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.
Q. Can people with memory loss receive holy Communion? One priest said there is no point since they will forget they received Christ. But if they recognize Christ somewhat, would that be enough grounds to receive the host?
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
Would anyone refuse to show love or affection to one who has memory loss? Would we deny them food? Of course not. Then we would not deny them heavenly food.
The only circumstances in which we would not give the Eucharist to someone who is not in possession of his or her mental faculties is when we know they would not have wished to receive it when they had full mental capacity, or when they would spit it out, or when they are unable to swallow the host (although many people in this condition are able to receive a small piece of the Eucharistic host along with a small amount of water).
A good pastoral principle is that we always give people the benefit of the doubt when administering the sacraments.
Scattering ashes after cremation?
Q. I don’t see why scattering the ashes of cremation denies the belief in the resurrection of the body. I believe that we will resurrect on the last day and be given new glorious bodies. I don’t believe God needs to use our old decaying or cremated body. If that was the case, then maybe I shouldn’t request all my organs that are usable for transplant be donated. Then I would be eyeless, skinless, etc. Or is organ donation not acceptable in the Catholic Church?
Donna in Kansas
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
Christ’s risen, glorious body, is a guarantee that our own bodies will rise free of imperfections, whether these are natural defects or the result of blameless philanthropy. Indeed, the Church teaches, “the free gift of organs after death is legitimate and can be meritorious” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2301).
Church law “earnestly recommends…the pious custom of burying the dead be observed; it does not, however, forbid cremation unless it has been chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching” (Canon 1176.3; see also Catechism, No. 2301).
The important issue surrounding cremation (and the secondary issue of disposal of ashes) is the intention behind the act. The Church presupposes ashes will be given the same reverence paid to a Christian’s body, and a special funeral liturgy reflects this.
The problem with scattering ashes is the impression (which might be given) that the Church attaches no value to the ashes. No one may lead others to undervalue or dismiss Church teaching; to do so is scandal, “an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil … a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense” – in this case, to misjudge the Church’s traditional belief in the resurrection. (see Catechism, No. 2284).
What is Perfect Contrition?
Q. As one who converted to the Catholic faith rather late in life, I have never fully understood the concept of "perfect contrition." How can any contrition we offer be perfect?
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D
The phrase "perfect contrition" does make us wonder. Who among us can do anything that is "perfect"?
You may recall that the Church distinguishes between "perfect" and "imperfect" contrition. Both are gifts of God, bestowed on us by the Holy Spirit. The distinction is based not on the quality of our performance of contrition, but on the motivation of our contrition.
If our contrition "arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called 'perfect'" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1452). "Perfect" contrition grants remission of venial sins. It also brings forgiveness of mortal sin, if one also firmly resolves to go to confession at the earliest opportunity.
"Imperfect contrition" (also known as "attrition") arises out of lesser motivations, such as revulsion at the hideousness of sin or fear of being eternally damned. This latter contrition does not bring remission of mortal sin, but it does dispose one to seek sacramental absolution.
The first part of the well-known Act of Contrition summarizes perfect contrition: "O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because of thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee my God, who art all good and deserving of all my love" (emphasis added).
Weddings on All Souls' Day?
Q. Can you get married on Nov. 2 in the Catholic Church?
K.M. via e-mail
A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
According to "The Order of Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours and Celebration of the Eucharist" for 2008, a nuptial Mass -- which is a ritual Mass -- cannot be celebrated on All Souls' Day, Nov. 2. Ritual Masses are not allowed that day. A priest can celebrate any of the three All Souls' Day Masses or a funeral Mass on Nov. 2.
If the wedding does not take place during a Mass, Catholics could still be married that day in a Catholic church following the proper canonical form.
Can Catholics celebrate Halloween?
Q. Is It OK for a Catholic to celebrate Halloween?
“Halloween” is the name given the day before the feast of All Saints. It means “All Hallows Eve,” and reminds us the Church begins the celebration of important liturgical days – in this case, the feast of All Saints – with the prayer of vespers, offered at sundown the day before the feast itself.
The ancient Church often “baptized” pagan celebrations for its own use, attaching Christian significance to an existing custom; this may be the case with Halloween, which finds its roots in Roman and Celtic celebrations to mark the end of summer. Only recently has the day become identified with demonic or satanic significance.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church stresses the importance of parents’ guidance in educating their children. “Parents should teach children to avoid the compromising and degrading influences which threaten human societies” (No. 2224). Parents, thus, should take care that Halloween celebrations remain blameless.
Dominican historian Father Augustine Thompson wrote an insightful reflection on Halloween for Our Sunday Visitor in 2000. In it, he judged Halloween practices harmless, if parents exercise prudence, forbidding anything that goes beyond traditional games, “dressing up” and “trick or treating.” An Internet search for “Father Augustine Thompson” will quickly lead to this worthwhile article.
And from one of our Parish Resources columnists, Anne Neuberger, another perspective»
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