An Irish Catholic’s Prayer for Rosh Hashanah 5772
I’ll celebrate the head of 5772. There will be apples, honey and challah bread on my table. I’ll await with excitement the sound of the shofar, and know hearing its sound will run right through me, electric, charged with light. I wont swing a chicken around my head tomorrow, but I will walk to a body of living water and throw bread in. I’ll cheat with a coffee before fasting on Yom Kippur, and I’ll plan a special meal for Shabbot Shuva (the Sabbath between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur).
I’m not Jewish. I’m a never-misses-mass-on-Sunday Roman Catholic.
Unlike many who practice other Christian faiths, Catholics don’t usually co-opt Jewish customs or rituals as tools for better reflecting the Jewish nature of Jesus. As a whole, we, for the most part, seem to grasp how disrespectful that approach has the potential to be. The last thing in my mind when I touch my prayer book to the Torah or say a name aloud at during Yizkor (mourning prayer) is Jesus. I know some Catholics and other Christians would say that makes me a lousy Catholic and Christian. Let each take a number. They are legion.
How can I find any prayer without Christ in it meaningful and valid? Part of the answer is that because Christ is in me and with me I don’t feel the need to parade Christ the concept and victor into places where doing so would be disrespectful.
Why then, does a Catholic observe the Jewish High Holy days at all?
My children have a Jewish father. He does not share my affinity for organized religion; I am the believer in the family. I want our children to see how important Jewish worship is to me. I want our children to see how beloved Torah and Jewish prayer and ritual are. I think I can help my children grow toward Jewish worship. I want them to identify as Jews. I want them to learn to pray as Jews and to see how expansive — and inclusive — Jewish ritual, practice and prayer is and can be.
How can a Catholic observe the Jewish High Holy days and actually feel something if Jesus is not involved?
I feel the connection to the Jewish people through being the mother of children with a Jewish parent. I feel the God of the Psalms as a poet, and as a person trained in another religion that uses the Psalms. I grew up being guided by Mosaic Law and hearing and reading the Hebrew Bible. I have hosted and, in part, conducted a dozen Passover Seders. I have written a Hagaddah. I prepare a Shabbos dinner about 40 nights a year. Prayer tends to build on itself and I have prayed enough in temples to create an climate within me in which Jewish prayer can build on itself. [more]