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Q. As a music director I attend Mass three times on Sunday. Am I allowed to receive Communion more than once?
— N.W., Racine, Wis.
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
According to official norms, a Catholic may receive Communion a second time on a given day if he or she participates in two Masses that are not celebrated in immediate succession and that are truly distinct celebrations of the Eucharist. One of the purposes of this norm is to assist in avoiding the impression that the more times one attends Mass and receives Communion on the same day the better. It is the quality of one’s attendance at the liturgy, rather than the quantity, that matters most.
The Shroud of Turin
Q. What is the latest Church thinking on the Shroud of Turin?
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reflects on the valuable contribution sacred images can make to our liturgical worship. “All the signs in the liturgical celebrations are related to Christ: as are the sacred images of the holy Mother of God and of the saints are well.… They make manifest the ‘cloud of witnesses’ … to whom we are united, above all in sacramental celebrations” (No. 1161).
Pope Benedict XVI made a similar comment on May 5, 2010, during his weekly General Audience, when he remarked on the visit he had paid to venerate the Shroud of Turin the week before: “That sacred cloth can nourish and foster faith, can reinvigorate Christian devotion because it is an incentive … to contemplate the Paschal Mystery, the heart of the Christian message.”
The Eucharist stands at the heart of everything Catholics believe, and anything is valuable that brings us closer to the mystery of our Savior’s death and resurrection. The Shroud of Turin has undergone numerous scientific tests – some reported in prestigious journals – and these appear to have moved some very skeptical minds, but that is beside the point. Ultimately, the value of any relic must be determined by whether it draws us closer to the Eucharist.
Using General Absolution?
Q. I wonder if in the future the Church will allow general absolution in the communal celebration of the Sacrament of Confession. It would make it easier on scrupulous individuals such as myself and perhaps have the effect of bringing more people back to the sacrament.
W.R., via email
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D
In his Decree on the Rite of Penance in 1973, Pope Paul VI taught that “individual, integral confession and absolution remain the only ordinary way for the faithful to reconcile themselves with God and the Church, unless physical or moral impossibility excuses from this kind of confession.” This norm is included in the Code of Canon Law (see Canon 960).
There may be grave circumstances (great danger, imminent death, men going into battle) in which private confession is unavailable, or when there are insufficient confessors to hear confessions within a reasonable length of time. General absolution may then be given.
The Church strictly regulates the use of general absolution. Its use must be approved by the bishop of the diocese. If in an emergency a priest gives general absolution, he must report that act to the bishop. Anyone who in the state of mortal sin receives general absolution must go to private confession at the first opportunity. General absolution may not be given simply because the number of penitents will greatly extend the time of confession.
I doubt that widespread use of general absolution would “make it easier” for persons suffering from scruples. Those persons need the counsel and direction which they can only receive through private confession. If frequent general absolution were available, more people might take part than now go to confession. But fewer would go to private confession, which is far more spiritually beneficial.
Why a Skull?
Q. Could you please tell me the significance of the skull that appears at the base of some religious statues?
M.C., via email
A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
The skull was a common motif in paintings featuring the great saints because it was a symbol of asceticism. It was not uncommon for early (and even later) monks, ascetics and mystics to keep a skull in their cells or rooms as a potent reminder of mortality.
A number of saints are traditionally depicted with a human skull nearby: Francis of Assisi, Jerome and Mary Magadalene, to cite some of the best known. The human skull in religious iconography is also a stark reminder of our mortality (“memento mori,” “remember you must die”), and as no one knows when he will die, it is necessary that we are always prepared and use the means to remain in the state of grace.
Catholic View of Mormonism
Q. What is the Catholic Church’s position regarding Mormonism?
The Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recently declared Mormon belief in Baptism to be so essentially different from the Catholic (or, indeed, Christian) understanding of the sacrament, that Mormon baptism could not be considered valid.
What, one might ask, are these differences? They are many, but chief among them is the Mormon view of the Trinity. The Christian belief in original sin, which the Church of Latter-day Saints denies, is another issue.
What are the practical consequences of the Catholic Church’s judgment? The Church’s decision may seem harsh, but the reality is quite the opposite. A Mormon who wishes to become Catholic must undergo the same instruction as any non-Catholic. Then, instead of simply making a profession of faith, the Mormon candidate must submit to a new baptism. A Mormon who wishes to marry a Catholic must seek a special dispensation.
The Church’s statement about Mormon baptism makes no judgment about individual Mormons, whom the Church recognizes and honors as hard working, conscientious and committed to the poor and outcast members of society. We should be proud to build on what unites us, and pray to overcome what – sadly – divides us.
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