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Saturday evening Mass
Q. The precepts of the Church state, "You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation." I thought that the Saturday vigil Mass was for those who have to work on Sundays and cannot go to Mass on that day. I must be from the old school, but I cannot attend Saturday Mass and feel that I have fulfilled my obligation.
Norm Parent, via e-mail
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
You are certainly correct in your observation that Saturday evening Mass was introduced largely for people who had to work on Sundays. However, as the years have gone by, the Saturday vigil Mass has become a universal feature of Catholicism.
Since the Saturday vigil does fulfill the Sunday obligation, you need not have any qualms about attending Saturday evening Mass. However, I sympathize with your basic concern. Sunday seems rather empty without Mass, and there is the danger that people will observe Sunday without the appropriate spiritual attitude.
The Lord's Day should be observed in all its spiritual dimensions, including doing works of charity and mercy, undertaking spiritual reading and spending time with family or neighbors.
Where does the Church stand on hypnosis?
Q. Where does the Catholic Church stand on the issue of hypnotism (used for the following purposes)?
1. Public entertainment — for example, a venue where a hypnotist performs in front of a crowd, with a few volunteers from the crowd as participants.
2. Medical or psychiatric use — for example, to recall and deal with repressed memories from early childhood.
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church identifies object, intention, and circumstances as “constitutive elements [for] the morality of human acts” (No. 1750). When we judge the value of an act we must first consider the act itself, and the reason we perform it. Circumstances are a secondary concern, which “contribute to increasing or diminishing the moral goodness or evil of human acts” (No. 1754).
Hypnosis has been shown to aid individuals in numerous ways: psychological counseling, breaking an addiction, help with pain management. In itself, thus, the act of hypnosis is good, or at least morally neutral. To determine the moral value of hypnosis as entertainment we must consider what the hypnotist asks the hypnotized person to do, as well as the consequences of any action the hypnotized person performs.
If a person is willing to be hypnotized, and if the hypnotist respects the dignity and free will of the hypnotized person, and seeks no unfair advantage as a result of hypnosis, hypnosis is no better or worse than any parlor game.
What Is the Soul?
Q. Please define the nature of the soul according to Catholic teaching.
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church points out that Sacred Scripture often uses the word "soul" to denote a human life, or the totality of a human person. "But 'soul' also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him, that by which he is most especially in God's image: 'soul' signifies the spiritual principle in man" (No. 363).
Therefore, the soul is what animates the body, the seat, so to speak, of human personality. The soul is the seat of our intellect and our will, including such aspects as consciousness, reason, memory, imagination, emotion and conscience.
In this life, soul and body are joined in intimate union. For this reason, whatever affects the soul affects the body, and vice versa. This union is so close that the body and soul aren't separate natures within us; together, they form a single human nature.
God creates human bodies through the reproductive powers of human parents. But each soul is a direct creation and gift of God (see Catechism, No. 366).
God has created the soul to be everlasting, but the body is mortal. When a human being dies, body and soul separate. The body is the portion of human nature that has been left behind; the soul is the portion that has departed.
Nevertheless, just as Jesus' soul was raised in His resurrected body, so will our souls be embodied in glorified bodies, if we die in Christ.
Because of the close union between body and soul, the actions of the body necessarily affect the condition and the fate of the soul. We're not morally responsible for the actions of purely bodily functions. But every time, in the body, we freely perform an immoral action, it is only because our soul -- the animating principle -- has chosen that action.
This is why conscious bodily actions have eternal consequences. This is why Sacred Scripture tells us that "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body" (2 Cor 5:10).
Q. Several weeks ago, I was told to consider having my aged cat put to sleep. Although I know this to be a fairly routine practice in the veterinarian business, I simply could not bring myself to decide on deliberately ending my pet's life. Does the Church have any thoughts on this matter?
Barbara Brown, Portage, Ind.
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
The Church allows you to put your pets "to sleep" because God has given man dominion over the animals. At the same time, it's understandable that you're reluctant to put your cat to sleep, especially if they have been loyal and affectionate pets for a long time.
While pets don't have rational immortal souls, they do have life and exhibit emotions and some level of knowledge and recognition. Pets respond to our commands and can provide services to us. Good pets in some way reflect God's goodness and can bring us companionship and joy. So, thank God for pets and take good care of them, in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi.
At the same time, however, remember that pets are only animals and don't deserve to be treated better than humans, especially the unborn.
Q. Why were Jesus Christ's friends unable to recognize him after the Resurrection?
— Karen Silveira
Scholars provide compelling, logical reasons for individuals’ not recognizing the risen Jesus. For example, Mary Magdalene was crying (see Jn 20:11), and Jesus called the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias before daylight, from the shore (Jn 21:4).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “the reader must be attentive to what the human authors truly wanted to affirm” (No. 109). Like all writers, the Evangelists arrange facts to lead readers to conclusions. Every failure to recognize Jesus provides a spiritual lesson. Mary recognizes Jesus when he calls her name; Peter’s companion recognizes him when he sees the fish. (We encountered a similar event at Easter, when the empty tomb baffled Peter, but caused “the disciple whom Jesus loved” to grasp the reality of the Resurrection). The disciples on the way to Emmaus recognize Jesus in the breaking of Bread (see Lk 24:31).
In each case, the Gospel text provides a picture of our relations with Christ. Mary teaches that we recognize Jesus when our love allows him to call us by name. Emmaus provides insight into the Eucharist. The empty tomb and the events at Tiberias describe the value of allowing faith and love to reveal more than our eyes can see.
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