punchy line

...and he (Simon Peter) saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth ... not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. - Jn 20: 6-7
-Jn 20: 6-7

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Faith of our Family: England vs. America

One of the greatest adventures of marrying an English Catholic and raising our hybrid Yank/Brit children in the Faith has been exposing them to the richness found in both the English and American Catholic Churches.  When I studied there, as a Hispanic Californian, I felt happily “at home” with the English Catholics and my husband has fit in pretty well out here in California where the demographics of the Church are very demonstratively not English.

Having lived in each other’s respective Churches, a nice organic overlap between English Catholicism and American Catholicism has arisen in our home.  It surfaces in different, novel ways.

For instance, the “Amen.”  Americans say “Amen” with a long “a” sound. The English say “AH-men.”  While at Oxford, it rubbed off on me in a big way.  I still feel a bit snobby for saying it that way, but I still do it, aware that most of Christendom and Latin America also say it that way.  The kids say both at different times and it’s kind of fun to watch.

Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Thomas More live in our home.  She, in a framed gold picture, he as a fridge magnet.  But hey, to each according to their station, right?

Every time we attend mass in England we get to practice singing the whole song!  It’s England.  So if a song has four verses, we sing those four verses.  None of this slicing up the closing hymn, stuff.  At least not in any English mass I’ve ever attended.

Over there, abstinence from meat on Fridays is back…in the country where the fish and chips are awesome and we look forward to indulging when we visit.  What a sacrifice.  Go England. 

My kids get to witness firsthand that the Church’s liturgy is the same everywhere.  So they have no excuse not to participate no matter where we are.

Their Churches are older… and prettier. Many are currently protestant because of this big To-Do that happened in the 16th century called the Reformation.  But I never miss the chance to go see a big, ancient one whenever we visit and I make sure to remind the kids that once-upon-a-time, they all used to be ours (and more theirs than mine, because they have their father’s genes.)

Our churches are fuller.   Our parish in Santa Clara may be a-typical as parishes go as every Sunday we face hundreds, if not thousands of people, crowding in for mass so that it’s standing room only.  But that, for me, means the church is full.  For my brother in law, who described for me what the “packed” mass at his parish looks like, congregants more or less filling up most of the pews qualifies as “full.”  (Although I hear this is not the case in English parishes with more ethnic minorities.)    And so it is not with any small pride that I beam over the aforementioned hybrid English/American  children filling up a said sparsely “full” pew to capacity when we attend mass there.

They have same freedom of religion and speech problems with their secular state as we do.  So pray for our English brethren, won’t you? It’s far more “post-Christian” over there with only 4% of the population identifying as Christian (and I’m pretty sure my husband’s extended family make up most of the Catholics of southern England anyway).

Their St. Michael prayer is different.   It also sounds way more Englishy. Look it up. I still get confused, and substitution occurs but it really doesn’t matter, right?   If I say ‘restrain’ vs. ‘rebuke’ or “Divine power” vs. “Power of God” it’s all the same meaning, correct (someone help me out with this!)?

They say, “Lord, graciously hear us,” while we command, “Lord, hear our prayer.”  In other words, our prayers of petition stink.  I very much prefer the former, for sure.

Obligation means obligation.  None of this “moving the Holy Day of Obligation to Sunday,” rubbish.  If that day requires mass, then go to mass on that day.  An extra liturgy is offered for working people and it’s up to you to get there, as far as I am aware.

They have J.R.R Tolkien and G.K Chesterton.  I know of no other Catholic American author of the previous century to have written on par with these two English Catholic authors (but then again, I never studied American literature).  You bet my kids will read both men.

We have EWTN.    I know of no English Catholic media outlet that comes close to being like EWTN.  My mother in law loves EWTN and spent her last visit to California watching World Youth Day Rio.    I’ll bet that was something she never imagined herself doing: watching our first Latin American pope celebrate World Youth day in South America while herself vacationing in America.

But, lo, the adventures in our blended English/American Catholic household continue!  It turns out the combination of St. Thomas More and Our Lady of Guadalupe make powerful intercessors.  By the same token, I’m sure in its inevitable that one day both St. Julian of Norwich and Bl. Miguel Pro will also feature prominently among other interesting British/Californian amalgamations of the Faith that will continue cropping up in our home.


  1. "They have J.R.R Tolkien and G.K Chesterton. I know of no other Catholic American author of the previous century to have written on par with these two English Catholic authors."

    Good question. I would suggest Myles Connolly, the author of the once classic Mr. Blue, as well as forgotten works such as Dan England and Three Who Ventured. In their own American Catholic way they rival Chesterton. Tolkien's works are not inherently Catholic. Mark Twain's Joan of Arc is impressive but not quite 20th Century.

    1. Anonymous, thanks for commenting. Never heard of them, but that's my fault for never looking. Some may dissent from your statement about Tolkein...myself included, but hey, expound awawy. Started Twain's JofA and never finished. Love the man, though.

  2. Ah-men believe it or not is the Catholic pronunciation; more orient-ally we orient ourselves speaking, Ah-meen, puts one more in conformity with Christ. I would not be so quick to acknowledge anyone who says that this is splitting hairs.

    Ay-men is roundly considered the Mormon and Protestant pronunciation.