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Q. I was baptized as a child in a non-Catholic church. I go to the Catholic Church every Sunday, but I never receive Communion. Years ago, I received catechism lessons. I would now like to become Catholic and receive Communion, but I am too embarrassed because I have left it so long. Please advise.
Shirley A. Frostby
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
There is nothing to be embarrassed about. Most Catholic congregations have a number of non-Catholics who attend regularly but do not receive Communion. This often occurs when such people are married to Catholic spouses.
One of the reasons why non-Catholics in situations like yours hesitate to undergo the process by which one becomes Catholic is the fear of having to go through a very long and public process like the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).
This rite, however, is primarily for those who were never baptized. The Church has a separate rite for full reception into the Church along with confirmation and first Communion. This is for people who are already validly baptized in another Christian denomination. With some remedial catechesis, this can be done quickly and simply.
If I were you, I would approach your pastor as soon as possible. I am sure he will guide you in the right direction.
Abandoning the Church after Baptism
Q. Reading your post on purgatory on July 15: it has answered some questions for me, but opened up a few more. My father and older brother have both been baptized and brought up Catholic, but my father does not live a holy life and does not go to Mass. My older brother does not consider himself a Catholic and holds Zen Buddhist beliefs.
However, my question is this: If, in fact, both of them have been baptized and their sins forgiven by Christ's death, is their turning away from the faith forgiven by Christ, he who knows all things before they happen? Theoretically, if my older brother sins in this life because of his renouncement of Christ, is this sin forgiven by Christ through baptism, and only requires purification in purgatory? In a more general term, what is the consequence of renouncing your baptismal call?
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “through baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as … members of Christ” (No. 1213). Baptism removes original sin, and forgives sins committed before we were baptized. However, “the new life received in Christian initiation [Baptism] has not abolished the frailty and weakness of human nature, nor the inclination to sin” (No. 1426). Therefore, Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation to help us turn away from sins we commit after our baptism (see No. 1446).
What happens to those who, after baptism, do not avail themselves of the Church’s sacraments — or completely turn away from the Church? This is an extremely difficult, and sensitive, question; the answer depends on the individual’s conscience, which the Catechism defines as “a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act” (No. 1778).
We must follow our conscience, but “it can happen that moral conscience … in ignorance … makes erroneous judgments” (No. 1790). The responsibility (and penalty) for such judgments depends on the degree of the individual’s ignorance. One who lacks education in faith is less guilty than one who deliberately rejects Church teaching (see Nos. 1792-93). Prayer for such individuals, good example and prudent attempts to educate are the proper charitable response.
Jesus at 2 Years Old
Q. Did Jesus know He was divine when He was a little boy, let's say around 2 years of age?
Daunette Luhrsen, Camarillo, Calif.
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D
Join me in speculation; that's all we have with regard to your question. We know from divine revelation that in His earthly life Jesus was like us in all things but sin (see Heb 4:15). This means He perfectly lived a human life. That life necessarily involved continuing development: "And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man" (Lk 2:52).
My opinion is that Jesus at the age of 2 knew himself to be divine in ways and to the extent that a perfect 2-year-old boy would be capable of knowing. But, I think, no more than that. Otherwise, the Incarnation would be incomplete. He would not have entered fully into the human situation.
Precepts of Fatherhood?
Q. Father, I briefly heard you on Relevant Radio some time back talking about the five precepts of good Catholic fatherhood. I have two sons. I can remember only one precept you talked about: teaching a son how to work hard. Can you give me the other four?
A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
Thanks for listening to Relevant Radio! They provide an enormous service to the Church by broadcasting Catholic programming faithful to the Magisterium. For more information, check out their website at www.relevantradio.com.
Here are my suggestions for what a good Catholic father should pass on to his sons: 1) a taste for hard work; 2) a respect for women; 3) a spirit of Christian poverty; 4) a devotion to Our Lady and the Holy Eucharist; 5) sincerity. Or in five short words: work, purity, poverty, piety, sincerity.
Prayers for those in Heaven or Hell
Q. I would like to know what happens to the graces for Masses offered for the souls in purgatory if these souls are already in heaven or hell.
— Ray Sanderson, Yakima, Wash.
In his 1967 document Indulgentiarum doctrina, Pope Paul VI refers to the “’Church’s treasury,’ … the infinite value, which can never be exhausted, which Christ’s merits have before God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1476). Suffrages (Masses and other good works) offered for the dead lay claim to this inexhaustible source of grace, as the Church “intervenes in favor of individual Christians … to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission for the temporal punishments due for their sins” (Catechism, No. 1478).
“Infinite” and “inexhaustible” are key concepts that help us distinguish between an invisible spiritual reality and a bank account we use to pay bills. Because our suffrages draw on the eternal worth of Christ’s death, which is beyond calculation, the beneficial effect of our prayers is not a commodity we purchase and use. Nor is the value of Christ’s death diminished by being applied to the remission of the temporal punishment an individual suffers in purgatory. Rather, prayer is a window, opening onto the limitless grace of Christ’s death, enabling the soul in need (by definition, this is a soul in purgatory) to be touched, in a special way, by God’s love.
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