine, from our “morning ritual” of waking up, washing and dressing, eating breakfast, and so on, to the regularly scheduled activities at home, school, or work, to the places we shop and recreate and the routes we travel when going there, to the way we wind down at the end of the day and put ourselves to bed. To heighten your awareness of the pervasiveness of ritual in human life, list at least a dozen or routines in your own life.

In addition to the ones mentioned in the text, list as many calendrical rituals or routines as you can, being sure to include some that are yearly, monthly, and weekly.

Do you agree that Eucharist is the only sacrament of the seven that can be called a calendrical ritual? Explain the reasoning behind your answer.

What are some secular transition ceremonies besides the types already mentioned? See how many you can name.

Do you agree that six of the seven sacraments are transition rituals? Explain the reasoning behind your answer.

In addition to the sacraments, what other religious rites of passage can you think of? Think, for example, about entering a religious order, welcoming a new pastor, commissioning catechists, and other events of that nature.

70 a
Evaluate the argument that the sacrament of confirmation today is ineffective because it does not celebrate an actual transition in the lives of young people. Give your reasons for accepting or rejecting the argument.

70 b
Evaluate the argument that the wedding ceremony is no longer a rite of passage as it was in the past. Do you think anything can or should be done about cohabitation before marriage? If couples have been living together without being married, what does the wedding ceremony actually celebrate?

Would you favor individual churches developing rituals to publicly recognize and possibly facilitate the transition from being married to being single again? If so, what do you imagine such a ceremony might look like? If not, why not?

72 a
Name some types of gift giving, exchange, and social communion in secular society. What effects do you see resulting from those rituals?

72 b
How do you feel about Christian prayer being compared with the practices of religions that believe in other gods and spirits?

72 c
What types of Catholic and other Christian prayer practices have you witnessed or taken part in? Do the different types of practices feel different from one another in any way? What similarities do they have in common?

73 a
When a priest or minister reads a prayer from a book, to what extent are you able to make that prayer your own—or is the experience more like listening to someone else praying?

73 b
What images come to mind when you think about sacrifices in pagan religions or the religion of ancient Israel? How does the common conception of religious sacrifice differ from the one being presented here? Does this interpretation of sacrifice make sense to you? Why or why not?

74 a
Does this explanation of how the eucharistic bread and wine came to be called the body and blood of Christ seem plausible to you? If so, why? If not, what other explanation would you give?

74 b
Do you remember the Latin Mass and the explanation of the holy sacrifice of the Mass in terms similar to those given here? How did that theological explanation affect your perception of what was going on at the altar? Was it difficult or easy for you to experience what you were told was happening at Mass?

74 c
When you hear the word “sacrifice” during the eucharistic prayer, what (if anything) does it mean to you? Read the excerpts in footnote 22 and summarize what the word apparently means in those texts.

76 a
Do you remember experiencing the presence of Christ in the consecrated elements on the altar during Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, or while engaging in eucharistic adoration before the tabernacle? How did that sacramental experience shape your spirituality and your relation to God? If you can, compare your experience of the real presence of Christ during the Latin Mass before Vatican II with your experience of Christ in the liturgy today.

76 b
What are your routines for treating everyday physical and spiritual ailments?

76 c
What are some healing rituals that you have read about, seen in documentaries, or perhaps witnessed for yourself?

78 a
Look up some of the scripture passages referred to in this paragraph (see footnotes 29-32 on the bottom of page 77) to familiarize yourself with healing rituals in early Christianity. Briefly summarize what you find.

78 b
Think of times when you have gone to confession, participated in a penance service, been present at an anointing, or attended a funeral. How would you describe any healing you may have felt yourself or perceived in others?

79 a
Does it make sense to call baptism a healing ritual as well as a rite of passage? Why or why not?

79 b
Name some secular festivals that you have attended. What made them festive for you?

80 a
Have you attended or seen documentaries of Christian or other religious festivals? What did you think of the festivities?

80 b
Have you practiced fasting for religious or health reasons? If so, describe your experience and the benefits (if any) that you derived from fasting.

80 c
If you are old enough to remember fasting from midnight before receiving Communion, describe what effect that practice had on your spirituality.

81 a
How many governmental rituals and political symbols of power can you think of?

81 b
Before you had read this explanation, where did you think the term “holy orders” came from?

Have you ever attended an ordination? If so, what rites and symbols of power do you remember seeing there? If not, look at ordinations on this website (available under Sacraments in Pictures and Sacraments in Motion), and then answer the question.

82 a
Have you ever attended a profession of vows or other ceremony for those in religious orders? If not, look at some at the bottom of Ordination page in the Sacraments in Motion section of the website. How is this type of ceremony similar to and different from an ordination ceremony? 

82 b 
Is talking really a matter of patterned behavior? Argue for or against the idea that speech is the routinized production of sounds.

83 a
Come up with some of your own examples of the difference between less formal and more formal activities.

83 b
Do the same for less formal and more formal rituals or ceremonies.

84 a
Illustrate from your own experience, if possible, the different levels of formality in Catholic worship before Vatican II, during the decade after the council, and today. Alternatively, compare the traditional Latin Mass with the contemporary Cathedral Mass listed on the Eucharist page of the Sacraments in Motion section of the website.

84 b
Look up "vestment" in the online Wikipedia and summarize what you find out about the traditional cassock, stole, surplice, chasuble, and dalmatic.

84 c
What are some of the traditional elements in your family’s holiday gatherings? Think not only of Christmas and Easter but also of birthdays, anniversaries, and summer outings.

84 d
What elements of the Christian liturgy or other forms of religious worship strike you as being traditional in nature?

85 a
Think of the aspects of an informal ritual (for example, having a party) that do not vary, as well as the aspects of the ritual that vary from one instance to the next.

85 b
What are some invariant features of Sunday worship that have a positive effect on you? What are some invariant features that you would like to see some variation in?

86 a
Have you ever thought about how your life is quite scripted by written and unwritten rules? What are some of those rules? Which ones are you grateful for? Which ones would you rather live without?

86 b
Have you traveled in a country where the rules of etiquette or the rules of the road were different from those at home? If so, describe your experience.

86 c
How strictly should the rules governing liturgical rituals be followed? Argue in favor of legalistic enforcement or in favor of creative adaptation.

87 a
Have you ever attended an Orthodox liturgy—or a Byzantine Catholic liturgy, which is very similar? If not, look at some examples of Orthodox worship on the website.

What are some of the liturgical rules that the priest and attendants seemed to be following? In addition, name some of the formal and traditional aspects of the liturgy that you observed.

87 b
Have you ever attended a service in a nonliturgical Protestant (for example, Baptist, Presbyterian or Christian) church? If not, look at some examples of Protestant worship on the website.What rules seemed to govern the behavior of the pastor and the people before, during, and after that service?

87 c
Thinking about what normally happens at Sunday worship in your church, what new rules would you like to see implemented in order to enhance the experience of worship?

88 a
The notion that sacredness can be equated with importance, preciousness, significance, meaningfulness, and so on, is probably new to you. Does it make sense to you? If so, why, and if not, why not?

What do you think of the argument that holiness, truth, and other spiritual realities are not purely subjective but have an objectivity that is generally recognized by society?

88 b
Give an example of something that is precious or sacred to you, but not to someone else. Try to put into your own words the idea that when we see a physical symbol, we perceive what it represents by looking through the symbol, as it were.

89 a
Give your own example of a symbol that is regarded as sacred because what it represents to people is sacred.

89 b
Do you have a memory of being introduced to religious or national values by visiting shrines or monuments when you were a youngster, or of doing that as an adult with your own children, as a teacher with your students, or the like? If so, briefly describe it.

89 c
Do you have a memory of encountering a symbol through which you experienced a spiritual reality? If so, briefly describe it.

90 a
If you are not old enough to remember the Latin Mass, look at the one from St. Thomas Becket Catholic Church on the Eucharist page of Sacraments in Motion on the website. How does the performance dimension of the Latin Mass compare with that of today's Catholic Mass or with the performance dimension of Protestant services that you have attended?

90 b
Liturgists contend that robust symbols (large gestures, real bread, fragrant oil, and so on) enhance the quality of the liturgical experience. To what extent do you find this to be true or not? Give examples of what you are talking about.

91 a
Right after Vatican II, it was not uncommon to have a Mass in someone’s home or to have a wedding in an outdoor setting. More recently, the rules have been changed so that virtually all sacramental ceremonies take place in a church. How do you think this difference in physical framing might affect people’s perception of the sacrament and the church?

91 b
Think of a church ritual that you attended, and that might have been more effective if those in charge had been more attentive to the performance elements of the ceremony.

92 a
Think of something that you do—or that someone else does—ritualistically.

92 b
Has it ever occurred to you that a church ceremony was being performed—or that part of it was being done—ritualistically? Describe what you remember seeing.

93 a
Give some examples of what you understand to be decorous behavior, that is, things that people say and do almost automatically to be polite and to show they know how to conduct themselves.

93 b
Thinking about meetings that you have attended, what are some examples of decorous behavior that you have observed? What would be an example of undecorous behavior?

93 c
Reflect on secular and religious ceremonies you have attended, and identify some of the beliefs and values that are asserted in them.

94 a
Think about secular or religious ceremonies that you have seen, and analyze them in terms of the power relations that they embody.

94 b
When have you noticed what might be called ritual dishonesty—contradictions between what a ritual was saying and the way the ritual performers otherwise behave?

94 c
Has your own understanding of myth developed beyond the popular conception of myth as a false story or an untrue idea? If so, what led you to develop a more complex understanding of myth?

According to this understanding of magic, almost all of our interactions with technology rely on magical perception. Does this claim make sense to you or not? If so, come up with some examples of magical perception from your own experience, beyond the ones given here.

96 a
What do you think about the claim that magical thinking enables us to perceive people as truly different after they have gone through a transition ritual? If you disagree with this explanation, what other explanation would you give?

96 b
What are some ways that you or other people have engaged in this type of magical thinking?

96 c
What are some ways that you have noticed people engaging in magical thinking in connection with the sacraments or other aspects of religion?

97 a
To what extent have you yourself experienced some of these effects resulting from involvement in liturgical ritual?

97 b
Does this distinction between the physical and the spiritual make sense to you? If not, what seems to be the difficulty? If so, what examples can you think of to illustrate the difference between physical and spiritual realities?

98 a
Name some spiritual realities or mysteries that are important to you besides the ones already mentioned. Why would you say they are sacred to you?

98 b
In what ways does religion connect or reconnect you with beliefs and ideas, values and ideals, principles and hopes that are precious and important to you? If possible, try to describe what you connect with in both secular and religious terms, that is, using both ordinary language and the language of faith.

98 c
Does the explanation of religion presented here sound reductionistic to you, that is, does it seem to reduce religion to humanism, theology to philosophy, or matters of faith to matters of experience? If so, how would you formulate your objections to it? If not, why are you comfortable with it?

99 a
Have you ever attended a religious festival in honor of Christ, Mary, or one of the saints? Describe the festive elements you experienced in it. If you can, also point out elements of liturgy, ceremony, and magic (in the sense described here) that you may have noticed during the festival.

99 b
Do you agree that talking about celebrating the sacraments is a linguistic mistake? Give your reasons for agreeing or disagreeing.

100 a
Do you agree that sacramental celebrations always refer to something other than themselves? If so, why? If not, how do you interpret the phrase “celebrating the sacraments”?

100 b
Illustrate how celebrations have a referent in the present with an example from your own experience.

100 c
Illustrate how celebrations have a referent in the past with a remembered example of a celebration in which this referent was prominent, such as during a Memorial Day ceremony.

101 a
How have you understood Catholicism’s claim that the sacraments were instituted by Christ? Has your interpretation of this teaching changed over the years? If so, how?

How do you feel about interpreting the Catholic claim that Christ instituted the sacraments as meaning that all of the sacraments have a past referent in the life and ministry of Christ?

102 a
Illustrate how celebrations refer to the future with a remembered example of a celebration in which this reference was prominent, such as at a graduation ceremony.

102 b
Up till now, what has been your understanding of the kingdom of God or the reign of God?

102 c
What do you think about this understanding of the kingdom of God?

Do you find this interpretation of the future referent of the sacraments plausible? If so, how does it make sense to you? If not, why doesn’t it make sense to you?

Last modified: Saturday, 16 May 2015, 12:41 AM