Regular readers of this blog know how much I appreciate and love the Eastern practice of Christianity: its spirituality, its liturgy and its history. Most of my readers are Western, so I like to point out the many beauties of the East so that Western Christians will appreciate them as well. But I am a Western Catholic, not Eastern, and there are many, many things I love about being Western, so I thought I would post a few of my favorite particularly Western practices here.
(Please note: this post should in no way be taken as an anti-Eastern post or as Western triumphalism. Nor do I think Eastern Christians should adopt any of these practices [except perhaps number 10]. In the Body of Christ there are a diversity of gifts and loving one gift does not in any way denigrate other gifts).
1) The tradition of daily Mass
I am very thankful for the practice of daily Mass in the Western church. The fact that we can receive the precious body and blood of our Savior any day of the week is a great blessing, and one we should take advantage of as much as possible. Also, I love the whole simplified ethos of a daily Mass.
When I first became Catholic, it took me a while to get used to the whole kneeling thing. But over the years I have come to love the regular kneeling we Western Catholics do. It is an obvious sign of humility, and I find it very hard to be prideful in front of the Lord when I’m on my knees.
3) Eucharistic Adoration
This practice took centuries to develop in the West (and it never did in the East), but boy am I glad it did! I still find it amazing how I can walk into an Adoration chapel and immediately just know it is a holy place. The peace that comes from Eucharistic Adoration is hard to surpass.
4) Celibate clergy
I know that the East has a strong tradition of celibacy among their monks and bishops, but I am grateful for the West’s tradition of an all-celibate clergy, including parish priests. I think the sign that celibacy gives is needed even in the day-to-day of parish life, and the freedom such celibacy gives to the parish priest is very beneficial as well. (See this post for my defense of the Eastern practice).
5) Ash Wednesday
What is more humbling than walking around all day with a smudge on your forehead? I can’t think of a better way to start Lent than with this great day.
6) Diversity of religious art
There are rooms in my house in which you might believe you walked into an Eastern Christian church because there are so many icons. The Eastern icon is my favorite type of religious art. But I do greatly appreciate the wide variety of Western religious art over the centuries, and believe that this art has brought millions of people closer to Christ over the centuries.
7) The Rosary
It led me into the Church and has been my favorite form of prayer ever since. What more can I say?
8 ) St. Francis of Assisi
My all-time favorite saint is also quite Western as well. I can think of no better model for how to live like Christ (other than Christ himself).
I recognize the potential excesses of a scholastic outlook, but I also acknowledge the synthesis of faith and reason that St. Thomas Aquinas and his colleagues brought to the Church.
10) Recognition of centralized authority/papacy
I have often written on the importance of the authority of each bishop in his diocese, and I think we in the West would do well to learn from the East in regards to regional synods and collegiality among bishops. However, I also think it is highly important that the Church have a place where the buck truly stops. And in the West, we have always (rightly) seen Rome as that place.
11) 59-minute Sunday Masses