January 1, 2012
Q. How old was Mary when she had Jesus? –Anonymous
A. Bible scholars believe that Mary was around 15 years old when she gave birth to Jesus.
Q. Who was Saint Nick before he became what we call, “Santa Claus”? –Anthony Cusat
A. Saint Nick was Bishop Nikolaos of Myra in Lycia in the region anciently referred to as Asia Minor (modern day Demre, Turkey). He was born in 270 A.D. and died on December 6, 373 A.D. He was a real holy bishop who became famous for secretly sneaking in the middle of the night to give help to the poor. He used to leave coins to those who left a shoe out for him to signal that they needed help. Saint Nicholas became very popular in both Eastern and Western Europe since the 4th century. The Dutch called him Sinterklaas and from this became the English version of the name we’re most familiar with, Santa Claus. Saint Nicholas was a participating member of the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. where our current Nicene Creed that we pray every Sunday and Solemnities was formulated. He was a staunch defender of the important teaching that Jesus has both divine and human nature. We should pray and thank Saint Nicholas because without him there would not be any Santa Claus in the world!
Q. Since Jesus was born on Christmas day, could the church sing as one of its songs “Happy Birthday”? –Anonymous
A. We only sing official liturgical hymns at Mass that have a religious theme because the Mass is a formal religious worship. And there are lots of beautiful Christmas hymns that are only heard during this season. Happy Birthday is a secular song that is sung year round for anyone celebrating a birthday but a Christmas hymn is a very special birthday song and it is sung specifically only for Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Q. If you miss church on a Sunday due to illness, is that a sin? –Anonymous
A. Not at all. Oftentimes, it is best if you stay at home so that you don’t pass on the illness to others. But you should still make Sunday holy at home in some way by saying prayers and/or reading the Bible.
Q. Are Adam and Eve in heaven or are they in hell? –Shawn D.
A. The Bible does not mention that Adam and Eve are in heaven and that’s the reason why we don’t refer to them as St. Adam or St. Eve. However, the Bible also seems to indicate that they lived faithfully after they left the Garden of Eden so it is safe to presume that they are not in hell.
Q. What color eyes did Jesus and Mary have? –Anonymous
A. I guess we’ll never know until we meet them in heaven face to face! So let’s live a good and faithful life in Jesus to make sure we get there and get a closer look.
January 8, 2012
Q. If someone believes in God but never goes to church, will he go to heaven? –Anonymous
A. Presuming that you meant a physically healthy Catholic who believes in God but by choice never goes to Mass, the answer is no. It is a divine commandment and not an option to keep the Lord’s Day holy. A Catholic who deliberately misses a Sunday or Holy Day Mass commits a mortal (serious) sin. Our faith tells us that if we die in the state of mortal sin we would be lost forever and never go to heaven. It’s like saying one believes in getting a good education but does not do any studying at all. It is not enough to just believe, we still have to do our part.
Q. The Bible says to keep holy the Sabbath and to rest on the 7th day. If our duties and responsibilities don’t allow this on Sunday, may we substitute another day? --SBC
A. Yes, another day may be substituted. All you need is to ask the pastor to switch your Sunday obligation to another day of the week and you’re good to go.
Q. Are there levels of conversions or is it on a continuum? –SBC
A. There are different levels of spiritual conversions. The biggest one, of course, is to change from a sinful life rejecting God to repenting and living the ways of God. Our state of living for God moves forward in progression. The more we learn about God and make an effort to live his ways, the better we raise our spiritual lives to a higher and more committed level. Our love and desire for God increases the more we strive to get to know him. Prayer and nourishment from the sacraments help us get closer to God.
Q. How many candles are in the church and how often are they lit? –Anonymous
A. During Mass we need to light at least two candles. For a more solemn Mass you will sometimes see four or six candles. In the old Traditional Mass two candles are lit for the “Low Mass” and six candles are lit for the “Solemn High Mass” (Mass celebrated with a deacon and a subdeacon). During Eucharistic Adoration it is a tradition to light six candles (or more) during exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. In case you noticed, there are also four candles on the walls of the church that are rarely lit. Those candles are only lit on the Easter vigil, on the feast of the patron saint of the parish, and I believe on the dedication anniversary of the parish.
Q. Are priests allowed to play video games? If so, do you play video games? –Anonymous
A. Yes, priests may play video games. But not too much of it! Since I don’t have much free time to play video games most of my playing is done when I am visiting homes of parishioners who invite me to play the games with them. I am not a very experienced video player so I usually limit my playing to the Wii games such as bowling, biking, Pictionary, and my favorite, Wii Boggle. My all-time favorite game to play is actually not a video game but the traditional board game of SCRABBLE! There is an almost SCRABBLE game called Words With Friends that I like to play with several parishioners thru my iPad. If you have this app and would like to challenge me my screen name is n2scrabble.
January 15, 2012
Q. Why does our church not have stained glass windows and why do other churches have them? –Anthony Cusat
A. Some churches are designed without stained glass to bring more natural light inside the sanctuary. The great Michelangelo who built Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican purposely designed the church without stained glass windows to let the sun shine on the beautiful interior artwork. Stained glass would have made it too dark for the people to see the remarkable intricate art designs. It was built back in the 16th century before electricity was even around to provide artificial light. I can think of three possible reasons why we don’t have stained glass windows in our church: 1) to let natural light in, as mentioned above; 2) it was designed so that during the day one could see the beautiful rustic-like nature view of our parish through the windows and give a feeling of live paintings on the glass; 3) the architect and/or pastor at the time left the designing of the stained glass windows for someone to do in the future (Don’t look at me, I only live here and fix the windows when they’re broken!).
Q. Thank you for your homily regarding the infinity of God’s time and God giving time for more souls to be saved as an explanation why a young person may die and a person living in sin still roam the earth. I know we are called to pray for those who have died, but if God calls someone from the earth because they are “done”, why wouldn’t they go straight to heaven? Why is there a need for purgatory? –Noel
A. Some do go straight to heaven but many good people do not die in a perfect state to enter heaven immediately. If it weren’t for purgatory, most people would never have a chance to go to heaven. No one can enter heaven with any kind of imperfection (You can read more about this on Revelation chapter 21 and the Nov. 10, 201l bulletin Ask the Priest column).
Q. Does a deacon need to be married? –Anonymous
A. No. There are two kinds of deacons: transitional and permanent. Seminarians who are ordained as transitional deacons are those who are one degree away from being ordained as priests and they are not married (like me!). On the other hand, married lay men who decided to become permanent deacons were married before they were ordained as deacons. But there have been a few permanent deacons who have never married. Married permanent deacons understand that they cannot remarry if their wife dies after they are ordained as deacons. It is not part of Catholic tradition to marry after one has been ordained in Holy Orders. On very rare occasions, a permanent deacon whose wife has died may apply to become a priest. We have at least one such priest in our diocese.
Q. If your wife or husband dies, are you still married? –Kendall Briscoe
A. No. The marriage bond is broken when one’s spouse dies and is free to remarry. That’s the reason for the phrase, “Till death do us part,” when the couple pledge their love at their wedding. It is not uncommon that one remarries after his or her spouse dies. On very rare occasions some widowers have become priests and some widows have become nuns. Now that’s what I call totally living…a full life! (It’s more like living two lives because you normally would have to choose either vocation but not both.)
January 22, 2012
Q. When you are given your penance in confession, especially if you are in a hurry, can you say the prayers while driving back home? And can you substitute a good deed for these prayers? –SBC
A. Yes, if you are in a hurry you can say the prayers while you are driving. It is safe for most people to pray and drive at the same time (unlike texting and driving, a definite no-no!). You may add a good deed to the penance given to you by the priest but you may not use it as a substitute.
Q. Why do you have to be in second grade to be able to receive First Communion? –James Karanski
A. Age 7 is about the average age when children are able to tell the difference between regular bread and consecrated bread that has become the real Body and Blood of Jesus (Eucharist). It is also about the same age when children are able to know how to make a good confession in preparation to receive Holy Communion. Since age 7 is around second grade, it has become the common grade for children to make their First Eucharist.
Q. God said that sin is natural. If homosexuality is a sin, then wouldn’t it be natural as opposed to unnatural? –Anonymous.
If we are supposed to accept everyone, why is it against God’s trust to be gay, bi or lesbian? Shouldn’t we accept everyone as they are? Why do we judge them? --Anonymous
A. On the contrary, God never said that sin is natural. God did not create humans to sin. Sin came into the world as a result of willfully choosing to disobey God. If we’re wondering why there is a guilty feeling after sinning it is because it goes against our human nature to sin. The Catholic Church does not condemn anyone for having a homosexual orientation. The Church only reiterates what God has consistently taught through scripture (Gen. 19:1-29, Rom. 1:24-27, 1 Cor. 6:10, 1 Tim. 1:10) and tradition that homosexual actions are sinful and unnatural. Since God does not favor homosexual relationships, the Church can never consent to same sex marriages regardless of whether it is civilly legal or not. On the other hand, there are many good and holy people who have a homosexual tendency but do not engage in sinful actions. Many of them go to Mass and live a good life just like the rest in the congregation. The Church accepts every person because every human being is made in the image and likeness of God. We follow the Christian principle best expressed by St. Augustine “to hate sin but love the sinner” (City of God). God never wants us to ever accept sin. Rejecting sinful actions is not “judging” or rejecting anyone. It is about being faithful to God. It is a sin of omission not to speak the truth about God’s teachings when we have the opportunity. It is also a grave mistake and scandal for Catholics to proclaim that the Church accepts homosexual relationships. The official catechism teaches, “’Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law…. Under no circumstances can they be approved.” (For the complete text, refer to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs #2357-2359). This is not an easy topic to cover in a short space but I am glad you asked. I hope this helped answer your questions.
January 29, 2012
Q. Is there a pope of America? –Maeve. What is the chance of a pope coming from the U.S.? –Doc
A. The pope for America is Pope Benedict XVI! There is only one pope for all the Catholics in the world. There is always a chance for a pope to come from the U.S. because the election of a pope comes from one of about 120 cardinals eligible to be elected. Right now there are about a dozen American cardinals under 80 years old and there is always a chance of one of them becoming a pope. “Insiders” believe that is not likely to happen in the near future. But who expected that we were going to have a Polish pope back in 1978?
Q. Did Mother Teresa ever (officially) become a saint? –Moira Bauer
A. Pope John Paul II beatified Mother Teresa on October 23, 2003, six years after her death. She is officially called Blessed Teresa or Blessed Mother Teresa. This means she is one step away from being officially recognized as a canonized saint in the church. No one knows when this will happen because it is the pope who makes the declaration. If there is another confirmed miracle attributed to Mother Teresa that would certainly help speed up the process.
Q. What do we do in heaven? Is everyone the same age in heaven? Do spirits in hell ever go back to heaven? –Anonymous
A. We know how endless it is to have good fun here on earth. There are so many things to choose from what we could do just to have fun. We even plan vacations to set up many of the fun stuff we want to do. Whatever best plans we can come up here on earth is even far better surpassed in heaven. You won’t need to plan days for this because there is no time in heaven and you can just do all the fun things right away and no one will ever tell you, “Time’s up! It’s time to sleep!” In eternity everything works in the present. There are no more time clocks to worry about. We will always be learning new fun things forever. You can think of heaven as an endless paradise of Hakuna Matata (it means “no worries” for those who snubbed the Lion King movie). Since Jesus promised us a perfect and immortal resurrected body like his, we presume that everyone in heaven, including those who died as babies and old folks like 900+-year-old Noah, will have a perfect mature body around the age when Jesus died (33). [This was St. Thomas Aquinas’ theological opinion—makes a lot of sense to me! Just think of it, would you be perfectly happy in heaven if you were a baby that doesn’t understand anything for eternity? Or wander around in heaven as a frail 90 or 900-year old and envy the younger looking ones showing off their youthful physique? If that were the case, who would want to live a long life on earth?] Now as far as those who willingly rejected God and/or chose to live a bad life here on earth, their choice at the time of their death will not change forever. In more plain words, once you send yourself to hell, you will never leave. Hotel Hell is a popular “hot” place where souls check in—and they don’t check out! Jesus warns, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14).
February 5, 2012
Q. When the world ends, will we physically see Jesus or will we just know he’s there? –Samantha Smith, age 10
A. Yes, we will see Jesus because he promised that he will be seen coming down from the clouds if we happen to be around at the end of the world when Jesus returns. The Bible tells us, “And then the sign of the Son of Man (Jesus) will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30).
Q. Why is there a 2nd collection at Mass? –Anonymous
A. The 1st collection is taken for the support of the main our parish expenses. This includes paying for the utility bills (electricity, gas, heat, telephones, internet, etc.), salary/medical benefits of the staff, general maintenance repairs, materials used for the celebration of the Mass and other sacraments, religious education materials, liturgy and music materials, food to keep the priests from starving to death, and other general office supplies and expenses. The 2nd collection is a special collection that is sometimes taken up for other various expenses that include supporting the poor within our parish and other places (sometimes overseas), relief for natural disaster victims, Catholic Charities, current building maintenance fund, etc. Sometimes the bishop will ask for a specific 2nd collection for an urgent need that he believes is very important.
Q. How explicit should we be in confessing our sins? Should we only say the commandments that we violate? –Anonymous
A. The specific sins committed need to be identified. It is incorrect to just mention the commandments. That would be quite problematic. For example, if you had a fight with someone, even just an argument, that would be a violation of the 5th commandment: “You shall not kill.” If you just confessed, “Father, I violated commandments #5 and #7,” the priest would have no idea whether you just had an argument and took the guy’s French fries without his knowledge or you actually killed the 7-11 attendant and emptied the cash register on your way out! The priest would not be able to give you the proper advice and penance if he does not know specifically what you are confessing. The proper way to confess the sin is to identify it and, if necessary, say how often. There’s also a big difference in doing something once or in a habitual way. But there is no need to be super elaborate in describing the sin. For example, those who drank too much alcohol need not describe the brand of drink they had or how great the taste was before passing out!
Q. Why do we call God, “Father”? –Claire
A. It is because as Christians we are truly God’s adopted children. St. Paul writes, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, ‘Abba,’ ‘Father!’ The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:14-17). So with confidence we can say the prayer that Jesus taught us by calling God, “Our Father who art in heaven….”
February 12, 2012
Q. Throughout the workweek I look forward to coming to church on Sunday. But when I’m in church I tend to daydream every now and then. Any advice? –Anonymous
A. The most time-proven effective way to avoid daydreaming in church is to come a few minutes early and pray to God before Mass begins. This allows us to prepare our soul to be more disposed to being united with God by the time Mass begins. Another practical effective tip is to sit in the front row of the church where there is practically little or no distraction to cause your thoughts to wander. [It may also keep you very focused out of concern that the priest might notice you daydreaming during Mass!]
Q. How can you see the angels? –Anonymous
A. We can’t really see them and even among the saints very few of them did. Most of us will need to wait until we get to heaven to see the angels.
Q. Does everyone’s Guardian Angel look the same? –Ydda (or Yodda?)
A. Every angel is a unique creation of God and they all look distinctly different from each other. We can look at God’s creation with humans in a similar way. Even identical twins have something different about each other including their fingerprints.
Q. I have been told that I have more than one Guardian Angel and that the limit is 9. This was supposedly achieved through the power of prayer. Is this possible? –C. White
A. God can send us as many angels as he wants but to pray for “extra” angels for up to a total of 9 sounds like one of those mythical and non-authentic prayer to the angels. We only know for sure that we are given at least one Guardian Angel since our youth based on the following scripture verse: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father” (Matthew 18:10). I even surfed the web to find anything about what you mentioned and the only thing that turned up was a Major League baseball score: “California Angels 9, Tampa Bay Devil Rays 1.” [As a safety precaution, I would be hesitant about dong risky activities presuming that I have 9 angels protecting me everyday.]
Q. My father, sisters and I recently took a road trip to Florida and we listened to C. S. Lewis’ “Screwtape Letters”. In the book certain demons are given patients. Do you think that there is one devil assigned to each of us like we all have a Guardian Angel? –Anonymous
A. Yes, there is likely that the devil has specifically assigned a demon to tempt each person. That explains why we are all given a specific Guardian Angel to counter the evil spirit’s temptations to make us fall into sin and hoping to eventually drag us down to hell. This explains why even though we know and want to do what is right yet, somehow, there seems to be a strong thought or force that wants us to do the opposite. The Bible is very clear in saying that there is one devil (satan) and there are many demons as we gather from Jesus’ teaching about the Last Judgment: “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’” (Matthew 26:41).
February 19, 2012
Q. Why do we have to go to confession to get our sins forgiven? Does it count if we tell God our sins at home? –Julie Hormes, 13 years old
A. When we do something wrong that is small or no big deal we usually feel bad and not worry about it. But when we do something wrong that is really big it is not enough to just ‘forgive’ ourselves. Some other legitimate authority (e.g., parents, teacher, principal, judge, etc.) is called upon to make the situation right for us again. It is no different when we offend God in a big way. A priest is what God designated as an agent or minister to ‘reset’ our souls back into a good clean state again. Jesus first gave the power to forgive to the apostles on Easter night when he declared, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (John 20:22-23). He would not have given anyone the authority to forgive sins if the people could just confess directly to God. For those who committed big (mortal) sins, the ones that could lead us to hell if we died with these sins unconfessed, one needs to go to a priest to receive the sacrament of penance in order to be reconciled with God. But for those who committed only minor (venial) sins, they could go directly to God and tell him they are sorry. But it is always a good idea to go to a priest for confession even if we only have venial sins to confess. It is a great feeling to know that we are guaranteed forgiveness when we go to confession. We really know that God has removed our guilt when someone actually tells us that our sins have been forgiven. We should always look upon the sacrament of penance as God’s gift of forgiveness.
Q. When do you have confessions? –Brie, 11 years old
A. The normal confession schedule at our parish is as follows: Friday (10:45-11:45 AM) and Saturday (8-8:30 AM, 3:30-4:30 PM). The priests are also available by appointment. During Wednesdays of Lent confession is available in all the parishes in the Arlington diocese and Washington archdiocese from 6:30-8 PM.
Q. Why do we have flowers in the church? –Beth Hogan
A. One of the ways we keep our homes beautiful is to decorate it with flowers. Oftentimes people bring flowers to the home they are visiting as a sign of honor. The church is God’s house and temple and we are his guests. The flowers are placed in church as our way to honor God in his own house. Making the church look beautiful is our way of giving honor and glory to God. Since everything belongs to God, especially the beautiful flowers in the world, it is only appropriate that flowers are picked from his garden and brought inside his house!
Q. What do altar boys do? –‘Anonymous kid’
A. They actually have a unique job of exclusively serving the priest or bishop celebrating the Mass. All the other ministries at Mass are called upon to help the priest serve the congregation (e.g., lectors, Extraordinary Ministers of Communion, ushers, choir, greeters, etc.). One of the reasons the ministry of altar servers was created centuries ago was to inspire the young men to become priests someday. Today about 75% of the priests who are being ordained were once altar boys. After all these years altar serving is still by far the most successful way to inspire and recruit young men to the priesthood!
February 26, 2012
Q. What is the “Heritage Mass”? It’s the sign listed next to the Mass song numbers in church. –Anna Grady, age 6.
A. Heritage Mass is a music selection for the Mass composed by Owen Alstott back in 1978. It is the most recognized and commonly used church music for the English Mass.
Q. How many Catholic priests are there in the United States? –Andrew Yevoli
A. At present there are about 41,400 Catholic priests in the U.S. (both diocesan and religious order priests).
Q. What are some of the Confirmation saints you would recommend for girls? –Anonymous
A. Some of the most common female saints chosen today are St. Cecilia, St. Maria Goretti, St. Gianna Molla, St. Lucy, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, St. Therese the Little Flower, St. Faustina, St. Agnes of Rome (my all-time favorite), St. Mary Magdalene, St. Bridget, St. Rose of Lima, St. Bernadette, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, St. Benedicta of the Cross and St. Margaret Mary. There are many others to choose from and I recommend that you check out the following websites for a catalogue of saints: http://www.catholic.org/saints/stindex.php and http://saints.sqpn.com/indexsnt.htm
Q. Why can we eat fish meat but not animal meat during the Fridays of Lent? Why not no meat at all? –Steve
A. The significance of giving up meat on Friday is due to Jesus giving up his own flesh to save us from our sins on Good Friday. It is our way of sharing in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Meat, specifically land meat, in many countries is far more costly than fish and in some cultures treat it as luxurious food. Giving up land meat by eating fish or non-meat, such as vegetables, is a way of eating a simpler meal on a penitential day. Anyone is free to give up all types of meat during Lent but it is not required. What the church stipulates is only the minimum so anyone is always free to do more.
Q. In light of the recent issue concerning the new health care law that will force Catholic institutions to cover sterilization, contraception, including abortifacients in their insurance plans, why has the Catholic Church not reprimanded or excommunicated some of our so-called Catholic legislators for pushing this law on the very Church they claim to believe in? –Anonymous (typed)
A. Very few bishops have issued an excommunication specifically naming a Catholic politician while most bishops have not. Some bishops claim that those particular Catholic lawmakers who support abortion have already incurred an automatic excommunication (latae sententiae). You are in the company of many Catholics, including clergy, who believe that a public reprimand and/or excommunication of Catholics-in-name-only (CINO) is necessary and long overdue to reverse what the late Pope John Paul II referred to as the “Culture of Death” thinking of modern society.
March 4, 2012
Q. There were many people that lived before Jesus. Did any of them go to heaven? –Anonymous
A. Yes, all the good people who lived before Jesus eventually went to heaven. But before Jesus died on the cross and the gates of heaven remaining closed, they were sent to a “waiting place” awaiting their redemption.
Q. Can you talk, walk, sit, run or shout in heaven? –Emily McCaffrey
A. Since we will have a resurrected body in heaven it is expected that we should be able to do everything you mentioned. There is something else you can add to the list that we will be able to do in heaven…we can also fly like a bird or superman (only faster!). Isn’t it great that we won’t need any vehicles to travel in heaven? So long, gas pumps!
Q. Is birth control a sin? –SBC
A. The Catholic Church does not teach that birth control is a sin because there are times when this practice is legitimate. What the Church has deemed intrinsically evil and sinful is the use of artificial birth control (contraception) either on the role of the man or the woman. To deliberately obstruct, destroy or weaken the natural process of conceiving a child is contrary to natural law. What the Church teaches as a legitimate means of delaying, spacing, or limiting the number of children is called Natural Family Planning (NFP). There are two most commonly used NFP programs: The Billings Method and The Creighton Method. Practiced properly they are 99% effective and can be used either to avoid pregnancy or to plan exactly when the couple desires to conceive a child. Neither one is the fabled, mythical and inaccurate rhythm method (aka Catholic Russian Roulette) that many have mistaken them for. By the way, if you have a smartphone or a tablet like the iPad, there are 2 apps that can make it easy for NFP couples to track their cycle. One is called My Days and the other is NFP Charting. I was unaware of these apps until a wonderful ‘happy couple’ from our parish recently introduced me to them.
Q. Since the Girl Scouts are helping Planned Parenthood (the largest Pro-abortion provider in the U.S.), why are we inviting them to be at Mass in uniform? –I. Jacksen
A. Serious concerns have been raised about the Girl Scouts by priests and many Catholic families even from our own parish. I have been following the situation closely but I decided to continue the combined blessing and acknowledgement of both the Boys and Girls Scouts at Mass until I hear an official word from the Bishop’s office to discontinue it. As of January 31 the official letter from the diocese sent to all the priests has this key word of advice, “The diocese has looked into similar concerns in the past and, after meeting with Girl Scout representatives, has determined that the organization remains an approved group within the diocese. However, new concerns have recently come to light, and they are being considered.” In the meantime, I do know that the families of those currently active in the Girl Scouts in our parish are not aware of the reported problems in their own local troops that may exist in other parts of the country. Families who have had serious concerns about the Girl Scout policies made by those in charge on the national level have left and joined the alternative group, “American Heritage Girls.”
March 11, 2012
Q. When someone asks for your opinion and you told the truth by saying it is bad, is that a sin? –Anonymous
A. No. If you ask someone a question you expect the answer to be truthful. There is no point of asking someone if the person is not going to tell the truth. Sometimes the correct answer may not be what the person wants to hear. But that does not make the person bad for speaking the truth even if it upsets others.
Q. Where in the Bible does Jesus talk about suicide and self-injury? – Anonymous
A. Suicide falls under the commandment, “You shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13). Judas Iscariot committed suicide after betraying Jesus (Matthew 27:3-4) and we know that he was not portrayed in very good light. Jesus had this to say about Judas, “Woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would better for him had he not been born” (Matthew 26:24). Regarding self-injury, the Bible speaks of it very negatively and at times as a sign of the devil’s influence as in the case of the possessed person in Mark 5:1-20. Verse 5 reads, “Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones.” Here are some Bible verses on self-injury (e.g., cutting): “You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:28). “You are children of the Lord, your God. You shall not gash yourselves nor shave the hair above your foreheads” (Deuteronomy 14:1). “He who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:36). Finally, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 speaks about our body as being sacred for it as the temple of the Holy Spirit. It would be sacrilegious (offensive unholy act) if we tried to destroy God’s temple or vandalize it.
Q. What does it feel like in purgatory? –Nolan Wilk
A. Most likely, not very comfortable. Purgatory is a place of purification for the soul. Some forms of purification process we’re familiar with require intense heat and pressure to remove impurities. Perhaps the state of purgation of souls would be something similar. One thing that gives joy to the souls in purgatory is the fact that everyone who ends up there will eventually go to heaven. Many theologians believe that the greatest suffering one endures in purgatory is not being able to see God.
Q. Can the people in purgatory pray for each other? –V.J.T., age 15
A. Their prayer is more likely just a conversation to encourage each other. Only the prayers of the living people on earth can help the souls in purgatory.
Q. Why is the Eucharist broken in half during Mass? –Anonymous “Smiley face”
A. The breaking of the bread part of the Mass recalls Jesus breaking bread with the apostles at the Last Supper. It signifies our fellowship and oneness with Jesus in the Eucharist as we share the same faith. This very special expression of our intimate union and love of God is our acknowledgment that we believe all what Our Lord’s holy Catholic Church teaches. This great mystery also explains why we cannot share the Eucharist with those who do not share the same faith with us or with Catholics who are not actively living their faith.
March 18, 2012
Q. How do we know that Jesus’ name is “Jesus”? –Carissa V.
A. God the Father gave the archangel Gabriel the message to the Blessed Virgin Mary to name her Son, Jesus: “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus” (Luke 1:31).
Q. Why is the Apostles’ Creed called the Apostles’ Creed? –Anonymous
A. Because it is a basic summary of what the apostles taught as essential beliefs of what they learned from Jesus.
Q. Why do people get ashes on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday? –Maeve
A. It is a sign of humbling ourselves before God to ask pardon for our sins. When something is burnt into ashes it becomes practically nothing. Historically, people placed ashes on their bodies as a penance. It was a symbolic gesture that if it weren’t for God, they were worth nothing.
Q. What if you had a mortal sin that you didn’t know you had, and you died before you knew you had it, what would happen? –Katie Bashioum, age 10
A. One of the 3 conditions for a mortal sin is to have sufficient (or full knowledge) of the sin being a serious sin. In order for one to commit a mortal sin, one would need to be aware of committing a mortal sin. Based on what you said, the person would not have been guilty of a mortal sin if he/she were not aware of committing one in the first place. That person would not likely be kept out of heaven.
Q. Why is the devil mean? –Anonymous
A. As God is all-good and all-loving, and wants nothing more than to share his happiness in heaven with everyone, the devil is the complete opposite as being all-evil and all-hateful who desires everyone to suffer with him in hell for eternity. The devil does nothing but mean things to cause us to lose our faith and salvation. Those who listen to the devil thinking that by being nice to him he will repay them with kindness in hell. They will be in for a big surprise because the devil will punish them just like everyone else forever. The devil is always a double-crosser never returns favors.
Q. Can dead people die again? –Anonymous
A. Yes, if God permits it. I can think of 2 occasions right now from the Bible when this happened. Lazarus had been dead for 4 days and Jesus raised him up from the dead (John 11:1-44). Years later Lazarus died a 2nd time. A similar event happened to the daughter of Jairus whom Jesus also raised from the dead (Matthew 9:18-26) and also died again later.
Q. Was Jesus right or left-handed? –Andrew Donofrio
A. We really don’t know the answer to this one. However, there are plenty of references in the Bible that speaks about the right hand of God (see Matthew 22:44, 26:64, Mark 16:19, Luke 22:69, Acts 2:34, 7:55).
March 25, 2012
Q. Is it possible that psychics exist? Lately, I have been able to guess the outcome before they happen. Is there some way I can practice this? –Anonymous
A. There are times when we can guess certain things correctly. This would not be a “psychic” power. Some people have been given the gift by God to see the future and relate them to us. We call them prophets. But their prophecies have a purpose of revealing something for our own spiritual good to bring us closer to God. Their foretelling of the future is not about knowing something trivial in the future as the case with those who claim to be fortunetellers (all moneymaking phonies) and psychics. True prophets and, if there are authentic psychics, would not charge a fee for their God-given gift if they had it. I have come across a number of fortunetellers and psychics in the past and none of them had been able to pass my one question to test their authenticity. Not one of them could correctly predict any of the winning lottery numbers! From 1992-97 there was a Psychic Friends Network that supposed to provide a psychic service to anyone by phone call at a rate of $3.99 a minute. It declared bankruptcy in 1998 due to “unforeseen” circumstances. Supposedly, another company restarted it in 1999 and it is still in business due to unfortunate customers who buy into their moneymaking business. To be successful in life God wants us to listen to him and not to the psychics or fortunetellers. At the Transfiguration God the Father says this about Jesus, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him” (Mark 9:7).
Q. What happens if you throw up the Eucharist? –Anonymous
A. You’d have a big mess! If it happens it is most likely going to be in church. One of the priests would be called to retrieve the Eucharist and follow the procedure of dissolving the host in a container filled with water and then placed in a special sink called a sacracrium located at the rear sacristy. This sink is specially designed to drain directly to the ground and not through the septic system. The real presence of Jesus no longer remains once the Eucharistic bread has dissolved in the water. Also, the “puker” does not commit a sin for unintentionally throwing up the Eucharist.
Q. Is Santa Claus (not Saint Nick) real or is ‘Santa’ just our parents? --Anonymous
A. Wisdom tells me it is best that I leave the answer to this question to the expert: Go ask your momma! (But our church history shows that there was a real original Santa Claus and it was Saint Nicholas, a Catholic Bishop of Myra who lived from 270-343 A.D. in the region of modern day Demre,Turkey).
Q. Is Santa Catholic? –Cooper Furlow
A. I do believe he is. At least the Santa I knew who came to my house when I was growing up was definitely Catholic!
Q. Is it a sin to swear or curse? –Ian
A. Yes, it is. The Bible says, “No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
April 1, 2012
Q. If we are eating Jesus in the Eucharist for communion, doesn’t that make us cannibals? –Anonymous
A. Cannibals eat dead people and Catholics do not. When we eat or consume the Eucharist at Holy Communion we are receiving Jesus as the living God. He is truly alive the whole time. As the Lord says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51).
Q. What is the background of the beautiful Holy Family statue above the glass doors entrance to the church? –Meghan C.
A. That is the architect’s rendering image of our soon-to-be built new parish center. If all goes well we could be as close to announce groundbreaking in about 2 months!
Q. My mom never brings us to church. When she decides to go she always ends up getting ready to leave halfway through the Mass. Does that count that I am sinning as in not going to church at all? –K.F.B., age 9
A. Many other kids in the same situation feel bad like you and I really wish there was something more I could do to help you. I can only imagine the difficulty you have in trying to live for God. I suggest that you pray to God and then have a nice talk with your mom about the importance of going to Mass regularly. It is the Lord’s 3rd commandment, “Remember to keep the Lord’s Day (Sabbath) holy.” Be assured that you are not sinning for missing Mass or for leaving early because at 9 years old you don’t have the means on your own to go to church. However, unless your mom has a very serious reason it would be a serious sin for her.
Q. Were the gates of hell open while heaven’s gates were not after the fall of Adam and Eve? –Regina Terreri
A. Yes, the gates of hell appears to have been always open for (bad) business. When we read Numbers 16:12-35 in the Old Testament we learn about the fate of the people who rebelled against God and Moses in the desert on their journey to the Promised Land. They were punished by God and were taken down straight to hell (netherworld in some translations) when the ground “swallowed” them and then closed itself.
Q. Do the priests share the same room in the rectory? –Katie
A. No. Rectories are usually built with individual bedrooms and bathrooms for the priests. It’s like having a mini apartment except that we do share the common rooms such as the living room, dining room and, of course, the kitchen!
Q. Is Jesus and God the same? –Anonymous
A. Yes. God is the Holy Trinity—three persons in one God: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit.
April 8, 2012
Q. How is the saint’s name for the parish church decided? –Sarah Noel, age 8
A. Since a faith community isn’t in existence yet at the time when the bishop asks him to start a new parish, the founding pastor of the parish usually select’s the name for the parish. Someday if God ever calls me to start a new parish I would name it …??? Hmm, I guess it’s like couples that are about to have a baby—most of them don’t finalize the name until the baby is born!
Q. If Moses’ mother lied about having him, was that a sin? –Anonymous
A. You are asking in reference to chapter 2 of Exodus when Moses’ mother hid the birth of her son from Pharaoh and the Egyptians who sought to kill all the Jewish newborn boys. There was no sin involved there because the complete question that was really posed to the Jewish mothers was this: “Do you have any children in your house for us to slaughter and kill by the order of Pharaoh?” Their answer was, of course, a flat out “No” [we don’t have children here for you to kill]! A similar incident happened in chapter 1 of Exodus when God was pleased with the Jewish midwives for not being completely forthright with Pharaoh and refused to kill the newborn babies. This does not mean that we can just freely tell lies if we feel like we have a good reason. The case of the Jewish mothers was not about lying. This was about withholding information from the Egyptian king who had no business of knowing. The information would have led to the massacre and killing of innocent children.
Q. Why do we sing at Mass? –Anonymous
A. We do it because singing hymns is one of the ancient and beautiful forms of praying to God.
Q. Is “intinction” administered by the priest allowed in our diocese? –Todd
A. Yes, at the discretion of the local pastor. For those who are not familiar with intinction, it is a limited form of receiving Holy Communion by dipping a part of the sacred host to the consecrated wine. It is administered only by the priest (not by an extraordinary minister of communion) and the communicant must receive the Eucharist directly in the mouth and never in the hand.
Q. Why did Jesus spend 40 days in the desert? –Kolbee Wisniewski and Moira Bauer
A. To pray and fast in preparation for his public ministry of preaching the Gospel. It was like Jesus going on a spiritual retreat before his mission to preach the important message of our salvation.
[Last week I misunderstood the question regarding the background of the Holy Family in the narthex. The answer according to our longtime parishioner and staff member, Janice Rees, is this: “The statue was commissioned by Father John Aurelia back in 1993. At that time there was not a statue of Mary and Joseph in the sanctuary so this statue was commissioned for the church. It was originally in the right wing above the plaque with the music selections.” –Thanks, Janice, for catching this!]
April 15, 2012
Q. Why do you have to be 8-years old in order to receive First Holy Communion? –Beth Hogan
A. Because many kids do not have a good understanding of the difference between regular bread and bread consecrated at Mass (Eucharist) until they are around 2nd grade. At that grade the kids happen to be around 7 and 8 years old.
Q. What does ‘Pastor’ of the church mean? –Claire Eddy
A. The word pastor is Latin for “shepherd.” A pastor of the church is someone who acts as the chief spiritual shepherd for the community that guides his “sheep” towards God.
Q. Is your Guardian Angel the same gender as you? –Anonymous
A. No. Angels are spirits and do not have bodies. Therefore, they don’t have a gender.
Q. Why is everything in the Mass ‘gold’? –Patrick Smith, age 7
A. Gold is a symbol of royalty. Since God is the King of kings he deserves the very best of what the world can offer. After all, everything in the world belongs to God. Whatever we give him we are simply returning it to the creator himself. Every Christmas season we hear the story of the 3 wise men giving Jesus precious gifts (gold, frankincense and myrrh). Even great saints who were known for their love of the poor such as St. Francis of Assisi and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta stressed the importance of using precious materials such as gold and silver for the sacred vessels used at Mass.
Q. Why isn’t there a women’s group in our parish? The men have the Knights of Columbus and it would be nice for the women to have a group. I believe many years ago there was an active women’s group. What happened? –Anonymous
A. Sometime before I arrived in the parish I was told there was a Women’s Council that had become inactive due to lack of members and/or interest in running it. A number of attempts were made to restart it but no one seems to be interested in leading it. Part of the reason for this is perhaps because many of the active women in the parish are already very involved in running various programs available in the parish and just didn’t have the time to be a part of starting another one. If you are interested in trying to revive this group please feel free to contact our office. The Women’s Council is officially recognized by the diocese but, as in the Knight’s of Columbus, requires officers to exist.
Q. If you tell a lie and then later you told the truth, is it still a sin? –Jack Fink
A. That would depend on how long you waited until you corrected the lie. If you purposely said something that was not true and then immediately corrected it then it was probably not a sin. But if you waited a month (or like 10 years!) before you did something about it then I would say that lie was likely a sin.
Q. Is knocking on the door of a confessional room a sin when someone is confessing? –Nathan
A. No. It’s only a serious sin if you knew there was someone in there confessing…and you stayed around to listen!
April 22, 2012
Q. Which came first, the dinosaurs or Adam and Eve? Also, the dinosaurs or Jesus? –Anonymous
A. The animals were created before Adam and Eve so the dinosaurs preexisted them. Jesus as God has always existed and created everything with the Holy Trinity so he preexisted everything.
Q. What day did Jesus die after he rose from the dead? –Sarah Smith
A. Jesus did not die again after the crucifixion. He stayed on earth for 40 days after the resurrection and then ascended to heaven with his body and soul (Acts 1:1-12).
Q. Did Jesus ever get married? –J. W.
Q. Father, I’m confused. During a recent homily I understand you to have said eating meat on Friday and missing Mass are sins on the same level. Is that what you said? –Anonymous
A. If you’re referring to freely and deliberately eating meat on Fridays of Lent and missing Sunday (or Holy Day of Obligation) Mass, yes, they are both violations of our faith practice that incur a serious (mortal) sin.
Q. Is the Marine Corps related to heaven (or something like that) in any way? –Kara Willows
A. Directly, it is not. The Marine Corps is a secular service branch of the military. However, there are Marine Corps chaplains that come from the Navy chaplaincy program that provide religious service to the military members and their families. A good marine who does the will of God will end up a heaven.
Q. How many plenary indulgences can you gain in one day? –Alec Stanmeyer
Q. When Jesus rose on the third day (Sunday), do we know what time of the day it was? –Anonymous
A. We only know that it was before sunrise. When Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and discovered it was already empty, the Gospel says it was still dark (John 20:1).
Q. Are we God’s only creation? Or could God have made life on other planets? –Anonymous
A. Yes, life on other planets is possible and the Church does not have a theological problem with that. However, there is nothing in sacred tradition or sacred scripture that tells us anything about the existence of life other than ours. God’s revelation only speaks of life in heaven and life on earth. The only references we have of immortal life include only God, the angels (including the bad ones) and the people on earth. Christ’s redemptive mission also speaks only of Adam and his descendants who inherited original sin. Personally, I believe that the entire universe was made just for us earthly people.
April 29, 2012
Q. When God said, “Let us create man in our own image”, who was he referring to? –Anonymous
A. “Let us” was the Holy Trinity speaking about the creation of man in their image and likeness. Humans are made with a soul that resembles God with regard to an immortal existence, intellect, free will, memory, and the ability to love. No other living being was created with these kind of attributes.
Q. Is stretching the truth a sin? –Sydney
A. Half-truths are no truths at all. Some “half-truths” are somewhat harmless when our response was not pre-mediated and we were caught off guard to give an immediate reply. For example, fishermen who tend to stretch the actual size of the fish they caught is unlikely sinning (unless they are selling the fish for not the actual weight the customer is paying for). It is also not uncommon for some who are asked about their weight to give a lower number than what the scale has insisted to be their actual body mass. Sometimes your dinner hosts who have gone out of their way to cook a meal for you, that you didn’t really like, may inquire what you thought of the food and your immediate response may also have been a ‘stretch.’ [For those who accidentally served me a meal with mushrooms and beets, I have not been too shy to tell them how horrible it was—which probably explains why some never invited me to their homes again!] A good general rule is to avoid stretching the truth because it is a sin against the 8th commandment, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
Q. Did Jesus ever sin? –Anonymous
A. He never did. As both true God and true man, Jesus always acted perfectly and without fault and would never ever choose to sin. It is not possible for God to sin because by definition God is perfectly good and without any defect.
Q. Is it possible for the general public to witness the sacrament of Holy Orders? If yes, where and when can one attend? –Anonymous
A. Yes, the ordination of priests is always open to the public. The Arlington Diocese priesthood ordinations are held at 10:30 AM on the 2nd Saturday of June (June 9th this year) at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington. If you’d like to get a parking space you will need to get there at least 45 minutes before Mass. Ordinations for the transitional deacons (seminarians) are held on the 1st Saturday of June at 10:30 AM.
Q. Can you have a priest for a Confirmation sponsor? –Anonymous
A. Yes. But priests usually decline to do it for their own current parishioners because too many would ask them to be their sponsor!
Q. Why are priests’ houses right next to the churches? –Faye Bauer
A. Since priests are living a life totally dedicated to serving God and his people, it is very convenient for us to live close to the church where we serve. It makes it easier for us to do our church activities and for the people to find us when we’re needed.
May 6, 2012
Q. If Jesus “sits at the right hand of the Father”, who sits at his left hand? –Anonymous
A. That phrase was just a figure of speech to mean that Jesus lives and reigns alongside his Father. God the Father is a pure perfect Spirit and does not really have a right hand or any bodily part nor would he need to sit down. It was a declaration for everyone to know that Jesus is truly God and has the authority equal to God the Father (and God the Holy Spirit).
Q. I’ve seen many different paintings and sculptures of Mary. Do we know what she really looked like? –Megan Jenkins, age 11
A. Artists have different interpretations of depicting what they believe Mary could have looked like and that’s why there are so many variations. We won’t know what Mary really looks like until we see her face to face in heaven.
Q. Why is it so hard to be happy? –Anonymous
A. It is because we don’t turn to God quickly and often enough when we are not happy. God has the solution to all our unhappiness. The more we trust him the sooner we find the means to be happy no matter what troubles we may have. Pray to God quickly for help and you’ll soon discover what I mean!
Q. What are the qualifications to be a pope? –Anonymous
A. Many will find it surprising that hypothetically a layperson could be elected pope. The chance of this happening is practically zero because for nearly a thousand years the cardinals have elected one of the other cardinals as pope. But if a layperson were elected as pope, he would need to be ordained a priest/bishop immediately before taking office because the pope also needs to be the Bishop of Rome.
Q. Would you ever allow a digital picture of you to be taken during Mass for one’s photo album? –Anonymous
A. Sure, why not. The pope doesn’t seem to mind when people take a picture of him during Mass so it must be okay. Since I really don’t have a “good” side feel free to snap the picture from any angle.
Q. Why does God perform miracles? –Olivia Lyne
A. Here are some of the reasons why God performs miracles: 1) proof that he is the real God (and not the other phony ones) and has the power over nature to prove it; 2) he truly cares for his people that he would heal and even raise the dead purely out of love; 3) give encouragement to all his followers that there is a great future ahead of them.
Q. Why or how would one “confess” their Baptism (as we say in the Nicene Creed)? –SBC
A. The word confession also means a profession someone’s faith or strict adherence to it. In the Creed we publicly proclaim that we adhere and profess to the one faith that Jesus Christ revealed to us through the Catholic Church.
May 13, 2012
Q. Any idea why God may have given us the infamous “stinkbug”? I can’t even seem to drink a cup of coffee in the morning without one flying by! –Anonymous
A. Stink bugs are like other insects such as mosquitoes. What may be annoying for us could be food for other animals. Some stinkbug species actually get rid of other crop-harmful pests such as the Mexican and Japanese beetles. In the country of Laos the people there eat stinkbugs as a delicacy!
Q. Is shooting someone with a Nerf gun bad? –Anonymous
A. Not if you are just doing it for fun…and the person getting shot doesn’t mind!
Q. If someone hurt someone’s feelings, should they give them a gift because they are sorry? –Faith Gallegos
A. It is not necessary but that would be a nice gesture if you give a gift to the person whose feeling was hurt.
Q. What are the major doctrinal differences between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church? Are there ongoing efforts to unify the two churches? –Anonymous
A. The doctrines of the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Church are almost essentially the same. The Orthodox Church, not the Episcopal Church as some mistakenly believe, is the closest to the Catholic Church and we recognize the validity of their 7 sacraments. With 300 million some members in the various Orthodox Churches it makes them the 2nd largest Christian denomination in the world after the Roman Catholics (1 billion). The Russian Orthodox is the largest of the branches with about 150 million members. The biggest difference is that the Orthodox Church recognizes their Metropolitan Archbishop (also known as Patriarch) as their supreme faith leader as opposed to the Roman Catholics recognizing the pope as the supreme faith leader for all the Catholics in the world. There are several Orthodox Churches from different regions in the world and there are also several patriarchs. They see equality among the patriarchs in rank and tend to look at the pope as a single patriarch for the western church only and has no authority over the others. In a nutshell, it was mainly a political separation between the West (Rome) and the East (Constantinople – now Istanbul) that created the Orthodox Church way back in 1054 A.D. A terrible sacking of Constantinople in 1204 by the notorious 4th Crusade, which was severely condemned by Pope Innocent III at the time, caused the most serious damage between the two churches. The final break with Rome was considered to have happened in 1450 A.D. Blessed John Paul II formally apologized for the 1204 incident and there have been many recent attempts to reconcile. Our current pope, Benedict XVI, is well liked by many of the Orthodox leaders because while he was cardinal he had done a lot of work to try and reconcile the two churches. Let us continue to pray that the union between the churches happen in our lifetime. [It is very possible that’s what Our Lady of Fatima in 1917 meant when she said to the 3 children that world peace would happen if we pray for the conversion of Russia—that is, the Russian Orthodox Church reuniting with the pope. What else could Our Lady mean by the “conversion of Russia”?]
May 20, 2012
Q. Hello, I’m (name withheld), could you help me get rid of my warts? They are bugging me! –Anonymous
A. I’ll pray that your warts go away. As an amateur magician I can only make things “disappear” temporarily. But your doctor might be very good at getting rid of them.
Q. Everyday at school I pray at the moment of silence and continue through the pledge and half the announcements. Last Mass you said not to boast about our religion and to go to our room with the door shut and pray. Is what I am doing a sin? –Anonymous
A. I don’t recall saying those exact words at Mass but praying in school during the moment of silence is perfectly fine and I highly recommend it. You are definitely not sinning for saying your prayers and for not being ashamed of your faith. Keep it up!
Q. Why is a priest called a “priest”? –Tabitha
A. The Catholic Church teaches that a priest is someone who is a mediator between God and the people and offers prayers and sacrifices for them. The word priest comes from the Greek word Presbyter which translates as “elder”. In the New Testament the word presbyter refers specifically to priests who were the true successors of the apostle as ministerial priests who offered the Mass and administered the sacraments. The Mass we celebrate at church is a true sacrifice of the Mass that is offered to God by the priest.
Q. Sure God said to rest on the Sabbath day, how come priests don’t get the day off? –Anonymous
A. Because Jesus, our High Priest, did not take off during the Sabbath either. Much to the demise of the Chief Priests, Pharisees and Sadducees, Jesus actively worked at the Temple and synagogues during the Sabbath because he was doing the work of his Heavenly Father. Scripture tells us that Jesus cured the sick and forgave sins on the Sabbath. The work of priests on Sundays is to make it possible for the people to observe the 3rd commandment, “Remember to keep the Lord’s Day (Sabbath) holy”, by offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Priests choose a day of rest on another day of the week.
Q. There are many versions of the Bible. Which one would you recommend for Catholics? In addition, are there any textbooks or study guides you would recommend for home study? –Anonymous
A. There are 4 I would recommend in the English language: 1) The New American Bible, if you’d like to use the same version used at our current Mass and very easy to read as it uses our current American language; 2) The Ignatius Bible, if you’d like the one used for the Catechism of the Catholic Church –this is an excellent accurate translation; 3) The Douay-Rheims, if you prefer to use a more traditional and somewhat archaic version; in comparison, this would be like the Catholic version of the classic Protestant King James Version style of English. 4) As far as Bible and good commentaries combined, I highly recommend the Navarre Bible. I have used this for years and have gotten great insights from various commentators including the Church fathers in the footnotes. If you are looking for a serious home Bible study, I can’t think of anything better than Jeff Cavins’ “The Great Adventure Bible Timeline.”
May 27, 2012
Q. If holy water evaporates and comes down as rain, is it still holy? –Nick
A. Once water evaporates it does not come back down as a sacramental holy water.
Q. Why does God allow cancer and other deadly diseases? –Meghan
A. The world became imperfect when original sin entered the world through Adam and Eve’s sin. The human body became weak in its nature and became susceptible to diseases, injury, aging and death. The good news is that Jesus promised a perfect resurrected body to everyone who makes it to heaven—definitely looking forward to that!
Q. Is it possible for God to alter the future he already planned for you? –Anonymous
A. Yes. There are certain things that God will act based on how we respond to him. In the Bible there are many examples of the Jews who were on their way to being destroyed by their enemies. But when they turned to prayer and doing penance, God reversed the course and saved them. Jonah was another famous example. He tried to flee in the opposite direction where God wanted him to go but a large fish swallowed him and brought him to Nineveh. Prior to his conversion, St. Paul was severely persecuting the Christians but God knocked him off his horse and forever changed the direction where he was going with his life—for the better.
Q. What time was Jesus born? What time was Jesus put in the tomb? Why did the soldiers nail Jesus to the cross? Why not use ropes? –Mary Grace Menuey, age 4-1/2, and Peter Menuey, age 3.
A. We can only guess that Jesus was born either late at night or very early in the morning because the shepherds were keeping a night watch over their flocks when the angel appeared to tell them, “For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord” (Luke 2:11). Jesus died around 3 PM on Good Friday and was likely buried in the tomb late in the afternoon. When Jesus was crucified, it seems from the Shroud of Turin (the cloth believed to be what wrapped the body of Jesus in the tomb) that the soldiers used both nails and ropes to hang him on the cross.
Q. Pope Benedict XVI stated that music from the “organ carries out an evangelizing function, proclaims the Gospel in its own way.” Several other popes have commented positively on the majesty and reverence of the pipe organ. Has there been any interest at our parish in procuring a pipe organ? --Anonymous
A. Organ music truly has a unique effect in bringing some of the most inspiring sacred music in the history of the Catholic Church. Some of the pipe organ’s “Greatest Hits” from centuries ago are still the greatest hits today. Once a student in Rome I was blessed to have heard a number of superb organ concerts through some of the most beautiful pipe organs ever constructed. But don’t expect to see one at our parish anytime soon. Our priority right now is to build our new parish center and religious education facility. Until this important project is paid off we can’t feasibly even think of building a church pipe organ (unless someone is willing to donate one for free). In the meantime, we are getting a lot of nice musical mileage out of our current small church organ from the choir loft for our 8:30 AM Sunday Mass.
June 3, 2012
Q. If you went to confession and start confessing your sins but the priest does not answer, are you allowed to go into the priest’s side and check on him? –Anonymous
A. Yes, that would be a good idea. But before you come out first you might want to try asking, “Father, are you in there?” Sometimes that’s all it takes to get the priest’s attention. In 17 years as a priest I fell asleep once when there was a long gap between penitents so I know what that is like.
Q. The Bible says that if you are truly sorry for your sins God will forgive you. So when Judas was truly sorry and killed himself, did God forgive him and did he go to heaven? –Elena Cusati
A. We know that Judas felt bad betraying Jesus but there was no record of him repenting before hanging himself (see Matthew 27:3-5). Although we don’t know for certain what happened to Judas after he died, the Bible was certainly not very favorable to what his eternal fate may be based on the words of Jesus: “As it is written of him, woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for him had he not been born” (Matthew 26:24b).
Q. Jesus said, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (John 20:23). As a successor to the apostles, are you aware of any priest that has not forgiven someone’s sins after the penitent had confessed? —Anonymous
A. Although not as often, all priests have experienced (or will experience) a situation where the priest cannot grant the absolution of sins to the penitent because an impediment prevents him from validly conferring the sacrament. Here are some of the common impediments: 1) in a marriage not recognized by the Catholic Church; 2) cohabitating (living together with a sexual partner who is not a legitimate spouse); 3) in an adulterous relationship that is still ongoing; 4) not a regular churchgoer and does not plan on going regularly after confession; 5) does not believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist (or any other clearly defined dogmatic teaching of the church); 6) those who advocate “pro-choice” (aka pro-abortion) activities. Catholics who participate in something that leads to a direct abortion could incur latae sententiae which is an automatic excommunication (Canon 1398). However, the priest can immediately absolve those who repent of their sinful “pro-choice/pro-abortion” beliefs. Remember this well, there is NO such thing as a “pro-choice” person who is not in favor of abortion. A pro-choice ideology believes that a woman has the fundamental right to choose to have an abortion of the child in her womb. God has revealed that human life begins at conception and to purposely terminate this life would be a violation of the 5th commandment, “You shall not kill.”
Q. Where does the custom of kissing the fingers after making the sign of the cross come from? –Anonymous
A. This custom seems to be common with the Hispanic community. No one seems to know for sure its origin. I do recall that chefs tend to kiss their fingers as a gesture to promote how good the meal they just prepared. Perhaps those who make sign of the cross believe that the Holy Trinity is good food for the soul!
June 10, 2012
Q. Is it a sin to kill the devil? –Alivia
A. The devil is an immortal evil spirit, a fallen angel, and cannot be killed. But our prayers can hurt him and his bad actions. So keep saying your prayers because it drives the devil crazy and keeps him away from us!
Q. What are the primary reasons that students studying to become priests in the seminary leave the school? Is it because of academics or something else? –Anonymous
A. The primary reason is because the seminary student realizes that he is not called by God to become a priest. On a few occasions the seminary professors, who are mostly priests, would not recommend that the student continue with the training because they do not believe the person has the priestly vocation. But I don’t recall anyone in the seminary who was ever denied ordination to the priesthood simply because of academic problems. Some of the great saintly priests in history were actually known for their lack of academic skill, e.g., St. John Vianney (patron saint of parish priests) and St. Joseph Cupertino (patron saint of students). It is also important to note that many of the seminarians who discontinued their studies for the priesthood became great family men and lay church leaders.
Q. Before we got to the 6 PM Mass on Mother’s Day my mom got us food at 6:30 (we were late) and I started to eat it. But I remembered we’re not supposed to eat within 1 hour of getting communion but my mom told me to receive the Eucharist anyway. Was that a sin? –Anonymous
A. It sounds like it was nearly communion time already by the time you got to church and would have been better if you waited to eat until right after Mass. Not knowing the circumstances why your family was very late for Mass I couldn’t tell you if that was a sin or not on your mom’s part. If your mom just got out of a nursing shift at the hospital (or something similar) and this was the only time you all could go to Mass then it may not have been a sin what she did if she valued the Eucharist that much. In other words, it was an extraordinary situation. Otherwise, it normally is a sin when one does not do a 1-hour Eucharistic fast before communion. It is also a good reminder that people who missed the Gospel reading at a Sunday Mass without a good reason do not fulfill the Sunday obligation. But for yourself what you did was not sinful because you were acting on what appeared to be your mom’s best judgment at the time.
Q. Why is there a homily at Mass? –Kennady Briscoe
A. The Church requires that a homily be given for Sundays and Solemnities because it is the appropriate time to explain the scriptural readings and/or the feast day that is being celebrated. The Church considers preaching as the primary calling of the priests as the apostles were called by Jesus to preach the saving word of Jesus Christ.
Q. Proverbs 20:29 states, “The glory of young men is their strength, and the dignity of old men is grey hair.” Since I’m going grey in my 40’s, does this mean I’m old? –Anonymous
June 17, 2012
Q. Does holy water tastes like normal water? –Anonymous
A. Yes. We bless regular water that comes from the faucet.
Q. What does heaven look like? –Thomas Haller, age 9
A. The beauty of heaven is something beyond what our normal senses could describe. Just the sight of God’s beauty alone would cause our mortal bodies to die of happiness. Quoting Isaiah 64: 3, St. Paul describes heaven as, “It is written: ’What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him,’ this God has revealed to us through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Q. Where does the money go after it has been placed in the poor box? –Faith Gallegos
A. It goes to our People’s Need account. The money collected is used for emergency use by the poor people in our local community who need help with their electricity, water, medicine, rent, food, etc. For the most part we work closely with the local social services to identify those who need emergency help.
Q. Why do people leave church right after communion when Mass isn’t over yet? –Anonymous
A. That is a major problem that every parish experiences. If I may add, there are also those who both come late for Mass and leave early as well. The Liturgy of the Mass is meant to be celebrated in its entirety. Those who leave early miss the final blessing of the Mass. When we’re invited as a dinner guest, it would be considered impolite and disrespectful if we left our hosts as soon as we ate the last bite without an exchange of thanks and farewell. You could also picture it like going to a graduation ceremony and leaving as soon as you receive your diploma. I heard a talk once that pointed out that at the Last Supper there was only one person who abruptly left early having dinner with Our Lord. You can look up what happened to him in John 13:21-30. [Hint: He was later found hanging out in the wrong place (Matthew 27:3-5).] There are a few people who at times may have a legitimate reason for being late or for leaving Mass early such as those who may have sick family members or have bizarre weekend working hours. But under normal circumstances, it is listed in the confession examination of conscience guide at least as a venial sin to be late for Mass or to leave early.
Q. How do people pick the readings for Mass? –Ally W, 6th grade
A. The readings for Mass are preset according to the liturgical seasons that rotate on a 3-year cycle (Years A, B & C). We are currently in Year B. No matter which Catholic Church you attend Mass the readings would be the same. The readings are designed so that if you read the daily Mass readings, every three years you would have read the whole Bible. The Catholic Church’s Congregation for the Sacred Liturgy established the current reading format not long after the end of the Second Vatican Council in 1965.
July 8, 2012
Q. Shouldn’t cell phones be left at home or in your car? Our focus and attention should be on God during Mass. –Anonymous
A. You are absolutely right. Many do that already but since a large number of people now have cell phones there is a much higher chance of someone forgetting to silence or switch them off. Most people just honestly forget to do this but it is very disruptive at Mass. A cell phone switch off announcement before every Sunday Mass is probably our effective way to avoid this. Perhaps one day someone may invent a cell phone ‘on’ detector as one goes thru the entrance door and alert them to turn it off. Let’s hope so!
Q. Why do we hold hands during the ‘Our Father’? –A.T.
A. The official Mass instruction (General Instructions of the Roman Missal) has never actually called for holding hands during the Our Father or for any part of the Mass. The practice evolved during the late 1960’s from people who decided to do it on their own.
Q. What does the coat of arms symbol on the right upper corner of the ‘Principal Parts of the Mass’ mean? --SBC
A. That is the Diocese of Arlington’s Coat of Arms. It is composed of a blue field on which is displayed a silver (white) fess (bar across the middle), with engrailed edges on both sides. Within the fess is a red bar. The use of these colors red, white and blue, the colors of our nation’s flag, are to reflect the close proximity of the See ‘City’ of Arlington to our nation’s capital and the close connection of the See ‘City’ and its people to the government of the United States. The engrailed edges of the fess are taken from the coat of arms of Saint Thomas More, titular of the Cathedral Church of Arlington. Above and below the fess are a silver star and a silver crescent, both symbols of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Patroness of the diocese and of the United States. The star above the fess is encircled by ten smaller silver stars to represent the State of Virginia, which was the tenth state admitted to the Union.
Q. I am very concerned about the fallen away Catholics in my family. I would like to know if you have an approach for trying to bring them back to the faith. Also, if a fallen away Catholic dies, what is the family supposed to do in terms of a funeral and burial? Do they die in mortal sin? –Anonymous
A. The dilemma you mentioned happens to a number of Catholics. Many are not sure how to invite inactive Catholics back to the faith. Most of them simply drifted away and could not explain why. They are the easier ones to invite back. The harder ones are those who have serious disagreements with the Church’s doctrinal and moral teachings. Prayer is the most effective way to bring them back. A personal invitation and a healthy faith discussion also can be very effective. You will go a long way if you can get them to pray and browse through the website, www.catholicscomehome.org. The site covers many areas of their concerns about the Catholic faith and try to respond to their questions. The church does not make judgments on the fate of the Catholic who dies as an inactive Catholic because only God would know the state of their soul at the moment of death. It is quite possible the person made a perfect act of contrition (sorrow for one’s sins) just prior to death and God’s mercy could certainly forgive him or her and be spared of the eternal flames of hell. Scripture reminds us that Jesus is the judge of the living and the dead (and not us). For this reason, the parish ministers as usual to all the deceased using the standard Funeral Rite Liturgy. The only exception is if the deceased person prior to death specifically or formally requested not to have a Catholic burial or was formally excommunicated by the church.
July 15, 2012
Q. If you are at a new church and you can’t help looking around, is it a sin to roll your eyes? –Anonymous
A. If you are doing it unintentionally during Mass, it is not a sin. It is a natural inclination to look around to see what the church is like and how different it is from your own parish. We still need to avoid doing it during Mass and reserve the time for sightseeing either before or after the liturgy.
Q. Is there a limit to how long you can talk to the priest in confession or a limit to how many sins you can tell him? –Anonymous
A. There is no limit how many sins you are to say in the sacrament of reconciliation because you are supposed to confess all your mortal (serious) sins and, as best as you can remember, your venial (minor) sins. Technically, there is no time limit how long you can talk to the priest. But if there is a long line of people waiting for their turn, it would only be fair not to spend a lot of time asking the priest questions not directly related to one’s confession. If you really need extra time to do your confession because you have many important questions, it is always best to make an appointment to see the priest.
Q. Is Mother Teresa a saint? Would it be all right if someone used her as a confirmation saint if she is still isn’t? –Faye Bauer
A. Blessed Mother Teresa is still not a canonized saint. But she has reached the level of “Blessed” (one step away from becoming a saint) and may now be chosen for a confirmation saint—and many have done that since her beatification in 2003!
Q. Can anyone besides the priest hear confession? –Anonymous
A. Yes. Bishops and the pope can also hear confessions because they have the fullness of the priesthood. (Bartenders also hear lots of confessions but they don’t have the power of absolution to forgive sins. But they can serve you a glass of Absolut upon request!)
Q. Why are you not actively telling us to vote against President Obama? It has to be done! –Anonymous
A. It is not the practice in the Catholic Church for her priests to publicly endorse or oppose a political candidate; neither does the church endorse any political party. It is not her proper place to do that. Legally, this would also violate one of the conditions for non-profit status. But that does not mean the Catholic Church is obliged to remain silent on the political arena. On the contrary, the church has the obligation and the right to publicly oppose any law or political activity that infringes on religious freedom or any unjust law that is offensive to the church’s teachings even if it means preaching about it from the pulpit. A good example of this is the recent HHS mandate that the president has enacted that would require Catholic institutions to provide contraception and abortifacients (e.g., morning after pill that induces abortion) when offering insurance. And rightfully, the church also condemns any promotion by the current administration’s pro-abortion policies. Regardless, the church still will not publicly oppose or condemn individual politicians. It is the role of the laity to lead the promotion or opposition of political candidates or parties. (FYI: priests are allowed to vote and we do!)
July 22, 2012
Q. At Mass the Rosary was discussed and I decided to begin praying it. But I am left with many questions that I am hoping you could answer. Could you possibly provide a useful web link? –Heather
A. I found a very nice website that explains how to pray the Rosary, its history, meditative images for each mystery and a list of graces one could receive for praying this beautiful and powerful devotion. Check out this web address: www.theholyrosary.org
Q. If you are reading a book and it uses God’s name in vain, should you stop reading the book? –Faye Bauer
A. Not necessarily but those books should be avoided. Sometimes students may be required to read books that have offensive content and not have much of a choice.
Q. My divorced single Protestant friend gets upset when I mention that I will pray a Rosary for her. What should I do or say when she reacts this way? –SBC
A. Perhaps it would be best to just say you’ll pray for her. You don’t have to let her know that the prayer you offered is the Rosary. (Sometimes we have to be like the ancient Catholics during the Roman persecution: “sneaky Catholics!”)
Q. Does anyone know what all the prayers in the world are? –Juliana Terreri
A. There have been so many prayers composed that only God would know them all.
Q. Why does Jesus never smile? Is he always serious? –Ally W.
A. It is only in pictures of Jesus that people have drawn or painted, based on their interpretation on what Our Lord may have looked like, that give the impression that Jesus always kept a serious face. It is more likely that Jesus often had a calm peaceful face that presented a smile on occasion because we know that the children liked being around him (see Matthew 19:14, Mark 10:13-16). Non-friendly, overly serious, grumpy, non-smiley people simply do not attract little children.
Q. Why didn’t Jesus write down his own teachings? –Anonymous
A. He didn’t need to. Jesus taught, others wrote. While some people need to write things down to try to prove that what they are teaching is legitimate. Jesus, as the Word of God himself, only needed to speak the ultimate truth. It actually gives more credibility to the divinity of Jesus because he did not write anything down. It shows the power of his word in itself. Prophets have written about the coming of God and that he will teach the people great things and offer them the message of salvation. When Jesus as the Son of God arrived, he simply spoke as the one the world has been waiting for. Tradition, or word of mouth, was the common way of handing down important beliefs and practices and Our Lord did nothing different. It wasn’t until sometime after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus that some people decided to write a few things down so that they would not forget the teachings of Jesus. Since only certain things were written down, our Catholic faith gets its source from what Jesus said and did but not written down (Sacred Tradition) and what others were able to write about what Jesus said and did (Sacred Scripture, the Bible).
July 29, 2012
Q. Since angels don’t have a gender, does it matter whether they have a female or male’s name (for example, St. Michael the Archangel)? –Morgan Hannon, age 12
A. The names of the angels are neither male nor female. Their name actually is the mission God gave them. The name Michael means, “Who is like God” or “Who is like unto God.” His mission was to drive the devil and the bad angels from heaven for wanting to become like God. Gabriel means, “the strength of God”; given for his powerful message delivered to Mary that she was to become the Mother of God and that the long awaited Savior of the world, Jesus, has arrived.
Q. Are angels eyes all the same or different colors? –Ellie Creighton
A. Since angels are pure spirits they don’t have any eyes and don’t need them to see. However, they can see everything perfectly clear.
Q. If you forget to tell a sin during confession, do you have to go again immediately? –Anthony C.
A. No. You can just mention it to the priest the next time you go confession.
Q. When you say your penance after confession, do you have to say it in the right order? –Tabitha
A. It is always best to follow it in the order the priest gave it to you. But if you forgot the order there is no problem with that. The important part is that you complete doing the penance you were given.
Q. If someone committed murder and told the priest at confession, would the priest be able to go and tell the police? –Anonymous
A. No. Whatever the priest hears at confession he cannot tell others even the police. It is called the seal of confession. That’s why Catholics should not worry about confessing their sins because no one else but the priest and God would know their sins.
Q. How did you become the head priest? –Andrew Yevoli
A. The bishop makes the decision on who becomes the head priest, or pastor, for every parish. Bishop Loverde officially made me pastor on Sunday, July 1, 2012.
Q. What is the best way not to sin and what is the best way to avoid it? –Michael Azzarito
A. Praying to God often is the best way not to sin. When we talk to God frequently our love for God increases while our desire to do something that would offend him decreases. It is also best to avoid being around anyone or anything that could cause us to sin.
Q. How do you get rid of hiccups? I feel bad when it happens in church. –Anonymous
A. Years ago there was a TV show called Emergency One. When I was a teenager I saw an episode where a kid shared his solution to the rescue squad for quickly getting rid of hiccups: drink something carbonated like soda. It really works! Sparkling water is best before Mass because you can have water and not break the 1-hour Eucharistic fast.
August 5, 2012
Q. How can God be everywhere when there is only one God? –Angelo Lange
A. It is because the whole creation exists around the one God that created it.
Q. Who is Mary’s father? – Anonymous
A. His name is St. Joachim. Mary’s mother is St. Ann.
Q. When priests retire, does the Catholic Church provide them with a home? –Anonymous
A. Most of the time, yes. In many parts of the world the home of elderly priests is in the rectory of parishes where pastors offer them a home. Our diocese recently built a retirement home for priests in Annandale. Prior to that priests either lived in rectories, homes of relatives, religious order homes or nursing homes. Some priests who were fortunate to have received an inheritance [I’m not one of those lucky ones!] or saved a good deal of money were able to purchase a home of their choice to retire.
Q. The Bible sometimes to refer to Jesus’ “brothers.” Did he have brothers? How could this be if Mary was always a virgin? –John M.
A. It is true that Mary was always a virgin and therefore Jesus could not have had siblings. In the language Jesus spoke, Hebrew Aramaic, the word for siblings and close relatives (kin or cousins) is interchangeable. Other theologians have an interesting theory that St. Joseph may have been a widower and had children from a previous marriage who would then be stepbrothers and stepsisters of Jesus. There is no Biblical evidence for this, just a plausible theory.
Q. If Jesus spoke Arabic, why is the original language of the church in Latin? –Anonymous
A. As mentioned above, Jesus spoke Hebrew Aramaic and not Arabic. The Catholic Church still uses the language Jesus spoke in the liturgy used today by the Maronite Rite Catholics based in Lebanon. There are 7 major rites in the Catholic Church under the pope: Latin, Byzantine, Alexandrian, Syriac, Armenian, Maronite and Chaldean . Most of us Catholics belong to the Latin Rite but every rite is equal in dignity and validity. A Catholic may go to Sunday Mass and any of the rites and fulfill the Sunday obligation. The reason Latin became the mother tongue or sacred language was because this was the common language used during the time of the ministry of St. Peter and St. Paul under the Roman Empire. It was the best way to transmit the Gospel teachings of Jesus using the universal language of the time. It wouldn’t have made sense to use Hebrew Aramaic when preaching in Europe where only a small number of Jews could understand the language. The church grew rapidly over the centuries when the liturgy was in Latin even long after it was no longer the spoken language. Keeping the official teachings of the church written in Latin helped preserve the accuracy of Catholic doctrine. The meaning of Latin does not change. This system should not sound strange to us because even scientists today still use Latin when they discover and name new living species. If you want to learn more about the different Catholic Rites visit this website: http://www.mncuf.org/rites.htm
August 12, 2012
Q. How should we hold our hands in prayer during Mass? I notice that you and the altar servers hold them flat in prayer but most everyone interlock their fingers. Is one more correct than the other? –Anonymous
A. For those in the congregation there is no format on how they should fold their hands in prayer. Whatever is most comfortable for them when praying determines which form they should use. However, for those serving in the sanctuary there is a need for order and uniformity. The most common that has been in used for centuries is by folding our hands flat together in prayer with the fingers pointed up. When seated it is customary that our hands rest flat on our lap.
Q. When proclaiming the Gospel the wording reads, “A reading from the holy Gospel according to N.” What does (N.) stand for? –Anonymous
A. It stands for the “Name” of the Gospel book used for the particular Mass reading. Depending on which liturgical year or feast the name would either be from one of the Gospel writers: Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.
Q. Why did Solomon ask God for “wisdom” when he was king? –Will
A. To have knowledge for a lot of things is not enough for one to make correct decisions. Wisdom allows one to know what is right from wrong according to God’s ways. Truly wise people make the best decisions because they have a sincere desire to follow only the ways of God and nothing more. Well-educated or more knowledgeable people are not automatically wise people. If anything, they can do a lot of damage in the world because they can maximize the use of their intelligence in the wrong way. Just look at some of the highly educated political, scientific, military, medical (especially those performing abortions) and business leaders in the world today who are causing so much harm. So having wisdom is very important to go along with one’s knowledge in order to make the right decisions in life.
Q. I believe and acknowledge the Holy Trinity. But why is it important to pray to the Holy Spirit? Does not God the Father hear my prayers to Jesus—and then Jesus would get my prayers to the Holy Spirit? –C. White
A. It is true that praying to Jesus alone is sufficient because he represents the Holy Trinity. When we pray to Jesus we are automatically praying to the Father and the Holy Spirit as well. Since we know that there are 3 persons in the Holy Trinity who are equally divine, it is only appropriate that we honor God by sometimes addressing all 3 divine persons. Should you decide to pray to Jesus alone be assured that you are certainly praying to all 3 of them.
Q. Does God really hate homosexuals? I thought God was supposed to love everyone all the time. –Anonymous
A. God has always loved everyone because “God is love” (1 John 4:8) by definition. It is important for everyone to know that God has never hated anyone and that includes the devil himself. God has never hated homosexuals at any time. But God has made it clear in scripture that he disapproves of homosexual activity or any sin in general.
August 19, 2012
Q. Do the words “Bishop”, “Pope” and “Priest” mean anything? –Curious Catholic
A. The word “Bishop” means an overseer or someone that watches over. Older English texts show the word as “bisceop”. It comes from the Greek word “episkopos” meaning a watcher or overseer. The English equivalent today is “episcopal” which is the designated word for a bishop in the New Testament. Bishops were referred to as high priests in the New Testament while the regular priests were identified as “presbyters.” A priest is someone who offers a sacrifice to God. Today’s Catholic presbyters (like me and Father Tewes) offer the Sacrifice of the Mass and therefore make us true priests. The word “Pope” comes from the Greek word “papas” which could mean patriarch, bishop or father. In classical Latin “papa” was also used to mean tutor. In modern Latin this has been adopted to mean bishop or pope.
Q. Did Jesus and Mary have guardian angels? –Anonymous
A. Plenty! All the angels belong to Jesus so he and Our Blessed Mother had access to all the angels at all times. When St. Peter had cut off the ear of the servant who tried to arrest Jesus, Our Lord rebuked him and said, “Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels? (Matthew 26:53).
Q. Why are there candles lit during Mass? --Beth Hogan and Sophie C.
A. The candles signify the presence of God. Our faith tells us the special presence of God in the Eucharistic celebration at Mass and in the priesthood, in the presence of the celebration of the sacraments, the reading of the Bible and when we are gathered together in prayer. The candles also remind us the words of Jesus, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Matthew 8:12).
Q. What is the red candle that is always lit near the tabernacle? Does that really mean Jesus is there? –Anonymous
A. That is called the sanctuary lamp. Catholic Churches keep a continuously burning candle whenever the tabernacle contains consecrated hosts from the Mass. We believe that the Eucharist is truly the real presence of Jesus and therefore God is present in the tabernacle. By keeping a burning candle near the tabernacle we acknowledge the real presence of the living God in church. As a sacred gesture towards God, we genuflect whenever we pass by the tabernacle.
Q. What is an “Evangelist”? -Claire Eddy
A. The word comes from the Greek, “evangelistes”, literally meaning the “bringer of good news.” A common definition is that an evangelist is someone who truly preaches the Gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ. The Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) were the four attributed by the Catholic Church who by the power of God the Holy Spirit’s inspiration accurately wrote about Jesus and many of his teachings.
August 26, 2012
Q. Can women join the Knights of Columbus? If not, why? –Anonymous
A. The Knights of Columbus was founded in 1882 (130 years ago) as a fraternal order of charity for practicing Catholic men by Venerable Father Michael J. McGivney. One of their main goals was to provide life insurance for the family members of the Knights in case of death. There was a time in the U.S. when it was nearly impossible for Catholic men to obtain life insurance and when they died their widows and orphans were left destitute and most often with no one to help them. Father McGivney was able to form the Knights of Columbus to help the Catholic families by forming this fraternity for men. Currently, there are over 1.8 million worldwide members in over 15,000 councils. While the membership has always been for men, the Knights of Columbus Ladies Auxiliary was formed several years ago whose primary role was to provide support for the men’s council and their activities. Most of them, but not all, are usually the wives of the knights. On another note, there is a Squires Circle branch in some of the Knights of Columbus councils. This membership is for boys 12-17 years of age and preps them to become full knight members when they reach 18 years old.
Q. How did Jesus heal people? –Anonymous
A. Miraculously! If God wills it, it can happen instantly. “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
Q. Has anyone ever done his or her penance inside the confessional room? –Juliana Terreri, age 10
A. On very rare occasions, yes, if the penance was not lengthy. Almost all the time the penitents fulfill their penance outside the confessional room.
Q. Were John the Baptist and Jesus cousins, and most likely grew up together in the same or nearby area? And, of course, John baptized Jesus. So is it correct to assume they must have known each other very well and John had to know who Jesus REALLY was? My question is this: Why in Matthew Chapter 11:3 did John ask from prison, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another”? –Anonymous
A. The two of them did not grow up together. Jesus grew up in the northern part of Israel (Nazareth and Sea of Galilee region) while John the Baptist was from the southern part (Jerusalem, region of Judah). The biblical walking distance from Nazareth to Jerusalem was about 68 miles. But you ask a very good question why John still did not know for sure that Jesus was the Messiah even though he previously heard the voice of God the Father say at the Jordan River baptism, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). We know that Jesus did not make it very obvious to the public that he was the Son of God and the Messiah. Even the devil that tempted Jesus at the desert (Matthew 4) didn’t know for sure either that he was the Messiah. We know that satan himself did not realize this until after the crucifixion. So we can understand why John the Baptist needed to confirm from the lips of Jesus that he was truly the long awaited Messiah and savior of the world.
September 2, 2012
Q. Do you get everything you want in heaven? –Thomas
A. St. Paul writes in Romans 8:16-17 that we if we become adopted children of God (this happens at Baptism) and willing to suffer and die for Jesus, if necessary, we become “joint heirs with Christ” in his kingdom. That means we can have everything that belongs to God and his kingdom.
Q. How is Jesus in the Eucharist when he isn’t around anymore? –Mary Grace, age 4
A. As God, Jesus is everywhere. But in the Eucharist Jesus is there in a special way because he performs the miracle of changing bread and wine into his own body and blood which we call the Eucharist. Before Jesus ascended into heaven he promised to remain with us until the end of the world: “Behold I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). He certainly fulfills this through the sacraments especially in the Eucharist.
Q. If you say the Our Father in your head, is it the same as saying it out loud? –Bob
A. Yes. The only difference is you don’t make any physical sound when you’re praying it mentally.
Q. What is your favorite Old and New Testament book, and why? –Anonymous
A. In the Old Testament I really like the following Wisdom books (Psalms, Proverbs, Sirach and Ecclesiastes). When I need a personal spiritual uplifting I turn to these books because they provide practical prayer and guidance in life. In the New Testament my favorites are the 4 Gospels because they contain actual quotes from the Son of God, Jesus, himself. When I read what Jesus says I can sense that it is truly Our Lord speaking to me directly. God’s revelations in the Gospels also give a much fuller meaning to the whole Bible.
Q. Does the church have an official stance regarding the renewal of marriage vows? –Anonymous
A. The renewal of marriage vows is part of the Catholic Church’s tradition and there are prayers for this ceremony in the official Book of Blessings. This can be done in any year but couples almost always will have one for their 25th or 50th anniversary. Some confuse this with what is called a “marriage convalidation.” They are not the same although some would like to refer to convalidation as a marriage getting “blessed” by the church. A marriage convalidation is an official church ceremony to recognize the couple’s marriage that was previously declared invalid by the Catholic Church. This requires proper marriage preparation and sometimes an annulment is needed for one or both parties prior to the wedding. A convalidation is beyond getting a marriage blessing. It is an actual wedding and marriage taking place between the couple. The most common types of invalid marriage include a Catholic marrying in a civil court or in a non-Catholic religious ceremony that does not have the bishop’s dispensation. Catholics whose marriage is not recognized by the Church are forbidden to receive the sacraments (especially the Eucharist) until their marriage is properly convalidated.
September 9, 2012
Q. Are there any “no music” Masses during the week? Has there ever been talk of adding another non-music Mass on the weekend? –Eliza
A. There is no music during the weekday Masses. There is no music at the 7 AM Sunday Mass and feel free to attend that one. There is no plan to add another “no music” Sunday Mass because the Church strongly recommends in the General Instructions for the Roman Missal (2002, no. 40) that there’s music at all Sunday and Holy Day Masses: “Great importance should therefore be attached to the use of singing in the celebration of the Mass, with due consideration for the culture of the people and abilities of each liturgical assembly. Although it is not always necessary (e.g., in weekday Masses) to sing all the texts that are of themselves meant to be sung, every care should be taken that singing by the ministers and the people is not absent in celebrations that occur on Sundays and on holy days of obligation.”
Q. Are there any homeschooling families in our parish? If so, is there a ministry for them? –Anonymous
A. We have plenty! Homeschooling families are in abundance in our parish and many are quite active. About a third of our altar servers alone are homeschooled. Contact our office or me if you’d like to meet some of the homeschoolers. I’ve even shared many meals and watched classic Scooby Doo cartoons with one of the homeschooling families!
Q. Is it a sin to practice witchcraft and/or cut yourself even if you don’t believe it and not in a suicidal manner? --From ?? (not telling). P.S. I’m not crazy!
A. Yes, it is always a sin to practice witchcraft because it is a false worship of a false god, satan. This is a direct violation of the 1st commandment: “I am the Lord your God. You shall not have other gods before me” (Exodus 20). And it is wrong to cut oneself because bodily mutilation is defacing the temple of God. Scripture says that our bodies are sacred temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). Intentionally doing harm to our body also violates the 5th commandment, “You shall not kill” (Exodus 20).
Q. In the book, “Heaven is for Real” by Todd Burpo, says that satan was not banished to hell and still menacing heaven. Is there a scriptural proof for this? What did it mean about the angel being delayed in rescuing the prophet Daniel because he “had been battling the king of Persia”? –Diane Banton
A. You are referring to an account given by a 4-year old boy who claims to have been given a vision of the after life while he was in a life-threatening surgery. I read parts of the book some time ago and found it to be very interesting and believable. However, we should not look at this book on the same level as the revelations in scripture that was written through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In Luke 10:18 Jesus attests that satan has been banished from heaven and sent to hell: “I saw satan fall like lightning from heaven.” However, God has allowed satan to continue to be active on earth to tempt souls away from God. In this manner, satan continues to be a menace for those in heaven. As far as a reference regarding Daniel’s discourse with the angel, you will benefit reading about this in Daniel chapter 10 of the Old Testament. It was a vision of the wars taking place back in his time and likely as prophecy for a future war in the end days.
September 16, 2012
Q. Is smoking a sin? –Anonymous
A. Smoking in itself has never been declared a sin. But if a doctor has specifically asked the patient not to smoke because it could seriously harm his or her health, then it is at least a venial sin for that person to continue smoking. This does not mean the church approves of smoking. As we know now more than ever, smoking is very unhealthy and second hand smoke may also cause harm to others.
Q. Who was the first priest? –Maeve
A. The first Catholic priests were the apostles. At the Last Supper Jesus ordained the first priests and gave them the command to celebrate Mass as he did that night, “Do this in memory of me” (Luke 22:19).
Q. Was Jesus a priest? --Daniel D.
A. He most certainly was! Jesus is the priest of all priests. In Hebrews he was referred to as a high priest: “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession” (Hebrews 4:14).
Q. Who was the first disciple? –Anonymous
A. The first disciple (and apostle) called by Jesus was Andrew, the brother of Peter. You can read this account in the Gospel of John 1:36-42.
Q. Why were the consecration words changed from, “It will be shed for you and for all” into “It will be shed for you and for many”? –Anonymous
A. The Gospel account records the words “for many” was used by Jesus (see Matthew 26:26-28). While Jesus intended to save all by shedding his blood on the cross, it is still up to individual persons to freely cooperate with God’s redemptive grace. We know that not everyone chooses God in this life and in the end will not be saved. This is why ultimately in the end many, not all, will be saved by Christ’s death on the cross.
Q. How do you know that the name of Jesus is actually “Jesus”? –Carissa V.
A. The Blessed Virgin Mary was told by the angel Gabriel that she was to name her Son, the Son of God, “Jesus.” In the Bible it reads, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus” (Luke 1:30-31). In Hebrew Jesus means, “God saves.”
Q. One of the beatitudes says, “Blessed are those who fear the Lord.” I thought we were supposed to love him? –Joseph Warndorf
A. It is a different kind of fear and not the kind that we’re afraid of God because we did something wrong. Reverential fear is recognizing God’s goodness to us and therefore we would be afraid to offend or “hurt” God by doing something wrong out of love for him and not because we’re afraid of going to hell. In the Bible we’re told of this special kind of fear out of love for God that would bring wisdom to our minds and hearts: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 9:10). It is like fearing offending our loved ones such as our parents or friends who have been very good to us.
September 23, 2012
Q. When you say the Our Father during Mass, why do you look up? –Alec Stanmeyer
A. The Lord’s Prayer is addressed towards God. Since Our Lord likely said this prayer with his eyes looking towards the sky speaking to his heavenly Father, I thought I would do the same thing.
Q. Why are churches dedicated to Mary and the other saints if it is really God’s house? –Lily Eddy, age 6
A. When we honor the saints we are really honoring God himself because all the saints are God’s heroes and brought many people to God. It is like honoring our country by naming buildings, parks, rivers, streets, highways, airports, museums, etc. after American heroes and heroines. We don’t take away from the United States of America by using these great peoples names. We actually show the greatness of our nation this way. It is the same when God’s churches are named after saints. They remind us that God shares his heavenly home with good people who once lived here on earth just like us.
Q. If you want to wear a Brown Scapular, is there a ceremony that happens before you wear it? Does it need to be blessed? Can you wear a medal or does it have to be a fabric? –Anonymous
A. There is a ceremony called an “investiture” that would officially make you a member of the Brown Scapular Confraternity. Any priest can perform this ceremony for you. Once you become a member you will have added benefits of receiving daily the merits and prayers from the Carmelite Order and Masses specially offered for members of the confraternity. Once a member, you are no longer required to have your scapular blessed but it is recommended that you get it blessed anyway. If you are not invested as a member yet, you do need to have a blessed scapular to receive the basic promise that Our Lady gave to St. Simon Stock in the year 1251: “Whosoever shall die (devoutly) wearing this cloth shall not suffer eternal fire.” It is a great blessing to wear the scapular out of devotion because the promise is that Our Blessed Mother would make sure that when we die we are in the state of God’s grace. Those who wear the brown scapular faithfully are regular churchgoers and receive the sacraments. Those who are physically unable to handle the scapular material, such as people allergic to wool, are the only ones who should wear the scapular medal in place of the cloth.
Q. How do you dispose of a broken saint statue? –Anonymous
A. If the statue is no longer repairable, the proper way is to crush it and then bury it. It may not be possible if it is made of wood where burning is more appropriate. Metal statues are more challenging because they are usually melted down. Businesses that deal with iron may be able to help you with the metal ones.
September 30, 2012
Q. What is the golden object inside the tabernacle? –Catie M.
A. There is a round golden container inside the tabernacle that holds the Eucharist that we used for our Eucharistic Adoration. It is called a chapel monstrance. Although it can used for regular adoration, we take the Eucharist out and place it in a much bigger and ornate monstrance.
Q. Can we put a picture of St. Francis de Sales above the cross in the sanctuary? –SBC
A. We are looking for a nice image of St. Francis de Sales to place inside the church but not in the crucifix area. We are reserving a place on the wall right above where the electronic keyboard is located for our parish patron saint’s image. It is long overdue that we don’t have one. We are also hoping that someone would donate the cost of the picture when we find the right one!
Q. Is it okay to believe in superstition? For example, is it bad to go under a ladder or set the salt down before you put it on your food? –Anonymous
A. “Superstition” is defined as an irrational fear over an unknown or mysterious belief not based on reason or knowledge. As Christians we are called to follow only the truth. Believing in superstition takes away our soul’s desire to know the truth. The position of objects, such as the ladder and saltshaker you mentioned, does not have an adverse effect on anyone’s actions. In most cases people who follow minor superstitious beliefs are not sinning. It is usually when people pass up performing an important duty due to a superstitious belief that could make their false belief sinful. For example, a person who decides to skip Sunday Mass after seeing a black cat by the church door would be violating God’s commandment to “Keep the Lord’s Day holy.” I don’t walk under a ladder because I have no reason to do so but I do shake the saltshaker as soon as it is handed to me. [Here’s a story for you about superstition. In 1922, Nobel Prize winner in physics, Neils Bohr of Denmark, was once visited by an American scientist who was surprised to find a horseshoe good luck symbol in his office. The American asked, “Surely, professor, you don’t really believe that horseshoe will give you good luck, do you?” Bohr’s response was, “I believe no such thing, my good friend, not at all. I am scarcely likely to believe in such foolish nonsense. However, I am told that a horseshoe will bring you good luck whether you believe it or not!”]
Q. What does being a “practical Catholic” mean as opposed to being a “practicing Catholic”? –SBC
A. It means the same thing.
October 7, 2012
Q. Will the Catholic Church ever change the rule of priests not being allowed to marry? That way, those of us that are already married could still enter the priesthood. –Anonymous
A. In the Latin Rite (which most of us Catholics belong to) the celibate priesthood has been in practice for about 1,000 years so this is unlikely to change. But the limited number of married Catholic priests among some Eastern Rite Catholics has always existed in our church history. We also have a very small number of married priests who were once Protestant ministers who became Catholic priests after they converted. Nevertheless, the practice remains the same that once a married Catholic priest or permanent deacon becomes a widower, they may not remarry. It is not a practice in Catholic history for men who are already priests to marry. Only already married men were allowed to become priests.
Q. How do you know when God is talking to you and it is not just your imagination? –Anonymous
A. That’s a very good question and the answer is different with each person. The more you pray the more you will be able to tell the difference. Don’t worry, even those who have been praying well for a very long time don’t always know either whether it is God speaking to them or just some random thought entered their mind. The important part is that we are regularly praying to God and hope for the best that we can hear the silent voice of God speaking in our hearts.
Q. How can we best sanctify our spouse? --SBC
A. By praying together, following the commandments of God, and by having a mutual burning desire to be with God in heaven.
Q. Our faith tells us that when Jesus Christ returns we will be resurrected with new bodies. Will our bodies be resurrected from our ashes that have been buried or scattered? Will our new bodies be re-created to become new heavenly perfect bodies and our ashes remain destroyed with the earth? A follow up question: Will those unfortunate lost souls go to hell with resurrected bodies? –Anonymous
A. We don’t know for sure how God will re-create our bodies but it is likely that our old remains (or cremains) will be restored with our new resurrected bodies. Resurrected bodies for the good people of God will enjoy its new superstructure nature of being beautiful, indestructible and travel from place to place without a need of a vehicle. We know this from the life of Jesus after the resurrection. The lost souls in hell will also receive a resurrected body but they will suffer torments for both their body and soul. [A quick note about cremation: The Catholic Church permits cremation but does not recommend it. The ashes from cremation may not be scattered but must have a proper permanent burial place.]
October 14, 2012
Q. How was the word “holy” invented? –Faith
A. Its origin comes from the Old English (450-1100 AD) “hal or halig” and from the Old High German (c. 1100 AD) “heil” which means sacred, godly, health, happiness or good luck. Later English formed the word “holy” that became exclusively used for describing something sacred or godly.
Q. What is the proper way to apply the holy water when entering or exiting the church? Should I always be facing the altar? –C. White
A. It is not specified where we should be facing when we bless ourselves with holy water. When we enter the church it seems that the most reasonable way to do this is by facing the direction where the Eucharist is reposed in the tabernacle. The sign of the cross is a prayer acknowledging the Holy Trinity and our redemption on the cross by Jesus Christ. Using holy water when exiting evolved later as a habit but the original intent of the church was to have the people bless themselves as they entered the church.
Q. What do you say to a young man who says he wants to separate from his young wife because they are “growing apart” or “just needs some space/time apart”? –SBC
A. Any struggling married person should immediately resort to deep prayer and ask for God’s guidance. I would suggest that he sees a priest (if Catholic) or a minister to discuss his marital problems and perhaps ask for a recommended marriage counselor if needed. Encourage him not to make hasty decisions until he has sought counsel.
Q. The Gospel on 9/30/2012 (Mark 9:38-48) said, “If you sin because of your hand, cut it off.” So if you sin with your head, should you have someone cut your head off or should you not even take the Gospel seriously? –Anonymous
A. That’s what guillotines are for! On a serious note, you may not have been at the Mass when I explained this so here’s a brief summary of it. Jesus was only using a hyperbole (an obvious and intended exaggeration) to make a point about giving a very strong effort to avoid the near occasion to sin. An example of a hyperbole is when people say things like, “I have been waiting ‘forever’ for you” or “I am so hungry I could eat a horse!” So, if your hand causes you to sin, e.g., you have a problem with stealing, “cutting your hand off”, means doing all you can to prevent your hand from taking other people’s property. If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. You don’t literally pull your eyeballs out. A good example of this is for those who have a problem viewing pornography should take strong measures to keep their eyes from looking at immoral images. [Speaking of hyperboles, if someone tells me that I scared him half to death, what do you think would happen if I scared him again?]
Q. Even though Mary was born without sin did she still get baptized? –Anonymous
A. Though not specifically in scripture, Mary was likely baptized like the other Christians because that is the eternal sign of our Christianity and oneness with the Holy Trinity. We become in the image and likeness of Jesus Christ and an official member of his church through the sacrament of baptism. Jesus never had sin either at anytime of his life but underwent baptism anyway to set a good example for the rest of his followers.
October 21, 2012
Q. Would it be possible to give children who are not receiving communion a small blessing when they come to the front of the church with their parents during the communion procession? This has been done in other churches and it makes the little kids feel important. –Anonymous
A. A few years ago I used to give a blessing to the children (sometimes adults) who came forward with their arms folded until I realized that the liturgy does not allow priests to give a blessing whenever the Holy Eucharist is exposed! All of us priests should have known this all along because whenever we do an exposition of the Eucharist before the end of Mass, the liturgy always omits the final blessing and dismissal (if you’ve never seen this come to our Friday noon Mass and Eucharistic adoration afterwards). It is regarded disrespectful to Jesus to give a blessing when his real presence is in view of the faithful. After Pope John Paul II made a slight revision of the Mass in 2000, all of us priests in the diocese attended a liturgy instructional seminar given by Rev. James Moroney, the USSCCB Secretariat for the Liturgy at the time, who reminded the priests that it was a liturgical misinterpretation in the 1970’s to bless people who are not receiving communion. This was not previously allowed and the norm has not changed. The communion line is not a blessing line but is exclusively only for the distribution of the Holy Eucharist. Everyone (including little children) receives a blessing at the end of the Mass (unless you leave after communion—which you shouldn’t do except for a real grave reason). The anticipation of receiving the Eucharist in the near future actually makes the children recognize the importance of the Eucharist and gives them a healthy yearning to receive Our Lord’s sacred body & blood for the first time. If you would like to read what the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship has written about blessings at communion go to the following website: http://www.adoremus.org/0209CDW_Blessing.html
Q. Who thought of the cross to kill Jesus? –Faith G.
A. The Romans brought this form of punishment and death to Israel during the time of Jesus designed for the worst criminals. Those who plotted against Jesus succeeded in getting the Pontius Pilate the crucifixion sentence.
Q. My CCD teacher said that Mary was not born without sin because she is “human.” Is this true? –Anonymous
A. If that was what your CCD teacher said, then he or she is absolutely WRONG! The dogma of the Immaculate Conception teaches that Mary was conceived absolutely free from original sin. It is my hope that the CCD teacher was heard wrong by your class and that he or she reads this Ask the Priest column. Ask your teacher to make the correct clarification in class that Mary was conceived, born and lived entirely without committing sin. If not, I’d like to meet your CCD teacher!
October 28, 2012
Q. If a church is built, who chooses the name for it? –Faye Bauer, 7th Grade
A. Usually, it is chosen by the pastor who built it. After all, since he was responsible for the hard work in starting the parish long before he has any member of the congregation, it is only right that the pastor should select the patron saint for the new parish. Sometimes the pastor may choose a title of Jesus (or God in general) instead of a saint’s name for the church (e.g., Holy Trinity, Sacred Heart, Transfiguration, Christ the King, Good Shepherd, Blessed Sacrament, Holy Redeemer, etc.).
Q. One of my Protestant friends was complaining that the Catholic Church should pay its fair share in taxes “like everyone else.” How should I reply? –SBC
A. U.S. tax laws exempt non-profit churches from taxes and that includes the Catholic Church. Churches are providing a very important free public service to the people and are self-supporting. The government does not provide public funding for churches and they spend a large majority of their own funds to serve the public needs so why should churches need to be taxed? You might want to tell your friends in case they are not aware of it that the Catholic Church is by far the largest single charitable organization in the U.S. and the world. Every parish alone provides both spiritual and charitable help to the people at no charge.
Q. What happens to do those who do not do their penance after confession? –Anonymous
A. It is probably because they forget to do it. God is not going to hold that against them. It is only if certain people would deliberately not do their penance that becomes a problem. I don’t know if I could remember a case when a penitent has refused to do the penance but I’ve heard of a few who just forgot what the priest gave them to do.
Q. Is “OMG” the same as saying, “Oh, my God!” –Anonymous
A. “OMG” could stand for either “Oh, my God!” or “Oh, my gosh!” The first exclamation would be using the Lord’s God in vain—a definite no no. The second one is okay to use as an expression of surprise. It’s best to avoid using OMG unless the other person you are saying it to is aware that you mean to say, “Oh, my gosh.”
Q. Where do animals go when they die? Do they go to heaven? Will you get to see them when you get to heaven? –Anonymous
A. God has never addressed about the fate of the animals after they die either in the Old or New Testament. Immortality of souls has only been referred to humans. Because of this we can only presume that animals do not have immortal lives like we do. For those who believe that animals have not sinned and we should presume they are in heaven, then all animals should go to heaven including dog fleas, ringworms, spiders, rats, stink bugs, roaches, mice, copperhead snakes, deer ticks, termites, tapeworms, lice, bats, scorpions, ants, cicadas, etc.
November 4, 2012
Q. When God makes a new person or something, how does he do it? –Shea N. Rider
A. God can make anything happen simply by willing it. But as far as how creation on earth happens, God created the law of nature and uses it as a means to bring new life into the world (humans, animals, plants, etc.) and non-living things such as new land or mountains (e.g., as a result of volcanic eruptions). In every new living person that is conceived, God gives it a new soul in his image and likeness and will live forever.
Q. Can you name your child “Jesus”? —Moira Bauer
A. Some cultures do name their baby, Jesus. Many refrain from naming their child Jesus because when people get mad at them or even curse at them they are also automatically using the name of the Lord God in vain.
Q. Should we open the Knights of Columbus speakers to the public? If so, can we have flyers distributed to other parishes? –SBC
A. The speakers invited by the Knights are always open to the public. You can distribute flyers to other parishes as long as you first asked permission from the individual pastors.
Q. In theory, Canon Law 1172 allows all priests to perform exorcisms. But in reality only a select few are assigned the task. Is there additional training a priest must complete before being given that assignment? What does the training consists of? In addition, how many trained exorcists are there in the U.S. and how many exorcisms are performed each year? –Anonymous
A. It is true that by the nature of the sacrament of Holy Orders all priests are exorcists. Any priest can perform minor exorcisms of non-possessed people. There are evil influences and presence in many places and any priest can pray a simple form of exorcism prayers under those circumstances. However, Canon 1172 prohibits any priest from an exorcism of a possessed person without the local bishop’s permission. Canon 1172.1 states, “No one may lawfully exorcise the possessed without the special and express permission of the local Ordinary (bishop).” Canon 1172.2 reads, “This permission is to be granted by the local Ordinary only to a priest who is endowed with piety, knowledge, prudence and integrity of life.” Every diocese is required to have an exorcist and the last 2 popes have asked bishops to have an exorcist available, if possible, within 50 miles of any given parish. We don’t know how many exorcists there are in the country but I can tell you that we have 5 priests in our diocese who are currently undergoing the special training to become exorcists. The identity of most exorcists is not made public for their privacy and safety. He could be the local pastor, parochial vicar or even the priest in residence. In one conference I attended on exorcism the chief exorcist from Chicago said that his archdiocese gets about 25 requests a month for an exorcism and that only about 4% of the requests are authentic. In my 17 plus years as a priest I have met 4 exorcists and once lived with one!
November 11, 2012
Q. Who were Joseph’s parents? Who was Mary’s father? –Sucie J.
A. We only know from the Bible that St. Joseph’s father’s name was Jacob (Matthew 1:16). We don’t know the name of his mother. Tradition tells us that Our Blessed Mother’s parents were St. Joachim & St. Anne.
Q. How old was Mary when she died? –Faye Bauer
A. It is believed that Mary died in her early 70’s.
Q. Since Adam and Eve listened to the devil did they still go to heaven? –Anonymous
A. Adam and Even regretted they brought sin into the world. They lived a faithful life following God the rest of their lives. That’s why we believe that they did their penance on earth and were redeemed liked the rest of humanity through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
Q. When people go to heaven can they choose to be angels? –Meaghan S., age 7
A. Humans can never become angels. God made humans to have a soul and a body. Angels will always remain as pure spirits and will never have a body. But Jesus says that those who make it to heaven will live like angels: “At the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like the angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30).
Q. Are our Guardian Angels in heaven or in our souls? –Ellie Creighton
A. Our Guardian Angels follow us around but they are not in our souls. Since angels are spirits they can both be in heaven and next to us here on earth at the same time. Jesus tells us, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father” (Matthew 18:10).
Q. If you choke on the communion bread (Eucharist) and then spit it on the floor, does anyone eat it? –Daniel Donofrio
A. No, the remaining Eucharistic bread is placed in an ablution cup filled with water and returned to the earth via a special sink called a sacrarium in the sacristy that drains directly to the ground.
Q. What is the proper way to dispose of outdated Mass missals due to the changes made to the Mass? –Anonymous
A. The best and most proper way to dispose them is to have them recycled.
Q. When we offer the Sign of Peace to each other, why do we use our right hand? And why do we need the Eucharist every Sunday? –Nolan Alvarez, age 11
A. Because it is a custom for people to shake hands with the right hand. The Eucharist is what spiritually nourishes our soul and that’s why the Eucharist is available at every Mass. Not having the Holy Eucharist at Mass to feed our souls would be like inviting people for dinner at our home and not serve them any food.
November 18, 2012
Q. How do you hear God when he talks to you? –Kendall Briscoe
A. The more we practice praying silently (meditation), the easier we are able to “hear” God’s silent voice speaking to us. It seems a little harder in the beginning because we are used to hearing a physical sound when someone speaks to us. More often it is more of sensing what God is saying to us rather than hearing a humanlike voice when God talks to us. Each person has a different experience talking to God. I encourage you to do more silent prayer by talking to God and in time you will become much more attuned to his conversation with you.
Q. How far up is heaven? –Anonymous
A. Heaven exists as a spiritual world around us. We just don’t see it. But we do know that God, the angels and the saints who are in heaven can see us.
Q. Is it a sin if we are not paying attention to the current First Readings and Gospel but are reading the readings for the future Masses? –Kara Williams
A. I’m not sure why you are reading ahead of the current Sunday readings when the homily is going to be based on the readings of the day. You will miss a lot of the points of the homily if you did that. It may not be a sin but it is certainly not appropriate unless you already read the readings of the day and just wondering how it ties to the following week’s readings.
Q. I saw Father Escalante sprinting thru the parking lot at Woodgrove High School before/after CCD (it looked like he was late for Mass). Two questions: 1) What is his time in the 100 yard dash? 2) Is he a better long distance runner? –Anonymous
A. During the school year, the priest who is not currently saying the Sunday Mass goes to Woodgrove either to help teach CCD or hear confessions for the different classes. Our early CCD visit sometimes gets overextended and we have to really rush back to start especially the 10:30 AM Mass. That’s when you probably saw me sprinting away. In high school I didn’t participate in track and field but I did join the cross-country team. I was once the fastest runner in our neighborhood touch football games but was way too slow for high school competitions. I don’t know what my 100-yard dash is now but the last parish sprint race I ran was against our beloved Father Gerard Ramotso in 2010. He was once a highly competitive sprinter in South Africa. The distance was from the church bell tower to the rectory front door. We had a small crowd of a couple of parish families on hand to witness (Bashioum, Crawford, Colville?). Father Gerard possibly may have beaten me by a split second—but that was about 5 months after a pacemaker was installed in his heart! My competitive sprinting after that was definitely over.
November 25, 2012
Q. What does Advent mean? –Anonymous
A. The word “advent” comes from the Latin word adventus which means, “the arrival or the coming”. In the Liturgy we commemorate the time of waiting for the arrival of Jesus to be born as the savior of the world. The world waited several years for the first Christmas to happen. Since Jesus promised after his resurrection that he will return to walk the face of the earth again, we are now in the second advent or second waiting period for Jesus.
Q. What does the pink candle on the Advent wreath mean? –Kennady
A. The pink (rose color) candle represents the 3rd of the 4-advent candles. Advent is a penitential season that lasts about 4 weeks. On the 3rd Sunday of Advent the pink candle is lit and the priest usually wears a rose-colored vestment during Mass as a sign of “relief” from the penitential season as advent nears its end and the celebration of Christmas is about to begin.
Q. When should you receive the Eucharist more than once in one day? –Nolan
A. Permission to receive more than once a day was officially allowed in the 1983 Code of Canon Law in the Catholic Church as long as one participates in the celebration of the Eucharist (e.g., Mass or a Eucharistic communion service). Canon 917 reads, “One who has received the Blessed Eucharist may receive it again on the same day only within a Eucharistic celebration in which that person participates.” Recently, someone who received Holy Communion at a morning Mass asked me if she could receive again at funeral Mass later that day. I mentioned to her that Canon 917 allows one to receive communion again in good conscience as long as the person participates in the second Mass.
Q. Is it a sin to use electronic devices more than you pray? –Kirsten Engel, 12
A. It is not necessarily a sin as long as the electronic devices don’t keep us from performing our required prayers and duties of the day. I actually use my iPhone and iPad a lot when praying even when I’m in church sometimes because a lot of my prayers are in the apps! So if you’re using your electronic device for games a lot then you might consider using it as a prayer (electronic) book as well. This way you’ll have a chance to take a break from playing and do a little more praying.
Q. Is it a sin to miss Mass if you’re not sick? –Abby
A. If you purposely miss Mass when you could have gone, yes, it would be a sin.
Q. How as God made? –Alexandra Winner, age 9
A. No one made God. God has eternal existence and has always been around. God is perfect and has no beginning or end.
A. It’s a personal judgment made by the priest based on whether the sin was light, medium or serious. We let the inspiration of the Holy Spirit be our guide in administering the penance. The important part of confession is really on the person making a good honest confession. The penance given is for the most part a formality. The person is forgiven at the moment he or she receives absolution from God thru the priest.
December 2, 2012
Q. When we offer the “sign of peace” at Mass to our older brother or sister, does that really mean ‘true peace’ with them? They are mean to me sometimes after the shake of peace! –Name withheld (for ‘pastoral’ reasons…it could start a fight during Mass!)
A. Whew! First of all, I do believe that there are many other siblings from other families who feel exactly the same way. You’re not alone, dear child of God. However, God calls us to love everyone and, actually, even our enemies. The sign of peace at Mass was intended to signify that as faithful believers and children of God we are called to love and be at peace with each other. So we should at least have the desire in our hearts for ‘true peace.’ Remember, Jesus asks us to love everyone but he didn’t say that we have to like everyone. (Example: While we are supposed to love even our mean neighbors, we certainly don’t have to like them.)
Q. Is it a sin not to be friends with someone? –George A.
A. It depends on your reason for not being friends with that person. If the person were someone who could cause you to sin by doing wrong things, then it would be best not to form friendship with that person. On the other hand, you don’t want to be like others who refuse to be friends just to be mean and unkind. If you’re looking for what God says about good friendship, read chapter 6 of Sirach in the Bible. Here’s a sample of what it says: “When you gain a friend, first test him, and be not too ready to trust him. For one sort of friend is a friend when it suits him, but he will not be with you in time of distress. Another is a friend who becomes an enemy, and tells of the quarrel to your shame. Another is a friend, a boon companion, who will not be with you when sorrow comes” (Sirach 6:7-10). [How true, how true, how so true what God tells us here!]
Q. Did Jesus ever doubt God’s plan for him? –Anonymous
Q. Why can’t priests get married? --Alivia
A. Because priests would be too busy with their work at church serving a lot of people and would not have a lot of quality time to be their family.
Q. How does the priest know what penance to give you? –Thomas
December 9, 2012
Q. After you receive Holy Communion, do you have to kneel? –Faye Bauer
A. No, you don’t have to but a lot of people do. Since our faith tells us that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, kneeling is one of the most sacred gestures we could offer to God. For those who have physical problems kneeling, it is not a problem to pray sitting down.
Q. How could God have created the world in 7 days? Does that mean dinosaurs lived only for 7 days? –Chrissy, age 8-1/2.
A. The Bible says that God created the world in 6 days. This could either mean in 6 twenty-four hour days or perhaps in 6 distinct sequences of creation that could have been several millions in between. Regardless, unlike us, God is eternal and for him 1 day or 1 billion years make no difference at all since he’s not limited to time. This explains why certain concepts of the evolution theory are not necessarily contrary to our Catholic faith. Since animals were created before Adam and Eve, the dinosaurs would have predated the existence of humans. We don’t know for sure how long they were around because there is very little in the Bible that seems to address that but there appears to be a reference to the existence of dinosaurs in Job 40:15-24 (have your parents look this up for you). The verses describe a large animal (a Behemoth) that has a tail as long and strong as a cedar tree (a very tall tree prominent in the Bible), its bones as strong as brass and iron, thighs like cables, makes sport of all wild animals, it feeds on the mountains and on grass like an ox, etc. The term dinosaur was not officially used until 1841 and this may explain why the particular word was not found in the ancient texts.
Q. What happened to the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve were kicked out of it? –Anonymous
A. Since the great flood covered the earth during the time of Noah, it is presumed that the Garden of Eden, biblically placed in between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers (likely somewhere around modern day Iraq and Turkey), was destroyed.
December 16, 2012
Q. Who is the patron saint of France and Scotland? --Ethan, from Mrs. Ryder’s CCD
A. France has 4 patron saints: St. Martin of Tours, St. Joan of Arc, St. Remigius and St. Therese of Liesieux. Scotland chose St. Andrew the Apostle as its patron saint.
Q. Can you list all of the mortal sins for me? –Anonymous
A. All of the mortal sins are somehow connected to one of the 10 Commandments. The list can be very long if I try to list all of the varieties of sins. I recommend that you read the section on the 10 Commandments in the official Catechism of the Catholic Church book to get a good understanding of all the mortal sins. If you can get online and you are looking for one website that has an examination of conscience categorized for different age groups with a list identifying specific sins, then go to: http://www.familyland.org/content/Content.aspx?CategoryID=636
Q. How many chapters a day does God expect us to read in our Bibles? –Anonymous
A. God does not specifically say how many chapters we should read but the Catholic Church recommends reading at least 15 minutes a day. There is a website that lists selected quotes from popes and saints who have encouraged Catholics to read the Bible since the 4th century. A lot of people are not aware that the Catholic Church was responsible for the editing the books of the Bible and declaring it doctrinally infallible. If it weren’t for the Catholic Church there wouldn’t have been a Bible for the other Christian faiths to read! Check out this website: http://www.defendingthebride.com/bb/
Q. What is your favorite part of the Mass? –Andrew Yevoli
A. Most definitely during the consecration because that is when the bread and wine miraculously become the sacred Body and Blood of Jesus Christ! Every Mass I feel very happy and blessed to be a part of the greatest miracle ever that God gives himself to us as a gift.
Q. Where do people of other faiths go, the same heaven as we do? –Anonymous
A. Yes. But everyone is still saved by Jesus and not by their false God, regardless of what faith they belonged to, through the merits of the only church Our Lord founded—the Catholic Church. As scripture says, “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” (Acts 4:12). At the time Saint Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles there was only one original Christian church: the same Catholic Church we belong to today. What we believed back in the early church is the same as what we hold true to this very day.
December 30, 2012
Q. Why are there 4 weeks in Advent? –Samantha Smith, age 11
A. It is really based on 4 the Sundays of Advent before Christmas rather than 4 actual weeks. The last Sunday in the church calendar is the feast of Christ the King at the end of November and then there are 4 Sundays that follow before December 25. The 4th week in this year’s Advent is only 2 days long (Dec. 23-24).
Q. What happens to the Eucharistic Adoration host when adoration is finished? –Ally W.
A. It is returned to the tabernacle. You may see its container briefly when the tabernacle is opened during communion. It is a gold-color sacred vessel that holds the Eucharist. When the Adoration Eucharist is replaced, the older host is broken into pieces and distributed for Holy Communion at Mass.
Q. When does the Paschal candle get replaced, every year? And on what date? –Anonymous
A. It is replaced every year during the Easter vigil. The exact date varies because Easter is a moveable feast.
Q. Who would Jesus vote for president? –SBC
A. That’s something we’ll never know. But we do know that Jesus would never vote for anyone whose policies would contradict His Gospel teachings and/or persecute the church that he founded and died for.
Q. Why is yoga a sin for Catholics to do? –Aidan Klavon
A. One that practices only the yoga exercises are not committing a sin. Though not all, most Catholics I know who have done yoga seem to do it only for their good physical well-being and don’t appear to have been affected in their Catholic faith. But since yoga originated from a pagan culture (mostly Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism), it is hard to separate the pagan spirituality that refers to its false gods. Every asana (yoga position) is named after a pagan philosophy or deity (god). The repetitive mention of them is unavoidable and therefore a concern. Because of this a Catholic who practices yoga for exercise purposes only must discipline himself or herself to reject accepting beliefs in the false gods and teachings. Any acceptance of a pagan god or pagan teaching would make it a sin against the First Commandment (idolatry).
Q. If you are an altar server and have committed a mortal sin, can you receive the Eucharist? –Anonymous
A. No, they may not and would first need to go to confession. Altar servers are Catholics just like everyone else and are bound to observe the Catholic teaching on Holy Communion like everyone else. In fairness to the servers, not all altar servers are in mortal sin just because they do not receive communion at Mass. They also have to observe the 1-hour fasting before communion like everyone else. If they ate something within that hour, they have to refrain from communion. Though it’s uncommon, heroic servers have been known to faint during Mass when their fasting got the best of them!
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