By Father Francis Hoffman - The Catholic Answer, 9/1/2011
Q. Being that the sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacrament of the Eucharist are inseparable, how is it that the Communion wafers that the congregation receives are transubstantiated to the body, blood, soul and divinity of Our Lord when the priest only raises one host during the re-presentation of the Last Supper? Are the Communion wafers transubstantiated en masse someplace outside of the church — perhaps, where they are made?
Michael MacKensie, Batavia, Ill.
A. The Eucharistic bread that is placed on the corporal (linen cloth that can be folded four times into nine equal squares) on top of the altar is what the priest consecrates at Mass, not just the large host he shows to the congregation. Normally, the hosts are placed in a vessel made of precious material, called the ciborium. The priest raises one host to show the people, because he could not possibly show all the hosts that have been consecrated. Any consecrated hosts that remain after Mass are kept safely and securely in the tabernacle. At later Masses, the faithful may be given holy Communion from what was consecrated at that Mass or at an earlier Mass.
Q. Is it appropriate to sing military hymns (“The Army Song,” “The Marines’ Hymn,” “U.S. Air Force Hymn” or the “Navy Hymn”) as a recessional at Mass? I attend a church in the Austin, Texas, area, where it has been sung every Sunday since the Iraq war started, including first Communions, Lent, holy days, etc. It leaves me cold when I leave Mass singing “And the Army Goes Rolling Along.”
Name Withheld by request, via e-mail
A. I have heard patriotic songs at Mass before, usually during the recessional, such as “America the Beautiful” or “My Country ’tis of Thee,” and I like them. But I have not heard the military songs that you mention: Army, Air Force, Marines or Navy. They don’t seem to fit at Mass. As for what hymns or songs that are allowed at Mass, that’s up to the U.S. bishops’ conference (USCCB) or the local bishop, as specified in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (see Nos. 48 and 87). A document from the USCCB, “Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship” (2007), discusses in greater depth the role of music at Mass and offers some additional criteria for the selection of music.
If the military hymns you refer to are published in a worship resource approved by the USCCB or by your bishop, then it’s fine. If it’s not, those hymns are not to be sung at Mass.
Q. Recently, someone asked me why the Vatican doesn’t sell all of the treasures in the museums and St. Peter’s and help the poor and the victims of sexual abuse. How should I respond?
Name withheld by request, via e-mail
A. Indeed, how should you respond? With patience and charity. All the money in the world will not help victims of sexual abuse. Only God’s grace and mercy will help them heal their wounds and get on with their lives. That being said, the lawsuits against the Church resulting in billions of dollars of losses have helped us to take far more seriously the scandal of clerical sexual abuse and to address more forthrightly the imprudence of ordaining men who are not suited to the ministry.
All the money in the world will not help the poor, unless we can change unjust regimes and flawed economic systems. There are very different classes of the poor in the world. The urban poor in American cities are a different problem than the agrarian poor in the hills of Mexico. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, ths issue is not only “material poverty, but also the . . . many forms of cultural and religious poverty” (No. 2444).
Who would buy the treasures of the Vatican? Wouldn’t they just turn around and run a for-profit museum? Why not keep those proceeds in house so the Church can continue to aid the poor in the world? Please let your friend know that no institution in the world does as much to aid the poor, educate the ignorant and care for the sick and the aged as does the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization on the planet. Last year, Catholic Relief Services USA raised over $80 million of relief funds for the victims of the Haiti earthquake. I don’t know of any other Church organization that offered as much.
Additionally, it is important to recall, that when those art treasures were donated to the Church, the intention of the donors was that they would be available for all to enjoy — rich and poor, educated and illiterate. For a nominal fee, just enough to maintain the facilities, people can access the Vatican museums. Once a month, the museums are open to everyone for free.
Finally, the beauty and magnificence of St. Peter’s Basilica is for the glory and worship of God. We have a duty to give God our best. Recall that it was only Judas who complained that Mary splurged and anointed Jesus’ body with expensive ointment. He complained that it should have been sold and given to the poor. Judas knew the cost of everything and the value of nothing. You might want to remind your friend that Judas was the only one who complained when his friends lavished Jesus with expensive gifts.
Q. This is about a subject that has been on my mind for just a few years, but recently a photo of Pope Benedict XVI struck me enough to prompt me to write. I happened to see a news program which pictured Pope Benedict riding in his open-top car through a crowd of people. He was dressed in what appeared to be a white flowing garment, and he had a large rose-pink hat upon his head. I am sure the hat was to protect him from the sun. In a previous article that I read, it mentioned that Pope Benedict wore rose-colored Ferragamo shoes on formal occasions.
In reflecting on the fact that the Pope is a representative of Christ on Earth — at least the head of Christ’s Church that He founded — I am somewhat disturbed by the rather glamorous looking clothing that His Holiness wears out in public. Christ was poor and so humble. The Gospel reflected on His sending out the 72 with no sandals on their feet (see Lk 10). Poor missionary priests, nuns and brothers are all over the world working among the poor. Frankly, it just bothers me that the Pope dresses so grandly. Tell me that I am way off base — that as head of the Catholic Church, it is expected of him. Maybe someday I can come to terms with it.
Mary B. Quoyeser, New Braunfels, Texas
A. Being pope is not like being the mayor of Chicago. The pope has to dress the part. I looked on the Ferragamo website, and you’re right, those are very expensive shoes! They’re nice looking too. But Pope Benedict’s shoes are actually made by an Italian cobbler named Adriano Stefanelli, who has also made shoes for several Russian Orthodox patriarchs.
I am happy that the Pope is wearing nice clothes and has a good tailor, just as I beamed satisfaction when my father and mother dressed up for dinner on a Saturday night.
I’ll bet if he really could do whatever he wanted to do, he would not choose such finery for himself. But the Pope does not get to do whatever he wants. Perhaps he’d rather be dressed in denim Bavarian lederhosen with suspenders and a grey cardigan sweater? But that just wouldn’t do for the Vicar of Christ on earth.
Perhaps his personal way of living Christian poverty — detachment — is expressed in his willingness to obey and shoulder the burden of the office at age 78? Now he’s 84, and if it were up to him, I’m sure he would rather be living in his country cottage in the south of Germany, playing piano, eating cheese and drinking his favorite orange soda, Fanta.
I don’t know how many garments he has in his wardrobe, but one thing I know for sure: it’s a very limited collection. When he gets up in the morning, he doesn’t have much choice about what he’s going to wear: a white shirt, a white cassock, some white socks, red shoes (can you imagine having to do that?!), and maybe a hat. The hat you mentioned, by the way, is called a saturno in the Italian. And you are right that he wears it on very sunny days.
Still, it is appropriate that the few items he wears be of good quality, to reflect the dignity of his office. Recall that when Jesus was crucified He did not have much, just one seamless cloak. But it was of such fine quality that the soldiers decided to cast lots for it rather than rip it to pieces.
Q. I learned from the Sisters when taking catechism as a young boy some 65 years ago that if the words of consecration were not spoken exactly as required by the Church’s rules that transubstantiation did not take place. Priests would lean over the hosts and were very careful in enunciating each word. We have a foreign priest who invariably leaves out “for you” when consecrating the host. Is this a valid consecrated host?
Guy De Gagne, Moorpark, Calif.
A. It depends. For validity, the celebrant needs to pronounce the words which the Church has prescribed: “TAKE THIS, ALL OF YOU, AND EAT IT: THIS IS MY BODY WHICH WILL BE GIVEN UP FOR YOU.” While pronouncing these words, he must also “intend to do what the Church does.” If by mistake, the priest omits the words “for you,” one could argue that the Sacrament is still valid by the principle of “Ecclesia supplet,” the Church makes up for the defects of the celebrant’s actions. But if the priest deliberately omits those important words, it is possible that it is not valid. Still, I think the most important words of the consecration are “This is my body” and “This is my blood.”
Perhaps you could speak with your foreign priest and let him know about his omission? It is possible that he is not even aware of it.
Q. Lately, it seems everywhere I turn, I see more garbage touting the “Mayan Countdown (Doomsday) Calendar,” even on The History Channel, which perhaps should be called The Future Channel here of late. Assuming the so-called experts are reading a dead language from a long gone people correctly, should Catholics give it any credence? I believe not, but, what am I to say to people who are getting into this thing, even getting freaked out and waiting for the destruction of the planet? This all can’t be good for anyone’s mental stability, but so many of these talking heads with Ph.D. behind their names make it sound so logical to too many people. Even when I remind them of how hysterical a lot of people became over the year 2000, and that Our Lord told us that no one knows the date or the hour, not even Jesus, either they aren’t Christian at all, or they’ve been raised on “the rapture” nonsense, and are predisposed to latch onto anything of this sort. I feel sorry for them, but also a tad angry at the waste of time, and lack of ability to enjoy the day God has given us with all its blessings. Because it will no doubt only intensify between now and the “dreaded” 12/12/12, I really need an answer rather quickly, although I apologize for being so pushy.
God bless and keep you in your most challenging ministry.
Linda H. Maloy, via e-mail
A. For those who seriously believe that the end of the world will happen on Dec. 12, 2012, please ask them to send their life’s savings to Relevant Radio, where I serve as executive director, since they won’t be needing their wealth after that. That should pretty much settle the question. I doubt many will take me up on that offer.
So, how to answer these people? Just tell them the truth. They are superstitious, and that’s nonsense. Future events can only be known through Jesus Christ, and he’s not telling us.
I recall writing an answer to a similar question some months ago, and at that time I suggested the end of the world could not possibly happen before October 2011. That’s the soonest the Chicago Cubs could win the World Series.
Q. My question concerns where to keep my thoughts during prayers, such as the Rosary? I have three choices: think about the Rosary mystery, the words of the prayer or the reason for my prayer. My thoughts keep wandering from one to the other. If I think about the mystery then the words of the prayer might as well be mumbling anything.
Dude, via e-mail
A. Yours is a good concern. You wish to pray well. So congratulations and thank you for your efforts to pray the Rosary. I like your idea: your thoughts could be on the Rosary mystery, or the words of the prayer, or for your intentions, or even a combination of the three. Occasionally your thoughts will wander, and when you catch yourself, try to recover.
The words are never mumbling if your heart and mind are moving toward God. At worst, those words are like background music in a beautiful movie.
Q. I am 19 years old. I am a baptized and confirmed Catholic. However, I have been living with my boyfriend for a year and a half. When I first did this I was certain God would convert him and all would be splendid because God can do it all (if He wants to and when He wants to). He’s a Seventh-day Adventist. Just this month a miracle happened. He said he wants to marry me in the Catholic Church! We haven’t gone in for the interview with the deacon, but I have been wondering if we are supposed to be living separate or chaste until the actual wedding date? Is this something the Church demands of everyone? Because I have heard different stories, I am not sure what to do or think regarding this issue. Can’t wait to hear back.
A. Thank you for your honest and courageous question. Many young people find themselves in a similar situation. We are very happy that you and your fiancé are planning to marry in the Catholic Church. That’s great news! If I were your pastor, I would advise you to live separately and chastely until you get married. If it were not possible to live separately, I would still advise you to live chastely, which means, no premarital sex. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Until you get married. If you still can’t do that, I would encourage you to get married ASAP and make a good confession before you get married.
While cohabitation before marriage is not a canonical impediment to marriage, some pastors will deny marriage in those circumstances. There may be some basis for this.
Please know that I will be praying for you, and so will most of our readers.TCA
Q. I read “Why Does the Church Have So Many Rules?” (January/February) and the sidebar “The Issue of Penalties.” You mention abortion carries the penalty of excommunication. Can someone come back to the fullness of the Catholic Church after a self-imposed excommunication? The Catechism of the Catholic Church (see Nos. 463, 982) seems to imply that all a person has to do is go to confession, be truly contrite and turn away from that sin. Is that correct, or is there more to it?
Name withheld by request
A. There’s just a little bit more to it.
In order for the penalty to be lifted from someone who incurred excommunication because of an abortion, it is enough for the person to be sorry and go to confession to a priest who has the faculties to lift the penalty of excommunication and to grant absolution. In some dioceses of our country, the bishop does not delegate to his priests the faculty of lifting the excommunication but reserves it to himself. Each priest/confessor will know if he has or does not have the authority to lift the excommunication. It may be helpful to remember that the penalty of excommunication for procured abortion does not apply to those under age 18 nor does it apply to those who did not know that abortion incurs the penalty of excommunication.
Q. How do I respond to someone (a non-Catholic) when they say that natural family planning is just “Catholic contraception” because it is still trying to prevent pregnancy?
A. The moral evaluation of natural family planning vis-à-vis artificial contraception requires a bit of knowledge about the morality of human acts. The Church teaches that the morality of an action depends on the object, the intention and the circumstances. If the object is evil, the action is always evil, no matter the intention or the circumstances. However, even if the object of the action is good, but the intention is evil, then the action itself is bad.
Theoretically, natural family planning could be sinful if it were employed for entirely selfish purposes. In that sense, your non-Catholic friend might be on to something.
But artificial contraception is always sinful, always intrinsically evil, even if it is used for a good intention. The evil of artificial contraception is found in the object of the act: it dissociates the procreative from the unitive aspect of human sexuality. The fundamental purpose of the sexual union is procreation; only secondarily does human sexuality express love and affection. (The purpose of marriage, however, is twofold: procreation and mutual help of the spouses. So human sexuality is part of marriage, but not all of marriage.)
Delaying, preventing or avoiding pregnancy is not necessarily wrong when spouses use means which respect the natural law, such as natural family planning. In this regard it will be helpful to reprint two short sections from the epic encyclical on the transmission of human life, Humanae Vitae, by Pope Paul VI in 1968.
“If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus controlling birth in a way which does not in the least offend the moral principles which we have just explained” (No. 16).
“This particular doctrine, often expounded by the magisterium of the Church, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act.
“The reason is that the fundamental nature of the marriage act, while uniting husband and wife in the closest intimacy, also renders them capable of generating new life — and this as a result of laws written into the actual nature of man and of woman. And if each of these essential qualities, the unitive and the procreative, is preserved, the use of marriage fully retains its sense of true mutual love and its ordination to the supreme responsibility of parenthood to which man is called. We believe that our contemporaries are particularly capable of seeing that this teaching is in harmony with human reason” (no. 12).
Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D., serves as Senior Director — Mission, Programming, Development for Relevant Radio, the Catholic talk radio network.
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