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Q. I saw that the New American Bible was revised. How important is it to get the updated version? May I keep reading the older version?
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
St. Jerome observed, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ,” and the Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes the Second Vatican Council, “The Church ‘forcefully … exhorts all the Christian faithful … to learn ‘the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ,’ by frequent reading of the divine Scripture” (No. 133). Different scriptural translations exist to enable individuals to find a text that will open God’s Word to them in a language they find appealing.
Accuracy is the translator’s first concern. But this means more than mere verbal precision. The 1582 Douay-Rheims Catholic edition of the Bible and the 1611 King James Version were masterpieces of scholarship for their time. But when scholars undertook a revision of the King James Bible, they noted “more than three hundred … English words … [are] in a sense substantially different from” their 20th-century meaning.
New editions will always be necessary as scholars discover new sources, or as meanings of words change. This does not devalue earlier scriptural translations; we should cling to the text we prefer, so long as the Church approves it. But we must remember that some versions are more scholarly than others, and in any version the meanings of words may change, so we should occasionally compare older texts to the newer.
Dealing with Anger
Q. Do you have any spiritual advice for someone who just can’t seem to be happy? I struggle a lot with anger.
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
Discerning the barriers to happiness, and the causes of a possibly deep-seated anger, are questions that require more space than we have here. They are also complex subjects that should be addressed by individuals trained to deal with such matters. But who are these individuals to whom we should turn if we often feel angry or unhappy?
A trained spiritual director and a sympathetic Catholic doctor come immediately to mind. This is not an either/or, but rather a both/and journey. The spiritual director can provide aids for deepening one’s prayer life and help discern whether the feelings arise from natural causes. If so, the physician can determine whether medication might prove useful to address a metabolic imbalance, or whether a form of psychotherapy might help deal with a possible childhood trauma. The spiritual director and physician working together can help the distressed individual identify sources of unhappiness and anger, as well as situations that may continue to contribute to such feelings.
Where can one find such help? A Catholic hospital should be able to recommend a sensitive physician. One’s parish, or the counseling department of a Catholic college, would be reasonable places to begin the search for a good spiritual director.
Baptism by Grandma
Q. Some of my good Catholic friends say they baptized their grandchildren because they were so worried, as I am. I am refraining, but were these baptisms true for these children? Where do we find a satisfactory answer that these children’s souls will go to heaven if they die without being baptized?
Arlene, via e-mail
A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
I am assuming that the parents of the grandchildren did not want to have their children baptized, therefore your good Catholic friends took the matter into their own hands. They should not baptize children without the parents’ permission, but once they are baptized, I doubt they need to be baptized again.
For a valid baptism of an infant, the minister must pour natural water over the crown of the head of the child while saying out loud the Trinitarian formula: “N., I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
For the valid baptism of an adult, besides what is specified for the infant, the adult must specifically desire baptism: he must speak for himself. A child cannot speak for itself, so the parents and godparents speak up for a child. The Church indicates that there must be a reasonable hope that the parents or guardians of the infant will raise the child in the Faith. How can grandparents have a reasonable hope that the child will be raised in the Faith if the parents resist it?
We should be very concerned about the eternal welfare of children who are not baptized, because Jesus said, “I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit” (Jn 3:5). Baptism is serious business. While we do not know how an unbaptized person who dies can be saved, the Church offers this hopeful thought from the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: ‘Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,’ allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism” (No. 1261).
Burying St. Joseph?
Q. I am appalled that church gift shops and Catholic religious catalogs sell St. Joseph home-seller’s kits. It includes a statue, prayer card and booklet describing St. Joseph. It is claimed that burying his statue upside down aids in selling your home. Many blogging on Google.com under “St. Joseph statue” claim this action works. Are we so desperate that we will do anything to get what we want? We lower ourselves even to the point of being superstitious.
Tom V., Sun City Center, Fla.
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D
One of my friends has sold a home, even before it went on the market, under unusually beneficial circumstances after burying a statue of St. Joseph on his property. Another friend bought a home previously not for sale after still another friend buried a St. Joseph statue on the property. Both families had special devotion to St. Joseph. I have just learned that a local Catholic bookstore stocks the seller’s kits you describe. Knowing the faith of these two friends’ families, I do not believe they were superstitious in using this method of invoking the prayers of St. Joseph. Beyond that, I have no opinion to offer about this practice.
Q. A number of my co-workers who are not Catholic decided this year to give up certain foods for Lent. They asked me about the meaning of Lenten fasting, and I was embarrassed that I was not able to offer much of an explanation. Can you shed some light on the meaning of abstaining from meat and other foods during this holy season?
— N.W., Wilmington, Del.
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
Fasting from meat — or from other foods — during Lent continues to hold a certain fascination for non-Catholics and, indeed, for nonbelievers. Many people take up this practice simply as a way of losing weight or becoming more healthy. These motivations are not to be dismissed, but they fall short of the biblical spirituality of fasting.
As I see it, fasting has three meanings. First, fasting is an act of asceticism. When we fast we are forced to confront our own mortality. Without food we would die. We depend on God and others for our sustenance. Without a whole range of material and spiritual things external to us we would die. Thus fasting may be said to be an outward sign of the inner grace of fuller conversion to Christ. Fasting is not an end in itself, but a means toward a more faith-filled sense of God’s lordship over our lives. Fasting is a means of imbuing in us a great sense of spiritual need.
Second, fasting is an act of justice. We fast so that others may eat. Through mass media we are now more aware than ever of the problems of starvation and hunger through the world. Each Lent throughout the United States, Catholic Relief Services mounts Operation Rice Bowl, asking that people cut back on the amount of food they buy and consume and then donate the savings to CRS to alleviate hunger throughout the world.
Third, fasting is an act of faith. In fasting we recognize that until the coming of the kingdom of God we will always be hungry in spirit. The writings of Isaiah, the words of Jesus, and the great visions of the Book of Revelation portray the coming of the Kingdom as the coming of a great heavenly banquet.
The coming of the Kingdom will mean an end to all the hungers of the human heart. The Christian Eucharist, as Thomas Aquinas described it, is “a pledge of future glory.”
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