Heart of the Lesson: Eastern Catholic Rites

Eastern Rites

First of all, I want to point out that this is a new lesson.  If  you’re relatively new to Family Formation this isn’t really relevant information, I guess.  BUT for those of you who have been through the cycles a couple times (or more), it’s always fun to see something new!

Rites aren’t something we typically think about as Catholics because you typically only have exposure to the one you’re used to and attend each week.  As always, let’s start with defining terms:

A rite is a specific way of celebrating the sacraments.  Each of them comes with its own set of prayers, traditions, church decorations, and rules.

There are six different rites in the Catholic Church and while it may be easy to focus on the differences, the fascinating part (at least in my mind) is that in spite of the differences, they all have some very essential core beliefs in common:

  • We all worship the Holy Trinity.
  • We all believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
  • We all profess the same creed.
  • We all celebrate the same seven sacraments.
  • We all give high honor to Mary, the Mother of God, and to the saints.
  • We all follow the Pope and believe that he is the earthly representative of Christ on earth.

As you’re going through this lesson with your family, I highly recommend you get everyone involved – I’m specifically thinking of those of you who have older kids who may find this lesson to be new and interesting.

Also, be sure to start with the opening questions which highlight some of the differences between Eastern Rites and the Roman Rite you are familiar with.  Talk about a baby receiving the sacrament of Holy Communion and try to make the sign of the cross “backwards.”  These attention-getters will be explained later in the lesson, but it’s fun to open with them.

Finally, I want to include a number of web links for the parishes in the diocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis and a little lesson on how to find them for your own diocese.

It’s important to know that there are many Eastern Catholic churches, but not all of them share the core beliefs listed above.  Of course, you’re welcome to visit any church you want, and you’ll likely experience many beautiful and inspiring parts of their liturgies.  BUT, only churches that profess those core beliefs are in communion with Rome, and it is only those churches that will fulfill your Sunday Obligation to attend Mass.  It can be confusing, and hard to tell at first glance since quite often the word “Catholic” will be part of a church’s name regardless of their affiliation with Rome.  The best way to tell is to check your diocesan web site for a list of Eastern Rite parishes in your area.

There happen to be four in our diocese, and a “field trip” to any of them would be an outstanding way to make this lesson come to life!  If you can’t do that, it’s probably worth your time to plan a virtual field trip by looking at some of their websites and especially their photos pages.  You’ll see a little bit of what makes each unique.

One more thing – if you’re looking for inspiration, supplies or details on how to make your own Ukrainian Easter Eggs, this site is a tried and true choice!


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