Issues in Multicultural Art, Religion & Spirituality

    The Catholic religion began as a very ethnic religion and remains so today.  Catholicism originated in Rome. In the nineteenth century, the immigrants of many European nations brought their practice of this faith to America, along with their statues, altars, and other ritual arts. The American Protestants became very concerned that the Catholic religion and all of its rituals and ceremonies would overtake the land. Protestants deemed themselves as the sole religion of the country. Through the years, they still hold that the Catholic religion is hierarchy. Other religious groups consider the Catholic ceremonies, sacrilegious or idol worship.  The author of Mixed Blessings, Lucy R. Lippard, refers to the ongoing struggles of blending genres of art and symbols and ceremonies, even religion, as to mate and to battle (151). Mixing cultural religion of origins could ultimately impose boundaries upon its new habitat. This certainly would be a battle to potentially try and mate with these differences of the religious practices that have strong structured formats.

The Catholic religion in itself is a form of art; from the symbolic robes that Priests wear, to the decoration of the Sanctuary and alter. It is a system combined with many rituals that branch out to make a whole religion of art. The religion depends heavily on sacred ceremonies, images of Saints in statue form to guide or mark their religious celebration days, or to propel their personal spiritual convictions. Their practice also consists of structured prayers to the Saints who died as martyrs, from recent, to decades and centuries ago and are examples of the church. A string of Rosary beads are used to mark the number of prayers that are said in designated sessions, and are mandatory for every Catholic believer. The Pope is an icon and is believed to have final and divine authority as opposed to God. Protestants and Christian believers believe fully that God is the final and divine authority. Catholics esteem highly the statue of Mary, the mother of Jesus. She is called The Blessed Virgin Mary, and they believe she is the Queen of Heaven, as well as is their spiritual mother who intercedes with prayers for all of the people. In Rome during the month of May, a statue of Mary is paraded through the town and she is crowned Queen of May and the people sing a special song to her. Protestants or Christian believers say that Mary has no place in the Trinity of deity and is an idol; therefore the Catholics are breaking one of the ten commandants.

Statues of Joseph and the baby Jesus can be seen displayed at Christmas time, lying in a manger, while the full size statue of Jesus continues to be on display in the sanctuary at all times. At Easter, the time of resurrection celebration of Jesus, Catholics receive ashes on their foreheads in the display that from dust we were made and to dust we shall return. These ashes are made from burned palms that are given out on Easter Sunday the year prior. The palms signify the welcoming honor that Jesus received from the people as they waved them high in the air as he rode on a donkey through the city of Jerusalem. They now call this celebration day, Palm Sunday. They also celebrate Lent, which starts on Ash Wednesday, which lasts for forty days of sacrificing something that is important to them to honor the sacrifice that Jesus made for them, ending Easter Sunday.

Catholics use of symbols, such as statues, trinkets, incense, holy water, and various other elements for holy rituals, is their practice of faith when giving fair reverence to God.  The Priest is also an icon. He is the man who hears the confessions all of the sins a person has committed weekly. He is the mediator between man and God and it is believed that no one can ask forgiveness only through a Priest. The penitence for sinning requires a dozen or more repetitious prayers to be said, depending upon how bad the sin is. This is supposed to cleanse one’s soul. Not so with Protestants and Christians. They believe that one confesses sins to Jesus only and not to man, as man has no power to forgive sins.

Holy Communion is given to the parishioners and administered by the Priest only, or by someone who the Priest authorizes, and not by common man. This wafer is a symbol of the body of Christ. The Catholics believe that this wafer symbol becomes the actual body of Jesus. Priests are also often viewed as men with mystical powers. People call a Priest for “last rites” when a person is on their death bed. Many people call a Priest to cast out demons or ghosts from houses or haunted places. Priests have special rituals they perform in that supposedly make these abrasions flee. Protestants feel this is also sacrilegious and that using the name of Jesus is the power that vanquishes all evil, not mere man.

These stern practices my very well cause people to shut out the idea of Catholicism and seek other venues of religious practice which may be seemingly more simplistic. However many people choose the strict guidelines of religion of the Catholic faith, saying that other religions are too careless, and irreverent with the issues of God.

Some people feel that it is easier to let man lead them to the gate of heaven than to trust their own intuition. Some people feel more secure having statues, trinkets, saints, and other holy devices to guide them on their spiritual journey. The securities of doing good works are tangible assurances that all is well and that their path is leading to where it should be going. It is easier to believe what they can see, rather than to trust their own volition’s concerning faith.

The Protestants proclaim that they would gladly mix with the Catholic practices under the following conditions: “if there is less hierarchy in church structure; use the Bible rather than sacraments as the source of revelation from God; and if they acknowledge Jesus himself as the only necessary intercessor with God the Father, instead of Mary, the mother of Jesus.” But it seems unlikely that the Catholic religion will change its structure for the reason of the Protestants accepting them into their religious world.

Because of the structured programs and rituals of the Catholic religion, it would be next to impossible to blend all religions together. World-wide, the Catholic religion has become standardized and in any country where Catholicism is practiced. It has the same structure, rituals, beliefs and format, unchanging. There are no variations. Unlike Protestants or Christians whose belief in the Trinity is the same, their formats vary. Some Protestants or Christian may even disagree on some of the contents of the Bible, and issues can sometimes be debated. But the Catholic religion remains constant in every facet of the practice.


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