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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Appropriate funeral liturgies
Q. Recently I attended a funeral Mass for someone who had committed suicide. It was a very tragic situation. But I was disgusted at hearing that all the Scripture readings were “happy,” and so was the sermon. Why does the funeral liturgy not take into account the tragedy of the situation? Also, why are funeral hymns so “happy” nowadays?
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
A funeral liturgy that does not take into account the tragedy of a suicide is not being true to itself and is not of much help to the mourners. I am not sure what Scripture readings provided for funerals strike you as “happy.” But there are readings that are more upbeat than others.
The Old Testament readings from Job and the prophet Isaiah emphasize the redeeming power of God. The readings from St. Paul share a common theme of our participating in the death and resurrection of Christ through baptism. The readings from the First Letter of John and from Revelation emphasize the new heavens and the new earth that await all the just. Many of the Gospel readings are equally consoling. It is crucial that the power of life over death be given expression in the Scriptures; otherwise, the congregation misses the ability of the Christian funeral to proclaim Easter faith.
However, there are some readings that seek to plumb the depths of human misery. These are especially appropriate for the funeral of someone who has committed suicide. I have in mind the readings from Wisdom and Lamentations, which describe human pain and struggle, and some of the Gospel readings that deal directly with the crucifixion of Christ.
Like many pastors, I provide the bereaved family with copies of all the readings designated for funerals and ask them to choose those that most reflect the circumstances of the death being observed. (Sometimes people do a good job in their selections; at other times not). The challenge to the homilist is to weave the readings, the circumstances of the deceased and the needs of the mourners into a strong proclamation of the power of the Risen Christ over the most painful and seemingly tragic of human circumstances.
You ask why funeral hymns are so “happy.” One reason is probably some reaction to the bleakness of the music often used at funerals in the years before post-Vatican II reform. However, modern hymns that emphasize the Resurrection and salvation should not be dismissed as merely “happy.” The problem I experience with much of the music that is at funerals is that it is rather bland. We await a new generation of composers to provide funeral music with just the right combination of elements and the ability to fit diverse circumstances.
Santa Claus/St. Nicholas
Q. Can you explain to me the connection between St. Nicholas and Santa Claus?
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
The name Santa Claus appears to have been derived from Sinterklaas, a Dutch form of St. Nicholas. The saint was a fourth-century Greek bishop of Myra, a city in what is now Turkey. Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea and was renowned for his generosity. The three balls associated with pawnshops logos are said to represent bags of gold he anonymously tossed into a home to provide dowries for three young women whose family’s poverty was so great they felt they must turn to prostitution to live. This seems the origin of hanging stockings at Christmas, to await the saint’s kindness.
Legends abound of St. Nicholas’ protecting children, who claim him as their patron. He is also patron of sailors, as he was once making a sea voyage when a great storm arose. The ship’s crew panicked, but Nicholas remained calm and prayed. The storm quickly died down.
Toward the end of the 11th century, Italian sailors stole the relics of St. Nicholas and brought them to Bari, located on the southeast coast of Italy. They remain there, in the Dominican church, where oil for the sanctuary lamp is contributed to by Eastern and Western bishops.
Vatican II Documents
Q. I’d like to read the Second Vatican Council documents. I have been told that there are good translations and bad. I was wondering if you folks had any recommendations? Any help would be vastly appreciated.
J. W., via email
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D
The most widely used collection of Vatican II documents is that edited by Austin Flannery, O.P., and published by Costello Publishing Company in 1975 and 1986. It does contain quite a number of typographical errors.
In my opinion, the authoritative collection is the two-volume “Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils,” edited by Norman P. Tanner, S.J. It was published by Sheed and Ward and the Georgetown University Press in 1990. These volumes provide both the official Latin text and the corresponding English translation. The documents of Vatican II comprise the last half of volume 2.
Q. Can a priest accept more than one stipend a day for Masses?
C.B., via e-mail.
A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
While a priest may celebrate several Masses per day for various intentions, he may only retain the offering for one Mass, unless his ordinary establishes otherwise. He may, however, accept a generous reimbursement for travel expenses for that second or third Mass.
The Problem of Evil
Q. I was reading psalms this morning (122-125). It says God will continually protect His people. What about the Holocaust? Millions of Jews were murdered.
— Agnes Lansink
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
Because it forces us to profess faith in God’s love when evidence argues against it, the mystery of evil is, perhaps, the most challenging test we face. The Holocaust is a perfect example: How could God allow the death of 6 million innocent individuals?
The simple answer is: to allow some good to emerge from the horror. But this should be expanded. God permits suffering so we may learn the enormity of sin. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, man “has … broken the right order that should reign within himself as well as between himself and other men and all creatures” (No. 401). Suffering also reveals the virtue (and weakness) of individuals and our dependence on God’s mercy.
We might consider the Holocaust an example of “abandonment,” a little-discussed aspect of Christian spirituality. The perfect example is Jesus, in the Garden and on the Cross, willing “to experience … all the suffering involved in the ordeal of temptation [and] … be as close as possible to … His fellowmen” (“The Devil and How to Resist Him,” by Gerald Vann and Paul Keven Meagher).
We are not mere tools in God’s hands, but God can withdraw from us — if momentarily — allowing us to suffer, to realize the infinite depths of our human infirmity.
blog comments powered by Disqus
Catholic Faith Resources | For Catholic Parishes | Order OSV Products | RSS | Advertise | About Us | Contact Us | Jobs