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Q. Our diocese has a couple of priests who regularly use the homily time to walk down among the people and single out members of the congregation and ask them to share how their family members are doing, and that sort of thing. Some use the homily as an “ask the priest” question-and-answer time. Are there official guidelines as to what a priest is supposed to do during the homily?
— N.W., Tennessee
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
The 2002 General Instruction of the Roman Missal states that the homily “should be an exposition of some aspects of the readings from Sacred Scripture or of another text from the Ordinary [the unchanging parts] or from the Proper [the changing parts] of the Mass of the day and should take into account both the mystery being celebrated and the particular needs of the listeners” (No. 65).
The Word “Catholic”
Q. When did the Church begin calling itself the Catholic, or Roman Catholic, Church?
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines “catholic” as “‘universal,’ in the sense of ‘according to the totality’ or ‘in keeping with the whole’” (No. 830). St Ignatius of Antioch was probably the first of the Church’s theologians to use this term. He wrote, “wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”
St. Ignatius is an interesting figure in our Church’s history. One tradition maintains he is the child whom Christ set in the midst of his disciples when they asked who was greatest in the kingdom of heaven (see Mt 18:1). Less romantic sources say he was a disciple of Sts. Peter and Paul. Ignatius suffered martyrdom in 107, so the term “Catholic” is a very ancient one.
“Roman” is a more recent term, although still quite old. It refers to the Church’s organization under the leadership of the pope, who is the Bishop of Rome. After 1054, when theological differences divided Eastern and Western Christianity, “Roman” became an important term for distinguishing one’s loyalties. Several centuries later, some Protestant Reformers used the term as an insult (a few hostile non-Catholics continue to do so). Today, the terms “Roman” and “Catholic” are interchangeable, and, if asked, most Catholics will probably identify themselves “Roman Catholic.”
Difference Between Soul and Spirit?
Q. Is there a distinction between the soul and the spirit?
I.B., via email
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D
A. In one passage Scripture seems to distinguish “spirit” and “soul”: “May the God of peace himself make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thes 5:23). But we must make no sharp distinction between the two.
The human soul is “the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him, that by which he is most especially in God’s image: ‘soul’ signifies the spiritual principal in man” (Catechism, No. 263). The word “spirit” points to the fact that we are created for “a supernatural end” (No. 367). The two terms are complementary.
What is a Third Order?
Q. What exactly is a third order, and what must a person do to become a member of one?
B.C., via email
A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
A third order is typically an association of the lay faithful who try to live the spirit of a particular religious order. The most well-known third orders are the Carmelites, Dominicans and Franciscans. As an association of the faithful, the members can be male or female, married or single, young or old, but they at least must be a practicing Catholic, and they live at home and not in the convent or monastery, and work in the most diverse occupations as is fitting to their state as laypeople.
Since the third orders are linked to religious orders, sometimes the members will distinguish themselves from ordinary laypeople by the garb or insignia they wear, or even by the letters after their name, as is common with members of religious orders. Their members, known as tertiaries, do not necessarily live in a religious community and yet can claim the right to wear the habit and participate in the good works of some great order.
Typically, members of third orders group themselves by region and participate in formative or devotional activities on a periodic basis for the edification of their spiritual life. Normally, a member of the sponsoring religious order would lead these reunions.
Down through the ages many great saints were members of third orders, such as St. Catherine of Siena (d. 1380), a Third Order Dominican, and St. Louis IX of France (d. 1270), a Third Order Franciscan.
Our readers might wonder, then, what are the first order and second order? In a nutshell, the first order, or the male religious, were often first in establishment. They were followed then by the second order, or the “nuns or sisters.” Finally, the third order, comprised of the laity, was established.
Q. We would like to know if the ringing of the bell for the consecration during the Mass is still in use. We were told to remove it.
— Sister Maria Juana
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) states: “A little before the consecration, when appropriate, a server rings a bell as a signal to the faithful. According to local custom, the server also rings the bell as the priest shows the host and then the chalice” (No. 150).
The words “when appropriate” and “according to local custom” are very important here. Obviously, the Church’s instruction allows ringing a bell during the liturgy. Whether the bell is actually rung, however, depends on an authority’s determining whether (and when) this is appropriate, and whether bell-ringing is a custom of a parish or larger worshipping community.
The Church’s Code of Canon Law provides an interesting discussion on the value and force of custom (see Nos. 23-28), but bell-ringing seems too small an issue to fall under the Code’s jurisdiction. In any case, pastors are generally considered to be the final arbiters of liturgical practices in their parishes. If parishioners, or a parish’s liturgical committee, cannot agree with a pastor on an optional matter — such as the propriety of bell-ringing — perhaps a joint meeting with a representative of the Diocesan Liturgy Office would prove helpful in enabling everyone to embrace a harmonious practice.
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