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.
Communion for Pallbearers?
Q. At a Catholic funeral, can pallbearers receive Holy Communion?
M.E., via email
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
Yes, absolutely, so long as they are practicing Catholics, in the state of grace, and have kept the one hour fast from food and beverage before holy Communion.
Often non-Catholics attend a Catholic funeral Mass, and in this case the celebrant should remind those in attendance about proper sacramental protocol. In this regard, let us review the criteria established in the recent instruction on the Holy Eucharist, Redemptionis Sacramentum:
[83.] It is certainly best that all who are participating in the celebration of Holy Mass with the necessary dispositions should receive Communion. Nevertheless, it sometimes happens that Christ’s faithful approach the altar as a group indiscriminately. It pertains to the Pastors prudently and firmly to correct such an abuse.
[84.] Furthermore when Holy Mass is celebrated for a large crowd — for example, in large cities — care should be taken lest out of ignorance non-Catholics or even non-Christians come forward for Holy Communion, without taking into account the Church’s Magisterium in matters pertaining to doctrine and discipline. It is the duty of pastors at an opportune moment to inform those present of the authenticity and the discipline that are strictly to be observed.
What Did They Do All Day?
Q. In the Old Testament, the Jewish people wandered the desert for forty years. My question: What did they do all day? What was their daily routine like? There could not have been too much activity in a desert. Forty years is a long time to wonder around!
N.N., via email
A. The biblical passages describing those years (Exodus chapters 16 and following) don’t provide many details of daily life in the desert wandering. But we do find some clues there, and much of the rest can be supplied by our imaginations when we recall how much time ancient peoples had to spend each day just to stay alive.
Food preparation would have taken considerable time. In this particular situation, the manna had to be gathered daily and prepared for consumption. The quail God sent them had to be captured, killed, dressed and cooked. (See Ex 16.)Water had to be located, poured in vessels, and transported (Ex 17).
Animals had to be cared for, with all the various chores such a responsibility entails. Clothes and tents had to be mended, and everyday utensils (cooking vessels, tools, weapons, lamps, etc.) and vehicles of transport had to be crafted, maintained and repaired. Travel (walking, riding, herding) was hard work and time-intensive.
Think also of communal occupations: worship (Exodus chapters 25–31), which was ritually quite complex among the ancient Israelites, and which required considerable effort in preparation; leisure activities, such as singing, dancing, storytelling, feasting, sports and other games (we know of at least one party the people threw out in the desert; see Ex 32:18-19); family activities; health care; cooperative labor and commerce with neighbors; occupational and other training for the youth; political, judicial and defensive functions for the community (Ex 17:8–18:27); and so on.
In short, they no doubt kept busy doing all the things a society must always do to survive.
Q. I am a long-time subscriber to your magazine. I write a monthly article for our church newsletter and want to do one on Eucharistic Miracles. But I only want information from bona fide sources. Can you suggest where I might look?
R.L., via email
A. I would encourage you to check out the book Eucharistic Miracles and Eucharistic Phenomena in the Lives of the Saints by Joan Carroll Cruz (TAN, 1987, now published by Saint Benedict Press). It’s the classic text on this subject, available here.
See also Eucharistic Miracles of the World: Catalog of the Vatican International Exhibition, including the foreword by Archbishop Raymond Burke, D.D., J.C.D., former archbishop of St. Louis, now prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura at the Vatican.
This exhibition features an extensive assortment of photographs and historical descriptions focusing on some of the principal Eucharistic miracles throughout the ages that have been recognized by the Church. For more information, click here.
Q. I can not remember ever hearing any mention of Jesus’ family other than Mary, Joseph, John the Baptist, and Elizabeth. Being a loving grandfather, I am curious about his grandparents.
OSV is outstanding! Look forward to seeing it in the inbox every week. This question and answer column is very informative and helpful as I am a convert to Christ's Church (four years) and have much to learn.
L.M., via email
A. Thanks for the kind words about the column. I thoroughly enjoy preparing it.
We have a brief mention in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus referring to “Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Messiah” (Matthew 1:16). Sometimes generations are skipped in biblical genealogies, with “father of” meaning more generally “ancestor of.” If no generation is being skipped in this instance, then we have “Jacob” as the name of Jesus’ foster grandfather. But we know from Scripture nothing more of him or of his wife, Joseph’s mother (and thus Jesus’ foster grandmother).
As for Jesus’ biological grandparents — the mother and father of Our Lady — we have no reference in Scripture. However, we do have ancient traditions about them found in such books as the Protoevangelium of James (also known as the Book of James or the Infancy Narrative). These books don’t share the divinely inspired authority of the Bible, so their testimony is uncertain.
According to the Protoevangelium, which is quite early (probably from the middle of the second century), Mary’s parents were named Joachim and Anne (or Hannah). They were a wealthy and pious couple, advanced in age and childless.
One day an angel appeared to them and told them that their prayers for a child would be answered. Anne promised to dedicate the child to God, and after Mary was born, they did just that.
For more details of this story, check out the old Catholic Encyclopedia articles, click here, here and here. For an English translation of the full text of the Protoevangelium, click here.
Even if we don’t know for sure the details of their lives, nor even their names, Our Lady’s parents were certainly real people who must have been exceptionally holy, given God’s choice to have them become the grandparents of the Son of God. So the Church has from early times venerated them as saints under the names Joachim and Anne. Today, in the West their joint feast day is July 26; in the East, July 25.
Death of the Impenitent?
Q. What does the Church teach would most likely happen to the soul of an unrepentant Catholic who is anointed by a priest while the person is unconscious and very near death?
N.N., via email
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D.:
In your hypothetical, when you say “unrepentant,” do you mean an unconscious person who was guilty of unrepented mortal sin?
Apart from the Church’s Catechism, my favorite catechism is “The Teaching of Christ.” On page 433 you find this explanation of the situation:
“If the person to be anointed is unconscious and in grave sin, but is prepared by prior acts of faith and hope and right fear of God so that he is properly disposed to receive the gifts of a sacrament, the sacrament of anointing of the sick brings forgiveness of even serious sin.” This would surely apply if the person were guilty of unrepented venial sin.
If there were no “prior acts of faith and hope and right fear of God” in a person’s life, and he or she died without having repented of mortal sin, that person would be lost forever. But keep in mind that in the case of any particular person, only God Himself knows for sure whether that individual falls into this category.
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