Ask the Priest

 

Q. I have 2 questions. First, after communion do we sit down once the Eucharist is returned to the tabernacle or when the priest returns to his chair? Second, is there a way to gently instruct the people to quietly raise their kneelers so as not to disturb those who are still quietly meditating in prayer? –Name withheld from Purcellville.

 

A. The GIRM (General Instructions of the Roman Missal) does not seem to address when the congregation should return to their seat after communion. Traditionally, the faithful would remain kneeling in silent prayer until after the Eucharist has been returned to the tabernacle. This is still the common practice by most people in the congregation. Whenever the new liturgical regulations do not address a particular liturgical practice, it is often an indication of a continuation of what was traditionally observed. In response to the 2nd question, I have to say that I have not noticed the noise of slammin’ kneeling benches. I’ll try and listen for this in the next few Sundays. Off hand, one possible gentle solution to quiet them down might be to train our ushers the art of ventriloquism and discreetly say, “sheesh”! After all, aren’t they referred to sometimes as ‘hushers’?

 

Q. Why did God make mosquitoes? –Pantaleo kids from Purcellville.

 

A. This is an excellent question, kids. I’ll try and answer this so that our young readers can understand it. Before Adam & Eve sinned all the creatures, big and small, did not bother the humans at all. If there were mosquitoes in the Garden of Eden they certainly left Adam & Eve alone. Once Adam committed the sin of disobedience against God, original sin entered the world and the whole universe was never in perfect harmony afterwards. Some of the animals became very hostile to the humans including the insects. But let’s also remember that mosquitoes still have usefulness in nature today. While they may be pests to us, they are food to many animals including frogs and bats. (But I’ve often wondered what would have happened to the mosquitoes and roaches had Noah squished them in the ark.)

 

 

*If you’d like to send a question for this column you may email it to me (father.escalante@saintfrancisparish.org), leave it at the secretary’s office or anonymously place it in the Question Box located in church narthex (lobby). The questions are randomly selected. The youth are especially encouraged to participate.

 

 

[June 7, 2009]


June 14, 2009

 

 

Ask the Priest

 

Q. Where did you learn most of your magic tricks? –Chris Nunes

A. I bought my first magic tricks box for $9.99 when I was 12. Over the years I continued to learn new tricks from books and videos. Since I became a priest 14 years ago I was invited to join a local magicians’ club where I learned a lot more serious magic tricks. Two years ago I was inducted in the International Brotherhood of Magicians and have been a member of its local chapter, IBM Ring 50, in Alexandria, VA.

 

Q. Why does Jesus want us to eat his body and drink his blood? –Madison Nunes

A. Because Jesus loves us so much that he wants us to be very close to him. We know that food and drink help our bodies to remain healthy and strong. Have you heard of energy bars and energy drinks? Well, the Catholic Church offers free spiritual energy food and drink to keep our souls healthy and strong when Jesus graciously offered to give us his own sacred body and blood through the Eucharist. Check out the words of Jesus from the Bible: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (John 6:53-56).

 

Q. Isn’t annulment just a Catholic divorce? Why is it necessary to prove an invalid marriage when God has allowed children, his gift, as a result of it? Is this not a law of man vs. God? –Anonymous

A. Divorce and annulment is not the same thing. Divorce is a legal term to declare dissolution of marriage that releases the husband and wife from all matrimonial obligations. An annulment does not dissolve a marriage bond. It only declares that the marriage bond was null and void (non-existent since the time of the wedding) after a thorough investigation by competent judges, secular professionals and witnesses who testified for or against the marriage. There are many ways an invalid marriage may have taken place. The more common ones include marrying under duress (e.g., under extreme pressure to leave one’s current home or unplanned pregnancy occurred), deception, discovery of a previous marriage, etc. Nevertheless, having children does not prove a valid marriage. There are many couples who cohabitate without the benefit of marriage and have children. God is the author of marriage and is not in favor of divorce. Please read Matthew’s Gospel chapter 19 (especially verses 5, 6 & 9) that shows it is God’s law, not man, that the Church follows regarding marriage, divorce and annulment: “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” ….”Whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.”


June 21, 2009

 

Ask the Priest

 

Q. Are holy people in the Old Testament considered ‘Saints’? –Anonymous

A. Yes, they are. Anyone who makes it to heaven is automatically a saint. Jesus identified a few people in the Old Testament who led good holy lives and are alive with God (e.g., Abraham, Isaac & Jacob): “And concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?’ He is not the God of the dead but of the living” (Matt 22:30). The term ‘saint’ was used by the early Christians to identify the faithful who were in good standing with the church. When our soul is in the state of grace we retain our right to enter heaven after death by virtue of Baptism.

 

Q. Why does the Catholic Church teach that the use of birth control is intrinsically evil? –Anonymous

A. The Catholic Church is not opposed to birth control. There are certain legitimate reasons when the church morally justifies the couples’ decision to delay, space or limit the number of children they plan to have. Married couples are not required to try to conceive a child every single year (but we certainly commend those who do!). God through the church simply calls for responsible parenthood and to be always open to the transmission of human life. The proper use of the Natural Family Planning (NFP) method is the only morally legitimate means of birth control. NFP if properly used is 99% effective. NFP is not the same as the inconsistent ‘rhythm method.’ For NFP info check our diocesan website: www.arlingtondiocese.org/familylife/naturalfamilyplanning.

What the church has always declared to be immoral and intrinsically evil (i.e., always evil in itself) is the use of artificial contraception. Until the Lambeth Conference was held in England in 1930, artificial contraception was unanimously declared immoral by all Christian faiths. That year the Anglican Church accepted the limited use of the ‘barrier method’ and thus paved the way for a greater acceptance of the use of artificial contraception. When a child is conceived, a new person is created in the image and likeness of God. The conception of a child is not an evil thing or some kind of unwanted disease as some portray it to be. Medical devices and pills are normally intended to correct a medical abnormality. When used to intentionally frustrate something good and holy, as the conception of a new human being, then it is more of an immoral offense against human nature itself. Rejection of artificial contraception is not just a Catholic teaching but also a defense of natural law. The Catholic Church has faithfully taught that the use of artificial contraception is a mortal sin.


June 28, 2009

 

Ask the Priest

 

 

Q. When did you receive your First Communion? --Maria Willard

A. It was in June 1972 at Holy Family Parish (Las Piñas, Philippines). I lived in the Philippines until I was 11 years old.

 

Q. Are we supposed to bow when we hear the name of Jesus at Mass? And what about for Mary and the other Saints? --Anonymous

A. The GIRM (General Instruction of the Roman Missal) calls for the priest to bow down his head at the name of Jesus. It also calls for a slight bow for Mary and an even slighter bow for the names of the Saints (and angels). It doesn’t call for the congregation to do the same but it is traditionally done by many of the faithful. It is a good practice of reverence for Mary and the Saints.

 

Q. Some people hold hands during the ‘Our Father’ and some do not. What does the Church say about this? Where did this practice originate? --Anonymous

A. At a diocesan gathering of priests back in 2003, Msgr. James Patrick Moroney,Executive Director, Secretariat for the Liturgy (United States Conference of Catholic Bishop) told us that the practice is neither to be encouraged nor suppressed because there is no official liturgical guideline including the GIRM. There appears to be no problem with people who are familiar with each other (e.g., family members) to hold hands during the Lord’s Prayer. What is not appropriate is to extend your hand(s) to an unfamiliar person. Most people do not want to hold hands during Mass and it is disrespectful to coerce them (as some do in certain parishes). Since it was never a liturgical directive at Mass to hold hands (with the exception of the bride and groom when they exchange their vows), it is actually more appropriate not to do so. We need to respect the wishes of the faithful who are simply observing the correct norms of the Mass. As far as the origin of the practice it certainly did not come from the church. Over the years I have been told that it came from the ‘cool people’ who popularized it in the late 60’s/early 70’s bell-bottom pants era.


July 5, 2009

Ask the Priest

 

Q. Father, I know God made us to be like him and gave us free will. But why did he make us if he knew that we would sin? --Anonymous

A. This is a very deep question to answer in a small column. I also admit that we don’t fully know a lot of the reasons why God made us knowing that some will never enjoy the beauty of heaven but rather endure the eternal flames of hell. The key answer to this question is connected to love. One can only choose to love if one has the complete freedom to choose to love. Just think of it, if God made us so that we can only go in one direction, that is, to do only what God wants us to do, can we really choose to love God? We would be like robots that cannot do anything except what the manufacturer programmed us to do. That doesn’t sound like a happy life.

            Here’s another way of looking at this. Why do teachers give tests and quizzes knowing that some will likely make mistakes? It is very rare, if ever, that a student absolutely never makes a single mistake in his or her lifetime as a student. Most make enough good marks to pass but there are some who were lazy or purposely did not make any effort to study so failed and some were permanently kicked out of school. But we know that students who do very well in school because they love to study and put a lot of effort in their work are the ones who also succeed in their career/life. It is no different in the way God made us. God wanted to share his happiness with created beings, both angels and humans. But this would not have been possible unless God gave us the complete freedom to exercise our free will. Love is a daily choice we make. The more we truly love God the less we sin. A good child who loves his parents would not want to choose to do anything wrong not out of fear of being punished but out of love for his or her parents. Neither would God’s loving people want to offend God knowing that God loves them dearly. God never forces anyone to heaven to be with him. With the exception of babies and very young children, everyone in heaven chose to love God and be with him for all eternity. And God never sends anyone to hell. People (and demons) who are there chose to reject God completely out of free will as well. If hope this answers your question. Feel free to place a follow up question in the Ask the Priest box in the Narthex.

 

Q. How old were you when you became a priest? –Anonymous

A. I was 30 years old. It was 14 years ago on May 20, 1995 when the late Bishop John R. Keating at Saint Thomas More Cathedral in Arlington, VA ordained me a priest. Father Kelly and I were among 10 priests who were ordained that day.

 

Q. How long does it take for one to become a priest? –Anonymous

A. It varies from one’s educational background. The average time is around 8 years. The candidate needs a 4-year college undergraduate degree (on any field) followed by a 4-year graduate study in theology. Many seminaries require at least 24 credit hours in philosophy that could extend one’s studies longer than 8 years. God was very kind to me and managed to get me through in 7 years. (It wasn’t because I was smarter than the others; quite the contrary. The Good Lord knew my brain was already on overload and decided to cut my years short out of mercy!)

July 12, 2009

 

 

Ask the Priest

 

Q. What is the latest info regarding bringing communion under both species back in our parish? –Anonymous

A. The diocese has not recalled its strong caution to refrain from using the common communion cup for the general administration of the Precious Blood at Holy Communion so we’re going to abide with the current recommendation. The local news reports that we are currently having an unusually high number of flu cases during the summer season when this is normally non-existent. The June 18, 2009 CDC report shows that the northeastern states have the highest rate of the H1N1 (swine flu) strain of the flu virus. There are some 18,000 reported cases of the H1N1 strain in the U. S. that includes 1,600 hospitalizations and 44 deaths. With these stats I can fully understand why our bishops have not rescinded the caution notice. For a nice brief update on the H1N1 virus log on to: http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/news/20090618/summer-gives-no-relief-from-swine-flu.

 

Q. We can tell if a priest is in the confessional but it is difficult to tell if a penitent is inside. Some hesitate to open the door thinking there’s someone inside. What could we do? Would leaving the door open after confessing helps? –Anonymous

A. This is a very good observation. Sometimes I presume there are no penitents in line when there’s a big gap during confession. What’s really happening is the person next in line is just not aware that the penitent’s side is empty. I do agree that our confessionals have major design flaws. There should be some kind of a light that the priest can switch on if he’s with a penitent. Another complaint is the privacy issue. While the ‘collapsible’ design may have caught the attention of Popular Mechanics magazine, the gaps in between the folds and hinges require the use of music to camouflage the litany of sins that are being purged by the sacrament of Penance. Collapsing the ‘boxes’ hardly helped, if at all, during our large Easter Mass crowds we had in April. I will look into adding a light switch and sealing the rooms better for soundproofing since we have no plans to collapse them in the future. In the meantime, I think the penitent leaving the door open after confession is a very good idea. (This will also help somewhat ventilate the room for the next person!)

 

Q. If one prays to a saint, e.g., St. Anthony, St. Jude or the Blessed Virgin Mary, I know one should thank the saint for the petitions granted, but do we also have to thank the Lord for granting the saint the ‘power’ to fulfill the petition? –Anonymous

A. When you thank the saint for the petitions that were granted, you are actually automatically thanking Our Lord himself. But it is always a good idea to thank the Lord himself as well. You might want to read the story of the 10 lepers whom Jesus cured and only 1 returned to thank him. Jesus wasn’t too happy about the 9 ingrates who didn’t show their gratitude (Luke 17:11-19).


July 19, 2009

 

Ask the Priest

 

Q. Why did God give different skin colors to the human race?

A. While I was having lunch last week with Father Gerard, I asked him to help me answer this question. He told me that it was God’s great wisdom to “design” the different skin complexions that would be favorable to one’s native habitat. For example, Father Gerard said that he feels very blessed to have a dark skin living in South Africa because his dark complexion prevents him from getting severe sunburns and other skin problems. He also said that God gave the people living in much colder climates (especially those closest to the north pole near Santa & his elves) to have fair skin because it enables them to receive more sunlight into their bodies to help them to stay warm. Father Gerard’s wise response makes all the sense to me. And since I am a native of the Philippines where the country does not have the extreme cold or hot temperatures, I now understand why God blessed me with a permanent natural tan. Lucky me!

 

Q. I am feeling led to wear a mantilla (head covering) to Mass. I noticed a few other women are doing so. Is this appropriate? --Anonymous

A. Yes, it is not required but perfectly appropriate. There was a time when the church required women to wear a head covering in church. (See 1 Corinthians 11:3-6)

 

Q. What do you think of parents bringing food for their children during Mass? --Anonymous

A. I have not seen any specific restrictions in the official church guidelines. Most parents do not approve of it because they want their children to get used to seeing the church as a place of serious prayer and worship. Most pastors seem to tolerate it but always lament the fact that the church gets messy because food always spills onto the church floor and sometimes will smear into the cushioned seats. While I am not bothered by it I certainly do not recommend it either.

 


July 26, 2009

 

Ask the Priest

 

Q. Can a person go to confession over the telephone or via email? –Anonymous

A. No. You need to be present in person before the priest in order to validly receive any of the sacraments. It’s like anything in real life. Someone who gets caught stealing at 7-11 and offers to just call or email the judge to apologize and ask for forgiveness would be totally unacceptable. By the way, this is a very good question because over the years I have received a few requests for confession by phone or by email! I also want to add that I’ve heard confessions in some of the most unusual places such as the Mall, airports, ski lodge closet, garden section of Wal-Mart, in my car in front of Whitlow’s Bar (for an hour!) and at the beach.

 

Q. At weekday Masses we sometimes read from the Old Testament and sometimes from the New Testament. Is there a rhyme or reason as to what type of reading accompanies each Mass? –Anonymous

A. There is a systematic arrangement for the Sunday and Weekday Mass readings. The Sundays rotate on a 3-year cycle designated as Years A, B & C. The weekdays are on a 2-year cycle designated as Years I & II. The odd number years fall under Year I (i.e., 2009), and the even ones fall under Year II. The readings are arranged so that if you attended Mass everyday for 3 years, you will have heard and meditated on the entire Bible. If you’d like to follow the daily Mass readings online you can go to: http://www.nccbuscc.org/nab/.

 

Q. What do you think is the most important ‘thing’ in the Mass? –McKenna Magoffin

A. The most important ‘thing’ in the Mass is the Holy Eucharist. We believe that at every Mass the real presence of Jesus as true God and true man is completely present in the Eucharist and offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass himself. That’s the reason why we are kneeling down during the consecration. The moment the priest consecrates the bread and wine on the altar they are miraculously changed into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ.

 

Q. What is your favorite part of being a priest? Is it fun being a priest? –Caitlin Blake and Susan Cahan

A. My most favorite part of being a priest is that I have all the time in the world to pray and do things for God. Whether it is offering the Sacrifice of the Mass, preaching about God, baptizing, helping people, hearing confessions, etc., everything I’m supposed to do is for God and his people. And yes, most of the time it is so much fun to be a priest. There are certain things priests do that can’t really be considered fun but we gladly do them like funerals, counseling people going through family problems and other bad experiences, reminding people that they are living in sin, speaking out against injustice, etc. But for the most part I’ve had the best time in the world as a priest especially when I’m just sharing good times being around with parishioners.


August 2, 2009

 

Ask the Priest

 

Q. What is the difference between a pope and a priest? –Kyle Eberhart

A. A pope is a priest and celebrates the sacraments just like any other priest. But not all priests are popes. All the popes have also been bishops. For the last several centuries a pope has been selected by the cardinals who elected by one of their cardinals to become a pope. But technically, they can elect a layman. Hypothetically, If a layman has been elected he would be ordained a bishop (an office higher than the pope) immediately.

 

Q. What are the requirements to become a Eucharistic Minister? --Anonymous

A. To qualify to be an Extraordinary Minister of the Holy Eucharist one must meet the minimum requirements: At least 21 years old, a regular practicing Catholic who has been fully initiated in the sacraments (received Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist) and in good standing with the church, a registered parishioner, has love and devotion to Our Lord in the Eucharist, willingness to bring Holy Communion to the sick, maintains a modest Christian dignity in speech/appearance/temperament, in a marriage recognized by the Catholic Church (if married), faithful to the sacrament of Penance, in a state of grace, supports 100% all of the doctrinal teachings of the Catholic Church, living a good moral life, and does not advocate public views that are contrary to church teachings (e.g., abortion, same sex marriage, cohabitation, etc.) . If you are interested in becoming one please contact the office or me directly for an appointment.

 

Q. How do people know when God is around or listening? --Anonymous

A. God is omnipresent. God is everywhere who sees and hears everything. If you read Psalm 139 you will get a good idea of God’s presence everywhere. Here are some of the verses: “Lord, you have probed me, you know me; you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar…. Even before a word is on my tongue, Lord, you know it all…. Where can I hide from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee? If I ascend to the heavens, you are there…. You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb…. My very self you knew….” Also, from 1 John 3:19-22: “Now this is how we shall know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts before him in whatever our hearts condemn, for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God and receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.”

 

Q. Do you think that Father Kelly is going to be a saint? –Anonymous

A. Anyone who dies in the good graces of God is a true saint. Actually, even anyone still living on earth who is in the state of grace (i.e., does not currently have an unconfessed mortal in one’s soul) has a share in sainthood. Very few ever become a canonized saint. But there are many saints unknown to us in heaven because everyone there is a saint. Even the souls in purgatory are saints. So, for those of us who believe that Father Kelly died in the good graces of God, yes, we believe that he is a “saint.”


August 9, 2009

 

Ask the Priest

 

Q. My family would like to start praying together at night. Can you recommend a basic ‘not-too-long’ routine? –Anonymous

A. Not knowing what timeline you’re looking for I thought I’d give you a couple of recommendations. For a 2-minute family prayer you can use the following basic prayers of the church: 1 Our Father, 1 Hail Mary, 1 Glory Be, an Act of Contrition and a Spiritual Communion. For a 5-minute prayer you can pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet and a Spiritual Communion. A spiritual communion is simply asking Jesus to come to us spiritually with his graces when we are unable to receive him in the Eucharist sacramentally. This beautiful form of prayer can be repeated often even if one had received Holy Communion earlier. You can use your own words or recite the following (the one I use): “My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive you into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You are already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from you.” For more prayer suggestions and lists of prayers you can log on to www.sacredheart.com.

 

Q. How should a practicing Catholic behave when a family member or friend is married outside the Catholic Church? Should the [invalidly] married couple be allowed to spend the night in one’s home? Is there an excuse for attending? [I’m not sure if the writer meant to say attending a Catholic marrying in a ceremony that the church would declare invalid] –Anonymous

A. The church has always favored not closing communications with our loved ones even though they may have strayed away from the church. Our goal is to try and bring them back to God’s good graces. However, we do have an obligation to let them know that we do not approve of what they did. It is important that the Catholic party is made aware that it is a serious sin for a Catholic to marry outside the Catholic Church without first obtaining a dispensation from the bishop. If that happens the Catholic may not partake of any of the sacraments until the marriage is rectified through the church. In many cases the couple may not be aware of the gravity of what they did and that’s why it’s important that we try and reach out to them. As long as they are aware of your stance as a Catholic with regard to their marriage, it is up to your judgment whether to offer them a room in your house. There seems to be no church law against it. But it is different with a couple who are just cohabitating (just living together or ‘shacking up’). Scripture and church teachings clearly forbid condoning such behavior (the occasion of the sin of fornication if single, adultery if at least one is married). This one is crystal clear that if you even allow the couple to visit that they should not be offered the same room. Here’s what God says from 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, “Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves nor the greedy, nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.”


August 16, 2009

 

Ask the Priest

 

Q. Is there a dress code at our church? It is appalling to see the type of clothing the young girls and women are wearing to Mass. –Anonymous

A. This is always a tough question for priests to answer. Every parish receives several complaints from parishioners about the way people dress especially during the warm season. But first let me add to the question that the men too should be held accountable to observing an appropriate dress code. And here’s something for Catholics to think about. On a few occasions Protestants informed me how shocked they were to see Catholics dress up for Sunday worship. If you ever see other Christians going to their church you will notice that they wear their best ‘Sunday clothes’. They take seriously the importance of being in the house of God by looking at their best. Anyway, the Arlington Diocese policy only addressed the dress code for their employees that include parish office staff. It does not mention anything about dress code for church. But I do know that many important Catholic churches, e.g., basilicas and cathedrals, post a dress code sign. Some of them even have security guards that impose the rule especially in Rome where there are a lot of tourist visitors. The last time I was in the Vatican in May 2005 I snapped a picture of a dress code sign in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. Everyone please look at the enclosed photograph of the sign. How about we all give it our best effort to observe it here in our parish. The minimum requirements aren’t really demanding. Basically it amounts to this: no tank tops, no bare shoulders, no super short shorts, no short skirts and no sleeveless shirts. (Personally, I still prefer what the Protestants wear to church—one’s Sunday best. Believe it or not, all Catholics were following the same norm until around the time when Coca Cola introduced their slogan “It’s the real thing” in 1969!)

 

Q. Why don’t we have girl altar servers? –Claire Deaver, 11

A. The church allows the option for female servers if the bishop permits it and if the pastor opts to exercise it. Our bishop does permit it but it is up to the individual pastors to request permission for use of female servers. Father Kelly as pastor at his final pastoral council meeting on December 4, 2008 declared that after much prayer and reflection [quoting from the meeting’s minutes] “[Father Kelly] decided that St. Francis de Sales will not have female altar servers.” Since I am not a pastor and only officially an interim parish administrator, like an interim coach in sports (and can be transferred to another assignment at any given moment), I am not at liberty to change this policy.

 

Q. I was just in Kentucky where we received communion by bread and wine. What’s the deal? When will we be able to receive ‘wine’ again? –Anonymous

A. This was already answered on the July 12 bulletin with more details (you can check our website for previous bulletins). Again the area dioceses have not called off the caution against the swine flu prevention and has not encouraged returning communion under both species. [Please be aware that we do not refer to it as bread nor wine any longer after the consecration for they cease to exist as such after the consecration. At that point we distinctly refer to the Eucharist as the Sacred Body and the Precious Blood.] (FYI: The Center for Disease Control reports that as of 8/7/2009 Kentucky now has 164 confirmed victims of the swine flu virus.)


August 23, 2009

 

Ask the Priest

 

Q. What do you think of the ‘Harry Potter’ books and movies? Are they promoting witchcraft and evil things? Are they bad to read? –Anonymous

A. I was first asked this question about 10 years ago when the Harry Potter books first became widely read in the U. S. The books were unknown to me at the time and therefore could not give an answer. After several prodding from parishioners I gave in and decided to read and review the first book of the series, The Sorcerer’s Stone. I found nothing morally objectionable to the fictional novel. As a matter of fact, I enjoyed reading it! To date I’ve read up to the beginning of book six, “The Half Blood Prince” and still saw no reason to raise an objection. The novel makes is very clear about the importance of doing good and avoiding evil. Several good themes were presented including sacrificing one’s life in order to gain a greater good (as what Harry Potter’s parents did for him). There were also good lessons on loyalty in friendship shown between the main characters (Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger). Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster, was presented as a good virtuous wizard who spent his life battling against the evil wizards and witches. There is one more thing I’d like to add. If Hogwarts School was an “evil” place, then why did they celebrate Christmas and Easter holidays?

 

Q. Why do the altar boys ring the bell during Mass? –Anonymous

A. It is to let people know the most sacred part of the Mass. In the old days long before microphones were invented, it was the only way for the people to known when the consecration of the bread and wine was about to take place. Bells could be heard in the whole church and therefore was the logical way to alert the people for the most solemn part of the Mass. As you notice in church we are all kneeling down whenever the bells are rung.

 

Q. How often can one receive Holy Communion on the same day? –Anonymous

A. Twice. A Catholic can receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist each time he or she participates in the Mass, to a maximum of 2 times per day. The Catholic Church’s Canon Law (917) states, "One who has received the blessed Eucharist may receive it again on the same day only within a eucharistic celebration in which that person participates, without prejudice to the provision of can. 921 §2." One can attend several Masses a day but may only receive communion twice in one day.

 

 

 


 

August 30, 2009

 

Ask the Priest

 

Q. Do animals have souls? –Emily McCaffrey

A. St. Thomas Aquinas answered this question by saying that plants, animals and humans have souls. However, since only humans are made in the image and likeness of God, only the souls of humans are immortal (will never die). If you want to learn more about this you can ‘Google’ St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica Part 1, Question 75.

 

Q. Why does the Catholic Church have such strict rules? –Anonymous

A. Which ones are you referring to as ‘strict’? Seriously, I can’t think of any. They all seem fair to me. Can you be more specific?

 

Q. My husband’s hang up with God is the suffering of innocents. How can God exist if children are harmed? I need a better understanding myself to answer his questions.

--Anonymous

A. The suffering of the innocent is the result of man’s misuse of the gift of free will by choosing to do evil. It really is a mystery why God allows this to happen. But let’s remember that God did not spare his own son, Jesus, at the hands of the evildoers. God suffered with us in order to bring about our salvation. If your husband has difficulty believing in the existence of God, perhaps the following meditative question might help him. If we’re experiencing both good and evil in the world now and God exists, what would the world be like if there is no God?

 

Q. Who was the first deacon? –Anonymous

A. Saint Stephen was the first deacon. He was also the first Christian martyr (one who died for believing in Jesus Christ). His story is found in the Bible (Acts chapter 6 and 7).

 

Q. Do you like being a priest? And is it hard? –Lauren

A. I loved being a priest! Just like any other kind of life it can be hard at times but I’m always very happy as a priest. To me the hardest being a priest is that there aren’t enough hours in one day to do all the priestly work that I need to do. On the average I only get about 5 hours of sleep at night!

 

Q. Where and how is the Eucharist made? It is blessed beforehand? –Max Workman

A. The Eucharist is ‘made’ at the altar during the consecration by the priest. But what I think you meant to ask was who makes the bread for the Eucharist. Several places that make the unleavened (no yeast) bread used for the Mass include monks and nuns from different monasteries. Some are made by secular companies using high-speed automated machines. The ingredients used must only be wheat flour and water and no other (but they can be bleached white) and are not blessed until the Mass. Adding ingredients such as sugar, salt, honey, etc. will make the bread invalid material for the Mass. The altar wine must be purely made from grapes with alcohol content ranging from 12-18%.


September 6, 2009

 

Ask the Priest

 

Q. Who is in charge of the flowers around the altar every week? They are always appropriate for the week and absolutely beautiful! –Jim W.

A. There are 3 very dedicated women who are very good in beautifying our sanctuary every week for the liturgical celebrations: Karen Wild, Joan Jasinski and Kim Labash.

 

Q. How do the altar servers hold the book without dropping it? –Anonymous

A. With the whole church looking at them during Mass, they make sure to hold it with both hands! [Nothing beats catching one’s attention than when you make a big mistake!]

 

Q. What is a spiritual director? Who can be one? What do they do? How do you find one? –Anonymous

A. A spiritual director is someone who guides another to a closer relationship with God. The most common spiritual director is a priest but they can also be bishops, deacons, and religious order members (sisters, nuns, brothers). Certain qualified lay people who have a good spirituality and theological background may also be spiritual directors (e.g., the Opus Dei priests’ spiritual directors are lay people). To find one is not always easy. But sometimes all it takes is asking the person whom you feel can help you in your spiritual relationship with Jesus. Your local priest is a good starting place to help you find one.

 

Q. When you received your First Holy Communion, what was it like?

–Maria Willard, 13, #1 fan.

A. It was A-W-E-S-O-M-E! ! ! I remember feeling a little nervous just before communion time. But after I felt the presence of Jesus inside me I felt very calm and happy. [And thanks for declaring yourself as the ‘#1 fan’! I think you’re great too!]

 

Q. As a Eucharistic Minister I feel unworthy to handle much less to distribute Our Lord to another. I find myself shaky, teary-eyed and begging for worthiness. Is this a normal reaction or do I need to go to confession? –Anonymous

A. I really admire your recognition of the real presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. If all Catholics could recognize the great treasure we have none of them would ever want to miss Mass. But please don’t worry about feeling ‘unworthy’. It is only when we are in a state of mortal sin should we refrain from receiving or distributing communion. We are all unworthy before the presence of God. But Jesus redeemed us from our sins on the cross and by virtue of Baptism. We have been transformed in the image and likeness of Christ and have the right to go to heaven as long as we die in the state of grace. Keep in mind that we all declare ourselves unworthy of God just before communion: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you but only say the way word and I [my soul] shall be healed.” So have the confidence to carry out the ministry of bringing the real presence of Jesus, the Son of God, to the faithful especially the sick. It is a great vocation to be able to bring Our Lord to the beloved of our community who are unable to worship with us at church.


September 13, 2009

 

Ask the Priest

[This column offers parishioners an opportunity to ask spiritual, theological, liturgical and vocational questions. For other inquiries, please contact me directly. Previously asked questions can be found in our website under ‘Bulletins’.]

 

Q. Is it true that showing up ‘really late’ for Mass will not fulfill one’s Sunday obligation? If so, how late? Is it a sin to be late for Mass? –Anonymous

A. To fulfill one’s Sunday obligation, you need to be present for both parts of the Mass: the Liturgy of the Word & the Liturgy of the Eucharist. This means if you miss the Gospel reading, you need to attend the next Mass available and stay for the whole Mass—not just for the part you missed! (I think God may give you credit if you have one foot inside the door of the church and heard the last line, “The Gospel of the Lord” :oD). One who regularly comes late for Sunday Mass could be guilty of a venial (lesser) sin (the same goes for those who regularly leave Mass early right after Holy Communion). It can be liken to going to school. Excessive tardiness could get one in trouble but not necessarily get expelled. In fairness, there are certain rare occasions when one has a legitimate reason for being late or for leaving Mass early. Bottom line: God wants us to spend quality time with him for the entire Mass.

 

Q. Can we have a Mass offered for the military men and women? –Regan Malone

A. Most definitely! You can arrange the Mass offering by contacting our parish secretary. It’s the best way to spiritually support our troops especially those who are in harm’s way.

 

Q. Is the crucifix a Catholic symbol only? It seems more realistic than a plain cross

–Dana Friedl

A. Catholic and Orthodox churches are the ones who use the image of the crucifix the most. Some other Christian faiths use only the plain cross because they refrain from what could be likened as a statue or a ‘graven’ image. The Romans used the cross to execute a lot of people including many criminals. So a plain cross, though it is still a Christian symbol, does not present a complete picture as to why Christians value it with great reverence. On the other hand, a crucifix, which shows Jesus dying on the cross, truly illustrates that our redemption came at the expense of the Son of God sacrificing his own life in order to save us.

 

Q. Is it proper to applaud at Mass? I’ve noticed that some people applaud following the recessional hymn. While they no doubt mean well, it strikes me as being highly inappropriate, as if the choir were merely putting on a show. –J. M.

A. Since I’m always outside the church at the end of Mass I have not noticed this. But I do believe you have a valid point. In researching an answer to your question, here’s what I found online. In his book The Spirit of the Liturgy the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) wrote: "Whenever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment" (Page 198). I would like to point out that this was written as a liturgical opinion when the current pope was still a cardinal. It is a good reflection that has a lot of merit. At the present time I have not found an official liturgical guideline specifically prohibiting its practice.

September 20, 2009

 

Ask the Priest

[This column offers parishioners an opportunity to ask spiritual, theological, liturgical and vocational questions. For other inquiries, please contact me directly. Previously asked questions can be found in our website under ‘Bulletins’.]

 

Since I received a good number of questions from kids lately I thought I’d make this Sunday bulletin an “Ask the Priest – Special Kids Edition” --Father Escalante

 

Q. Do you get more graces when you go to Mass twice? –Eva Naomi McIntyre

A. You certainly do! You can go to several Masses if you wish and receive tons of graces. Just remember that you can receive Holy Communion no more than twice a day.

 

Q. Did God name himself ‘God’? –Hannah O’Neill

A. Not really. The word ‘God’ is a term the people use to refer to the Supreme Being who created heaven, the universe, the angels and us. We do know the name of the Son of God. It’s Jesus. When Moses asked God what his name was, God told him his name was Yahweh, which in Hebrew means, “I am who am” (Exodus 3:13-14).

 

Q. Did God make himself out of his heart? –Patrick

A. Actually, God did not make himself. And no one made God. He was just always there the whole time. If someone made God then there is someone greater than God. We know that’s not possible for no one is greater than God. God has no beginning or an end. God has always been a perfect loving spirit. Later on when God became man through Jesus, the Son of God, then we can say that God also has a human heart.

 

Q. Why do you have to be quiet in church? –Written by John Holmes for Caleb Jefferson Holmes, age 5

A. Because every church is a special house of God. It is a place where people show their love for God by praying and worshiping. We are supposed to be quiet in church to show our respect for God and for the people who are praying. [And anyone who makes too much noise will be told to be quiet by a group of people called ‘hushers’.]

 

Q. Why do priests wear collars? Are you ever allowed to take them off (e.g., sleeping, showering)? –‘Curious Catholic’ [Not sure if a kid wrote this question but a lot of kids ask me this very same question.]

A. We wear what is called a Roman Collar to identify us as priests. Yes, we’re allowed to take them off when we’re sleeping and showering. We don’t have to wear them when playing sports or doing some work that may get our clerical clothes dirty like working in the yard. The late Pope John Paul II reminded the priests to wear our clerical garb because the people in public need to know that we are priests. We give witness to Christ’s presence by being easily identified as priests. Did you know that I’ve been approached to hear confession in some of the most unusual places because people recognize that I’m a priest? Let’s see, at a shopping Mall, Wal-Mart, ski-resort, beach, airport…. It is interesting that in the United Kingdom the full wrap around the neck clerical collar is nicknamed the ‘dog collar’. (I just wonder if their collar is specially treated to ward off fleas & ticks for up to 6 months!)


September 27, 2009

 

Ask the Priest

[This column offers parishioners an opportunity to ask spiritual, theological, liturgical and vocational questions. For other inquiries, please contact me directly. Previously asked questions can be found in our website under ‘Bulletins’.]

 

Q. Can the Mass be piped in to the nursery via the sound system and communion brought to the childcare volunteers? –K. Noel

A. First of all, it is important to know that volunteers for the childcare that they will need to attend Mass in order to fulfill one’s Sunday Mass obligation. While doing childcare work is of great service to the parish and we commend the volunteers, their duty watching over the parishioners’ children while the parents are at Mass does not equate with attending Mass. As mentioned in the bulletin 2 weeks ago, one needs to be present at Mass for both the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist in order to fulfill the obligation and be able to receive Holy Communion. Parishes that offer childcare often remind the volunteers that if they are Catholics they will need to go to Mass before or after their service.

 

Q. How old are you? And why aren’t you married? –Nathaly Flores

A. Priests don’t really care about revealing our age but if I have to let others know how old I am I might as well add the age of the other priests. Father Gerard and I are 45 and Father Cesar is 32. The reason why we’re not married is because priests in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church make the promise of living a life of celibacy (unmarried life dedicated to giving more of ourselves in the service of the Lord and his people). We voluntarily decided not to get married when we became first as deacons and then renewed the promise when we became priests. By living a single life dedicated to Our Lord’s ministry allows us to grow in our relationship with Jesus without much distraction and also gives us the opportunity to be in greater service to God’s people.

 

Q. How much of our day should we give to God? How much of our money?

--Anonymous

A. We should dedicate ourselves to God for the whole day. We can do this shortly when we wake up in the morning by offering everything we do for the rest of the day to God. A short prayer by talking to God in our own words throughout the day is a good practice. And for those who are seriously into prayer, spending one hour before the Blessed Sacrament (Jesus in the tabernacle) is highly recommended because Jesus told the apostles on the first Holy Thursday, “Could you not keep watch with me for one hour?” (Matthew 26:40). As far as how much money we offer to God, many Christians have followed the Old Testament of tithing. This is giving 10% of what we earn. God has always looked after good people who generously give back to God through the church because he will not be outdone in generosity. Here are some nice Old Testament readings regarding tithing: Leviticus 27:30, Numbers 18:26, Deuteronomy 14:24 and 2 Chronicles 31:5.


October 4, 2009

 

Ask the Priest

[This column offers parishioners an opportunity to ask spiritual, theological, liturgical and vocational questions. For other inquiries, please contact me directly. Previously asked questions can be found in our website under ‘Bulletins’.]

 

Q. I’m nervous about confession. Can you offer me any help, advice or helpful information? –Anonymous

A. Be assured that when you go to confession the priest is there to help you to be reconciled with God. In scripture the apostles were empowered by Jesus to forgive sins, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven.” The seal of confession binds the priest never to reveal what you confessed because the matter is between you and God alone. Confidentiality is guaranteed at confession. Did you know that if someone goes to confession and tells me that he stole my car 5 years ago I couldn’t go after him after he’s done ‘fessin up? I even have to act as if I knew nothing if I ran into him sometime later. [Of course, I could give him a stiff penance!] The most important thing about confession is to understand that there is no sin God will not forgive. He is a good, loving and infinitely merciful God. The sacrament of Penance is a gift out of God’s love. It is a guaranteed assurance that we truly are forgiven in this life. Prayer and a good examination of conscience prior to confession is the best way to prepare for confession. Here’s a website that you might find helpful regarding confession from the Knights of Columbus: http://www.kofc.org/rc/en/publications/cis/devotional/GuideToConfession2075.pdf

 

Q. Why did people live for hundreds of years back in Noah’s time? –Anonymous

A. Before the great flood, the people in the Bible lived an average of about 900 years. Noah lived to 950 years old. Shortly after the great flood, the average life span of the people in the Bible began to drop down significantly. Noah’s likely oldest son, Shem, lived to 600 years old but had a descendant named Peleg who died at a much younger 220 years old (a midlife crisis age would place at 140!). A few more generations down we see that Moses lived to 120 years old. By the time of King David we’ve seen that the life span was already at about 70 years, similar to our current average. We know that God wanted to ensure that the world was re-populated so perhaps the longer life span made it easier to have the world with more people again. Also, it would help to maintain a good knowledge of the past being passed on to the other generations when the elders lived longer. Another theory is that one of the effects of original sin of death and decay really manifested after the great flood—thus, the shorter life span.

 


October 11, 2009

 

Ask the Priest

[This column offers parishioners an opportunity to ask spiritual, theological, liturgical and vocational questions. For other inquiries, please contact me directly. Previously asked questions can be found in our website under ‘Bulletins’. The ‘Ask the Priest’ box is located in the church narthex.]

 

Q. Do you have to do Mass every single day? Do you kinda get tired of talking? –Emily

A. Priests aren’t required to celebrate Mass everyday. But many of us do it anyway because we are celebrating the greatest miracle in the world: the changing of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ—God himself! Most of the time we don’t usually get tired of talking even if we have to celebrate 3 Masses on a Sunday.

 

Q. When I took instruction for conversion many years ago, I was told that the only people who should make the sign of the cross immediately prior to the reading of the Gospel are the celebrant and those worshipers who follow the reading of the Gospel in the “Breaking Bread”, daily missal, etc. Those worshipers who merely listen to the celebrant reading the Gospel are not obligated to make the sign of the cross. Some people (such as my wife) tell me that all worshipers should make the sign of the cross regardless. I contend that this is an example of monkey see monkey do. Who is right and why? –Anonymous

A. Your wife and the others are absolutely correct according to the current GIRM (General Instructions of the Roman Missal). GIRM #134 says that when the priest reads the Gospel he says, “’A reading from the Holy Gospel’…, making the sign of the cross with his thumb on the book and on his forehead, mouth and breast, which everyone else does as well. The people make their acclamation: ‘Glory to You, O Lord.’” All sacred gestures prescribed at Mass for the people are to be observed by everyone regardless if they have a text in front of them or not. Whoever gave you the instructions a few years ago was incorrect. Here’s a website link to GIRM #134: http://www.usccb.org/liturgy/current/chapter4.shtml#sect1a. So, if a bet was made between you and your wife, make sure you pay up!

 

Q. [Sometime back in your column] you mentioned the fact that Opus Dei lay people can provide spiritual direction. There are some very good families in the parish that do not speak favorably of Opus Dei. Can you describe the training a lay Opus Dei spiritual director receives and are you encouraging us to pursue an Opus Dei spiritual formation? –Louis Marie

A. Opus Dei is a legitimate church approved worldwide lay movement whose founder, Saint Jose Maria Escriva, was canonized a saint by Pope John Paul II on October 6, 2002. His feast day is liturgically celebrated on June 26. Since I am not affiliated with Opus Dei, I couldn’t tell you how they train their spiritual directors. The only comment I made about them in a previous column was to mention that the spiritual directors of the Opus Dei priests are lay people. The statement was neither intended to encourage nor discourage anyone from Opus Dei. But I will note that I have met several Opus Dei priests and lay people over the years and never experienced a problem with any of them.

 

 

October 18, 2009

 

Ask the Priest

[This column offers parishioners an opportunity to ask spiritual, theological, liturgical and vocational questions. For other inquiries, please contact me directly. Previously asked questions can be found in our website under ‘Bulletins’. The ‘Ask the Priest’ box is located in the church narthex.]

 

Q. Are there first, second and third class souls? –Jon Owen

A. Sort of. If a soul is in the state of sanctifying grace (no unconfessed mortal sin), you could say the soul is in First Class because it is on its way to heaven. But if a soul is living in mortal sin (and bound for hell!), one could say that the soul is in its lowest class. You can also classify souls as either baptized or non-baptized. Baptized souls are definitely in a higher class than a non-baptized because Christening makes a soul like that of Christ and is adopted in the family of the Holy Trinity (see Gal 3:26-29 and Rom 8:14-17).

 

Q. Why do your ashes have to be buried? Can they be scattered? –Anonymous

A. The answer is found in the Catholic Church’s Funeral Rites guideline: Church teaching insists that cremated remains must be given the same respect as the body, including the manner in which they are carried and the attention given to their appropriate transport and placement. The cremated remains of a body are to be buried or entombed, preferably in a Catholic cemetery, and using the rites provided by the Order of Christian Funerals. The following are not considered to be reverent dispositions that the Church requires: scattering cremated remains, dividing cremated remains and keeping cremated remains in the home. The remains of a cremated body should be treated with the same respect given to the corporeal remains of a human body. This includes a worthy container to hold the cremated remains.” Here’s a nice website that explains the Catholic teaching on cremation: http://www.holyroodcemetery.org/teachingcremation.pdf

 

Q. Did Jesus ever laugh or find something amusing? –Anonymous

A. Yes, most likely. The Bible tells us that children loved being around Jesus (Mt 19:13-15, Mk 10:13-16, Lk 18:15-17). If Jesus did not have a pleasant personality the children would not have wanted to be around him. For me, the most amusing remark Jesus made was when the Pharisees asked Jesus to leave because Herod was out to get him. Jesus blew off the threat by saying, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and I perform healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I accomplish my purpose.’” (Ouch, Herod!)

 

Q. Do parish priests receive a salary or a living expenses stipend? –Anonymous

A. Yes. Unlike the religious order priests whose community pays for all their expenses, parish (diocesan) priests fend for themselves and must provide for their own clothing, car payments, personal expenses, part of the retirement plan, part of the medical expenses, income tax and personal trips such as vacations. Around Christmas time the generous gifts priests receive from parishioners also help our expenses a bit (sometimes a deciding factor whether the priest buys a decent replacement car or a clunker!). The Washington Post published a few years ago a chart comparing pastors’ salaries in the area from different denominations. The Episcopalians and Presbyterians were on the top. The Catholic priests were near the very bottom. It’s a good thing priests live in the church rectory and don’t have to pay rent!


October 25, 2009

 

Ask the Priest

[This column offers parishioners an opportunity to ask spiritual, theological, liturgical and vocational questions. For other inquiries, please contact me directly. Previously asked questions can be found in our website under ‘Bulletins’. The ‘Ask the Priest’ box is located in the church narthex.]

 

Q. How big is the Catholic Church? –Anonymous

A. We’re pretty big! According to Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research Apostolate (CARA), in 2007 there are 1.15 billion Catholics in the world (408,024 are priests). Their 2009 record shows there are 65.2 million Catholics in the U. S. (40,666 are priests). The largest single ethnic group of American Catholics is Hispanic at 25.4 million (39%). The report also estimates that there are 2.3 million African American Catholics.

 

Q. Why was Esau red and rough and Jacob was smooth and white if they were twins?

--Patrick

A. The Bible (Genesis 27) describes Esau as hairy while Jacob as smooth-skinned. I would think the reason for this is the brothers were not identical but fraternal twins. The story of Jacob and Esau is very intriguing to read and I highly recommend reading Genesis chapters 26-33.

 

Q. Why is Michael the Archangel called ‘Saint’ Michael? How can an angel be a saint? –Anonymous

A. The word ‘saint’ simply means holy. In Latin the word for Saint is ‘Sanctus’. Everyone in heaven adoring God is holy (both angels and humans) and can therefore be called holy or a saint.

 

Q. During Lent, is it permitted outside of church hours to have an Eagle Scout ceremony in our church? –S. B. L.

A. Yes. That should be fine.

 

Q. Is it hard to figure out what to give somebody for penance? –Anonymous

A. Not really. Light sins equals light penance; medium sins, medium penance. And what about for big sins? No worries, the penance is not that bad. After all, it’s already quite a penance for those with big sins to come to confession already. Regardless, they are received with open arms to experience God’s love and healing.

 

Q. Why are we building a parish center and not a school for our children? Anonymous

A. The current Loudoun County exemption that I inherited from my predecessors only permits our parish to build a religious education/multi-purpose/athletic facility. The architect and I designed the project to meet the county’s current code for a school building. Should the parishioners decide in the future to petition the county to have a K-8 school, our future facility would probably need very minor adjustments to make that happen. At the moment we’re trying to fulfill the immediate need to build a religious education building for the 900+ kids in our CCD program! [But I will admit that I dearly miss teaching at a Catholic School.]


November 1, 2009

 

Ask the Priest

[This column offers parishioners an opportunity to ask spiritual, theological, liturgical and vocational questions. For other inquiries, please contact me directly. Previously asked questions can be found in our website under ‘Bulletins’. The ‘Ask the Priest’ box is located in the church narthex.]

 

 

Q. Should we bless ourselves with holy water when we leave Mass? –Anonymous

A. It’s not really necessary. The holy water font is placed at the entrance of the church for the people to ‘purify’ themselves as they enter God’s holy temple. It doesn’t replace the sacrament of Penance but blessing ourselves with holy water at least partially removes our venial sins and we also gain a partial indulgence.

 

Q. Which is bigger, Jesus or heaven? –Patrick

A. Definitely Jesus! Nothing is greater than God and he created heaven. Since Jesus is God then Our Lord has to be bigger.

 

Q. Besides the two vases on the floor, how many flowers are permitted in the sanctuary? –Anonymous

A. During the penitential seasons of Advent and Lent flowers are discouraged or limited on the sanctuary. But outside of those seasons there really is no limit to the amount of flowers we can use to beautify the church sanctuary. The only prohibition is that no flowers may be placed on the altar itself.

 

Q. How early does a priest have to get up in the morning? –Anonymous

A. It usually depends on how early we’re celebrating Mass in the morning. If I’m scheduled for the 6:30 AM weekday Mass I’m usually up between 5:30-5:45 AM. On the other days when my first Mass is at 9AM, I usually ‘sleep in’ and get up around 7AM. But some priests and monks who live in the monastery get up around 4:30 AM everyday to start their early morning prayers (Matins) before Mass.

 

Q. Many other Catholic churches have candles available for parishioners to light for special intentions. Why doesn’t Saint Francis have candles available? –Anonymous

A. We do have candles to light for special intentions. They are located in the Oratory, the little chapel to the right of the main church. It is my understanding that the reason why they are not in the main church is due to a lack of space for them.

 


Ask the Priest

 

November 8, 2009

 

Q. Before you enter or leave your pew, can a bow be done in place of the genuflection? What is the difference between the two? –Anonymous

A. Since the tabernacle is in the sanctuary at Saint Francis de Sales, the correct gesture is to genuflect and not bow. It is a sign of reverence to the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist who is reposed inside the tabernacle. But if one is unable to genuflect due to some health issue, a bow replaces the genuflection.

 

Q. Do you have to wait for Jesus to come again when you die to go to heaven or do you go to heaven as soon as you die? –Anonymous

A. As soon as we die Jesus renders us our judgment and will immediately send us either to heaven, purgatory or hell.

 

Q. A while back you answered a question from a young lady regarding girl altar servers. In a nutshell you answered that since you are our administrator and not our pastor you would not make that decision and stick with Father Kelly’s decision. It got us wondering what can/can’t you do as administrator? –Anonymous

A. Very good question! Our bishop identifies 2 kinds of parochial administrators: temporary and transitional. After Father Kelly died, canon law required that a temporary parochial administrator (a priest) be assigned. The pastor of Saint John in Leesburg (Father Mosimann) received this appointment and served for about 6 weeks. His duty was strictly to keep the day-to-day activities of the parish and to make sure that the necessary sacraments are properly being administered to the faithful. The other kind of parochial administrator is one who will likely become the new pastor of the parish. His duties are essentially the same as that of a pastor with the exception that any major changes he makes needs clearance from the bishop. For example, I could not have undertaken the building project for our new parish center (plus the capital campaign) without the bishop’s written permission. No written permission is needed for any liturgical directive that is coming from the bishop’s office, e.g., the guidelines regarding communion under both species and the sign of peace. Correcting irregularities regarding theological, liturgical or staff/volunteers issues do not need special permission either. But as a precaution I always find it more prudent to check with the bishop’s office for important matters even though I am aware that permission is not always necessary. Regarding the altar servers, the bishop’s directive is for the pastor (not the administrator) to decide whether to have female servers. The pastor is instructed to write to the bishop and ask for permission. Since Father Kelly elected to retain a male servers only policy just before he died, being a non-pastor I am therefore not at liberty to change that. As of this writing I am currently in Baltimore on a 5-day training for new pastors. It’s an excellent program and I’m learning quite a bit about pastors and administrators. Who knows, perhaps someday I might be called upon to become pastor. But right I’m going to try to enjoy being a parochial administrator for as long as I can!


November 15, 2009

 

Ask the Priest

 

Q. At the Last Supper, why did Judas betray Jesus? Was it because he wanted money? –Anonymous 4th grader

A. Yes. Judas betrayed Jesus for the price of 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 27).

 

Q. Can a Christian become a Catholic priest? –Anonymous

A. Yes, if he is a Catholic. All Catholics are Christians. As a matter of fact, Catholics are the first and original Christians. At one time everybody who was a Christian was a Catholic. Jesus Christ founded only one church, now called the Catholic Church, and made Peter the first pope (Matthew 16:18-20).

 

Q. Did Saint Joseph have original sin? –Anonymous

A. As far as we know, he did. We only know of Jesus and Mary as the only ones who were conceived without original sin.

 

Q. What happened to the Garden of Eden during the Great Flood? –Anonymous

A. It was flooded!

 

Q. What is the possibility of having a Catholic cemetery here at our parish? –Anonymous

A. At the present time we don’t have any place to designate as a cemetery on our church property. Parts of our empty lots are being used as septic drain fields. However, if someone would be kind enough to buy as the land next to the Crux Gloria we might be able to use that as a cemetery. I would be very much in favor of that because I will be assured of having very quiet neighbors.

 

Q. I understand it is a sin to take communion at a Protestant church because we are not “in communion” with their beliefs regarding the actual change of the body and blood. If you do not believe in this and do not feel you need to confess this, does this mean you should not be a Catholic and will at least end up in purgatory? –SBL

A. The Eucharist is the most essential belief for Catholics. Everything about our faith points to recognizing the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. We lose our status as Catholics once we formally renounce belief in the Eucharist. Jesus makes it clear that we need to receive his real body and blood in order to be saved (see John 6:48-66). The Eucharist is a great mystery of our faith. At times we are in awe just how mere bread and wine can be transformed into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. Not having a complete understanding is not necessarily the same as doubting one’s faith. But a Catholic who firmly does not believe in the Eucharist should not come up and receive communion at a Catholic Mass. Holy Communion is strictly reserved for Catholics who are in the good graces of God and the church and acknowledge belief in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. (Please read my Shepherd’s Notes column this week to read more on a similar question regarding receiving communion in another church). As far as the purgatory question, I cannot answer that one. Only God is the judge of where the souls go after they die.


November 22, 2009

 

Ask the Priest

 

Q. How often does someone need to go to confession? Is it true that you can’t receive communion if you have not gone to confession in a long time? –Anonymous

A. The church requires that we go to confession at least once a year to receive the sacrament of Penance regardless of whether we have a mortal sin or not. We at least have some venial sin to confess. Scripture teaches us, “If we say, ‘We are without sin,’ we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing. If we say, ‘We have not sinned,’ we make him (God) a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10). Catholics are required to go to confession as soon as they realize that they have committed a mortal sin. But the church recommends that we go to confession frequently; some go weekly, others monthly, some do it seasonally (Advent, Lent, Ordinary Time). Since it is a serious obligation to receive the sacrament of Penance once a year, it would be wise for those who have not gone to confession in a very long time to go to confession first before going to communion especially if they have not gone in several years.

 

Q. People in Abraham’s time lived for hundreds of years. When do you think people stopped living so long? Did it happen slowly or all of a sudden? --Erin Gaylord

A. A very similar question was previously asked and answered at length on the October 4, 2009 Ask the Priest column. You will find the answer on our parish website. Click on the button Parish Life and then Bulletins.

 

Q. How old is Pope Benedict XVI? –Anonymous

A. He is 82 years old (born on April 16, 1927). He was 78 when he was elected pope and the 8th pope from Germany (the 7th was Stephen IX way back in 1057!). Here are some fun facts about the pope. He speaks fluent German, Italian, Latin, French, Spanish, English, and can read ancient Greek and biblical Hebrew. He doesn’t have a driver’s license but he has one for a helicopter pilot’s and likes to take the controls when he is traveling on a chopper!

 

Q. Did God make the earth because he was lonely? –Hannah O’Neill

A. No, because God is always happy. He created the people and the angels to share his happiness with creatures even though he didn’t need us at all in order to be happy. The Holy Trinity was perfectly happy without us.

 

Q. Someone told me that there’s a difference between a nun and a sister. Is there?

--Anonymous

A. Yes, there is a difference. Even though we all call them ‘Sisters’ there is a distinction between them. Those who live in a cloistered community and do not often leave their monastery are called ‘nuns’. Their order is often referred to as a contemplative order. The most common ones we see such as in parishes, schools and hospitals are properly called ‘Sisters’ and their order is classified as an active order. But both orders normally take the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. It is not uncommon that a religious order is a little bit of both active and contemplative. Perhaps we should refer to them as ‘hybrid’ orders.


November 29, 2009

 

Ask the Priest

 

Q. Can you officially change a godparent for your child? –Anonymous

A. I’m afraid not. The designated godparent was the official witness at the baptism and therefore irreversible. However, your child can choose another godparent at the time of Confirmation. There are those whose godparents are unfortunately no longer practicing Catholics and have asked others to become their ‘honorary godparents’.

 

Q. Would you consider providing a copy of the priests’ sermons in writing for the priests that have a language barrier and may be hard to understand? My parents’ church does this. –Anonymous

A. Your desire to hear the priest’s homily is highly commendable! I’ve heard of priests who publish their homilies, because they are very good and in demand, but I’ve never heard of priests who are hard to understand publish theirs. It sounds like a very good idea but I don’t know which priests you are referring to who have a language barrier. And being born from a foreign country myself it would be really awkward for me to say, ‘Hey, Father, forgive me for asking me to have you write out your homily. But some folks say that your---…” You know what I mean? But if I’m the one who’s hard to understand, kindly forgive me because I learned conversational English as a kid watching The Flintstones, Scooby Doo and The Brady Bunch! (FYI, both of our resident foreign priests are being recalled by their bishops to return to their respective countries to take a parish in a little over a month. And I’m really going to miss these great holy priests!)

 

Q. Did you have a calling to the priesthood or did you want it to become your own? –Jenna Anderson

A. I have always believed it was God from the very beginning that wanted me to be a priest. I started playing priest when I was around 6 years old long before I really knew what the priesthood was about.

 

Q. Why is the 10:30 AM Mass always more than 75 minutes? Most Masses are usually 45 minutes to 1 hour. –Anonymous

A. For some reason most families like going to the 10:30 AM Mass and therefore it is our largest and most crowded Mass. Due to the extra long communion line compared to the other Masses, it takes much longer to distribute the Holy Eucharist. I am strongly considering adding two more extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion to address this issue. But keep in mind that the Catholic Church does not give a time limit for the celebration of the Mass. It is not meant to be rushed. There are some who erroneously believe that the Mass is not supposed to go longer than an hour. Just watch how the pope celebrates Mass and everyone will think that we’re going too fast in celebrating ours! If anyone wants to attend a spacious and less lengthy Mass, we have plenty of room at the 5PM (Saturday), 7:00, 8:30 and 12:30 Sunday Masses.


December 6, 2009

 

Ask the Priest

 

Q. What do you say to a girl that insults my religion (and me), attend St. Francis de Sales Church, and sits in my CCD class? –Luke Owen Rider

A. First of all, make sure that you pray for her that she will have a change of heart. That poor soul is going to be in BIG trouble with God if she keeps it up! It sounds like she’s having a serious faith crisis. You might want to tell her that it’s a serious sin to make fun of the church that Jesus founded and died for. It is also a sin against charity to insult anyone for any reason. That type of behavior is totally against the two great commandments of Jesus: to love God wholeheartedly and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt 22:36-40). Tell her the truth that she is in danger of missing heaven because Jesus says, “Everyone who acknowledges me before others the Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God” (Luke 12:8-9).

 

Q. When I grow up can I be a nun and a mom? –Alyssa

A. Yes, it is possible, but not at the same time. For example, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (1st American born saint) was a mother of 5 children. After her husband died she converted from being an Episcopalian to a Roman Catholic in 1805. A few years later she founded a religious community of women called the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph. In the 14th century a great saint known as St. Bridget of Sweden also started a religious order that later became known as the Bridgettine Order. She had 8 children and one of her 4 daughters, Catherine, joined her in the community. She was very good and holy and was also canonized as a saint like her mommy. She is now called St. Catherine of Sweden. Could one ‘technically’ be a nun and a mom at the same time? Well, only if you become a nun and reached the top level of ‘mother superior’!

 

Q. Someone told me there’s a difference between a nun and a sister. I thought they are both the same. –Anonymous

A. Yes, there is a difference. Nuns are women in a religious community who spend most of their lives secluded (cloistered) from society. They rarely leave the monastery and only if they really have to. Sometimes they are classified as belonging to a contemplative order (e.g., Discalced Carmelites, Cistercians, Poor Clares, etc.). The religious women who are classified as belonging to an active order are referred to as sisters (e.g., Sisters of Charity, Sisters of the Immaculate Heart, Sisters of Notre Dame, etc.). And there are orders that have both forms of the active/contemplative communities such as the Benedictines, Dominicans, Franciscans and many others. We simply refer to all of them as nuns for the sake of convenience. But we properly address all of them with the respectful title of ‘Sister + (name)’ just as we address all priests as ‘Father’. In sum, all nuns are called sisters but not all sisters are nuns. [If this is still too confusing, call the Vatican!]

 

Q. I’m a Eucharistic minister and I am upset that some of our parishioners, usually adolescents, walk away from the Eucharistic ministers with the host still in their hands. Rather, shouldn’t we complete the process of receiving communion in a reverent way by saying “Amen” and the sign of the cross before turning away? –Anonymous

A. You’re right about consuming the Eucharist immediately before turning away. The Eucharistic ministers are instructed to make sure that the penitent consumes the host and are to ‘chase’ after them if they do not! It is sad, but true, that there are problems with communicants who commit the grave sacrilege of discarding the Eucharist after failing to consume it. In the 9 months I’ve been here at St. Francis de Sales we have had at least 2 of these unfortunate occasions. Once an alert parishioner caught one of the teens pocketing the Eucharist and she confronted the youth to consume the Blessed Sacrament (a true heroic act of saving the Lord!). Regarding the sign of the cross, this sign of reverence should be done right before communion and not afterwards. The church requires that a sign of reverence be made prior to receiving communion.


December 13, 2009

 

Ask the Priest

 

Q. What happens to our Guardian Angel when we die? –Anonymous

A. They go back to full time angels before the presence of God in heaven. If we make it to heaven then we’ll get to see and ‘hang out’ and have fun with our one-time Guardian Angel.

 

Q. Why do we not shake hands for the sign of peace but pass the collection baskets? –Anonymous

A. If every single parishioner has signed up for the automatic debit program to deduct their weekly contribution from their checking account into the church account then we can talk about canceling the collection basket. In the meantime, there is no other effective way to take up the church collection that is essential for the support of the parish.

 

Q. Please explain why Advent marks the new Liturgical Year but the year is changed on the candle at the Easter Vigil Mass. –Anonymous

A. I already explained in my Shepherd’s Notes column on the November 29, 2009 bulletin why Advent marks the beginning of the church’s new year. You can read about it in our website. As far as the Easter Vigil candles, placing the year on them simply marks the year of the Easter Vigil. The liturgy does not portray in any way that the vigil ushers in the church new year.

 

Q. What made you want to be a priest for your job?Anonymous

A. I felt like I was being ‘drawn’ or led towards the priesthood since I was about 6 years old. I also felt like I would be living my happiest life if I followed God’s invitation to become a priest. So far so good!

 

Q. What age are you when you go to heaven? Do you have birthdays in heaven? –Anonymous

A. We can’t go to heaven unless we die first. The age we die would be the age we’ll be in heaven. However, at the resurrection the body we’ll get is the perfect body of an adult. It is believed that like Jesus, we will have the perfect resurrected body of a 33-year old no matter what age we die. And in heaven we won’t have to worry about birthdays since there is no time in eternal life. If you think your birthday is the one day on earth you felt the happiest, then think of heaven as having a birthday celebration, with lots of presents, not once a year but celebrating it every day for the rest of eternity!

 

Q. Would you give us an update on the status of repair to the Crux Gloria. Were sufficient funds collected? --Anonymous

A. Our engineer has finished his thorough analysis of the structure shortly before Thanksgiving. It is estimated that the complete repair/restoration/rust proofing cost of the structure can reach near $20k. Since we received just under $4k of donation we’re looking now to just preserve the integrity of the structure by performing a welding repair.

Ask the Priest

 

December 20, 2009

 

Q. What is the Catholic Church’s official take on Adam and Eve and the tree? Were there a real Adam and Eve and a real Eden or a representation of man’s fallen nature? –Anonymous

A. The church teaches that Adam and Eve were truly real and that there really was a Garden of Eden. The story about their sinful downfall by eating from the forbidden tree is also taught by the Catholic Church as factually true.

 

Q. When Adam and Eve had children, how could they get married when there was no one else in the world? –Maria Willard, age 11

A. This may sound kind of crazy but Adam and Eve’s children were married to each other in the beginning. Then the cousins got married to each other. In the early days there were no laws against marrying within the family. After all, they were the only ones around in the world! It wasn’t until the time of Moses when God gave specific commands forbidding marriage with close family members. God also declared that marriage could only be between one man and one woman.

 

Q. Why were there so many more miracles in the Old Testament (back then)? –Loudon Friedl

A. It appears that there were a lot more because there are more Old Testament books (46) than there are in the New Testament (27). But the miracles of Jesus only covered 3 years of his public ministry in the 4 Gospels. The Acts of the Apostles recorded some of the miracles performed by the apostles. However, miracles still happen today but we only hear about them on occasion. The greatest of all the miracles in the world takes place at every celebration of the Mass when God, through the priest, changes the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist!

 

Q. Is 2012 really the end of the world? --Eva McIntyre, age 10

A. Nope! So go ahead and make big plans for your birthday party in 2012. Jesus says, “But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone…. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which the day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So, too, you also must be prepared, for an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come” (Matthew 24:36, 42-44).


December 27, 2009

 

Ask the Priest

 

Q. If Christmas is Christ’s birthday, why do we get presents? --Anonymous

A. You make a very good point! One popular explanation actually has its origin from the original Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas (Bishop of Myra in Asia Minor, 4th century). Saint Nicholas was quite a generous bishop who was known to have secretly gone around town leaving gifts to the needy. The first Christmas taught us that three wise men came and brought Jesus precious gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Through the inspiration of Saint Nicholas it became a tradition for the needy to receive gifts around the celebration of Christmas. The practice was later adapted as a gift giving time for family members.

 

Q. Would it be possible to have confession ½ hour prior to every Mass? It’s heartbreaking to come to church on Sunday and needing confession prior to communion but can’t partake in either. –Anonymous

A. Not possible. You have to realize that priests do a lot of things in between the Sunday Masses. I particularly like to run to Valley HS to visit our CCD kids on Sunday. I sometimes barely make it in time for my next Mass. We also often take appointments in between Masses. In a few days our parish will be down to 2 priests to cover 7 Masses on a weekend (not counting weddings and funerals when they happen). In the old days when there were lots of priests available this could be done. That’s not the case anymore. We have regular confession hours and you could always make a private appointment to see a priest for confession outside of the schedule if you really need to go.

 

Q. Why can’t you eat the bread and wine before you make your First Holy Communion? –Shae Rider

A. Because you have to wait until you are properly educated in understanding the basics of the sacrament of the Eucharist and then make your First Penance before receiving Holy Communion. If you do not understand that it’s no longer bread and wine but rather the body and blood of Jesus that you are receiving at Mass, and you haven’t gone to confession, then you are not quite ready to go communion yet. But once you’ve done all those things, receiving Jesus in Holy Communion is awesome! So look forward to your First Communion. The Eucharist is a big part of our salvation. For Jesus says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51)

 

Q. How many Saint Francis de Sales churches are there in the world? –Oliver Gingras

A. I have no idea! I wish I knew. You may need to write to the Vatican for that answer.

 

Q. Why does Jesus love us? –Marissa Friedl, age 5

A. Because God made us purely out of love. He also made us in his image and likeness. God made us because he wanted to share his happiness in heaven. And Jesus loves us even when we make terrible mistakes and turn away from him.

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37730 St. Francis Court

Purcellville, VA  20132

 

In case of emergency 540-338-6440

 

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