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An ex-priest's funeral
Q. Some years ago, our pastor left the priesthood and married. Recently, he died, and there was a funeral Mass at our parish. Some of us thought it was the Christian thing to do to attend the funeral Mass. Others thought that since he had left the priesthood, we should not attend. It would give bad example. What is your opinion?
--Name and address withheld
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
Christian charity requires that we give the dead the benefit of the doubt. If we keep in mind that a funeral Mass is not an act of praise of the one who has died or an affirmation of everything about his or her life, but an expression of prayer of mercy and a commendation of an imperfect life to God, then attending the former priest's funeral Mass was a perfectly commendable thing to do.
In the funeral liturgy, we commend the soul of the deceased to God, we ask that God forgive his or her sins, we pray that he or she may be received into the joy of God's kingdom. This is why the Church discourages the use of eulogies at funerals. Eulogies inevitably turn the liturgy into a statement of praise of a person's life, and it provides few opportunities to remark on people's imperfection (a project that requires great tact and skill).
When in Heaven
Q. Will we recognize our children and other loved ones in heaven?
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
Neither Scripture nor tradition unarguably reveals whether those in heaven will recognize one another. However, Scripture relates numerous occasions — chief among them the Transfiguration — when the living are able to identify individuals who have died. These accounts, and Jesus’ many promises of everlasting life, underlie the Church’s doctrine that our bodies will be united with our souls after death. The Catechism of the Catholic Church expresses this belief succinctly, saying Christ “will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies” (No. 997). This is an implicit promise that our bodies, which play such an important part in our salvation, will be recognizable in heaven.
The New Catholic Encyclopedia expands on this idea, teaching that while we live in this would we are united to God as individuals with individual histories. These include our relations with others, and (purified of sinfulness) will accompany us when we die. Union with the Blessed Trinity will be the first — immense — gift we enjoy in heaven, but “God does not destroy our past but enables it to contribute to our present happiness. Thus, the secondary object [of the Beatific Vision] is our continuing knowledge and love of created beings with whom … we have a relationship by reason of our earthly life.”
Multiple Franciscan Orders?
Q. Can you explain how and why there are so many different Franciscan orders? Is this a result of disagreements about how these orders are to conduct themselves, or is it simply holy men establishing different orders for different purposes to better serve the Lord?
Name withheld by request
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D
As in the other religious orders, there have been disagreements about how a given order's apostolate is best to be exercised. Some of the Franciscan orders are reform movements. Some of them arose because the Holy Spirit directed them into new areas of service. You suggest two different explanations for the wide variety of Franciscan orders. In a sense, both explanations are correct: the first for some branches of the Franciscan order, the second for other branches.
Adult Baptism Question
Q. We were recently discussing baptism as a means of washing away all sin (original, mortal, venial). From this discussion came the question: Why do some parishes have new members receive their first reconciliation either prior to baptism or at the Easter Vigil Mass between baptism and their first Eucharist? Why would parishes perform either of these practices if baptism washes away all sin?
Jen Bergman, via e-mail
A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
Baptism does indeed wash away all sin. If a person coming into the Church at the Easter Vigil is invited to make his or her first reconciliation before that event, it means that they are already baptized, just not Catholic.
Often when adults are received into the Church they have already been baptized into a Protestant denomination. That baptism is usually valid and, if that is the case, they are not re-baptized. However, they should make their first confession before they make their first Communion and receive the Sacrament of Confirmation at the Easter Vigil.
If a person has never been baptized, that person cannot receive any sacrament, since baptism is the necessary door to receive validly all the other sacraments. If a person is to be baptized at the Easter Vigil -- or at any other time -- baptism absolves him or her of all sin. There would never be a need to make a first confession at the Easter Vigil between baptism and the first Eucharist. If in fact that takes place, it would simply be out of devotion, not necessity.
Q. When I see the word coadjutor before a bishop’s name, what does that mean?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes the second-century St. Ignatius of Antioch, “the bishop is … like the living image of God the Father” (No. 1549). It also says, “Through the ordained ministry, especially that of bishops and priests, the presence of Christ as head of the Church is made visible” (No. 1549).
In governing the Church, bishops exercise executive, legislative and judicial roles, in addition to fulfilling liturgical responsibilities. Obviously, bishops can be overwhelmed by their many duties, so the Church allows assistants to share a bishop’s workload. These assistants are called “auxiliary” bishops, and may be requested by a bishop himself, or assigned by the Holy See.
When the Holy See determines a bishop needs assistance — for example, because he is elderly, ill or faces overwhelming challenges in his diocese — the new bishop may have a special job description, or share more authority than an ordinary auxiliary. Such an appointment often includes the right to assume the office of the bishop he serves when that bishop retires. In this case, the auxiliary is called “coadjutor,” a word derived from the Latin “to judge,” a title indicating the coadjutor’s special responsibility toward the bishop — and the faithful –— he is called to assist.
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