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Good Friday Questions
Q. A few years back, a young priest became pastor of our parish church. He did things differently from our old pastor. The holy water fonts were filled with sand during Lent. During Good Friday Services, a huge wooden cross was brought out for adoration. There was no Corpus on it. Everyone got in line to kiss the cross.
I stayed in the pew because I felt bewildered that there was no corpus. I felt we should kiss the feet of our Savior instead of the cross He hung on. Was this a misjudgment on my part? Should I have gotten in line also?
P.K., St. Paul, Minn.
Q. In our church, during the Good Friday services and continuing through the entire Easter season, the crucifix is removed, leaving only a bare brick wall in its place. There is no other crucifix, either upon the altar or near it, such as a processional crucifix. All we have is a crudely fashioned cross of rough-hewn beams, which is placed in the nave of the church. This cross stands covered in red fabric and is unveiled during Good Friday services, when it is venerated by the faithful.
Are these practices abuses, and if so, how does one proceed in trying to correct them?
T.F., via email
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
What you describe are liturgical innovations that may confuse and bewilder some of the faithful. For that reason they should be avoided, no matter how significant the symbolism might be.
Holy Water may be removed from the fonts from the end of the Mass of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday until it is blessed again at the Easter Vigil. The sand in the Holy Water font during Lent is symbolic of Our Lord’s fasting and praying in the desert for forty days: a good reminder, a powerful symbol — but not to be done. Sand could be placed somewhere else, but not in the Holy Water font.
The cross without a corpus is also a powerful symbol inviting each of us to be the “corpus” on the cross and carry our own daily cross in union with our Savior. However, the crucifix to be venerated during the Good Friday service is to have the corpus of our Savior upon it. The faithful can venerate the crucifix with a simple bow, a genuflection, or a kiss, either on the body of our Savior or the wood of the cross.
In some places the English translation of the normative Latin rubrics has translated the Latin crucifix with the English “cross,” thus giving rise to the confusion. But the liturgical tradition of the Church from time immemorial is to venerate a crucifix, not just a plain cross. Even so, if you are attending the Good Friday service and just a plain wooden cross is presented for veneration, I would encourage you to go ahead and venerate it with the rest of the faithful, because the principle of unity with the rest of the congregation is more important at that moment.
At all times during the celebration of the liturgy there is to be a crucifix in or near the sanctuary visible to the faithful. It may be covered during Passion Week and Holy Week. During the rest of the year the crucifix, with corpus, is to be clearly visible to all.
So what should you do? You could speak with the pastor of your parish, or the liturgy committee, and suggest they review the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) nos. 117, 122, and 308, where these directives are specified.
Q. We often read about miracles in biblical time or in the lives of the saints. Do miracles still occur in our day?
B.K., San Antonio, Texas
A. Yes, miracles do indeed still take place in our day. In fact, the modern procedure for the canonization of saints depends upon the careful verification of miracles (by doctors and other scientists) as evidence that the person under consideration is now in heaven and able to intercede powerfully on our behalf. Those who investigate the claims for miracles (who often are not Catholics or even Christians) follow a strict protocol that seeks to rule out all possible natural means for an extraordinary event to have taken place.
As a recent example, consider the case of Mother Gertrude Comensoli (1847-1903), the founder of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. Last Sunday she was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI, an event that was made possible by a verified miracle that took place in 2001.
Four-year-old Vasco Richini lay dying of meningitis in a hospital bed. He was in a coma, his internal organs had begun shutting down, and the doctors called for life-support to be discontinued.
Instead, his family asked for the prayers of his school teachers, who were Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. They placed under the pillow of the unconscious boy a relic of Mother Comsensoli and began a novena for her intercession.
Several days later, he still remained in his grave condition. But within the space of an hour he suddenly recovered and was completely healed.
After his recovery, Vasco told how, while he lay dying, he saw Mother Comsensoli come to his bedside in the hospital room. Today he is 12 years old.
Year of the Priest?
Q. I recently heard about an upcoming “Year of the Priest.” What exactly is that?
S.W., St. Louis, Mo.
A. From time to time, the Holy Father announces a special year in the life of the Church to turn our attention to special concerns. We have just concluded, for example, the Year of Saint Paul, and a few years ago we observed the Year of the Eucharist — not to mention the great Jubilee Year of 2000.
Pope Benedict XVI recently declared a Jubilee “Year of the Priest,” beginning June 19, 2009, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the day for the sanctification of priests. The year will end on June 19, 2010, when the Pope holds a celebration in St. Peter’s Square during a “World Meeting of Priests.”
In his announcement of the event, the Holy Father explained that he hopes the jubilee year will be the occasion for a renewal of the priesthood, encouraging spiritual perfection and reinvigoration among priests.
St. John Vianney (1786-1859) is the patron saint of parish priests. During this year, Pope Benedict will proclaim him patron of all priests. This year marks the 150th anniversary of St. John’s death.
Different Levels of Perfection?
Q. In the March/April issue of The Catholic Answer, Father Ray Ryland makes the statement in response to a question concerning souls in Purgatory that I cannot verify as true Catholic teaching through the Catechism. He states: “The level of our spiritual maturity at the moment of death is the level at which we shall spend eternity. This puts a premium on striving for the greatest possible growth in sanctity in this life.”
This would seem to be in conflict with the “purgation of the soul” in order to reach the perfection required to reach heaven. It also implies different levels of heavenly attainment for souls after purgatory, rather that the attainment of the perfect “beatific vision” of those who obtain heaven.
This question is of concern to several since we cannot verify it as sound Catholic teaching. Thanks for any response you can provide.
R.P., via email
A. Here’s a reply from Father Ryland:
To say that the redeemed will attain perfection is not the same as saying that they will attain equality.
For those of us who must, before entering heaven, first enter the intermediate state of purgatory, it will be a process of purifying the love for God which by His grace we have attained in this life.
In other words, the depth of the love we have at the moment of death is the depth at which we shall be glorified. The level of spiritual maturity we have attained by grace at the moment of death is the level at which we shall be perfected through our life in purgatory, the level at which we shall spend eternity. Our love for God and for those around us will be perfected, but will not be increased.
Consider this analogy. Beside a fifty-gallon drum place a thimble. Fill them both with water. Now, one is just as full as the other, but the capacity is greatly different.
This image illustrates what the Church teaches: In the lives of the redeemed in heaven there will be varying “degrees of blessedness.” Different persons will have different capacities for union with God, based on the sanctity each has achieved by grace in this life. All of us will be filled to perfection, though not all of us to the same capacity.
Nevertheless, there will of course be no envy in heaven. Those of us who will be like thimbles will forever rejoice in the saints who will be like tank trucks.
Jesus assured us, “In my Father’s house there are many rooms” (Jn 14:2). St. Augustine taught that the reference to “rooms” or “mansions” refers to differing degrees of rewards in heaven, and St. Thomas Aquinas concurred.
In 1439 the Council of Florence taught that those who have incurred no sin after baptism, as well as those who have been cleansed of all stain from sin, will “clearly behold the triune God as He is, yet one person more perfectly than another according to the difference of their merits” (emphasis added). The Greek version of that conciliar teaching ends with the words, “according to the worth of their lives.”
The “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church” of Vatican II says this of the life of the redeemed in heaven: “All of us, however, in varying degrees and in different ways, share in the same charity towards God and our neighbors, and we all sing the one hymn of glory to our God” (sec. 49, emphasis added).
In 1979 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a “Letter on Eschatology.” It stated clearly that “our charity on earth will be the measure of our sharing in God’s glory in heaven” (emphasis in the original).
True love always desires the deepest possible union appropriate to the relationship with the beloved. If we truly love God our Father, Jesus our Savior, and the Holy Spirit our Lifegiver, we want to share in their life to the fullest possible extent. Thus you can see why the Church continually urges us to grow in sanctity.
Oremus pro Invicem?
Q. What does oremus pro invicem mean?
N.C., via email
A. The phrase is Latin. Oremus means “let us pray.” Pro means “for” or “in behalf of.” Invicem (the object of the preposition “for”) means “one another” or “each other.” The phrase means, then, “Let us pray for one another.”
That’s a good reminder — no wonder so many Catholics end their correspondence with this motto!
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