TCA Life for May/June 2016

Life Teen Mass

Q. What exactly is a Life Teen Mass? I hear that it is very charismatic and that they do odd things liturgically. My grandkids are getting to the age where they might go to something like that, and I am not sure what to tell their parents. Not trying to interfere, but if it is not going to feed their faith, then I want to warn them.

Ruth, Naples, Fla.

A. A Life Teen Mass is typically a Sunday evening Mass at your parish for teenagers and their families. It seeks to appeal to teenagers and get them more involved and active in the liturgy. The music and tone of the liturgy in some places might lean toward the higher energy of charismatic expressions of the Faith, but not necessarily. The Life Teen Mass is one element of a broader effort of the Life Teen organization to carry out the New Evangelization among teenagers. Other activities include camps, retreats, Bible studies and “Life Nights.” Their goals are praiseworthy.

Your question shows sentiments of faith and prudence. You are eager to pass along the Faith in its entirety to your grandchildren, but you want to be prudent and well-informed. These days, that is a good thing!

I think it is always helpful to recommend that parents inform themselves about what their children are doing and who they hang around with. Providing such advice, in my opinion, is not interfering, but is a duty to speak up and remind people of their duties. St. Paul’s letters to the early Christian communities are full of exhortations and reminders, words that strengthened the faith of the early Christians and at times corrected them and pointed them in the right direction. As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16, RSV).

There is plenty of information about Life Teen available on the Internet, either from their official web page at or from peer-reviewed information on Wikipedia. I suggest you and the parents of your grandkids read that information. The Life Teen programs for youths are used in more than 1,500 parishes in 31 countries. Life Teen is incorporated as a not-for-profit 501(c)3 corporation with a board of directors of more than 25 people, including several priests, deacons and one bishop.

Ultimately, the value of the parish Life Teen program will depend largely on who is running it and how closely the local pastor is associated with it. A good and holy pastor who is assisted by able and well-formed laity can use the program for great benefit for young souls. What truly feeds the faith of youngsters is the power of positive example, the study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the reading of the New Testament, daily prayer, frequenting the sacraments of confession and the holy Eucharist, and the generous practice of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. With parents and grandparents supporting the younger generation by the power of good example and generous prayer, the Faith will thrive.

Life Teen was cofounded by Msgr. Dale Fushek in Arizona in 1985. In 2010, Msgr. Fushek pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor assault in connection with allegations of sexual misconduct with youths; subsequently, he was laicized, left the priesthood, started his own nondenominational Church and was declared excommunicated by the archbishop of Phoenix. He is no longer involved with Life Teen.

If the Sunday evening Life Teen Mass and associated programs help your grandchildren seek, find, know and love Jesus Christ, then that is a great thing!

Valid? Licit?

Q. Recently, I have attended Masses where the celebrants deliberately continued to use the word “all” instead of changing the word to “many” in the Eucharistic prayer, as they have been instructed to do. When I asked them privately who gave them the authority to ignore this instruction, they assured me that the change made no sense and, therefore, they did not need to get authority not to change to using the word “many.” Since these priests do this deliberately, what does this do to the validity of their Masses, or are these examples of illicit Masses, or are they neither. You say in your answer to Charles, Portland, Ore. (TCA Life, “Valid and Licit?” November/December 2015), “He [the celebrant] also has to say the words of the consecration for validity.” Does this mean every word or just certain words?

Albert, via e-mail

A. Change is hard for most people, so you should not be surprised that after 40 years of saying “for you and for all” some priests have a hard time saying “for you and for many.” If the priest says “for all” and not “for many” the Mass is still valid in my opinion, though not licit. I maintain that it is still valid because those very words, that previous translation, was valid and licit just five years ago. However, if the priest were deliberately disobedient, how will he be able to encourage his parishioners to follow the example of Jesus’ humble obedience in their journey toward holiness? To me, that is the bigger issue.

Speaking to members and consultors of the Vox Clara Committee on April 28, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI observed: “Many will find it hard to adjust to unfamiliar texts after nearly 40 years of continuous use of the previous translation. The change will need to be introduced with due sensitivity, and the opportunity for catechesis that it presents will need to be firmly grasped. I pray that in this way any risk of confusion or bewilderment will be averted and the change will serve instead as a springboard for a renewal and a deepening of Eucharistic devotion all over the English-speaking world.”

The most recent English translation (2010) of the most recent edition of the Roman Missal (2000) came into use on the first Sunday of Advent, Nov. 27, 2011. While there was some opposition to the new translation before it came into use, for the most part it has been well received by the faithful with a willing and cooperative spirit.

Most priests have gotten used to it as well. Such a calm reception of changes in the language of the liturgy might not have been the case 40 years ago when we were not accustomed to new versions of software, smartphones, laptops, tablets and apps on a yearly basis. These days, in a connected world, we are used to improvements and versions 2.0 quickly following version 1.0.

May a Catholic Marry an Orthodox?

Q. Dear Father Rocky: Thanks for your work on Relevant Radio! May a Catholic marry an Orthodox? I would not convert to Orthodoxy, but there is a good chance that any children would be raised in the Orthodox Church. Would that impact my standing as a Catholic? May I still attend Catholic Mass?

Stella, via e-mail

A. Stella, thank you for your kind words about Relevant Radio. Thanks be to God, Relevant Radio now broadcasts on 54 stations in 27 states, coast to coast, 24/7/365. Many, many souls are being helped on a daily basis to know their faith more deeply and practice it with greater fervor and generosity.

As I pen these words, the Holy Father’s meeting with the Patriarch of Moscow is just six days away. The entire People of God — all of the baptized — yearn for the day when all Christians will be united in the one true Church which Jesus founded. Catholics and Orthodox have been disunited for close to 1,000 years, and we all need to pray and work toward unity.

Yes, a Catholic may validly marry an Orthodox with the proper dispensation from his or her bishop, but the Catholic party must promise to do all in his or her power to raise the children in the Catholic Church. The Code of Canon Law specifies:

“Without express permission of the competent authority, a marriage is prohibited between two baptized persons of whom one is baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it after baptism and has not defected from it by a formal act and the other of whom is enrolled in a Church or ecclesial community not in full communion with the Catholic Church.

“The local ordinary can grant a permission of this kind if there is a just and reasonable cause. He is not to grant it unless the following conditions have been fulfilled: 1. the Catholic party is to declare that he or she is prepared to remove dangers of defecting from the faith and is to make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power so that all offspring are baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church; 2. the other party is to be informed at an appropriate time about the promises which the Catholic party is to make, in such a way that it is certain that he or she is truly aware of the promise and obligation of the Catholic party; 3. both parties are to be instructed about the purposes and essential properties of marriage which neither of the contracting parties is to exclude” (Canons 1124-1125).

Baptism Bonanza!

Q. It is my understanding that baptism removes original sin and fills the individual’s soul with sanctifying grace. According to St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, the Holy Spirit gives the individual “every spiritual blessing in the heavens” (1:3). My thinking is the Holy Spirit gives these blessings like a package at baptism that includes the seven spiritual gifts (see Is 11:2-3) and the nine charismatic gifts (1 Cor 12:8-10). Of course, the package of gifts could also include other things such as organizational or listening skills. It makes sense to me that the individual would get all these gifts at baptism, since the other six sacraments increase their effectiveness. Plus, it is up to the individual to develop each of these gifts during their life. Am I on the right track in believing like St. Paul that each individual gets all his or her gifts at baptism?

Donald, via e-mail

A. Without a doubt, the Sacrament of Baptism brings extraordinary gifts of grace to the one who is baptized. By baptism, a person becomes an adopted child of God and a member of the Church; all of his or her personal sins, and original sin, are forgiven, as well as the punishment due to the sins; and an indelible mark is imprinted on his or her soul. The Catechism expresses this reality in these words:

“By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin. In those who have been reborn nothing remains that would impede their entry into the Kingdom of God, neither Adam’s sin, nor personal sin, nor the consequences of sin, the gravest of which is separation from God” (No. 1263).

Also, “Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte ‘a new creature,’ an adopted son of God, who has become a ‘partaker of the divine nature,’ member of Christ and coheir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit. The Most Holy Trinity gives the baptized sanctifying grace, the grace of justification: – enabling them to believe in God, to hope in him, and to love him through the theological virtues; – giving them the power to live and act under the prompting of the Holy Spirit through the gifts of the Holy Spirit; – allowing them to grow in goodness through the moral virtues. Thus the whole organism of the Christian’s supernatural life has its roots in Baptism” (Nos. 1265-1266).

While the Catechism specifically mentions the “gifts of the Holy Spirit” which are enumerated in the reference to Isaiah you cited above (11:2-3: wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord), it does not tell us that each baptized person receives all of the nine charismatic gifts cited in First Corinthians. So let’s take a closer look at those verses: “To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit;to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues” (12:8-10). St. Paul is not saying that everyone gets every gift, and clearly they do not. But one gets this gift, and another gets that gift, and some get extras, all according to God’s wisdom and design.

A Serious Worry

Q. My daughter went to confession a while back in order to be reconciled with the Church after an abortion. She remembers that the priest did not say anything about the excommunication she thinks she received for the act. Now she is wondering if the penance was valid. It is really bothering her, but she is afraid to ask our pastor because she does not want him knowing about her confessed sin. It is none of his business.

Anonymous, Indianapolis, Ind.

A. The confession was valid, the excommunication was lifted, and your daughter deserves some peace of mind. Your daughter has received valid absolution and forgiveness for her sins. She does not need to tell anyone about it, but I think it is helpful that you have raised the question here because with Pope Francis’ recent statement that all priests will be able to forgive the sin of abortion in the Year of Mercy, many people are wondering if their previous sacramental confession of this sin was valid.

Yes! The confession was valid, even if the penitent knew nothing about the excommunication, and even if the priest knew nothing about the excommunication (unlikely) because, by virtue of the Code of Canon Law in effect since 1983, Canon 1357 capacitated any confessor to do so.

Remote Preparation

Q. Not sure how to write this properly, but my job is taking me to a place where it will be very difficult for me to attend Mass in English for several months, let alone go to confession. I am told that the priest in the remote location does not speak English. What do you suggest I do? I know I need to go to confession to receive the Eucharist properly.

Name withheld by request, via e-mail

A. Thank you for your question. It is wonderful that you are thinking ahead! Even if you cannot attend Mass in English, please make every effort to attend Sunday Mass no matter what the language. You can bring with you printed resources to follow the Mass, or you can follow it on any number of Catholic apps for your mobile devices, including the Relevant Radio app which provides the readings of the day in English, as well as Prayers Before and After Mass.

While it is a great benefit to have a confessor in English, your confession would still be valid if you went to a confession to a priest who cannot speak English. Do the best you can and God will do the rest. And, finally, thank you for your concern about receiving the holy Eucharist both properly and fruitfully. The Church asks us to keep the one hour fast from food and beverage before Communion and to be in the state of grace when we receive holy Communion. For that reason, the Church heartily recommends the practice of frequent confession. Pope Francis goes every two weeks!

Communion for non-Catholics?

Q. Could you please explain why non-Catholics are not allowed to receive holy Communion when attending Mass. A Lutheran friend of mine said she often receives holy Communion when she attends Mass with her daughter and her family. I tried to explain that it is not allowed and she got quite upset. Maybe if she sees it in print from a priest she will believe me and stop.

Helene S., via email

A. Perhaps we can find a better way to explain it so your Lutheran friend will not get so upset? It is true that in normal circumstances — Sunday or weekday Mass — non-Catholic Christians are not supposed to receive holy Communion in the Catholic Church. But there are exceptions as noted in Canon 844.4: “If the danger of death is present or if, in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or conference of bishops, some other grave necessity urges it, Catholic ministers administer (penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick) licitly also to other Christians not having full communion with the Catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed.”

Why this restriction? When a person receives holy Communion in a Catholic Church, not only are they receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ, but they are also making a statement that they believe and accept all that the Catholic Church teaches and that they are “in communion” with the Church. Many times people do not understand that second part because it has never been explained to them. If by some grace the person does, in fact, “believe and confess all that the Church believes and teaches,” then they are truly Catholic in their mind and heart and should formalize that situation by taking the next step and joining the Catholic Church.

It is completely understandable that a non-Catholic Christian who believes that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior would really want to receive holy Communion, would really want to be united to Jesus Christ. However, we should patiently explain that there is more to it than that when they receive Communion. If they really, really want to receive holy Communion in the Catholic Church under normal circumstances, then they should join the Catholic Church which is open to all — young and old, rich and poor, man and woman, saint and sinner.

Everyone is welcome, but in order to come into the banquet, you must first step through the door — you cannot remain outside.

Bow or genuflect when entering the pew?

Q. I volunteer at our parish elementary school. At our weekly school Masses, the children do not bow to the altar before entering their pews. When I asked about this, I was told that since the Eucharist is not on the altar, we don’t need to bow. (Our tabernacle is in our chapel, not near the altar.) Should they be bowing before entering their pews or is this not necessary? I know you cite the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) often on matters of form, but I could not find any directive on this when searching online.

Diane Brunner, via e-mail

A. If the tabernacle with the holy Eucharist is not located in the sanctuary, the children should not genuflect, but they should still make a bow to the altar as a sign of reverence and acknowledgement that they have entered into a sacred space.

Although you will not find a specific instruction in the GIRM regarding the appropriate gesture of reverence when the faithful enter a pew, you will find numerous instructions on this matter for all ministers actively participating in the liturgy. And since custom is the best interpreter of the law, it’s best to stick with the usual custom.

Briefly, if the tabernacle is in the sanctuary, all ministers (priests, acolytes, lectors, etc.) make a genuflection to the tabernacle upon entering and leaving the sanctuary, unless encumbered by a processional cross, candles or thurible. If the tabernacle is not present in the sanctuary, they bow to the altar (see GIRM, no. 274).

It has always been the custom that the faithful make a genuflection upon entering the pew if the tabernacle is visible in the sanctuary, just as the ministers are instructed to do. Likewise, following the example of the ministers, if the tabernacle is not present, they simply bow in reverence to the altar. These signs of reverence do more good for us than they do for God.

Penalties and punishments?

Q. There seem to be a lot of different penalties and punishments in the Code of Canon Law. Can you tell me what they all are and why and when they would be imposed by the Church?

Charles Wright, Dallas, Texas

A. You write from the great state of Texas, and did you know that the penal code of the Church (canon law) is nothing compared to the penal code of the State of Texas! For comparison, just check out these two links: and

The Code of Canon Law has only 88 canons devoted to the penal code (about 10 pages), while the state of Texas has 373 pages.

Your question demands more space and time than suitable for this format, but the topic might make a good article for a future edition of this magazine. Nevertheless, I will offer at least a short answer to your question.

There are two sections of the penal code in canon law. The first deals with delicts (crimes) and penalties (punishments) in general, while the second specifies the penalties for specific crimes.

Delicts (crimes) according to canon law are the same as sins, although not all sins are canonical crimes. To commit a canonical crime, the person must knowingly and willingly commit the offense. Some crimes are worse than others and accordingly merit stronger penalties. The most severe penalty is excommunication — the prohibition of receiving the sacraments until the criminal has repented — while the lightest penalty would be a warning or a temporary suspension of some privilege or right.

The purpose of penal law in the Church is to dissuade members of the faithful of acting in such a way as to place their soul in jeopardy of eternal perdition. Penalties are intended to provide restitution, rehabilitation and safeguarding of the public order.

Rev. Francis Hoffman, J.C.D., Executive Director of Relevant Radio. Follow him on his Facebook page “Father Rocky.”