Archive for the ‘Questions & Answers’ Category

Extracted From Blessed Pope John Paul II Encyclical Ecclesia De Eucharistia

49. With this heightened sense of mystery, we understand how the faith of the Church in the mystery of the Eucharist has found historical expression not only in the demand for an interior disposition of devotion, but also in outward forms meant to evoke and emphasize the grandeur of the event being celebrated. This led progressively to the development of a particular form of regulating the Eucharistic liturgy, with due respect for the various legitimately constituted ecclesial traditions. On this foundation a rich artistic heritage also developed. Architecture, sculpture, painting and music, moved by the Christian mystery, have found in the Eucharist, both directly and indirectly, a source of great inspiration.

Such was the case, for example, with architecture, which witnessed the transition, once the historical situation made it possible, from the first places of Eucharistic celebration in the domus or “homes” of Christian families to the solemn basilicas of the early centuries, to the imposing cathedrals of the Middle Ages, and to the churches, large and small, which gradually sprang up throughout the lands touched by Christianity. The designs of altars and tabernacles within Church interiors were often not simply motivated by artistic inspiration but also by a clear understanding of the mystery. The same could be said for sacred music, if we but think of the inspired Gregorian melodies and the many, often great, composers who sought to do justice to the liturgical texts of the Mass. Similarly, can we overlook the enormous quantity of artistic production, ranging from fine craftsmanship to authentic works of art, in the area of Church furnishings and vestments used for the celebration of the Eucharist?

It can be said that the Eucharist, while shaping the Church and her spirituality, has also powerfully affected “culture”, and the arts in particular.


Acts 2:46

46 Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts,

Catholic Q & As

Posted: April 5, 2011 by CatholicJules in Questions & Answers

Can God Take A Joke?
Q: Is it a sin to tell jokes? From time to time in old Christian writings I find statements such as “Christians should not indulge in jesting, laugh or tolerate buffoons” (St. Basil) and the like. I often rely on humor to get along with people and with myself. I’ll try to be less zany in the future, but I still feel frightened at the thought that I shouldn’t try to make people laugh. What should I do?

A: Did you hear the one about the man who . . . Well, okay, I’ll hold off on that for now. Perhaps an adequate answer is provided by some recent newspaper reports on the approaching beatification of Pope John XXIII. They recalled his humor and, in particular, his response to an American visitor who — honoring the interest in statistics that most Americans have inherited in their genes — asked the Pope, “How many people work in the Vatican?” Pope John is reputed to have looked at him and answered (with a pontifical grin, one imagines), “Oh, about half.”

The present successor of St. Peter, especially in situations where he is most at home — in Poland or with young people — loves bantering and joking. It’s possible that St. Basil didn’t have a great sense of humor. More likely, however, he was quite right in the context he was referring to. There are situations where jesting and laughing are clearly out of place. But mirth and humor also have a legitimate, even important, place in life. The key here is balance. If you don’t have that balance, when it comes to joking and humor, you have to find that balance.

As for buffoons, if the dictionary is right in its description of such a blighter (that’s Irish lingo) as someone who is “a low, vulgar or indecent jester, one without self-respect,” I couldn’t have more sympathy with St. Basil. In fact, I’d be tempted to utter a loud British “Hear, hear, old chap!” and vote for the buffoon to be sent off to a special purgatory where he would have to listen to replays of himself for about two millennia. On second thought, that might qualify as “cruel and unusual punishment.” Two days of some people’s “humor” would be excruciating.

Anyway, whatever you think of the above arguments, here’s the clincher: If jesting and laughing were unacceptable
for Christians, we would long since have died under an avalanche of anathemas. And while there are a few people out there who wish that such a thing had happened, so far not a single prelate has chimed in to accuse us of “execrable and perfidious levity unbecoming of Christians,” or of any similarly impressive crime. So there.

Q: We have a serious problem in our parish with a particular lay “liturgist.” One of our parish priests, Fr. N., is from another country. He’s a wonderful man and an excellent priest, but he’s been told by our bishop that he’s “here to learn, not to change anything.” (Apparently this translates to mean that the priest is not allowed to (re)introduce any of the traditional devotions that have fallen by the way in our parish.) The problem stems from the “liturgist” who says: “RCIA is my ministry, and Father N. has nothing to do with it.” She also claims that it’s mandated by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops to use the RCIA program, as opposed to allowing people to receive individual instructions in the Faith, something which Father N. has said he would be happy to provide, if it was requested of him (which it has). The parish “Liturgist” seems determined to thwart any effort by Father N. to do an “end run” around her RCIA position of power. Is there some reliable and authoritative ecclesiastical source I could turn to that would either support her claims or prove them false?

A: You’ve probably heard the standard line about liturgists. Question: “What’s the difference between a liturgist and a terrorist?” Answer: “You can negotiate with a terrorist.”

Ahem. Well, to be fair, I do know some excellent liturgists, people who are orthodox theologically, and blessed with great humility and a genuine spirit of cooperation. Unfortunately, there are also liturgists who are not theologically orthodox, who don’t evince the virtue of humility (something crucial for all Christians, of course, but especially for those who serve the Church with Her sacred ministry of the Sacraments and the Liturgy), and who are intransigent in their opposition to traditional forms of Catholic piety. Some of these liturgists have staked out their own liturgical fiefdom and will defend it with the territorial élan of a terrier.

For the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with the acronym (though it’s invoked with such fervor everywhere these days that it’s hard to imagine anyone who frequents a Catholic parish could possibly have avoided running into it), RCIA stands for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. What does the Church have to say about adults who will be initiated into Christian life?

According to Canon 851 of the Code of Canon Law (Church law, that is universally binding in the Latin Rite), “An adult who intends to receive baptism is to be admitted to the catechumenate and, as far as possible, brought through the various stages to sacramental initiation, in accordance with the rite of initiation as adapted by the Episcopal Conference and with the particular norms issued by it.” We’re also told (Can. 788 §3): “It is the responsibility of the Episcopal Conference to establish norms concerning the arrangement of the catechumenate, determining what should be done by catechumens and what should be their prerogatives.” In the United States, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) effectively determined “what should be done by catechumens” by establishing the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.

Nevertheless, judging by what those nationally responsible for it say about it, your local liturgist is laboring under some fairly serious misconceptions about what “RCIA” is. With modesty, flexibility and reason (which goes to prove that the liturgist joke is unfair as a generalization!), what they say is the following (emphases are mine): “The Rite of Christian Initiation is not a program. It is the Church’s way of ministering sensitively to those who seek membership. For that reason some people will need more time than others to prepare for the lifetime commitment that comes with membership in the Catholic Church. The usual length of preparation is from one to two years. For those already baptized and who seek full communion in the Catholic Church, the time may also vary. It seems reasonable that catechumens or candidates experience the yearly calendar of Catholic practice at least one time around in order to make an informed decision.”
I think it’s fairly obvious that there’s a great deal of flexibility and adjustment to the situation of each candidate. And most importantly, it’s “not a program”; individual instruction can be “ministering sensitively” to candidates, and therefore part of RCIA.

The second part of the question is, can the priest intervene? Well, assuming he’s the pastor of the parish, he’s obliged to do so. At the very least, he should evaluate what the liturgists or catechists are proposing to do in order to decide whether to endorse and approve it.
According to Canon 519, “The parish priest is the proper pastor of the parish entrusted to him. He exercises the pastoral care of the community entrusted to him under the authority of the diocesan Bishop, whose ministry of Christ he is called to share, so that for this community he may carry out the offices of teaching, sanctifying and ruling with the cooperation of other priests or deacons and with the assistance of lay members of Christ’s faithful, in accordance with the law.” Moreover (Canon 528 §1), he “has the obligation of ensuring that the word of God is proclaimed in its entirety to those living in the parish. He is therefore to see to it that the lay members of Christ’s faithful are instructed in the truths of faith . . . . ”

That, too, seems clear enough. The pastor is the one who is primarily responsible before God for the spiritual well-being of his parish (i.e. all his parishioners, the souls of the men, women, and children entrusted to his care). He can exercise his responsibility with the assistance of others, but they aren’t somehow independent operators.

The bishop can remove him as pastor if he so wishes, but as long as he leaves him there as pastor, he can’t redefine the role entrusted to the parish priest by canon law. And if he removes him, he must name another priest in his place (no, the lay liturgist can’t become the pastor). That new priest, in turn, must take upon himself the pastoral care of the faithful of his parish. That’s why he’s the pastor!

Certainly, the pastor is “under the authority of the diocesan bishop,” and the bishop can instruct him to follow a particular process in preparing adults for initiation into the Sacraments. But you can take it as certain that nowhere is it said that the pastor is “under the authority of the parish liturgist.” Father, then, has plenty to do with it, since RCIA is most certainly a ministry of “teaching and sanctifying.”
That said, it’s not clear why there should necessarily be a preference for “individual instruction” by the priest over whatever the liturgist is proposing to do. If he or she understands and communicates that faith well, perhaps this person will do it better than the priest. There’s plenty of room and need for those lay collaborators; the priest is not a one-man orchestra.


Answers By Fr. Brian Wilson, L.C.

Some Q & A(s)

Posted: December 23, 2010 by CatholicJules in Questions & Answers

Answers By Fr. Hugh Barbour, O.Praem

Q. In a previous answer, you said it’s permissible to confess sins already confessed and absolved, as long as it’s not done out of scrupulosity. I admit that it might be good to recall past sins in order to grow in gratitude for God’s forgiveness, but how is it appropriate to confess them again?

A. In 1304, Pope Benedict XI, in the constitution Inter Cunctas Sollicitudines taught: “Even though it is not necessary to do so, we judge it spiritually helpful to confess the same sins over again on account of the contrition, which is a great part of this sacrament.” The “matter” of the sacrament of penance is contrition for sin, the sin is only the necessary motive for the sorrow. Thus any confession which increases contrition, as well as our purpose of amendment, is helpful to the fruitful reception of the sacrament. As we grow in the love of God, reflecting on our past sins, even though they are forgiven, strengthens our resolve to avoid sin, it deepens our sorrow for our sins, and it can make our reception of the sacrament more effective in rooting out the remaining sources of sin in us.


Q. When I hear that the devil can tempt us, I am frightened. Is he able to get inside of us and make us sin? Can he force us to give in to his temptations?

A. The only way that the devil can tempt us is, in principle, the way in which other human beings can tempt us. He can approach us only from the “outside,” through our senses and sense imagination and memory. The devil cannot force our spiritual will or our immaterial intellect. He can only work on the aspects of our soul which are completely dependent on physical sensation. The difference with the devil is that, being by nature an angel (although a fallen one) he is able to “see” into our imagination and memory, even though we may not be expressing their contents by words or actions. This gives him a slight advantage, more ammunition, to use against us. However, he never is able to be sure we have really given in, because he can only guess whether we have given full consent or completely understand, or have reflected sufficiently that what we have done or want to do is sinful. This is because he cannot see our intellect or will. This can only be seen by God. This is why the earliest teachers on Christian prayer and spiritual discipline, the Fathers of the Desert, emphasize how important control of our imagination is in fighting the devil. By constant prayer, by short aspirations prayed inwardly or out loud as we go about our daily work, short prayers like “My Jesus, Mercy” or “Mary, Help,” by thinking about the life of Our Lord, Our Lady, and the Saints, by avoiding useless words and images on TV and radio, we can clean up our imagination, and give the devil less to work on. We will recognize temptations more easily, and reject them more successfully, if we have a purer inner life. The best example of this is Our Lord and Our Lady. When the devil tempted Christ, he was not sure He was the Son of God and Messiah. This means that Our Lord had so complete a control of His imagination that nothing entered there which he did not want to, so the devil was perplexed at a man with an imagination and memory so pure and holy, so he was forced to come out into the open and ask. (What a humiliation for him, and a lesson for us!) In World War II, there were posters with sinking ships over the caption “somebody talked.” If we can quiet our imagination by prayer and silence, we can avoid many an attack of the evil one. Lets remember the words of St. Peter: “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. The God of all grace who called you to His eternal glory through Christ will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little” (1 Peter 5:8-10).


Q. A nun recently told me its possible that we have more than one life on earth, through reincarnation. I showed her paragraph 1013 in the Catechism, which says there is no such thing as reincarnation. She shrugged and said that teaching is “non-infallible” and were free to hold other opinions. Is reincarnation compatible with the Catholic Faith?

A. The problem with reincarnation isnt’ that a soul could be reunited with a body after death. After all, Christians believe in exactly that: the resurrection of the dead, in which our souls will be reunited with our bodies.
The problem is that reincarnation entails the notion that the body is not an essential aspect of the human person, but only a shell, or an instrument of the spiritual soul. The Church solemnly defined at the Council of Vienna in 1312 that the human soul is not only a spirit, but is per se and essentially the form of a body. The council taught that the contrary view was heretical. The Catechism (CCC #365) quotes this definition of the fifteenth ecumenical council. Our Catholic Faith presents death as a tragic consequence of sin, not as a natural passage from one state to another. Christ’s death triumphs over the death brought about by sin by rising from the dead in His own identical body. So too our future resurrection will be the same body which we now are, materially reconstituted by the ministry of angels and reunited with the soul by the miraculous power of Christ. Resurrection in the same body means the re-uniting of body and soul (CCC #997), not the taking on of a new body not previously our own. Reincarnation has a tantalizing attraction for many since it satisfies their curiosity about themselves without coming to grips with the permanent, everlasting nature of our bodily individuality. Christianity believes so strongly that the body is an essential part of our makeup and happiness, that even God, to redeem us had to take on flesh, die, and rise again, and feed us with His own Body. The Fathers say “Christ did not redeem what He did not assume.” The Incarnation and Resurrection are the Catholic responses to the error of reincarnation. Archbishop Christoph Scho‘nborn of Vienna (the main architect of the Catechism) has written a book on reincarnation, available from Ignatius Press of San Francisco.

Some Q & As

Posted: November 19, 2010 by CatholicJules in Questions & Answers

Q : May I have a lozenge before Communion?

I am a newbie so I don’t know if I am doing this “right”. I just wanted to pose a question about reception of Communion. If you start coughing during Mass and have to use a lozenge, can you still receive the Eucharist?

A: Hi,

Yes;  it’s medicine and meds don’t break the fast. However, you should spit it into your handkerchief before receiving.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

Q : Who cares if same-sex marriage is “unnatural”?

How do we answer advocates of same-sex “marriage” when they respond saying: “There are many things humans do that can be considered ‘unnatural’ such as flying planes.”

A: Same-sex “marriage” isn’t “unnatural” for humans in the way that flying is “unnatural.” It is “unnatural” in the way murder is unnatural. In other words, it is opposed to the natural law, which Fr. John Hardon, S.J., defined this way:

As distinct from revealed law, it is “nothing else than the rational creature’s participation in the eternal law” (Summa Theologica, 1a, 2ae, quest. 91, art. 2). As coming from God, the natural law is what God has produced in the world of creation; as coming to human beings, it is what they know (or can know) of what God has created. It is therefore called natural law because everyone is subject to it from birth (natio), because it contains only those duties which are derivable from human nature itself, and because, absolutely speaking, its essentials can be grasped by the unaided light of human reason (source).

Flying is “unnatural” for humans because we do not have wings. Same-sex “marriage” is unnatural not because humans lack a physical attribute that would make it possible, but because it violates the same moral law inherent to every human being that also prohibits murder

Catholic Answers Apologist Michelle Arnold

Q&A – Salvation Has No Conditions?

Posted: November 8, 2010 by CatholicJules in Life's Journeys, Questions & Answers

Q I had a discussion with an Evangelical friend on the virginity of Our Blessed Mother. I pointed out that Protestant reformers Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli taught the historic Christian doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity. He didn’t care and said that our salvation doesn’t depend on belief about Mary’s virginity. All we have to do, he said, is believe that Jesus is our personal Lord and Savior and we will be saved. He also said Catholicism isn’t “true” Christianity. What should I tell him?

A – The Reformers indeed taught the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity, but that usually doesn’t impress modern-day Protestants like your friend. Protestants agree with the Catholic Church’s teaching that faith in Christ is necessary for salvation. But faith in Christ includes faith in and assent to what He taught His commandments and doctrines. Your friend’s minimalist attitude toward what is necessary to salvation risks turning Christianity into a mechanical ideology: “Say the sinner’s prayer’ and you’re in, nothing else matters. Just don’t become a Catholic.”

Point out that if there are no conditions for salvation other than faith in Christ as one’s Savior, then not being a Catholic cannot be a condition for salvation. If he says you can’t be a Catholic and be saved, then he’s added a condition and is being inconsistent. This may help him see that there’s more to salvation than mere faith in Christ. Jesus reminded us that faith alone isn’t sufficient: “Why do you say to me, Lord, Lord,’ but do not do the things I command?” (Luke 6:46-47; cf. Matt, 7:21-23). This includes believing in all that He and the Apostles taught. And that includes the truth of Mary’s perpetual virginity. You see, all of revelation is connected. One cannot say, for example, I’m willing to accept this doctrine but I won’t accept that one. That’s completely contrary to Christ’s will. Your friend’s point of view is common among Protestants, who have a tendency to reduce “faith in Christ” to simply the belief that He is our Savior. But let’s remember what “Savior” means. It means that Christ is saving us from something, He is saving us for something, His salvation comes to us in a certain way and under certain conditions (eg. believe, repent, be baptized, etc.). This also tells us who He is: God Himself. You see what a wealth of doctrinal implications are contained in the word “savior”: sin, death, and hell, the commandments, grace, heaven, sacrifice, merit, sacraments, the Church, the Trinity, the Incarnation, His death, Resurrection, and Second Coming. For those who know and love Christ, there is nothing about Him, His life, His friends, His teachings that is not of interest or help to them.

Christ came to “bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37) and to reveal many supernatural mysteries about God and the kingdom of God which we could never have known by the power of unaided human reason. Believing the truths about Christ contained in Sacred Scripture are part of having faith in Him. We can’t separate faith in the person of Christ from faith in His life and message, in the prophets who preceded Him, and the Apostles and their successors who followed after Him. These Apostles the early Church magisterium proclaimed the truth with the teaching authority Christ gave them: “He who hears you, hears Me” (Luke 10:16; cf. Matt. 16:18, 18:18).

And remember what Christ command the magisterium of His Church to do: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20). Christ wants Christians to assent to and profess all the doctrines contained in the Deposit of Faith, including the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity. He reminds us that, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in Heaven” (Matt. 7:21).

Answered By Fr. Hugh Barbour, O.Praem


If somebody confesses to a priest that he has killed a number of people and he intends to kill some more people what is the priest to do? Could he even gives names or clues about what people this person said he would kill? Can the priest contact the intended victims or the police to try to stop the killings?

Answer :

A priest cannot violate the seal of confession for any reason whatsoever. He can deny absolution to someone he believes is not truly repentant for his sins — and a stated intention to recommit the very sin being confessed during the act of sacramental confession itself could indicate impenitence — but he cannot in any way, either by word or action, violate the seal of confession. That means that not only can he not say anything, but he cannot act upon the information gained in the confession either. In the hypothetical you propose, such a priest could not contact authorities or victims, give clues, or — to give an example of a wordless action — steal the murderer’s weapon to render him weaponless.

The priest acts in persona Christi (“in the person of Christ”) and in confession the penitent is speaking to God himself through the ministry of the priest. That means that the information given during sacramental confession doesn’t properly belong to the priest himself as a fellow human being; it belongs properly to the penitent and to God. That is one reason why the priest cannot act upon what he hears in sacramental confession. Another reason is even more serious: If penitents have reason to fear that a priest is allowed to reveal their confessions, they won’t confess. If they don’t confess, they risk hell. Ultimately, the inviolability of the seal of confession is about saving lives — it is about saving the immortal souls of those who have committed mortal sin and are at risk of eternal damnation.

Michelle Arnold – Catholic Answers Apologist


Question :– I’m currently in RCIA and during Mass before our classes a man either had a stroke or a heart attack in the pews and fell over to the ground. 5 or 6 people stood up and interrupted the priest’s sermon yelling “we need a doctor” and “call 911.” The priest didn’t say anything, nor really do anything. He just stopped and told us to stand up and say the Nicene Creed (like we normally do). I was confused and quite upset about this. What exactly is the role of the priest when something like this happends?

P.S. – This incident happened before communion took place, if that makes any difference.

Thank you very much.

Answer :-


If the priest is young and inexperienced, his reaction is understandable. Perhaps, for some reason he became confused. But what a priest ordinarily should do in such an emergency is to go down and anoint the man and remain with him until he is taken from the church. THEN, he should continue with the Mass.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.