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Shoulder wound of Jesus
Q. Recently I came across a Prayer to the Shoulder Wound of Jesus. I never heard of it before and wonder if prayers of this kind are authentic.
— G.B., Tucson, Ariz.
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
The prayer is too long to print; but it’s essential part is the following: “I praise and glorify thee and give thanks for this painful and most sacred wound, beseeching thee by that exceeding pain and by the crushing burden of thy heavy cross, to be merciful to me, a sinner, to forgive me all my mortal and venial sins and to lead me onwards toward heaven along the way of thy cross.”
This prayer is attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux and is said to derive from a vision of Jesus to St. Bernard in which Jesus identified the wound on his shoulder from carrying his cross as the most painful wound he had to endure.
To be authentic, all devotional prayers have to be consistent with the solid liturgical and spiritual traditions of the Church. That said, the prayer you mention could be a great source of consolation to one who is suffering physical pain, and it could enable someone to relate his or her particular pains to the sufferings of Jesus.
What Does Vicarius Filii Dei Mean?
Q. Vicarius Filii Dei? What does this mean? Is it a phrase referring to the pope or priest? I have heard that it is inscribed on the pope’s hat, or something. Just curious to know what is it.
— Lloyd Howell
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
Vicarius Filii Dei means “Vicar [or representative] of the Son of God,” a term scholars believe first appears in a document known as the “Donation of Constantine,” dated to the eight or ninth century. This is an apt description of the Pope, who is frequently referred to as “the Vicar of Christ,” and, at present, probably only the most bitterly anti-Catholic individuals would take offense at the title.
However, this has not always been the case. Foes of Catholicism from the 16th to the 19th centuries delighted in pointing out that the title could be turned into the “666” that is the “mark of the beast” in the Book of Revelation. (Those who have enjoyed Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” may smile as they remember that Napoleon’s name and title can be similarly manipulated).
An early reader asked Our Sunday Visitor about the title, and the newspaper replied (April 18, 1915) that it was inscribed on the papal tiara. A short time later, the journal printed a correction, which was repeated in a 1922 article. Scholars have examined the existing papal regalia (this amounts to quite a collection) and have found no evidence that any papal crown carries the title.
What Were the Seven Columns?
Q. In a recent RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) meeting a candidate asked what is the meaning of the “seven columns” in Proverbs 9:1: “Wisdom has built her house, she has set up her seven columns.” Can you tell me what this means?
D.D., via email
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, “God’s truth is his wisdom, which commands the whole created order and governs the world” (No. 216). As for the seven columns of Wisdom, we may note that the Hebrew word or words used for “seven” carry the meaning of fullness. The number is used a great many times throughout Scripture, especially in the Old Testament.
There is no magisterial guidance in understanding exactly what are the seven columns referred to in Proverbs 9:1. Many different explanations have been offered. One focuses on James 3:17, and draws out the list of seven virtues: purity, peaceableness, gentleness, reasonableness, helpfulness, humility, sincerity.
Another approach contends the seven pillars of wisdom are the beatitudes (see Mt 5:3-12). As you may know, there are eight beatitudes. Advocates of this interpretation note that the last two beatitudes simply tell us what will occur if we manifest the seven pillars in our lives.
Can You Kill Your Conscience?
Q. Is it truly possible for someone to “kill” his conscience — that is, to make it completely inoperable so that he has no moral discernment at all?
A.E., via email
A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
When we read about wicked crimes committed in cold blood, we wonder if the criminal is without conscience. Sometimes that seems to be the case. It is possible, through a willful life of sin, to dull the conscience and weaken it, perhaps even to the point of rendering it ineffective. In such case, moral theologians speak more of a “deformed conscience” rather than a “dead conscience.”
Conscience is the “proximate norm of morality,” and we have a duty to follow our conscience. However, conscience is not infallible, and we must form it continually, through the frequent examination of conscience and Sacrament of Confession, the meditative pondering of the Sacred Scriptures and the assiduous study of the moral teachings of the Church.
The Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) spoke of the conscience this way: “In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which holds him to obedience. Always summoning him to love good and avoid evil, the voice of conscience when necessary speaks to his heart: do this, shun that. For man has in his heart a law written by God; to obey it is the very dignity of man; according to it he will be judged. Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths” (No. 16).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church also offers a detailed reflection on conscience in its discussion of the dignity of the human person (see Nos. 1776-1802). It declares: “Moral conscience, present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil. It also judges particular choices, approving those that are good and denouncing those that are evil. It bears witness to the authority of truth in reference to the supreme Good to which the human person is drawn, and it welcomes the commandments. When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking” (No. 1777).
Who Can Anoint the Sick?
Q. In the case of an emergency, can a lay person administer the anointing of the sick?
In Mark’s Gospel we read that when Jesus sent out the apostles, they “drove out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them” (Mk 6:13). St. James is far more explicit, and his letter instructs the early Christians, who are confronted with illness in their communities, to summon “the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over (the sick person), and anoint [him] with oil in the name of the Lord” (Jas 5:14).
As the anointing of the sick seems to have been an act reserved for priests, or their equivalent, since scriptural times, the Church reserves the right to administer the sacrament to priests in the present day. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Only priests, (bishops and presbyters) are ministers of the Anointing of the Sick” (No. 1516).
These words are taken almost directly from the Church’s Code of Canon Law (see Canon 1003), which contains the interesting comment that many Catholics in the United States, and elsewhere, would like to see deacons allowed to administer the sacrament. For the present, however, the privilege is restricted to priests and bishops, to maintain the connection between the Church’s traditional practice and the authority of the Scripture.
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