January 5, 2014

 

Q.  Was Jesus born on Christmas eve or Christmas day? –Anonymous

A.  We don’t know for sure the exact time but we do know that in Luke chapter 2 the angel announced to the shepherds that the Savior of the world was born while it was still dark.  The Gospel mentions that shepherds were keeping watch of their flock at night when the angel appeared.  The shepherds could have been up late at night or sometime between midnight and dawn.  We just know it was dark around the time when Jesus was born.

 

Q.  Is it a sin to think that someone is a “jerk”? –Anonymous

A.  No, not necessarily.  It is a fact that since original sin was introduced after the fall of Adam there have been lots of “jerks” that have walked the face of the earth.  If you come across a person that looks, speaks and acts like a jerk, he or she is probably a real-life “jerk”!  But Jesus does not want us to respond like a jerk by becoming jerk ourselves.  As difficult as it may be, God still wants us to respond charitably as best as we can to everyone…including “jerks”! 

 

Q.  If God is ever merciful, why does he allow hell to exist? –Anonymous

A.  It is because not everyone desires to be with God forever in heaven.  In eternity there are only two eternal places we can go:  heaven (eternal happiness) and hell (eternal punishment).  Those who have no desire to live a good life for God and die in the state of mortal sin have made an eternal choice to exclude themselves to be in heaven.  That is the reason why hell exists.  Jesus painfully died on the cross to try to save everyone from choosing a life that leads to hell.  Unfortunately, not everyone accepts Jesus’ invitation that leads to heaven.

 

Q.  When the earth ends, will God make a new one?  --Keira MacMillin

A.  It will be like new because it will be a perfect place where there are no longer natural disasters and other problems on the earth.  In the Bible we read St. John describing a new earth, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth.  The former heaven and the former earth has passed away, and the sea was no more” (Revelation 21:1).

 

 

January 12, 2014

 

Q.  Is the tomb where Jesus was buried still there? –Mary Grace

A.  Yes, it is in Jerusalem at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  One of the most memorable spiritual experiences I’ve ever had was to celebrate Mass at the tomb of Jesus when I was there on a pilgrimage in 2008.

 

Q.  Can someone in purgatory pray for someone in purgatory? –Anonymous

A.  The souls in purgatory may pray for each other.  However, only the prayers of the people on earth can help either to lessen their temporary suffering or to help release them. That’s why it is important that we pray for the souls in purgatory everyday.

 

Q.  In the Marian Antiphon a line reads, “And after this our exile…”, what does this mean? –Neo

A.  The “exile” referred to is our time here living on earth.  Our real home is in heaven but we have to live here on earth first and sometimes with some suffering as if we are living in exile.  We truly are living in our home away from our heavenly home and continually yearning to be with God forever.

 

Q.  When reading descriptions of hell and purgatory they sound like the same place except that one is permanent and the other is temporary.  In what other ways are they different and is there a way to avoid purgatory? –Neo

A.  They are very different places and there is great joy for the souls in purgatory knowing that it is only a matter of time before they get to heaven and live happily for all eternity.  On the other hand, there is a complete absence of happiness in hell and extreme hatred.  The damned souls will experience nothing but extreme punishment with no chance of happiness or release forever.  We can pray to help the souls in purgatory but no prayer can ever help the souls in hell in any way.  Knowing how terrible this eternal place is it is very sad that some people do not want to hear a good discussion on the subject of hell as if it does not exist.  Anyone who honestly reads the Gospels knows that several times Jesus preached this theme:  The hell there is!

 

 

January 19, 2014

 

Q. Where do priests get their outfits? –Addie

A.  There are several religious supply companies where we get our vestments and other priestly clothes.  If you place a search for Catholic religious supply on the internet you will find several to choose from.  Some companies are owned by religious orders but lay people own most of them.  I get my clergy shirts from a company called C. M. Almy even though it’s not a Catholic company.  Their shirts tend to last longer than the others I’ve tried.  Some of them have lasted me nearly 4 years of heavy use before replacement.  And thanks for the reminder.  It’s time for me to order new ones soon as the current ones I rotate are about that old and starting to fray around the collar!

 

Q. What does the inside of your house look like? –Anonymous

A.  The priests’ house at our parish, called the rectory, looks very similar to a regular single family home.  The biggest difference is that each bedroom has its own bathroom but many houses these days are built similarly.  We have a living room, dining room and a kitchen just like most people’s home.  We don’t have a basement either and I wish we did as that would have given us more storage.

 

Q. When you visit another parish, should you tithe at that church or wait and bring the offering to your church? –Anonymous

A.  Excellent question!  The individual parishes are dependent upon the goodwill offering of each parishioner and that’s why your tithing (or weekly offering) should always go to your home parish even though you may be away traveling and going to Mass somewhere else that weekend.  But if you are visiting another parish it is greatly appreciated that you give them a small offering at your own discretion.

 

 

January 26, 2014

 

Q.  If you don’t have any faith, can you still get to heaven? –Elizabeth

A.  Normally, those who have no faith in God cannot go to heaven unless at the last moment before they died they expressed belief in God and asked for forgiveness.  Scripture tells us clearly what non-believers are like:  “Fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’  Their deeds are loathsome and corrupt; not one does what is right” (Psalm 14:1 and also Psalm 53:2).  The one good news about kind-hearted non-believers that I have personally known in my nearly half century of living is that eventually many of them found God sometime in their lives.  I have a good reason to believe that they are on their journey to heaven in due time.

 

Q.  Will all polygamists go to hell? –SBC

A.  Jesus Christ reiterated that polygamy (practice of marrying more than one spouse—simultaneously!) is strictly forbidden as he clearly defines marriage as being married to one man and one woman only (Matthew 19).  However, we should always defer to God regarding judgment of who goes to heaven or hell.  In the spirit of Pope Francis’ philosophy, Who are we to judge?

 

Q.  I have often heard the question, “If there is a God, they why do we have disasters such as hurricane Sandy or the devastation that happened to the Philippines?”  Or they will say, why did my family members die a painful death from cancer when they led a spiritual life.  Can you advise how I should respond to this? –Anonymous

A.  Since sin entered the world during the days of Adam and Eve, the balance in the universe became imperfect and thus resulted in occasional natural disasters.  Both the good and the bad suffer the same effects of original sin and this includes sickness and death.  The question of suffering is always a very difficult one to answer even for priests.  First of all, it is very important to understand right from the start that suffering is not an intellectual question.  It is a mystery.  When trying to understand a mystery we can only have a partial answer and never a complete one.  The mystery and value of suffering is something only God fully comprehends.  Until God explains it to us in heaven we will never fully know why God allows us to experience suffering.  What we know of suffering is that we can benefit a lot of good from it in our spiritual growth, intellectual maturity, humility, and love of what is really important in life.  Suffering always gives us the golden opportunity to recognize the presence of God that we may not have realized before.  The power of God really shines and become more visible in our lives when during our weakest and vulnerable moments in life we find the strength to continue to move forward.  When we are praying and not suffering we may hear the pleasant silent voice of God speaking to us.  But during those desperate moments of suffering God is screaming at us saying, “Don’t despair!  I love you very much and will never abandon you.  Please talk to me, I am here to help you!” 

 

 

February 2, 2014

 

Q.  When doing the sign of the cross, can you use your left hand or does it have to be your right hand? –Anonymous

A.  The right hand is always used when making the sign of the cross even for those who are left-handed.  Only those who are physically unable to use their right hand may make the sign of the cross with their left hand.

Bonus:  If you would like to watch on YouTube a very spiritually moving experience of an armless Catholic, Tony Melendez, who performed for Blessed John Paul II in Los Angeles on September 15, 1987, go to this link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4NpqNVDBhA

 

Q.  If you are a Catholic and never go to confession, is it a sin? –Lucas Roach

A.  Yes, because Catholics are required to receive the sacrament of Penance at least once a year even if not guilty of any mortal sin.  This is in keeping with the spirit of the Gospel teaching of Jesus who mandated that we do penance:  “I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish!” (Luke 13:3).

 

Q.  Are all of the people in the world basically relatives because the world started with 2 people (Adam and Eve) and the population grew? –Daniel

A.  You got that right, bro!  Now you know why we are called “brothers and sisters in Christ.” 

 

Q.  If you never went to church and right before you die you went to church, will you go to heaven? –Marissa Friedl

A.  Only God could make that decision.  It also depends why the person went to church that day.  If the person made peace with God and plans on returning to church for good and died that day, then there is a very good chance God would take him to heaven.  But if the person went there to speak awful things against God and died later that day, I wouldn’t place any bet (figuratively speaking) that he is now with God.  I do have a story to share with you.  Once I was visiting a hospital and a very sick man was there who was expected day in a matter of days.  He was so angry at the Catholic Church and proudly said how he did all he could to discredit God and the church.  So I asked him whether he now felt victorious and ready to die and scream at God forever in hell with the devil.  Then I told him his other option was to stop blaming God and go to confession and the Lord will forgive him and will give him eternal happiness in heaven.  The man started crying and asked, “Do you think God will still forgive me after all the nasty things I’ve said against him?”  I said, “Absolutely!  God loves you and sent me to invite you to make peace with him.”  I heard his confession that day and gave him the last rites.  He felt peace with God for the first time in decades and was glad to know that God is truly a loving and merciful God.  Less than 48 hours later the hospital told me that he had passed away.  This man had not gone to church in several years but in my heart I do believe that God took him into his kingdom.  Jesus rescued him just in the nick of time like the thief on the cross!

 

 

February 9, 2014

 

Q. How is the Amazon.com fundraising doing especially after Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping? –Anonymous

A.  So glad you asked! We get a check from Amazon.com towards the end of each month since we started promoting it back in the early Fall.  We received $122 on November 25 (2013), $253 on December 23, and $372 on January 24 (2014).  That’s a total of $747 we received just because our parishioners went shopping.  And I encourage all of you who buy from Amazon.com to please go thru our website first and click on Amazon link before you make your purchase!  There is no extra cost to use our link.

 

Q. When was our parish church built? –Addie

A.  Our current parish church was built in 1992 and dedicated by the late Bishop John R. Keating on June 28, 1992.

 

Q. Do you have a dog, a cat or any kind of pet? –Anonymous

A. No, the bishop discourages priests to keep pets for a very good reason.  Some priests are allergic to pets such as cat’s dander and would not be able to live in the rectory.  It also discourages parishioners from visiting the rectory or office if the pets present a problem for them.  Priests who keep pets are expected to “sacrifice” them (find them a new home) if the new priest(s) moving cannot live with them.  Since I love pet animals it would be very hard for me to give them away I decided not to have any.  But I do have stuff animal pets including a few of my favorite, Scooby Doo! Ruh-roh!

 

Q. Do most 7 or 8 year olds get their confession when they are 7 or 8?  Why? ­­–“E”

A. Yes, most Catholics make their First Penance (confession) at 2nd grade when they are 7 or 8 because this seems to be the common age when children reach the age of reason.  This means they have a good idea already of what is right and wrong.  They can now make a conscious decision of using their free will to choose to act rightly or wrongly.

 

Q. How does God hear everything from everyone? –Janey

A. God is perfect and is everywhere.  There is no place anywhere where God is not.  The Church teaches us that God is all-knowing (omniscient) and ever present (omnipresent).  So whether we are in heaven, earth, purgatory, or in hell God sees and knows all of our thoughts, words, and actions because God is always there before us.  In scripture God says, “For each man’s ways are plain to the Lord’s sight; all their paths he surveys” (Proverbs 5:21).

 

 

February 16, 2014

 

Q.  Is the cross that Jesus died on still exists?  --Ethan

A.  Yes, but there are only small fragments left.  Back in the early 4th century St. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great, found the true cross during her pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  The Catholic Church has preserved it ever since and largest pieces left are kept in Rome in a basilica called, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (Holy Cross in Jerusalem).  I have visited that sacred basilica several times when I was a student there and have seen it along with a beam of the cross that was used for the thief who converted next to Jesus.  Also included is the finger bone of St. Thomas the Apostle that was used to feel the wounded hands and side of Jesus after the resurrection.  Since there are only very small fragments of the true cross are left they are reserved to be distributed only to the bishops in the world.  Though I will never be a bishop I was very blessed to be at the right place and the right time one day several years ago in Rome to obtain one of those rare relics that I take out for everyone’s veneration on Good Friday at our parish.  Don’t miss it this year!

 

Q.  What do the white and red rays represent on the painting of Jesus in our church? –Catie

A.  You are referring to the image of Jesus in the Divine Mercy portrait.  That painting was a vision of St. Faustina of Jesus back on February 22, 1931 when she was in her convent room.  The “Fountain of Mercy” image signifies God’s mercy and love for us.  St. Faustina writes in her diary explaining the two rays in these words of Jesus:  “The two rays denote Blood and Water.  The pale (white) ray stand for the water which makes the souls righteous.  The red ray stands for the blood which is the life of souls.  These two rays issued from the very depths of my tender mercy when my agonized heart was opened by a lance on the cross.”  You can read more on this online by logging to: http://thedivinemercy.org/news/story.php?NID=4196

 

Q.  Why are there altar servers? –Anonymous

A.  There are two main reasons for having altar servers at Mass:  to assist the celebrant priest when he is offering the sacrifice of the Mass and to inspire young men to answer God’s call to become priests.  Serving at the altar becomes like an apprenticeship to the priesthood for many.  The altar service program remains the most effective source of vocation to the priesthood.  For the past several years about 7 out of 10 priests ordained in the U.S. once served as altar boys.  It is music to a priest’s ears when some of our altar servers speak about their “interest” in becoming a priest!  [It’s funny how the number of “interested” ones seems to drop after their first experience at the homecoming dance or at the prom.  No worries, they’ll hear the calling again later in life.]

 

 

February 23, 2014

 

U.S. District Judge strikes down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage

 

            Enclosed in this bulletin is the joint statement by the Virginia’s two Catholic bishops, Bishops DiLorenzo and Loverde, responding to the U.S. District judge’s decision to reject Virginia state law’s ban on recognizing same-sex marriage.  I hope you realize that this is a major threat to our belief in one of the sacred sacraments established by Jesus:  Holy Matrimony.  For the last several years there has been a strong offensive in pushing for the acceptance of same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage.  Sadly, we have lost ground in the public forum in presenting the authentic Christian teachings on marriage.  How did this happen?

            In the Nov. 17, 2013 Meet the Press interview, Cardinal Dolan of New York explains that the Catholic Church has been “outmarketed” on the issue of gay marriage.  The main reason is because we are being unfairly and untruthfully “caricatured as anti-gay.”  The Catholic Church is not anti-gay.  Cardinal Dolan said it well that proponents of traditional marriage are “not anti anybody.”  In other words, it doesn’t make anyone a bigot for rejecting gay relationships and/or gay marriage.  The Catholic Church loves everyone regardless of whether she approves of their lifestyle or not.  Since when is it wrong to believe what the Bible teaches?  Or to believe what the world has practiced and defined as marriage since the beginning of creation?  Are we not guaranteed the freedom of religion and speech in the United States?  Why are those who believe in traditional marriage as a teaching coming from God now called bad people and being forced to accept what they believe as sinful?  When did God change his past revelations that what he once strictly forbade are now totally acceptable as a new way of life?

            Last week’s Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 5:17-37) gives us a clear understanding of God’s teaching regarding traditional moral teachings.  Let me repeat the words from Jesus:  Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.  I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”  If you read on to Matthew 19:4-6 you will find that Jesus specifically teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman only:  “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’  So they are no longer two, but one flesh.  Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” 

There are a lot of humans arguing against traditional marriage without real substantiation from the Word of God by scripture or tradition.  Well, we are not concerned about unsubstantiated opinions because anyone can make up an opinion regardless of whether it is right or wrong.  But can anyone offer anything coming from Jesus in scripture (or even in Catholic doctrine) that reversed this declaration of Jesus from Matthew 5 and 19?  The truthful answer is:  No!  There is no such existing teaching from Jesus.  It is a myth!  What he said in his time is still true today.  Let me leave you with last week’s closing Gospel line from Jesus that rejects living life in a “grey” area:  “Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes’, and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37).

                        Your shepherd in Christ,

                        Father Escalante

 

March 2, 2014

 

Q.  If people don’t believe in Jesus, can they still go to heaven? –Alexandra Winner

A.  Yes, because Jesus came to the world to save everyone and died on the cross with the intention of saving all.  If it’s not their fault that they don’t know Jesus God will not hold that against them.  But they still need to have lived a good life and believe in the God that they thought was the real God, through no fault of their own, in order to be saved.

 

Q.  I heard that someone outside the Church, if they are “good” Christians, and do not know that the Catholic Church is the true Church, they can be saved.  However, if an ardent Christian who persecuted the Catholic Christians, but was very faithful to God in his own ways, would he still be saved? –Anonymous

A.  Yes, that is true.  God judges what is in the heart and intent of the person.  There are people who make wrong judgments but mean well in their hearts.  Only God can see what is really in the heart of a person.  In 1 Samuel 16:7 it says, “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.”

 

Q.  When people say your body will come up after your soul, will you be in human form? –Keira M.

A.  Yes.  But the human body will be perfect and more beautiful than what we have on earth.  It will be able to travel like the angels—it can fly!

 

 

March 9, 2014

 

Q.  How tall is Jesus? –Nate Tuman

A.  If we use the Shroud of Turin as a way to determine this, Jesus at the time of his death was about 5’9’’ and weighing around 170 lbs.

 

Q.  If after you die and you end up either in heaven, hell or purgatory, then what are ghosts? –Anonymous

A.  Real ghosts are souls of the dead whom God allow to appear to the people.  They could come either from heaven (like the saints), purgatory or even hell.  Angels and demons can also be classified as “ghosts” when they make their appearance.  Other than the ones mentioned here there are no other types of spirits or ghosts that exist.   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 that you can look up:  1 Samuel chapter 28 (ghost of Samuel appears), Luke chapter 9 (Moses & Elijah appear at the Transfiguration). 

 

Q.  When you die, can you see what your angel looks like? –Adalie Tuman

A.  If we go to heaven we will definitely see what our angel and all the angels look like.

 

Q.  Is it a sin to go to a palm reader just for the fun of it? –Carleigh

A.  It is not a good idea because some who originally went to see a palm reader out of fun ended up getting deceived and believing this false practice.  We endanger our own faith by going to these false readers who invoke suspicious spirits and even false gods.  Our faith teaches us not to place ourselves in the occasion of sin.

 

Q.  Is greed a mortal sin? –Anonymous

A.  It can be depending how serious one’s greed is.

 

Q.  Can a priest ever break the “seal of confession”? –Anonymous

A.  No.  There is not one occasion or good reason when a priest may break the seal of confession.  What a priest hears in confession is conversation between the penitent and God (Jesus).  Therefore, a priest is not at liberty to say what he heard in confession.

 

 

March 16, 2014

 

Q.  What is the correct meaning for fasting with the Catholic Church?  Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan.  During Lent Catholics are told to eat two small meals that cannot equal one full meal.  For medical reasons, we are told no food and sometimes no water.

A.  You are correct with the Catholic minimum observance for fasting:  1 full meal + 2 small meals may be consumed (both meals cannot equal your 1 reasonably sized full meal).  Water may be consumed at anytime but any other beverage (coffee, tea, juice, soda, power drinks, etc.) may only be consumed during meal times.  Our observance day for fasting is not from sunrise to sunset but from midnight to midnight (24-hour period).  Even though Catholics from 18-60 years of age are required to observe fasting only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, fasting is encouraged for all or at least parts of Lent except on Sundays.  A few years ago fasting was required for adult Catholics from Monday through Saturday during the whole season of Lent plus observe whatever else they gave up for Lent during those 6 days of the week.  Now it is only “recommended” to observe more days of fasting.  Those with medical issues are always exempt from fasting.

 

Q.  Because Sunday is a day of rest, can you eat whatever you gave up for Lent on Sundays? –Claire

A.  If you follow the “old” way of fasting for 6 days and give up something else, then it is understandable why you need a Sunday break.  But if you’re not fasting and all you’re doing is just giving up something for 6 days it is really not as intense of a sacrifice.  Is it okay to have what you gave up on Sunday?  It is “kind of” okay.  It is recommended that whatever you gave up (or promised to do) should be done for the whole season of Lent.

 

Q.  If only Eve would have eaten the forbidden fruit, would only women have received the original sin? –Thomas A. Smith, 1st Grade

A.  What a great theological question…from a 1st grader!  Genesis 3:6-7 indicates that it wasn’t until Adam ate the forbidden fruit that original sin entered the world.  Romans 5:12a says, “Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned.”  There was no effect seen after Eve ate of the fruit.  Theologians generally believe that if only Eve had eaten of the fruit original sin may not have come in at all as God appointed Adam as the husband and caretaker of Eve. 

 

Q.  If you didn’t commit a mortal sin but you weren’t exactly as good of a person, does God send you to purgatory so that he can decide later whether you will go to heaven or hell?  Or do you just go straight to hell? –Catie, 6th Grade

A.  First of all, everyone in purgatory is already saved because they all died in the good graces of God.  Everyone in purgatory will eventually be in heaven when God sees that the person has been thoroughly purified and has reached the perfect state of holiness fit for heaven.  It is likely that since most good people aren’t perfect when they die most good people end up in purgatory before reaching heaven.  The only ones who go to hell are those who died living in mortal sin and never bothered to be reconciled with God.  For them it is only a straight path to hell.

 

 

March 23, 2014

 

Q.  We read about Mary being at the carrying of the cross and the crucifixion.  Where was Joseph?  How long after Jesus ascended to heaved did Joseph live? –Anonymous

A.  There is no record of St. Joseph anywhere in scripture or tradition during the 3 years of Jesus’ public ministry.  Theologians believe that St. Joseph passed away before Jesus reappeared in public.

 

Q.  I have not actually sat down to read the Bible.  Where would be a good start to help me continue reading? –Anonymous

A.  I always recommend to novice Bible readers who are starting on their own to begin reading the New Testament first starting with the Gospel of Matthew.  Keep reading until you have completed to the very end.  After that, start reading the Old Testament beginning with Genesis.  The most ideal way for a Catholic to study scriptures is Jeff Cavins’ system called the Great Adventure Bible Timeline audio or DVD.  We are in the midst of offering this program in our parish but you can get this from Amazon.com.  It is easier to study this with a group and look for it next Fall if a volunteer offers to run the program again.  In the meantime, start reading the Gospels.  That’s how I got started during my sophomore year in high school and I was hooked ever since!

 

Q.  I’m always confused by the line, “To whom God’s love commits me here,” in the Guardian Angel prayer.  What does that mean? –KG

A.   All that means is that we are here (committed or sent) in the world all because of God’s love who created us to be here on earth in preparation for our journey to heaven.  Our Guardian Angel is here to help us stay on the path that leads to God.

 

Q.  How often should we pray the Rosary? –Anonymous

A.  It is recommended that we try to pray at least 5 decades of the Rosary everyday.

 

Q.  For those who want to attend daily Mass, it might be nice to have a second Mass on Thursdays at 8 or 9 AM in addition to the 6:30 AM.

A.  Thank you for bringing this up as another placed a similar question.  There is only 1 priest available on Thursdays to celebrate Mass as the other is off that day.  Canon Law permits a priest to say only 1 Mass a day except for special circumstances (e.g., funeral, wedding, anniversary celebrations, etc.).  On Sundays the bishop has given priests in our diocese an extension of celebrating 3 Masses.  Working the math, both of us priests are maxed out as we have a total of 6 Sunday Masses!  The Masses from Monday thru Thursday do not have a lot of parishioners attending either the 6:30 AM or 9 AM to justify a second Mass even if we had a priest available.  It is only on Fridays that we have a fairly good number of parishioners who come to a weekday Mass.  Keep praying for more priests and encourage more young men to respond to this vocation and we can have as many Masses as there are priests regardless of how many people show up for Mass.  If every family in the parish did this we would bring back the glory days of the 1950’s when it was normal to find 4 or more priests in just about every parish.  [And pray for priests in general as we keep a hectic weekday schedule everyday.]

 

March 30, 2014

 

Q.  Why do we have a U.S. flag up front in the church? –EAB

A.  The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops explains the history of this practice in their website:  The origin of the display of the American flag in many parishes in the United States appears to have its origins in the offering of prayers for those who served during the Second World War (1941-1945).  At that time, many bishops and pastors provided a book of remembrance near the American flag, requesting prayers for loved ones – especially those serving their country in the armed forces – as a way of keeping before the attention of the faithful the needs of military families.  This practice has since been confirmed in many places during the Korean, Viet Nam and Iraqi conflicts.”  The other flag on the opposite side is the Vatican flag.

 

Q.  Do we know the exact day God created the world? –Daniel D.

A.  It was created on Day 1!  “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth….” (Genesis 1:1).  What we don’t know is how long ago “Day 1” took place and we’ll have to wait until we get into the next life to find out that exact date.

 

Q.  If God asked you to become a priest and you say “no”, is it a sin? ­­–Anonymous

A.  It would not likely be a sin.  However, that person would be missing out on a very fulfilling and happy life if he turns down God’s invitation to become a direct descendant of the apostles.  He would also miss out on great things he would have earned in heaven had he become a priest.  How do we know this?  There was a young man whom Jesus invited to become one of his disciples but turned him down and went away sad:  “Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.’  When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions” (Matthew 19:21-22).

 

Q.  Is it hard being a priest?  Do you get wiped? –Anonymous

A.  Except during the summer months, practically everyday I do get very busy and feel “wiped” at the end of the day.  While it can be very hard on most days the hard work can actually be fun.  It can be challenging switching emotions back and forth in one day between happy and sad occasions.  For example weddings/funerals, birthday blessings/anointing of the sick, attending school plays & games/tending to school kids who ran into trouble with the law, excited engaged couples doing marriage prep/couples doing marriage counseling, blessing nice cars/anointing those involved in a car accident, blessing homes/responding to domestic disturbance, getting calls & messages grateful for your work/calls & messages complaining how awful your work, etc.  Wise priests often told us in our earlier days that the life of priest can turn from the sublime to the ridiculous in a matter of seconds.  But don’t let this discourage anyone because there is nothing like it in the world living the spiritual life of a priest.  I wouldn’t exchange it for anything in the world…not even for a Klondike bar!

 

Q.  What happens if a married man is called to the priesthood? –Oliva Badura, Olivia H., Rebecca Vernail

A.  He’ll have to wait until the Lord calls his wife into eternal life before he can pursue the priesthood!  He’ll be too busy to do both especially if he has children.

 

 

April 6, 2014

 

Q.  If there are aliens out there, would they be equal to humans and would they worship God? –Anonymous 317

A.  Only if God intended to make the aliens in his image and likeness like ours.  It is important to note that even though it is all right to believe that there could be life on other parts of the universe, there is no mention anywhere in the Bible about life outside of earth at all.  The only immortal creatures God revealed to us in Scripture especially through Jesus were the angels and demons.  When scientists speak about life on other planets they are merely speaking on theory.  All these years they have yet to find any evidence of life of any kind anywhere outside our own planet.

 

Q.  Will the new parish center be connected to the church? –EAB

A.  Not anytime soon.  There is no reason to connect the 2 buildings right now and it would be very costly if we did that.  There will be plenty of room for what we need in the new building.

 

Q.  Was there a Blessed Trinity before Jesus?  Or did it appear as soon as Jesus was born? –E.A.H.

A.  The Blessed Trinity has always existed for all eternity.  It has no beginning and no end.  Jesus was always God and was there during the creation of heaven and earth as a member of the Holy Trinity.  When Jesus was conceived in the womb of Mary he took on human form.  That’s when Jesus as the Son of God became both God and man.

 

Q.  Why do we strike our breast at Mass and when we are saying certain prayers? –Josh

A.  That is actually a gesture of humility.  It is like when we say it’s our fault we sometimes include the gesture of striking our chest to signify that.  When we are praying to God asking for forgiveness, the gesture of striking our breast is a sign of recognizing our sinfulness and humbling ourselves before God.

 

Q.  Is it all right to read books containing witchcraft like Harry Potter? –Anonymous

A.  Presuming you are referring to fictional books, the only books with witchcraft contents that are all right to read are those that do not promote a hidden agenda that promote the lifestyle of real witches.  Witchcraft in real life is 100% evil and there is no such thing as a “good witch.”  All witchcraft is opposed to the belief in the one true God, the Holy Trinity.  Many of us have read books and seen movies/TV shows that contain witchcraft that do not do harm to the soul.  These include Grimm’s Fairy Tales, The Wizard of Oz, Dracula, The Addams Family, The Munsters, etc.  The Church has not pronounced a declaration against the Harry Potter series so I don’t see why those books would be considered bad.  I have read up to book 5 of the Harry Potter series and have seen all of the movies.  I didn’t find anything in there that promoted recruiting people to become “good” witches and warlocks in real life.  [In the novel Harry’s Hogwarts School even took time off to celebrate Christmas & Easter!]

 

 

April 13, 2014

 

Q.  I know that there are many parishes with Mary as their patron saint.  I also know that normally the altar has a bone fragment (relic) of the patron saint.  Since Mary was assumed into heaven body and soul, what would they use on the altar for her? –Catie McCabe

A.  That’s really neat you know about the relics of saints embedded on the altars of Catholic Churches.  However, many churches do not have their actual patron saint’s relic on the altar because they are not available as in the case of the Blessed Virgin Mary who was taken to heaven both body and soul right after her death.  There are many saints whose relics would not be available such as St. Joan of Arc because she was burned at the stake.  The Church traditionally has used relics of martyrs on altars regardless of whose name the particular church was dedicated to.  Canon Law 1237 (par. 2) states, “The ancient tradition of placing relics of Martyrs or of other Saints beneath a fixed altar is to be retained, in accordance with the rites prescribed in the liturgical books.”  I am not aware of relics on our altar most likely because ours is removable and not a fixed altar.

 

Q.  Is it true that “SOS” really means “Save Our Souls”? –SBC

A.  The original introduction of SOS was in April 1, 1905 by the German government to be used as a distress Morse Code signal […---…, or dit dit dit – dah dah dah – dit dit dit].  The Germans were only thinking of a simple and recognizable Morse Code signal and not letters at the time.  These codes simply translated to SOS in the code.  It was much later that others adapted SOS as an acronym for “Save Our Ship” or “Save Our Souls.”  

 

Q.  What would happen if Jesus did not die? –Josephine

A.  Aging, sickness and dying are some of the consequences of having original sin.  Since Jesus did not inherit original sin from Adam, one of two things could have happened.  If he were not killed he could still be living today or he could have just ascended into heaven when he felt that his mission from his Heavenly Father was completed.

 

Q.  Where the Native Americans here in North America when Jesus was around (in Palestine)? –Anonymous

A.  Yes.  Archeological history appears to show that the Native Americans were already in North America long before the time of Jesus was here on earth.

 

Q.  How does fasting help get rid of bad habits?  It is because you’re too hungry to focus on anything else? –Anonymous

A.  Fasting is a personal sacrifice that helps us not focus on the desires of our flesh (body).  We become less selfish and focus on God and other people when we do not feed into the selfish desires of the body.  It is no surprise that self-centered and selfish minded people have a difficult time fasting to atone for their sins.  For one thing, they don’t even recognize their sinfulness.  On the other hand, there are also those who fast for the wrong reasons.  Some are focused on their looks out of vanity and will fast heavily.  They are doing it only for themselves and not for God.  There is no merit in their actions and even sinful.  Many have suffered from eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.  Those who abuse their bodies in this manner violate the commandment, “You shall not kill.”

 

 

April 20, 2014

 

Q.  Have you ever helped a possessed person? –DVB

A.  I have not met a person who has been “verified” as possessed by a demon.  An officially trained exorcist is needed to determine that.  However, I have met a number of people who act like they are possessed!

 

Q.  What happens if you leave the confessional before the priest gives the absolution? –Anonymous

A.  If the penitent made a good confession and the priest said the absolution anyway then that person would be forgiven.  It is unlikely the person was not aware absolution was being given and left not knowing the priest had not given the absolution.  It is only when the priest does not say the absolution prayer that could make the confession doubtful.  (Jesus designed our absolution range to go pretty far from where we administer it!)

 

Q.  What did God do before he made the earth? –Anonymous

A.  God was perfectly happy before he made the angels, the heavens, the people and the universe.  The family of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit was always perfectly happy long before any of us was created.  It is a great mystery to us what kind of happiness the Holy Trinity enjoyed.  We were created solely to share their happiness with creatures.

 

Q.  Jesus said he would come again.  When will that happen and will I be alive during that time.  I’m 9-years old. –Anonymous

A.  No one but God knows when Jesus will return to walk the face of the earth again.  We’ll just have to wait patiently and live our lives as best as we can.  Jesus says, “But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matthew 24:36).

 

Q.  Why do Catholics have to get married in the church? –Anonymous

A.  It is because Holy Matrimony is one of the 7 sacraments and we always celebrate our sacred rites in a holy place consecrated to God by the bishop.  We had our Baptism, 1st confession, 1st communion and Confirmation in church so for those getting married it is appropriate that they also get married in God’s sacred temple.  Catholics who marry outside the Catholic Church without a specific dispensation from the bishop enters an invalid marriage not recognized by God.  These are Catholics who decided on their own to do beach or vineyard weddings, civil weddings, weddings in non-Catholic Churches, etc.  Doing so also causes the Catholic to live in serious sin and prevents him or her from being be able to go to confession, receive Holy Communion, or any other sacrament until the marriage is rectified (“blessed”) in the church.  I’ve been doing a lot of “fixings” lately so if you are one of those please come and meet with me soon (see Pastor’s Wish List column for more details).

 

 

 

April 27, 2014

 

Q.  Why were the statues covered with purple cloth during Lent? –Anonymous

A.  Catholic Churches traditionally cover the crucifix and statues in church from the 5th Sunday of Lent until Good Friday (the statues remain covered until the Easter Vigil).  The purpose is to emphasize our prayers and meditations on the Paschal Mystery (suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus) as we get closer to the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil).  The crucifix(es) may be uncovered right after the Good Friday liturgy when the cross is revealed.  However, the statues remain covered until the Easter Vigil. 

 

Q.  Will the new parish center connect to the existing building?  What will happen to the current office building? –Anonymous

A.  Right now there is no need to connect the 2 buildings.  That would be a very expensive project costing a few more million dollars.  The new parish center is quite big enough (about 31,000 sq. ft.) to handle our needs.  The current offices will remain in place as only staff members from the Religious Education and Youth Ministry will move to the new building.

 

Q.  On a couple of occasions a visiting priest named “Father Sam” celebrated Mass.  Can you tell us more about him and how often does he visit our parish? –Anonymous

A.  Good question and a great opportunity for me to write about him.  Father Sam Vaccarella is a Franciscan priest from the Franciscan Friar of the Third Order Regular (aka T.O.R. Franciscans; a different order from the Franciscan Capuchins who used to be in our parish).  I met Father Sam about 4 years ago not long after he was named executive director of the San Damiano Spiritual Life Center in White Post, VA.  He has done retreat ministry for more than 25 years and oversees our diocesan retreat center.  During a diocesan gathering I invited Father Sam to celebrate Mass at our parish.  He enjoyed our community so much and expressed his desire to come back when his busy schedule permits.  So whenever one of us priests is going to be away the first person I contact for help is Father Sam.  He has also helped hearing confessions.  If you’d like to see Father Sam’s YouTube video presentation explaining our diocesan retreat center at San Damiano, go to this link:  https://www.arlingtondiocese.org/sandamiano/about.aspx.

 

 

 

 

 

May 4, 2014

 

Q.  If you had a mortal sin, but then you were martyred, would you still go to heaven? –Veronica Smith, age 7

A.  Yes, you would go to heaven immediately.  Martyrdom is one of the three forms of baptisms:  baptism by blood.  The other 2 are by water and by desire.  Baptism by blood washes away every kind of sin including mortal sins.   To willingly die for the faith Jesus taught us is the highest expression of one’s love for God.

 

Q.  Do you get to choose your Confirmation name or does your parent or priest do that? –Anonymous

A.  The person getting confirmed chooses the personal patron saint.

 

Q.  Before Jesus died on the cross, did some people go straight to hell? –Alec

A.  We do not know for sure as God has never revealed specifically in scripture any person in particular by name who ended up in hell.  There is one incident in the Bible (Numbers 16:31) that speaks of those who have done evil that God took away by letting the earth open up and “swallow” them into the nether world (hell).  When the Jews referred to hell, it was either in reference to a lower place on the earth where the good dead people would go and wait for the Messiah (Savior), or the lower place where God sent the bad people who were damned forever.

 

Q.  What started the tradition of the Easter bunny?  Was there a bunny outside of Jesus’ tomb? –Keira MacMillin

A.  I bet everyone would like to know the answer to your question because most do not know how the Easter bunny became a springtime tradition.  To understand this we need to address the appearance of the Easter eggs as well.  In the early Christian tradition, the Christians fasted and gave up eating (land) meat and pretty much anything that included any products associated with meat during the season of Lent.  This includes abstaining from eating eggs.  Since the chickens continued to produce eggs during the “prohibition” many of them were boiled to keep them from going bad.  As Easter nears many were painted red in commemoration of how Jesus died to save us from our sins.  To this day the Eastern Churches (especially the Orthodox Churches) maintain the prominence of painting the eggs red but most of the eggs were later ornately painted and decorated in many beautiful colors.  When Easter Sunday arrived, the eggs can finally be eaten.  The hatching of the eggs that weren’t boiled also gave the image of the resurrection and new life.  Now enter the tradition of the “Easter bunny” delivering the eggs.  There is no record anywhere in the Bible or Christian history that there was a bunny at the tomb of Jesus.  The resurrection of Jesus at the beginning of spring gave the image of new hope and new life to many people.  The rabbits and hares associated with Easter simply came because these animals give birth (new life) to lots of litter during the early spring.  Folklore stories were created that the Easter bunny carried a basket filled with colorful eggs to be given to children who have been good (does this remind you of another holy day/holiday story?).  In a nutshell, this is how we got the Easter bunny tradition.

 

 

May 11, 2014

 

Q.  Did Jesus have a wife? –Lily Eddy

A.  No, Jesus never married.  Due to a popular 2003 fictional novel, The Da Vinci Code, some believed in the popular myth that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalen.  There was no truth to this as it is neither in scripture nor in any of the ancient Christian writings.

 

Q.  When did the gates of heaven close and when did they reopen?  Were there any exceptions on entering heaven during the time it was closed? –Anonymous

A.  The gates of heaven closed after Adam and Eve sinned.  They were reopened after our redemption when Jesus died for our sins on the cross.  There were no exceptions that we know of.  If there was an exception it would have to be Saint Joseph.  What we do know is that the good people who died before the crucifixion were in a safe “waiting place.”  They went to heaven after Jesus descended and visited them in “hell” (a lower place in Hebrew).  This is a different hell where the forever damned will spend eternity.

 

Q.  Can you do confession at home if you are a priest? –Patrick

A.  Yes.  It is not unusual that priests go to each other’s rectory for confession though it doesn’t happen often.  We usually go to our spiritual director for confession.  It is also not unusual that someone asks for confession when a priest a visit parishioner’s home.

 

Q.  Sometimes I do not want to go to confession because I think you know my voice and I am embarrassed to tell you my sins since you will know who I am.  What should I do?  --WJ

A.  The seal of confession is a guarantee that whatever a penitent says to the priest in confession he may never reveal it.  A violation results in an automatic excommunication for the priest.  It might help you to know that priests go thru so many confessions that we’re not really aware of who is behind the screen nor do we even care.  I don’t even know the “WJ” who wrote this!  It’s like going to a doctor for an important checkup where we may need to disrobe to get checked.  It may be uncomfortable at first but later on we don’t really care and we’re just glad that we got the medical attention/help that we needed.  Priests live quite busy lives and we really don’t remember a lot of things after hearing confessions even from those who prefer to confess face-to-face.  In my case, I don’t know if this is a special grace from God or it is simply bad memory.  It is so hard for me to remember things that I actually have to constantly use a memory sytem to remember things including people’s names (but the system works if applied!).  Since I never employ the use of memory techniques in confession you won’t have to worry about that.  I’m personally a very visual person and not very good in voice recognition in the confessional room.  The reality is, priests are not really concerned at all who is on the other side of the confessional.  We’re just glad you’re there.

 

Q.  If Jesus had not died, would Mary still have gone to heaven since she was without sin? –Anonymous

A.  Yes.  That was God’s original plan for all mankind:  to live without sin here on earth and then live in heaven forever afterwards when our time on earth is up.

 

 

May 18, 2014

 

Q.  Is using curse words a sin? --Anonymous

A.  Yes.  Depending the intent of the use of cursing it can be either a mortal or venial sin.  Most of the time it is only a venial sin because it is said by impulse over an unpleasant surprise that caught the person off guard.  But scripture is clearly against blatant use of cursing.  St. Paul wrote this to the Ephesians:  “No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).

 

Q.  Every time we say a prayer, how does God or Jesus answer or show a sign of what we said? –Cristian Henriquez

A.  There is no easy answer to this one.  Only God knows when he will answer our prayers.  We also have to remember that sometimes God’s answer to what we’re praying for is “no.”  The only thing we can do is patiently wait for an answer while we continue to pray.  It also helps to spend some quiet time to try and hear God’s silent voice.  It takes time to practice praying in silence and listening to God.  The more we practice this the better we become communicators with God.  We also become holier each moment we spend in prayer.

 

Q.  If someone didn’t believe in God, what should you tell them? –Matthew Owen

A.  The approach of explaining God would depend on the age of the person.  In general, the unbelieving person needs to hear that we have an eternal existence and that God created us purely out of love.  The beauty of nature including our human nature cannot be explained originating purely by chance and there is no scientific proof of that.  Because we have been given the power of a complete free will, something other creatures do not have, we are going to be responsible for actions.  Non-believers need to hear that those who have lived a good life will spend eternity with God in heaven.  On the other hand, those who have chosen to do evil will spend eternity in punishment.  Obviously, this short response is not enough to convince anyone about God but it is a start.

 

Q.  Is there any passage in the Bible that would allow us to pray this winter away?  I think we are all tired of the snow and ice. –Anonymous

A.  I think God just answered that prayer—springtime weather is here!  As scripture says, “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).  Sometimes God makes us wait before answering our prayers…in due seasonal time.

 

 

May 25, 2014

 

Q.  What age do you have to be a Eucharistic Minister? –EAB

A.  You have to be at least 21 years old, a Catholic in good standing, and fully-initiated in the sacraments (received Baptism, Confirmation & Eucharist).

 

Q.  What if a person murders someone and then becomes a priest.  When he dies would he go to heaven or hell? –Faith

A.  First of all, the Church Canon Law prohibits a person who has committed murder, and/or involved in procuring an abortion for someone, to becoming a priest (Canon 1041.4).  In other words, a murderer cannot become a Catholic priest.  Any person who commits murder is guilty of a mortal sin.  If that person does not repent before dying, that person is in danger of eternal punishment in hell.

 

Q.  Would it be possible for satan to convert if he sees the error of his ways? –Anonymous

A.  It is not possible for satan to convert even though he was well aware of the consequences of his sin of disobedience.  Satan knew all along what was going to happen to him if he disobeyed God but did not care.  The choice he made was eternal.  Due to his deep pride he could not see himself being subject and obedient to God. That’s how he was thrown out of heaven.  He preferred to be the king of hell than to be an obedient angel serving God in heaven.

 

Q.  What do you do in hell? –Avery

A.  Absolutely nothing but suffer terribly every single moment, fighting and hating everybody for all eternity.  This is the price paid by those who refused to live a good holy life here on earth.  Those who think it’s “cool” to be an atheist or a lukewarm agnostic today are going to be in for a rude awakening in the next life!

 

Q.  If you miss a Sunday Mass, is that a mortal or venial sin?  Do you need to confess it first before you can receive communion again? –Anonymous

A.  It is a mortal sin if a person purposely missed Sunday Mass without a good reason and would need to go to confession first before receiving Holy Communion again.  This would be a direct violation of God’s commandment, “Keep the sabbath (Lord’s day) holy.”  But if one misses Sunday Mass not purposely, at worst, it is only a venial sin and may receive Holy Communion at the Mass.

 

 

June 1, 2014

 

Q.  Can Mary be one’s patron saint? ­–Samantha S.

A.  If you mean for a Confirmation saint, the answer is yes!

 

Q.  Why does the Church read the Passion of Christ on Palm Sunday and not on Easter? –EAB

A.   Because Easter Sunday is about the resurrection of Jesus and therefore the readings reflect the events regarding the rising of Our Lord from the dead.

 

Q.  What would happen if a Catholic used a Ouija board? –Anonymous

A.  A Ouija board involves an attempt to invoke (call upon) spirits either of the dead or whatever spirit is out there.  Since this board is trying to communicate with the dead or with unknown spirits, there is a danger of conversing with diabolical evil spirits who disguise themselves as good spirits.  Real exorcists claim that many of the possessed people they dealt with have used the Ouija board so we should stay away from using this even if they intend to use it for fun and games.  Demons do not play good games at all.  Any Catholic who purposely uses the Ouija board knowing it is wrong to dabble with spirits can be guilty of violating the very First Commandment:  “Thou shalt not have strange gods before me!” 

 

Q.  Why should we give to the new building fund when the church is so neglected?  The floors in the church and bathrooms are so dirty! –Anonymous

A.  Support for the building fund is essential for many reasons that have been mentioned several times in the parish and bulletin.  Please reread them especially my Shepherd’s Notes columns readily available online thru our website.  Anyway, you will be hard pressed to find parishioners who will side with you in saying that the church is neglected.  Our dedicated staff and volunteers take very good care of our church in the best way they can and would take offense to your claim that they have been neglectful.  We also hired a nice hardworking gentleman custodian 2 months ago who does his very best to keep our facilities clean.  The church and bathrooms naturally get dirty because a lot of people go to our church and there’s construction outside.  With over 1,500 registered households we get a lot of traffic and lots of dirt get dragged in the church and bathrooms.  The carpet that was installed a year before I arrived 5-1/2 years ago was not of good quality and started getting torn up immediately.  Our Finance Council has budgeted funds to make improvements to our bathrooms and floors for the next fiscal year (starts July 1 2014) but is subject for approval by the diocese.  A lot of people are unaware that parishes may not do improvements costing over $20,000 without prior approval from the bishop’s office.  Also, to do the work on the bathrooms and the church floors would need to temporarily shift the Sunday Masses to another facility as estimators require the removal of the pews for several days to tear the old carpet and vinyl floors.  To redo the bathrooms would also need to have other available bathrooms for several days as well.  Previously this could not be done but in a few days this will no longer be the case because the long awaited new parish center is scheduled to officially open on the 4th of July weekend.  The parish center will have the capacity to have Mass for more people than our church can hold and there will be plenty of brand new bathrooms for the people to use. 

 

 

June 8, 2014

 

Q.  What is the history of priests wearing a Roman collar?  --Christopher L., Faith G.

A.  Priests wear the Roman collar to identify themselves as priests.  It is similar to married people wearing the wedding ring to identify that they are married.  There seems to be no clear origin of how it got started as Protestant ministers started wearing some kind of a collar to indicate that they are members of the clergy a few hundred years ago.  A good example of an older collar is what you see worn by the person on the Quaker Oats box.  Years later several collar variations came about for the same reason so that clerics can be clearly identified.  The tab collar worn by many priests today, such as the one I use, can be traced back to the mid-20th century.  Catholic priests call the clerical collar the Roman collar to give it a Roman Catholic identity.

 

Q.  Is it possible to go to hell after being in purgatory? –E. M.

A. Not at all.  All the souls in purgatory eventually will go to heaven.

 

Q.  Does the new parish center have 1 or 2 floors? –EAB

A.  It has 2 floors.  There are 3 classrooms on the 1st floor and 8 on the 2nd floor.  The gym/multi-purpose room and the library are also on the 1st floor.

 

Q.  What happens if someone forgets the Act of Contrition prayer in the confessional? –Patrick

A.  You can make up your own words.  An act of contrition is simply an act of sorrow for having committed sins.  Even if you just simply say, “Lord, Jesus, have mercy on me a sinner,” that would be sufficient enough as an Act of Contrition prayer.

 

Q.  Dear Mr. Priest, if you don’t like going to church can you still love God?  And Jesus? –“From a kid, Emma”

A.  Even if you don’t like going to church you can still love God but probably not very much.  Those who love God naturally like going to church because they know they are going to God’s house.  It’s like going to the homes of friends we love.  Can we really say we love our friends and not enjoy hanging out with them at their house and enjoy a meal? But those who really love their friends look forward to visiting their friends’ homes and enjoy sharing a meal with them.  In God’s house, his church, he invites us to enjoy our time with him and share his heavenly meal, the Holy Eucharist at communion.  If we truly love God we won’t have any problem following his commandment, “Remember to keep the Lord’s Day holy.”  Jesus also tells us, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

 

Q.  Will the new parish center free up the Oratory for more frequent (perpetual) adoration? –Anonymous

A.  The reason why we don’t have more adoration hours available has nothing to do with the parish center.  The problem is we don’t have a lot of parishioners who sign up to commit to adoration hours.  We had to cut down on just 12:30-5 PM on Fridays because we couldn’t get enough adorers.  Even with the reduced time slot now we still experience lack of commitment on some occasions and send out emails to ask for help.

 

 

June 15, 2014

 

Q.  I have been trying to pray the Rosary on a regular basis.  However, sometimes I am interrupted and cannot finish it in one sitting or I realized that I forgot a prayer.  What does this mean? –Anonymous

A.  No worries, what’s important is that you are saying your prayers.  When we get interrupted while we’re praying, God is not offended if we pause to take care of the current situation.  He also is not bothered if we forgot where we left off and not know exactly where to continue with our prayer.  God is very pleased and enjoys our conversation with him no matter where we begin or pick up with our prayers.  When praying the Rosary, sometimes it’s just best to take a guess where we left off and not worry about it.  God gives us graces as if we have completed our prayers if we unintentionally did not finish them.  God always looks at the heart of the person:  “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b).  So have confidence in saying your prayers at any point and at any time of the day.  Let not the distractions and interruptions worry you any longer when praying.  When we lose our place in anything especially in prayer, it doesn’t mean that we are becoming less holy.  It could just simply mean that too much heat released from our birthday cake candles somehow affect our memory.  [Now you know why I don’t celebrate my birthday—those candles are dangerous!]

 

Q.  Should I tell my temptations to the priest in confession? –Helena

A.  If you find them troublesome and need a spiritual advice, you might benefit from telling the priest about it.  The best advice I received from a priest when I was young and long before I was a priest was that temptations themselves are not bad.  Temptations will always be around for our personal trial but they make us very holy when we fight against them.  It is only when we give in to temptation that it becomes a sin.  Overcoming temptations is the difference between a sinner and saint.

 

Q.  What should I do if I don’t know what to say if my brothers and sisters are being mean to me? –Mathilde

A.  Hmm, if they won’t stop acting mean to you after you asked them, perhaps you should pray for them.  If they still won’t stop then perhaps you should tell your parents that this is really bothering you.  And this time, show them this bulletin!

 

Q.  Is our tabernacle made of metal or real gold? –DVB

A.  It is made of both.  The tabernacle is made of metal that contains real gold.

 

 

June 22, 2014

 

Q.  Do we know the exact date when Jesus had the Last Supper? –Keira MacMillin

A.  We don’t really know the exact month, day and year because we’re not certain the exact year when Jesus was born.  It is presumed that he was born between 4-6 B.C. based on the timeline of the presence of the Roman leaders and Jewish Kings (Herod’s family) in Israel.  All we know is that it happened on a Thursday on the 33rd year of Jesus.

 

Q.  Why is there a Holy Trinity and where does it come from? –Anonymous

A.  Jesus himself taught us that God is the Holy Trinity.  He said that there is one God in 3 divine persons:  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

 

Q.  Was it known that Mary was born without sin before she gave birth to Jesus? –Anonymous

A.  No one seems to have a definitive answer to this question.  But the Catholic Church gives a definite explanation that St. Gabriel the Archangel’s greeting to Mary, “Hail, full of grace” (Luke 1:28), meant that she was someone who received the fullness of the human presence the way God created Adam and Eve; that is, without original sin.  If God made it known to Mary that she was conceived without original sin before the birth of Jesus, we are not aware of that based on scripture alone.  Is it possible that God made it known to her but it is not recorded in scripture or tradition?  Yes, it is possible.

 

Q.  When Elijah was on the chariot of fire in the desert with Elisha watching, was he alive on the chariot or did he die on the way to heaven? –Peter Karanski

A.  In 2 Kings 2:11 Elijah was taken up in a fiery chariot and disappeared towards the heavens.  We do know that the only way to get from earth to the next life (heaven, hell or purgatory) is to die first.  Most likely Elijah experienced a moment of death prior to entering eternal life.  This would be similar to what Mary went thru for her Assumption into heaven.  There were 2 others in the Bible who were taken up or “assumed” into heaven before Mary:  Elijah and Enoch (Genesis 5:24).  It’s hard to understand why some Christians today have a difficulty understanding that Mary was taken into heaven body and soul when there were 2 other people mentioned in the Bible before her who were taken up by God.   Why should the Mother of God (Jesus) who never experienced sin any way have to wait for the resurrection in order to be reunited with her Son in heaven?  She is far more prominent than Enoch and Elijah in salvation history.

 

Q.  When Jesus returns to earth, how will we know it’s him? –CBA

A.  Jesus promised that when he returns everyone will see him coming down from heaven from the east.  So if any one else is claiming to be THE Jesus walking the face of the earth now or in the future, don’t believe him!  There are probably just as many, and probably more, Jesus impersonators in history as there are Elvis impersonators in the world today.  In the meantime we’ll just hang tight and wait for the real Jesus to return when he appears in the eastern sky in full glory to be seen by everyone.

 

 

June 29, 2014

 

Q.  When God created all the countries around the world, why didn’t he make it so that we can all speak the same language?  It would it make so much easier when we travel abroad. –Anonymous

A.  Genesis 11 in the Bible tells us that in the early part of world history after the Great Flood everyone spoke the same language.  However, led by their king and great-grandson of Noah, they displeased God by building a large tower in the city of Babel that would “reach heaven” and out of fear of being scattered far from each other.  But it was God’s plan for the people to populate the rest of the beautiful earth that he created for them.  As a way to separate the people from each other and “subdue the earth”, he “confused” their language and they moved far away from each other.  That’s where the origin of the word “babble” came from when people speak in a manner that cannot be understood.  It is believed that this tower was built somewhere around 50 miles south of Baghdad.  Can you imagine how uninteresting the world would be if everyone lived just around the region of Iraq?  We would have missed out on the beauty of what is found in the world’s 6 continents!  By the way, do you know the name of the overly ambitious king in charge of building the Tower of Babel?  His name was…Nimrod (1 Chronicles 1:10).  Now you know where the unflattering phrase, “Don’t be such a ‘nimrod,’” originated from!

 

Q.  After the bread [at Mass] is blessed, does it taste different? –Clare, age 10

A.  The bread and the wine taste exactly the same after they are consecrated.  But they still substantially change into the body & blood of Jesus.  Our physical eyes just don’t allow us to see the real miraculous appearance of Jesus.  It’s like at the Baptism of a child.  There’s no visible change that we can see but the child really does become in the likeness of Jesus Christ after christening.  Saints like St. John Vianney who had the privilege of seeing the real spiritual side of a newly baptized person once mistakenly thought that he was looking at God.  The same is for married people.  They don’t look any different after they have been joined together as two in one flesh after the wedding.  We know that by faith.  It’s real even though no blood test or microscope could prove it.

 

Q.  Why do parents basically control their kids?  In my life I have no freedom.  –Anonymous

A.  God has entrusted the care of children to the parents.  The 4th commandment says, “Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).  Remember, children are helpless and in need of their parents’ help for a few years to start life in the world.  Since parents have been around longer than the kids, “most” (unfortunately, not all) of them have learned a lot of the good lessons in life.  Good parents do not allow their children to do certain things if they know it’s bad for them.  In the Bible Proverbs 22:15 says, “Folly is close to the heart of a child but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.”  In general, kids are supposed to obey their parents unless they are asking them to do something sinful.  Freedom is not about being able to do whatever we want.  True freedom is being able to do what is responsibly right according to God.  [On a lighter note, I heard a teenager demand a sports car from his father because the Bible says he’s entitled to one.  The father asked him for the Bible verse to prove it and his son showed him Proverbs 13:24, “He who spares the rod ‘hates’ his son!”].

 

 

July 6, 2014

 

Q.  In the crucifix over the tabernacle, Jesus’ feet are nailed to a footrest.  Did they actually do that in those times or was it just for the design of our crucifix? –Catie M.

A.  There was a real footrest at the crucifixion in the old Roman days.  That served as a way to lift one’s body up to be able to breathe.  At the end of the day those who were still alive had their legs broken so that they would not be able to push up to breathe and die shortly after.  The Gospel (John 19:32-33) tells us that the legs of Jesus were not broken because the soldiers realized that he was already dead.

 

Q.  Are nuns allowed to say Mass? –EAB

A.  No, only priests and bishops can celebrate the Mass.

 

Q.  Are they going to tear down the old streetlights in the parking lot because there are new ones now? –EAB

A.  Yes, the old street parking lights are all going to be replaced.  If you know of anyone who would like to buy the old ones feel free to contact us.  We’ll sell them for cheap!

 

Q.  If you were a Major League Baseball player and you bet money as to who will win, is that a sin? –Peter Twetten

A.  Since it is illegal for MLB players to bet on MLB games especially in the game they are playing in, it would definitely be a sin.  So once you become a professional baseball player, make sure you don’t bet!

 

Q.  Is there any way to not allow food/snacks in the church?  There have been several times when crumbs or fishies have been left in the pew from a previous Mass.  Not only is it unsanitary, it is a distraction for our little ones who see these food items and then whine for them.  Also, noise from food wrappers and the action of children eating is a huge distraction.  Could we limit feeding time to the narthex? –Anonymous

A.  Feeding snacks in church is a relatively new practice that crept up sometime in the 1970’s.  Prior to this era no one would even think of doing it out of respect for the sacrifice of the Mass.  And being up in the sanctuary I don’t notice these activities during Mass but I do find the “evidence” on Monday mornings.  I am not sure how to best address this issue but I have been getting similar complaints recently from a number of people and surprisingly many are from moms!  A few mothers were understandably very upset when they caught their young eating snacks that were found left on the pew or on the floor for who knows how long they’ve been there.  I couldn’t eat any Goldfish for the longest time when I first heard about it.  It might be a good idea if inquire from other parishes what they found pastoral and effective in handling this delicate issue before I publicly address it.  In the meantime, I hope everyone reads this Q&A so that everyone is at least aware of the impact of snacking in church affects some of the people around them. 

 

July 13, 2014

 

Q. If you are a spy and the enemy captures you, would it be a sin to take the suicide pill (“L Pill”) to save your country? –Hank Jr.

A. Wow, a very intriguing question!  I have tried to find anything in my Catholic resources that address this and couldn’t find anything that would justify committing suicide under any circumstances.  The 5th commandment is a direct order from God:  “Thou shalt not kill.”  Based on this commandment we cannot really commit a killing (even of ourselves) in order to attain a good.  I will have to say that to directly avoid suffering at the hands of the enemy by killing oneself is likely a sin.  But due to the duress the person is in I would highly doubt that the person would be acting out of free will which means that the person would likely not be guilty of a mortal sin.  Many of our saints and war heroes chose to suffer than kill themselves when they were captured and we admire them for their heroic efforts.  [And having seen ALL of the James Bond movies, Agent 007 never once took a suicide pill when caught by the enemies but rather chose to suffer than betray his country.  I think Mr. Bond had the right idea and somehow always managed to escape in the end!]

 

Q. Does the Catholic Church support increasing the minimum wage?  --SBC

A. This is left for the public, public officials, lawmakers, etc. to debate as to what should be the fair minimum wage.  What the Catholic Church teaches is that a just wage is paid to the individual worker.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2434) states, “A just wage is the legitimate fruit of work.  To refuse or withhold it can be a grave injustice.  In determining fair pay both the needs and the contributions of each person must be taken into account.”

 

Q. Since Jesus died and rose on Easter does that mean he has two birthdays? –Anonymous

A. Yes, and we celebrate them both in the Church:  Christmas and Easter.  Christians also have two birthdays:  our natural birth and our baptism day.  Our third birthday will be on the day we are born into eternal life (our death).

 

Q. How old will we be when we get our bodies when Jesus comes? –Anonymous

A.  According to St. Thomas Aquinas, we will get a 33-year old body like Jesus after the resurrection.  [Do I look forward to that day!]

 

Q. I will be starting a Catholic Current Events project with my 7th Grade CCD class in the Fall.  What do you think are the best news services for this? –Dana Friedl

A. Here are my top 3 websites that I find very useful and easy to read for a quick update on what’s happening in the Catholic Church:  www.spiritdaily.com, www.ncregister.com, www.zenit.org.  There are many others but I find these to have the most simple formats and, more importantly, reliable accurate reporting.  There are a number of other sites that identify themselves as “Catholic” but often twist the news to fit their agenda.  Beware of “Catholic” websites that have a very negative tone in their reporting.  Good or bad, news is news and should be reported as is.

 

July 20, 2014

 

Q.  Where is heaven, in the clouds or in the depths of space? –Anonymous

A.  Heaven is not out there in space.  Our universe exists in a material world.  Heaven is in another world, a spiritual world.  They are two distinct places and a mystery to us.  One cannot cross from our universe into the other (spiritual) world without dying first.  However, those in heaven are somehow around us because they can see what is going on here on earth.

 

Q.  Is it a sin to kill a small bug like a fly? –Anonymous

A.  It is not a sin to kill bugs or anything that we identify as “pests.”  If you come across these pests such as mosquitoes, stink bugs, flies, termites, fleas, ticks, etc., feel free to EXTERMINATE them and you will doing the rest of us a favor!

 

Q.  What version of the Bible do you use when praying independently or meditating?  What are your thoughts in Protestant verbiage that is somewhat easier to understand? –Dana Friedl

A.  I use either the Ignatius Bible (Revised Standard Version - RSV) or the New American Bible (NAB) both for personal and official parish use.  The RSV was used for the English text of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  The NAB was used for the Lectionary that we use for Mass readings.  They are both very easy to read and have been reliably translated so I’m not sure what you meant by Protestant Bibles being easier to read.  Protestant Bibles also have 7 less books in the Old Testament as compared to the original Catholic Bible.  During the Reformation period in the 16th century the Protestant movement followed the lead of Martin Luther eliminating 7 books from the Old Testament.  Stay away from the so-called “inclusive” language Bibles because these were not translated from the original sacred scripture texts.  They were designed to be “gender neutral” by removing the masculine references to God.  By doing this the translators have removed the Christological presence of Jesus Christ both in the Old and New Testaments.  They imply that male references to God are “sexist.”  This includes changing “Son of God” to “Child of God.”  Others include removing references to God as our “Father” and replaced with “Creator.”  [For those who complain that referring to God as a “He” was written by male dominated sexist writers, I’d like to ask them this one question:  Why don’t I hear you equally complain that those same male dominated sexist writers always referred to satan…as a “He”?  Is there a double standard here?]

 

Q.  If your wedding presider/officiant was fired from the priesthood, do you need to have your marriage convalidated? –Anonymous

A.  This is an excellent question.  A validly ordained priest can confer the sacrament whether he is a sinner or a saint.  The status of the priest’s soul is not factor in the validity of the sacrament.  In a Latin Rite Catholic wedding the priest is only there as an official witness as the couple are the ministers of the sacrament to each other in a Christian marriage.  A wedding that was originally declared a valid Catholic marriage is totally unaffected regardless of what happens to the priest and need not be convalidated even if he were removed from the priesthood.  This holds true for the other sacraments as well.

 

 

July 27, 2014

 

Q. [Last week’s follow up question to: “If your wedding presider/officiant was fired from the priesthood, do you need to have your marriage convalidated?”]

A.  After receiving more critical info about this, I need to clarify my previous response.  Originally, I was under the impression that the couple was validly married in the Catholic Church by a legally ordained Catholic priest but was later fired from the priesthood.  In that case the marriage was presumed valid.  However, if the couple was married in a ceremony after the priest was already “fired” from the priesthood,” that marriage is not recognized as a valid marriage and definitely needs to be convalidated in the Catholic Church.  Former Catholic priests have lost their priestly faculties from the bishop and no longer have the authority to officiate at Catholic wedding ceremonies and are strictly forbidden by Canon Law.  Every single wedding officiated by ex-Catholic priests are therefore automatically invalid in the Catholic Church.

 

Q.  It was suggested that we pay attention to the movies we watch.  Could we have a “playlist” of good movies you suggest? –SBC

A.  That’s not a bad idea but this could be a pretty long list because I am a BIG fan of good movies and summer is a time when I try to watch most on my target list either in the theater, Netflix or on DVD.  During school season most of our parish programs coincidentally are in session so I don’t get to watch and review a lot of movies during that time.  But I’m blessed that one of the families not far from church coordinates with me on a later evenings throughout the year to watch some of the newly released good movies on DVD in their nice home theater (plus dinner!).  Here’s a short list of good ones we’ve seen recently:  The Hobbit, The Book Thief, “43”, Frozen, Man of Steel, Zero Dark Thirty (R), and Argo (R).  The rated R movies are usually historical documentaries intended for adults so their kids watch a different movie in another room.  You might be interested in the following website resources that I use as a guide to find good “Catholic” movies:  1) http://www.ncregister.com/info/top_100_pro_catholic_movies/; 2) http://linguinemysticslife.wordpress.com/2013/03/23/top-30-catholic-movies-that-hollywood-made/; 3) For movie reviews from Catholic News Service, go to:  http://www.catholicnews.com/data/movies/list.htm

 

Q.  What should I do if I accidentally forget the penance I was given at confession?–PJ

A.  Don’t worry, God still has forgiven your sins at absolution.  You can just say the Act of Contrition prayer again and/or add 1 Our Father and 1 Hail Mary.  The most important is that you made a good confession that day.  God will not hold it against us because of an innocent memory lapse.

 

Q.  Is there a plan to make the parish center a K-8 school? –Kathleen King

A.  At the present time it is not possible for 2 major reasons:  1) Loudoun County rejected the parish application to rezone us to allow inclusion of a school;  2) We need to pay off our $4 Million loan from the diocese (at least most of it) before they would consider us financially capable of operating a school.  Diocesan Catholic schools do not make enough tuition revenue and is subsidized by the parish to exist.  But we designed the facility to meet school specifications in case circumstances change in the future.

 

 

August 3, 2014

 

Q.  Does Mass have to be a specific length? –Alec

A.  Time wise there is no specification how long the Mass should be.  However, the Mass must have all of the prescribed prayers and gestures mentioned in the Roman Missal (the book used at Mass that contains the prayers and instructions on how to say the Mass).

 

Q.  How do we know those stories going back from a long time ago such as the story of Adam and Eve? –Someone (Obviously!)

A.  The ancient stories were handed down through the generations by word of mouth.  This is what we call tradition.  Later on they were written down.  Our official written down story of Adam and Eve is found in the first book of the Old Testament, Genesis.  This was written during the time of Moses who he lived around 1500 BC.

 

Q.  No matter how far you go on the wrong path, would God still take you back? –Ryan Thomas

A.  Yes, as long as you truly repent of your past sins God will still take you back.  There was a Catholic man by the name of Bartolo Longo (1841-1926) who became a satanic priest but later reverted back to the Catholic Church and repented of his grave sins.  He became a very holy married man and even established what is now the Basilica of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of Pompei (Italy).  He had a great love for Our Blessed Mother and was a big promoter of praying the Rosary.  Saint John Paul II beatified him in 1980 and he is now Blessed Bartolo Longo.

 

Q.  How did Jesus know how to read? –Anonymous

A.  Our Blessed Mother most likely taught him.  It was the tradition among Jewish mothers (and true in many cultures) to teach their young children at home to read, write and pray.

 

Q.  Did Jesus, Mary and Joseph have to say prayers? –Anonymous

A.  Yes, and they all learned the Jewish faith and prayers as they were devout Jews.

 

 

August 10, 2014

 

Q.  Did God intend people to sin? –Shea Rider

A.  No.  God gave us the gift of freedom to make individual decisions.  Without the gift of freedom it would have been impossible for us to love.  To love is a conscious choice that we constantly make daily.  The more loving we are the less we desire to make the wrong choices.  This explains why Jesus said that all the laws could be observed properly if we truly love God and our neighbor.  God never intended for us to sin but we could freely intend to misuse our gift of freedom if we choose to do so.

 

Q.  Can one get married outside of the Catholic Church (building)? –Jack Fink

A.  Normally, the answer is no unless the bishop specifically permits it.  Matrimony is one of the 7 sacraments and the appropriate place for this sacred liturgical act is in the house of God, his church.  The celebration of all the 7 sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Matrimony and Holy Orders) was intended to be celebrated in a church consecrated by the bishop.  The celebration of these sacraments should only done outside of the church when necessity requires it.  For example, it is appropriate to give communion and/or anointing to a sick person at home or hospital, or when someone really needs to go to confession, it could be done practically anywhere.  The sacredness of the exchange of sacred wedding vows done outside the church has sadly and popularly become the product of wedding marketing especially those so-called “destination weddings.”  ALL unauthorized outdoor “destination weddings” that involves at least 1 Catholic party is invalid and not recognized by the Catholic Church.  Catholics who marry in this manner commit a very serious mortal sin and forfeit their privilege of receiving Holy Communion and the other sacraments until they get their marriage convalidated (“blessed”) by a Catholic priest or deacon.  But for those who made this mistake, we’re also here to help them reconcile the problem and get them back into receiving the sacraments again.  All they need is to contact me or the parish office directly to get info on marriage convalidation.  One can read more on this on our website at:  http://www.saintfrancisparish.org/is-your-marriage-valid/

 

Q.  What if you’ve done something and you knew it could be a mortal sin, but you weren’t absolutely sure at the time whether it was or not, was it still a mortal sin if you did it? –Anonymous

A.  If you believe at the time that what you’re about to do was most likely a mortal sin, and you did it freely, then you may have committed a mortal sin.  That’s because you were freely choosing to do a likely mortal sin.  However, if you were honestly not sure if the act was a mortal sin or not, you would have committed at worst only a venial sin.  A mortal sin needs to meet all 3 following criteria:  1) act was a serious/grave matter, 2) act was fully known as a mortal sin, and 3) acted upon with free will (full consent). 

 

 

August 17, 2014

 

Q.  Is there a patron saint for “parties”? –SBC

A.  Yes, there are several of them so take your pick!  St. Augustine (354-430 AD) was the earliest of the bunch.  He was once an intellectual bachelor playboy who was really living it up like some of the wild young smart bachelors of our time.  However, the many years of prayers of his pious mother, St. Monica, finally prevailed and Augustine converted and received baptism in 387 AD at the hands of the great holy bishop of Milan, St. Ambrose.  St. Francis of Assisi was another “party saint.”  He was not unchaste like Augustine in his younger days but he really loved party celebrations and singing songs to celebrate.  Francis enjoyed having a lot of good time with his friends.  But he also received a higher calling from God to leave everything behind to completely serve God and the poor.  The most important part about these “party saints” is that they found a much happier life with God away from the party gatherings that they once enjoyed.  There’s a good chance these two and the others were named patron saints of parties by the Church so that the partygoers will have fun but not overdo their drinking, dancing and other party activities.

 

Q.  Who was the first angel God created? –Pippa Jones

A.  Unlike humans that are conceived and born at different times individually, most likely God created all the angels simultaneously (all at one time).  Angels are spirits and did not need a mother and father to begin their existence.  Many theologians also believe that the angels decided immediately whether they would obey God or not for eternity.

 

Q.  When did altar servers (boys) started serving Mass? –Anonymous

A.  The earliest history I can find when boys started serving was in the 12th century when daily Mass became a regular practice in many places.  Since the lay men (adults) were at work during the weekday Masses, the boys were trained to serve and assist the priest during Mass in place of the adults.  It turned out to be a great idea because since that time the altar boy program became the number one source of future priests even to the present day!  The Georgetown University based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) has been jotting down stats of the newly ordained priests in the U.S. for the last several years.  One of the questions they asked is if they once served as altar boys.  Here are the results for the past 5 years:  2010 (70%), 2011 (71%), 2012 (75%), 2013 (67%) and 2014 (80%).  This past week we had 17 new altar boys who signed up for altar service.  Let’s pray and hope that many of them are apprenticing for the priesthood!

 

August 24, 2014 [No entry, on vacation]

 

August 31, 2014

 

Q.  Why do the pictures of the parish center in the narthex look different from what it really looks like now? –Elliot B.

A.  Good observation, Elliot B.  Some changes have been made to the original renderings (architectural concept drawings) since they were first printed for display in the narthex 3-1/2 years ago for a couple of major reasons.  To cut down on the overall expense we redesigned the building to be smaller especially in the gym/auditorium area.  You will also notice that the dormers (gables) have been changed to regular windows.  Even though we cut down substantially on the overall cost, the size of the building for our needs has not been compromised.  We still have 11 classrooms for religious education plus the library.  And if we celebrate the Mass in there we can still have seating for over 500 people.  For those of you who have been in the building you saw how big it was inside.  Another reason for the change is the layout of the parking lot.  We had to work with both the county and VDOT to conform to the parking regulations so the traffic pattern had to be rearranged.  This was quite a task for our engineers and they had to redesign our underground septic/sewage plans a few times that was acceptable to regulations and it took a very long time to finally receive approval.

 

Q.  Why don’t angels die? –Anonymous

A.  Because they are pure spirits and they don’t have a body that can die.  Spirits are immortal and don’t experience death once God created them.  Our souls are also immortal and that’s why we don’t really die.  Only our current body will die but our soul will live forever.  It is not until the resurrection that we will get an immortal body that will never die.

 

Q.  Can a priest administer “Last Rites” or Anointing of the Sick to non-Catholics?  For instance, in a crisis situation, like 9/11/2001, when so many people were dying, would it have been proper to administer the sacrament to those in need? –Elizabeth

A.  Yes, in an emergency situation when a priest does not know who is a Catholic or not, he can administer the Anointing of the Sick sacrament to a person in danger of death.  The reason why a Catholic priest does not administer the sacraments to non-Catholics is because nearly all of them, except mostly the Orthodox Churches, believe in the sacraments and therefore they would not have any effect on them at all.  The Anointing of the Sick as a sacrament of healing is closely connected to the sacrament of Penance.  Confession is generally strongly rejected and denied by Protestants.  Many of them would even consider this a violation of their faith if we tried to administer it to them because they believe that God alone has the power to heal them of their sins and never through the ministry of Catholic priests.

 

 

September 7, 2014

 

Q.  What would you have done if you weren’t a priest?  --SBC

A.  When I was young I was always fascinated with the stars, planets, galaxies and everything about the universe.  If I embarked in the field of science I would have pursued my childhood desire of becoming an astronomer.  However, if I decided to go on a more “conventional” job, I most definitely would have pursued being a professional photographer.  Photography is my all-time favorite hobby.  I’m also a big fan of real estate especially waterfront properties and likely would have looked into this possibility as well.  I have real estate apps on my iPad and occasionally peruse to see what’s out there just for the fun of it.  As a side job to keep my other personal hobby active, I would have done magic shows at special events such as birthday parties.  This would have been a fun part-time weekend job.  About 8 years ago I was talked into getting “hired” at an event and the client insisted of paying me the current area magician’s going rate of $150 an hour for a senior citizens’ group!

 

Q. What happens when we don’t go to church?  Why do we go to church? –Katerina W.

A.  God is not very pleased when we don’t go to church.  It is God’s will that we worship on Sundays in God’s house, his church.  We know this from the 3rd commandment, “Remember to keep the Lord’s Day holy.”  For Catholics we fulfill this commandment by going to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day.  It is a very serious sin to miss even just 1 Mass without a serious reason. 

 

Q.  Why do we call the Blessed Virgin Mary “blessed” instead of “Saint Mary”? –Alec

A.  Now that’s a really good question that I never thought of asking myself.  The immediate answer I can come up with would be the Church’s fulfillment of Luke 1:48, “All generations will call me blessed.”  Also, calling recognized holy people in the Catholic Church as “saints” was something that happened in the later history of the church.  They were all called “Blessed” back then while “saints” was a reference to any practicing Catholic in good standing.  That’s why in Latin the abbreviation of B.M.V. was used for Mary in the liturgy and writings.  The letters stand for, Beata Maria Virgo (Blessed Virgin Mary in English).

 

Q.  Why was Pope John Paul II canonized as a saint so early? –Thomas

A.  Aside from the obvious of having lived a saintly life, it was a lot easier to get factual and verifiable testimonies of the life of St. John Paul II than the previous saints.  He lived in a time when information about practically any living public figure was easily accessible.  It was much quicker to gather extraordinary events in the saintly life of John Paul II.  With modern science it was also easier for the medical experts to verify whether a miracle has actually taken place.  2 miracles are needed before a person can be declared a saint.  The 1st miracle that led to the beatification was from a French nun who was suffering of Parkinson’s disease but was completely healed in 2005 after she prayed to Pope John Paul II after his death.  The 2nd miracle took place in 2011 when a Costa Rican woman who was given only a month to live, after suffering from brain aneurism, but was also completely healed after asking the pope to intercede for her.  Confirmation of this miracle led to the canonization of St. John Paul II on April 27, 2014. 

 

 

September 14, 2014

 

Q.  Why is music played during confession at our church?  Is it to drown out people’s voices in the confessionals?  --EAB

A.  Yes, that is one of the reasons.  It gives the penitent extra privacy when going to confession.  Sometimes we have to speak a little louder due to those who have trouble hearing.  Another reason is it makes the penitents pray and meditate better while they are waiting for their turn and preparing for confession.

 

Q.  If you are planning a surprise party for someone and they ask what you are doing, and you say something totally different, is that a sin? –A. Y.

A.  No.  When you plan a surprise party it is about fun & games that you are playing.  If there is no evil intent in the act, but rather an act of love and appreciation for the celebrant, there is no sin involved.  That’s what a surprise party is all about—a playful “misdirection” to bring about more joy in the person celebrating.  In planning a surprise party the truth is eventually made known to the celebrant and therefore does not really involve deception.

 

Q.  How come we have original sin if we didn’t do it? –Maris

A.  When the world was first created there was no sin on earth [we’re not counting the angels who sinned in the spiritual world beforehand—the ultimate original sin] and everything was in harmony.  The sin of Adam and Eve affected not just their souls but also the whole universe.  Their sin was so grave that their descendants inherited the stain of their soul.  We can relate to this in some way we are familiar with.  For example, there are babies who are born with the HIV virus through no fault of their own because of the sin of their mother’s drug abuse.  And there are hereditary diseases that are passed around for generations through no fault of individuals.  The good news is Jesus introduced the sacrament of Baptism to heal us from original sin.  Baptism made it possible for us to become even greater in our existence by becoming very much like Jesus Christ the moment we are christened.  In this case, God turned a bad act into an opportunity to make us even better for all eternity.

 

September 21, 2014

 

Q.  Why did you start the “Ask the Priest” column? –SBC

A.  When I was at my previous parish I taught K thru 8 religion classes at the Catholic school and at CCD.  With so many classrooms to visit I could only see each grade once a week.  Lots of questions would come to the students’ mind in between visits but would forget them by the time I showed up in class.  So I suggested that they write down their questions that pop up during the week and collect them in a shoebox.  I even organized a “best decorated question box” contest and that turned out to be a great idea.  The questions doubled in number because the students enjoyed putting questions in the nicely decorated box.  At the beginning of class I would read the questions and try to answer them.  If I didn’t know the answer I saved the question and return the following week with the response.  Sometimes I would end up getting the same questions from other grades because there was no way to coordinate them between classes.  When I arrived at our parish I experienced a similar situation of getting repeated Catholic faith questions about our faith and I thought of replicating the “shoebox” system to answer the question just once and everyone who reads the column would get the response.  The entire collection of Ask the Priest column is also accessible online thru our parish website (www.saintfrancisparis.org/ask-the-priest/) so now everyone can read all the previously asked questions.  The first weekly column was published in our bulletin on June 7, 2009.  The Ask the Priest column was such a big success that we had to raise our order weekly bulletin order from 500 to 700!  Part of the spike in readership was due to the little kids who now look forward to the weekly questions and some want their own copy to take home.  That’s not a problem for the parish because the bulletins are printed at no cost to us.  The company gets their revenues from selling the ads on the back of the bulletin.  The more readers, the better it is for the company and the vendors!

 

Q.  Is playing with a “Magic 8-Ball” a sin? –Joe Groff

A.  As long as you are just playing a game there’s no sin involved.  It can be fun playing with the Magic 8-Ball since it gives crazy funny answers.  It’s only when you use it as a serious guide to making important decisions in your life that this becomes problematic.  Using a toy that randomly selects an answer should not be used for important decision-making.  We should always pray and ask guidance from good people whenever consulting on important matters.  The Magic 8-Ball is really…just a ball!

 

Q.  If Adam and Even had not sinned, would their children have sinned? –Josephine

A.  Yes, it is possible that their children would have sinned and original sin would have come from whoever would have committed the first sin.  Every human being created by God has been given the gift of free will.  We all have a choice of doing what is right or wrong.  In the end God will judge us on how we used or misused our free will.

 

 

September 28, 2014

 

Q.  Can anybody be allergic to the Eucharist? –Faith G.

A.  Yes.  Some people have wheat allergy and react badly when the wheat communion hosts have gluten.  You can read up more on what Catholics can do who have wheat allergy by going to this website:  http://www.usccb.org/search.cfm?q=gluten+free.  Those who suffer from this can obtain gluten-free hosts that is approved for the Roman Catholic Mass thru this website: http://www.glutenfreehosts.com/gluten_free_hosts.html.  Contact our parish office if you need to purchase and arrange your special communion host to be consecrated for you before Mass.  We have a few in the parish who use this special host and they receive before others during communion.

 

Q.  I’d like to become more religious, but I’m not sure where to start? –Anonymous

A.  Prayer is the most important for anyone who wishes to become more spiritually close to God.  Start by spending time in silence and talking to Jesus in your own words addressing Him as if He were right in front of you.  Recited or prescribed prayers, also known as vocal prayers, such as the Our Father and the Hail Mary are very important and should be said along with other vocal prayers.  However, one does not reach a high level of prayer unless the practice of mental prayer is added to one’s spiritual life.  To become better at praying with the mind and heart, one good way is to take a spiritual book, such as the Bible or a writing of a saint, and read a short passage.  Then think of holy thoughts that the reading may have inspired you and just think of those mysteries.  This will help you begin your conversation with God.  Make sure that you also take the time to remain silent and try to listen to the voice of God speaking directly into your heart.  It is also very important to receive the sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance to develop a strong relationship with the Holy Trinity.  These are the basics on getting started to having a more spiritual (“religious”) life.  If there is one book I could recommend for improving one’s prayer and spiritual life, it is the one that I came across when I was still in high school.  It has been reprinted by TAN Books and can be purchased from Amazon (please make sure to use the link from our website so that we get a small donation from them!).  It was written by Father Paul O’Sullivan and titled, “How To Be Happy, How To Be Holy.”  It currently sells for $10.76.  Similar and better books may be out there on prayer but for me this was the most influential and I continue to apply what I learned from this timely proven book.

 

Q.  Are atheists and agnostics under the influence of the devil? –SBC

A.  Since neither group really believe nor follow the ways of God, it is always much easier for the devil to influence their thinking and actions.  Their conscience is not based on God’s revealed truths and is therefore more easily subject to making decisions based solely on the desires of what is pleasing to the mind and the flesh.  When God is not a factor on their decision-making, the devil can easily mislead their thinking because they are also not aware of the presence of evil spirits.  The devil loves it when he can disguise his presence and make people believe that he doesn’t exist.  That’s why God says in Psalm 53:2, “Fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’  Their deeds are loathsome and corrupt; not one does what is right.”  By the way, all devils know and believe that God really exists.  James 2:19 says, “You believe that God is one.  You do well.  Even the demons believe that and tremble.”

 

 

October 5, 2014

 

Q.  When is our church’s feast day? –DVB

A.  If you’re talking about our own parish church’s feast day, we were officially established as a parish on September 1, 1967 so that means we just celebrated our 47th anniversary last month.  But the current church that we have now was dedicated on June 28, 1992 so this would be our annual “secondary” feast day.  Now if you want to throw in a “third” feast day, we can’t forget the feast of our patron, Saint Francis de Sales, and we celebrate his on January 24.

 

Q.  Did Saint Joseph sin? –Josephine

A.  There is no indication in the Bible that says that he was sinless his whole life and the Catholic Church has never made a pronouncement stating that Joseph never sinned.  Only the Blessed Virgin Mary was declared as one who was free of original sin and died sinless.  The rest of humanity seems to fall under the category of “sinners” for scripture says, “There is no distinction; all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

 

Q.  Why do women wear veils on their wedding? –Anonymous

A.  The tradition of brides wearing veils goes pretty far back from the ancient Roman and Greek empires.  Their veils were either red or yellow because there was a pagan belief that these colors would protect the bride from evil spirits.  The white veil was used in Jewish weddings to signify the sanctity of the bride’s soul being covered.  On her wedding day both she and the groom are then elevated towards God as they are joined before Him.  In Christian weddings the white veil and wedding dress was introduced only around the beginning of the 19th century.  (Queen Victoria popularized the combination of white dress and white veil when she wore them at her wedding in 1840.)  Taking on the Jewish tradition of the bride’s sanctity in preparation for her wedding, the Christian brides adopted the white dress and the white veil and these became the symbols of the bride’s purity.  As divinely taught by God in tradition and scripture, Judeo-Christian faith practice presupposes that the groom and the bride remain pure virgins until after they are married.  The long white veil and long white dress symbolize that purity.  It is rather unfortunate that many brides today see no connection to their white dress/veil to the virtue of chastity.  Many spend a lot of time choosing and paying an exorbitant amount to buy a white wedding dress but are absolutely clueless to its symbolism in relation to chastity.  So many of them are even cohabiting before they get married.  The U.S. Census Bureau reports that in 2011 11.6% of (male/female) couples are cohabiting as compared to only 1.1% in 1960.  Another problematic sign of the times is that many wedding dresses today would also not pass a church modesty test.  [Bonus wedding trivia:  There is a difference between a wedding “veil” and a wedding “blusher.”  The veil is worn over the head and goes all the way to the back or even longer.  Some veils are even longer the train itself.  A blusher is much smaller that just covers the bride’s face and is flipped over the head when the appropriate time comes.  There are more wedding veils sold than wedding blushers.]

 

October 12, 2014

 

Q.  How is the theme for Vacation Bible School selected each year? –DVB

A.  Our religious education staff uses a Christian publishing company that offers a variety of VBS themes.  They select one of the themes offered for the current year and plan the event with the volunteers.  The program is designed to fit most Christian faith communities but our parish incorporates in the VBS the Catholic elements of our faith such as the Mass, the sacraments, Eucharistic Adoration, Catholic prayers, and the veneration of Saints.  It has worked out very well for us and we had the largest participation of kids and volunteers (over 150) this past summer.

 

Q.  How long should a noisy child stay during Mass?  What are appropriate activities (books, coloring, drawing) for preschoolers to do during Mass?  Are you going to address the increasing noise during Mass when little kids make prolonged noises and the parents continue to keep them in church?  It has become very difficult what the priest is saying.  What is our obligation (in the assembly) when something like this happens? –Anonymous (These actually came from anonymous notes from the past couple of months and others were excluded because they are similar in content.)

A.  This is always a very sensitive question for pastors to answer but there seems to be a rise in concern over the issue that should not be ignored because it is affecting our worshiping community’s ability to hear the Word of God.  Due to the limited space I decided to write a corresponding column about this in the weekly Shepherd’s Notes.  But I can give a suggested response at least to the first question.  Some parents follow the “5-second cookie rule.”  If they are unable to control their child’s vocal disturbance after 5 seconds of trying, they automatically take the child back behind the glass church doors (our unofficial cry room) until their child calms down.  I have noticed that most parents seem to follow this guideline.  It sounds like a very good practical advice and we thought the “5-second rule” was just for food that falls on the floor!).

 

Q.  Why are we still saying the “Building Our Faith” prayer before the end of Mass?  Isn’t the building finished already?  Shouldn’t we change the prayer? –Anonymous

A.  The building is not quite finished yet and we’re still waiting for the final occupancy permit to be issued.  There are unfinished parts of the building that are yet to be completed and we’re still working on installing telephones, computers, audio/video system, speakers and repairs to malfunctioning/damaged materials.  We hope to have all these completed by the end of October so we can change our prayer to “thanksgiving” and to be able to pay for our $4 Million mortgage!

 

 

October 19, 2014

 

Q.  Do the Greek gods exist? –Brady Kasabian

A.  No, they are mythological gods and were made up during the ancient Greek civilization.  Their stories were mainly preserved in early Greek literature and poetry.

 

Q.  What is the Catholic Church’s teaching on gay marriage?  Why is the Catholic against gay marriage?  What is the pope’s opinion on gay people? [From 6 anonymous notes submitted.]

A.  I believe most of the answers to these questions are addressed in this weekend’s Shepherd’s Notes column so please check page 3 of the bulletin.  Regarding the pope, Pope Francis is 100% Roman Catholic and accepts and upholds fully all of the Church’s teachings.  He describes himself as an “obedient son of the Church” and has never reversed any of the Church’s teachings.  Pope Francis is like music:  he sings the same Church lyrics but with a different melody from his predecessors.  He remains the rock foundation of our faith that he inherited from St. Peter.   [“For those about to rock, we salute you!” J]

 

Q.  Where does the Bible say that homosexual behavior is sinful? –Dana Friedl

A.  Some are mentioned in Shepherd’s Notes but here are some more.  Keep in mind that some older translations use the term “sodomites” or “effeminate” to describe homosexual practice.  Genesis ch. 19 [describes sin of the city of Sodom]; Leviticus 18:22, 20:13; Romans 1:18-32; 1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Timothy 8:1-11.

 

Q.  How do you keep those living a sinful life, i.e., same sex couples living in sin, out of your life without being judgmental?  What if those sinners are within your own family?  If you tell the homosexual that you will not attend their wedding because it’s against God, are we not judging their lifestyle?  If your niece lives with her boyfriend, do you visit their home? Thank you.—Anonymous

A.  What God forbids is rash judgment—that’s when one critically judges another without merit or substance.  God made us capable of being able to make judgment and we do it all the time.  For example, do you remain in your car if you see someone suspiciously following you?  Well, you just made a judgment, a wise one.  God also says that he will hold it against us if we do not speak the truth to correct someone when we had the chance [see Ezekiel 3:17-21 and 33:7-9].  But as Christians we are to correct people in the spirit of charity.  It’s not easy especially when we’re dealing with family so we pray for how we may appropriately approach them.  It is not hard to decline attending a wedding (or visiting an invalid relationship) that is not recognized by the Church regardless of whether it is between heterosexuals or homosexuals.  Just tell them that you have “another commitment” that will prevent your coming.  Some might say no one shouldn’t tell lies to get out of something.  Who says about lying?  Christians have A COMMITMENT TO GOD that they have to keep under pain of sin!  [It is those who go to the invalid wedding ceremonies that should worry about how God is going to judge them.]

 

 

October 26, 2014

 

Q.  How many Catholics are there in the world? –Elizabeth

A.  The official Catholic Yearbook (Annuario Pontificio) reports in the 2012 census that there are 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in the world.  The top 5 countries with the largest number of Catholics are Brazil (127,670,000), Mexico (92,891,000), Philippines (80,600,000), United States (75,404,022) and Italy (52,592,200).

 

Q.  If others say that dinosaurs were the first things on earth and the Bible says that Adam and Eve were, which one is true?  –Anonymous

A.  According to Genesis 1:20-31 the animals were made before Adam and Eve so this would include the dinosaurs.  The animals were made on the “5th day” of creation while Adam and Eve were created on the “6th day.”  If you want to read about a reference to what appears to be a description of a dinosaur in the Bible, read Job 40:15-32.  It’s a fascinating read—have fun!

 

Q.  In the present day where would the Garden of Eden be?  I know that God guarded it with angels but where would it be now?  I mean, no one has seen these angels with fiery swords now guarding the paradise, right? From “Someone you will never know the identity of”

A.  In Genesis 3:23-24 you are correct that when Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden a cherub angel and a revolving fiery sword guarded the entrance to the tree of life.  In the previous chapter 2 the Garden of Eden was described in the vicinity of 4 rivers:  Pishon, Gihon, Tigris and Euphrates.  We do know that the Tigris and the Euphrates are in modern day Iraq.  Since the entrance of original sin entered the world and affected the whole universe, this paradise was likely no longer in existence and has been integrated with the regular land in that region.

 

Q.  What has the Roman Catholic Church done about ISIS crisis?  What is her position? –SBC

A.  Pope Francis has spoken publicly against the radical Muslim militants known as ISIS. He has pleaded from western nations as well as from Muslim nations that ISIS needs to be stopped as they continue to terrorize innocent lives especially Christians.  The pope even considered traveling to Northern Iraq to show his solidarity to the persecuted Christians whom many have now been displaced from their lands. 

 

 

November 2, 2014

 

Q.  If a child dies, does he or she grow up in heaven? –Lucy, age 8

A.  Yes, according to St. Thomas Aquinas when we receive our resurrected body in the future all the people in heaven will receive a perfectly formed adult human body like Jesus.  This makes sense because babies that die and end up in heaven wouldn’t be able to experience true joy and happiness unless they are fully aware of what is to enjoy.

 

Q.  How old do you have to be to receive Holy Communion? –Ava Rose Cassidy

A.  In the Latin Rite Church (majority of Roman Catholics including us) the general age is 7 or 8 years old.  The requirement for receiving First Communion is that the person must understand the basics of the Catholic faith (Creed, Trinity, Jesus, importance of going to Mass, sacraments—especially Baptism, Penance, Eucharist) and know the difference between regular bread and the consecrated Eucharistic bread that has become the real presence of Jesus’ body, blood, soul and divinity.  They also need to reach the age of reason (knowing right from wrong) so that they can properly prepare to make good choices and know how to make a good confession.  Most young children can understand these basic important parts of our Catholic faith around age 7 and above.

 

Q.  Why did churches stop building cry rooms?  Growing up this is the room where families with small children prone to crying would always go to Mass. –Anonymous

A.  The simple answer is because children belong with the rest of the congregation at Mass in church.  Nowhere in the early history of the Catholic Church can one find a cry room either in the Holy Land or in Rome.  They would have found the concept contrary to Jesus’ teaching, “Let the children come to me and do not hinder them” (Mt 19:14).  For nearly 2,000 years parents have always found a way to train their children to properly behave in church.  The cry room concept was one of the innovations introduced in the 1970’s in an attempt to segregate unruly children from the rest of the congregation.  Many new churches being built are now likely in a traditional design (time proven to be sturdier, Christ-centered, less problematic than the unpleasant “modern” designs that resemble Pizza Huts or sci-fi space ships) and without cry rooms.  Most have glass doors similar to ours so that parents can temporarily take their crying child out until they are settled to return inside (read my Oct. 12, 2014 Shepherd’s Notes column online for more details).  Many will find it surprising that the biggest critics of cry rooms are the parents and they have shared these common but very unexpected serious concerns to many of us.  They see it as some kind of a penalty box if they take their kids to church.  Some have pointed out that the small confined area is a nightmarish breeding room for germs to pass from one family to the next because many don’t have a good ventilation system in there.  Others see their kids treat it as a regular social playroom to look forward to and prevent them from understanding the true value of the Mass and the real reason for going to church on Sundays.

 

Q.  Is masturbation a mortal sin?  PLEASE ANSWER! –Anonymous

A.  Yes, it is a mortal sin.  For more details, it is best to read

Q.  Is masturbation a mortal sin?  PLEASE ANSWER! –Anonymous

A.  Yes, it is a mortal sin.  For more details, it is best to read “alone” paragraph 2352 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  You can read this online from the Vatican website:  http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a6.htm

 paragraph 2352 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  You can read this online from the Vatican website:  http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a6.htm

 

 

November 9, 2014

 

Q.  Can God make something greater than himself? –Livia Tuman

A.  There is nothing greater than God because only God can be the greatest.  God was not created or made but was always in existence with no beginning or end.  Since God does not make another god it would not be possible to make something or someone greater than himself.

 

Q.  I know that Jesus is God’s Son, but who is God the Father? –Lennex

A.  We just call Jesus’ Father as God the Father or just The Father because he doesn’t have a name like we call the Son of God, Jesus.  All we know is that Jesus revealed to us that he has a Father in heaven.  And the Mary, of course, is the Mother of God because Jesus is her truly her Son.

 

Q.  If a young couple live with each other before marriage, would they need to go to confession before getting married in the Catholic Church? –SBC

A.  Yes, because cohabitation is a mortal sin they would need to make a good confession before they can get back in the state of grace.  That is the appropriate way to prepare for the sacrament of Holy Matrimony.  It doesn’t invalidate their marriage if they got married in the state of mortal sin but they would not get any graces at all until the state of their soul is restored back into sanctifying grace.

 

Q.  I went to church at 5 PM on Saturday and then I went again on Sunday but missed the Gospel on that day.  Because I already heard the Gospel, was it okay to go to communion? –Tabitha R.

A.  Normally, you can only receive communion at a Sunday Mass (including Saturday vigil) if you have met the minimum requirement for the Mass, i.e., you were there before the Gospel reading was over.  Canon 917 that permits a 2nd communion states, “One who has received the blessed Eucharist may receive it again on the same day only within a Eucharistic celebration in which that person participates.”  But if it wasn’t your fault that you didn’t get to church in time, especially since you’re not old enough to drive, then it was okay for you to receive communion on that day.

 

Q.  When did the parish center begin to be made? –Josephine

A.  We broke ground last year on the feast of our parish patron, Saint Francis de Sales, January 24, 2013.  But the idea of building the parish education center started way back around 2001.  The building project took a break for about 2-1/2 years (2006-08) but I restarted it on February 19, 2009, the day after I arrived.  The staff and our parish lawyer made me aware that there was less than 2 years left to submit a legitimate building plan to the county or else the whole project would have been scrapped because 11 acres of our land would have reverted back to the seller.  There was a deal to build on the 3 lots sold to the church within 5 years or lose them.  Many thanks to the prayers, volunteer work, and financial support of the parishioners we now have a real nice faith educational center!

 

 

November 16, 2014

 

Q.  When were the books of the Bible chosen? –Anonymous

A.  The Old Testament officially had 46 books prior to the time of Jesus.  Those books were written sometime in the span of about 1500 years (time of Moses and towards the birth of Jesus).  The 27 New Testament books were written between the resurrection of Jesus and the death of the last apostle, St. John, who lived to be about 100 years old.  The last book in the Bible is Revelation (aka The Apocalypse) was written either around 68 AD or 95 AD.  What we know for certain is that all of the New Testament books in the Bible were completed before the end of the 1st century AD.  After the Council of Rome in 382 AD, Pope Damasus wrote a decree listing the Old and New testaments totaling the 73 books.  The bishops met in North Africa, at the Council of Hippo (393 AD) and the Council of Carthage (397), to finalize the editing of which books are truly inspired by God to be included in the canon of scriptural books.  They came up with the same 46 books for the Old Testament and 27 for the New Testament.  In 405 AD Pope St. Innocent I officially approved and perpetually sealed the 73 books as the official canon of the Bible.  What a lot of people don’t know is that the Roman Catholic Church was the one responsible for bringing the complete Bible to the world.  Without the Catholic Church there wouldn’t be any other Christian religion in the world that could claim that their church was founded based on the Bible alone!

 

Q.  Are priests allowed to smoke? –Anonymous

A.  Although it is not recommended, priests are allowed to smoke under the normal conditions (e.g., marijuana or crack wouldn’t be considered “normal” but forbidden!). But there are certain religious orders and communities that completely prohibit their priests to smoke.  I don’t recall any diocese in history that has prohibited smoking. Smoking has never been listed as a sin in the Catholic Church unless where law prohibits smoking (e.g., airplanes, hospital rooms, inside dynamite making factories, etc.).  Our faith teaches us that we have an obligation to keep our bodies healthy because they are the temples of the Holy Spirit but does not specify how this is to be done.  But if a physician orders a patient not to smoke due to a serious health condition, it would likely be at least a venial sin to smoke.  Sirach 38:12-15 says, “Give the doctor his place lest he leave; for you need him too.  There are times that give him an advantage, and he too beseeches God that his diagnosis may be correct and his treatment bring about a cure.  He who is a sinner toward his Maker will be defiant toward the doctor.”  I personally have never been a smoker of any kind but when I became a priest I was required at times to light up in church—to smoke up incense at Mass and Eucharistic Adoration.  Let me just make one thing clear that when I do “smoke” in church…I don’t inhale it!  

 

Q.  Has the IRS ever threatened the Arlington Diocese for speaking out on political issues from the pulpit? –SBC

A.  Not that I’m aware of.  There is nothing legally wrong for churches to speak out on important political issues that are contrary to faith (e.g., abortion, same-sex relationships, contraception, etc.).  What the IRS prohibits in order to maintain a non-profit status includes the public endorsement or condemnation of a particular candidate running for office.  Churches are also permitted to speak publicly for or against issues on the ballot.

 

 

November 23, 2014

 

Q.  How does one send a letter to the pope? –Josephine S.

A.  You can write the pope a letter and he will more likely read it than if you send a letter to Santa Claus to the North Pole.  He is the pope’s mailing address: 

 

His Holiness, Pope Francis

            Papal Apostolic Palace

            00120 Vatican City

 

Q.  One of my favorite hymns is “Bread of Life.”  I was looking through St. Michael’s hymnal and I could not find it.  Is it in there? –Anonymous

A.  Unfortunately, there are several major Catholic music publications and they do not share most of the music in the same book.  So we are getting a 2nd hymnal set, Saint Augustine Hymnal, from another publication to put in the pews and this will have both “The Bread of Life” and “I Am the Bread of Life” selections.

 

Q.  When souls go to purgatory, do they know that they are in purgatory? —Anonymous

A.  Yes, they absolutely know they are in purgatory if they are sent there…and they will feel it too!

 

Q.  If we worship God, does God worship anybody? –Lily E.

A.  No, only God’s creatures (angels, humans) worship God.  The 3 persons of the Holy Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit) do not worship each other but they have a perfect mutual love between each other.

 

Q.  When is the microphone system going to be rigged up in the gym? –EAB

A.  It’s already “rigged up” and the sound is very nice and clear!

 

 

November 30, 2014

 

Q.  If you are poor and cannot take care of your parents, is it a sin? –SBC

A.  Usually, it is not a sin because you can’t give what you don’t have.  But you can always try and help in another way other than financial help if you can.  If you became poor because you recklessly squandered your money through your own fault (e.g., gambling, drugs, excessive spending, etc.), then God may hold you responsible for not being able to care for your parents.

 

Q.  What are you thinking while you watch people come up to you to receive communion? –Claire Eddy, age 12

A.  On a “normal” day celebrating Mass I don’t really think about anything other than making sure that I properly give the Eucharist to the communicant.  But during a Christmas, Easter, First Communion, Confirmation, wedding or funeral Mass all of us giving communion (including extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist) are on a yellow alert mode because that’s when we sometimes get non-Catholics or non-practicing Catholics who try to receive Holy Communion and not know what to do with the Eucharist.  Every year we catch a few who cup or pocket the Eucharist and discard it later.  When that happens we have to chase the person and return the Eucharist to us.  It is very sad when we find communion hosts left in the pews and discarded on the floor and on parish grounds. 

 

Q.  Are those who suffer from Alzheimer’s responsible for their sins? –SBC

A.  To commit a sin one must at least have knowledge that they were committing a sin so that rules out those who have Alzheimer’s.

 

Q.  Why do the notes for the Responsorial Psalm sometimes not match the notes we are singing from the books in the pews? –Anonymous

A.  There are many versions that can be used for the Responsorial Psalm.  Sometimes our cantor/choir use a version that is not the same as the one in the pews because some selections are easier for the congregation to follow than the one in the book.

 

Q.  Is it a sin to pray for your sports team to win? –Aric Vale

A.  Not at all!  You should always pray for your favorite team to win.  A reporter once asked the legendary football player from Notre Dame, Knute Rockne, if prayer helps a team win games.  His answer was, “Prayer seems to work better when you’re surrounded with bigger players.”

 

 

December 7, 2014

 

Q.  I understand that we no longer have the POP fund at our parish due to raising funds for our new building.  What do you suggest to parishioners who would like to give to the poor outside of the local area? –Anonymous

A.  Thank you for your continual support of the poor!  Though our parish is now also “poor” ($3 million in debt due to construction), we continue to assist the local needy (see this weekend’s Shepherd’s Notes).  But we still encourage that you privately consider supporting good reputable charitable organizations to assist the poor either in our area or in foreign lands.  Right now my personal favorite for this Advent, and the one I highly recommend that everyone should at least consider, is Food For The Poor’s “Christmas Catalog” (http://www.foodforthepoor.org/catalog/index.html).  For just $90 I was able to arrange for a family with a supply of milk and cheese by buying them… a goat!  For as long as the goat is living and providing milk there will be a continuous supply of goat’s milk going to that particular family.  Other options in their Christmas catalog include the following.  For $43.80 you could feed 1 child for a whole year.  You could also provide a water pump generator at $280 for several families.  And if you are really feeling generous, for $3200 a house with sanitation can be built for a family.  For everyone reading this, please consider adding a Christmas stocking for Food For The Poor and/or other good charitable organizations mentioned in my Shepherd’s Notes column and you’d feel really good about gift giving this Christmas.

 

Q.  When did people start Christmas caroling? –Anonymous

A.  The practice of singing carols predates Christianity.  The world carol originally meant to dance to something.  Carula is Latin for a circular dance.  Early European pagans have been known to sing and dance to something during the winter solstice (December 22) and at other 4 seasons.  When Rome became Christian and replaced the sun-god with the celebration of the birth of Jesus on December 25, the pagan song and dance were replaced with hymns that reflect on the incarnation of Jesus.  In the 4th century, St. Ambrose (Archbishop of Milan) composed one of the earliest Christmas hymns on record:  Veni Redemptor Gentium (Come, Redeemer of the Nations).  In the 13th century St. Francis of Assisi was a key figure in popularizing singing Christmas songs in one’s native language resulting in Italy, France and Germany began to create more Christmas songs for the public to sing along.  This was about the time when some of the early traces of Christmas caroling began to form.  The lyrics of Adeste Fideles (O Come All Ye Faithful) date back to the 13th century but the melody we’re familiar with may have only been since the 1800’s when many other beautiful Christmas carols were written that we still sing today.  These include Silent Night, The First Noel, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, It Came Upon A Midnight Clear, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, and many others.  It was during the late 19th century when the current Christmas caroling that we’re familiar with began to take off.  The 20th century was probably the largest number of people that went around neighborhoods singing Christmas carols to promote awareness of the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ.  But sadly, we are seeing the 21st century as the biggest decline in public singing and even any use of the word “Christmas” in western society.  It has been replaced by the “Happy Holidays” nonsense mantra.  It’s “Merry Christmas” and always will be, people!!!  Remember the words of Jesus, “Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).

 

 

December 14, 2014

 

Q.  What are you supposed to do if the priest or Eucharistic minister accidentally gives you two communion hosts? –Anonymous

A.  If you received both hosts in your hand, you may consume them both or return one of them to the Eucharistic minister.  But if both were placed directly on your tongue, please do not return the other communion host but consume and swallow them both—carefully!

 

Q.  Are you mad when I sin?  Is God mad too? –Alex E., 2nd grade

A.  I don’t think anyone gets mad if a 2nd grader sins but it should make everyone unhappy when anyone sins because a wrong action was chosen over a good one.  But the important thing is God forgives everyone who asks for forgiveness.  That is why learning about confession is very important for your 2nd grade class because this is the year when you are preparing to experience God’s gift of forgiveness through the sacrament of Penance (Reconciliation).  God is not happy when we sin but is very happy when we ask for forgiveness.  Once you make your first confession you will feel very happy and relieved because your soul will feel spiritually “super clean.”

 

Q.  Whenever I see the candles of the deceased lit I mourn for my “nana” because she died.  How can I get past it and why do I still mourn? –William Gutshall, age 13

A.  That is still totally understandable why you are saddened seeing a reminder of your grandmother when the candles are lit during the month of November in our church.  The main why reason for that is because we love the special people in our lives and miss them when they die.  However, the candles and the All Souls feast day remind us that no one really dies.  They were just called by God into eternal life.  If we all follow the ways of God to the end of our lives we will enjoy a very happy reunion later on in heaven with the rest of our loved ones who died previously having been faithful to God.  Be consoled that God’s good people continue to pray and watch over us while we are still here on earth.  Their only desire is for us to happily join them in heaven with God.  Only a life of sin can forever separate us from getting to heaven.

 

Q.  Why do some Advent candleholders have 5 candles and some have 4? –Anonymous

A.  In the Catholic Church we only use 4 candles (3 purple, 1 rose) to signify the 4 Sundays of the Advent season prior to Christmas.  Non-Catholic traditions added a 5th white candle in the middle called the “Christ” candle.  It is lit either on Christmas Eve or Christmas day.  It is more common for Protestant Advent wreaths to have 1 white candle in the middle encircled by 4 red candles because most of them do not follow any liturgical colors/tradition in their worship.  The only colors that would meaningfully fit their décor would be the Christmas colors of red and green.

 

[No entry for December 21 & 28, 2014, January 4, 2015--Christmas break!]

 

 

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Purcellville, VA  20132

 

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