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Distracted at Mass
Q. I find myself constantly distracted at Mass by other people's children and by people who are talking and fidgeting. What can I do to avoid letting other people distract me at Mass?
-- Gertrude, via e-mail
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
The problem of having to deal with distractions at Mass is something that all of us have to deal with. It is not a good idea, except in the more extreme circumstances, to draw parents' attention to the distracting behavior of their children. Children who are not adequately trained to behave with a modicum of decorum in church are not likely to change due to your intervention. Raising objections to the behavior of people themselves will be an equally unrewarding experience.
The best way to deal with distractions is not to fight them. Let them roll over you and practice patience, especially at those moments when you are feeling most irritated. This may seem like a rather inane and superficial piece of advice. But it is the only way to avoid letting Mass be ruined for you. You can also pray for those who irritate you the most. Prayer also helps us to have a more sympathetic attitude toward our fellow worshipers, whose problems in life are mostly hidden from us.
Q. My sister had a wake with Rosary for her dead husband, and then a Mass while he was in a casket. He then was cremated as he had wanted. He wanted his ashes sprinkled around, near a lake.
I do not think this is permissible. My sister says priests she has talked to about this disagree. My pastor says the ashes must be buried.
I looked up Catholic cremation on the Internet; one website said the ashes cannot be sprinkled around but must be buried in a proper place or in a container buried at sea. It also said the ashes must not be kept for long periods of time without burial. My brother-in-law died a month and a half ago, and my sister still has his ashes in an urn in her house.
My sister has a burial plot next to mine here where she could put her husband's ashes, but she thinks she should do the sprinkling as her husband wanted. Do you know what the Church teaches about this?
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
Cremated remains should be piously buried, not sprinkled around. They are to be treated with the same respect given to a dead body, so it is fitting that they be buried within a reasonable period of time. Though canonical legislation does not specify the amount of time, common sense suggests burial should take place "without delay."
According to an official document from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments -- "Order for Funeral, Liturgical Norms on Cremation, Appendix 2" -- the accepted practice is this: "The cremated remains of a body should be treated with the same respect given to the human body from which they come. This includes the use of a worthy vessel to contain the ashes, the manner in which they are carried, the care and attention to appropriate placement and transport, and the final disposition.
"The cremated remains should be buried in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum or columbarium. The practice of scattering cremated remains on the sea, from the air, or on the ground, or keeping cremated remains in the home of a relative or friend of the deceased are not the reverent disposition that the Church requires. Whenever possible, appropriate means for recording with dignity the memory of the deceased should be adopted, such as a plaque or stone which records the name of the deceased" (no. 417).
Can Prayer Change the Past?
Q. An acquaintance asked me, "If prayers can alter the future, can they also change the past?" I replied that God is outside of time, and He holds everything in the eternal now. Therefore, He could conceivably take into consideration all prayers offered in regard to a particular person or event.
Is my answer reasonable?
Robert J. Schwenk, Silver Spring, Md.
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D:
Your answer is entirely reasonable.
You will find an excellent discussion of God's being outside time, and some of the implications of that reality for our lives, in "Mere Christianity," by the Anglican Christian apologist C.S. Lewis (see book 4, chapter 3). Lewis points out that because God stands outside time, He can use our prayers before, during and even after the time they are needed by others. Knowing this opens for us vast vistas with regard to our intercessory prayers.
Lewis does note, however, that it doesn't work for us to try to pray for an outcome of events in the past that we already know did not take place. In that case, he says, we could not pray with faith for what we desire: "Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you shall receive" (Mt 21:22, emphasis added).
Q. When I was at Mass on Aug. 15 of last year, the day was not even mentioned as the feast of the Assumption. I believe that a few years ago, this feast was at least celebrated on the preceding Sunday. This year, absolutely nothing. Is this holiday abolished?
A similar thing is happening for the feast of the Ascension and Corpus Christi, not to mention the feasts of Sts. Joseph, Peter and Paul. Why strip our Catholic Church of all the beauty, traditions and celebrations?
Joseph Kovacic, Colonial Heights, Va.
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
The feast has not been abolished, but the obligation to attend Mass on Aug. 15 has been dropped if Aug. 15 falls on a Saturday or Monday. If it falls on a Sunday, then the feast is celebrated on that Sunday.
In accordance with canon law and the approval of the Holy See, the U.S. bishops decreed in 1992 that whenever Jan. 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, or Aug. 15, the solemnity of the Assumption, or Nov. 1, the solemnity of All Saints, falls on a Saturday or on a Monday, the precept to attend Mass is abrogated.
Still later, in 1999, in accordance with the provisions of canon law and the approval of the Holy See, the U.S. bishops decreed:
"The ecclesiastical provinces of the United States may transfer the Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ from Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter to the Seventh Sunday of Easter according to the following procedure: the decision of each ecclesiastical province to transfer the Solemnity of the Ascension is to be made by the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the bishops of the respective ecclesiastical province" (emphasis in the original).
With respect to the solemnities of St. Joseph (March 19) and Sts. Peter and Paul (June 29), both are holy days in the universal liturgical calendar of the Church. But the episcopal conference of each country is free to choose which holy days will be obligatory in their territory. In the United States, neither solemnity is a holy day of obligation.
As to your final question: "Why strip our Catholic Church of all the beauty, traditions and celebrations?" I could only speculate, which would not be appropriate in this space. Yet I do note a tinge of sadness in your complaint, and that sadness is understandable.
It is up to you, then, to keep alive a profound awareness and appreciation for the richness and rhythm of the liturgical calendar. If you commit yourself to attending daily Mass, and if you enrich that experience by participating in the liturgy with your Daily Roman Missal in hand, you will likely spread the news to others and turn this situation into an opportunity for evangelization!.
Q. Could you please tell me whether the word "Jehovah" is in the Catholic Bible? It is used in some places in Protestant versions to name God, but where they use the term, Catholic Bibles seem to use the word "Lord" instead.
Please explain why "Jehovah" is not used in Catholic prayer. If "Jehovah" isn't used in the Catholic Vulgate, is it proper to use the term to address God in praise songs?
Frank Maspero, San Antonio, Texas
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D.:
For the proper name of God, the Old Testament uses the sacred tetragrammaton (literally, "four letters") in Hebrew that we transliterate in English as YHWH (or, using an alternate form of transliteration, JHVH). Ancient Hebrew writing contained only consonants and did not record vowel sounds. These were supplied by oral tradition.
However, the name of God came to be considered by the ancient Jews as too sacred to speak aloud. So, when they read Scripture, as a sign of reverence they would not say YHWH; they would substitute for it the divine title "Lord" (in Hebrew, Adonai). The Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures used by Greek-speaking Jews throughout the world (and by the early Christians), made the same kind of substitution, using the Greek term for Lord (kyrios).
Consequently, over time, though the four consonants of the tetragrammaton were maintained in Hebrew scriptural texts, the oral tradition of the correct vowels (and thus the correct pronunciation) of the word was lost.
At the beginning of the 17th century, the translators of the King James Version of the Bible, which many Protestants still use today, followed a few earlier biblical scholars in attempting to make a complete word out of YHWH by adding the vowels "e," "o" and "a" to the JHVH form of the word (JeHoVaH). Today scholars agree that this move was a mistake. The rendering Yahweh is probably closer to the original Hebrew pronunciation.
YHWH is, for the Jews, even today, a sacred name. Out of consideration for their sensitivity at this point, and following the ancient custom, most Catholic Bibles and some Protestant Bibles translate YHWH as "Lord." However, one Catholic Bible, the Jerusalem Bible, uses the word Yahweh wherever the tetragrammaton occurs in the text of the Old Testament books.
In my opinion, because "Jehovah" is a faulty transliteration, we should not use it in acts of worship.
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