Pastor Paul has worked with young people in the Twin Cities, Seattle, Sao Paulo, and New York City. He currently is a chaplain at Columbia University in New York City.
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|Dear Pastor Paul,
I am interested in the Protestant views on the Eucharist. If you can compare the two faiths of Catholic and Protestant
regarding the Eucharist, it would really help me out a lot.
In both the Protestant and the Catholic traditions (as well as Eastern Orthodox churches), the Eucharist is the most important ritual that the church performs. It focuses the Christian's attention on Jesus and on gratitude. In fact, Eucharist means "thanksgiving" in Greek.
In the Catholic Mass, when the priest lifts the bread and says, "This is my body," the wine and the wafer are believed to become the actual blood and body of Christ. This understanding of the Eucharist is called "transubstantiation."
This belief has always caused a lot of disagreement, and in the old days Christians were accused of everything from cannibalism to magic. In fact, the priest's words in the old Catholic Church language of Latin--"Hoc est enim corpus meum"--became the commonly used magician's phrase "Hocus Pocus."
Many Protestants use the word "Communion" instead of Eucharist. In Communion, the bread and wine--or more often grape juice--are taken in memory of Christ. The bread and wine are symbols that recall what Christ did for humankind. The minister quotes the words from the Bible that Jesus said at the Last Supper: "Eat and drink this in memory of me."
Transubstantiation vs. memory is one of the major ways that the Catholic Church and Protestant churches differ. Both traditions in their own ways are intent on bringing the reality of Christ into the present lives of the Christian.
Check out our Intercommunion Chart to learn more about different denominations' views.
Dear Pastor Paul,
My friend recently started practicing Buddhism. Her aunt and uncle nearly flipped when she tried to explain that she didn't believe in God, didn't want eternal life in Paradise, and told them that Hitler wasn't an evil man but a man with evil intentions. Her sister couldn't understand why she wasn't crying her eyes out when her parents divorced.
I'm pretty comfortable with her new religion, as are the rest of our friends, but I feel sorry for her. She's tried to educate people about her religion, but nobody seems to listen. They believe Buddhism is the work of the devil and that the Buddha is a false idol. Is there anything I can do for her? Is there anything she can do to not be singled out?
--Going Nuts in Newfoundland
Dear Going Nuts,
It's very difficult to begin to practice a different religion within a hostile home environment. One way your friend can avoid being singled out is to practice her Buddhism less by instructing people on the tenets of her new religion than by exhibiting one of the most important practices of Buddhism: compassion.
She shouldn't feel surprised that people react strongly when told about her faith. In the aunt and uncle's religion, she is risking hell by saying she doesn't believe in God. This belief is as real for them as your friend's Buddhist beliefs are for her. Also, the middle of her parents' divorce might not be the right time to talk with her distraught sister about the Buddhist principle of nonattachment. Listening to her sister's pain, even if she doesn't feel it, is the best way she can educate people about Buddhism and its positive effect on people's lives.
You are already doing your part by treating her the same way you always have. If she is not already a member of a Buddhist practice center, she should join one to gain additional support and instruction.
Chat with other Buddhist Teens.
|Dear Pastor Paul,
I am a Christian, and I have recently been researching yoga. I read that it is not Hindu, it is just used by Hindus, and that it is meant to bring you closer to God. I'm wondering if there are any contradictions between yoga and my beliefs that I'm not aware of. Could you possibly inform me of anything that might not agree? Thank you and God bless.
|Dear Yoga Wonder,
The founders of hatha yoga were indeed the same people who developed the philosophies of Hinduism. However, in recent years, yoga has become largely disassociated from its religious moorings and is practiced by people of all beliefs, as often for its purely physical benefits as for its spiritual ones. If you're worried, ask prospective teachers if they incorporate any spirituality or religion into their classes.
There are yoga teachers who teach from the Christian perspective. I recently took a class like this on a church retreat. It's a beautiful mix and was very peaceful, and it gave me an incarnate sense of the divine.
Ultimately, it's up to you to decide if the modern practice of yoga contradicts your Christian beliefs. You may be of a tradition that doesn't allow any influences that are not from the Christian faith. But many people find that yoga brings them closer to God and that the poses help them to meditate on the divine. God Bless.
Try some yoga yourself! Check out
Taming Tension the Yoga Way and Yoga for Teens.