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.
Question of the Day for Friday, November 23, 2007
Q. In the Last Supper, Christ took bread and said to His disciples, “Take and eat; this is My body” (Mt 26:26). Isn’t this cannibalism in the strict sense of the word?
A.C., via e-mail
A. It all depends on how you define “cannibalism.” Jesus is human and so are we, and we do truly eat His flesh, even if it is under the appearance of bread. Nevertheless, there are other important factors to be considered here.
Cannibalism as traditionally understood involves much more than the simple eating of human flesh by another human. It violates the intrinsic dignity of the one being consumed by another person — being treated as commodity purely for the violator’s benefit.
Our Lord Jesus freely offers us His flesh as our food, desiring that we receive it.
Consider that Christ is fully God as well as fully Man; His Divinity is inseparably joined to His human Flesh, Blood and Soul in the Eucharist. This union of two natures within His one Person makes it possible for our human nature to be united to His divine nature — in fact, to share in His divine nature (see 2 Peter 1:4) — through baptism and reception of the Eucharist.
In a profound sense, then, Catholics who receive the Blessed Sacrament have already been incorporated into the One whose flesh they eat. They are already intimately united to Him as part of His body (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-13). So what they take into themselves, though it belongs to Christ, is in a sense already theirs as well; it is proper to them.
For this reason, unlike cannibals (as we commonly understand the term), Catholics receiving the Eucharist aren’t violating the intimate being or intrinsic dignity of the One who feeds them. Rather, they are sharing it. For them, His flesh is not at all a commodity, but a communion, and it leads to the benefit of all.
Question of the Day for Thursday, November 22, 2007
Q. I am a Catholic and am occasionally asked to pray a blessing publicly at religiously mixed gatherings such as meals. I am looking for prayer guidance that will meet with mutual acceptance in beliefs, rites and traditions of various religious traditions while retaining a Catholic character.
J. T., via email
A. What a great question for Thanksgiving Day! The answer, I think, largely depends on the range of religious traditions represented in a particular gathering.
If you have reason to believe that all those present are Christians of various backgrounds (Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox), you might use this traditional Catholic table blessing, which is prayed by many non-Catholic Christians as well: “Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.”
If those present are not only Christians but also Jews and others who believe in God but not in Christ, you might use this brief prayer of thanks from the USCCB’s collection of “Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers” : “We give Thee thanks for all Thy benefits, almighty God, who lives and reigns forever. Amen.”
Another option for either kind of gathering would be to recite words from the Psalms, which is of course a book of prayers that’s sacred to all Christians and Jews. One example: “Give thanks to God, bless His name; good indeed is the Lord, whose love endures forever, whose faithfulness lasts through every age. Amen.” (Psalm 100:4–5).
It’s difficult to say what kind of blessing you could use if the gathering includes people from other religious traditions, such as Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists or Neo-Pagans. The basic beliefs of those present would vary so widely that you might rightly wonder whether you would even be praying to the same God. In that case, I would suggest that you simply call for a moment of silence, during which each person could offer his or her own table grace privately.
Question of the Day for Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Q. The question came up with a friend of mine. He questions our faith and I couldn’t give him a good answer. If an annulment means that a marriage contract never was valid, what happens to the children of such a marriage? Are they illegitimate?
E. K., via email
A. The Church’s Canon law states clearly: “The children conceived or born of a valid or putative marriage are legitimate” (Can. 1137, emphasis added). A putative marriage (according to Canon 1061 § 3) is one which, though invalid, was nevertheless contracted in good faith by at least one of the parties, until that time, if any, when both parties become certain of its nullity.
Legitimate means “legal” and is essentially a civil category. If the divorced parents once obtained a civil license and entered upon a marriage that was legal in the eyes of the civil authorities, then a civil divorce and a Church annulment don’t alter that situation. Children from that union are their legitimate offspring. In the eyes of the Church, the legitimacy or illegitimacy of the actions leading to a child’s conception has no effect on his or her basic human dignity as a child of God.
If legitimacy is essentially a civil category, why does it even appear in canon law? According to canon lawyer Ed Peters: “Because some nations, by treaty with the Holy See, accept canonical declarations of nullity in place of civil divorces. Thus, civil law questions of child-support and inheritance could be clouded if legitimacy were not treated in canon law.” (For more information, click here).
Question of the Day for Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Q. The Bible says Jesus had “brothers and sisters,” but the Catholic Church says He is the only child Mary had. Why?
K.R., via e-mail
A. Here’s a reply from one of our TCA columnists, Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D.
This question is often raised. The problem for English translators of Sacred Scripture is that ancient languages such as Hebrew and Greek did not clearly distinguish different kinds or degrees of kinship.
“Brother” or “sister” was used to designate all of the same family or clan. The word “brother” is also used in the New Testament to designate a member of the Church. In both Old and New Testament, especially in the Old, “brother” is frequently used as a synonym for “person” or “human being.”
We read in Matthew 13:55-56 the names of certain “brothers” of Jesus: James, Joseph, Simon and Judas. Yet Matthew 27:56 tells us that James and Joseph were sons of a Mary other than the Virgin. Presumably Simon and Judas also were not children of the Virgin.
Strictly on the basis of Scripture, it is not possible to say exactly what the terms “brother” or “sister” mean when used in connection with Jesus. For a correct understanding we have to rely on the teaching of the Church that produced the Scriptures as a compendium of her tradition. From the beginning the Church has always taught that the Virgin bore only one child, our Savior.
One further consideration: If Mary had other children, why did Jesus with His dying breath entrust her into the care of someone not belonging to their family? In that culture, had she other children, it would have been a deep insult, a betrayal of family loyalty, for Jesus to give her into the care of St. John.
Question of the Day for Monday, November 19, 2007
Q. In 1939 I was 9 years old when I saw a light in the center of the sky. After dark it turned into rippling motions of every color of the spectrum, moving from the center of the sky to the horizon, as if I were looking into a kaleidoscope. The newspapers the next day had headlines about the Great Northern Lights display. Could this have been the warning that the Blessed Mother gave to the children at Fátima of the impending World War if people did not stop offending God? And could you give me the date of this phenomenon?
H. S., Latrobe, Pa.
A. Are you perhaps recalling the extraordinary heavenly display on the evenings of January 25 and 26, 1938? Most accounts of it assume that it was in fact a particularly vivid and widespread appearance of the aurora borealis, or “Northern Lights,” though some have disputed that explanation. The phenomenon made headlines across America and Europe because of its unusual extent: Normally limited to the far northern regions, it was viewed all the way down through the southern states of the U.S. and the nations of southern Europe. Witnesses reported a great red glow across the sky, causing many people unfamiliar with the phenomenon to panic, fearful of conflagration, war or the end of the world.
According to one newspaper report, “the sky was ablaze like an immense moving furnace, provoking a very strong blood-red glow. The edge of the furnace was white, as if the sun was about to come up.” Many Catholics believe that this event was the fulfillment of Our Lady’s prophecy to the shepherd children at Fátima, part of the “Second Secret” given on July 13, 1917: “The war [World War I] is going to end. But if men do not cease offending God, a worse one will begin in the reign of Pius XI. When you see a night lit up by an unknown light, know that it is the great sign given you by God that He is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine and persecutions of the Church and the Holy Father.” Less than two months after the lights that you and so many others witnessed in January of 1938, Hitler invaded Austria, one of the momentous events leading up to the outbreak of World War II the following year.
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