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 email@example.com.
Difficult to Forgive
Q. How does one forgive someone and be around them, knowing that what they are doing is wrong, without feeling one is condoning their wrongdoing?
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
Practicing forgiveness and tolerance without compromising one’s principles is a considerable challenge. Forgiving someone while they continue to do wrong is never a matter of saying, “don’t worry about it; live and let live.” Forgiveness is a matter of letting God be the judge and mentally abiding by God’s judgment — although one may not know what it is. Taking the stance that only God knows what is in the heart and mind of another frees one from being the judge.
At the same time, one should be vigilant lest one do anything to enable the problematic behavior. Of importance also is finding ways of challenging the behavior with respect and letting the other person know that what he or she is doing is not acceptable to you — nor good for him or her, since wrongdoing always wounds the soul.
Miracles and Canonization
Q. If a person prays to three different persons in line for beatification for their intercession for a miracle, and that particular miracle occurs, do all three get saintly “credit” for their intercession for the miracle? If not, how are we to discern which person should be given “credit”?
— Mary Anne Morris, Ormond Beach, Fla.
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church observes, “By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly professing that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace, the Church … sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors” (No. 828).
The Church wants to be certain that the individuals it canonizes are worthy of this distinction, so the canonization process is an exact one, and a miracle attributed to the individual’s intercession is required a required part of the investigation. The New Catholic Encyclopedia observes, “miracles constitute an unequivocable approval given by God to the person an life of the future beatus or saint,” as this demonstrates that the individual “is not only in heaven, but also a powerful intercessor before God in virtue of his merits.”
To determine that an individual is such an intercessor, the “promoter” of her or his cause must prove beyond doubt that a miraculous act was, indeed, the result of his or her intercession. Therefore, to pray to several individuals under consideration for beatification merely confuses the matter. If we are devoted to a particular individual, whose life we found praiseworthy, we should seek the intercession of that person alone.
Finding the Ark of the Covenant?
Q. Has the Church made any efforts to recover the Ark of the Covenant from those who claim they have it? Have they investigated such claims?
K.R., via email
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D
A. The Ark of the Covenant was lost 26 centuries ago. The disposition of the Ark after the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians remains uncertain. It was not accounted among the spoils claimed by the Babylonians (see 2 Kgs 25:13-17), perhaps because it had already been taken from Jerusalem. According to the Second Book of Maccabees, it was saved from destruction by Jeremiah (see 2:5) and hidden on Mount Nebo until, as Jeremiah said, “God gathers his people together again and shows his mercy” (2:7). Beyond that we know nothing for certain.
Various claims have been made over the years by some to be in possession of the Ark or to have seen it, but to date there has been no reason to take them seriously. I know of no investigation by the Church to find the Ark. After all, why should the Church seek possession of the Ark of the Covenant, if it still exists? The original Ark of the Covenant, if it has survived over the centuries, belongs to the Jewish people.
The true and eternal Ark of the Covenant is our Blessed Mother, who bore the Incarnate Son of God in her womb. She is always with us. The connection is most apparent in the visitation narrative in Luke, which exhibits several parallels with 2 Samuel and the journey of the Ark to Jerusalem under King David (see Lk 1:39 and 2 Sm 6:2; Lk 1:43 and 2 Sm 6:9; and Lk 1:41 and 2 Sm 6:16; see also the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 2058, 2130, 2578, 2594).
The First Commandment
Q. Where can I find information on the Catholic teachings on the First Commandment and “graven images”? Various Christian denominations have differing opinions on the topic. My specific question involves taxidermy (animal heads) and if it would be considered a “graven image” in Church teaching.
T.G, Virginia Beach, Va.
A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
Whenever you have a question about the Ten Commandments, the first place to start is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, for here specifically Nos. 2129 to 2132. Since I cannot improve upon what the magisterium teaches in this regard, let me copy the pertinent text for your consideration:
“Already in the Old Testament, God ordained or permitted the making of images that pointed symbolically toward salvation by the incarnate Word: so it was with the bronze serpent, the ark of the covenant, and the cherubim” (No. 2130).
“Basing itself on the mystery of the incarnate Word, the seventh ecumenical council at Nicaea (787) justified against the iconoclasts the veneration of icons — of Christ, but also of the Mother of God, the angels, and all the saints. By becoming incarnate, the Son of God introduced a new ‘economy’ of images” (No. 2131).
“The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, ‘the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype,’ and ‘whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it.’ The honor paid to sacred images is a ‘respectful veneration,’ not the adoration due to God alone” (No. 2132).
As for your particular concern with taxidermy, it would only be considered a “graven image” if people venerated or adored the trophy, since it only represents an animal, and does not represent or lead us directly to God. But I don’t think that’s what most people do!
Religious Habits in Public
Q. When I was a child, seeing a nun or a sister was not that unusual. Now I almost never see any. Where have they all gone?
The Church’s Code of Canon Law in effect until 1983 stated that members of religious communities were obliged to wear the habit of their community inside the religious house and in public. In the United States, exceptions were made for religious priests, who were instructed to wear their communities’ habits within their religious houses, and the clothing of diocesan clergy in public. The New Catholic Encyclopedia states that, at the same time, members of some women’s religious communities in the United States, Mexico and Great Britain were allowed to wear modified religious habits — or even lay dress — in public.
The Second Vatican Council encouraged religious communities to examine, evaluate and, if necessary, modify elements of their lives that, by 20th-century standards, might have become unsafe (such as veils of religious habits that would impede vision while driving), unhygienic or merely eccentric.
Forty years after the council, debate continues whether members of some religious communities interpreted these directives too broadly. Many have abandoned all but the smallest tokens of external religious identity, and cannot be readily identified in public. At the same time, members of newer foundations have adopted or re-embraced traditional habits not seen in public for some time.
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