The Difference Between…


June 10, 2014 by lucieromarin

1. Hijab and mantilla. Muslim women cover in the presence of men, and may uncover in the absence of men. Catholic women cover in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, and uncover in the absence of the Blessed Sacrament, irrespective of the presence of the absence of men. (It’s true that, amongst the testimonies of women who cover, you’ll find a wider range of explanations for covering than this. But it doesn’t matter what she says about obedience or modesty, your Catholic mantillata won’t wear her mantilla to buy groceries, and will wear it in an all-female congregation). Obviously, if you don’t see veiling as necessary or helpful to your relationship with the Blessed Sacrament, then you won’t veil. But if you do happen to like it, there’s no need to be deterred by those who think you look Muslim by doing so! (Pagan postscript: while veiling is about modesty for some pagan women who cover, for others, the head-covering is a sign of ownership of the body. For that woman, a tichel and spaghetti straps makes a perfectly meaningful combination. )

2. Nuns and religious sisters. Only a cloistered contemplative woman is a nun. A woman in habit in an active religious order is a religious sister. This is why some orders are called ‘Missionary Sisters of Charity’ or ‘Sisters of Life’ while others are called ‘Carmelite Nuns’ or nicknamed ‘Tyburn Nuns.’ If a woman from an active religious order is on television singing, she is not ‘the singing nun.’ (Also, all it’s sometimes thought that men live in monasteries and women in convents. No – contemplatives, men and women, live in monasteries, and active religious live in convents!)

3. American ‘jumper’ and Australian ‘jumper.’ In the States, the ‘jumper’ is a sort of triangular denim dress favoured by a particular Protestant subculture. It is very modest. In Australia, a ‘jumper’ is a pullover, which, elsewhere, is a sweater, which is not the same as a ‘sweatshirt.’ Ah! Now it all makes sense!

4. Anglican sacrament and Catholic sacrament. For your vaguely traditional Anglican, a sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and visible grace. However, while the Catholic concurs with the signifying aspect of ‘sacrament’, for us, the sacrament effects what it signifies. That is, the way we perform (for want of a better word) the sacraments makes a difference to how much grace is received – or whether any grace is actually received at all. Anglicans do have reasons to argue about liturgy, but even for them there won’t be as much at stake as there is for Catholics. If your sacraments are, in part, responsible, for actually producing grace, liturgical experimentation becomes a disaster that it can never be for those for whom a sacrament is simply a sign of a grace which is going to be received irrespective of which words you use.

5. The Divine Office and all other prayers and devotions. I assume it’s generally known that the Mass is the pre-eminent act of worship for any Catholic. What is less known is that the Divine Office holds a like status. Like the Mass, it is the official prayer of the Church, and, as such, is more powerful than other prayers. It’s true that the laity don’t have the same obligation to it that we have to the Mass, and, when it comes to private prayer, we’re left fairly free to choose the method that suits us best; the important thing is a prayer-life, not scruples about the kind of prayer chosen! However, it should be understood that the Divine Office is not just one amongst a host of private devotions; we need to hold in our minds alongside the Mass, not alongside First Saturdays.

‘Ah,’ says you, ‘but, Lucy, what about the Rosary? Our Lady has requested this, this and that and Padre Pio said this, this and that.’ Yes, it is true that, as far as private devotions go, the Rosary is number one, and lay people are urged to pray it daily. But why is it so powerful? Because it’s modelled on the Divine Office. The 150 aves are there in place of the the 150 psalms, while the paters are there in place of the antiphons. Just as the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin was given to literate lay people who didn’t have the monk’s time to pray the entire Office, the Rosary was given to us so that illiterate people could, in some way, participate in the Office. Obviously, these days, being literate doesn’t exempt you from praying it. The point is that the private devotion Our Lady wants to you use the most is modelled on the official prayer of the Church.

6. Catholic and Orthodox theology. For years, I lived contentedly under the delusion that Eastern Orthodoxy was just Catholicism without the Pope, and a slightly different praxis (infrequent Communion, more prostration, a lot more fasting, longer liturgies.) Nope. This probably warrants a post in itself, but let’s just say that, if you’re talking to somebody Orthodox, don’t assume a) that he has a Sunday obligation, b) believes that Our Lady was immaculately conceived, or c) thinks that God created out of nothing. Wow. Who knew that Catholics were unique amongst Christians in their beliefs about the Mass?

7. Knitting and crochet. Yes! The world needs to know this! The one million members of Ravelry want you to know this! Knitting involves two sticks going clickety-clack. Crochet is one hook making no sound at all. If a woman has yarn in her left hand and a little stick in her right hand and that stick is sort of swinging from side to side, don’t say, “Oh, you’re knitting!” A more important distinction is this: knitting is good for making curved things. I’m crochet to the core, but must admit that a knitted sock or a knitted jumper (see point 3) will always, always look better than its crocheted equivalent. But…knitted lace? You’ve got to be kidding me. If you want to wear something or look at something intricate, floaty and delicate, get out your crochet hook.

8. St Teresa, St Teresa, St Teresa, St Teresa, St Teresa, St Teresa, and St Teresa. If you’re planning to become a religious sister and from thence a great and popular saint, don’t choose this name! At least, don’t choose it if you want to stand out from the crowd. And don’t think that adding Our Lady’s name will help you, because we already count Ven Miriam Teresa Demjanovich, Ven Maria Teresa Quevedo, Bl Mary Teresa Ledochowska, Bl Maria Teresa Fasce, and Bl Maria Teresa of Jesus, and Bl Maria Teresa of St Joseph amongst the ranks of the great!

One thought on “The Difference Between…

  1. Teresa :-) says:

    very entertaining…especially the St Teresa considerations.

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