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.
Location of the Last Supper?
Q. In which city or town was the Last Supper held? Was it Jerusalem?
Joan Swigon, via e-mail
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D:
Indeed, the Last Supper was held in Jerusalem. That city was the focal point of Jesus' entire earthly ministry. It had long been the center of ancient Jewish religious practice, because the Temple was there.
Recall the famous Gospel account in which Mary and Joseph lost track of the young Jesus but finally find Him in the Temple. When Mary remonstrated with Him for staying behind in the Temple in Jerusalem, He asked, perhaps rhetorically, "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" (Lk 2:49).
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus referred to Jerusalem as "the city of the great King," quoting the psalmist (see Mt 5:35; Ps 48:2).
Several times Jesus told His disciples that His passion must take place in Jerusalem (see Mt 16:21; 20:17-19). "It cannot be," He observed, "that a prophet should die outside of Jerusalem" (Lk 13:33). At His transfiguration, Moses and Elijah spoke to Him about "His exodus [His passion] that He was going to accomplish in Jerusalem" (Lk 9:31). (Notice the word "accomplish" -- not simply "endure.")
In anguish for all those who would not accept Him, Our Lord wept over Jerusalem: "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were unwilling!" (Lk 13:34).
Obviously, the city was dear to His heart.
Devotion to Mary on Saturday
Q. We received 2010 calendars in our parish with all feast days and fast days already printed on it. On a few Saturdays here and there it says BVM, which I know refers to the Blessed Virgin Mary, but it doesn’t say what kind of event or memorial it is. It’s not every Saturday, but a few Saturdays a month. I couldn't find any information online. I must not be looking in the right place. What does it mean?
-- April Brinker
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
At various times in the history of the Church’s liturgical life, days of the week have been set aside to honor the persons of the Trinity, the Virgin Mary, particular saints, and to pray for the faithful departed, or to obtain one of the virtues. In the Church’s early days, Saturday was often observed as a fast day (a reminder of Holy Saturday), but by the 10th century, Saturday became identified with the Blessed Virgin.
“The New Catholic Encyclopedia” notes that a Saturday Mass to honor Mary was part of the Missal in the 12th century, and the devotion received special attention from Pope Pius V, in part, no doubt, because he attributed the Christian victory at Lepanto (1571) to Mary’s intercession.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us Mary is our constant companion in Eucharistic celebrations because, “In the Eucharist the Church is … at the foot of the cross with Mary, united with the offering and intercession of Christ” (No. 1370). Thus the Saturday custom of celebrating the Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin has come down to the present time, and calendars record it as an option if a Saturday does not celebrate another feast or saint.
Q. Recently my niece was baptized and the priest put chrism on her forehead. What does this gesture mean? Where does chrism come from?
Name withheld, Elizabeth, N.J.
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
Chrism oil is made of two elements -- olive oil and a fragrant substance called balsam. These are mixed together and blessed by the diocesan bishop at the chrism Mass held on Holy Thursday or during the early part of Holy Week each year. Chrism is used in the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders and in the consecration of churches.
The symbolism of chrism is rich and varied. In biblical times, oil was used to cleanse, heal and soothe. Today, oils and ointments are still used for medicinal purposes. When used in the sacraments, blessed oil signifies the healing, soothing, protecting and strengthening power of God.
In chrism, balsam is used for its fragrant, aromatic character. In many cultures, fragrance signifies celebration, joy and festivity. In the liturgy of the Church, balsam calls to mind the Holy Spirit who is like fragrance: pleasing, but invisible.
The fragrant chrism signifies the abundant presence of the Holy Spirit, the grace of the sacraments and the eternal life to which believers look forward.
Sterility and Marriage Validity
Q. Can a Catholic who knows that he or she is sterile nevertheless validly contract marriage within the Church, if the spouse-to-be knows the situation?
Name withheld by request
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
Sterility is not an impediment for marriage, but "antecedent and perpetual impotence" is (Canon 1084). The two are often confused.
If the spouse-to-be knows about the other person's sterility, the two can contract marriage validly. However, if the sterile spouse hides the fact of sterility from the other, or if the non-sterile spouse is in error about that quality, such deception or error could be grounds for declaring the marriage null according to Canon 1097.2:
"Error about a quality of the person, even though it be the reason for the contract, does not render a marriage invalid unless this quality is directly and principally intended."
Also, Canon 1098: "A person contracts invalidly who enters marriage inveigled by deceit, perpetrated in order to secure consent, concerning some quality of the other party, which of its very nature can seriously disrupt the partnership of conjugal life."
Personal Sin and Natural Disasters
Q. When bad things happen to people, such as the earthquake in Haiti, some people seem to think they deserve it because of sins. How does the Church respond to this thinking?
The presence of evil in a world created by an all-loving God is a mystery that has baffled humankind’s holiest minds. The Catechism of the Catholic Church asks, “If God … the Creator of the ordered and good world, cares for all his creatures, why does evil exist? To this question, as pressing as it is unavoidable … no quick answer will suffice. Only Christian faith as a whole constitutes the answer” (No. 309).
The Catechism also teaches: “Creation … did not spring forth complete from the hand of the Creator. [It] was created ‘in a state of journeying’ … toward an ultimate perfection yet to be attained” (No. 302). Sadly, the journey is punctuated by earthquakes and other natural disasters.
We cannot assume a connection between physical evil (such as an earthquake) and sinfulness in those who suffer it. Everyone lives under the burden of sin, but “original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants” (Catechism, No. 405).
In this life we cannot know why God permits evil. “Only at the end, when our partial knowledge ceases … will we know fully the ways by which … God has guided his creation to that definitive sabbath rest for which he created heaven and earth” (Catechism, No. 314).
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