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.
Help, I'm distracted
Q. I like to read spiritual books, but I find I am constantly distracted and cannot concentrate. My ability to read a lot of material at the same time is limited. Do you have any advice?
Mary R., by e-mail
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
The truth is that most of us are distracted even when reading very important material. The best advice I can give you is to read only a little at a time. In the monastic tradition, there is the practice of lectio divina, which means reading meditatively and stopping to reflect whenever some thought strikes you as of particular relevance to your life.
I would suggest that you take an entire liturgical season to read one book. Do not try to digest too much at once. Rather, take a page or two a day and perhaps even use a highlighter so that you will remember what is most important and insightful.
Spiritual books worth reading once can be referred back to many times. Keep a small library of a few worthwhile classics, read them again periodically and let the positive points sink again into your heart and soul.
May one receive Communion in a Polish National Catholic parish?
Q. Is a Roman Catholic allowed to receive holy Communion in a Polish National Catholic Church?
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
The Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC) was founded in 1897 by Father Franciszek Hadur, who felt Polish immigrants were not adequately served by the Roman Catholic parishes in America. In 1898, Father Hadur was consecrated bishop by three Old Catholic prelates, and was excommunicated by the Holy See.
Relations between the PNCC and Rome improved with the election of Pope John Paul II, and in 1984, the two groups agreed on “limited intercommunion.” Meanwhile, the PNCC denies papal supremacy, and Mary’s Immaculate Conception and Assumption.
The Church’s Code of Canon Law states, “Whenever necessity requires…provided that the danger of error and indifferentism is avoided, it is lawful for the faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister, to receive the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers in whose church these sacraments are valid” (Canon 844.2).
Church custom teaches we should interpret narrowly laws intended to restrict actions or practices. That is clearly the case regarding a Roman Catholic’s receiving Communion in a Polish National parish. Therefore, although the Church recognizes the validity of the PNCC Eucharist, one should not approach the sacrament in a PNCC parish either casually or regularly.
Gift of Tears
Q. I have read in several places about the "gift of tears." I have searched a Catholic dictionary and other sources, but I cannot find any more information on that subject. What is the "gift of tears"?
David Stoll, Ventura, Calif.
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D
The "gift of tears" is one expression of the working of the Holy Spirit. Those who receive this gift insist it is not associated with any emotional upheaval. They do not weep or cry in the ordinary sense of these terms. There is no sobbing or contortion of the face. The tears simply come at times when they are especially aware of the presence of God.
The Eastern tradition has much to say about this gift. A contemporary Greek Orthodox theologian, Bishop Kallistos Ware, connects this charismatic gift with the gift of tongues.
"When it is genuinely spiritual," he writes, "'speaking with tongues' seems to represent an act of 'letting go' -- the crucial moment in the breaking down of our sinful self-trust, and its replacement by a willingness to allow God to act with us. In the Orthodox tradition this act of 'letting go' more often takes the form of the gift of tears" (emphasis in the original; from "The Orthodox Way" [St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1995], p. 101).
Eastern writers describe this gift in various ways: the way of tears, the prayer of tears, tears which illuminate, holy sadness. Some regard this gift so important to the spiritual life that they refer to it as "the second baptism." Their point is that while baptism cleanses us from past sin, the gift of tears is suggestive of God's washing away of our present sins. Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022) even calls it a "baptism in the Holy Spirit."
Bishop Ware and other writers on the subject caution that not all tears are a gift of the Spirit. There must be discernment. "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God" (1 Jn 4:1).
Close the Tabernacle?
Q. At my parish, leftover Hosts are placed in the tabernacle to be used at the next Mass. When these Hosts are taken out during the next Mass, are the tabernacle doors to be closed and reopened at the end of Communion, or is it permissible to leave them open until any remaining Hosts are returned?
E. Justiniano, via e-mail
A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
The documents which regulate such liturgical actions do not address your question, so anything I could offer is speculation. In my opinion, either way would be fine. However, one could argue that the tabernacle door should be closed during Communion if there are any ciboria with consecrated Hosts inside, in order to assure maximum protection of the Blessed Sacrament.
New Missal Coming?
Q. When is the new Sunday missal going to be available?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church succinctly describes the aim of our worship, “Christian liturgy not only recalls the events that saved us but actualizes them, makes them present” (No. 1104). So important a task demands the very best we can offer God, and our prayers, songs and liturgical gestures must express the nobility of our prayer, and our regard for the one to whom we pray.
The Vatican document Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy) identifies three qualities that should characterize liturgical music — and, by extension, all vocal elements of the liturgy. These are “beauty, expressive prayer, the unanimous participation of the assembly” (see No. 112; also Catechism, No. 1157). The new Roman Missal draws worshippers closer to these ideals by embracing a more exact and literal translation of the Latin text. In addition, the new Missal will include prayers for celebrating feasts of recently canonized saints, as well as additional prefaces and votive Masses.
The new missal will probably be ready for use on the First Sunday of Advent 2011. However, samples of the new translation are readily available. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops maintains an online website devoted to the new missal (USCCB.org/romanmissal). The site provides examples of the new translation, as well as expert commentary.
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