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Q. St. Joseph’s feast day is usually March 19th, but my church calendar shows it this year on March 15. Why is that? And what about St. Patrick’s Day this year? Here in Savannah, Georgia, we’re having the big parade on Friday the 14th instead of, as usual, on the 17th. It’s all confused and confusing.
W.T., Savannah, Ga.
A. Easter Sunday, which is a moveable feast depending on the lunar cycle, occurs quite early this year, on March 23. This means that Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday on March 16.
When St. Joseph’s Day or St. Patrick’s Day falls within Holy Week, as both do this year, they are moved so that the happy festivities often associated with them don’t take our attention away from the solemn observances of that week. St. Joseph’s Day is moved to the Saturday before Palm Sunday (this year, March 15th), and since it takes precedence over St. Patrick’s Day, the latter feast has been moved in many places to the day before that (Friday, March 14th).
Of course, the civil authorities in Savannah and elsewhere aren’t bound by Catholic Church law. But they moved the civic celebrations in this city to coincide with the Church’s observance as a sign of respect for the Catholic community, which figures so prominently in the local tradition of St. Patrick’s Day events.
By the way: Each year the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Savannah attracts more visitors (several hundred thousand) than the total population of our metropolitan area. Folks come from all over the country and beyond for the fun; it’s the largest celebration of the day outside New York City. The annual parade, along with many other Irish-themed events, has been a beloved tradition for the whole city for 190 years. Y’all come sometime!
For more information, click here.
Divorced and Dating?
Q. I have a daughter who is recently divorced. She was married in the Catholic Church and has three children. She is pursuing an annulment. Currently, she is dating, and it seems quite serious. She does not live with this man. Is it wrong or sinful for her to date, as she does not have an annulment, and she may not get one?
M.J., via e-mail
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
Divorce is very sad, but we have to deal with it. Until your daughter receives a declaration of nullity about her first marriage, she should not keep company with another man because in the Church “marriage enjoys the favor of the law.” That means, until there is an annulment, we presume the first marriage is valid. Objectively, her behavior is wrong.
This can be very difficult advice to give, and even more difficult to receive. But whenever I’ve counseled cases such as these, I have firmly encouraged people to trust in the wisdom of the Church and choose the higher road. In every case, things have worked out splendidly because the persons in question showed humility and faith and trusted in God and the wisdom of the Church. They received annulments and are now happily married with children, and more importantly, very close to Jesus Christ. Trust in the Lord!
“Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier”?
Q. I recently was present for a baptism (or I thought it was a baptism) that was done using the words “in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer, and of the Sanctifier.” Where did this formula come from? Is it valid?
G.M., via email
A. This baptismal formula is an attempt to avoid using the names “Father” and “Son” for the first two Persons of the Blessed Trinity. Why? Because the more radical feminist theologians — contrary, of course, to all authoritative Catholic tradition — insist that it’s illegitimate to use masculine nouns and pronouns to refer to God.
This erroneous position implies, of course, that Jesus himself didn’t know what He was talking about when He constantly called God “Father.” You have to wonder: If these folks believe that Jesus could be wrong about something so central to His mission as revealing the identity of God as Father (see John chapter 17, for example), how could they possibly believe that Jesus was the incarnate Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity who had known the Father in perfect communion from before all eternity? How could they possibly trust Him to be their Savior? How could they ever have confidence in anything else He had to say?
Last month the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) made public its answer to a question it had received about whether a “baptism” using the formula you note or similar non-standard words (“Creator,” “Liberator,” Sustainer”) is valid. The answer was a firm no.
Pope Benedict XVI approved the CDF document, which was adopted at the ordinary session of the Congregation, and ordered its publication. A note attached to it said in part:
“Baptism conferred in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit obeys Jesus’ command as it appears at the end of the Gospel of St. Matthew. … The baptismal formula must be an adequate expression of Trinitarian faith; approximate formulae are unacceptable.
“Variations to the baptismal formula — using non-biblical designations of the Divine Persons — as considered in this reply, arise from so-called feminist theology [as an attempt] to avoid using the words Father and Son, which are held to be chauvinistic, substituting them with other names. Such variants, however, undermine faith in the Trinity.
“The response of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith constitutes an authentic doctrinal declaration, which has wide-ranging canonical and pastoral effects. Indeed, the reply implicitly affirms that people who have been baptised, or who will in the future be baptised, with the formulae in question have, in reality, not been baptised. Hence, they must then be treated for all canonical and pastoral purposes with the same juridical criteria as people whom the Code of Canon Law places in the general category of ‘non-baptised.’”
Pope’s Prayer Intentions?
Q. I was taught as a child to “pray for the Holy Father’s intentions.” I know it’s not necessary to know what precisely those intentions are, but it would be nice to know. Does the Pope ever explicitly state his prayer intentions?
K.B., Reno, Nev.
A. Yes, indeed he does. At the end of each year Pope Benedict XVI publicizes his prayer intentions for the following year, with a different “general prayer intention” and “mission intention” for each month.
Here are the Holy Father’s prayer intentions for March:
General intention: “That the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation between persons and people may be understood and that the Church, through her testimony, may spread Christ’s love, the source of new humanity.”
Mission intention: “That Christians, who are persecuted in many parts of the world and in various manners because of the Gospel, may continue, sustained by the strength of the Holy Spirit, to bear witness courageously and openly to the Word of God.”
For a list of all the intentions for 2008, click here.
Q. Has there ever been a Pope who formally taught heresy?
L.Z., via e-mail
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D.:
The short answer is no.
Anti-Catholic apologists claim that Pope Honorius (625-638) taught heresy and was condemned by the sixth ecumenical council in 681. This claim arises out of a misunderstanding or a misrepresentation of the facts. Here are the facts.
Following the teaching of Pope Leo I, the Council of Chalcedon in 451 decreed that Jesus Christ is fully human and fully divine. Large groups in the East rejected this formula, mistakenly believing it denied the unity of Christ’s nature. In the next two centuries, numerous attempts were made to reconcile those groups to the Catholic Church.
In 619, Sergius, patriarch of Constantinople, offered a compromise formula. He taught that while Christ did have two complete natures, he had only a single will. This formula, called monothelitism (from the Greek word for “one will”), immediately became the cause of widespread controversy in the East. The popes of the time had no information about this formula and the controversies it had engendered.
In 634, Sergius wrote to Pope Honorius a cleverly worded letter, seeking to enlist the Pope’s support in his cause. Sergius said that he would be willing to withdraw his theory of “one will” in Christ if others would stop insisting on the Chalcedonian formula of two natures in Christ. The Pope should have known that if Christ did not have a human will, he could not have been human, but only divine. Sergius’ doctrine should have been condemned outright, and the Chalcedonian formula reaffirmed.
Instead, through ignorance of the issues and through carelessness, Pope Honorius agreed it would be wise not to debate the issue of one or two wills in Christ. He rightly said there could be no opposition of wills in Christ because Christ always did the will of the Father. And that is all Pope Honorius said in reply to Sergius’ inquiry.
Note these facts. The Pope was not proclaiming a rule of faith; he was only urging silence on the issue. His reply to Sergius was communicated only to a few Eastern bishops. The bishops of the West knew nothing of Pope Honorius’ letter to Sergius.
When the sixth ecumenical council condemned monothelitism and its adherents in 681, they included Pope Honorius among those condemned. Recall now that the decrees of all the ecumenical councils were always submitted to the pope for his approval and promulgation. Conciliar decrees had no effect until the incumbent pope promulgated them, and only in the terms by which he confirmed them.
When the sixth ecumenical council’s decrees were submitted to Pope Leo II, he confirmed them. At the same time he made it clear that Pope Honorius was not condemned for teaching heresy but for failing to condemn the monothelite heresy when it was first brought to his attention.
The anti-Catholic apologists referred to at the beginning also contend that until the 11th century, the oath that Roman pontiffs took before their enthronement included a condemnation of Pope Honorius. What those apologists fail to see, or choose to conceal, is the fact that throughout those four centuries succeeding the incident, popes condemned Pope Honorius not for teaching heresy but for failure to condemn it when it first was brought to his attention.
Again, no pope has ever formally taught heresy.
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