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Blessing Sick Child
Q. In the Church’s official Book of Blessings, there is a rite called Order for Blessing a Child Not Yet Baptized. Where can we obtain the prayer? It would be wonderful to say a bedside prayer when a child is ill but not dying.
— M.F., Sandy, Utah
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
The Book of Blessings is a fairly hefty tome, but you could ask your parish secretary to loan you a copy to study and make notes. (You can, of course, always buy it from a Catholic bookstore.) There are two rites given for children: an Order for the Blessing of a Baptized Children and an Order for the Blessing of a Child Not Yet Baptized.
More useful for the circumstances you mention — a child who is sick but not dying — is the rite found in the smaller and more accessible book titled “Pastoral Care of the Sick” under the heading Visits to a Sick Child. The introduction states: “The ... readings, prayers and blessings will help the minister [who may be a layperson] to pray with sick children and their families. They are provided as an example of what can be done and may be adapted as necessary. The minister may wish to invite those present to prepare for the reading from Scripture, perhaps by a brief introduction or through a moment of silence” (No. 62).
The introduction continues: “In praying with the sick child the minister chooses, together with the child and family, if possible, suitable elements of common prayer in the form of a brief Liturgy of the Word. This may consist of a reading from Scripture, simple one-line prayers taken from Scripture which can be repeated by the child, other familiar prayers such as the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, litanies, or a simple form of the general intercessions” (No. 65).
(The volume is one I recommend to all Catholic households not only because it contains the prayers just mentioned, but also has the Commendation of the Dying, which can be used with anyone who is dying when a priest is not available.)
It is useful to remind Catholics and amenable medical personnel from time to time that if a child who has not been baptized is dying, he or she may be baptized by any adult (including non-Catholics) simply by the pouring of water on the child’s forehead with the formula, “N., I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
“Powers” and “Authorities”
Q. In Sunday’s reading (Feb. 26, 2012) of the First Letter of St Peter, we hear, “Jesus Christ who has gone into heaven . . . of God, with angels, authorities and powers subject to him” (1 Pt 3:21-22). Is it powers and authorities in heaven with the angels? And who are they? I understand all on earth are subject to God. Am I misinterpreting the sentence?
— Cecelia Winer
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
In his First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul specifically identifies some of these foes: “every sovereignty and every authority and power” (1 Cor 15:24), by which he means any force opposed to God’s will. When St. Peter writes that Christ “has gone into heaven … with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him” he makes no mention of the nature of the authorities and powers.
However, John Elliott, commenting on Peter’s letter for The Anchor Bible, states that Peter’s including angels among the elements subject to Jesus is unique in the New Testament, and should assure the reader that Jesus is victor, once and for all, over the angels who turned from God in the beginning, and every other sort of rebellious sprit. Thus Elliott concludes the powers and authorities are “cosmic powers.” He adds that Peter elsewhere describes civic and domestic order, but here “the stress is on the new order established in the cosmos as a result of Christ’s resurrection.”
This reading was chosen for the Mass of the First Sunday of Lent, and promises if we share Jesus’ suffering, we may look forward to sharing his triumph.
Relations in Heaven?
Q. I was in a conversation about heaven. A man remarked that when a married couple reunites in heaven, they have sexual relations. I could not believe my ears. I tried to tell him that God gave us a partner to share our lives on earth. When we die and hopefully get to heaven, there is no more need for this close relationship. Although we may meet our loved ones there, it is a different kind of love. All that is needed in heaven is our love for Jesus. That is what we are striving for upon this earth, to be with Him. I am sure I am correct, but how can I phrase this better? I do not think he believed me.
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D
The Sadducees did not believe in the Resurrection. Yet in asking a question to trick Our Lord they pretended to assume that the marriage relationship continues in heaven. Jesus clearly contradicted this assumption when He taught, “At the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like the angels in heaven” (Mt 22:30).
The Church teaches us that marriage has two ends, or purposes: the procreative and the unitive. There will be no need for procreation in heaven. The number of the redeemed will be complete. The unitive end of marriage is spouses aiding one another to grow in holiness. This mutual help will be unnecessary because the redeemed will forever live in the fulfillment of the Beatific Vision.
You’ve heard the old maxim regarding our possessions, “You can’t take it with you.” What we can take with us when we die, what we shall certainly take with us, is our deepest relationships. The reason is, they constitute part of our very being. In purgatory those relationships will be cleansed of all self-seeking and perfected for life in glory. Human spousal love will be perfected at whatever depth the spouses attain in their life together on earth.
Because of the transforming process of purgatory, I believe the love of husband and wife in heaven will be far deeper than anything they have known on earth. And it will be forever freed from the inherent exclusiveness of the marriage bond on earth.
Decorum in the Presence
Q. For a lifetime I have remained after Mass for a moment of thanksgiving, usually also saying the St. Michael Prayer and prayers on the back of the missal. We have moved to a new parish where they have a new church with a beautiful large gathering space, but the tabernacle is not in a chapel of its own. It is in just a little notched out area in the worship space. As the music stops after Mass the hell-a-bellow starts immediately and reaches fever pitch as one group tries to out yell another. There is no movement toward the gathering space, they just visit in the worship space. No one genuflects. They say they are a very friendly parish. I have asked several people why the lack of silence before and after Mass, and they don’t see it as disrespect for the Eucharist and say they just love to visit. I have asked what about those that want to pray before or stay behind and pray after Mass and was told I would get over that, all new people do. So, I started looking for rules and regulations for how one is to act in church and can find nothing about the need for silence before the Blessed Sacrament. Please help.
Charlotte, via the Internet
A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
It sounds like your fellow parishioners need to be gently coached about proper behavior in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. They should be reminded to “move on” to the gathering space if they wish to visit and talk after Mass, and that they should be mindful and respectful of those who would like to pray in peace.
The situation you describe is very familiar. On the one hand, many of us sense the need and desire to enter into a profound conversation with Jesus after we have received Him in the holy Eucharist, and an atmosphere of reverent silence is most conducive to this praiseworthy pious practice. On the other hand, many of us also welcome the opportunity to greet and converse with friends and families at church on Sundays, because, after all, the Church is a community, and we’re part of it.
Sometimes, church architecture provides a solution with a separate, but visible, eucharistic chapel; other churches have a large and inviting gathering space that is clearly separate from the main body of the church. Those who want to talk make their way to the gathering space, while those who want to pray silently, remain in the church.
It is the long-standing custom of the Church that we should retain reverential silence in the presence of the holy Eucharist reserved in the tabernacle, and especially when exposed in the monstrance during exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament. In fact, anyone who visits St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome will be struck by the smartly dressed Swiss Guards at their station next to the entrance of the Chapel of Adoration; above the curtains is a sign for everyone to see, and you do not have to be a Latin scholar to understand it. It simply states: “SILENTIUM.” And everyone is silent.
Q. We were having a discussion on people who enter Mass late and still receive Communion. Is there any certain time when a person who enters late should not receive Communion?
— Deacon Marc Main, Abilene, TX
Some Catholics will recall learning the principal parts of the Mass were understood to be the offertory, consecration and Communion. Those who arrived after the offertory — or left before the priest placed what remained of the Eucharistic elements in the tabernacle — were judged to have “missed” Mass.
Sharing Christ’s body and blood remains central to understanding the Mass, but our liturgical theology gives new importance to the Liturgy of the Word, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that, with the Liturgy of the Eucharist, it forms “a fundamental unity … ‘one single act of worship’; the Eucharistic table set for us is the table both of the Word of God and the Body of the Lord” (No. 1346).
To determine how late one may arrive at Mass and still receive Communion, we should consider the reasons for approaching the altar. The Catechism reminds us, “Those who receive the Eucharist are united more closely to Christ” (No. 1396). But receiving Communion is more than a solitary, personal act of devotion. “Through it Christ unites [the recipient] to all the faithful in one body — the Church” (No. 1396). Thus we should come to Mass in time to contribute to communal aspect of the celebration of our faith.
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