This week’s article comes from a request from one of our patrons on Patreon. We were asked about how to incorporate Eastern Traditions into one’s home while remaining Roman Catholic.
Our Mixed Tradition Family
In order to give you a clear idea of where we are coming from, let me give you the basic rundown of our family’s history. You can read more about us in the About section of the blog.
I [Kyleshka] was baptized Roman Catholic as a baby. My family were Christmas and Easter Catholics for most of my childhood. So, although I went to RC elementary schools, I didn’t go to church on Sundays. I also didn’t receive my first communion or confirmation until I joined the Church fully at the Easter Vigil of my senior year of high school. Since I didn’t grow up in a culture of faith, I’ve spent a lot of time reading and learning to make up for the years I lost. About half this time has been spent with Roman Catholic resources, but in the last few years I’ve been focusing on Eastern Catholic and Orthodox sources. This not only helps with my blogging apostolate, but also helps my ability to raise our children with a Byzantine spirituality. My husband provides the booklist.
My husband [BadgerDad] received his sacraments of initiation in the Roman Catholic Church. However, his family is very Ukrainian. He went to a Ukrainian Catholic elementary school (and was catechized Byzantine). His family also participated in various cultural events in our city, including a Ukrainian Orthodox choir and volunteering with the Ukrainian Catholic Sisters of St. Joseph. After ending his discernment of the monastic life, he felt called to return to his roots.
For weekly liturgy he returned to the Ukrainian Catholic church. After some time, and talking it over with me a lot (I did not understand much about the different rites of the church and was anxious about being in different rites for a while), he applied to transfer rites and his application was accepted. He is officially Ukrainian Greek Catholic, and I remain Roman Catholic.
Living the Traditions Together
We married in a Roman Catholic Church, based on the tradition to be married in the bride’s church, as well as because my husband’s transfer of rites hadn’t yet been approved. Even though it was a Roman-rite Liturgy, we made sure to balance that by incorporating Byzantine traditions. We had two Ukrainian Catholic priests concelebrating. I wore a Ukrainian embroidered shawl over my dress. And we had wedding icons blessed after the ceremony. Also, we added the singing of the Polychronion or Mnohaya Lita (Many Years) to the Mass.
Since the wedding, our lives have been a lot more Byzantine than Latin. Basically, all our church attendance is at the Ukrainian Catholic Church. But we still work to authentically live both traditions together. The Byzantine and Latin traditions are actually quite complementary.
People often look for the contradictions or assume that because the liturgy is different it is somehow wrong. I think that keeping both traditions is helping guard us against that sort of pride. As a Roman Catholic mainly attending Divine Liturgies, I can appreciate its beauty without thinking that it is the only proper way to fulfil one’s Sunday obligation. At the same time, the few times we do go to a Roman Catholic mass, we can appreciate the more solemn/quiet nature of the liturgy. We go to a Latin mass even less often, but the same feeling applies. One isn’t the only good way to honour God. And we can enjoy the opportunities each liturgy gives us to praise God.
What Combining Traditions is Not
Combining the Byzantine and RC lifestyles can be a little controversial. This is because the still recent history of Latinization, wherein Byzantine traditions were “Latinized” and replaced with Roman Catholic practices. (Such black vestments for funerals, kneeling for “consecration,” abandoning the married priesthood in western countries, and use of musical instruments). Living a Byzantine and Latin spiritual life together is not making Byzantine practices more Latin.
In fact, even though I come from an RC background, I find the Latinizations awkward in the Byzantine Liturgy. Latinizations hurt the authenticity of Byzantine traditions.
And we want to live our traditions together authentically.
What Living Both Traditions Is
Living the Byzantine life, while still respecting my Roman Catholic heritage, involves some discernment. What we do as a family, is incorporate the spiritual practices as we feel called by God.
Another little precaution – this isn’t just picking and choosing what practices to follow from each tradition and melding them together. It’s not “cafeteria Catholicism,” if you’ve heard that one before. Since, right now, we discerned that I am remaining in the Latin rite, I am bound by the Latin canons. This means I follow my Latin obligations for holy days of obligation, etc. My husband is Byzantine, and he follows his canons. (This means that even when we go to Divine Liturgy and Mass on Sunday, he only receives the Eucharist once, because that is the rule in the UGCC).
Starting with the basic canons from our traditions, we go on to take on some extra obligations from each other. From the RC end, ways to do this include: adding some of the stricter fasting practices for use on days of strict fast, going to the Byzantine holy days of obligation, or adding the prayer before communion from the Divine Liturgy when attending Mass. For someone Byzantine, going to adoration once a week or month, attending an Ash Wednesday mass, or adding the rosary to daily devotions are some possibilities.
What We Do Latin
We are currently members of two parishes. Since we regularly go to the Byzantine Church, we have a schedule for when we will go to Mass. Sometimes we do both Mass and Divine Liturgy those days if my husband has commitments at church. Generally, we go to masses when I am on the schedule to read, as I am on the lectors list for the Sunday evening liturgy. (Sunday evening so it never overlaps with my husband’s responsibilities at our regular church). If I’m feeling sick or weak due to pregnancy or lack of sleep because of Little Fox, my husband will do the reading at the RC church for me.
The triduum is a complicated time for us. I’d say we usually do Holy Thursday at RC, and Good Friday Byzantine. Since RC doesn’t have a Saturday liturgy, obviously we go Byzantine. And Easter Sunday we go to both (if we can manage it!). We do an Easter Vigil and an Easter Morning Liturgy. This year might be the reverse (Byzantine Evening Resurrection Matins and Mass Sunday morning). But we’ll see what we can do!
Except when time restraints don’t allow for it, I do my confessions in an RC church. When we can, we go to adoration. We also have lots of crucifixes in our home, which is an RC practice. Our icon corner has a few statues. (Statues are also RC).
What We Do Byzantine
As I mentioned above, we have an icon corner, which is a Byzantine practice. Icons have added so much depth to my prayer life, so I have to say that I really recommend it for everyone! (You can check out my article on Icon Corners here).
There are many other Byzantine practices our family does together. Some of these include regular Sunday Divine Liturgy, chanting bible readings, family icons and an icon corner, Vespers, and pre-sanctified. I have a green prayer rope, but I typically only do the Jesus prayer when my husband is around. Sometimes I’ll also use it for the Divine Mercy chaplet. Since the Divine Mercy chaplet originated in Poland, we feel it is a more Eastern practice, even though St. Faustyna was Roman Catholic. Actually, with the Divine Mercy, we do the opposite of Latinization. We replace some of the Latin prayers with the Byzantine equivalent. And for the Holy God, we sing the thrice holy hymn, but add “and on the whole world” to it.
Even though our baby is Byzantine, our bedtime prayer routine is very Latin. This is mostly because I use a formula given from a novena to St. Rita (my patron Saint). So, we say three Our Fathers, three Hail Marys, three Doxologies, a Prayer to St Rita, and the Latin guardian angel prayer. Sometimes we switch the Hail Mary with the Byzantine Rejoice, Virgin Mary hymn. And my plan is as Little Fox gets older, we will switch to the Byzantine version of the guardian angel prayer.
A Note on Switching Rites
While our family finds it fruitful and compatible to practice our traditions together, this is not for everyone. If you are Roman Catholic and you are feeling called by God toward Byzantine traditions and spirituality, then this is a time of discernment. I’d recommend spending a year immersing yourself in Byzantine spirituality, traditions, and practices. Then, (perhaps with the help of a spiritual director), decide where your spiritual home is.
Like I said earlier, right now my husband and I agreed that I am not currently called to switch rites. Canon Law allows for only one switch of Rites in a person’s life. And it strictly encourages every faithful Catholic to observe the rite in which their male parental figure (birth Father or adopted) was baptized and the Rite into which they were baptized. In some cases a Roman Catholics whose father was a member of an Eastern Church sui iuris can apply for and be granted a transfer without having to present any other evidence for their transfer.
If two spouses are of different rites than the usual model is that the wife takes the rite of her husband, as their children have to be baptized in the rite of their father, but the reverse is common as well. Especially in our circle of friends (Roman Catholic men becoming Byzantine Catholics like their wives). God has blessed our family through our participation in both rites. I am learning more and more about Byzantine traditions and theology. But my grounding is definitely still in Latin theology. My husband and I also agree that it is good for our family to learn and talk about both traditions.
Appendix: Examples of Devotions and Practices
Latin Devotions and Practices
- Adoration outside of Mass/Liturgy
- Divine Mercy
- Home Altar/Prayer Corner
- Liturgy of the Hours
- Mary Garden
- Stations of the Cross
- Statues of Saints
Byzantine Devotions and Practices
- Divine Liturgy
- Great Vespers on Saturday Evening
- Icon Corner
- Kissing Icons
- Making the Sign of the Cross 3 Times (to begin and end prayer)
- Making the Sign of the Cross at every mention of the Trinity
- Office of Supplication/Moleben
- Presanctified Liturgy
- The Jesus Prayer
- Writing Icons
More With TheByzantineLife
Thank you for checking out this week’s article. You may also be interested in reading our articles on what I think are the best things about Roman Catholicism and the best things about Byzantine Catholicism. Check out our Riteology articles for more on the differences between the Latin and Byzantine rites.
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