January 3, 2010
Ask the Priest
Q. Sometimes in school we sing songs that are not related to the Catholic religion. Should I sing these songs? –Anonymous
A. Yes. There are a lot of songs that are very good that aren’t necessarily religious such as patriotic songs, folk songs, nursery rhymes, etc.
Q. When is killing a sin? Is killing a deer or a groundhog a sin if you are going to use the venison or clear the groundhog holes for a purpose? –N. L. S.
A. What God prohibits primarily is murder. Killing animals simply for “fun” and with no good reason is an abuse of God’s creatures. But it is legitimate to kill animals for food. The meat we eat from the grocery store once came from live animals that were killed for food. Getting rid of pests that cause harm is also legitimate as long as it’s legally allowed.
Q. What is the difference between the Protestant faith and Christians [and Catholic]? –5th Grader
A. I’m not exactly sure what you wanted to ask but I’ll try and answer your question. First of all, anybody who believes in the teachings of Jesus Christ and has been baptized in a Christian church is a Christian. All baptized Catholics and Protestants are Christians. If you look at either world history or church history, Jesus originally founded only 1 church, the Catholic Church. Back then it was simply referred to as ‘Christian’. If you look at the history of the popes all of them can be traced back as direct line and unbroken successors to the Bishop of Rome, Saint Peter. In 1054 the Great Schism took place when bishops from the Eastern Church (Greek) separated from the Western Church (Latin/Rome) and they became known as the Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church is the closest in doctrine and liturgy to the Catholic Church. During the 16th century certain Catholics sought to reform the Catholic Church and “protested” against the pope and the church’s doctrines; thus the origin of the term Protestant. It began with Martin Luther when he posted his famous 95 theses on the church door in Germany in 1517. This was considered the birth of Protestantism. Later other Christian churches were formed: Anglican (1534 by King Henry VIII, Episcopalians in the U.S. have their roots from the Anglicans), Presbyterian (1560 by John Knox), Methodist (1744 by John & Charles Wesley), Baptist (1605 by John Smyth), and many others. For the first 1500 years of Christianity there were no Protestant churches. The earliest use of the term ‘Catholic Church’ can be traced back in 107 AD when Saint Ignatius of Antioch used it in his letter to the Smyrneans: "Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church." As Catholics we firmly believe that we have kept the fullness of the teachings of Jesus and the apostles because we have never changed any of the doctrines and beliefs that have been handed down to us since the beginning of Christianity. Anyone who studies the history of the Catholic Church will also find that there is no human founder of our church other than Jesus Christ himself.
January 10, 2010
Ask the Priest
Q. What makes a person a Christian? –Anonymous
A. Baptism. But what makes a person a true Christian is someone who is baptized and is faithfully living the teachings of Jesus.
Q. Are Hanukkah and Kwanzaa about God? I don’t think so. –Hannah O’Neil, age 7
A. Hanukkah is about God but Kwanzaa is not. Hanukkah comes from the 1st and 2nd Book of Maccabees in the Bible. It commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century B.C. However, Kwanzaa was designed as a purely secular holiday established in 1966 to celebrate African American culture and history.
Q. Does the church accept the creation theory? Do we have a definitive standpoint? –Joe Villenave
A. The church believes that the creation of the world by God is a historical fact and not just merely a theory. However, the church does not have a definitive precise teaching on how God created the world. The church even says that an evolution theory does not necessarily contradict church teaching. Theoretically, God could have created the world using an evolutionary process instead of an instant creation. We simply do not know for sure how God created the world. The only thing we’re certain of is that God is the created the world out of nothing!
Q. I heard that Mary and Joseph were rich because they had a donkey. Is that true? –Jake Phillips
A. That would be like saying anyone who owns a car in our society is rich. Some generous people could have given the holy family a donkey or they could have saved up for a very long time to afford a donkey. The Bible actually speaks of Mary and Joseph as being very poor. At the time when Jesus was presented to the temple and for the purification of Mary according to Jewish law, they were supposed to bring an offering of a lamb. “When the days of her purification for a son or for a daughter are fulfilled, she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the meeting tent a yearling lamb for a holocaust and a pigeon for a turtledove for a sin offering…. If, however, she cannot afford a lamb, she may take two turtledoves or two pigeons, the one for a holocaust and the other for a sin offering. The priest shall make atonement for her, and thus she will again be clean” (Leviticus 12:6, 8). When we read Luke 2:24 we can see that Mary must have been poor because she could not afford to give the offering of a lamb but instead offered only two turtledoves (or pigeons).
Q. In the beginning did God know the plans for the world or did he form them over time? –Anonymous
A. God knew his entire plan for all eternity long before the world was created.
N.B. Due to the large number of questions received in the question box ‘repeat’ questions will not be answered. Please check the website under ‘Bulletins’ and reread the previous Ask the Priest columns.
January 17, 2010
Ask the Priest
Q. In the “Breaking Bread” missalette, there is a footnote under Hymn #454. The footnote reads: “In August 2008, a Vatican directive was issued specifying that the word ‘Yahweh’ may no longer be used or pronounced in songs and prayers during liturgical celebrations.” Why was this directive issued? This hymn used to begin, “Yahweh, I know you are near…” –Maryanne Schultejans
A. First of all, I just want to say that I admire people who not only use our missalettes but also read the ‘footnotes.’ More power to you! The Hebrew name ‘Yahweh’ (YHWH) is the sacred name that God identified himself when he spoke to Moses at the burning bush on Mount Sinai (Exodus 3:13-14). In Hebrew Yahweh means, “I am who am.” Because God’s name is very sacred to the Jews they would not pronounce these words except in a most solemn way. Remember, the second commandment says, “You shall not use the name of the Lord your God in vain.” Tradition says that when Saint Matthew wrote the Gospel he avoided using the word Yahweh as much as he could. For example, when you read the Gospel of Matthew you will see that he used the term “kingdom of heaven” often instead of using “the kingdom of God (Yahweh).” It was also said that he used a separate pen that was exclusively used to write the name ’Yahweh’ when he needed to. In sum, Pope Benedict XVI agreed in the older Jewish and Catholic tradition of not uttering the sacred Hebrew name of God (Yahweh) except in the rare or most solemn occasion. Many Jews, especially all of the Orthodox Jews, are extremely offended whenever they hear the name of God used outside of the most solemn occasion. The substitute Hebrew word the Jews used to describe God is “Adonai,” which means, Lord (as in Exodus 6:3). The early Christians have also adopted the use of Lord in reference to God and to Jesus whom we believe as Lord and God.
Q. What are “plegs”? –Kirsten
A. I don’t know what “plegs” are but I think what you meant to say was plagues. Plagues in the Bible are usually punishments permitted by God to happen that cause a widespread disaster in a form of diseases, earthquakes, floods, out of control animal activities, agricultural ruin, fires, etc. God permits them to happen when the people have turned to sin and ruining themselves. God allowed these things to happen because if the people did not change their destructive lifestyles, their souls would end up in hell and lead many others with them.
Q. Why do they call Good Friday “Good”? –Anonymous
A. There is really no definite answer that I can find. A common explanation is that it was originally called “God’s Friday” because the Son of God died on the Friday before Easter to redeem us from our sins. Years later the term God’s Friday became Good Friday.
January 24, 2010
Ask the Priest
Q. Why do priests who lead St. Francis de Sales go by their last name (e.g., Father Escalante, Father Kelly, Father Posey, while all the other priests go by their first names (e.g. Father Joseph, Father John, Father Richard, Father Gerard and Father Cesar)? –Evening Bible Study, ‘The ones that sit in the back’
A. Actually, it is my understanding that Msgr. Cassidy also went by his first name, Father Tom, when he ‘led’ the parish. Up until the late 1960’s all diocesan priests were always called by their last name. No one was ever called by his first name. On the other hand, many of the religious order priests were called by their religious first name. This name was either given to them by their order or a name they chose themselves. So their first name was not really their legal or baptismal name but rather their religious name. One good example is Padre Pio. His real name was Francesco Forgione. The Capuchin Order gave him the religious name Pio so he was not called Father Forgione nor Father Francesco but by his religious name, Padre (Father) Pio. But how did the use of first names for diocesan priests evolve? As a point of time reference, it was again around the time of the ‘bell bottom pants’ era when some priests thought it might be a good idea for the people to call their priests in a less formal way by using either their first name or nickname. Thus you have the evolution of abbreviated names such as Father Steve, Father Chuck, etc. For priests with a long and/or hard to pronounce last name it is actually practical to go by their first name. Our recent priest-resident went by the name Father Gerard instead of Father Khoabe Ramotso—and it worked very well! There is no rule on how a priest chooses to be called in the parish but in formal church affairs the priests are called by their last name. Most priests I know prefer to be called by their last name and that is also my preference. Only family and friends who knew me prior to becoming a priest are allowed to call me Father Ron (or by my special nickname—not disclosed in this column!). I don’t have a problem with a priest choosing to be called by Father + their first name or nickname but I do have a concern with priests who insist on not being called “Father” by their parishioners. Why? For one thing, many of them who felt uncomfortable being called “Father” now belong to a group called, “ex priests.”
Q. In the Ten Commandments “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor”, what does that mean? –Your ‘little princess’, age 11/12
A. It means we should not tell lies. God wants us to always be truthful whenever we speak. Thank you for your question contribution, ‘little princess’.
Q. If God loves us so much why doesn’t he come back down to us? –Briana Song
A. But God does come down to us--a lot! Every time we celebrate the sacraments Jesus is actually around us especially in the Eucharist. The real body and blood of Jesus is always present when we celebrate the Mass. You get to touch Jesus himself and is as close as he can get to you whenever you receive him in Holy Communion.
January 31, 2010
Ask the Priest
Q. 2 years ago I heard that when receiving the Eucharist you are supposed to let it melt on your tongue instead of chewing it. If that’s true, then why do we do that? –Anonymous
A. The proper way to consume the Eucharist is to let it dissolve slightly on the tongue and then swallow it. We’re not to let it dissolve completely on the tongue because we need to internally consume the Eucharist in order to actually receive the sacrament. A slight chewing may be necessary if the Eucharist is not dissolving properly as long as it is not chewed as one would with a chewing gum. It is a sign of reverence to Our Lord when we gently consume the Eucharist.
Q. Do saints go to sleep? –Alyssa McCaffrey
A. No, the saints in heaven never go to sleep. There are no sleepy heads in heaven. They are always awake praising God and enjoying their time in heaven. Only people on earth need to sleep because our bodies need to rest and recuperate.
Q. How can Saint Ann, Mary’s mom, be a saint if all saints are after Jesus? –Anonymous
A. Anyone who is in heaven is actually a saint even those who lived in the days of the Old Testament (before Jesus). That’s why the grandparents of Jesus, Saint Joachim and Saint Ann are also saints.
Q. When Jesus comes again will we be able to recognize him? –Anonymous
A. Yes, by the grace of God everyone will recognize Jesus when he returns as he appears everywhere in the world coming down from the sky: “For just as lightning comes from the east and is seen as far as the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man (Jesus) will be” (Matthew 24:27).
Q. Why does Rev. Tewes not allow the parishioners to extend to one another the ‘sign of peace’? The 2nd Reading (1 Cor 12:12-30) states that every part of the body is essential and every part of the Mass is important. Then we end the Mass with ‘Go in peace’. –Anonymous
A. The norms guiding the sacred liturgy of the Mass are in the General Instructions of the Roman Missal. Contrary to popular belief, the sign of peace is NOT actually part of the norm of the Mass. It is totally optional for the celebrant to call for it. The rubric reads, “The priest (or deacon) may add: ‘Let us offer one another a sign of peace’ (See the General Instructions of the Roman Missal [GIRM #154] or the top page of page 563 of the Sacramentary we use for the Mass). The reading you referred to has nothing to do theologically with what Saint Paul was trying to convey with regard to the calling for the sign of peace you mentioned. We have several parishioners who do not wish to exercise the option of extending the sign of peace at all. They remain completely a part of the mystical body of Christ and are completely at peace with the Lord and the rest of the community.
February 7, 2010
Ask the Priest
Q. What happened to our beautiful Stations of the Cross that used to hang in the church? (They were commissioned out.) –Anonymous
A. The last time I checked the Stations of the Cross are still hanging on our church walls…and they are beautiful! Several parishioners told me that the current set we have replaced “an old and unpleasant looking set” that was an eyesore to those who tried to meditate on them. I can’t make a judgment on what the former stations were like because I’ve never seen them but I really like the ones we have now.
Q. Why is there a cement block under the ‘Building Our Faith’ pictures (in the narthex)? –Pierre
A. My understanding is that block was the cornerstone of the old Saint Francis de Sales parish mission church when it was first built way back in 1921. Our good parishioners saved it when the old church in Purcellville was sold.
Q. What do you do when God hits you with reality and wants you to be a priest (reality being a vocation I never saw coming!)? –“A young confused dude”
A. First of all, you should feel happy, “young confused dude”! It is a great honor to be called to the priesthood. What that means is Jesus wants you to be a part of his inner circle of friends dedicated to a life of prayer and total service to God and his people. The natural next step is to set up an appointment to speak to a priest you are comfortable with about the priesthood. You will feel a lot better regarding which direction you should go. But I’m very happy for you that you feel God is calling you to be a priest. Pray often to Jesus and ask him to guide you in your journey to whatever God is calling you to be. I’ll be praying for you too. Believe me, I know what it was like when I myself was a young confused dude when my childhood desire to be a priest came back unexpectedly!
Q. Why was Jesus born? –Marissa Friedl, age 5
A. Because he loves us so much! Jesus came down from heaven to make sure that we find the right way to heaven and to save us from our sins.
Q. What is the difference between the disciples and the apostles? –Anonymous
A. Everyone who believed and followed Jesus was referred to in the New Testament as disciples of Jesus. These include both the apostles and lay people. The word disciple means a pupil or a follower. The apostles were those whom Jesus specifically called to work with him closely on a special mission to become another Christ (in Latin, alter Christus). All the original apostles were priests/bishops. The word apostle means “one who is sent.”
Q. If Jesus prays, then he’s praying to himself. Why? –Hannah O’Neill, age 7
A. Very good question, Hannah. When Jesus was praying here on earth, he was actually praying to his Father, God the Father in heaven. Our God is the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).
Ask the Priest
February 14, 2010
Q. How can you be happy in heaven if you have family members in hell? –Anonymous
A. It is very difficult for us to understand this mystery. But it is true that we will experience complete happiness by just seeing God face to face. In heaven we will have a far better understanding why the people who willing rejected God’s way of living really do not deserve in the eternal kingdom of happiness. What we know is that those who die in serious (mortal) sin will never ever love God in the next life and therefore will not have a place in heaven.
Q. Why do we genuflect in church, is it to show reverence or is it because of the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle? Is there a correct knee that goes down for genuflection? –Mrs. Friedl & Mrs. Rider’s 2nd Grade Class
A. We genuflect (get down on one knee) to show our reverence to the real presence of Jesus who is in the tabernacle. The proper way to genuflect is for the right knee to touch the ground. (Yes, even if you’re left-handed you still genuflect with your right knee unless some physical condition prevents you from doing so).
Q. Why have so many nunneries (convents) closed down? Are there any left? –Anonymous
A. It is true that several nuns have left the convent since the late 1960’s. However, there are still several convents (or nunneries) left in the U. S. and in many parts of the world. Convents that have overly modernized are the ones who lost most of their sisters and some of their convents have closed down. However, the traditional nuns (those who wear their religious habits and support the pope and the Catholic Church’s teachings 100%, and nothing less) have always remained strong in their numbers. And they continue to attract many women in their order. You might have heard Blessed Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity and the Nashville Dominicans just to name a couple of flourishing orders. They actually turn down more applicants than they can accept. During my 5 years as a campus minister at the University of Mary Washington (2002-07), 4 of my students entered the religious order in 4 different convents! One of our parishioners left our parish last month to discern a vocation to a religious order that is based in Europe. I am also helping at least 3 more of our own who are seriously considering becoming a nun. do you what is driving some women to consider joining the nunnery? It is because they really believe in their hearts that it is really fun to be a nun in the service of the Lord Jesus!
Q. When you sin, do you really have black spots on your soul? –Emily McCaffrey
A. We use the image of black spots to symbolize what happens to our soul when we sin. We don’t know for sure what our soul looks like once we sin but we do know that our souls are “stained” when we sin and the appearance of our soul does not look very good at all. At one time all the angels were good and beautiful. But those who rebelled against God the bad angels became disfigured and the ugliest creatures and are now called devils or demons. Our souls are perfectly beautiful after baptism and when we stain it with sin then our souls resemble those of the evil spirits. The good thing is the sacrament of Penance restores our souls to its beauty with a good confession.
Ask the Priest
February 28, 2010
Q. How could Jesus have faith if he was both completely and perfectly man and God at the same time? I’m assuming only humans can acquire faith. How can I avoid surmising that Jesus had an advantage over other men. –John Feegel
A. Faith is about believing in something we don’t see. It also involves trusting the testimony of another. You’re right that Jesus had no need of faith because as both true God and true man he was well aware of his existence as God. Only humans need to acquire faith. Jesus was not immune from human suffering when he took on human nature but he always knew that the Heavenly Father would sustain his physical needs in order to fulfill his mission of saving us from our sins. Can we say that Jesus had some advantage over men? I wouldn’t look at it as an unfair advantage just because humans have to “work out our salvation in fear in trembling” (Philippians 2:12-13) and Jesus did not. Jesus was never in any danger to miss out on salvation. He is salvation! However, he did leave the comfort of his heavenly home to suffer and die for us in the most extreme possible way in order to bring about our redemption.
Q. Why do Protestants believe that you just have to believe in Christ and you’ll go to heaven? --Brian Song
A. Many of them come from a tradition that faith alone is needed for salvation. However, as Catholics we profess that we need to have faith and living our faith in action as the way to salvation. The Bible actually supports our teaching quite a bit. Let’s look at James 2:14-20: ”What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?
So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone might say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble. Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless?” Jesus also separated the sheep from the goats in his description of the Last Judgment. It appears we will be judged according to our works when Jesus declared (Matthew 25:41-46), “Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me. 'Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?' He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.' And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
Ask the Priest
March 7, 2010
Q. Why can’t we have some quiet time at Mass instead of the constant mood music playing on the piano? --Anonymous
A. We do have quiet time at Mass without piano music. It’s called the 7 AM Sunday morning Mass. And there are plenty of seats available for that one. Come join us!
Q. My mom says that if you have not received communion you do not need to go to church. Is that true? –Anonymous
A. It is always a good idea to go to church even before one has received First Holy Communion. It allows the young child to get used to going to Mass regularly and the best way to prepare for communion. However, if the young child misses Mass, he/she does not need to go to confession for it. Only those who are able to receive communion are required to attend Mass regularly or otherwise be guilty of a serious sin. One needs a serious reason in order to miss Mass for God commands it, “Remember to keep the Lord’s Day holy” (Exodus 20:8).
Q. Is holy water safe to drink? –Carly Campbell
A. It is not recommended to drink holy water coming from the holy water fonts because lots of people dip their hands in them. Also, although our holy water dispenser is clean it is not sanitized for drinking. We get graces from God just blessing ourselves with holy water. I don’t think we get ‘bonus’ graces from drinking it. (But if you really want to drink clean holy water, just bring me a regular bottled water and I’ll bless it for you. Then you’ll know for sure that you have safe holy water to drink!)
Q. What are some ways to have a good soul? –Anonymous
A. The surest way is by going to Mass every Sunday and Holy Days and to go to confession regularly. In between you say your prayers daily, learn as much about God, follow God’s commandments, and be as charitable as you can to everyone.
Q. What was Jesus’ last name? –Anonymous
A. Jesus did not have a last name. They didn’t have last names back in those days. Christ is a title of Jesus as Messiah or anointed one.
March 14, 2010
Ask the Priest
Q. If a bug flies in the chalice after it’s been consecrated, would you still drink it? –Anonymous
A. (Gulp!) Yes…but only after I removed the bug! Fortunately, I haven’t had this happen to me because I use the pall (a stiff white square board that sits on top of the chalice) to cover the chalice most of the time during Mass. The purpose of using the pall is to keep dust and bugs out of the chalice.
Q. Is it acceptable to wear a hat during communion? –Anonymous
A. Only if you are a female. Males are not allowed to wear a head covering inside the church. Read 1 Corinthians 11:3-13 to see how this tradition evolved in the church.
Q. What is the proper way to dispose of a broken Rosary? –Anonymous
A. The proper way to dispose a blessed or sacred item is either to burn it or bury it. However, another option would be to visit a couple of parishioners who are willing to take them for repair or remake them if you need to properly get rid of them. Stop by to see Dave and Jami Dittmeier at the Christian Shoppe (161 N Hatcher Ave, Purcellville, VA; 540-338-5380). They also have a nice selection of Catholic books, gifts and various religious articles for sale.
Q. Are Sundays in Lent ‘cheat days’ from what we gave up for Lent? –Curious Catholic
A. Some people do ‘cheat’ during Sundays of Lent from their voluntary personal sacrifices and that’s kind of okay. Since Sunday is always a day of rest one could use that argument. In the old days (pre-Vatican II era) Catholics from ages 18-59 were required to fast (eat only 1 full meal a day + 2 very tiny small meals like a piece of bread or two) from Monday through Saturday during the whole season of Lent plus do whatever personal sacrifice they gave up! It was understandable why they took a break on Sunday. But in our time fasting is totally optional except on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Since we now have it easy compared to the past many of us maintain our Lenten sacrifice throughout the whole season of Lent including Sunday.
Q. Why are there different color robes that priests wear for different days? –Caitlin Blake, age 9
A. The different colors represent the church liturgical seasons: purple for Lent and Advent; white or gold for Christmas, Easter and feast of non-martyred saints; green for Ordinary Time; red for Good Friday, Palm Sunday, Pentecost or feast of martyrs; rose for the 3rd Sunday of Advent and the 4th Sunday of Lent; black (and white or purple) may be used for All Souls Day and funeral Masses.
March 21, 2010
Ask the Priest
Q. What are your favorite Catholic ‘Apps’ in your iPhone? –Anonymous
A. There are several Apps that I find very useful in the ministry that helps me to save carrying a couple of heavy books. The iBreviary has all the prayers that all priests are required to say everyday. The iMissal has the daily Mass readings for the whole year. The NAB (New American Bible-Catholic) allows me to have the Bible always available for use (I guess this makes me a true Bible Carrying Christian!). For music, I love the convenience of always having my iPod near me. But my favorite just for fun app is the P-51 Mustang WWII air combat game, the iFighter!
Q. Where do you keep the ‘holy chrism’ oil and where did it come from? –Anonymous
A. The chrism oil (used for Baptism, Confirmation & Holy Orders) comes from the Chrism Mass celebrated by the bishop on Holy Thursday at the cathedral. Every year we replace the old chrism oil. The old oil is usually burned at the opening Mass of the Easter vigil which begins with the blessing of the fire outside the church. Along with the other sacred oils (Oil of the Infirm & Oil of the Catechumens), Chrism Oil is kept in one of our sacristy cabinets.
Q. Can someone baptize himself? –Eva Naomi McIntyre
A. No, a minister (bishop, priest or deacon) needs to administer baptism. In an emergency, any layperson can baptize as long as water and the right prayer is used.
Q. Why does God let people go and fight for their country instead of defending it himself? Why does God let people go hungry, homeless and poor when he can show his power and stop them from dying? –Anonymous
A. God gave us everything we need to live here on earth. God does not interfere with our God-given gift of free will. As a result of the effects of original sin, man at times has made wrong choices that led to war, hunger, homelessness and many other problems. If everyone in the world became good and holy as God wants us to be, then we will see that war would end, crime would cease, everyone will have enough to eat and a place to live, and everyone will receive the appropriate medical help. We see the goodness of God in the goodness of many people who are sincerely trying to lead a good holy life. Unfortunately, there are those who have decided to follow the way of the devil and so we see the sad consequences of their actions. But let’s not forget that God truly loves the poor and the needy in the world and promised them eternal happiness as long as they remain faithful to him. The richest people in the world are God’s good poor people in the world. Jesus teaches us, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:3). God also lets his people fight for him to share and show his power and glory through the people. A clear example of this is in the story of Moses of how God and the Jews overpowered the mighty Egyptian pagan army. I recommend reading Exodus 5-15 to get an idea just how God can help during battles. American history has taught us that many of our own great war heroes have attested that they prayed for God’s help during their battles. And let’s not forget that at the end of the world, Jesus will be victorious and peace will reign forever!
March 28, 2010
Ask the Priest
Q. Are you supposed to bless yourself after receiving communion? –Anonymous
A. You don’t have to but a lot of people do. The church actually requires that we make a sign of reverence before (and not after) we receive communion. The church permits us to bow (Episcopal Conference recommendation), genuflect, make a sign of the cross or even kneel down before we receive the Eucharist.
Q. How is the money ‘suggested $10 donation’ for a Mass intention used? Why is the money accepted for a Mass intention? –Anonymous
A. The $10 suggested donation goes to the priest celebrating the Mass. Priests use the money to upkeep his priestly needs. Since priests aren’t allowed to take a commercial job (we wouldn’t have the time anyway), we use whatever money we have to buy our own priest clothes, vestments, Mass kit and even the car we drive for our ministry. But keep in mind that if you need to offer a Mass and you can’t afford the $10 donation, you can still arrange to have the Mass offered. After all, a donation is a free will offering.
Q. When do you ring the bell at the top of the church? I have never heard it. –Cristian, age 6-1/2
A. I don’t think it has been officially rung since I’ve been here. I’m not even sure when we’re suppose to ring it! Most churches have electronically controlled church bells that ring every hour. We don’t have the capability to do that in our parish yet.
Q. Will Saint Francis ever have the Tridentine Mass as per Pope Benedict XVI’s change in 2007? –Anonymous
A. For those unfamiliar with this, the Tridentine Mass is the traditional Latin Mass (Mass in extraordinary form) that uses the 1962 Missal rubrics (norms). It is a beautiful Mass and I’ve had the benefit of going to several of these Masses since it was first approved for limited use in 1984. Most of our canonized saints, our grandparents and even some of our parents used to go to this Mass regularly. The 2007 decree (motu proprio) from Pope Benedict XVI, Summorum Pontificum, allows the celebration of this Mass by any legitimate Catholic priest without any need of a special permission. It is my goal to be able to celebrate this Mass in the future. However, only those who have received the proper training in the use of the 1962 Missal are permitted to celebrate this Mass. The training for this is quite extensive and neither Father Tewes nor I have had the opportunity to learn it. For this reason, celebrating the Tridentine Mass is not possible for either one of us at the present time. We are also allowed to celebrate only 3 Masses each on a Sunday and both of us are already at our maximum every Sunday. If you really want to attend the traditional Mass, it is offered at 10:30 AM on the 1st & 3rd Sunday at St. John the Apostle in Leesburg (in the Immaculate Conception Chapel). Please keep in mind that the spiritual value of the Mass is exactly the same whether we celebrate the current Mass (Novus Ordo) or the traditional Latin Mass (Tridentine Mass).
April 4, 2010
Ask the Priest
Q. Does God have ‘favorites’ of his creations? Did he ever regret creating something? –Anonymous
A. God’s favorite creation in the world are the human beings. We know this because we’re the only creatures God made in his image and likeness: “God created man in his image; in the divine image he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). And God never mentioned regretting any of his creations.
Q. Is it really a mortal sin to eat meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays in Lent? It seems a stretch to assert that this qualifies as a grave matter meriting hell and separation from God. –Anonymous
A. Yes, it is a mortal sin to eat meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays of Lent. And you might as well add that Fasting and Abstinence are also required on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Jesus gave the charge of his church to Peter and his successors (the subsequent popes): “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of netherworld (hell) shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:18-19). In both the Old and New Testament God consistently asked numerous times that the faithful should observe fasting, penance, almsgiving and prayer. Based on the divine authority given to Peter and the rest of the popes, the church is compelled (and has the right) to set aside a clear time frame to observe the penitential practices. Thus the Season of Lent and its observance were formulated. In the Old Testament God levied severe punishments, including death, to those who did not observe fasting and abstinence for certain types of food (e.g., pork, crustaceans, etc.). Remember, Adam and Eve didn’t believe either at the time that the mere eating of a forbidden fruit would upset God and cause so much harm. Well, we all know what happened afterwards to the fig-leaf wearing first couple and the rest of creation! In that case, it would be wise for us to observe the fasting/abstinence laws of the church. We certainly don’t want to take a chance getting charbroiled eternally on the wrong side of the skewer stick. We’d be better off just eating fish on abstinence days and singing along with the popular fish filet commercial, “Give me back that filet-o-fish, give me that fish (2x). What if it were you hanging up on this wall?…”
Q. Why is the devil evil and not good? –Anonymous
A. All the angels were created good. They were given a free will like us. Without free will it is impossible for anyone to love. Free will involves being able to make the choice between right and wrong. Out of pride some of the angels did not want to be obedient to God and wanted to be gods themselves. That’s how some of the angels became devils and were thrown out of God’s kingdom. They knew they would be thrown to hell if they disobeyed but they didn’t care at all! As the poet John Milton wrote in Paradise Lost, Satan’s belief was, “Better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven.”
April 11, 2010
Ask the Priest
Q. Why did God make the 10 Commandments? --Anonymous
A. God gave us the commandments as a summary guide for our actions that will lead us to the gates of heaven or the road to hell.
Q. Do we have birthdays in heaven? –Anonymous
A. Most people see celebrating their birthday as the happiest day of the year. Since eternity means it is endless, heaven will like celebrating our birthday everyday without end. Wouldn’t that be fun? Spiritually, our heavenly birthday is the day we enter it.
Q. How do priests go to confession and how often? –Samantha Smith, age 8
A. Priests go to other priests for confession. We can’t go to confession to ourselves by bouncing off absolution from a mirror. Many of us try to go to confession every other week; if we’re lucky, weekly.
Q. Why did God have to send Jesus to die? Why didn’t he do it himself? –Anonymous
A. Jesus is God! Remember, our God is the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit.
Q. Does Mary worship her son Jesus since he is God? –Anonymous
A. Yes, Mary worships her God and Son, Jesus Christ, in a most perfect way than any person who ever lived. Mary loves her Son very much!
Q. If a person isn’t baptized but they die for their faith as a martyr, does that person go to heaven? –Anonymous
A. Yes, that person would go straight to heaven! Martyrdom is called baptism by blood and qualifies as a baptism in itself. Martyrdom is the ultimate witness of one’s great love and faith in God.
Q. My husband is often exhausted on Saturdays after a long workweek in addition to many social and kids’ sports events occurring on Saturdays. It makes it difficult to get yard work and chores done on Saturdays leaving only Sunday available. Is it okay to do chores on Sundays? –Anonymous
A. It would be okay only if the particular chore could only be possibly done on Sunday. He would have to honestly examine his conscience to see if the work could only be done on Sunday (which may be the case). God says in Exodus (20:8-11), “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord, your God. No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter…. In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord has blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
April 18, 2010
Ask the Priest
Q. How did all the different animals of the world fit in Noah’s Ark? –Anonymous
A. Not all the animals needed to go in the ark. Those that could survive in the water like the different kinds of fish and reptiles didn’t need to go in the ark. The ark God asked Noah to build was quite big and could hold lots of different animals. It remains a mystery (but not an impossibility) of how Noah managed to fit all the animals. But you can read about this fascinating account in the Bible on Genesis chapters 6-9. Check out this website how this Dutch Christian tried to replicate Noah’s Ark based on the Bible: http://www.pbase.com/paulthedane/noahs_ark
Q. Why do priests wear so many things [vestments]? –Kyle and Beth
A. The priests are wearing many different types of vestments because we are following the Jewish tradition of using priestly vestments in the service of God. Moses received detailed instructions on how his brother, Aaron, should dress up as a priest. In Exodus 28 you will read the description of what the Jewish priests wore and how they match what the Catholic bishops and priests wear for Mass today.
Q. When babies die do they grow up in heaven? –Hannah O’Neil, age 7
A. Yes, they actually instantly grow up in heaven! They would likely have an adult understanding the moment they enter heaven. Their future resurrected bodies would look like what they would have been had they lived as a mature adult man or woman. In heaven everyone is perfect. We cannot be considered as having reached perfection if we remain as an infant/child or if our bodies are old and weak. If we are going to be resurrected like Jesus then our bodies will have to resemble the likeness of Our Lord’s perfect and mature looking 33-year old resurrected body. “Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in the newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4).
Q. At school or just hanging out with friends, I bring up the subject of religion and sometimes they will say that their religion is the first and I say, no, Catholics are the first then the other ones came. What do I say now? –Anonymous
A. The Catholic Church is certainly the first Christian religion and our founder is Jesus himself. We can trace our unbroken succession of popes all the way to St. Peter the Apostle. Have them check any encyclopedia and they’ll find out that it’s true. All other Christian religions have a human founder and came much later. For example, Lutherans can trace themselves back to Martin Luther (Germany, 1517); Anglicans/Episcopalians to King Henry VIII (England, 1534); Presbyterians to John Knox (Scotland, 1760); Methodists to John and Charles Wesley (England, 1744); Unitarians to Theopilus Lindsey (London, 1774); mainline Baptists can trace the origin of their basic doctrine to John Smyth (Amsterdam, 1605); Christian Scientists to Mary Eddy Baker (Boston, 1879); Salvation Army to William Booth (London, 1865); [if you want to count the Latter Day Saints (Mormons), their founder was Joseph Smith (Palmyra, NY 1829)]. Since the split from the Catholic Church, there are now over 30,000 Christian sects in the world! However, there is still only one Roman Catholic Church that holds the same doctrine since its foundation 2,000 years ago.
April 25, 2010
Ask the Priest
Q. If you are unintentionally late for daily Mass and it has already begun, are you permitted to stay and receive Holy Communion? –Anonymous
A. For a weekday Mass it is all right to receive Holy Communion if you were late for Mass. However, for a Sunday Mass, if you missed the Gospel reading you normally would need to wait for the next Mass to receive Holy Communion because you would not have fulfilled your Sunday obligation. But if you were unintentionally late and missed the Gospel on a Sunday due to unforeseen situations such as a family emergency, traveling, unexpected traffic, etc. you can still receive Holy Communion.
Q. How does it feel to be a priest? Does it feel scary or fun being in front of lots of people every Sunday? --Carina. How do you remember what to say when you are doing Mass? –Anonymous
A. How I feel as a priest is like what Tony Tiger says in his Frosted Flakes commercial, “It’s G-R-E-A-T!” The large Sunday crowd doesn’t bother me at all. I actually like it when the church is totally filled with God’s people. Surprisingly, when I was young I had a difficult time talking in front of people especially in class. As far as remembering what to say during Mass, the prayers are easy because they are all in a big prayer book called the Sacramentary. Before I preach the homily, I pray to Jesus and ask him what he wants me to tell the people. Then I practice telling Jesus in my mind what I’m going to say and that helps me what to say in church. Since I already practiced with Jesus, you will notice that I don’t have to look at my paper as much when I preach.
Q. Why do we have to go to Mass? –Nathan Stewart
A. The most important reason is because it is one of God’s 10 commandments: “Remember to keep the Sabbath (Lord’s Day) holy.” God says he gave us 6 days to do whatever we need to do but on the Lord’s Day (Sunday) we should dedicate our time to be with him (in church) and to take some time to rest. It is also at Mass where we receive Jesus in the Eucharist which is a very important part of our salvation. People who like going to church are the ones that are very serious about going to heaven. And they are the ones who will enjoy all the happiness with God, the angels, and the saints. On the other hand, adults who don’t take their faith seriously and don’t like going to church regularly (or at all) are placing themselves in serious danger of never making it to heaven.
Q. When you die and have sins you haven’t confessed, will you still go to heaven? –Anonymous
A. Only if you intentionally did not confess a mortal sin that you are aware of. But if you honestly forgot certain mortal sins to confess God will still forgive you of all your sins. It is only when we deliberately skip mentioning a mortal sin that makes our confession totally invalid. I can still picture the catechism image that was in my St. Joseph’s Baltimore Catechism during my younger days that showed a boy who had 3 mortal sins to confessed but only purposely confessed 2 sins because he was ashamed to mentioned the 3rd. He came out of the confession not with 1 sin on his soul but with 4 for making a dishonest and bad confession. Remember that a good confession completely takes out all our sins (even the ones we’ve forgotten) and never have to worry about them again.
May 2, 2010
Ask the Priest
Q. Who is God? –LisaMei Crawford
A. Our God is the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit. Jesus revealed God to us as three persons in one God.
Q. Once we die and go to hell, can we still go to heaven? Can we show that we believe and know that Jesus is our savior? –N. C. S.
A. Those who are in hell will be there for all eternity and will never be in heaven. We determine our own eternal destiny by the way we live our lives here on earth. Those who have died and ended up in hell are those who disregarded God’s ways here on earth. God does not force anyone to go to heaven. The state of our soul at the time of our death is the eternal choice we have made.
Q. If those people who end up in purgatory do not get enough prayers, would they end up in hell? –Anonymous
A. Not at all. Everyone in purgatory will all end up in heaven once their souls have completed their purification from imperfection. It is up to God when the souls are released from purgatory. Masses and prayers help lessen and/or shorten their time in purgatory. That is the only reason why we pray for the dead. Those who are in heaven don’t need our prayers. On the other hand, our prayers cannot help those who are in hell.
Q. If Jesus told Peter, James, and John not to tell anyone else about the Transfiguration, how do we know about it? –Anonymous
A. Theologians teach us they were likely told to keep the Transfiguration vision a secret only until after the crucifixion of Jesus. That’s how the others learned about it later.
Q. When the host is lifted and the bells are rung 3 times, what should we be doing? Should we bow our heads or say a specific prayer? –Anonymous
A. We should certainly be saying a prayer. Traditionally, Catholics would silently say, “My Lord and my God,” to adore and acknowledge the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. But we can also say our own simple prayer such as, “Jesus, I love you”. Aside from kneeling, the church does not specifically mention any other particular gesture and there is nothing wrong with looking directly at the Eucharist during the elevation. We do the same thing during the Eucharistic Adoration.
Q. Why do you kneel straight up and not put your “bottom” on where you sit? –Shea
A. It’s okay to kneel with your “bottom” on where you’re sitting if you’re having trouble kneeling or if you get tired. For some people, they have no problem kneeling and that’s why they are doing it straight up (bottomless kneeling?).
Q. Which restaurants in the area have the best clergy discounts? –“Guess who? And thank you, Father, for spending time with us!”
A. The owners of Magnolia’s, Tuscarora Mill, and Fireworks Pizza have treated me to eat dinner with them for free on a few occasions and that’s about as good a discount one could get. Once I took a priest to Magnolia’s for dinner and when I asked for the check I was pleasantly surprised that an anonymous donor, most likely a parishioner, had already paid for our meal! Thank you so much, whoever you are. [With discounts like this I’ll probably save enough money for a Blueray DVD player in time for the summer flicks!]
May 9, 2010
Q. Why is ‘green’ the color for Ordinary Time? –Anonymous
A. Green represents life in the world as we see the green leaves and the green grass as a sign of life. When we are not celebrating a special season namely, Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter, the green reminds us that God is the source of our daily life.
Q. What happens if you don’t go to confession once a year? –Eva McIntyre
A. We commit the sin of neglecting to receive the sacrament of Penance if we don’t go at least once a year. The church requires that we receive the sacraments regularly for it is Our Lord himself who said, “If you do not repent, you will all perish!” (Luke 13:3) (Luke 13:3). Even if we don’t have a serious sin to confess we still need to go at least once a year. But we should go more often than that. And if we have committed a serious (mortal) sin we need confession right away before we can receive Holy Communion.
Q. Where do the Palm Sunday palms come from? –Hannah O’Neill, age 7
A. From palm trees! Different companies sell them to churches for Palm Sunday. They usually come from warm states like Florida or California where they normally grow.
Q. Does your ‘Lent promise’ count on Sunday? –Hannah Shouse
A. It is optional to relax your Lenten promise on Sundays. But some people, like me, maintain the promise throughout the entire Lenten season. It is also a common misconception to think that Sundays during Lent are not part of Lent. Why do you think we call them First Sunday of Lent, 5th Sunday of Lent, etc.?
Q. Why do people wear black at Christmas time or on other happy times? –Oliver
A. Black is not exclusively used for mourning a deceased person. It is also the common formal wear for happy events such as a wedding, prom, graduation, awards ceremonies of various kinds, etc. Our altar servers also wear a black cassocks for Mass and serve mostly on happy feasts like Sunday Mass. By the way, I wear all-black everyday and I’m quite happy almost every single day of the year! I honestly cannot remember the last time I felt bored. It’s been years!
Q. Why aren’t there girl altar servers in our parish? –Kirsten Engel, 9 years old
A. This question has been answered in great detail in the August 16, 2009 bulletin. Kindly read both my Shepherd’s Notes and Ask the Priest columns online in our parish website for the response. [But we are in the process of formulating an all-female sacristan program that Father Kelly originally envisioned to have the girls participate in the important role of assisting the priest for the Mass. The duty entails knowing the fine details of setting everything up for the celebration of the Mass. Adults normally handle this job but I had great success with young adults doing this at my campus ministry. I believe that with proper training our kids can handle this without a problem. Stay tuned!]
Q. Is Jesus really in the tabernacle? –Melissa
A. Yes, Jesus is truly present in the tabernacle through the sacrament of the Eucharist. We receive many graces and blessings when we pray before Jesus in the tabernacle.
May 16, 2010
Q. I am interested in lighting a candle for someone but am not familiar with the tradition. –Anonymous
A. In the Oratory of our parish there are candles available for you to light. A suggested donation of $3 is asked to cover the cost of the candle. The tradition of lighting a votive candle goes back to the early Christians lighting a candle at the tomb of the martyrs as a sign of their solidarity with those who are now with God in heaven. It is also seen as a sign of one’s extension of praying long after one has left the sacred area. For more details you can log on to the following site that addresses Catholic votive candles: http://acatholiclife.blogspot.com/2006/03/why-do-catholics-light-prayer-candles.html
Q. How many years does the pope’s term last? Why do priests have to wear black, don’t they get hot in the summer? –Morgan Hannon, age 10
A. The pope serves his term for life. A papal election is usually held about 15-20 days after the death of a pope. Priests wear black as a sign of living as if already ‘dead to the world’ and living solely in the service of God and his people. It is a reminder for the priests not to get too involved with worldly affairs and attachments that would keep them from performing their priestly duties. Yes, it does get hot wearing black in the summer. [Since we’re already ‘dead to the world’, I guess we shouldn’t worry about getting too hot if we’re already supposed to be ‘dead’, right?!] On very very hot days we have the option of wearing a white clerical (priest’s) shirt and I do have a few of them for my summer vacation attire.
Q. Who decides to bring up the gifts during Mass? –Anonymous
A. It is usually the usher or the Mass coordinator who asks for volunteers to bring up the gifts. But any family who requests may volunteer for the job as long as no one has been asked yet. Just ask the usher who is usually in the narthex if you’re interested.
Q. When is the church open? Can we come and sit in the church at any time? –Anonymous
A. Feel free to come and pray before Jesus in church at any time. We make sure that the church is open long before you wake up and long after you have already gone to bed!
Q. Why did Peter and the disciples say to the Sanhedrin that Jesus was hanged from a tree when we know he was crucified on a cross? --Anonymous
A. Crosses were made of wood that come from trees. It was just a figure of speech that the term tree was used instead of the cross.
Q. Why is there a need to have different color robes for different times of the year? –Kelsey Blake
A. The priest’s ‘robes’ match the color of the liturgical season or feast of the day. That’s why we need to wear different color vestments.
May 23, 2010
Q. How do I respond to my 5-year old when he asks, “When did God create the dinosaurs and why?” –K. Price
A. According to the Bible in Genesis 1:23-31, God would have created the dinosaurs sometime between the 5th and 6th day of creation when the land animals were created. As I recall from my early childhood science classes, the dinosaurs preceded the existence of humans. By the way, The Flintstones cartoons were great shows but historically inaccurate since the dinosaurs were supposed to be long dead by the time Fred, Barney, Pebbles, Bam Bam, and the Geico cavemen ‘walked’ the face of the earth. And the biblical days of creation were not necessarily literal 24-hour days because this could simply have meant to indicate a ‘segment’ of time of creation. God probably made the dinosaurs as a sign of his greatness of what he could create. Aren’t we all fascinated by the study of dinosaurs even though they have long been extinct?
Q. How is the pope chosen to be the pope? –Anonymous
A. After the death of the pope, the cardinals meet at the Vatican and votes for the next pope among the cardinals present who are under 80-years old.
Q. When the sign of peace is omitted [by the priest], is it wrong for the congregation to just do it anyway? --Anonymous
A. Yes, it is absolutely wrong. It disrupts the congregation and the proper flow of the Mass. Some people are not aware that it is a sin to deliberately disrupt the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Not calling for the sign of peace is actually the norm for the Mass and it is totally optional to call for it. I recommend that everyone read Barbara Curtis’ nice article, ‘Peace at any cost?’, in our May 2, 2010 bulletin (online) found in her Faithful Families column.
Q. Why can’t women become priests? – Anonymous person, Caitlin Blake
A. The response is lengthy so please read the answer in my Shepherd’s Notes column this week. Thanks!
Q. Why does the priest sometimes shake the incense? –Julia Friedl
A. To make the smoke rise up. The perfumed smoke of the incense represents the prayers of the people rising up towards God.
May 30, 2010
Q. Do you look the same in heaven as you do when you die? –Kayleigh Grady, age 7
A. We will look almost the same but better! As I had written before, if we die very old we will look young again with a perfect body as a result of our resurrection.
Q. Did Adam and Eve have a belly button? –Anonymous
A. Since they didn’t have a mother and an umbilical cord to connect to, they most likely did not have a belly button.
Q. How long does the Eucharist stay in your body after you receive it? –Katie Weems and MaryKate Crawford
A. The Eucharistic presence of Jesus stays with the person until the Eucharistic bread is completely dissolved.
Q. Now that the H1N1 scare is over, will we be reinstating communion with the Precious Blood? –Anonymous
Q. If in confession someone tells the priest someone will be harmed, will the priest be able to tell the police? –Anonymous
A. The situation doesn’t really happen in real life. Criminals never go to confession before they commit the crime. But theoretically, the seal of confession prevents the priest from telling the police what he heard in confession. So those who go to confession should have the confidence that what the priest hears in confession stays in the confessional.
Q. In heaven there is no pain or suffering. How can you not miss your family and friends on earth? How can you not feel any grief? –Anonymous
A. Seeing God face to face in heaven is the greatest happiness one could possibly experience. We’re all going to die someday. So if we were already very happy in heaven we certainly would not want to go back to earth again that is filled with pain and sorrow. Those in heaven don’t really miss us on earth because they are likely very close to us in spirit though we don’t see them. We know this because those in heaven are aware when a sinner comes back to God: “’Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance” (Luke 15:6-7).
Q. What is the status of our parish getting a pastor? Are you interested in becoming the pastor? –Jim W
A. Eventually a pastor will be named for our parish but there is no word yet when this will happen. Yes, I am interested in the job but I’m leaving that decision to the bishop. It’s been adventurous even just being a parish administrator or an ‘interim pastor’. It’s like being an interim coach of a team. You do the best to win every game until a decision on your future coaching is made!
June 13, 2010
Q. That was a great answer about Adam and Eve not having belly buttons. But did God use stitches to sew Adam up when he removed one of his ribs to form Eve? And how many stitches would have been needed? –Stan
A. God would have healed Adam’s side instantly after removing the rib without the need for a needle and thread. In the ministry of Jesus we know that God can instantly cure people with no trace of skin imperfections as he did with the lepers (those suffering from serious skin disease). Also, there was the incident at the Garden of Gethsemane when Peter struck a servant’s ear off with a sword. Jesus restored the man’s ear and was immediately healed (Luke 22:47-51).
Q. Was Jesus born with original sin? –Teresa Willard, age 8
A. No, Jesus did not have original sin, actual sin, nor was he capable of sinning because he is true God and true man. It is not possible for God to choose to sin because he is totally perfect!
Q. Sometimes I see people wearing their Rosary. Is this okay? –Anonymous
A. It would be inappropriate to wear a Rosary if they are wearing it only as jewelry and nothing more. But there are people who wear it around their neck because they really do pray the Rosary and want to inspire others to do the same. For that reason it should be all right.
Q. Father, how can I remain ‘godlike’ when people in my high school are sinning. I know I’m not perfect but I don’t do the stuff they are doing. Please help. –Anonymous
A. First of all, I commend you for living a Christian life as best as you can in a challenging environment especially when you are around other young people who may be compromising their Christian virtues. I’ve known many teens who ran into serious trouble simply because they were trying to fit in or trying to be cool. Young people need to understand that those who actually live a courageous virtuous life are the ones who are respected by their peers even though they may poke fun at them. They may not admit it but it’s true. Some who make the wrong choices in life try to alleviate their guilt-ridden minds of pain by criticizing the good and righteous people and will even try to make them fall into sin [sadly, some adults never grew up and continue to play this same crazy never-ending game of constantly criticizing others who are only trying to do the right thing by following the rules!]. Remember, God sees all your good deeds and efforts. For a quick spiritual strengthening jolt, I recommend that you read The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) especially the line, “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” One more piece of advice: “If you want the crowd to follow you, don’t follow the crowd!”
Q. How long have you been a priest? –Cosette Jones. Is it fun being a priest? –Brianna Enriquez, age 9.
A. I’ve been a priest for 15 years (since May 20, 1995). Oh yes, it is fun being a priest even though it can be very hard work and for long hours at times!
June 20, 2010
Q. How did you take that impressive aerial picture of the parish from last week’s bulletin? –Anonymous
A. I only wish I could take credit for taking that beautiful picture. That was actually taken by our young pilot-parishioner, David Keran. I used the aerial image to show what our parish looks like before we break ground in the near future. David also promised to take more aerial pictures for me once we start building our new parish center so that everyone will get a ‘bird’s eye view’ of the development. I am very much looking forward to that!
Q. Please review the penitential requirements on Fridays during Ordinary Time regarding abstinence from meat and substituting another penance. –Dottie Gessner
A. Church canon law 1250 declares that all Fridays are to be observed as a day of penance: “All Fridays of through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the universal Church.” What a lot of Catholics don’t realize is that abstinence from meat on all Fridays is still in effect and I am not kidding!!! Canon law 1251 reads, “Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities; abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.” Prior to 1966 there was no exception to the Friday meat abstinence except when a solemnity (e.g., Christmas or another Holy Day) fell on a Friday. Since this discipline was revised in 1966 to the present day one may eat meat (specifically, warm-blooded flesh or carne in Latin) only if one substitutes another form of penance or perform an act of charity. This was the recommendation by the U. S. bishops’ conferences. In short, it’s okay now to eat meat on Fridays outside of Lent as long as we choose another form of penance or by doing an act of charity.
Q. What is the church teaching on ‘dreams’, the kind you have when you are sleeping. For a layperson, does God ever give a warning concerning your health in a dream. I had a disturbing dream concerning an upcoming medical treatment. –Anonymous
A. It is possible but highly unlikely that God would still use dreams as a way to communicate a message like he did with the biblical personages such as Joseph the dreamer (the guy with the technicolor dreamcoat, Genesis 37 et al), Jacob (who dreamt of a huge ladder with angels going up and down on it, Genesis 28:10-19) and the Magi and St. Joseph who were warned in a dream about Herod’s evil intent to harm Jesus (Matthew 2). The church agrees with the scientific studies that dreams are irrational thoughts that naturally occur while we’re asleep. What preoccupies our minds a lot and what we think of during the day especially just before falling asleep often influences our minds what our dreams are like. Therefore, we have to presume that our dreams do not contain revelations from God. And all of those who claim to be ‘dream interpreters’ are all phonies whose own dreams are fulfilled from the fees they received from unsuspecting clients!
June 27, 2010
Q. What is the difference between a priest and a monk? –Caitlin Blake
A. To explain this in a simple way, monks live in an enclosed living religious community called a monastery while priests who are ordained to work directly with the bishop are called diocesan priests and live in a parish rectory. Some of the well-known religious orders of monks include the Augustinians, Benedictines, Cistercian, Dominicans, Franciscans, etc. Monks that are not priests and live in a monastery are called ‘brothers.’
Q. Have you ever thought of adding an evening weekday Mass? I think a lot of people who would love to attend daily Mass don’t come just because they can’t get up in time for the 6:30 AM Mass; maybe a 7 PM on Tuesday and Thursday? –Anonymous
A. Our daily Mass schedule was already reduced last January from two Masses to one after our two resident priests went back to their native countries. Priests are canonically allowed to celebrate one Mass a day and with the bishop’s permission three Masses on a Sunday. Exceptions are permitted if there is a funeral or a wedding when a priest will need to celebrate another Mass. As most parishioners are not aware, the priests are often working on weekday evenings with various meetings including marriage prep, spiritual direction, counseling, parish finance, etc. It is not unusual that some of our meetings last past 9 PM. It is not unusual that I don’t usually get to answer parish emails well after my last evening meeting. So at the present time there is no possibility of adding an evening weekday Mass so please make an effort to join us at the early morning Mass.
Q. Pray for me, my name is John and I’m too young to go to confession. I’m sorry for my sins. –John
A. God bless you, John, for praying to be forgiven of sins. Although you are still too young to go to confession I’m quite sure that God is happy that you feel bad about your sins. You can be sure that each time you pray and ask God directly for forgiveness he is always forgiving you. You will be in my prayers especially this week and I know that you will have a great experience with confession once you’re old enough to go.
Q. How does one become a bishop? –Anonymous
A. First the pope appoints a priest to become a bishop. The priest becomes a bishop once he is ordained a bishop either by the pope or another bishop.
Q. Why do we never pray for nuns and brothers when we pray for the religious during the prayers of the faithful? –Anonymous
A. Actually, nuns and brothers are prayed for when we pray for both the religious and the consecrated life. We just don’t specifically use the terms nuns and brothers.
Q. What do priest do when they are retired? –Anonymous
A. Most priests continue to help out in parishes if their health still permits it. Some continue to live in rectories, others in a retirement home, a few find relatives to live with and even far fewer have their own retirement home who were fortunate enough to inherit one from somebody. The adventurous ones offer Mass on cruise ships in exchange for a free ride. (And why not, the Catholic cruisers need to go to Mass too!)
July 4, 2010
Q. We know that Jesus Christ was like us in every way except sin. Does that mean while on earth he did not experience illnesses like the common cold, flu, bumps and bruises (not including the Passion)? –“Curious Catechist”
A. Original sin brought into the world sickness and natural death. Since Jesus did not have original sin the natural state of his body would not have been subject to the effects of it. What we know for sure is that his body would have been in a perfect natural state incapable of producing its own defective effects. Every molecule in the body of Jesus would have checked out in a doctor’s office as 100% healthy. What we don’t know for sure is whether his perfectly healthy could catch diseases from others whose bodies are imperfect and unhealthy. Scripture never mentioned once about Jesus getting sick at all but there were times when he was thirsty, hungry and physically weary. He would not have been immuned to bumps and bruises since Jesus did not have the ‘superman’ type of a glorified body until after the resurrection. We learned that from studying the Paschal Mystery, the suffering, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.
Q. Have you ever had a vision of God or heaven? –Cosette Jones
A. It would be safe to say that I have not. In a way, I do see Jesus everyday because I celebrate Mass everyday and the Eucharist is the real presence of Jesus as true God and true man. But it’s not an actual vision of God because the true image of God remains hidden under the appearances of bread and wine. Once when I was sophomore in high school (1980) I woke up very early in the morning and saw a beautiful image of Our Blessed Mother as Our Lady of Mount Carmel. She had a Rosary in one hand and a Brown Scapular on the other and inviting me to follow her towards heaven. Whether I was seeing an actual vision or was still dreaming I will never know for sure. All I know is that my spiritual life and prayer life took off to a new different level from that moment on and I never looked back. Within a year after that experience my childhood desire to become a priest came roaring back and I am now going on my 16th year as a priest!
Q. Why didn’t the body of St. Cecilia decay when she died? –Anna Grady, age 5
A. There are several saints over the years whose body did not decay right away (like St. Cecilia) or at all. There is a great book titled The Incorruptibles by Joan Carroll Cruz published by TAN Books that documented 102 bodies of saints that underwent either a partial or complete incorruptibility. Perhaps the reason why God preserved the remains of certain saints was to remind us here on earth that God’s holy people are very much alive and enjoying eternal life in heaven. The discovery of the freshness of their bodies is also a sign that eventually they will be resurrected back to life when the Lord returns. The best-preserved bodies look like they just died only hours ago such as the visionary from Lourdes, St. Bernadette Soubirous (1879) and the one who was originally given the Miraculous Medal, St. Catherine Laboure (1876). I have seen the incorrupt body of Blessed Anna Maria Taigi (1837) when I was in Rome. Her body has preserved very well and I felt like I was still attending her funeral wake each time I visited her glass-enclosed body at the Basilica of San Crisogono. Guess who else made the list of incorruptible saints? Our very own St. Francis de Sales (1622) in chapter 79!
July 11, 2010
Q. When did Jesus receive his powers, as a boy or as a man? –Anonymous
A. Jesus always had his divine powers but scripture did not mention about exercising them until his first public miracle at Cana (John 2).
Q. If you were on your way to confession but died just before you get there will you still go to heaven? –Julia F.
A. Yes. If the person was determined to make a good confession but died on the way was already sorry for his or her sins. God would see that as a form of an act of contrition.
Q. Did you know Pope John Paul II? –Anonymous
A. Personally, I did not. I only know him from studying his teachings. When I was a seminarian in Rome (1989-91) I met him informally through papal Masses and various general audiences. I was given a Vatican pass to sing with the Coro Guida choir at the papal Masses so for 2 years I got to attend the Mass directly behind the altar and the pope. Once I got to serve as a candle bearer at his Good Friday service at St. Peter’s.
Q. Where did satan’s (Lucifer) light go after his light went out (after his fall)? –Patrick O’Neill
A. The light of satan was probably not a physical light but representative of a light shining signifying when he was in the state of grace. When he fell into the sin of disobedience he lost his light of grace and became the prince of darkness representing that he had chosen evil over good for all eternity.
Q. If God knows that we don’t know what we’re doing when we don’t choose him, why does he let the consequences happen anyway? –Anonymous
A. Most likely to teach and guide the wayward souls back to the right path. It is like criminals who want nothing to do with the laws of society. Whether they like it or not they will face the consequences of their wrongdoings. It is the hope of society that those who are caught will right their wrongs by doing time in jail, through community service, fines or a combination of all three. God wants everyone to be saved but sometimes he needs to send a stronger message to get others to turn around from their sinful ways.
Q. Who invented hell, the devil or God? –Curious Catholic
A. You could say the devil made hell because it was not God’s desire to have it. Since satan and the other rebellious angels refused to be with God in heaven and wanted their own kingdom hell became a necessity for them. God planned heaven to be a place of happiness filled with love, kindness, truth and beauty. Obviously, the devil wanted everything the opposite of what God wanted so that’s how hell came to be. Pope John Paul stated that hell is more of a state than a place. The state of punishment in hell would include the absence of happiness, love, kindness, truth, and beauty. The reality is people who have refused to seriously follow God in their lives and died in the state of mortal sin will spend eternity with devil. Our Lord tells us that in the final judgment this is what they expect to hear, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’” (Matthew 25:41).
July 18, 2010
Q. Please help me with this question. Why are Catholic priests called ‘Fathers’? When I talk to a friend and refer to you as ‘Father Escalante’ she immediately becomes defensive and recites the Bible verse from Matthew 23:9, “And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” –Tim
A. In Matthew chapter 23 Jesus was merely explaining that no one should be placed in the same authority as his heavenly Father. Jesus took the occasion to criticize wayward scribes and Pharisees who have placed themselves above the law by preaching but not observing the laws of God. Some misinterpret this passage as a literal absolute prohibition of calling anyone on earth as father. If this were true, then how are we supposed to observe God’s commandment to “Honor your father and your mother?” if we’re not supposed to call anyone our father except God? Because we’re humans we will always have a biological human father here on earth. Ask your friend what she puts down when she’s filling up a form that asks for a Father’s name: on it. Don’t we also have grandfathers and oftentimes godfathers as well? We just had a 4th of July celebration and numerous times we heard the term Our Founding Fathers. Is this a violation of Christ’s teaching? How about when we refer to Thomas Edison as the father of many inventions, Abner Doubleday as the father of baseball, Henry Ford as the father of modern assembly lines, etc.? Ask your friend is she ever sings the favorite Christian song, ‘Father Abraham.’ The Bible sees nothing wrong calling true spiritual leaders as father. Have your friend read about St. Paul (who held the rank equivalent to a bishop today) who declared himself as a spiritual father to the Christians: “I am writing you this not to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, yet you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (1 Corinthians 4:15). Catholic priests are true spiritual descendants of the apostles who were made spiritual fathers by Jesus. Priests are addressed as ‘Father’ because they are true spiritual fathers to God’s children.
Q. Is it a mortal sin to take the Eucharist if you have missed Mass? –Anonymous
A. Yes. Catholics who deliberately missed Mass when they could have gone commit a mortal sin and may not receive the Eucharist until after they have gone to confession. St. Paul was very specific about this during the early days of the celebration of the Eucharist, “Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Corinthians 11:27-29).
Q. Why don’t priests give alternative prayers for penance after confession? –Anonymous
A. The penance you receive is the minimum that you’re supposed to do. The penitent is always encouraged to do more. If you feel that the penance you received was insufficient you can always pray the Rosary as an extra penance.
July 25, 2010
Q. When Jesus miraculously fed the people in the Gospel, did he make the bread white, wheat or rye? –Tommy
A. Most likely it was wheat. According to the history of bread making, neither processed white flour nor rye bread was available during the time of Jesus.
Q. Do you ever get hungry during Mass? –Eva McIntyre
A. Sometimes but not very often.
Q. What happens to you if you are in purgatory when it ends? –Paul R.
A. You’ll be in heaven immediately!
Q. Are we allowed to kneel to receive communion? –Anonymous
A. Yes, most definitely.
Q. Will Protestants go to purgatory when they die? –Julia F.
A. Anyone who dies in the state of grace but not perfect enough to be admitted into heaven will need to spend time in purgatory. These include Catholics, Protestants, non-baptized, etc. Catholics who die are likely to have Masses and prayers said for them after they die so they have a better chance of getting ‘spiritual relief’ from their state of purgation. Those who don’t have anyone praying for them because their family and friends don’t believe in purgatory may be there longer and will have to rely on the prayers of the Catholic Church who constantly prays for the dead.
Q. Did Jesus create the ‘Our Father’? –Anonymous
A. Yes, Jesus composed the Lord’s Prayer which is also called the Our Father (see Matthew 6:9-14 and Luke 11:1-4).
Q. What is your best priesthood memory? –Anonymous
A. The celebration of my First Mass on Sunday, May 21, 1995 at Saint Leo Catholic Church in Fairfax, VA. I had been practicing almost daily for a whole year saying the Mass and I was very excited to be the main celebrant for the very first time. I cried during the consecration. The thought of the greatest miracle in the world happening right before my very eyes really got me. To hold the bread and wine that became the body and blood of Jesus Christ was quite an overwhelming experience that I will never forget!
Q. How many priests are there in the world? –Anonymous
A. About 400,000 Roman Catholic priests out of nearly 1.1 billion Catholics.
Q. Where did the people who died go before Jesus died on the cross (to open the gates of heaven)? –Susan Cahan
A. They were in a place of waiting. The word hell means a lower place in the Bible. We are more familiar with the hell where the devil and the lost souls are. But the other ‘hell’ where Jesus descended to the dead (as in the Apostles/Nicene Creed) was the place of waiting for the good people who died until Jesus came to take them to his kingdom.
August 1, 2010
Q. Since Moses was told by God to remove his sandals because he was on holy ground and in the presence of God, why don’t we have to remove our shoes as we enter the presence of God in our church? –Nick Palmieri, 11 years old
A. When Moses went to Mount Horeb (Genesis chapter 3) to see the burning bush he wasn’t aware of the sacredness of the mountain. To symbolize the sanctity of the place God asked Moses to remove his sandals. In many cultures, especially in Far East nations, this is a tradition of showing respect to a place of honor or worship. Since we already recognize the sacredness of God’s real presence in the church especially in the tabernacle, our new sign of reverence is now by genuflection, kneeling and bowing. It would actually be generally disrespectful to come to Mass in bare feet because this is now recognized as proper attire for the church in most, not all, Catholic Churches. I was visiting a Catholic Church in Antioch, Turkey last year and it was still customary to leave one’s shoes before entering the church. [Nick, as an altar boy I’m sure you’re aware of the server’s dress code: No shirt, No shoes, NO SERVING! So make sure you bring yours to church. :-D].
Q. If you forget you have a mortal sin on your soul and you haven’t gone to reconciliation (confession) but you received Holy Communion, did you just commit another big sin? –Kelsey Blake, age 7
A. No, not if you honestly forgot that you were still in mortal sin. That was a very good question to ask especially since you’re only 7-years old! We can only hope that the older Catholics will ask themselves the same question each time before they go to communion. Perhaps you question will lead many to go back to confession! As Jesus quoted Psalm 8 in Matthew 21:16, “Out of the mouths of babes you have brought forth praise.”
Q. What would happen if you ran out of communion hosts during Mass? Would you use something different? –Susan Cahan
A. I have come very close to totally running out of communion on a few occasions but I have never experienced it. When we see that we’re running out of communion hosts we start breaking them down into small pieces. Jesus is entirely present even in the smallest fragment of the host. Technically, if it ever happens that we completely run out, then some of the people will not get communion at that Mass since there would be no way to get newly consecrated communion hosts until the celebration of the next Mass.
Q. Is it a sin to feel bad for the devil? If it is, should we hate him? –Anonymous
A. It is not a sin to feel bad for what happened to the devil but we certainly should not hate anyone including the devil. True Christians do not hate anyone. It may be hard for us to understand this but God still loves everyone including the devils and the people in hell. God is pure love and can only love. So in imitation of God we should no hate anyone either. We can’t help but dislike (even strongly) certain people but hatred should not be held in our hearts. There is an ancient saying among Christians, “Hate sin but love the sinner.”
August 8, 2010
Q. Does the priest bless the water before it is put in the church? If the holy water washes away our sins then why do we have to go to confession? What would happen if somebody was holding the holy water and accidentally dropped it? –Anonymous
A. Yes, the priest blesses the water before it is placed in the holy water fonts of the church. Holy water does not forgive or wash away our mortal sins and that’s the reason why we still need to go to confession. If someone drops the holy water, that person will likely have wet shoes or wet feet!
Q. Is it wrong to get some holy water from the dispenser and then drink it? –Evangeline Evermore, 16 years old
A. There is no rule against it but it is unnecessary to do that. You don’t get any more graces drinking it as you would just blessing yourself with it.
Q. Why do we have missals only instead of having Bibles in the pews of the church? –Anonymous
A. Missals or missalettes are needed to be able to follow the prayers and scriptural readings for the Mass. Everyone is welcome to bring a Bible to church for personal and devotional reading. I keep one in my pocket everyday and often read it in church. Everyone should own a personal copy of the Bible and I strongly recommend that you get one if you don’t already have it.
Q. Have you ever fallen asleep during Mass? –Anonymous
A. Probably not since I was a very little boy. But I once fell asleep in the confessional at another parish when there was a big gap between people going to confession. A knock from the ‘other side’ woke me up. In appreciation for the good deed, the penitent received only a light penance. We got a good laugh out of it!
Q. Why is there no traditional service offered for those of us who prefer an organ and more traditional Mass? --Anonymous
A. The liturgy we have now is something I inherited from Father Kelly and the previous pastors. They are the only ones who can really answer your question why there has been no “traditional service” as you described offered at the parish. Keep in mind that I am still officially only an ‘interim-pastor’ (parochial administrator). However, it might interest you to know that a couple of months ago I gave the approval for our liturgical department to start using more traditional music (including Greek and Latin, and organ music) for use at the 8:30 AM Sunday Mass starting shortly after Labor Day. It is not easy finding and training members for the schola who can lead the congregation for the type of music that has been absent in our parish for decades. We are still looking for an extra tenor who can help our skeleton crew in formation right now. I had planned on announcing this minor change in the 8:30 AM Sunday Mass later this month in my Shepherd’s Notes column but I happened to randomly pull your question out of the box.
Q. Did Jesus ever go to confession? –Anonymous
A. No. Jesus as God and man was always perfect and loving and therefore never sinned.
August 15, 2010
Q. Is worrying a sin? –Michelle Anderson
A. Worrying in itself is not a sin because it is usually an involuntary emotional reaction that we cannot control. However, the more we love and trust God, the more we can overcome a lot of our worries. Here’s a scripture verse that gives us a great insight on how to overcome fear: “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. In this is love brought to perfection among us that we have confidence on the Day of Judgment because as he is so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love” (1 John 4:16b-18).
Q. Would it be lying to say you’re 10 when you’re really only 9 but your birthday is only a few weeks away? --Anonymous
A. Since you’re almost ten I don’t think you’ll be guilty of lying because you’re only ‘rounding off’ your age unless there is some law that specifically says that you must be at least 10-years old to participate and you weren’t honest about it. A lot of young kids like the feeling of being older so they would give their next age level when asked. A lot of adults also like to round off their age…but usually towards the younger end of the scale!
Q. Why can’t Catholic priests get married? Don’t you miss having a wife? –Anonymous
A. Living a celibate (unmarried life) for Catholic priests in the Latin Rite, aka the Western Church, has evolved as a norm for nearly the last 1,000 years. It is much easier to fulfill the heavy load of daily priestly work when there are no family matters to attend to. I have been asked a number of times by my non-Catholic pastor colleagues just how we as Catholic priests are able to keep up with our super busy schedule. The response is always the same. It is by the grace of God and by living a spiritually dedicated celibate life. If you read the conversation between Peter and Jesus in Matthew 19 you will get an idea of how Jesus envisioned his apostles’ ministry should be like. Here are some of the excerpts from that chapter: “Peter said in reply, ‘We have given up everything and followed you’…. Jesus said to them, ‘And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.’” I don’t really know what it would be like missing a wife because I’ve never had one. But I can tell you that a lot of people in the world don’t realize that most of us priests are very happy being single. In a 2006 survey of priests in the U. S., 88 percent claimed that they were happy living their priesthood. Compare that to a 2005 Census Bureau report that shows practically half of the marriages end up in divorce (3.6 divorces for every 7.5 marriages). For those who think they are doing the priests a favor by pushing for the married priesthood, think again. If nearly 9 out of 10 priests are happy living a single life in the service of the Lord and his people, and less than 5 out of 10 married people say they are happy living their married life, is it wise to introduce marriage in the priesthood now? [I often wonder how many couples can relate to what Rodney Dangerfield once said, “My wife and I were very happy for about 20 years. And then we met and got married!”]
August 22, 2010
Q. Were there dinosaurs in Noah’s ark? –Hannah, age 8
A. Most likely there were not. There were no mentions specifically of dinosaurs in the Bible and definitely none after the great flood. Scientists tell us that dinosaurs existed before the humans and were extinct by the time the humans were in existence. Another possibility, these dinos simply missed getting into Noah’s boat!
Q. Our uncle, a Catholic, recently passed away. We encouraged his family (faith unknown)) to have a Catholic funeral Mass but as far as we know they aren’t even planning a Christian service. Under the circumstances what can we do for the spiritual benefit of our deceased uncle? –Anonymous
A. There is something you can do. Have Masses offered for the repose of your uncle and encourage your other Catholic relatives to do the same. A Mass offering is the best spiritual gift/help you can give to a deceased person. You can arrange this by contacting the parish secretary in the office. Personal prayers for the deceased are also highly recommended.
Q. In today’s Gospel (Wednesday, August 4), why is Jesus so reluctant to help the foreign woman? I thought Jesus wanted to help everyone regardless of race, gender, class, etc.? –Olivia Colville & Lisa Mei Crawford
A. The Gospel reading you are referring to is Matthew 15:21-28. While it appears that Jesus was discriminating against the Canaanite woman, that certainly was not the case. When Jesus said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”, all he meant was to tell everyone that he was sent by the Heavenly Father to bring back God’s chosen people (Jews) who have wandered away from the faith back into the fold. It was not Jesus’ intention to walk around the world and cure everyone or perform miracles simply to impress a crowd regardless of whether they were Jewish or not. He only did that on a limited basis to prove that he really was the Messiah that everyone was waiting for. Due to the large crowd that followed Jesus he had to ignore the many requests for a miracle or cure. Due to the persistence and demonstration of great faith by the Canaanite woman, Jesus granted her requests and exclaimed, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” The woman’s daughter was immediately cured and it taught the rest of us the lesson that Jesus answers the prayers of anyone who prays with faith, humility, confidence and perseverance regardless of our ethnic background.
Q. Was Jesus hung nailed to the cross on his hands or wrists? –J. F.
A. The Shroud of Turin, which was traditionally believed what wrapped the body of Jesus after the crucifixion, seems to indicate that he was nailed to the cross on his wrists.
Q. Does the Eucharist go stale? If it does what do you do with it? –Caitlin Blake, 10
A. The Eucharist can become stale after several days and that’s why we try to consecrate and distribute only the necessary amount of hosts for the communicants at Mass. If they ever go stale, we would need to dissolve the Eucharist in water and drain the contents in a special sink in the sacristy called a sacrarium. This specially built ‘church sink’ drains directly to the ground below the church and not into the sewer or septic system.
August 29, 2010
Q. What is the name of the priest who celebrated Mass at our church on Sunday, June 20th? –Kerry Blake
A. That was Father Joseph Elamparayil. He’s a priest from the Carmelite Order in India. He used to be here at our parish in residence when Father Posey was still the pastor. I’ve known him for about 7 years and he is finishing his studies at Catholic University in the next few months before returning to India.
Q. Why do we need to dress up for church? –Molly M.
A. Because God wants us to dress up appropriately for the most important event in the world—the celebration of the Mass and the Eucharist! See my June 27, 2010 Shepherd’s Notes column online in our website for more details.
Q. How many people are in our parish? –Anonymous
A. Our current parish registration shows a little over 1,800 households. In total we probably have somewhere around 6,000 total parishioners. One day we’ll have a complete cleanup of our registry so that we will have a more accurate number of members who are actually still living in our parish boundaries. Some household members (e.g., grownup children) who have moved away are still listed in our registry. One’s parish is determined by their current permanent address and not by their parents.
Q. Was Jesus born exactly on 0 A.D. or around 6 or 7 A.D? –Julia F.
A. Jesus was born sometime between 6 to 4 B.C. Historical records show that Herod the Great who tried to kill the child Jesus died in 4 B.C. Since it is possible Jesus was around 2-years old at the time of Herod’s death (he ordered the killing of innocent children 2-years and under in Matthew 2:16-18) then Jesus may have been born as early as 6 B.C.
Q. Is it okay if you wanted to marry someone Jewish and they converted to the Catholic Church? –Anonymous
A. Yes. Even if the Jewish person (or any non-Catholic) does not convert you can still get married in the Catholic Church provided that you will continue to freely practice your Catholic faith and make a solemn promise to raise your children Catholic.
September 5, 2010
Q. Why is hell called ‘hell’? –Anonymous
A. It has its roots from the Jewish word sheol which referred to a lower place or a grave where all the people eventually go, whether good or bad, after they die. But there is a distinction between a hell where the dead rested waiting for the Messiah (Jesus) to take them to heaven, and a hell where the wicked who died in sin will remain in punishment forever. Jesus referred to this as Gehenna. Gehenna was a valley outside the walls of Jerusalem and a designated garbage dump where a continuous fire was kept for the city people to dump their trash. Jesus used this analogy to describe the kind of hell where the unrepentant souls will go after they die. Here are some references to Gehenna in the New Testament (Matthew 5:22, 29; 10:28, 18:9, 23:33).
Q. If a baby is born and then dies, will it go to heaven or hell? –Sarah A.
A. Since babies cannot commit any sin, they are most certainly not in hell. Somehow they are with God after they die.
Q. Is there significance to the shape of the pope’s hat? --Anonymous
A. The pope’s hat is called a mitre. Bishops and cardinals wear it as well. It signifies their spiritual authority in the church. The shape is a modification of what an ancient Jewish high priest wore in the old days that resembles today’s round-shaped turban. The pope’s mitre in the past 40 years has pretty much replaced the traditional papal crown known as the tiara.
Q. If you committed a mortal sin and missed going to confession, but you went to Mass and did not receive Jesus at Holy Communion because you have a mortal sin, did you commit another sin? –Anonymous
A. Actually, you did not sin and that would be the right thing to do. It is a very serious sin to go to communion if you have a mortal sin in your soul. We call that a sacrilege. But because you went to Mass you did not add another sin to your soul. If you skipped Sunday Mass because you couldn’t go to communion then you would commit the sin of missing Mass. It is very sad that many Catholics in mortal sin go to communion without first going to confession. Aside from the Sunday Masses, this happens a lot when we have wedding and funeral Masses where there’s a large number of non-churchgoing Catholics who receive communion. A lot of Catholics today brush aside the fact that to miss one Sunday or Holy Day of Obligation Mass without a serious reason is a mortal (serious) sin. To die with even just one unconfessed mortal sin is sufficient for us to forfeit going to heaven. They don’t really realize how seriously wrong this is and how displeasing to Jesus. The Bible speaks strongly about this in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29.
Q. Why do you change the flowers every week? –Ally Widzinski
A. Because they are real flowers and they wilt after a few days. Our parish pays for the flowers and we have volunteer ladies who kindly buy and arrange them every week. And they do a very good job!
September 12, 2010
Q. Will we need to eat food in heaven? –Anna Grady, 5 years old
A. We won’t need to eat food in heaven. The resurrected body that the people in heaven will receive at the end of time will be perfect, immortal and indestructible. It will never experience hunger or need nourishment. (That also means we will never need to go to the bathroom again!)
Q. Do chickens have souls? My dad told me to ask this question because last night (August 21) we had chicken for dinner. We were wondering about the chickens having feelings. –Anonymous
A. According to St. Thomas Aquinas animals and plants do have souls but they are not immortal like humans. That would explain why they have life and are able to grow and reproduce. And for the animals, we also know that they have certain sensations (feelings). Because their souls are not immortal, their souls do not live on forever. Of all God’s creations, he only made the humans to be in his image and likeness. Like God, humans have an immortal existence and the ability to love and exercise free will. Animals have limited knowledge and act according to their preordained (God-given) natural instincts. They don’t need to go to school to learn things like we do. Animals operate on two basic instincts: pain and pleasure. They move away from what is painful and are attracted to what feels good. As humans we also experience pain and pleasure but we also have the unique gift of having a free will. This allows humans to act beyond just natural instincts. We have the power to love and create, or to hate and destroy. Animals don’t have to answer to God for their actions because they don’t have free will like we do. That explains why animals are not brought to the court on a trial for murder, stealing, vandalism, discrimination, social injustice, etc. So don’t worry about eating the chickens and other animals. God placed them here on earth as part of our food chain and (the chickens) to provide us with good eggs!
Q. Why does God love and forgive us after the sins we have done? –Anonymous, 14 years old
A. Because by definition God is love. His love is perfect and forgives the truly repentant every single time. For this reason we should have the confidence to go to confession because we are sacramentally guaranteed forgiveness when we receive the sacrament of reconciliation. It is hard for us to forgive others after they have offended us and that’s probably why it may be difficult for us to understand sometimes how God could forgive us without fail. A good scriptural meditation about God’s mercy and goodness is found in Psalm 103: “Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger, abounding in kindness. God does not always rebuke, nurses no lasting anger, has not dealt with us as our deeds deserve” (Psalm 103:8-10).
Q. How come the Catholic Church is the only religion that has a pope? –Anonymous
A. Because it is the only religion that was founded by Jesus Christ. Jesus established the Catholic Church upon Peter the Apostle and there has been an unbroken of successor-popes since the beginning of Christianity. No other faith can make the same claim. Secular history even recognizes the papacy as the longest unbroken “monarchy” in the world today. The church is the kingdom of Jesus here on earth and it is meant to last forever. That means the Catholic Church will be around for all eternity: “I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld (hell) shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). At the end of time the church won’t need a pope anymore because Jesus himself will be the monarch, the King of Kings!
September 19, 2010
Q. Can I tell the people what penance the priest gave me after confession if they ask? –Anonymous
A. Yes, if you wish. The seal of confession binds only the priest from revealing what he heard in confession. The penitent is free to tell the others what penance they received and what they confessed. But not very many do that.
Q. When Catholic organizations name their schools with secular names, isn’t that like hiding your candle under your chair? –Louis D.
A. Not at all. A Catholic institution is not required by the church to have a Catholic name. Many are named after something unique to the region they are located. Here are some Catholic Universities that bear ‘secular’ names: Georgetown, Villanova, University of Dallas, Loyola University, Seattle University, Fordham University, Creighton University, Boston College, New York Medical College, etc. What matters the most is whether the Catholic institution is providing a good academic formation based on authentic Catholic values.
Q. Did Jesus wear shoes? –Anonymous
A. The Bible mentions that Jesus wore sandals. I don’t recall any mention of Jesus wearing shoes in scripture but that doesn’t necessarily mean he didn’t wear any. Perhaps we’ll never know.
Q. Why does the priest get more than one Eucharist per day? –Sarah Alvarez, 12
A. Because the priest celebrating the Mass repeats the events of the Last Supper where Jesus consecrated bread and wine into his body and blood. The priest takes the place of Jesus at every Mass and needs to do just what Our Lord did at the Last Supper. And that is, consecrate and consume the Holy Eucharist. Lay people may receive communion twice as long as they went to two complete Masses. There is no limit to how many Masses a layperson can attend. But receiving the Eucharist is limited to twice per day. For example, this happens when a person attends a regular Mass in the morning and then perhaps a funeral or a wedding Mass later during the day. Sometimes a person simply happens to be present for two Sunday Masses and decides to receive the Eucharist again.
Q. Why are angels called ‘angels’? –Ellie Creighton
A. The origin of the word comes from the Latin angelus that means messenger. God sends angels on a mission to the people on earth with a special message and that’s how they got the name. We all have individual angels that watch over us and we refer to them as our Guardian Angels. Scripture hints that we receive our angel at least at the time of our birth because Jesus spoke of little children having angels keeping an eye on them: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father” (Matthew 18:10).
September 26, 2010
Q. Why do I always feel uncomfortable with the priest knowing my sins? –A humble sinner
A. Some young people say they are uncomfortable because they are worried that the priest may tell what they have done or perhaps the priest may think of them differently if the knew their sins. Others say it’s just not comfortable telling another person the wrong things they’ve done. The best way to handle this is to remember that it is Jesus himself whom we are confessing to and not the priest. It is also good to remember that a priest may never reveal what was said to him in confession (with so many people going to confession right after another priests would have a hard time remembering what was said even if we tried!). We also need to remember what a blessing it is know that our sins our guaranteed forgiveness knowing that Our Lord is there to give us absolution. There are other faiths that say they prefer to confess to God directly. But do they really know if they have been forgiven? How easy it is to do something sinful and then just go to your private room later and ask God’s forgiveness and everything would be just fine? For important faith matters we certainly don’t go to God directly. We usually go to the priest or a minister. For example, we go to a priest to get baptized and we are assured that our original sin is washed away. Couples don’t just marry before God directly and exchange their vows, they go to a priest or a minister to do that. A bishop administers confirmation. We don’t bury our own dead we call the priest to do that. When someone needs the Anointing of the Sick or the Last Rites we call a priest to do that. So it makes all the sense why Jesus established the sacrament of Penance to heal our souls from sin in a guaranteed way through the ministry of the priesthood. I hope this helps you to feel less comfortable confessing your sins. The reality is priests are happy when people confess their sins because they become a great part in witnessing God’s love of spiritually healing a wounded soul right before their eyes.
Q. How old would God be if he were a person? –Anonymous
A. Well, the 2nd person of the Trinity, Jesus, the Son of God, did take on a human nature. Since historians say that he was born sometime between 4-6 BC that would make Our Lord somewhere between 2014 to 2016 years old if he were still living in the world today!
Q. Do animals go to heaven? I was wondering because another answer you gave said that animals don’t have souls. –Nicole, Age 10
A. Actually, the previous response I gave was taken from St. Thomas Aquinas’ opinion that animals (and any other living thing like plants) do have souls. But their souls are not immortal like human souls and therefore cease to exist when their bodies die. God only mentions in the Bible that humans have immortal souls in the image and likeness of God and would live forever. Since God does not mention anything in scripture about the fate of the souls of the animals the church does not officially have a formal declaration on what happens to them. With that in mind, then there should be nothing wrong if some people believe that someday they hope to see their departed beloved pets again!
October 3, 2010
Q. Why are the Nicene Creed and the Apostles Creed similar? Why do we say one in Mass and not the other? –Eion Schichl, age 7
A. The Apostles Creed contains the summary of the main teachings of our Christian beliefs. It is a collection of 12 articles of faith professed by the 12 apostles. In 325 A.D. the Catholic Church gathered a major council in the city of Nicea (Turkey) and formulated what became known as the Nicene Creed. The creed contains everything in the Apostles Creed but explained a little more on what the 12 articles contain. It also proclaims one’s allegiance or loyalty to the beliefs taught in the Apostles Creed. The church does allow the use of the Apostles Creed instead of the Nicene Creed if there is a good pastoral reason for it. We use the Nicene Creed most often because it has become a part of our Mass for nearly 1,700 years.
Q. Once you are in heaven can God send you back down again? Sarah and Maddie
A. Not to be born as a normal human being again. God sends down certain people like saints and prophets to appear to certain people on earth as we’ve seen in the Bible (e.g., in the Transfiguration Peter, James, and John saw Elijah and Moses with Jesus) and in private revelations (e.g., Mary has appeared to several visionaries such as St. Bernadette of Lourdes and the children of Fatima). Christian doctrine does not support reincarnation at all so in that sense we can never go back to earth once we die and have met our eternal reward in heaven (or eternal loss in hell!).
Q. Can the priest quit working? –Hannah, age 8
A. Most priests are allowed to retire from the active ministry at age 75. This means that he is no longer assigned to work at a parish even though he remains a priest forever. Most priests continue to help out at a parish but in a much more relaxed way. He can take off anytime to go wherever he wants. Many visit other parts of the country or even go out of the country to offer their services to other parishes. I’ve met retired priests who travel a lot as chaplains for pilgrimages. There are several who love to work as chaplains for vacation cruise ships (now that’s what I call an ideal job for a retired priest!). But priests cannot just “quit” their jobs without the bishop’s permission before they are officially retired. It’s against church law to do that. It’s like a marriage vow that couples take. You can’t just quit as one would quit a regular job. Priests and married people make serious commitments for life. The good thing is, nearly all the priests I’ve met love working as a priest and wouldn’t think for a minute about quitting. Some priests consider retiring early because they have serious health problems.
Q. What do you do when you go to confession and then forgot what the priest gave you for your penance? –Sarah Smith, age 8
A. This happens every now and then. No worries. If you already left the confessional then it’s too late to ask the priest what he gave you for penance. The best thing to do is to just pray one each of the Our Father and Hail Mary. God will not hold that against us. The priest in the confessional already granted your absolution from sins before you even say your penance.
October 10, 2010
Q. How can I put Jesus first in my life? –Katie Bashioum, age 10
A. Excellent question especially from a 10-year old! The best way to do this is the moment you wake up in the morning to pray to Our Lord Jesus and ask him what he would want you to do for him that day. It could be as simple as saying something like, “Good morning, Jesus. What would you like me to do today?” Starting the day with a desire to do God’s will is the surest way of putting Jesus first in our lives. Having a desire the follow the commandments of God and the teachings of the church also allows us to place God in the forefront of our lives.
Q. I wish I could be a better Christian but I don’t know how. –Angelena
A. You are well on your way to becoming a better Christian. Since you have a desire to become a good Christian Jesus will show you the way. Read the response above given to Katie as a starting guide on how to become a better follower of Jesus. Learn as much as you can about God through your parents and through your religious education. Say your prayers everyday and ask Our Lord to make you a better Christian.
Q. What should I do with the old copies of the Magnificat (a monthly Mass/prayer guide), religious literatures, and holy cards that come in the mail? There are so many of them! –Joan
A. An appropriate place for discarding religious articles and literature is in an incinerator. A recycling bin would likely be a better choice since they are recycled and put back into good use again. A long time ago I met someone who was collecting old Magnificat copies for used books reading to be distributed later by missionaries by shipping them to foreign lands and to the prison community. Unfortunately, I don’t remember who that person was.
Q. Is it appropriate to chew the host after receiving it or are we supposed to let it dissolve in our mouths? –Jim W.
A. We are not to completely let the communion host dissolve on our tongue because we would not be consuming the Eucharist if we did that. Our Lord was insistent in proclaiming that we must “eat of his flesh and drink of his blood.” We may chew the host briefly just enough so that we will be able to swallow it but in the past it was preferable that one allows the host to dissolve lightly and then swallow it.
Q. What would life be like now if Adam and Even didn’t touch or eat the forbidden fruit? –Anonymous
A. Original sin would not have entered the world and life would be like a natural paradise on earth. There would be no sin, sickness, conflicts, violence, crimes, wars, hunger, aging/corruption of the body, obesity, malnourishment, death (as we know it), etc. Sin, pain, death, and sorrow are all results of original sin. If our first parents had not sinned then we would not have been subject to the effects of original sin. Nevertheless, after sin entered the world Jesus came to redeem us from sin and re-opened the gates of heaven for us. Now we have a chance to be in an even better world than what Adam and Eve experience in the Garden of Eden.
October 17, 2010
Q. Is chewing gum during Mass acceptable? Does it interfere with the hour of abstinence before Holy Communion? –Anonymous
A. It is not right and even disrespectful to chew gum in church. Some people chew gum as a form of freshening their breath. For that reason chewing gum does not appear to violate the one-hour fasting observance. But gum chewing before Mass should be avoided during that hour. And if the gum is swallowed within the hour then obviously one has ‘consumed’ something and therefore should not receive communion. Gum should be disposed properly in a wastebasket before going to Mass (and not stick it under the pew!).
Q. What’s it like in heaven? Is it the ultimate party zone? –Paul R.
A. It sure is! Jesus described heaven as a kingdom. Some classical translation of John 14:2 has Jesus saying, “In my Father’s house there are many mansions.” There are many castles and mansion estates here on earth and they look very beautiful. None of them is anything as beautiful as how heaven looks. If you read chapters 21 and 22 in the book of Revelation (last book of the Bible) you will have an idea just how indescribably beautiful heaven really is. Saint Paul described heaven by quoting Isaiah 64:3, “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Q. If a husband were deported back to his country due to a crime, would he be able to remarry since he is considered a single man? –S. B. L.
A. If his marriage is recognized by the church, he may not remarry. “Till death do us part” means that only death can break the bond of marriage. Committing a crime and getting deported does not break a marriage bond.
Q. Which high school do you support, Valley or Woodgrove? –Anonymous
A. That’s an easy one, both! They are both in our parish boundaries and we have lots of parishioners from both sides so I have to root for both teams equally. When they play each other I remain neutral and visit both sides of the stands.
Q. I’m Colleen and I’m 11 yrs. old, can you pray for my brother Ryan Turlik? He’s a marine and just left for Afghanistan. –Colleen
A. I certainly will! On Sundays and weekday Masses I always keep in mind to pray for all of our military personnel especially for those who are serving overseas in dangerous and violent areas. Everyone in our parish should pray for our soldiers. It is the best way to show our support for them.
October 24, 2010
Q. When we die and go to heaven, do the parents, brothers, sisters, husbands and wives still remain members of our family? –Anonymous
A. Yes. The special relationship families enjoyed on earth will in many ways be retained in heaven just as the unique relationship between Our Blessed Mother and Jesus as Mother and Son is retained in heaven. In heaven we also all become brothers and sisters. But Jesus did make it clear that the marriage bond only lasts until death; which is the reason why widows and widowers are allowed to remarry on earth. If you read Luke 20:27-40 Jesus says that there are no longer marriages in heaven: “…those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels: and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.”
Q. If we die before we get to confession or we go to confession and maybe forget to tell a mortal sin and die, are we going straight to hell? –Anonymous
A. No. God will not hold against us if we have forgotten through no fault of our own. However, if we knowingly and deliberately skipped confessing a mortal sin, the whole confession is no good and we’re not forgiven of any sin regardless of how many other sins were confessed. As the scripture says, “For whoever keeps the whole law, but falls short in one particular, has become guilty in respect to all of it” (James 2:10).
Q. Even though we go to confession and confess our sins, are we going to still talk to God about our sins when we die? –Anonymous
A. Immediately after our death Jesus will tell us whether we will spend eternity in heaven or in hell. Aside from that God will not discuss our sins of the past because his forgiveness is perfect. Here is one nice scripture verse that assures us that God really takes away our sins: “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away” (Acts 3:19).
Q. When we die can we talk and hear each other? Can we speak to all the angels and saints? And talk to God, Jesus, and the Blessed Mother? –Anonymous
A. Yes! Yes! Yes! That’s the best part about being in heaven. Everyone will be able to talk to each other in a language perfectly understandable to everyone.
Q. Were some animals always dangerous or did that happen as a result of the fall? –Anonymous
A. It appears that some animals were always dangerous. For example, the dinosaurs were around before the humans. We know that at least most them were always extremely dangerous and violent creatures. When Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden they seemed to have been protected from the wild animals but not after they were driven out of it. Yes, it is possible that certain animals became more vicious after Adam and Eve fell into sin just as humans also became more prone to anger and violence once sin was introduced into the world.
October 31, 2010
Q. Are all lies mortal sins? –Anonymous
A. No. In order for a sin to be mortal (deadly) it needs to meet all 3 of the following conditions: 1) it is a very serious matter, 2) the person was well aware that it is a serious sin that he/she is committing, and 3) the person did it out of free will. If any of the 3 conditions is missing then the sin is only venial. In scripture we read, “If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly” (1 John 5:16-17).
Q. Are ghosts real? –Angelique Lane
A. Yes! There are real ghosts and there are fake ghosts that are only meant for storytelling. If we’re referring to the souls of the dead who appear to people when God allows them to do that then we can say that ghosts are real. We are merely substituting the word ‘ghost’ for a person’s soul or spirit which we all have. When we die our spirit continues to live forever and will receive a resurrected body at the end of the world. The Bible speaks of many souls of the dead who were seen by the living here on earth. Here are a couple of example passages: 1 Samuel chapter 28 (ghost of Samuel appears), Luke chapter 9 (Moses & Elijah appear at the Transfiguration).
Q. What was Jesus’ last and middle name? –Aidan Klavon
A. Jesus did not have a middle or last name. The use of a last name (surname) did not come about until around the 14th century. Prior to that people were simply identified as the son of…. For example, the brother apostles James and John were called sons of Zebedee when they are identified. Here are some fun Census Bureau stats for you from a 1995 report. In the United States 1,712 last names belong to about 50 percent of the population; 1 percent have the last name of Smith. Compare that to China, the most populated nation in the world, where only 100 last names are shared by 85 percent of their population. The most common names are Wang, Zhang, and Li.
Q. Will God allow a baby to be born in heaven? –Julie Hormes, age 11
A. No. Heaven is a spiritual place and babies are born only in an earthly place. Even Jesus who is from heaven, and the Son of God, had to be born on earth. Had Jesus not been born on earth we wouldn’t have Christmas to celebrate. Now wouldn’t that be sad?
Q. What is a mother’s moral responsibility toward her children in the following scenario: couple is divorced, father moved 1.5 hours away (and wants the kids for a weekend), renounced the Catholic Church and won’t take the kids to Mass. Should the mother refuse to let him have the kids for the weekend knowing they won’t get to Mass? –Anonymous
A. It is unfortunate that the religious practice of your children is being compromised due to the spiritual dilemma you are in. I recommend that you meet with a priest to discuss this matter privately. In many cases divorced couples are required by law to share the kids on weekends and it may not be possible for them to get to Mass every Sunday.
November 7, 2010
Q. What was the first animal ever made by God? --Sucie Jones
A. The Bible does not say at all which animal he created first. It is most likely that God made all the animals at the same time. You might want to research what is known as the Cambrian explosion. I believe this was about a timely appearance around 530 million years ago of a sudden simultaneous appearance of fossils that seem to be from the exact same age. The “father” of the evolution theory, Charles Darwin, also found this scientific discovery a strong argument against his theory. Hmm, now that is very interesting and perhaps some of you in school would like to take on the Cambrian explosion as a science research project!
Q. Was Jesus Jewish or Catholic? –Ally Widzinski
A. He was both! The genealogy of Jesus as recorded in scripture by St. Matthew shows that Jesus was clearly of Jewish heritage (Matthew 1:1-16). When the Jewish priests refused to believe that he was the Messiah or Savior that was foretold in the Jewish Scriptures, Jesus then formed a new church with Peter as the first pope: “I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld (hell) shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The first members of Jesus’ newly found church were also Jewish so they were also Jewish Catholics.
Q. Can you please help me with something? My sister has chosen to become involved with a married man and has done so for the past 3 years. I have tried to convince her that in the kingdom of God this is unacceptable and should not expect blessings to come into her life while she is in this immoral situation. Can you provide me with religious scripture quotes that I could show her? –Anonymous
A. There are several Biblical quotes from God condemning adultery. But it is also important to tell your sister that God will forgive her of her sin completely once she walks away from her sinful lifestyle and make a good confession. First, here are some scriptural verses you can use to show the evil of adultery and immorality: Exodus 20:14, Corinthians 6:9, Galatians 5:16-21, Ephesians 5:5, and Matthew 5:27-28. Pray that she will accept God’s word with an open heart. Let her read about sin being equated with lawlessness and that we belong to the devil when we are living in sin (1 John 3:4-10). Second, remind her of the good news that Jesus assures us that there is no sin that God will not forgive even if it is adultery. Jesus saved a woman caught in adultery from being stoned to death as related in John 8:1-11. Once the woman was safe Jesus gave her the exhortation, “From now on do not sin anymore.” Finally, you might suggest that your sister reflect on the following words from the apostle John, “If we say, ‘We are without sin,’ we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess 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 a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10).
November 14, 2010
Q. Is it a sin to smoke cigars? –Anonymous
A. In general, it is not. However, it is a sin for those who are forbidden to smoke, for example, minors and those who are forbidden by their doctors for serious health reasons. Those who can legally smoke but do so in a forbidden area do commit the sin of disobedience (e.g., those who light up in flammable areas!)
Q. When we die, Jesus decides whether we go to heaven or hell. I understand that. What I don’t understand is purgatory. Who goes there and how long do they stay? –Anonymous
A. Most good people who love God and died in the state of sanctifying grace (those who are not in the state of mortal sin) are likely not perfect and pure enough to enter God’s kingdom. No one can enter heaven with any kind imperfection. But out of God’s love and mercy these souls enter a state of purgation or purification before they enter heaven. Only God knows how long they remain in a state of purification in purgatory.
Q. I understand we aren’t married once we die but are we still considered family with our husband and wife (to each other)? –Anonymous. Where in the bible does it say that marriage ends with death? –A wife
A. I hope you both were able to catch my homily last Sunday (32nd Sunday – Year C) when I addressed this in great detail. The Gospel reading for that day had the best response to your questions. Please read the following passages in the New Testament: Luke 20:27-38.
Q. Father, I have a friend who is Catholic and getting married for the first time in the Catholic Church. He is divorced but needs to know if he has to have his marriage annulled. Both he and his fiancé are practicing Catholics. –Lucie K.
A. Yes, he needs to have an annulment granted first before he can marry his fiance in the Catholic Church. The church respects previous marriages as valid and permanent until proven otherwise. Thus, the need for an annulment decree is required before a new marriage can be arranged. They will need to discuss their situation before a priest and it would be best that they do it soon because formal annulment cases may take some time to process.
Q. If you get accused of something that is a mortal sin, and you did not do it, but your parents don’t want you to go to receive communion, are you still allowed to go to communion? –Anonymous
A. The best way to settle this is for you and at least one of your parents discuss the matter with a priest. He can determine whether you’re in mortal sin or not. If your parents feel strongly against you going to communion it is always best to follow their counsel. But you have the right to challenge their judgment if you believe that you did not commit a mortal sin at all. It is very serious to be deprived of receiving Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. Show this bulletin column to your parents as soon as possible. This way your case will be resolved quickly and you’ll be back to receiving communion again.
November 21, 2010
Q. How come the cross in the church above the tabernacle shows the nail nailed into Jesus’ wrists and not his hands like it says in the Bible? –Andrew Donofrio
A. The Bible does not specifically say Jesus was nailed through his hands but when he appeared to Thomas after the resurrection he invited him to see the nail marks in his hands, feet and side (John 20:25). The Shroud of Turin which tradition says wrapped the body of Jesus after the crucifixion indicate that square nails went through Our Lord’s wrists. The Greek word used in John’s gospel referenced above could actually be interpreted both for hand or arm area in general which would allow an artist to interpret the placing of the nails either through the hands or wrists. An interesting National Geographic TV show about 5 years ago titled Quest for Truth: The Crucifixion demonstrated that nailing and hanging a person through the palms was possible.
Q. I have a friend who does not believe in God. He says, “How can God let all these bad things happen?” What should I tell him? –Anonymous
A. It is the bad exercise of one’s free will gift from God that causes bad things to happen. Freedom would not be possible unless individual persons have the ability to choose their course of action. It wouldn’t be possible for one to love unless one could choose not to love. Perhaps you could ask him to reflect on this. If he believes the world has bad things happening, and there is a God, what would the world be like if there is no God?
Q. When Jesus said forgive others 7 times 77 times. Does that mean we should not punish anyone and just forgive? –Anonymous
A. You are referring to Matthew 18:21-22. What Jesus meant by that was we should always be forgiving in the heart for those who offend us. This does not mean that some offenders should not be punished (e.g., criminals). St. Paul writes to Bishop Timothy of Ephesus, “Do not accept an accusation against presbyter unless it is supported by two or three witnesses. Reprimand publicly those who do sin, so that the rest also will be afraid” (1 Tim. 5:19-20). The Bible clearly speaks of correction for even young offenders as in Proverbs 29:15 (see also Prov. 22:15, 23:13-14), “The rod of correction gives wisdom, but a boy left to his whims disgraces his mother.” [Important note: While Old Testament scripture supports some appropriate corporal punishment, it has never condoned physical child abuse in any way.]
Q. Is it a sin not to receive communion? I don’t always go because I didn’t make it to confession. –Anonymous
A. It would be a sin each time we don’t go to Mass when we could have but it is not necessarily sinful if we don’t go to communion. Some people may have eaten something less than an hour before communion and therefore are unable to receive the Eucharist. For some who have a mortal (serious) sin in their soul and have not had a chance to go to confession, they still have to go to Mass but it would be another mortal sin in their soul if they went to communion. In that sense, the right thing to do is abstain from communion. But if one has committed only venial (light) sins, it is all right to receive the communion. The Eucharist actually removes some or all of our venial sins.
November 28, 2010
Q. What do you do if you spill the holy water? –Maureen Skrobialowski
A. We don’t really do anything. I guess the floor just gets wet—and blessed!
Q. What would have happened if Cain never got jealous and didn’t kill Abel? –Anonymous
A. Cain would be considered a biblical hero and not a villain.
Q. Isaac is referred to as ‘begotten’ as is Jesus. What does that mean? The (Nicene) Creed says, “begotten, not made”, is it a contrast or a supporting description? –Anonymous
A. “To beget,” means to father a child. The Nicene Creed that we profess at Mass states that Jesus was “eternally begotten of the Father” and “not made.” This simply means that Jesus was truly the Son of the heavenly Father. Jesus has eternal existence (no beginning, no end) but was not made or created by God the Father. Though we do not understand this concept, Jesus was truly ‘fathered’ or begotten by God the Father in heaven. Someday we’ll understand this divine mystery much better in the next life so let’s make sure we do our part to get to heaven.
Q. Before God created us, was he bored? –“The Lynx”
A. God was always happy and was not bored when he created us. We were created because he wanted to share eternal happiness with creatures. God never needed anyone, angels or humans, in order to be perfectly happy.
Q. How can God speak to you? –Marissa, age 6
A. God speaks to us in a silent mysterious voice. It’s like a thought speaking directly in our head. We can hear God’s silent voice better when we spend time thinking about God in a silent place. Try and it sometime…it works!
Q. Father, my friend asked me why we go to Mass? –Matthew
A. It is because we owe God love and respect. We can best fulfill this by following God’s commandment to go to church, God’s house on earth. The Bible tells us to “keep the Lord’s Day holy in Exodus 20:8-11. In the Old Testament era the Sabbath was on a Saturday. The new Sabbath of the New Testament is celebrated on a Sunday. The most important events in our Christian history happened on a Sunday, namely, Easter and Pentecost.
Q. Can you eat something before Mass? –Anonymous 10-year old
A. You can eat something up until 1 hour before receiving Holy Communion. We call this the Eucharistic fast. If you ate something less than an hour before communion you have to skip going communion. You can make a spiritual communion instead by asking Jesus to come to you spiritually. Water and medicine do not break the fast and may be taken at any time.
December 5, 2010
Q. Is it okay if you make a Christmas tree with Jewish stuff on it? –Kevin Matthew Anderson
A. Yes, as long as the Christmas tree contains both Jewish and Christian symbols. Christians accept both the Old Testament and New Testament teachings of the Bible.
Q. If you’re a Catholic in the army and you’re unable to go to church, does God count it against you? Is it a sin? –Abby L.
A. No, it’s not a sin to miss Mass because your duty prevents you from going to Mass as is the case with many in the military. A Catholic chaplain is not always available to offer Mass regularly for all the military personnel. But when it is possible they are required to go to Mass just as any Catholic would on a Sunday. However, the soldiers can still make Sunday a holy day wherever they may be by saying extra prayers on that day (for example, by praying the Rosary, etc.) or by reading and meditating on the Bible.
Q. Has God ever made a mistake? And is there a real ‘grim reaper’? –Anonymous
A. God has never made a single mistake and he never will because he is all-perfect. And yes, one could say that there really is a ‘grim reaper.’ Around the 15th century the concept of death was inescapable and was personified by the image of a grim reaper. This figure depicted a walking skeleton carrying a farmer’s tool called a scythe that was used to cut down grass or grain for the harvest. You might be interested in reading in the Bible chapter 6 of Revelation where the inspiration of this image comes from. Towards the end of the world it mentions 4 horses with different colors (white, red, black and pale green) with a distinct rider on each one. The rider on the pale green horse was described as ‘Death’ and was given the power to “kill with sword, famine, and plague, and by means of the beasts of the earth” (Rev. 6:8).
Q. How would heaven become a better place if the world would end? –Ethan Chisolm
A. The term ‘end of the world’ is not really accurate because the world will not end. The world as we know it now will end but the world at the end of time will be made far better when God renews it. When the end of time happens the world will be in some mysterious way recreated by God that will no longer undergo the kind of problems it is having now. For example, all pollution and anything destructive (wars, natural disasters, diseases, etc.) will disappear and the earth will become a perfect place of paradise as God envisioned it. Heaven will become better because there will no longer be a conflict between heaven and earth. Scripture also says that even heaven will become even better than what it is now. I highly recommend that you read chapters 21 and 22 of Revelation for Saint John the Apostle’s best attempt to describe the vision he received regarding the beauty of the New Heaven and the New Earth.
December 12, 2010
Q. Do angels have a gender? –Anonymous
A. No. They are pure spirits and are neither male nor female.
Q. As a Christian, is it required to believe that the Bible is inspired by God? –Anonymous
A. Yes. It says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
Q. What happens to the old copies of the “Breaking Bread” missalettes in church when the new ones arrive? Can parishioners have the old ones? –Jimmy
A. The old copies are recycled. Parishioners are welcome to have the old ones.
Q. Can you pray if you go to hell? --Anonymous
A. No. Prayer is an act of love and love is totally absent in hell. The unhappy souls who are there forever will not pray because they have no desire to love anyone.
Q. Are ghosts real and where do I find the answers? –Angelique Lane
A. The only ‘ghosts’ that are real are the souls of real people whom God allows to appear to certain people. The word ghost in the Old English can be used as another word for spirit (as in God the Holy Ghost or God the Holy Spirit). One could say that angels and demons can also be classified as “ghosts” since God at times also allow them to be seen by the people here on earth. There are no ghosts that exist outside of God, people who once lived on earth, angels or demons. The rest are fictional ghost characters.
Q. What is true love? -- Ashley S.
A. The best way to understand what true love really means is to see if it is compatible with God’s love. By definition “God is love”. It says in 1 John 4:7-8, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” We live in an era where the world is trying to redefine true love relationships based mainly on feelings and emotions regardless. This is dangerous because an expression of love that violates God’s law is not true love at all. For example, a married person who desires a physical expression of love other than his or her spouse is not expressing true love but an act of adultery. Same sex relationship is also forbidden by God and therefore cannot be accepted as a true loving relationship. Unmarried couples that live together without the benefit of marriage are also living in sin and are not in a true relationship (they can walk out of the relationship at any time since they never formally committed to a lifelong relationship—and it happens a lot!). But if one is spiritually and emotionally drawn to one another and the relationship does not violate God’s commandments (10 commandments & church laws), then true love can possibly happen. A desire to have a sacrificial love based on loving God and each other in a charitable way is a starting ground for the development of true love.
December 19, 2010
Q. How can God be everywhere at the same time watching everyone? –Shea Nicole Rider
A. God as a Divine Spirit is present everywhere but it is a mystery that we don’t fully understand. We won’t really know the full answer until after we die. Since God is present everywhere he also sees everything. God even knows what’s in our minds and hearts!
Q. My CCD teacher said that if you pray for the people in purgatory they would pray for you to go to heaven. But how long does it take for them to go to heaven (if they get to heaven)? –Anonymous
A. Only God would know how long each soul stays in purgatory. No one goes to heaven unless he or she is absolutely perfect. Purgatory is a place where God places the good people who died but weren’t quite 100% perfectly fit to go to heaven. There they are ‘purified’ or made perfect for the kingdom of God. Our prayers can help lessen their stay there or even outright release them from purgatory. They pray for us while they are in purgatory and certainly once they get to heaven as well. All the souls in purgatory eventually go to heaven.
Q. Which one is more important, the bread or the wine? –Sarah Noel, age 7
A. Once the bread and wine are consecrated by the priest during Mass, we don’t actually call them bread and wine anymore. They become the Eucharist in two species (forms): the sacred host and the precious blood. Each species (form) becomes the completeand real Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. But to celebrate the Mass the priest needs to have a double consecration to represent the sacrifice of Jesus. Without a visual separation of the body from the blood there would be no presentation of the true sacrifice of the Mass. One is not more important than the other because the complete presence of Jesus is in either species (form).
Q. Can you go to confession before you learn about it in CCD classes? –Anonymous
A. Not really, but I’m glad to hear that you are eager to go to confession! We can only hope that many adult Catholics would have your zeal in desiring to receive the sacrament of reconciliation. It is important to take the classes so that you can properly receive the sacrament of Penance. But you can always see the priest if something is bothering you. He can help you pray to God for forgiveness.
Q. Can you substitute Saturday as your Sabbath to worship, pray and rest instead of Sunday if you can’t do it on a Sunday? –Anonymous
A. Yes, but only after your pastor approved of it. The church does give the provision for pastors to designate to individual parishioners another ‘Sabbath’ day for those who legitimately cannot make Sunday work for them. They are handled on a case-by-case basis so be ready to offer your reasons if you’re going to make a request!
December 26, 2010
Q. Does listening to Mass on the radio or watching it on TV count as attending Mass on a day of obligation? –Anonymous
A. Only if attending Mass is not possible. TV and radio televised Masses were originally intended for the sick, the aged, the homebound, those stuck at home due to bad weather or are caring for sick/elderly household members, and for those who do not live near a Catholic Church and could not possibly attend Mass. Since they cannot receive Holy Communion, the TV/Radio Mass attendees are highly encouraged to make a spiritual communion by inviting Our Lord to come to them spiritually. However, ‘abled-body’ persons who could have attended Mass but freely chose to skip Mass without a serious reason, and watched it on TV instead, do not fulfill their Sunday or Holy Day obligation and could likely be guilty of a serious sin.
Q. Why do you ring the bells in church during Mass? –Sophie Chisholm
A. The bells are rung at Mass especially at the consecration of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The bells remind everyone that we are now at the most solemn and important part of the Mass. Before microphones were invented in the 20th century, big churches and cathedrals effectively used the bells to let a large number of people in church know what part of the Mass they were in. When they heard the bells ring 3 times in a row it alerted them that they were now in the most important part of the Mass, the miracle of the bread and wine changing into the real presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. The bells today are used for the same reminder of the solemn moment.
Q. Can a Mass be offered for a deceased person who was not a Catholic or even a Christian? –Anonymous
A. Yes. You can arrange to have a Mass offered for any deceased person. It is actually a good idea to offer Masses for non-Catholics because aside from the Catholics and the Orthodox Christians no one really prays or offers Masses for the deceased. If they are in purgatory they could be there for a very long time if they have no relatives who believe in praying for the deceased.
Q. When you are going to confession, are you allowed to list your sins on a piece of paper and read them out to the priest? –Anonymous
A. Yes. Just make sure that you tear up the piece of paper with your sins once you’re finished so that no one else will read it!
Q. How do people become priests? –Kristen Blake
A. Candidates to the priesthood study at a school called a seminary for a few years. After completing their studies, the bishop ordains them to the priesthood.
Q. When the world ends what does God do to the people who would have gone to purgatory? Would he send them to heaven, hell, or some other place? –Anonymous
A. The Bible speaks of the good people suffering greatly before the end of the world. It appears that their purgatory time would have been done on earth. Therefore, they will all go to heaven.
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