January 4, 2015 - [No Entry]
January 11, 2015
Q. If I go to a weekday Mass and not certain whether or not I have been drinking coffee for less than an hour before communion, should I refrain from receiving communion at Mass? –Anonymous
A. Unless you are quite certain that you drank your coffee (or any beverage other than water) less than an hour before, the prudent decision is to receive holy communion. You wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity of receiving the Eucharist over an “arbitrary” hour of fasting.
Q. Do you have to be of certain age to become pope? –Anonymous
A. There is no minimum or maximum age specified for an election of a pope. The only requirement is that cardinals must be under 80 years old to vote for the next pope.
Q. Can a priest request a parish he would like to serve as a pastor? --H. O.
A. Yes, but the bishop makes the final decision on parish assignments. One priest told me that he once requested to be sent to one of the 12 parishes he identified on his “wish list” but was not assigned to any of them! Every January each priest in our diocese receives a form and state whether he wants to move or stay in the parish and to give the reason why. It is an opportunity for each priest to provide an input where he may want to be assigned. Many priests (including me) have never specified where we would like to be assigned and prefer to let the Holy Spirit guide the bishop as to where we should go in our priestly ministry. After all, the sacrament of Holy Orders is about…taking “holy” orders from one of the apostles’ successors, the local Catholic bishop.
Q. When is the feast of Saint Cecilia? –Anonymous
A. November 22.
Q. What happens to the people who died but were not baptized? Where do they go? –Emma H.
A. If they died as good people, we know that they will not go to hell. Jesus died to save everyone from sins. It is possible for non-Jews and non-Christians to go to heaven who through no fault of their own followed a god whom they thought was the real god. They are still saved by Jesus and not by their own false god(s) that doesn’t even exist. The other theological theory from St. Thomas Aquinas is that the non-baptized including unbaptized babies that died will spend their eternity in limbo. St. Thomas described limbo as a place of natural happiness but cannot see God face to face. The Catholic Church does not officially teach nor prohibit anyone from believing it. There isn’t a lot we know theologically about limbo because Jesus never really mentioned it. That’s why when people are in a very uncertain situation they are sometimes referred to as people “in limbo.”
Q. What is our deacon’s name? –Anonymous
A. His name is Rev. Mr. Larry Hammel. You can call him “Deacon Larry” as most people know him. Among his many clergy duties in both Arlington (VA) & Wheeling-Charleston (WV) dioceses include baptism preparation and jail ministry.
January 18, 2015
Q. Is there anyone who is like a “vice pope” as in a vice president? –Anonymous
A. There is no one who holds the rank of a “vice pope” in the Catholic Church. While the pope has many advisers especially several cardinals, the pope is the only one in the position of governance. A vice-president in the U.S. automatically takes over as president if death happens or a resignation. When the pope dies a new election is needed to replace him.
Q. I have heard if you go to confession you should do it at a different Catholic Church so that the priest doesn’t identify who you are (by voice). Is this true? –Anonymous
A. There is no such rule but you are free to go to any Catholic priest or parish for confession. We go through numerous confessions that it is very difficult to recognize anyone’s voice. It is also very difficult to remember what people say in the confessional. Sometimes I have a difficult time remembering when they tell me when their last confession was. Even if for some reason we recognize or remember the person’s sins, the seal of confession prevents us from revealing what we heard in confession. Priests are automatically excommunicated if they identify the penitents and reveal their sins.
Q. Are priests allowed to go hunting? –Peter, 5th grade
A. Yes, priests are allowed to hunt since Jesus does not forbid anyone from eating meat. In some remote areas, such as Africa or even Alaska in the winter, the only way to find meat to eat was to go fishing or hunting. An old humorous tale states that a missionary priest that ate only vegetables was either a very virtuous man or a bad hunter! [And yes, I do like to hunt deer and have “bagged” several since I came to Loudoun County nearly 6 years ago. I’m no vegetarian and I am most grateful to parishioners who have permitted me to hunt on their property.]
Q. If we encounter a “scammer” or suspect one, do we just give them the Catholic Charities phone number, call the authorities, or what? –SBC
A. It’s a good idea to refer them to Catholic Charities or the local social service. That is usually a telltale to see if they are legitimately in need or not. If they get very upset that’s usually a bad sign that they are trying to swindle you for cash. The gypsies who were scamming parishioners about a month ago returned to the parish to try their deceptive tactics again. I was happy to hear that the parishioners knew how to respond this time around. One of the ushers alerted me of their presence during Mass and he was able to ask them to leave peacefully. It was the same “scamming” family that we previously encountered. It is really sad that they are continually doing their illegitimate canvassing of good people. Since they made several hundred to a few thousand the last time, they had nothing to lose returning to generous cash giving Christians, right? With so many truly needy people in our area it is always best to work with our charitable partners to make sure that the people’s gift donations go to the right people.
January 25, 2015 [No Entry - Priest in Rome w/Pope Francis & Saint Agnes!]
February 1, 2015
Q. How do we know if a loved one has made it to heaven? –Shea Rider
A. With the exception of those whom the popes have officially declared as saints, most of us will never know if someone has already gone to heaven until we die. Jesus judges the fate of the person immediately after death and will end up either in heaven, purgatory or hell. We should always pray for our deceased loved ones because they could be in purgatory and in need of our help to get to heaven. We do them an injustice by presuming they are already in heaven.
Q. What are the call box-like things next to the parish education center entrances for? –Elliot B.
A. The call boxes are for people to alert the staff that someone is outside who wants to get in the building when the doors are closed. The doors can be remotely opened from the education center or from the main parish office.
Q. What can I do to make Jesus smile? –Kendall, age 5
A. I think you just did by asking this question! We can always make Jesus smile simply by avoiding sin, by going something good for others, and for doing what is right.
Q. If Jesus is our brother, Mary is our Mother, and God our Father, what would that make Joseph? And would that mean that God and Mary are married? --Anonymous
A. In heaven we all become brothers and sisters in God’s family. St. Paul teaches, “For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 4:26). Jesus also says, “At the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30). St. Joseph would be our brother in heaven. By the way, Jesus would be more than just our “brother” because he would also be our God at the same time. Mary is both our Mother in heaven and Spouse of God the Holy Spirit. Through the power of God the Holy Spirit, Jesus was conceived with the cooperation of Mary and this is why she is referred to as spouse of the Holy Spirit. It is not a sacramental marriage that we are familiar with but a mystical spiritual marriage.
Q. If you die touching a brown scapular, will you go to heaven? –Thomas & Andre Smith
A. No, touching a brown scapular (of Our Lady of Mount Carmel) alone will not get you to heaven. In every circumstance one must die in the state of grace in order to be admitted in heaven. The brown scapular devotion was meant for the individual to wear it devoutly and live for God under the protection of Our Lady. The graces from this devotion were intended to make us live a holy life and end up in heaven. Sacramentals such as the brown scapular do not have the power to remove mortal sins like the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. They can only inspire us to live a holy life.
Q. Can God absolutely do anything? –Peter Karanski
A. Yes, absolutely! “For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).
February 8, 2015
Q. Are those people who bring the collection, the bread, and the wine the same people every week? –Anonymous
A. It’s not intended that way but sometimes the same family end up bringing the collection because the ushers need to find a family long before Mass begins. The “early birds” tend to be the same people. We would like to have a variety parishioners bringing up the gifts. If you and anyone out there would like to volunteer as gift presenters just approach the ushers before Mass. Take my word for it, they are eager to find new people and so are the “regular” ones that normally take them up!
Q. I understand why Jesus is covered in purple cloth on Palm Sunday and Holy Week, but why Mary? –Anonymous
A. All of the sacred images are normally covered during Holy Week to better focus our meditations on the Passion and death of Our Lord Jesus Christ instead of the regular devotions. Traditionally, the images are covered for 2 weeks and the Sunday before Palm Sunday is called “Passion Sunday.”
Q. How do you know if the person you like now is “The ONE”? –By: “Exchange Student”
A. Ooooh, am I detecting romance in the air? Perhaps this is a fun, creative and cryptic message purposely intended for one of our Ask the Priest readers to figure out! Nevertheless, I wish you well, dear “Exchange Student.” The answer is always the same. You will find out if the “One” you are currently attracted to is really the one for you to marry only after you have both gotten to know each other very well. After you’ve had a sufficient dating period discussing the pertinent issues of the married and family life, then you both will have a good idea whether you are meant for each other for life. In the meantime, pray about it and let us know how this little exchange ended up. This relationship may end up becoming long distance because your student visa may be expiring soon. Only time will determine whether this romance will blossom or not. For now, enjoy as much as you can your time here in the U.S. and especially in our parish. Whoever you are, anonymous “Exchange Student,” we’re very happy that you got to spend some time with us. We are a loving parish full of adventures! (As I’m writing this, the love song playing in my mind right now is the one popularized by many world famous singers titled, “I’m In The Mood For Love.”)
February 15, 2015
Q. Can a Mass be offered for non-Catholics who have died? –Anonymous
A. Yes, and we should. Since most non-Catholics do not believe in purgatory their families would not likely be praying for them so it’s up to the Catholics to do that. If they are in purgatory they could spend a very long time there if no one offers prayers and Masses for them. At every Mass the prayers we offer for the dead is for everyone and not just for deceased Catholics.
Q. Is it a sin to say a bad word when you are acting in a movie? –Anonymous
A. Most of the time it is not especially if you are portraying a real life story of a person who on occasion was regularly using bad words. There are a few good war movies where on occasion have actors realistically depict soldiers who use curse words especially on the battlefield. That’s one example where an actor would not be sinning. But if the movie was intended to have an immoral theme and purposely designed to use profane and objectionable words, then a morally good actor should not even be involved with that movie. As a general rule, we should avoid watching any movie that has morally objectionable contents (words, scenes, themes, etc.). There was a time when Hollywood used to make highly successful movies including those with war themes that didn’t have to use curse words to extra accurately portray characters but that’s not the norm anymore. The Hollywood film industry switched from having morally conservative censors to permissively liberal ones sometime from the mid-1960’s and beyond. It is rather odd that the radical shift in Hollywood coincided with the height of anti-Vietnam war protesters, sexual revolution, the Pill/contraception culture, hippie/drug craze, and, believe it or not…Vatican II (1962-65)! [The good Catholics who interpreted Vatican II correctly remained good, while the others got lost in their own whims and fancies and became dissenters in the spirit very much like the other radicals misleading many people. Thank God we have popes who consistently guide us through turbulent times.]
Q. Can the priest report to the authorities if someone confesses he is going to murder someone in the future? –7th Grade CCD Class
A. First of all, murderers do not go to confession prior to committing a crime so this is a hypothetical question rather than a real life question. But the answer is no. The seal of confession is to give the person the confidence that what is said in confession is between God and the penitent alone. When you go to confession you are in essence speaking to Jesus directly asking him for forgiveness of sins and that the priest is no longer personally involved once the confession is completed. As far as murderers, it’s tough enough to try to get them to confession after they have committed the crime so why in the world would they even go to a priest for confession and risk exposing themselves before they commit the murder? It just doesn’t happen in real life. So when you go to confession don’t be afraid to confess all your sins because no one else but God would know about it!
February 22, 2015
Q. Who does the pope go to for confession? –Anonymous
A. Popes go to confession to any priest whom they wish. As a priest and bishop, he normally would have a regular confessor. While he was archbishop in Buenos Aires his regular confessor was a Franciscan from Croatia named, Fr Berislav Ostojic. I couldn’t find out who specifically the pope goes to for confession now but he did say publicly that the goes to confession every 2 weeks. [If anyone reading this and has not gone to confession in a while, it’s Lent and it’s time to go!]
Q. Throughout the Bible Jesus speaks to the people by saying, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee (you).” What does “verily” mean? –Anonymous
A. Literally, in English it means, truly. The word has its root from the Latin, veritas, which means truth. “Verily” was a translation of the Hebrew word, Amen. In modern English we don’t use the word verily often anymore. The New American Bible kept the Hebrew Amen in its translation as in John 6:53, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life in you.”
Q. Was Goliath really a giant? –Robbie Worley
A. In 1 Samuel 17:4 we read about the great size of Goliath who famously fought David…and lost big time! Traditionally, his measurement was “6 cubits and a span.” A cubit (roughly 18”) is the length from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger of an average man and a span is the size of a hand. This would make Goliath about 9½ feet tall. A later translation dating back to the 1st century have him as only “4 cubits and a span” which would make him only about 6½ feet and not really gigantic because many of our college and professional basketball players today are much taller and not unusual to see a few 7-footers. However, Goliath would still stand out because at that time he was probably taller than everyone else and likely very strong.
Q. How long were Mary and Joseph married? –Anonymous
A. At least 12 years but we really don’t know when St. Joseph died so we have no timeline to go by for the length of time they were married. The last biblical account we have of Joseph was when Jesus was lost and found in the Temple at age 12. It appears that he died before Jesus began his public ministry around age 30.
March 1, 2015
Q. How was Jesus as a teenager? –Anonymous
A. It is safe to say that he was the best and most behaved teenager who lived on the face of the earth. As Son of God, Jesus was perfect love, sinless and not prone to any vice the whole time he lived with other people.
Q. What other parishes are there in Loudoun County? –Anonymous
A. There are 7 parishes including ours: Saint John the Apostle (Leesburg), Saint Stephen the Martyr (Middleburg), Saint Theresa (Ashburn), Our Lady of Hope (Potomac Falls), Christ the Redeemer (Sterling) and Corpus Christi (South Riding).
Q. Was King Tut before or after Jesus? –Robbie Worley
A. He lived about 1,300 years before Jesus was born on earth. But as God, Jesus has always existed so in that sense he was alive long before King Tut.
Q. Matthew 5:28 says, “But I say unto you, that whoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” But some women are just so beautiful, isn’t this asking the impossible? Isn’t it all right to admire God’s work? –Anonymous
A. There is nothing wrong with admiring one’s good looks. When we see certain people stand out as “beautiful” (and kind) here on earth, they should remind us that God has great plans for us in the afterlife. Once in heaven everyone will have a perfectly beautiful resurrected body. In the Song of Songs (4:1) we read in the Bible about admiration for one’s beauty, “Ah, you are beautiful, my beloved, ah you are beautiful. Your eyes are doves behind your veil.” In Genesis 29 Jacob was told by his future father-in-law that he would need to serve him for 7 years before he would consent to marrying his daughter, Rachel. In Jacob’s eyes, “Leah had lovely eyes, but Rachel was well formed and beautiful (29:17)…. So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, yet they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her” (29:20). [Jacob actually had to wait 14 years before he could marry Rachel because his father-in-law pulled a fast one on him. You bachelors out there, it is highly advisable that you read this chapter for your own good!] Anyway, in the quote you mentioned, Jesus was simply extending the sin of adultery from physical action to forbidding impure thoughts and desires as well. There is a difference between admiring a woman’s beauty to fantasizing on impure thoughts and desires against her. The latter is a violation of the 9th commandment, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.” In summary, Jesus is saying it’s okay to “looketh...but don’t lusteth.”
March 8, 2015
Q. Is it a sin to refuse to get ashes on Ash Wednesday? –Alivia Favereaux
A. No, it’s not even a sin to attend Mass on Ash Wednesday because it is not a holy day of obligation.
Q. Shouldn’t the Eucharistic fast be at least as long as the usual time most people go in between meals, about 3 to 4 hours? A one hour fast seems woefully inadequate considering whom we are receiving! --Anonymous
A. The one hour fast is the minimum for the Eucharistic fast. You can make your fast for as long as you want. When I have the early Masses I observe the midnight to communion fast. This, of course, would not be practical for the later Masses such as the 6 PM Sunday night!
Q. What is a good starting place to learn using NFP? –Anonymous
A. Excellent question and I’m sure many of our parishioners will benefit from this. Our Arlington Diocese website under Family Life has a nice page for you to select the NFP (Natural Family Planning) method you prefer. The 3 most common ones are the Billings Method, Creighton Model, and the Marquette Model. If learned and applied properly, these systems have a 99% (or more) and there is no sin involved as opposed to using artificial contraception. If you are into apps, you can use My Days app to track the woman’s cycle and use this as a practical NFP guide. NFP works both ways in determining the least or most optimum time for pregnancy. Here’s the link for starters: http://www.arlingtondiocese.org/familylife/natural_fam_plan.aspx
Q. How does one become a Grand Knight in the Knights of Columbus? –Anonymous
A. It is done by election. In our parish the Knights elect a new Grand Knight in June. Most of the time, the Deputy Grand Knight is next in line to be elected but it is not always the case.
March 15, 2015
Q. In the Bible God holds blood as sacred especially since he shed his blood for us. Is it wrong to give blood to others? –Anonymous
A. Not at all. It is a great act of charity to donate blood because you are sacrificing a part of you to save the lives of others. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Giving part of one’s blood to save the life of another is very much in the spirit of Jesus shedding his own blood to save us. The same principle applies to organ donors.
Q. How old is the church building? –Elliot Boyko
A. Our church was completed about 23 years ago (1992) and we celebrate its annual dedication and consecration by Bishop John R. Keating on June 28.
Q. What was Jesus’ favorite food? –Anonymous
A. The best Mother in the world was Jesus’ Mom, Our Blessed Mother, so whatever she cooked for him was his favorite! But if I were to guess specifically, it would be fish and bread. Why? Because Jesus miraculously multiplied thousands of loaves and fish to feed his fans (followers). He wouldn’t have served them if he didn’t like them. Many Bible scholars believe it was the tilapia fish that Jesus multiplied because that was (and still is) the most common fish in the Sea of Galilee.
Q. I know someone once asked if it was okay to hate the devil but I didn’t see a clear answer. So I’ll ask it in a different way. Are you supposed to love the devil? –KK
A. That question you’re referring to was first asked on Aug. 1, 2010 and it was clearly answered that we are not supposed to hate the devil nor anyone. God does not and will never hate anyone. It may be hard for some to understand that God loves all his creatures including the devil. We have to follow the example of God. Loving someone does not mean that we have to support their wrongdoing. Our Christian spirit is to hate sin but love the sinner. Jesus makes it clear how we are to treat our enemies: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate the enemy’. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:43-45). Jesus has never asked us to hate the devil but only to despise all his works. It is like a good father who has a son that became a criminal. He doesn’t stop loving his son but disapproves and despises his criminal acts. The simple answer is, yes, we are supposed to love the devil but only indirectly. We don’t go around telling others, “I love the devil.” Looking back during World War II the true Christians still loved Hitler and Stalin, even though they were notorious enemies, but they weren’t fond of them at all nor did they go around announcing how much they loved them. What we show is a type of love for the devil by not hating him. God does not ask us to proactively love the devil, only implicitly (indirectly). I think this topic has been extensively covered and now time to move the devil out of here!
March 22, 2015
Q. Were there rainbows before the great flood during Noah’s time? –Alec
A. The atmosphere in the world was altered after the great flood. Prior to that there were no rainbows on earth. The first mention of the rainbow is found in Genesis 9:13-15 when God promised not to send another great flood: “I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears in the clouds, I will recall the covenant I have made between me and you and all living beings, so that the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings.”
Q. Can demons be seen? If yes, what would they look like? –Anonymous
A. On rare occasions God allows the devil to be partially seen by humans. If humans were to see the actual image of the devil they would instantly die of fright. God allowed many of the saints to see the devil including St. John Vianney, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Bridget of Sweden and St. Dominic. One of the 3 children who saw Our Lady of Fatima in 1917, Sr. Lucia, gave us a vivid description of hell: “The rays [of light] appeared to penetrate the earth, and we saw, as it were, a vast sea of fire. Plunged in this fire, we saw the demons and the souls [of the damned]. The latter were like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, having human forms. They were floating about in that conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames which issued from within themselves, together with great clouds of smoke. Now they fell back on every side like sparks in huge fires, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fright (it must have been this sight which caused me to cry out, as people say they heard me). The demons were distinguished [from the souls of the damned] by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals. That vision only lasted for a moment, thanks to our good Heavenly Mother, who at the first apparition had promised to take us to Heaven. Without that, I think that we would have died of terror and fear."
Q. Why is the Rosary shaped like a necklace if you aren’t supposed to wear it? –Anonymous
A. The Rosary was not designed as a necklace but as a simple guide to count the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be prayers grouped into decades. As long as you’re not wearing it just as a necklace, there is nothing wrong with wearing it. Many religious orders require wearing the Rosary as part of their habit. Lay people can wear the Rosary around their neck as long as they are praying it and not just using it as a form of jewelry.
Q. Do you like being a priest? –Collin Price
A. Most definitely, yes, I do!!! Since I was about six I’ve always wanted to be a priest. For those called to the priesthood, it can be a very difficult but also a very satisfying life working directly for Jesus. In May I celebrate 20 years as a priest and every one of those years God seemed to have given me surprising new challenges to keep my priestly life very interesting. I can only imagine what other spiritual adventures He has in store for me in the future. Not a day passes when I have nothing to do for the Lord and his people.
March 29, 2015
Q. Do we really have a part of the heart of Saint Francis de Sales in our church? –Anonymous
A. Yes, we do. A first class relic (part of the saint’s body) of Saint Francis de Sales, our church patron, is in a golden reliquary inside the Oratory (the little chapel in between the church and the restrooms). The official document from the Vatican that came along with it states that a small piece from the heart of Saint Francis de Sales is encased in the reliquary. I invite everyone to visit and honor the relic in the Oratory. Father Matthew Zuberbueler, the current pastor of Saint Louis in Alexandria, VA, donated this to our parish not long before I arrived in 2009.
Q. What will the church restrooms look like when they are completed? –Anonymous76
A. They were finished at the end of January 2015. Take a look and enjoy!
Q. Who is the God of the Jews? –Tim L.
A. The God of the Jews is the same as ours—the God of Abraham. Jews, Christians and, believe it or not, Muslims believe in the same one true God. We are referred to in theology as the Abrahamic faiths. The biggest difference is that Jesus revealed far more to the Christians about the nature of God. Jesus taught us that there are 3 distinct persons in the one true God: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit. We call this the mystery of the Holy Trinity.
Q. With Muslim terrorists being successful in the murder of so many people, including Christians, are we permitted to defend ourselves or do we need to submit to the beheadings? Jesus said, “Turn the other cheek.” But how literal do we take it? --“Concerned”
A. It is perfectly all right to defend one’s self from someone who intends to take away innocent human life. Self-defense has always been morally acceptable. However, when one is placed in a situation to give up one’s faith in Jesus or die, the only option is to die for Jesus Christ. It is a mortal sin for a Christian to deny one’s faith in Jesus. As the Gospel says, “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25). But if a person decides to defend himself or herself, that would be perfectly fine too. Even though I pray everyday for the end to the persecutions of the Christians in Muslim countries, I spiritually envy them as they constantly face the Muslim persecutions. They are really showing their love for Jesus and his Church in the most extreme manner. I truly wish I could do more for them. [My patroness, Saint Agnes, joyfully received martyrdom when she was beheaded for refusing to give up her faith in Jesus at the tender age of 13. If God were to place me in a similar situation, I would pray for that same grace. It would be baptism by blood and a guaranteed immediate entrance to heaven with no purgatory time. Now who would not want that?!]
April 5, 2015
Q. If someone is sick or unsafe (like in the military), can you pray to his or her Guardian Angel? –Anonymous
A. Yes. The name angel means messenger (God’s messenger). You can ask that person’s Guardian Angel to plead to God for the person in need. St. Padre Pio used to send his own Guardian Angel on several missions to look out for others as well. Since angels are spirits they can simultaneously watch us, go on missions, and be in the presence of God. We can get the most of our own Guardian Angels by sending them out on missions too.
Q. I’ve heard that when you go to heaven, you are always with Jesus and He is always with you. Since Jesus is in all of us, are the people in heaven also in us? –Tabitha R.
A. The people in heaven (and purgatory) are with us always in spirit because they are united with us through the communion of saints. With God’s permission they get to see us here on earth. We know that because there’s joy in heaven when someone living in sin repents and gets reconciled with God (Luke 15:7). There are 3 churches in the universal church where saints can be found: in heaven (Church Triumphant), on earth (Church Militant), and in purgatory (Church Suffering). But they are not present in us like Jesus because only God can do that. So when we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, or when we ask God (the Holy Trinity) to dwell inside of us, only their (Trinity) presence exist.
Q. Is there a prayer I can pray daily to better my chances of winning one of the cars in the raffle? I plan to give the car to someone that badly needs it. –Anonymous
A. There are several who are praying for the same intention in several parishes. We’ll see whose prayer God will hear! But there is a saint you can pray to who may be able to help increase your chance of winning any kind of a raffle or lottery. His name is Saint Matthias. In the early church he was selected as the apostle to replace the traitor Judas Iscariot by means of prayer and a lottery (Acts 1:15-26).
Q. If someone was excommunicated, would her or she still be able to go to heaven? –Anonymous
A. Yes, but only if he or she repents and be reconciled with God before death. An excommunication is a declaration that a Catholic is definitively living a life contrary to God and refused to correct his or her own way. No one gets excommunicated without the Church first clearly informing the person to renounce his or her erroneous belief. The excommunicated person is unfit for heaven. Jesus gave the power to protect His Church since the time of Peter, the first pope: “I will give you the keys to the kingdom. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). However, God’s mercy is so incredible that he would not deny forgiveness to repentant sinners including those who have been excommunicated.
April 12, 2015
Q. Do you ever cry while celebrating a funeral Mass? I realize you have done many but you are human with emotions like everyone else. I’m just wondering how hard it is for a priest. –Jim W.
A. Funerals are always emotionally difficult because it is very sad to see people who are mourning their loved ones. I do make a strong effort not to break down during funerals especially for those I personally knew but there was one occasion when my emotion clearly got the best of me. It was in the summer of 2011 when I did the funeral for the little 5-year old, Sadie Grace Ablard, who was called to eternal life at such a tender young age after a roller skating accident. When Sadie came to Mass she always made sure that she said hello and good-bye to me. Even if there was a long line she always patiently waited for her turn with a lovely angelic smile. Sadie was quite spiritually advanced for her age and often asked me questions about God and heaven. I always looked forward to our spiritual chats. I was deeply saddened with the news of her death. I still get teary-eyed thinking about her even as I am writing this. I can still vividly picture in my mind Sadie waiting for her turn to have a spiritual conversation with me in the narthex of our church. While struggling to deliver the funeral homily, I reached a point when it felt like the dam holding back the floodgates burst and tears began to flood my face. To this day that remains the only funeral Mass I experienced noticeable crying. Every year her mother, Sara, arranged a charitable 5k race in Purcellville in Sadie’s memory to help raise funds for poor children to have surgery who were born with a cleft lip and a cleft palate through the organization, Smile Train. The 4th annual event named Sadie’s Race will be held on Saturday, May 3. For more info go to: www.sadiesmilefoundation.org.
Q. Do you ever meet with people so they can talk to you about faith-related questions or general help? I have thought about scheduling time to talk to you but I don’t want to take time away from others who are sick or suffering, plus I know you are really busy. –S.
A. Yes, all the time! Priests may be busy but we always make time for those who need to see us. Now that Lent/Holy Week is over my schedule has slightly lightened up. You may email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call (540.338.6381) me for an appointment and I will be standing by to hear from you. My middle initial is “S” and that stands for…Father Ronald “Standby” Escalante.
Q. Some churches in the diocese have Stations of the Cross at Noon and a 3 PM liturgy service on Good Friday. Why doesn’t our parish offer stations at Noon? –Anonymous
A. There is no set time for the Stations of the Cross and the Good Friday Liturgy can be celebrated around 3 PM or later in the evening for pastoral reasons. Some people need to work on Good Friday and would not make the liturgy service if held in the afternoon. For maximum attendance, I kept the 7:30 PM time as scheduled by my predecessor and so far we’ve had a full church attendance. Also, many parishes do not offer confessions on Good Friday or even during the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday). We offer confession hours on Good Friday and we usually go past noontime.
April 19, 2015
Q. In the case of a miscarriage or a stillbirth, can the hospital deny the mother’s request to keep the baby for a proper burial? Do you do funerals for miscarried or stillbirth babies? –Anonymous
A. I have not heard of a hospital refusing to turn over miscarried or stillborn babies to family members but it is possible. But we hold funerals for them as we would regular funerals.
Q. What is the Church’s teaching about a miscarriage? What should you do for the unborn especially for an early miscarriage? Baptism is not an option. –Anonymous
A. Paragraph 99 of the Gospel of Life encyclical teaches that these children are now with the Heavenly Father. As mentioned above, we can do a regular funeral for them as well. There is a support group that recently started at Holy Trinity parish in Gainesville, VA that specifically ministers to women who lost their child(ren) prematurely. It is called, M.O.M.S. Peace (Mothers of Miscarried and Stillborn Souls), led by my friend, Kara Palladino. Kara has also arranged with Fairfax Cemetery and the Benedictine Nuns (Bristow, VA) to allow burial plots dedicated to miscarried and stillborn children.
Q. I know why Saturday 5 PM Mass counts for Sunday, but why does the 6 PM Mass on Sunday count for Sunday and not for Monday? Just curious. –Anonymous
A. You bring up a very good point and there are many Catholic Churches across the country, including in our diocese, that do not offer Sunday night Masses. None of our neighboring parishes in Ashburn, Berryville, Leesburg, Middleburg and South Riding offers one. Some pastors wished they did not have a Sunday night Mass while some regretted starting one. We’re the last chance Mass in our region. The Saturday vigil was liturgically created to accommodate working Catholics (e.g. nurses, doctors, firefighters, law enforcement, etc.) who would otherwise miss Sunday Mass because of unavoidable working circumstances. The Church did not intend the Saturday Vigil Mass as a way for Catholics to take Sunday off just for fun. Sunday remains as the Lord’s Day for worship and rest. Sunday night Masses evolved sometime after the Saturday Vigil. Cardinal John Krol of Philadelphia (from 1961-1988) was one of the last prominent bishops to oppose Saturday Evening and Sunday evening Masses in his Archdiocese. Liturgically, the Church does not require a parish to have a Saturday Vigil or Sunday Night Mass. One of the most common dilemmas with Sunday Masses is that some Catholics would aim for Sunday night Mass but end up getting tied up and miss their Sunday obligation. I love our 6 PM Sunday Mass Youth-centered ministry but I personally wish we were having it on Saturday night at 5 PM. I would even prefer that we have it at 5 PM on Sundays because this is the SEVENTH (7th) Mass of the weekend for us 2 priests (not counting if we had wedding and/or funeral Masses)! On the other hand, the 6 PM congregation would be celebrating their only Mass so it’s hard for some to fathom how exhausted priests can be on Sunday nights. Perhaps now you can understand why some pastors would oppose starting a Sunday night Mass or wish they didn’t have one. If there’s one thing that gives me the strength to celebrate Sunday night Mass with joy and enthusiasm is seeing some of the best people in town at that Mass. It is worth praying and worshiping with them to end my evening no matter how tired I feel.
[No entry for April 26, 2015 – away in the Dominican Republic]
May 3, 2015
Q. How old do you have to be a cardinal? –Anonymous
A. Cardinals today mostly come from bishops but a few were simply priests. Historically, the pope can appoint anyone a cardinal (even a lay person). Present canon law states that a priest needs to be at least 25 years old to be ordained so technically to be a cardinal today one needs to be at least 25. The current youngest is Cardinal Soane Patita Paini Mafi, who is 54 years old (b. 12/19/1961), from the Diocese of Tonga (in the Pacific way off Australia & New Zealand). By the way, did you know that there are 3 different rankings for a cardinal? They are cardinal bishops (the fewest, currently only 9), cardinal priests (the most common at 173), and cardinal deacons (41). From this total of 223 only 120 are eligible to vote at the next papal conclave.
Q. Are there any plans to put changing stations in the bathrooms in the new parish center? I don’t have any infants myself but I’m sure there are lots of mothers who would appreciate that convenience. –Anonymous
A. There is a changing station for infants in the new parish center and it is located in the Family Restroom on the main floor across from the staff office. There are no changing stations in the regular restrooms.
Q. About how old were the apostles when they followed Jesus’ call? –SBC
A. The Bible doesn’t mention their age but we have some idea. Childhood education around the time of Jesus ended at age 15. Peter was the only one mentioned who was married so he had to be at least 18 since that was the common and accepted minimum age for a Jewish man to marry. He may have been a widower because only his mother-in-law was referenced and not his wife. The other apostles (and 72 disciples who were sent in pairs) may have been around 18 (or at least still unmarried) because it was highly unusual that none of their wives was ever mentioned. When the holy women witnessed that Jesus’ tomb was empty on Easter Sunday, Peter ran to see it but was outrun by another disciple (John 20:4, by the younger John). Jewish rabbis at around age 30 would start taking younger students. This fits the age of Jesus when he started his public ministry and began calling the apostles to join him. At times Jesus referred to his disciples as his “little ones” or “children” (as in John 13:33). This would not have been appropriate if he were speaking to older men. The apostles and his disciples also traveled at great distances and worked practically non-stop. That’s another indication of their youth. John lived nearly a hundred years as more evidence of his youth. The other apostles did not live as long because they suffered martyrdom for the faith.
Q. Once you receive confirmation, do you get to decide when you go to Mass? —Anonymous
A. That depends on how old you are and your ability to get to church. Most are confirmed at 8th grade (around 14 years old) so your decision when to go to Mass is determined by the driver. Remember, there are 2 kinds of people in the world: there are drivers, and there are passengers. The most important duty for you is to make sure you go to Mass. So if the “driver” does not want to go to Mass, you should remind him or her (and this could be your parents) that it is a mortal sin to skip Sunday Mass.
May 10, 2015
Q. What is your opinion on Islam? I have heard that Muslims are persecuting Christians in many places outside the U.S. and there seems to be a lot of Muslim extremists going around blowing stuff up. Important, please answer. –Anonymous
A. It is very important to understand that not all Muslims are extremists and violent. Many of them are good citizens and in a short response column I will try to illustrate. For example, in Loudoun County the ADAMS Center (All Dulles Area Muslim Society) works alongside Catholic, Christian, non-Christian, and even Jewish communities to bring good services to the people in need regardless of their faith (or non-faith). Last March they took part in the Stop Hunger Now meal-packaging event that was held at Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church in Sterling, VA. About 4 dozen Muslims from the ADAMS Center combined with 130 Catholics and packed 35,000 meals for the hungry in less than 2 hours (Arlington Herald, Mar. 12-18, 2015 issue). They also donated to the $10,000 joint project. Last Fall (Sept. 19) 125 Muslim leaders in the world (clerics & lay people) signed a 17-page letter using references from the Quran condemning ISIS. In February the Muslim president of Egypt promised to build a church in honor of the 21 Christians who were beheaded by ISIS in Libya while the Muslim mayor of their hometown renamed the village in their honor. Jordan has also been welcoming to the Christians living in their country for years. In Iraq many of the Christians who have been driven out of their homes by ISIS have fled to the region of Kurdistan in Northern Iraq for refuge. They are welcomed and cared for as refugees by the Muslim government of the Kurds. Without the protection of the kind-hearted Muslim Kurds more Christians would have died because they would have no place for refuge. The constitution in Lebanon requires that the majority Muslim nation elect a Christian president. The fastest growing number of Muslims in the 21st century is the Ahmadiyya Muslims. It is estimated that there are between 10-20 million with most residing in Pakistan (about 4 million). They are so disliked by the other Muslims that the Pakistani government won’t even let them immigrate outside of their country. They are pacifists and advocate a peaceful coexistence with everyone. I hope these examples will give you a good idea that there are good Muslims in the world but have suffered a bad reputation because of the violent actions by the extremist Muslims. [What many find ironic is that prior to the coalition’s invasion of Iraq to “bring peace and harmony” to the region, the Christian population in the Middle East has for the most part co-existed in relative peace with the Muslims for many years.]
Q. Can we get a speaker in the hallway off the narthex so that we can hear the Mass from there? –Anonymous
A. We don’t plan on adding speakers in the hallway at this time. There was some discussion about that a couple of years ago until we were tipped off by parents that some of the kids, especially teenagers, were using that area as a social gathering to “avoid” being in church. Installing speakers there would only encourage their presence there since they can still “hear” the Mass and therefore try to justify their “non-participation” with the church congregation. Every now and then I do “chase” kids back into the church when I see them just loitering in the hallway.
May 17, 2015
Q. Why do we call the tabernacle in the church a “tabernacle”? –Anonymous
A. The word tabernacle comes from the Latin word, tabernaculum, which means a tent or a dwelling place. Before the Temple was built for the Ark of the Covenant, the Jews kept it in a tent for a temporary sacred place to honor God. A few years later Solomon built a large temple to house the Ark of the Covenant for its permanent dwelling place. Our Catholic faith teaches that Jesus is spiritually and physically present in the Holy Eucharist. In every Catholic Church we keep the Eucharist in a solid and secure sacred place that we call a tabernacle because Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, really dwells there. This is what makes the Catholic Church different from other churches. We have the real presence of Jesus in our tabernacles. We receive many blessings just by visiting and praying to Jesus while he dwells in the tabernacle. This devotion is often referred to as visiting the Blessed Sacrament. It is unfortunate that not many Catholics realize this incredible gift from God. If people flock to see their favorite celebrities when they are around, Catholics should crowd even more around the tabernacle to be closer to God!
Q. Why is there glass on the candles that are near the tabernacle? –Anonymous
A. The glass helps to keep the flame burning evenly and prevents the wax from flowing to the side of the candle creating a big mess.
Q. Could a couple raised in the Catholic Church and are cohabitating receive the sacrament of reconciliation and then get married in church? –SBC
A. If the couple were actively living immorally (intimately active), they would first need to live separately or at least live chastely before they can receive a valid absolution in confession prior to marriage. A valid confession requires a firm purpose of amendment in life which means that a cohabitating couple must first arrange not to live together in order to be validly forgiven. If living separately is just not possible, they would at least need to sleep in separate rooms and live a chaste life prior to marriage.
Q. How does one pick the name for the Catholic Church/parish? –A.W.
A. Canon Law 1218 mandates, “Each church is to have its own title. Once the church has been dedicated this title cannot be changed.” The local bishop has the final say to officially naming a new church. Oftentimes he discusses the name with the founding pastor. There are times when the name is determined by the saint who lived in that neighborhood as with Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Basilica in Emmitsburg, MD (just a few miles from where we are). The canonization of new saints also inspires the dedication of new churches. Saint Gianna Beretta Molla was canonized in 2004 and a new parish bearing her name in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada was built in 2005. An official pronouncement of a dogma can also lead to a church name as in the case of the Immaculate Conception (1854) and the Assumption (1950). Our parish was once only a parish mission on Main Street in Purcellville and was dedicated under the patronage of Saint Francis de Sales in 1921. The mission priest at that time was Father A. J. Ingelgem. He was likely responsible for choosing the name of the mission church. One of the few Catholic families in the Purcellville/Round Hill area, Mr. and Mrs. Notley Ball, donated the funds and the property for the new church.
May 24, 2015
Q. When I was growing up, my parents taught me that Mass wasn’t over until the priest left the church. So many parishioners bolt out as soon as communion is over. When is the proper time to leave Mass? –Anonymous
A. You bring up a good point about when to leave Mass. Mass is not over until right after the Final Blessing and Dismissal. It is out of courtesy not to leave church until after the priest had left. Unless you have an emergency situation (or a diarrhea attack), it is highly inappropriate, irreverent, rude and even sinful to leave immediately after receiving Holy Communion without a good reason. When Jesus celebrated his first Mass at the Last Supper, the first one to leave early right after communion was Judas the traitor. He certainly did not have a good reason for his early departure so no one should try and imitate him!
Q. I have been doing daily readings in the Bible. I have found it is of great spiritual fulfillment for me. I have a question, is the Gospel according to John, the first, second, and third letters of John, and the Book of Revelation according to John, are they all written by the same John? Also, in the Table of Contents these letters come under the category of “Catholic Letters.” Please explain. –Anonymous
A. Most theologians believe that St. John the Apostle wrote all the books in the Bible that you mentioned above. The few who don’t believe that they were written by the same person have not provided any solid evidence for their theory. John’s letters were categorized as “Catholic Letters” because they were addressed to the universal (catholic) church and not to a particular community. On the other hand, St. Paul wrote letters addressed to the people of Corinth (1st & 2nd Letter to the Corinthians); of Galatia (Galatians); of Thessalonica (Thessalonians), of Ephesus (Ephesians), of Rome (Romans) etc. But all the letters were really intended by God to be read by the whole universal church even though St. Paul’s writings were originally addressed to certain communities.
Q. When will we earn “free donuts” after Mass as in other parishes? –SBC
A. We just handed out several dozens last Sunday at the Ministry Fair. They were really good and were labeled “Colossal” because they were tasty and big! I hope we can make this a regular event for at least a couple of our Masses on Sundays if we get enough volunteers (and donut donation!). If you missed the doughnuts, go to Shoppers Food Warehouse in Leesburg where we got them. But we still have available the awesome Knights of Columbus 1st Sunday Pancake Breakfast from September thru June.
Q. Is it okay to say “Oh my God” in a song? –Anonymous
A. If what you are singing is a hymn that uses the name of God in a holy and reverent way, then it’s okay. But if you are singing a secular song when God’s name is used as a mere expression, it is best to substitute God with “gosh.” Here’s an example. When you listen to Taylor Swift’s nice catchy song, Blank Space, it contains the lyrics, “Oh my God, look at that face. You look like my next mistake.” She’s using the phrase with God not to praise him but as an expression of surprise so I recommend that you say instead, “Oh my gosh…” [At least that’s what I do when I catch myself singing her song.]
May 31, 2015
Q. Does God send omens? What does the Church teach about omens? –Anonymous
A. Sometimes God sends signs, usually called prophecies, of what could happen in the future. He usually reveals to the prophets what will or could happen in the future. In scripture it says, “Indeed, the Lord God does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants, the prophets” (Amos 3:7). We don’t refer to God’s signs as omens. An omen is mostly used as a literary term in fictional stories or as an expression of a bad feeling as when someone says, “I have a bad ‘omen’ that something awful is about to happen.” Signs from God are real. If certain signs God warned about do not happen, it’s likely because the people heeded the warning. When Jonah the prophet warned the Ninevites that God would destroy their city in forty days if they did not repent, the destruction did not happen because the people fasted and prayed. God’s prophecies are always conditional to the people’s response. It shows how powerful prayer, fasting and penance can do to avert disaster. Does God send small signs to individuals? Yes, he does sometimes. God may send us personal signs to guide us in life especially if we ask God for them. It can be a challenge recognizing them and that’s why it is important to pray often and meditate so that we can become aware when God sends us his signs.
Q. Why did God ask you to be a priest? –Trinity Yevoli
A. That’s the same question I have often asked God, “Why in the world did you pick me to be a priest?” I will never know the complete answer until I meet God after I die. I may not know why God plucked me out of the crowd to become a successor to the apostles, but I am just so glad he did! All I know is that I felt strongly that God was calling me to be a priest since I was about 6 years old. None of us decided that we were going to become priests. Jesus says he does his own picking which men should become priests: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you” (John 15:16).
Q. Can you receive First Holy Communion when you’re only 6 years old?—Maggie
A. The Catholic Church teaches that the proper age for receiving Holy Communion in the Latin Rite or Western Catholic Church (that’s the majority of the parishes in the world including ours) is when the person reaches the age of reason after proper faith instruction and First Penance. Most Catholic dioceses since Pope St. Pius X in the early part of the 20th century have set the time frame to around 7-8 years old. In most countries these are children in 2nd Grade. Unless the unusually smart kid in 2nd Grade is at age 6, he or she will have to wait a year or two before receiving First Communion. [But in the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church (and Orthodox Churches), children are Baptized, Confirmed and administered First Communion all at the same time while they are still babies! However, these children may not receive Holy Communion again regularly until after they reach the age of reason.]
June 7, 2015
Q. Does the money in the Poor Box go to the same place as the collection money? –KLM
A. The Poor Box money is totally separate from the Sunday collection and goes directly to helping the poor. We regularly get requests from social services to help needy people in our area. This includes people who are about to have their water and electricity cut off, helping them avert an eviction, medical help, car repairs for work, etc.
Q. When are we going to have donuts after church again? It was awesome!—KLM
A. Yes, that was a nice tasty donut weekend we enjoyed during the Ministry Fair. Those donuts from Shoppers Food Warehouse nicknamed “Colossal” were really good. I will ask my staff and parish council when and how often we should do “Donut Sunday.” It’s a good way to get parishioners for a social gathering after Mass. There was talk about doing this once a month so we may start with that. For this to happen, we would need the help of volunteers to pick up the donuts, make the coffee & juice, and also for clean up.
Q. What could we do both individually and collectively to fill our pews? –SBC
A. As we heard Jesus say from the Gospel on the Solemnity of the Ascension, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). So go out there and speak to as many people as you can about Jesus and his wonderful teachings. Most people are drawn to church by the positive proclamation of the “true non-watered down” message of Jesus Christ and by the good works the members do. We have both so don’t be too shy about inviting people to our church. It is also very important to pray for the conversion souls that they may come to our church.
Q. Why are dinosaurs not mentioned in the Bible? –Anonymous
A. The word for these large animals was not found in the English language until 1841 when the English biologist/paleontologist came up with the term “dinosaur.” He combined two Greek words deinos (terrible) and saurus (lizard) to form the word dinosaur. If you read the book of Job chapters 40 and 41 you will get a description of prehistoric animals that we call today as dinosaurs. Job 40:15-24 speaks about a gigantic “behemoth” animal and Job 41:1-34 describes a huge sea dragon-like monster. Scientists have speculated many ways how these animals died but they don’t know for sure. Is there a Biblical explanation for the extinction of the dinosaurs? Yes, there is. It is presumed that since these animals weren’t in the ark, they died during the Great Flood and that’s how their remains are mixed in with the dirt and became fossilized. There is a big difference between the Bible and the scientists as to how old the Earth and the universe really is. The Bible dates the earth to only a few thousand years old while some scientists theorize the universe to a few billion years old. The Bible calculates the years of human existence through the genealogy of Jesus. By counting the number of years between Adam, the first created man, and the birth of Jesus Christ, we should have a guesstimate how many years the human race has been around. Many of Jesus’ descendants were given the years they lived. By plugging a life expectancy of 20-100 years to the post-flood descendants we get somewhere between 3,000-6,000 years. So roughly that would make Adam’s creation to between 5,000 to 8,000 years ago.
June 14, 2015
Q. Why does Mary come to people in visions and how does she do that? –Kristen Blake
A. Mary appears to certain individuals to help the people of that generation get through with the difficult problems they are facing. In the Bible angels have appeared to people to warn them and to give them the right guidance from God. Our Blessed Mother appears to holy and humble people because she cares about us. She wants to make sure that we have at least the spiritual preparation to get through the troubling times. How the Blessed Virgin Mary does it is a mystery to us. She just appears and that’s why we call her visits an “apparition.” But we do know that the messages of Our Lady of Fatima (1917) to the 3 young children in Portugal are quite relevant to our present time. Her urgent messages include: “Wars are punishment for man’s sins;” another says, “Pray the Rosary for peace in the world;” and, “Many souls go to hell because of the sins of the flesh than for any other reason.” Keep reading the Sunday bulletins as we are about to launch a major promotion of Our Lady of Fatima and the big Rosary Challenge!
Q. If Adam had not eaten the forbidden fruit in the garden, would only women have original sin? –Dominic Smith
A. That’s a very interesting question. We know that when Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, original sin did not enter the world. It was only after Adam ate of the fruit when original sin happened (Genesis 3:6-7). It was likely because God placed Adam to care for Eve. Had he not joined Eve in eating the forbidden fruit, it appears that original sin may have been avoided. If Adam had rebuked Eve for disobeying God, we would have avoided all the troubles that we are dealing with now.
Q. During Lent we’re not allowed to eat meat on Fridays. Why do we have the fish fry?—Keira MacMillin
A. We only give up eating “land” meat during the Fridays of Lent. Fish meat may be eaten. Land meat is usually more expensive to buy while fish meat costs less and eaten more commonly by poor people. Giving up land meat is a sacrifice for most people to do during Fridays of Lent.
Q. If there are aliens out there, would they believe in God or have a Bible? –“Anonymous Me”
A. Since God is the creator of the universe, the aliens would also believe in the same God that we worship. They would not likely have our Bible because ours was written with the setting here on Earth. These are all hypothetical scenarios. Personally, I believe God made the whole universe just for the people here on earth who are his image and likeness. Jesus never made any mention about loving any living beings in other planets. I don’t believe that there are no life forms outside of our own and there is no Biblical evidence that says otherwise. [At the same time, it is not against our Catholic faith to believe that life can exist in other planets.]
June 21, 2015
Q. Why is there no “INRI” on the crucifix in our sanctuary behind the altar? –Joe
A. There are other disturbing details on our church crucifix other than the missing INRI (Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews, in Latin) sign. If you look closely, you will also notice the following: Jesus does not have a crown of thorns (a makeshift rope was added later to his head to kind of make up for it!); there are no 5 sacred wounds on his body (hands, feet & side); many have told me that they are bothered by the “undergarment” of Jesus that looks more like yoga pants; others noted that the physique of the corpus (body) looks more like today’s bodybuilder than an average Mediterranean working man from Jesus’ time. The overall design of the crucifix is not very biblically accurate and I wish I could interview the artist that created it and find out why he constructed it that way. The nails on Jesus’ wrists don’t bother me because according to the Shroud of Turin that’s were the nails were placed. If a donor is found to replace the crucifix with a traditional design, I would gladly bring up the case at our next pastoral council meeting!
Q. When you go to heaven, do you see everyone? How would you remember them? For instance, would you see your grandma as a girl or how she looked as your grandma here on earth? –Elizabeth, age 9
A. In heaven we will recognize everyone instantly when we meet them. Theologians say that we would know the person in heaven better than how their parents knew them while they were on earth. It’s a remarkable mystery that we will understand later. This isn’t too strange of a phenomenon for those who are familiar with saints who could read a person’s soul. Some saints like St. John Vianney and St. Padre Pio had long lines for confession stretching for days because they could read the penitents’ souls and help them understand the state of their souls. These holy priests could instantly tell them sins that they have forgotten from years ago though they’ve never met each other previously. But after the General Judgment, all the souls in heaven will be completely holy and will only have good things to share with others each time they have a face-to-face meeting. Regarding your grandma’s appearance, she will have a beautiful perfect healthy body of an adult around the age of 33!
Q. Are there different types of souls? –SBC
A. In general, there is only one kind of a human soul. All the descendants of Adam and Eve are made in the image and likeness of God and have an immortal soul. St. Thomas Aquinas says that other living things, such as animals and plants, also have souls but they are not immortal. They cease to exist after death. The human soul can become better or worse depending on the course of action a person takes. A baptized soul becomes incredibly better than a non-baptized because by grace it becomes the likeness of Christ and adopted in the family of the Holy Trinity; and, therefore, receives the right to enter heaven. The soul that has been confirmed also reaches a higher state of perfection. But the most important distinction between human souls comes down to these two: those in the state of sanctifying grace and those that are in the state of mortal sin. Those who die in the state of grace will go to eternal happiness in heaven while those in the state of mortal sin will spend eternity suffering in hell. One important word of advice for those who were once in the state of grace: Return…or burn!
June 28, 2015
Q. Is it a sin to smoke marijuana? –Anonymous
A. Yes, it is a mortal sin to smoke marijuana except when a legitimate doctor prescribes it for medical treatment. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2291) reads, “The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense.”
Q. Can a priest choose not to give a homily? –SBC
A. On Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation a priest is required to give a homily. But for weekday Masses it is only highly recommended that the priest gives a homily.
Q. Why do people raise their hands during the Our Father? –Anonymous
A. No one is really supposed to do that during Mass. That particular gesture is not mentioned anywhere in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. Whoever started that practice simply made it up and it caught on for a lot of people. (That person may have misunderstood what a “High Mass” means!)
Q. When will the parish directories be ready? –LBS
A. We expect the pictorial parish directories to arrive in mid-July.
Q. How does God know all languages? –Leela
A. God is all-knowing and understands all languages including baby talk!
July 5, 2015
Q. How did “hell” become a bad word? –FPG
A. Hell is supposed to be a serious subject people should be discussing because it is a real place where people who refused God’s salvation end up for eternal suffering. It is not on the same level as using God’s name in vain but it should not be used as a careless expression as if it is a fictional idea. It takes away the seriousness of its existence. When people become less conscious of the repercussions of hell they become less conscientious in living responsibly. It evolved in sort of like “a bad word” when it became often used as a form of a curse word. At the same time, we should never shy away from discussing hell in theological conversations because not everyone makes it to heaven. We certainly would not want to end up down there. Every now and then someone would ask me whether I believe that hell really exists. Knowing that Jesus warned us several times of this eternal place of suffering in the Gospel, my response is always the same, “The hell, there is!” [Not a curse, just an expression for religious discussion. J]
Q. How does your body rise after the soul? –FPG
A. At the end of time (the world) the soul is reunited with the body and we call this the resurrection. In a miraculous way God will give the soul a brand new immortal body, a body that will no longer die. It’s not quite the same body we had after it deteriorated.
Q. Were Adam and Eve created or born as babies? –Anonymous
A. They were not babies but fully-grown adults when God created them.
Q. Is it a sin to have a favorite priest? –Totally anonymous
A. Not at all. I think everyone has a favorite priest! We have favorite people of all kinds and that doesn’t necessarily mean we dislike those who is not our favorite. We have a special favorite saint, singer, sports figure, actor, war hero, super hero, teacher, friend, cousin, grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle, etc. So, why can’t someone have a favorite priest too? [I hope I made it on someone’s favorite list!]
Q. If someone hurts you and dies, will he go to heaven? –Andre Smith
A. If the person repents before dying, he or she will eventually end up in heaven. There is always the possibility of spending some time in purgatory before being admitted to heaven. It is only when someone commits a hurtful action that is considered a mortal sin that could prevent that soul from getting to heaven if that person dies without receiving forgiveness from God.
Q. Is it possible to see Jesus before you die? –Nate Tuman
A. Yes. Several saints have seen Jesus just before they died. There are many others throughout history who have reported seeing Jesus before death. However, most people do not have a vision of Jesus prior to dying. It happens rarely. But as soon as one dies, he or she immediately sees Jesus who will decide the final trip whether it is up or down!
July 12, 2015
Q. What are the repercussions of missing Mass due to active military duty? –Anonymous
A. There is no sin involved with missing Mass for active military personnel who are unable to go to Mass because of their duties. There are only so many Catholic chaplains available and oftentimes Mass is not even available for Catholics to attend. God does not demand the impossible so those who cannot possibly go to Mass are excused from the Sunday obligation. This is true for any Catholic especially when they are traveling. However, Catholics who could have gone to Mass but willingly decided to skip it for non-essential reasons, commit a mortal sin and will need to go to confession before receiving Holy Communion again.
Q. If an altar boy goes to Mass, does he always have to serve or can he sit with his family? I understand that if there are no altar servers he should serve. But what if there is already an altar server on schedule? It would just seem a little sad if he couldn’t sit with his family at Mass often. –Anonymous
A. Right now we are blessed to have nearly 60 altar boys (more after the scheduled training this week!) on the roster and only 6 Sunday Masses every weekend for them to serve. If they were to serve every week we would need to schedule 10 altar boys for each Sunday Mass and that’s just not going to happen. We’ve never had a server complain about getting “overscheduled.” They are eager to serve and most wish they could do it every Sunday. We usually schedule no more than 4 servers per Mass because there are only so many jobs they can do in the sanctuary. Our scheduler makes her best effort to get the servers to serve at least twice a month. It is not unusual that a server sometimes only gets to serve once every 3 weeks so no worries about them not able to sit with their family on some Sundays. When we have visitors from other dioceses they express their admiration at the number of altar boys we have because they are becoming a “rare” sight in many parishes across the country. Some shared their challenge of having the most difficult time recruiting boys to serve and wanted to know if we have some kind of a secret formula! [I do have a non-secret formula that I have been using successfully. If you want to play detective you should be able to figure out my “formula” in this week’s Pastor’s Wish List column. Key hint: Balance of duties.]
Q. What advice would you give a boy who really wants to become an altar boy but is also very nervous to be in front of everyone? I suppose there is a lot of fear making a mistake…especially after only 4 hours of training. Thank you. P.S. Were you an altar boy in the past? –Anonymous
A. Yes, I was once an altar boy at Saint Patrick in Washington, DC with my brothers so I know what it was like going through the training. Tell your son that it is perfectly all right to be nervous in the beginning because nearly everyone who goes through the training is nervous about serving in front of people. But everyone in church is friendly to the servers and rooting for them so no worries there. New servers are paired with veteran servers for a while so that they will have a mentoring period. The best way to get rid of the fear is to pray to Our Lord Jesus for strength and then go through the training. The more he serves the Lord at Mass, the sooner his fear will disappear.
July 19, 2015
Q. Do we all have Guardian Angels? Can we “speak” to them? –Anonymous
A. Yes, we all have a Guardian Angel assigned to us. We can and we should talk to our Guardian Angel often. Our personal angel can help us a lot especially in finding out the right things to do in life. Jesus affirms that we have our own angels since our childhood days: “See that you do not despise of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my Heavenly Father” (Matthew 18:10).
Q. Is there only one way to salvation? If so, which is the way? –SBC
A. Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Salvation can only come from Jesus—there is no other way!
Q. Can any Catholic receive a vision from Jesus? –Anonymous
A. No. God decides who gets to receive the grace of being able to see Jesus. This happens rarely because God prefers that we live by faith and not by sight: “Blessed are they who have not seen and have believed” (John 20:29). And St. Paul writes, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
Q. How do we know that we are called to a vocation for the religious life? –CK
A. God calls us in a “silent” way internally. Usually, it starts out with an attraction to the life of living for God in a special way other than being in the world like everyone else. The different religious communities like the Dominicans, Franciscans, Benedictines, or any other communities become an appealing lifestyle. The key hint for the vocation is the internal desire to live a more perfect and devoted spiritual life with others in a community that are of the same mind to live for God’s glory. It is also very helpful to speak to a priest or spiritual director to help discern the calling. You may also contact the vocation director of the diocese for information on the various religious communities. Don’t worry, contacting their office doesn’t mean you’re already signing up to join! I’m glad to hear that you have an interest in the religious life. When I was growing up I had to send for information in the mail. Through the internet we now have the ability to read up on the many religious communities out there.
July 26, 2015
Q. Was there a Holy Trinity before Jesus was born? --Audrey Warner
A. Yes, the Holy Trinity has always existed for all eternity. Jesus has always existed but he did not have a human nature/body until Mary agreed to become his mother. We call that mystery the "Incarnation."
Q. What do you do other than praying if you start to question God? --Anonymous
A. I highly recommend that you speak to someone you trust who strongly believes in God and who can help you answer your questions. It is also best to talk to a priest who may have the answers you need. There are also many good books out there that you may find helpful in answering your questions. One of the books I highly recommend is titled, "Catholicism For Dummies." There is also a nice website that tries to address many of the Catholic questions that people frequently ask. Go to: www.catholicscomehome.org. But always say your prayers to God that he may enlighten you and provide you with the answers you are seeking.
Q. How old do you have to be to become a nun? --G. W.
A. To enter the convent, Canon 641 states that the person must have completed 17 years of age. One may not make temporary vows until age 18 years old and may not profess permanent vows until 21 years old. This means that to enter the convent a person must be at least 18 years old and may not become a fully professed nun until 21 years old.
August 2, 2015
Q. Could you please create a place on the church website for the past “Ask the Priest” questions & answers? –Anonymous
A. The entire Ask the Priest collection since I started this column in June 7, 2009 is found in the parish website. Just visit our official website and you’ll find the button on the left side under Ask the Priest: www.saintfrancisparish.org. Enjoy reading them!
Q. When we say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed,” what is “the word”? –Anonymous
A. The “word” is simply the power of God. If God says he will make things happen, they will happen. God’s word is always true. That’s all that means. [On a lighter note, someone had once asked if the line, “that you should enter under my roof”, meant the communion host getting stuck under the roof of one’s mouth!]
Q. When I received First Holy Communion back in the 1980’s I was told the communion host couldn’t touch our teeth. Is this true? –Anonymous
A. I have never seen that particular guideline anywhere in the liturgical documents of the Church. That would be very difficult to observe for most people. The priests use a much larger host and we have no choice but to chew the Eucharist (using our teeth) in order to consume it. From the way you describe it only those who could remove their complete set of false teeth before communion could follow that guideline.
Q. Are the Christian victims of the terrorist groups such as ISIS/ISIL, Boko Haram, etc., considered martyrs? Are the apostles and John the Baptist considered martyrs? –Anonymous
A. Yes, anyone who is killed for believing in Jesus Christ is a martyr. Everyone you mentioned on the list is considered a martyr.
Q. Can we please get more A/C in the lobby? Today it was 78 degrees which is really uncomfortable. –Anonymous
A. Come on inside the church, it’s much cooler in there and there’s usually plenty of room in the front rows during the whole summer. It is very difficult in the narthex (lobby) to keep it cool because the doors are opened frequently and let the cool air out.
August 9, 2015
Q. Can a boy have a girl confirmation saint? –Anonymous
A. Yes, and a girl may also choose a male saint. The most common female saint picked by boys is Our Blessed Mother. Last April a boy picked a great Spaniard, Saint Teresa of Avila, for his confirmation saint. If I could go back into time, I would have undoubtedly chosen my all-time favorite friend, Saint Agnes of Rome, for my confirmation saint.
Q. In the Bible when God sent the 10 plagues to Egypt, it seems like pharaoh would free the Israelites. But it says, “God hardened his heart.” God is loving and merciful, so what does this mean? –Anonymous
A. You are referring to Exodus 9 about God “hardening” the heart of pharaoh. If you read Moses’ whole discourse with pharaoh, you would find it quite evident that God was well aware that there would not be a change in pharaoh’s heart. In order to make it clear to the Jews that God is more powerful than the most powerful known ruler on earth, He allowed pharaoh to intensify his anger (“hardened his heart”) towards Moses and his people. God overturning every effort of pharaoh’s mighty commands showed that there is no power greater than the one true God of the Jews. The rest of us also benefited from this work of God. Let us remember that God is all-knowing. Had there been any chance for pharaoh to relent and free the Jews, God certainly would have given him that opportunity and would have blessed him greatly in return.
Q. What happens to non-Christians and non-Catholics when they die? Do they go to heaven too? –Anonymous
A. Jesus Christ suffered and died on the cross out of love for everyone. Jesus is the savior of everyone in the world. Non-Christians and non-Catholics (and Catholics too!) all have a fair chance of making it to heaven. That’s the reason why we uphold the belief that God is merciful and just. God judges by what is in the heart of a person. Those who died but were not sincerely aware that the Catholic Church was the only true Church that the Son of God (Jesus) has established as his bride and source of grace for salvation cannot be faulted due to their lack of knowledge. For example, many holy and devout Christians are sincerely not aware that Jesus Christ was the founder the Roman Catholic Church (a simple check of Christian history would confirm that). They don’t really ponder that every other single Christian denomination other than the Catholic Church has a human founder and that they do not even agree with each other’s Christian doctrine. The Catholic Church is the only Christian church that has kept the same doctrines since the days of the apostles and will remain that way until Jesus returns. Who cares if the world thinks we’re an “old-fashioned” church. God is perfect and doesn’t change! Until the 16th century there were no Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists, Episcopalians, etc. In short, anyone who dies sincerely living a good holy life believing that he or she was living for the true God, including non-Christians, can still be saved by the merits of Jesus’ saving mission on the cross. [But once a person becomes fully aware that the Roman Catholic Church is the true church of Jesus Christ, he or she would have the obligation to become a Catholic! Acts 4:12 reads, “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”]
[No entry for August 16, 2015 bulletin]
August 23, 2015
Q. Who is the patron saint of nature and hiking? –Mary G.
A. The patron saint of nature is generally Saint Francis of Assisi. But the patron saint of hikers, backpackers, mountain climbers, skiers, snowboarders and skateboarders is Saint Bernard of Menthon (sometimes he’s referred to as of Montjoux). He came from a rich and noble family but left his family’s castle and wealth to become a priest for the order of Canons Regular of Saint Augustine and lived from 1020-1081. His mission was to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the mountainous Alps and get rid of false pagan beliefs. He did that for over 40 years. Aside from priestly work, he did a lot to care for the travelers going thru the often treacherous alps especially during the winter. He and the others from the monastery provided remarkable hospitality to all the passersby in the region and cared for the sick and the injured. The Alps later became a popular place for hikers, skiers of all sorts, mountain climbers, campers/backpackers and other outdoors adventures. Saint Bernard’s long-established hospices in the area ministered to them as well for the past several years and that’s how he became their patron saint. To this day their hospices are still in operation in the same place a thousand years later! In the 1700’s a large breed of working dogs originally bred for rescue was created and called St. Bernard. The breed was named after the beloved saint of the region, Saint Bernard of Menthon. Now you know the origin of the name of those sweet gigantic dogs.
Q. How long does it take for sins to be forgiven after confession? –Anonymous
A. If someone makes a good confession, the forgiveness of sins happens as soon as the priest pronounces the absolution prayer.
Q. Where can we get rosaries? –Anonymous
A. You can get rosaries by stopping by our parish office during business hours. You can also get them online from various Catholic online stores.
Q. Why aren’t our Mass times 1-1/2 hours apart like at other parishes? –Anonymous
A. Parishes set the Mass times based on what work best for their individual parish needs. We base our morning Masses to fit the Sunday religious education (CCD) classes. There is no standard set time for parishes to schedule their Masses. And none of our neighboring parishes in Leesburg, Middleburg, Winchester and Ashburn have their Sunday Masses spaced 1-1/2 hours apart either.
Q. Do all parishes have CCD classes? –K
A. All parishes that have young children have some kind of religious education classes. Many of them are still called CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, name dates back to 1562); others are called PSR (Parish School of Religion); and many are simply referred to as RE (Religious Education).
August 30, 2015
Q. What is the average number of people at our weekend Mass? –Anonymous
A. Our average attendance goes up after Labor Day weekend because everyone is back from summer vacations and settled back for the school season. From September to the beginning of May (CCD season), we average somewhere between 2,500-3,000 that attend one of our six Sunday Masses. Our current household registration is 1,579. Right after First Communion weekend (Mother’s Day) there is a significant drop in Mass attendance and it stays pretty much like that for most of the summer. The largest Mass attendance happens when the “Chris-ters” (Christmas & Easter Catholics) make their twice a year appearance. The Christmas Masses could swell to 3,500 or more worshipers. Wouldn’t it be nice if that happened every weekend?
Q. When you are in purgatory, can you still pray for the other souls in purgatory? –Anonymous
A. The souls in purgatory cannot pray for each other’s benefit. Only the prayers by the faithful people here on Earth can help them. However, they can pray for us…and they do!
Q. Recently, I’ve been really scared of what happens when we die. I know we go to heaven but what does one do in heaven? Is it boring? I need to know! –Anonymous
A. Heaven is anything but boring. You do need to start reading the Bible and you will learn a lot about the beauty of God and what heaven could be like. If you remember the happiest moments in your life, you can multiply those many times over and they would not equal a quick moment of happiness in heaven. If you saw just a glimpse of what heaven really looks like you would die of joy because our bodies would not be able to withstand the intense joy of even just seeing the face of God. Happiness in heaven is a great mystery that we will not fully understand until we get to heaven. If you are living a good life and in the state of God’s sanctifying grace, there is no need to fear death. On the other hand, people who are living in sin should worry about hell if they do not repent and change their way of life. The extreme punishments in hell cannot be described either in human terms. There is a nice easy-to-read book that I highly recommend for you and the others who wish to learn more about our Catholic faith and the afterlife. It is called, Catholicism For Dummies. It is a well-written book and it will quickly catch you up to speed. If you buy it from Amazon.com, make sure you go thru our parish website first because Amazon donates back to our church!
Q. Will our church ever start a Boy Scout troop? –a fellow Boy Scout
A. Not likely. Since the Boy Scouts national leadership started adopting policies that violate our Christian moral principles, many churches (not just Catholics) no longer sponsor the organization. This is really sad and unfortunate because I was once a Cub Scout and a Boy Scout in my younger years and enjoyed the experience very much.
September 6, 2015
Q. How does God know all the languages? --Leela
A. God understands everything even when we don’t speak. God understands perfectly even what babies are trying to say. Language is what we use to communicate with others what we want to say. God is so perfect he already knows what we’re trying to say before we even say a word. He even knows what we’re thinking and knows us better than we know ourselves.
Q. Have you read the entire Old Testament? I find it difficult to read and understand. –A.
A. Yes, I have read both the Old and New Testaments from cover to cover. It took me about 3 years to do it. I started reading in my high school sophomore year and finished shortly after graduation. If you are thinking of reading the whole Bible there are systematic guides you can use. There is a free guide to read a Catholic Bible in one year at this site: https://speakingofscripture.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/bible_in_a_year.pdf If you want to buy it in book form you can order one from Amazon.com (thru our website, of course!): My Daily Catholic Bible (published by Our Sunday Visitor). Another way is to read the Bible in the chronological order it was written. Unfortunately, I cannot find my copy right now to share its title/author. Here’s the next best thing I have: http://thecontemplativecatholicconvert.blogspot.com/2010/12/bible-reading-plan.html The Old Testament is actually fun to read because it is filled with lots of action and spectacular stories of how God and the angels were often involved with the people in the world. Some of the prophets are difficult because of the many symbolisms used in the prophecies. But don’t let that discourage you. Scholars are often unable to explain them either. The genealogies also become exciting when you start reading their background story. So pick up the Old Testament and enjoy the adventure of your life!
Q. What are your thoughts on evolution? –Anonymous
A. God could easily have created the universe in a matter of days or through an evolving process that took millions or billions of years. The Catholic Church has neither condemned nor favored the theory of evolution. The concept of life beginning in the world as an evolving process of creation by God is not contrary to faith teaching. It is the rejection of God as the author of nature and evolution that is problematic. In the creation of man it is important to believe that God infuses an immortal soul to every single human being that gives him human life. My personal thoughts on the evolution is that God created the world in a matter of days as the Bible tells it and not in millions and millions of years as modern science teaches it. I base my opinion on the number of years the Bible specified in between the generations between Adam to Jesus amounting to only about 4,000 years. It appears from Genesis that God created the world in a very short period of time and inhabited it with plants, wildlife and humans a short time afterwards. Many in today’s science date our human generation to about 200,000 years ago. Supposedly, we evolved from the “great apes” around 7 million years prior to that (Really, how would they know that? And how come the great apes are still around if we evolved from them?). I just don’t see the rationale for God to create a universe for several billion years before allowing life to live in it.
September 13, 2015
Q. Can Catholics get married on the beach? –Jeff
A. No. Outside of emergencies sacraments are supposed to take place in God’s Church. Catholics who get married outside of the Catholic Church (e.g., beach, mountain, cruise ship, non-Catholic Churches, courthouse, etc.) without a specific dispensation from their local bishop marry invalidly. Those who do would be living in sin and would be unable to receive the sacraments (especially Eucharist and Penance) until they get their marriage convalidated (“blessed”) in the Catholic Church. I am in the process now of working with several couples who are preparing to convalidate their marriage. If you need more info on marriage convalidation please visit our website: http://www.saintfrancisparish.org/is-your-marriage-valid/
Q. How do you get your questions in the bulletin? –Lizzy, 9
A. There is an Ask the Priest box in the narthex (lobby) of the church. If your question has been asked and answered already, it is only fair that I respond to the other questions because I usually get several a week and some are repeats. However, you can go to our archives at our website and see all the Ask the Priest columns from when I started way back in June 7, 2009: http://www.saintfrancisparish.org/ask-the-priest/ But keep placing your church questions in the box and yours could get picked on any given Sunday!
Q. I will be out of town during the Rosary Challenge weekend and I would like to participate in the rosary pledge. How do I sign up? I really would like to be a part of this. –Mark
A. Thank you for asking this important question! Others have wondered how they could sign up if they’re away. Anyone can sign up for the rosary pledge after this weekend by going to our website: www.saintfrancisparish.org and click on the Rosary Campaign icon. You can fill up a pledge form in the narthex or website and drop it off in the office. Outside office hours you can drop off the pledge form in the black box located outside the church office in the hallway. We can sign people up all year long but don’t delay and sign up now!
Q. Do you do individual spiritual direction? –Anonymous
A. Yes, I do! Just contact me directly if you are interested getting on schedule for spiritual direction.
Q. Before Mass begins I like to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet. If I don’t complete the chaplet before Mass begins, is it a sin for me to complete it during Mass like around the offertory? –Anonymous
A. It wouldn’t be a sin but if I have to do it during Mass I would do it during the collection but before the offertory prayers. (But I’m sure the music director would prefer that you sing with the congregation during the time of the collection and finish your chaplet after Mass.)
September 20, 2015
Q. How do you know if someone has demons? –SBC
A. We really don’t know. Usually, only a specially trained exorcist-priest who is authorized by the bishop can determine with certainty if a person is really possessed by demons. An exorcist conducts tests to see if there is anything supernatural about the person. Some of the possession signs include: speaking in a language not previously spoken by the person; objects and furniture mysteriously floating in the air; unusual increase in person’s physical strength; sometimes the person’s body levitates by itself; temperature in the room rapidly changes without the aid of heating/air conditioning; a strong foul odor in the room; the person is able to reveal secrets of people in the room whose actions were unknown to others. These are some of the common signs of a possessed person but there are a variety of others.
Q. How can we talk to our Guardian Angels? –Anonymous
A. In the same way we talk to God, through prayer. We communicate with our Guardian Angel simply by silently speaking to him the way we speak to God in silent prayer. In turn, our Guardian Angel responds to us in a silent way. It is always best to pray when we find a quiet place to pray. We can hear the silent voice of God, the angels and the saints so much better when we keep away the noise of the world from distracting us from meditation.
Q. What is the point of angels? Besides Guardian Angels or doing things like St. Michael, do they exist only to worship God? Are there any other types of Angels? --Anonymous
A. God gave special missions/duties to different order of angels. Scripture reveals 9 choirs (types) of angels. Starting from the highest rank to the lowest they are: Seraphims (Isaiah 6:2), Cherubims (Genesis 3:24), Thrones, Dominions, Powers, Virtues and Principalities (Colossians 1:16, Ephesians 1:21, 3:10, Romans 8:38, 1 Peter 3:22), Archangels (1 Thessalonian 4:15, Jude 1:9) and the [Guardian] Angels (Matthew 18:10, Romans 8:38, Revelation 5:11).
Q. Could you say something about the men wearing sandals and flip-flops to Mass? One person even takes them off and props his feet up during Mass! –Anonymous
A. An unusual request but it seems like a fair one so here it is: Men, no more sandals and flip-flops to Mass…and no more feet propping. You’re distracting people from praying. Wear your Sunday best when you come to worship God. (Okay, done! I miss a lot of these unseen details by sitting in the sanctuary.)
September 27, 2015
Q. Why did the Mass “cheat sheets” disappear from the pews? –Anonymous
A. I didn’t realize they were gone but thank you for bringing that up. They are now back and please do use them. Even I don’t have the new translations for the Gloria and Creed memorized and need to use the Roman Missal in the sanctuary to pray them.
Q. What do you do during confession times when there is no one going into the confessional? –Anonymous
A. We’ve had an increase of flow of people going to confession lately even with both priests now hearing confessions so there hasn’t been a lot of “free time” in there. But when it does happen here are some of the things I end up doing and a couple of them may surprise you: pray the rosary or the Divine Mercy chaplet; pray the Liturgy of the Hours; catch up on spiritual reading; check email/text from iPhone (never while hearing confession) –some emergency calls come in while we’re in there; lift dumbbell weights (I got caught working out by a few who rushed in and opened the face-to-face window before I can put the weights down!) —btw, feel free to check out the weights in there; and, when the gap is too long…sleeping!
Q. I want to choose my Confirmation saint: either St. Maximilian Kolbe or St. John Paul II. How do I know which one God wants me to choose? –Christine
A. The best way is to pray to both saints and read more about them. One of them will eventually stand out as your choice. A priest told me once that he believes the saints pick us rather than we pick them. Personally, I agree with this priest. I am madly crazy in love with my St. Agnes and it’s a complete mystery how I even got to know her. That’s why I believe she picked me rather than I picked her for my personal patroness. And for the past 30+ years St. Agnes has done nothing but take very good care of me. For my 30th anniversary with her she got me to celebrate it in Rome at her churches and arranged for me to see Pope Francis 3 times and was even able to take a selfie video with him. And on the day of my birthday (Sept. 23) this year, she got me a reservation to celebrate Mass with Pope Francis at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception for the canonization of Blessed Junipero Sera in Washington, DC. So pray to find out which of the two saints you believe is drawing you the closest to God and to himself. Once you find out, stay close to that saint and treat him as your best friend and spiritual guide. Then you’ll be amazed at what your saint can do for you. I feel like I have 2 guardian angels always watching over me.
October 4, 2015
Q. How do you become an usher? –Maeve Bauer
A. We sure could use more ushers. For adult ushers, email our Knights of Columbus Grand Knight, Mr. Steve Devita to become an usher (email@example.com). But for young parishioners like you, Maeve, let me know if you’re interested and I’ll get you connected with our young ushers trainer, Mr. Jeff Yevoli. We’d love to add you to our growing list of junior ushers!
Q. How does evolution fit with God’s story of the creation of the earth? –Anonymous
A. In theory, the creation of the world in 6 days could have just meant 6 stages of development that could have taken millions of millions to happen since with God time is irrelevant. The Bible indicated a progression of creation but did not give specific details how it happened. The Catholic Church does not endorse the popular evolution theory but it does not condemn it either as contrary to our faith beliefs as long as we believe that God is the author of the making of the world and the universe; and that God places a soul in each human being. Let us remember that both the creation theory and evolution theory are based on “beliefs.” There is only scientific “belief” on many aspects of the evolution of man and the world. For example, there is no real proof of connecting primitive primates to the modern man. They only have plastic exhibits, not real bones, in paleontology museums showing our origin from an apelike creature. [Remind them that the next time they make light of our Noah’s Ark models. Our ark model would float far better than their ape theory!]. Scientists can only presume on the age of the universe and don’t really know how the dinosaurs disappeared. They also cannot explain why seashells are found on the highest mountain peaks all over the world. [Didn’t I just mention Noah’s Ark? Maybe the flood thing could explain that.]
Q. How do you answer a man who says, “All I have to do is be good to the people, pray, not hurt anyone, and lead a good life. That’s all God cares about and I’ll end up in heaven that way?” –A. A.
A. Jesus certainly would disagree with him completely. What he is saying is only part of what Jesus wants him to do to get to heaven. God wants us to be active in living for God beyond just prayer and being nice to others. We need to understand more what it truly means to love God and our neighbor. Just look at some of Jesus’ words: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you” (John 6:53)—necessity of Mass/Holy Communion; “When I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink…what you did not do for me for one of the least ones, you did not do for me. And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous will go off to eternal life” (Matthew 25:42-46)—necessity of doing good works as part of our salvation; “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15)—necessity of following the 10 commandments.
October 11, 2015
Q. When Thomas denied Jesus, did he commit a sin? --Keira
A. You must be referring to John 20:24-29 when Thomas the apostle found it hard to believe that Jesus resurrected and appeared to his disciples in flesh and blood. Jesus never indicated that Thomas sinned for not believing. But he commended the people who believe in the resurrection even though they never saw any physical proof of it: “Jesus said to him (Thomas), ‘You have believed because you have seen me. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (John 20:29).
Q. When I pray I often feel like I am simply rattling off a list of demands to God. How can I pray better especially when it comes to listening to God? –Anonymous
A. There are many who feel the same way about prayer. Many of us were taught how to pray when we were young were not really followed up on how we should pray as we got older. On some occasions a religious education teacher may have done this but in general no one really showed us how to pray. Hopefully, this little blurb will get you started feeling more confident about praying. Prayer is simply conversation with God. There are 2 basic forms of praying: vocal and mental. Vocal prayers are the written and prescribed and can be recited individually or with a group (e.g., Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, Creed, etc.). These prayers are important and we should pray them often. Mental prayers are those that we say privately. This form of prayer is superior to vocal prayers because this is when we engage God in conversation from our minds and hearts. Mental prayer allows us to have a real and intimate communication with God. It is very helpful to be in a quiet place to meditate in mental prayer. God is a social being and wants to engage us him in conversation. It takes some practice but it gets easier the more we do it. With regular practice, you will begin to hear God’s mysterious silent voice speaking to you. We should vary our mental prayers and not just ask God for the things we need. God is not a genie servant who treats us as his master. We need to acknowledge God as our master and that we are his servants who need him. We also need to express our loving affection for God and develop a personal relationship with him. Our prayers generally fall in one of these 5 basic themes: adoration, praise, thanksgiving, penance and petition. We get a good sense that we have reached a well-balanced way of praying when we use all these themes during mental prayer. Go ahead and give it a try. And when you feel like you’re struggling in prayer, ask the Holy Spirit to help you to pray and he will guide you how to pray more effectively. Scripture says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).
Q. Where did souls go before Jesus came and opened up the gates of heaven? –7th Grade Class
A. The good people who died before Jesus’ crucifixion remained in a waiting place referred in the Old Testament in Hebrew as sheol. This is translated as a lower place and could refer either to the souls of the good or the bad who died depending on the context it was written. References to the good include Genesis 37:35 (Jacob) and Job 14:13.
October 18, 2015
Q. How old is Pope Francis? –Frankie
A. He was born December 17, 1936 so he is currently 78 years old.
Q. Do all Catholic Churches have a really big cross on the wall? –Cecilia
A. All Catholic Churches are supposed to have a crucifix (not just a cross) prominently placed in the sanctuary. The cross needs to have a dead corpus (body) of Jesus on it because it is the symbol of our redemption and salvation. It also reminds us that at every Mass the actual suffering, death by crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus is re-presented to us in a mystical way.
Q. What do you do if you start to question God other than praying? –Anonymous
A. That’s a very good question and there are many in the world who feel the same way. After praying, I highly recommend that you speak to someone about your concerns who has a strong faith in God if this is possible. I also recommend that you speak to a priest you’re comfortable asking your questions. There is an easy to read book that addresses many questions that you might find very helpful called, Catholicism for Dummies. Many have found this a valuable resource for questions about the faith. If you have access to a computer, I know you will find this Catholic website that I recommend very moving and insightful: www.catholicscomehome.org. It contains short responses to questions about faith and life and the mini videos will help put a quick spark to enlighten your faith.
Q. Now that gay marriage is a legal law in the U.S., does the Catholic Church now have to allow gays and lesbians to get married in the Catholic Church? –Anonymous
A. The legal law only binds secular courts to legally authorize same sex marriage. It does not bind churches to perform same sex weddings. The Catholic Church does not abide with laws that are morally unacceptable. For example, the Supreme Court legalized abortion in the U.S. in 1973 and we continue to oppose and protest that. God has made it clear in Tradition and Sacred Scripture that marriage is a permanent covenant between a man and a woman and no human law can reverse that. For that reason, there will never be a lawful same sex marriage in the Catholic Church.
October 25, 2015
Q. How many Masses have you celebrated as a priest? And how many rosaries have you prayed? –Joey
A. A lot! I’ve been a priest for 20-1/2 years and I celebrate Mass at least once a day (in our parish I have at least 3 Sunday Masses every weekend). Based on those years I have celebrated no less than 7,500 Masses since I became a priest. In comparison to the average life span of a man in the U.S., a 75-year old man who went to Mass every Sunday since he was born would have attended 3,900 Masses. I started praying the rosary daily around May 1980 (35-1/2 years ago) and sometimes multiple times a day. When I’m traveling long distance I can pray the full rosary in one day (4 rosaries, 20-decades total). So I’ve prayed the rosary well over 13,000 times. Thanks for asking, Joey. This is the first time I’ve actually looked backed and just see how many Masses and rosaries I have prayed in my lifetime!
Q. For the First Saturday devotion, do you have to go to confession right before getting communion or can you go to Mass in the morning and confession in the afternoon? –Meghan
A. The general rule is you can go to confession 8 days before or 8 days after you receive the First Saturday Holy Communion to fulfill the devotion’s requirement. So you’re fine with going to confession before or after communion. Some bishops are in the opinion that if you are “close enough” to the time frame you still fulfill the requirement as long as it was your intention to do it within those parameters but just could not possibly do it.
Q. How do you become a cardinal? –Bob Smith
A. Only the pope can select a cardinal. It is up to the pope whom he selects to join the current list of cardinals.
Q. What do you have to do for the First Friday Devotion? –J.R.
A. All you have to do is honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus on 9 consecutive First Fridays of the month by going to Mass and receiving Holy Communion in the state of grace in reparation for the sins of the world and you’re all set. Jesus revealed to St. Margaret Mary Alcoque this most importance promise for doing the First Friday devotion: "I promise thee in the excessive mercy of My Heart that My all-powerful love will grant to all those who communicate on the First Friday in nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving the Sacraments; My Divine heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment."
November 1, 2015
Q. Where does the money go from the baby bottle collection go? –C.W.
A. As mentioned in the bulletin, the donations support Birthright of Leesburg. This wonderful organization provides free assistance to pregnant women. Their mission statement: “It is the right of every pregnant woman to give birth, and the right of every child to be born.”
Q. Is it okay to do “extra penance”? –Elliot B.
A. Yes. The penance given by the priest at confession is the minimum requirement. We are always encouraged to do more. And the more we do penance the more we are sanctified (made holy).
Q. Are we going to use the new gym for the 5 PM Christmas Vigil Mass overflow this year? It was too crowded last year for the small downstairs hall. –Anonymous
A. Yes, we are scheduling Our Lady of Victory Hall (Gym) for the 5 PM Christmas Vigil overflow Mass for the first time. I will celebrate Mass in the church with the children’s choir and Father Mullaney will be in the hall. It’s a blessing that we now have a bigger parking lot!
Q. During a mass shooting as in a school or elsewhere, if asked to deny your faith and you did in an attempt to disarm the assailant to save more lives, would this be a sin? –SBC
A. Yes, it would be. The moral principle always applies: The end does not justify the means. Whether it is a mortal sin or not would depend on the individual’s position. It is not a mortal sin when someone does not act freely. We need to remember that we are never to deny Jesus Christ. Jesus says, “Whoever denies me (Jesus) before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father” (Mt 10:33). Peter denied Jesus 3 times out of fear for his life and regretted deeply his sinful act of denial.
Q. What is God’s favorite color? –Anonymous
A. All of them! God made all the colors and he doesn’t play favoritism. J
November 8, 2015
Q. Is it wrong to pray while using the bathroom? –Anonymous
A. No, God doesn’t mind where we pray. He only wants us to pray often wherever we are. However, if the only time we pray is when we use the bathroom that might be a problem of not making time for prayer. If that were the case, it would be wise to evaluate one’s time management and flush out any activities that might be getting in the way of prayer time.
Q. Is it okay to pray the rosary and not meditate on the mysteries? What happens if I have my rosary but don’t have my reference guide for which mysteries to reflect on that day? –Anonymous
A. Normally, you do have to at least think and meditate on a particular mystery of the rosary at the beginning of each decade. However, if you don’t have your rosary guide with you, just do your best to remember whatever mystery of the rosary you can recall to meditate on and then pray the decades. Even if you don’t remember any of the mysteries, your prayers are still good because prayer is an act of the will. As long as you are willing to pray you will always get the graces from God. If you pray the rosary regularly, you will naturally be able to memorize all of the mysteries on any given day.
Q. When will we know who our next bishop will be and how is he appointed? Who would you like to see our next bishop? –SBC
A. Until Pope Francis accepts Bishop Loverde’s resignation (required for all bishops when they turn 75) we won’t have to worry about a new bishop yet but it is expected to happen in the next few months because our bishop turned 75 last September. The pope makes the final decision on appointing bishops for each diocese. Since I’m not part of the selection process for bishops I really am not concerned who will be our next bishop. All I know is that whoever is chosen our next bishop is the one whom God has consented to or else He would have prevented it. So I have no preference and I’m perfectly fine with whomever God chooses.
November 15, 2015
Q. When you are in heaven can you take your halo off? –Ele
A. The halo we see around the heads of saints was placed there by artists only to signify their holiness. Saints don’t really get a halo in heaven. If they did they would probably create quite a bit of chime music when they bang their heads together: “Ding dong ding dong, dong ding ding dong.” But I do love your question!
Q. Is littering a sin? –Gabriel G.
A. Yes, littering is a sin. God expects us to take good care of his creation. Littering is a form of vandalism that causes unsightliness and burden for others to clean up the mess. They can also be health hazards. Earlier this year Pope Francis released an encyclical (Laudato Si) teaching us the importance of caring for the environment by responsibly avoiding polluting the world God gave us a gift.
Q. Was Jesus Christ’s death per se the permissive will of God the Father? –Buch Dugan
A. Yes. God has 2 wills: active and permissive. God’s active will operates on directly deciding to do something (e.g., creation of angels, universe, humans, etc.). God’s permissive will allows things to happen but would not have directly caused them. Here are some examples. It is not God’s will for Lucifer (satan) and his demons to tempt us to sin even to the point of violence but He permits them to do it. After the fall of Adam, the rest of humanity inherited sin and we needed a savior to redeem us to reopen the gates of heaven. Jesus did not have to die violently for our redemption. God the Father could have chosen other means. However, the Father’s permissive will allowed the sin of man to play out which led to the terrible and painful crucifixion (murder) of Jesus. It shows the great love the Holy Trinity has for all of us by permissively allowing Jesus go through the ultimate suffering and crucifixion for our redemption.
November 22, 2015
Q. How old and how tall is Pope Francis? –Joe
A. Pope Francis will be 79 on December 17 (born 1936) and is listed at 5 feet – 9 inches in height. He looks much taller when he’s wearing his tall pointed bishop’s mitre (hat).
Q. Is it possible to marry one’s first cousin? –Anonymous
A. This sounds like a very touchy family issue so I’ll try to keep it simple. The answer is yes but it is highly discouraged. It is an impediment to marriage (Canon 1091) in the Catholic Church to marry a first cousin. But if one has a good reason a dispensation from the bishop may be obtained. The practice is also allowed only in states where it is legal. The root of this prohibition goes back to the Bible especially in Leviticus 17 where God specifically prohibits marriage between close blood relatives. There is a nice article I would like for you to read regarding marrying firsts cousins by going to this link: http://catholicexchange.com/can-cousins-marry-in-the-church (I’ve rarely been asked this question but if you want my personal advice, my friend, there are over 7 billion people in the world and the split is about 50/50. It is best to throw that fishing line out in the water again and catch a different fish!)
Q. Why does hell give sinners the wrath of heaven? If satan really hates God that much, why does he not form an army of the fallen and march on towards heaven? Why just keep taking in God’s leftovers? --“Wandering Free”. Similar question: Since God loves us so much and he is really powerful, how come he didn’t destroy the devil in the first place? Not trying to be sarcastic, just asking. --Anonymous
A. If God wants to he could wipe out the devil and all his allies instantly. The devil is well aware that a plan to take over heaven and defeat God is not possible because God is all-powerful and there is nothing difficult for him to do. The worse damage he can do is try to take as many souls away from God by tempting them to fall into sin. We don’t know all the reasons why God chose to let the devil and his demons roam about the world to make our path to heaven extra difficult. But we do know that one’s greatness in heaven is measured by one’s faithfulness to God and triumph over sin and evil while living here on earth. Someday in the next life we’ll know all the answers to these good intriguing questions.
November 29, 2015
Q. We know the Catholic Church opposes same sex marriage. But what is our personal action in these daily situations: 1) we are invited to a same sex marriage; 2) our daughter’s best friend is gay/transgender; 3) our child says he is gay. –Anonymous
A. You are not alone facing these difficult challenges. However, we have to act in all charity not to place ourselves in a situation compromising our faith especially in public. In response to the 1st case, you can avoid going to the wedding that God specifically forbids by excusing yourself due another commitment (i.e., your commitment to God’s laws especially regarding His definition of marriage as between a man/woman only); 2nd case, God does not forbid any Christian to be best friends with anyone regardless of their sexual orientation so there should be no conflict there; 3rd case is the most challenging. If you’re child declares that he’s gay, you will need to address a very delicate issue with him. A good rule of thumb is to follow our Church’s approach that “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 2358). While this discussion may be treated at great length, in summary, it needs to include that those who have same sex attraction are called to a life of perpetual chastity (par. 2359).
Q. Why do we sing songs at Mass that we’re not familiar with? This seems to conflict with why we come to church—to praise God as a community. –Anonymous
A. Hymns for Mass are meant to be in harmony with the readings for the Mass and the particular liturgy being celebrated. Familiar hymns do not always match the readings or even certain feasts being celebrated. For several years our parish used solely the music from the Breaking Bread hymnal and have become accustomed to its style. Many of the songs came from the 1970’s “folk” style selection. What I learned from publishers is that they are proprietary in their music selections. There isn’t a lot of “crossovers” from other’s publications so when switching from one publication to another the songs from the previous hymnals do not carryover. We use 2 hymnals and one of them includes the weekly readings with its own selections of music. The Catholic Church has over 1,500 years of church music repertoire and it is important that we do not forget the hymns from the past. Many of what appears to be unknown hymns that we now sing have simply not been sung in our parish for many years. If you carefully look at the lyrics and the readings for the Mass you will find that there’s a very good match. Last Sunday on the Solemnity of Christ the King, we had a choir of about 45 members at the 8:30 AM Mass with over 30 who were high school age and below. There aren’t many Catholic Churches in our diocese that have this many members and this many young singers either. We have a lot because they like singing both the old and the new church music and get a history lesson from the hymns as well. Last week the kids sounded very angelic when they sang the classic Latin hymn, Panis Angelicus, during communion meditation. I have to commend our music director and his choirs for raising the bar on our sacred music several notches. Give the hymns some time and they will also become very familiar.
December 6, 2015
Q. Is there a patron saint for missing socks? I am always losing just one! –Anonymous
A. Yes, there is! It’s Saint Anthony of Padua (1195-1231). He’s the patron saint for those who lost anything (socks included). He was a Franciscan priest and the most famous follower of Saint Francis of Assisi. I’ve called upon him many times and have had a good success rate. For centuries many others have testified to this. No one really knows for sure the reason why he became the patron for lost things. The best explanation I’ve read from his life story was that he helped so many lost souls find their way back to God that others began to pray to him to recover their lost objects as well. To their surprise Saint Anthony granted those petitions too. He is also listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest to be canonized as a saint—less than a year! He died on June 13, 1231 and was canonized on May 30, 1232 by Pope Gregory IX. [Hints to avoid losing socks: 1) use a safety pin or binder clips to keep socks together during wash/dry; 2) put all socks in a mesh bag—or place them inside a pillow case as an alternative; 3) hang on to the one sock till its “partner” reappears; 4) in some cases, some socks make it thru the washing machine’s drain tube and may still be there.]
Q. Since the words “Heaven” and “Paradise” are mentioned in the Bible, how are they the same or different from each other? Assuming differences, is there a chance at the resurrection of us going to one and not the other or do all go to the same place? –Bob Rutzel
A. When Jesus spoke about heaven and paradise he used the words interchangeably to refer to his kingdom in heaven. At the end of time all the people will either be in heaven (paradise) or hell.
Q. If you’re wearing a brown scapular while sleeping and you died, will you go to heaven? –Andre Smith
A. Yes, that is what is expected to happen. St. Simon Stock in 1251 received a revelation from Our Blessed Mother the promise that anyone who dies devoutly wearing the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel shall not suffer eternal fire. The scapular itself is not the cause of one’s salvation. Those who wear the brown scapular with the right intention will receive the necessary graces to live faithfully for Jesus in his or her lifetime and therefore would eventually receive the eternal reward in heaven.
Q. If someone is dying and unable to make a confession, will the Anointing of the Sick sacrament have the effect of an absolution as in confession? –L.
A. Yes, that is correct. The Anointing of the Sick is linked to the sacrament of Penance (confession).
December 13, 2015
Q. What is the point of having angels? Besides being guardian angels or doing things like St. Michael did, do they just serve to worship God? Are there any other types of angels? –Anonymous
A. Angels are pure spirits created by God because wanted to share his happiness and glory with creatures. Their nature resembles God and they were given a free will to make it possible for them to choose to love. There are 9 types of angels mentioned in the Bible and referred to as the 9 choirs of angels divided in 3 hierarchies. St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae wrote about his opinion on angels (I. Q. 50-64, 106-114). Here’s the breakdown of their duties from the highest to the lowest order. The 1st hierarchy appears dedicated directly to the service of God: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones; 2nd hierarchy has the task of what relates to the universal goal for governance of creation as indicated by their names: Dominions (or Dominations), Powers, Virtues; 3rd hierarchy has the angels working more directly with man and God’s creatures: Principalities, Archangels and Guardian Angels. They have many duties and we’re only aware of the few that have been revealed to us especially in scripture. So other than worshiping God eternally the angels have multi-tasks God has given them. Right now their main task is to help us battle the fallen angels (satan and his demons) and help us get to heaven.
Q. I notice that some parishes have permanent deacons listed on staff. What are they and what do they do? –Anonymous
A. There are 2 types of deacons in the sacrament of Holy Orders: transitional and permanent. Transitional deacons are seminarians who are preparing for their ordination to the priesthood. All priests were deacons at one time. Permanent deacons are a majority married men (not a requirement) who were ordained to assist the bishop and/or pastors in the parish. Although they cannot offer the Mass, hear confessions, or administer confirmation and the anointing of the sick sacraments, they can pretty much doing everything else a priest does including administer baptism, bring the Eucharist to the sick/homebound, witness marriages, officiate funerals, assist and preach at Masses. Historically they were assigned to help the bishop directly (deacon is Greek for “helper”). But in the late 1960’s Pope Paul VI revived the order of the Deaconate with the intention of primarily working in the missions where there is a shortage of priests and missionaries. However, there is a need for permanent deacons in many dioceses today due to a priest shortage (it’s a blessing, and an anomaly, that our diocese has plenty of priests!). We’re blessed to have Deacon Larry Hammel assigned to our parish. Since being ordained in 1984 for Rockville Centre, NY, Deacon Larry has worked in several parishes in New York and now in Virginia and West Virginia. He has worked in many hospitals and medical care facilities. He’s quite a legend in ministering to the inmates in both adult and juvenile detention centers. Our parishioners whom he trained to work in prison ministry just love working with him. He has also taught religious education in multi-levels, has served in our bishop’s Diaconal Council, and many other church duties. Deacon Larry is a wonderful faithful servant of the Lord and he’s one of the busiest and dedicated permanent deacons you’ll ever meet.
December 20, 2015
Q. What is the reason why certain people go up and get communion before everyone else? –Claire Eddy, 13
A. Those are parishioners who need to receive specially made 99.5% gluten-free Eucharistic bread due to their medical condition. The regular hosts made of wheat makes them very sick. They receive ahead of the others to prevent contamination from the priest’s fingers who must distribute multiple regular wheat hosts to the rest of the people. As extra precaution, the gluten-free hosts are consecrated in individual pyxes (container owned by the individual communicants) and placed directly into their hands.
Q. I have noticed members of the faithful attending Mass appear to be chewing gum. Isn’t this against the one-hour Eucharistic fast for Holy Communion? –Anonymous
A. I had to do a little checking on this one just to make sure. It appears that chewing gum to freshen up one’s breath before Mass does not break the fast unless the gum is swallowed within 1-hour before communion. (personally, I think swallowing gum is gross and I don’t understand why anyone would do it!) The Church defines eating as something edible, taken by the mouth, and swallowed. As long as it involves only chewing the gum the fast is not broken. However, candy mints are basically candies and therefore considered edible food. But keep in mind that chewing gum during Mass is highly inappropriate. Gum should be discarded Mass begins (and not placed under the pew!). Read #2 from this nice article on chewing gum from the EWTN site: https://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/communion_dispositions.htm This other one is also nice (and fun) to read: http://jimmyakin.com/2006/03/gum_at_mass.html
Q. If you can’t go to Mass, can you still get all the graces if you watch it on TV? –Anonymous
A. Getting all the graces as one would normally get by physically attending Mass may be possible theoretically for one who truly desires to be at Mass but is physically prohibited from going to church. This would certainly be the case for the sick and the homebound. They can make a spiritual communion and ask the Lord Jesus to come to them spiritually since receiving the Eucharist is not possible. However, those who deliberately skip Mass without sufficient reason, but watch Mass on TV instead for convenience, do not get any graces at all. It’s like skipping a meal and watching the Food Network thinking it’s the same thing!
December 27, 2015
Q. Are we allowed to listen to Christmas music before Christmas? –Anonymous
A. Yes. It is allowed but some wait until Christmas Eve at Mass because Advent is not really the right time to play Christmas music. Christmas season is about 3 weeks long and we really should wait until then to listen to Christmas music. It is very sad that radio stations and most of the people in general stop playing Christmas music as early as December 26. This season Christmas does not end until January 10 on the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord. I recommend to keep listening to Christmas music and keep the Christmas decorations up until then.
Q. What happens when we don’t go to church? --Katerina W. If I skip Mass and die without going to confession, would I go to hell? –T.
A. It is a mortal sin to deliberately miss Mass without a very good reason. To be condemned to hell one would only need to commit 1 mortal sin and die unrepentant. As scripture tells us, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” (James 2:10). However, those who go to church regularly and would sometimes miss mass on occasion normally go to confession later and be spiritually back in God’s good graces. I do believe that God gives those people a chance of getting back into his good standing before they die. This is not to encourage anyone to miss Mass on occasion but from pastoral observance this seems to be the case. I would be more concerned with the Christmas and Easter Mass only crowd and the occasional mass goers because they deliberately violate God’s 3rd commandment regularly, “Remember to keep the Lord’s Day holy.” But I am glad to see them a couple of times year and always hoping they would join us regularly. It only takes 1 good confession and a God-loving heart to start going to Mass every Sunday for them to get back on track towards heaven.
Q. Can all the 10 commandments be a mortal sin if broken? –Anonymous
A. Yes. There are 3 conditions to meet in order for one to commit a mortal sin: 1) action was a very serious or grave matter; 2) person knew that if committed it would be a mortal sin; 3) person freely chose the sinful action. If any of the conditions is missing, the sin is only a venial (lighter) sin. Understanding how all the 10 commandments may be violated also helps one avoid breaking them.
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