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Q.The pastor of the church I attend never mentions pro-life issues. Should I urge him to mention these matters in the celebration of Mass?
Ray Kolb, Saint Cloud, Minn.
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
There is a general tendency among priests these days not to bring up life issues (like contraception, abortion, in-vitro fertilization) in homilies and in adult education sessions. The reasons for the hesitation are that these issues are controversial and some portion of the congregation is likely to be offended.
You could consider writing to your pastor, requesting more attention to pro-life issues, perhaps in homilies and prayers of intercession. Make sure the letter is friendly and encouraging in tone -- and brief -- and your pastor is more likely to be responsive.
Do the Saints Intercede for Souls in Purgatory?
Q. Can the saints in heaven pray directly for the souls in purgatory?
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
In the Second Vatican Council’s document Lumen Gentium, the Church repeated its traditional belief in the “communion of saints.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes the document: “the union of the wayfarers with the brethren who sleep in the peace of Christ is in no way interrupted, but on the contrary, according to the constant faith of the Church, this union is reinforced by an exchange of spiritual goods” (No. 955).
A similar exchange occurs between the souls in heaven and God’s people on earth: “Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness … they do not cease to intercede … for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth.… So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped” (Catechism, No. 956).
The notion of “the whole Church” is key to this discussion. The living, the dead, and the blessed are united in Christ to form the Church, and all prayer is, ultimately, a prayer that God’s will be done in and through the Church’s members. The saints are privileged to intercede for the living and for the dead — for all who have not yet reached the fullness of life in Christ’s kingdom of heaven.
End of the World?
Q. I understand that in the years following Jesus' resurrection, the early Fathers of the Church did not preach or believe that the world would end, and that this idea was incorporated into the Church's teaching only because of St. Augustine. Is it true that St. Augustine initiated the teaching that the world would end?
Gina A. Mazzola, Lynbrook, N.Y.
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D:
It is not true that St. Augustine initiated the teaching that the world will end. He certainly held that teaching, but only because it is plainly taught in Scripture and Tradition. Through both Old and New Testaments God reveals that the world is a creature of time, and that He will some day ring down the curtain on it.
In the Old Testament, the end of the world is often spoken of as "the day of the Lord" (see, for example, Is 13:6; Ez 30:3). By inspiration the prophet Isaiah exults in the new heavens and the new earth that God will bring at the end (see Is 65:17; 66:22).
The New Testament also speaks of Our Lord's coming to judge the earth at the end of time. Revelation chapters 21 and 22 focus on Our Lord's coming at the end, and the new heavens and new earth He will bring.
Cursed by the Past?
Q. When I was a teenager I renounced God and swore allegiance to Satan. I am now a Christian but struggle terribly with explosive anger. I feel I am cursed because of what I did in the past. Do you think this is the case?
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
If by "cursed" you mean that you wonder whether you are still under the power of Satan, then I would say that your sincere conversion to Christ (and, I assume, your sacramental confession of sins committed as a Satanist) has broken that power over you. You belong to God now and must not worry that somehow Satan still has a claim on you.
If by "cursed" you mean that you fear God will not forgive you for having renounced Him, you need not fear any longer. He is able and willing to forgive any sin, no matter how terrible, if the sinner sincerely repents and asks for His mercy.
On the other hand, if by "cursed" you mean that you wonder whether someone else who serves Satan has spoken a curse against you to harm you, then I would urge you to take counsel with your parish priest, asking him to pray that God's power will protect you from the Enemy of your soul.
In any case, whatever the cause of the anger, you should discuss that problem with your priest. He should be able to give you some spiritual counsel about how to overcome it, or perhaps he can refer you to a counselor for help. You should also pray to St. Michael the Archangel and your guardian angel for assistance.
Who Were the People Cain Encountered?
Q. Please explain who were the people Cain encountered after he killed his brother. Since Adam and Eve were the first parents, where did these humans live, and from whom did they descend.
— Olga Ariza
The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes a challenge facing anyone who reads the Bible: “To interpret Scripture correctly, the reader must be attentive to what the human authors truly wanted to affirm and to what God wanted to reveal to us by their words. In order to discover the sacred authors’ intention, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking, and narrating then current” (Nos. 109-110).
Our faith calls us to acknowledge Eve as “mother of all the living.” However, the scriptural author’s description of the generations after Adam is imaginative rather than scientific, so we should not expect present-day consistency among the details. A Jewish source, “The Ethics of the Fathers,” describes Genesis thus: “Its first section tells very briefly how the physical universe and man came into being.” The rest of the story discusses “how man began to carry out his own share in Creation.” With this in mind, we may conclude that the author of Genesis was more interested in teaching a moral lesson — namely, the sad consequences of sin (illustrated by Cain’s exile) than in providing a lesson in history or genealogy.
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