Each weekday, you'll find a new question and answer. Check back for the new question and scroll down to see previous day's entries! Let us know what you think - - or question! -- by emailing us at email@example.com.
Q. How do we know if the baptism performed in other Christian churches and denominations are valid? When does doubt occur?
— J.G., Pueblo, Colo.
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
This matter was dealt in the Directory Concerning Ecumenical Matters, Part One (1967) when it declared: “Baptism by immersion, pouring or sprinkling, together with the trinitarian formula, is of itself valid. Therefore, if the rituals and liturgical books or established customs of a church or community prescribe one of these ways of baptizing, doubt can only arise if it happens that the minister does not observe the regulations of his own community or church. What is necessary and sufficient, therefore, is evidence that the minister of baptism was faithful to the norms of his own community or church” (No. 13a).
Q. My husband is non-Catholic, but we were married in the Catholic Church, and he attends only the Catholic church with me. I read in one publication that he could still have a catholic service and burial. Did I read this correct?
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
When identifying individuals to whom the Catholic funeral rites may be granted or denied, the Church’s Code of Canon Law states, “In the prudent judgment of the local ordinary ecclesiastical funeral rites can be granted to baptized members of some non-Catholic church … unless it is evidently contrary to their will and provided their own minister is unavailable” (Canon 1183.3).
The commentary on the law observes, “The Church respects the wishes of the deceased and wants to avoid any appearance of proselytizing.” This point cannot be overemphasized; the Church’s regard for an individual’s rights is paramount. However, when a non-Catholic regularly attends Mass with her or his Catholic spouse, this is probably not an issue. Likewise, as the non-Catholic spouse in such a case has no religious minister other than the spouse’s Catholic pastor, the Catholic funeral makes a great deal of sense.
The one final point that must not be overlooked is the custom of the diocese. A call to the chancery office will quickly reveal the bishop’s policy on Catholic funerals for non-Catholics.
Q. Why is the Church called our “Mother”?
K.M., via email
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D
We call the Church our “Mother” because through her and only through her do we receive the gifts of new birth and eternal life. She nourishes us in the faith and guides us in the living of that faith. St. Cyprian declared in the third century, “No one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as Mother.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “As a mother who teaches her children to speak and so to understand and communicate, the Church our Mother teaches us the language of faith in order to introduce us to the understanding and the life of faith” (No. 171; see also No. 169).
Q. I have recently lost my wife and my son. I have had two Gregorian Masses said for my wife and two Gregorian Masses said for my son. I want to have one Mass said for my wife and one Mass said for my son on a “privileged” altar. How may I go about getting this done?
D.H, via e-mail
A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
We are so sorry for your loss, but edified by your pious desire to have a Mass offered for the repose of the soul of your wife and son.
According to a response from the Sacred Congregation of Indulgences in the 1880s, the custom of Gregorian Mass for the repose of one soul in purgatory is fulfilled if the Mass is offered daily for 30 consecutive days for that specific intention. More than one priest can celebrate the Masses, and they can take place at different altars, and the altars do not need to be privileged.
With the renewal and reform of the Sacred Liturgy, and the publication of the Code of Canon Law in 1983, altars no longer are classified as “privileged,” but rather as “movable” and “immovable.” While the previous classification is no longer used, you could make the case that an immovable altar, consecrated by the bishop, with the relics of a saint underneath, would truly be a special and privileged altar.
Priests who celebrate the extraordinary form of the liturgy (1962 Missal) may be able to satisfy your request for Mass on a “privileged” altar if they still recognize that category and designation. Such altars are privileged either by virtue of the altar or by virtue of the celebrant.
In the end, what matters is that the intention of the Mass be offered for the repose of the soul of your wife or son. All Masses are equally meritorious, whether in the ordinary or extraordinary form, whether on a privileged altar or not.
Why Call Angels “Saints”?
Q. My question is on saints and angels. I understand saints to be human beings who have died and gone on to be with Our Lord in heaven. Further, I understand angels to be completely different beings from humans. One of our family’s favorite prayers is the St. Michael Prayer, but I have recently been curious as to why we pray, “St. Michael, the Archangel. . .” How can an angel also be a saint?
— Christa Owen, Virginia
The word “saint” comes from the Latin word “sanctus,” which means “holy.” Saints have led a life in union with God through the grace of Christ, and therefore receive the reward of eternal life.
Meanwhile, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “Christ is the center of the angelic world.… They belong to him because they were created through and for him.… They belong to him still more because he has made them messengers of his saving plan” (No. 331).
We use the word “saint” as a technical term to identify individuals whom the Church sets apart for special honor as a result of their holiness of life. The Catechism observes, “With their whole beings the angels are the servants and messengers of God” (No. 329). Unlike God’s frailer, human creatures, the faithful angels never wavered in their commitment to their maker. Thus they truly deserve to be numbered among the saints.
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