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Priests and poverty
Q. Why don't diocesan priests take a vow of poverty? I find that many of them live the same sort of lifestyle as the middle-class laity. Priests should be more like Christ and not have so many possessions.
B.B., Manchester, Mo.
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
Diocesan priests throughout history have inherited, owned and managed property. This was especially the case in the first millennium, when clergy were married and had families. Of course, some property and financial abuse accompanied the lifestyle of married priests, which was one of the reasons that early on they were required to be unmarried and celibate.
Diocesan priests -- indeed all Christians -- are called, however, to follow the evangelical spirit of poverty. This means that all of Christ's disciples are called to live simply and to use what they own for the good of others. Diocesan priests do not make exorbitant salaries, and, from my own knowledge of priests, most are charitable and careful in the acquisition and use of material things.
A vow of poverty would be impractical. But this does not mean that they should not seek to live in a frugal manner.
Q. Is belief that Mary remained a virgin throughout her life (Mary ever-virgin) and never had relations with Joseph, required to be a Catholic?
R.M., South Carolina
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
The perpetual virginity of Mary is an article of Catholic faith. The Gospel attests to Mary’s virginity before the birth of Jesus (see Lk 1:27), and St. Ignatius of Antioch, one of the Church’s earliest theologians (he is said to have been a disciple of St. Paul) described Jesus as “truly born of a virgin.”
The Church also teaches that Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus. To those who object that the Gospel mentions “brothers and sisters of Jesus,” Scripture scholars reply that these are children of “the other Mary” mentioned by Matthew (see Mt 27:56; 28:1), or that they are very close relatives of Jesus (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 500). Other traditions suggest these brothers and sisters might be Joseph’s children from a previous marriage.
Mary’s virginity holds a special place in the life of the Church and our life of faith. It is a sign of God’s “absolute initiative in the Incarnation” (Catechism, No. 503), and of Mary’s absolute trust (see No. 506). In his 2002 apostolic letter on the Rosary (Rosarium Virginis Mariae), Pope John Paul II reminded us that wherever we find Mary in the Gospel, we should find ourselves. Mary is the model for our trust, our hope and our actively embracing God’s will.
Eastern Orthodox Bibles?
Q. Does the Bible used by Eastern Orthodox Christians have the same books in it as the Catholic Bible? If not, how is their Bible different? I've heard that they have even more Old Testament books than Catholics do.
J.R., via e-mail
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D
The Bible of the Eastern Orthodox churches contains two books not found in the Catholic canon of the Old Testament: 1 Esdras and 3 Maccabees. These two books were rejected by the Council of Trent in the 16th century when the Church finally defined the biblical canon.
In the Book of Psalms in Eastern Orthodox Bibles, an additional psalm appears, Psalm 151. Some versions of the Orthodox Bible also include a short work of 15 verses called "The Prayer of Manasseh."
Why the Stole?
Q. Can you me tell why the priest wears a stole during baptism and reconciliation?
M.W., via e-mail
A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
Since sacraments are sacred realities, it is fitting that the minister of the sacrament prepares and disposes himself in such a way to be mindful of the sacred action in which he cooperates. The "most august sacrament is the blessed Eucharist" (Canon 897), so the priest celebrant vests in a manner that emphasizes the importance of the occasion.
When celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the priest ordinarily will wear a cassock, an amice around the neck, an alb, cincture, stole and chasuble. Only the Eucharistic celebration requires such complete vesture. Of course, this applies to confirmations and marriages that also take place at Mass.
For baptism and reconciliation, it is sufficient that the priest wear a stole: white for baptism to express joy and cleansing; violet during confession to symbolize penance and conversion.
The stole worn over the shoulders is rich in symbolism and first appears in the ritual prescriptions of the biblical Book of Leviticus. The priests of the Old Law were to wear a stole over their shoulders with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel embroidered on the vestment.
The priest carried out the function of rendering sin offerings on behalf of the others. In a sense, then, the stole symbolizes bearing the weight of the sins of others.
The "Handbook of Prayers" (Midwest Theological Forum/Our Sunday Visitor) further explains: "The stole, the long band that fits around the neck, is a symbol of immortality and the sign of the dignity of the ministerial priesthood."
When vesting with the stole, the priest may pray this prayer: "Restore to me, O Lord, the state of immortality which was lost to me by my first parents, and, although I am unworthy to approach your sacred mysteries, grant me nevertheless eternal joy."
Catholics and Tithing
Q. Do Catholics have to tithe?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes “a true filial spirit toward the Church … the normal flowering of the baptismal grace which has begotten us in the womb of the Church and made us members of the Body of Christ” (No. 2040). We manifest this spirit in various ways, perhaps chiefly by embracing a spirit of justice that allows is to look upon one another, as well as our Church, its ministries and institutions as “another self” (No. 1931).
Thus we cannot deny that the Church has a claim on our material and spiritual resources. “Ministries should be exercised in a spirit of fraternal service and dedication” (No. 2039). Moreover, the Church has established “positive laws decreed by pastoral authorities … meant to guarantee … the very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth of love of God and neighbor” (No. 2042). Among these precepts is the command to support the Church, according to one’s abilities. Whether this support should equal a true “tithe” — that is, a tenth of one’s resources, according to Old Testament custom (see Gn 14:20) may be debated. What is nonnegotiable is the obligation to be as generous as possible with our gifts, placing “time, talent and treasure” at God’s service.
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