Christianity's largest sect is Catholicism

Written by: 
Alex Maldonado

In the world of Christianity, the Catholic faith is the most widespread denomination with an estimated 1.2 billion members, according to BBC News.

According to Zimbabwe native Father Peter Miti, a priest at the St. John Vianney Parish of Kailua, the Catholic Church is the oldest remaining Christian denomination in the modern world, organized on the day of Pentecost in the New Testament.

“We believe on the day of Pentecost [recorded in ‘Acts’ Chapter Two] the Father sent the resurrected Jesus Christ to give us the Holy Spirit. Then we see the birth of this group of people who are sent to go out, teach, and baptize people. The church was formed that way,” Miti explained.

Miti said this charge given to the early members of the church is where the Catholic worship meeting known as “Mass” gets its name.

The name Mass comes from the Latin phrase, “ite, missa est,” which roughly translates to “Go, the dismissal is made.” It is Jesus’ command to go on a mission.

Miti said most Catholic churches hold several one-hour Sunday services, which are broken up into sections.

“We have the opening part where we ask the Lord for forgiveness and mercy before we begin this solemn celebration; that’s our opening prayer,” Miti clarified. He explained the opening prayer is a gathering of the individual intentions of the members, called a collect. “Then we move into the liturgy of the word, which is a set of three readings.”

“The first reading is from the Old Testament talking about how God’s promises came to be fulfilled in the New Testament. Then we will look and compare it to one of the epistles like Paul’s letter to the Romans or the Ephesians. Next we look at one of the gospels and read about the Messiah,” Miti continued.

“After we read the gospel, we have one of the holy men [a priest or deacon] explain a bit about what we read and give people some food for thought on the word they have heard.”

The next section of the service is called the offertory. “This is when we unite ourselves in prayer for what is happening around the world and pray for them. After praying, we take bread and wine, bless it, and believe the bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus Christ,” described Miti.

“Next we say the prayer Jesus taught us [In Luke Chapter 11] and move to the communion. This is where those who are eligible to receive the body and blood of Christ come up and partake.”

Instead of passing trays of bread and water to members of the congregation as one would see in a Latter-day Saint worship service, Catholic churchgoers rise
and come up to the priest at the front of the chapel in an orderly line to receive their communion.

“In the end, we have what we call the commissioning where we send people out to the community to relate what we received here,” Miti said.

Jesse Anderson, a sophomore from Utah studying English, has had some experience with Catholicism. He said, “I was able to go to a Catholic Church meeting with my aunt a few times back home. Even though it’s different than what I was used to, I always felt warm and welcome there. They are very nice people.”

During a Catholic Church service, one is likely to notice the brightly colored robe, called liturgical vestments, worn by the priest or other holy man presiding. Father Miti said the colors are of deep significance and vary depending on the time of the year.

During the season of Lent, which happens in early spring and is a 40-day celebration of fasting, penance, and giving up worldly habits or practices, priests wear the color purple. Miti said, “Purple represents penance, which is the journey we walk as Christians for repenting of our sins. It is a sign that tells us we need to allow Christ to be born in our hearts, and we need to be clean for him to do so.”

Purple is worn for the 40 days of Lent until Easter, when the priest dons white vestments. Miti said, “White symbolizes the joy that Christ brings in our lives when he was risen and when he was born. It also symbolizes the resurrection and purity of heart.”

After Easter, the priest wears red for Good Friday, Palm Sunday, and Pentecost Sunday. It serves as a reminder of the Lord’s passion and love.

The final color worn is green, and most of the year people see a priest in green. “Green is a color of growth. It’s the color of life. Most of our lives are lived in the green, which is what we call ordinary time. Green is the longest part of the year,” said Miti.

Catholic holy men wear green until late November when they change back to purple in celebration of the Christmas season, then white again for Christmas Day, and then back to green until the following year’s Lent.

As with the LDS Church, the Catholic Church has a very uniform and orderly structure which connects individual congregations throughout the world, explained Miti.

The Catholic Church is broken up into “dioceses,” which are large regions similar to what the LDS faith designates as “areas.” According to Miti, a diocese can vary in size and population, with as many as 150 parishes in its bounds. Laie lies within the Diocese of Honolulu, which has 66 parishes and covers the entire state of Hawaii. One bishop, who has several councils and committees to help him lead, directs each diocese.

The head of all the diocese is the pope, who serves as the bishop of Rome. “The pope is just like any other bishop, but he is also the head of all the bishops in the world,” Miti clarified. “The pope’s main responsibility is to have one message for the whole church and to guide the different regions and different diocese to make sure everything is being done according to how the church teaches.”

Miti said the result of the pope’s unifying leadership is that one could go to any Catholic parish in any language around the world and still hear the same message.

One or two priests who have consecrated their lives to the gospel lead each parish. Having abstained from marriage, they spend their time serving others and dedicate several years to studying in seminaries. The priest(s) will have several deacons there to assist them. Deacons usually are adult men who are married. The deacons help with performing baptisms, preparing people for marriage, and preaching one Sunday per month.

Priests tend to have busier schedules and more responsibilities than deacons, said Miti. Their duties consist of preaching most Sundays; visiting hospitals to pray for and anoint the sick; administering to the homebound while bringing them communion; conducting funerals or burials; performing weddings, and more.

Miti said Catholicism teaches the “gospel is an organism that is alive. It does not change, but changes people’s lives. Peace is what we preach. Peace is what every Christian group preaches, so let’s begin from there. Let not what divides us be at the forefront. Let what unites us be at the forefront.”

For more information about Catholicism, go to the Diocese of Hawaii’s website: www.catholichawaii.org.

Uploaded April 8, 2016