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.
Answer to prayers
Q. After some recent illnesses and surgery, I have a hard time believing in the power of prayer. It seemed that none of my prayers were answered. Why does God answer some prayers and not others?
A. Here’s a reply from OSV columnist Msgr. M. Francis Mannion:
I would say three things about this. First, God always answers our prayers. He does not always answer them in the way we expect and in the way we have predetermined. And it is sometimes only months or years later that we realize that God was, in fact, at work for our salvation in a particular circumstance.
Second, God often answers us indirectly. He does not, for the most part, respond to us like a bolt from the blue. In situations of illness, God works through surgeons, nurses and medical personnel. Every good thing they achieve is an act of God. The consolation we receive from family, friends and neighbors are all signs to us of God's presence.
Third, we should not see the answer to our prayers only within the framework of our mortal lives. The ultimate "bad thing" (from a human point of view) is that we all die. We often see the death of a family member or friend as God's abandonment. But in truth, if we are men and women of good will, God always saves us from the ultimate disaster of death.
Gifts/Fruits of the Spirit
Q. What’s the difference between gifts of the Holy Spirit and fruits of the Holy Spirit?
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
A virtue is a good habit, a constant and “firm disposition to do the good” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1803). We can – and must – cultivate virtue by our own effort. However, when we reach the end of our natural, human ability, we must turn to God for assistance.
Among the divine help we receive as we strive for holiness are the gifts of the Holy Spirit (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, fear of the Lord). They “complete and perfect the virtue of those who receive them,” making the faithful “docile in readily obeying divine inspirations” (No. 1831). They are called “gifts” because we cannot achieve on our own the degree of goodness they confer.
The fruits of the Spirit (charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity) are additional gifts, “perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us” (No. 1832).
The Introduction to John’s Gospel speaks of the “grace in place of grace” we have received in Christ (see 1:16). The gifts and fruits of the Spirit are examples of this grace, benefits given to increase our holiness by adding to the moral development we achieve on our own, and the spiritual good we receive from God in baptism.
How Many Witnesses?
Q. How many people witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus?
Charles, via e-mail
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D
Certainly, Simon of Cyrene, who was made to carry Jesus' cross (see Mt 27:32), and the two robbers crucified with Jesus (Mt 27:38) were present.
In addition, St. Luke reports that there were "multitudes who assembled to see the sight [of Jesus crucified]" (23:48, RSV). Furthermore, "all his [Jesus'] acquaintances stood at a distance, including the women who had followed him from Galilee and saw these events" (23:49).
St. Mark specifies certain women who were at the crucifixion: "Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joses, and Salome," in addition to "many other women who had come up with him [Jesus] to Jerusalem" (15:40-41).
St. John also (see 19:25) lists himself, the mother of Our Lord and her sister, and Mary the wife of Clopas.
Finally, recall that the Roman soldiers who executed Jesus, including the centurion, watched as He died (see Lk 23). Some of the Jewish chief priests and scribes were also present, mocking Him as they watched (see Mk 15:31-32).
Wine at Mass
Q. Can homemade wine be used at Mass?
A. Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
Homemade wine may be used at Mass so long as it has been made from grapes. Canon law prescribes "the wine must be natural, made from grapes of the vine, and not corrupt" (Canon 924.3). A classic treatise on moral theology by John A. McHugh and Charles J. Callan further specifies:
"The Eucharistic wine must be made from grapes, and consequently, cherry wine, currant wine, peach wine, blackberry wine, cider, wild grape wine, artificial wine, etc., are insufficient. The wine must also be entire, unadulterated, and uncorrupted" ("Moral Theology," Wagner/Herder, 1958).
Supporting Catholic Schools
Q. I’ve heard a lot recently about Catholic schools closing. What is our responsibility as Catholics to keep those open, especially if we don’t have children going now?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church devotes considerable discussion to society’s obligation to educate its members. “It is incumbent on those who exercise authority to strengthen the values that … encourage [citizens] to put themselves at the service of others. Participation begins with education and culture” (No. 1917). Elsewhere, the text notes society’s responsibility to protect parents’ freedom to “bring [children] up in keeping with the family’s own … religious convictions (No. 2211).
Education, therefore, is extremely important, and Catholic laity play an essential role in “discovering or inventing the means for permeating social, political and economic realities with the demands of Christian doctrine and life” (No. 899). Historically, Catholic schools have been one means to this end.
The obligation to support schools (and how one does so) depends on a school’s worth, and the good one receives from it. Thomas Aquinas taught, “as one person surpasses another, so that which is given to one … surpasses that … allotted to another.” Individuals should similarly support the most worthy institutions, or those providing greater benefit. Schools that educate many (especially underprivileged) students, but are financially distressed, deserve support. However, the degree of support depends on individuals’ interest and resources, and the benefit they perceive they derive.
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