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Abortion destroys a soul?
Q. I read in a Catholic publication recently that abortion destroys the body and soul of the child aborted. Surely this is wrong. I thought the soul cannot be destroyed.
— R.M., Rome, Ga.
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
You are correct. While abortion destroys the body of the unborn child, it does not and cannot destroy the soul. The soul is immortal, and at the great resurrection the body and soul of the aborted fetus will be reunited.
Your question also raises the matter of the souls of frozen embryos. We easily forget that the frozen embryo is a human person with a soul and that its destruction is the destruction of a human being.
Q. Can you tell me what determines the color of vestments used at Mass?
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
In “The Dictionary of Liturgy and Worship” (MacMillian,1972), Gilbert Cope remarks that for the first thousand years of the Church’s history, white was the most common color for liturgical garments. This, apparently, simply followed the custom of wearing clothing similar to that of the Roman nobility.
In the 12th century, the Church in Jerusalem employed black vestments and decorations for Christmas and feasts of the Blessed Virgin, but in 1570, when Pope Pius V revised the Church’s missal, his instructions that set forth liturgical colors generally resemble present-day use.
The missal that followed the Second Vatican Council, in 1969, prescribes green for Ordinary Time; white for Christmas, Easter, feasts of Jesus (other than the Passion), the Blessed Virgin, angels, and saints (other than martyrs); red for feasts of the Holy Spirit, martyrs, Palm Sunday, and Good Friday. Violet is the color appropriate for Lent and Advent — and it may be used at funerals, in place of black or white. Rose may be used for Gaudete Sunday in Advent and Laetare Sunday in Lent. Custom has generally allowed gold vestments to replace any other.
Vestments and decorations used for baptism, marriage, ordination and the dedication of a Church are usually white; and for confirmation red.
Paul a Servant of God?
Q. Is there a Scripture reading where St. Paul says he is the servant of God?
Linda, via email
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D
St. Paul frequently referred to himself as “servant” of God and of Christ. Consider Romans 1:1 (“a servant of Jesus Christ,” RSV); 1 Corinthians 3:5 (Apollos and Paul are “servants through whom you believed,” RSV); 1 Corinthians 4:1 (“servants of Christ”); 2 Corinthians 4:5 (St. Paul is one of the “servants for Jesus’ sake,” RSV); Philippians 1:1 (“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,” RSV).
Extraordinary Ministers on the Altar?
Q. I have a question about extraordinary ministers of holy Communion coming up to the altar before receiving Communion. “Legal” or not?
Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
A. Not legal to come forward before the priest has received holy Communion. Here’s what the General Instruction of the Roman Missal points out: “These ministers should not approach the altar before the priest has received Communion, and they are always to receive from the hands of the priest celebrant the vessel containing either species of the most holy Eucharist for distribution to the faithful” (No. 162). And this precision of the GIRM simply develops what was stated by the Holy See in 1997: “To avoid creating confusion, certain practices are to be avoided and eliminated where such have emerged in particular Churches — extraordinary ministers receiving holy Communion apart from the other faithful as though concelebrants.”
But perhaps the more interesting question is why is this the case? The use of extraordinary ministers of holy Communion (EMHC) is intended to be just that: extraordinary. However, this practice has become so common in our country that everyone considers it ordinary, which may in fact lead to a diminishment of our high regard for the holy Eucharist, not because the priest is holier, but because he has been consecrated for this task, literally set aside for this task. For that reason, he dresses in an entirely different and ceremonial way for the celebration of the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
It seems to me that the most compelling reason to use EMHC is for the sake of efficiency and reducing the time spent in the distribution of holy Communion so that the Mass “doesn’t drag on for more than an hour.” Personally, I think it’s fine for the Mass to “drag on” since Our Lord’s passion on the cross “dragged on” for three hours. Moreover, if we are interested in squeezing the Mass into 60 minutes on Sunday, it would be better to compress the hymns and responsorial psalm than to compress the sacred moment of holy Communion.
When the EMHC stand around the altar before the priest has received Communion, it tends to lead to confusion of roles, and also tends to “clericalize” the laypeople, leading them to think that their greatest contribution to the Church is to be seen as serving in the sanctuary, whereas most of the time they are called to be serving as Christians in the middle of the world, as faithful husbands and wives, loyal and honest colleagues, generous and available fathers and mothers.
Indeed, the service that the EMHC provides by bringing our Eucharistic Lord to the sick and shut-ins is necessary, irreplaceable and deeply Christian. But it’s also wise for us to heed the constant reminders of the Holy See about EMHC, beginning with the unprecedented document “On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of the Priest.” I categorize this document from Aug. 15, 1997, as “unprecedented” because it was signed by the prefects and presidents of eight dicasteries of the Roman Curia. In all my years, I never saw anything like it: Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos of the Congregation for the Clergy; Cardinal Stafford of the Pontifical Council for the Laity; Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Cardinal Medina Estevez of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; Cardinal Gantin of the Congregation for Bishops; Cardinal Tomko of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples; Cardinal Somalo of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life; and Cardinal Herranz of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts.
In that document the Holy See insisted that EMHC should not be used at Mass unless there really is a large number of the faithful.
The Book of Enoch
Q. I have a Baptist friend who is really into the Book of Enoch. Can you tell me something about it from a Catholic perspective? How should a Catholic view this book?
The Book of Enoch is a collection of writings from various sources. It was well-known in the early Church (see the Letter of Jude, v.14) and gives imaginative accounts of original sin and early humankind that differ from the Book of Genesis. What probably contributes to the book’s current popularity is its apocalyptic vision of a flood that will come to punish the wicked.
Why is Enoch not better known today? Probably because we accept our ancestors’ opinion of which scriptural texts to take most seriously. These include the Pentateuch, the Prophets, the Psalms, etc., which the Catechism of the Catholic Church describe as “an indispensable part of Sacred Scripture” (No. 121).
Some writings, including Enoch, presented problems to Jewish scholars who sought to assemble a list of books the faithful might read without being misled. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary states that reasons for exclusion from this “authorized” list included a work’s not being written in Hebrew (Enoch is written in Ethiopian) or the text’s questionable moral content. Enoch describes our ancestors’ dealings with sorcery, as well as prophecies that had not come true. None of these would have favorably impressed scholarly rabbis; modern readers interested in Enoch may readily find the text online.
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