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Universal Church

I have a conservative Christian friend who is currently teaching English at a secondary school in Korea. Last Sunday, he went to one of the conservative Christian megachurches in Seoul and came back complaining that he couldn't understand a thing. "All they did all day was blare praise and worship music out of these giant speakers," he said. As a foreigner, naturally, he was lost.

He called to tell me that he was thinking about finding a Catholic Mass, "At least then, with the liturgy, I might have some idea what is going on," he said.

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Sounds like this might be a pentecostal church, Anna. I've attended something similar right here in the Upper Midwest, which also included a lot of blaring music, cheering and speaking in tongues, and no liturgy to speak of.As a pretty uptight northern European Midwesterner, this type of thing really doesn't appeal to me all that much. And I have to wonder what such a church offers to its congregants in the way of faith formation and development.On the other hand, I've seen people from the church I speak of jump in and respond to human suffering and sorrow spontaneously and in ways I never would. So I am less skeptical about pentecostals and charismatics than I used to be.

Jean, When I was in high school, I too attended a Pentecostal church, and there were many things that I loved about it.Having known all kinds of decent people in my life, I do not doubt the goodness or generosity of Pentecostals (as a group), or Catholics (as a group), or, for that matter, New Age hippies (as a group).I do wonder about the ability of some religious services to transcend language and culture, that is, to bear the weight of the mystery. And I thought it was interesting that my protestant friend would desire liturgy most when he was a stranger in a strange land. For him, the rituals of the Mass speak without using words even though he is not a Catholic.

I guess that's what I meant by faith formation and development. A pentecostal/charismatic prayer group is fine for celebrating the Holy Spirit, but it has little meaning for those not touched by certain charisms. Which would be me.Yes, Catholic liturgy is a kind of lingua franca among Christians, even those who don't like Catholics much. Many years ago, I attended French Mass in a Vietnamese church in Montreal. I didn't need the words to participate.