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World Religions - Roman Catholicism

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World Religions Report


Axia College

HUM 130


March 20, 2010

World Religions

This paper presents research of the beliefs and practices of Roman Catholicism; describes the worship space of the church; summarizes an interview conducted with a believer; and finally, compares Roman Catholicism to Islam. The Roman Catholic Church's origins come directly from the teachings of Jesus and his disciples, as do all denominations of Christianity. "Jesus sent his disciples into all the world, and Paul had opened the church to the Gentiles. In a sense catholic Christianity was simply a development of Jesus' plans and Paul's efforts". (Shelley, 1995) When Constantine became the first Christian Roman emperor in 313 A.D., Christianity became free from persecution and later even became the official religion of the Roman Empire.

This however; marked the unofficial end of the unified church as power plays and politics became as much a part of the church as the gospels themselves. In 1054, the Eastern Orthodox Church split from the unified Church over the principle of supreme authority being held by the Bishop of Rome (better known as the Pope). During this time, the Roman Catholic Church also established its own authority to teach and interpret scripture. "Individual believers are not encouraged to read the Bible and seek its meaning; instead the church will decide that and teach it to the believer". (Anonymous, 2010) By the sixteenth century, the Protestant churches separated from the Roman Catholic Church as well.

Although many religions and their varying sects have many beliefs and principles in common, a number of practices, beliefs, and political matters differ enough to warrant a split from other denominations. Sunni Muslims hold different beliefs from Shiite Muslims. Protestants have dissimilar practices to Lutherans. Baptist sermons are decidedly different from Catholic masses. Just as dissimilar denominations have different practices and principles, so too do the interiors of their worship space differ.

With this in mind, the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament is the ideal place of worship to discuss for this paper. Founded in 1905 and "built between 1913 and 1915 to serve a prosperous parish" (Anonymous, 2010), the Cathedral's address is 9844-9854 Woodward Avenue in Detroit (taking 10 addresses because the church encompasses the entire city block that it resides upon). Many consider the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament to be one of the most impressive churches in the city of Detroit and has been the Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Detroit since 2003. The Cathedral's interior is as impressive as its historic exterior.

The walls are a soothing gray color that hints at the age and grandeur of its architecture. Black and white checkerboard tiles line the floor of the church and a small receptacle of holy water greets parishioners as they enter. Located high up on the north and south walls are large sets of stained glass windows and three larger stained glass windows are above and behind the altar on the eastern side of the building. Images of various saints, angels, and other Biblical figures adorn the windows. A large wooden cross adorns the area above the windows behind the altar, and carved into the stone holding the windows on either side are two more crosses. Several cloth banners are hanging from north and south walls between the last two rows of windows, proclaiming the name of the cathedral proudly. Wooden pews line either side of the cathedral facing the altar and making one small aisle up the center of the floor.

The stage behind the altar holds a small lectern upon which a minister may place their Bible and their notes for a sermon or service. A large organ sits several feet behind the lectern with its pipes stretching toward the high, arched ceiling. The stage also holds two sections for the cathedral's choir and youth choir to sit. Numerous light fixtures hang from the ceiling suspended by wiring but on this day, no electric lighting is necessary to take in the majesty of this cathedral. A visitor may easily understand how such a structure inspires devotion in its faithful congregation. Although "the area from Grand Circus Park to Mack Avenue was dubbed "Piety Hill" because of the presence of a cluster of institutions that eventually included Central United Methodist Church, St. John's Episcopal Church, First Universalist Church, First Presbyterian and a synagogue, Temple Beth El," (Krupa, 2007) the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament has remained in its original location since its foundation, unlike several of the other houses of worship previously named.

Catholic prayer services, known more commonly as Mass, take place in this cathedral every Sunday morning. Mass is seen by many non-Catholics as one of organized religions most somber and sacred traditions. Many masses take two to three hours to perform from beginning to end, possessing several elements performed to an exacting standard week in and week out. "Special masses are also celebrated at the cathedral each year for groups such as school children, police officers and those preparing for the sacrament of marriage". (Anonymous, 2010) Christmas masses are routinely one of the busier services of the year, with more than 1000 faithful Catholics and their families visiting the cathedral.

Although the city of Detroit is one of the most racially segregated cities in America, the parishioners of the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament are surprisingly mixed. African Americans, Polish Americans, and even a small number of Hispanics visit this historic place of worship regularly. With such a varied group of followers, the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament has a wide variety of individual needs to address. Thus, the cathedral works in partnership with Catholic Social Services of Wayne County, the Capuchin Soup Kitchen of Detroit, and the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries to aid those in need in the community.

Amongst a large, ethnically diverse parish, it was relatively easy to find a subject to interview about his religious beliefs and experiences as a member of a Roman Catholic Church. The subject of this interview is Joshua T. Redbrook,



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