TCA Life for September/October 2012

Orthodox Sacraments?

Q. I don’t see why receiving any sacraments in an Orthodox Church would be valid. Wasn’t the Orthodox Church excommunicated? If so, it would seem that the apostolic succession would have been broken. Their bishops would have no authority to appoint new priests. 

Peter Holtz, Hicksville, N.Y. 

A. It’s true, the head of the Orthodox Church was excommunicated almost a thousand years ago. In 1054, Pope Leo IX excommunicated the Patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Cerularius, whereupon Michael Cerularius returned the favor and excommunicated the Pope. 

Nevertheless, the seven sacraments are still valid in the Catholic Church and in the Orthodox churches. Excommunication does not necessarily rupture the apostolic succession nor does it render all sacraments invalid. For instance, an excommunicated priest may still validly hear a confession if the penitent is in danger of death and no other confessor is available. 

The validity of a sacrament does not depend on the personal qualities of the minister. “The sacraments act ex opere operato (literally: ‘by the very fact of the action’s being performed’), i.e., by the saving work of Christ. . . . From the moment that a sacrament is celebrated in accordance with the intention of the Church, the power of Christ and his Spirit acts in and through it, independently of the personal holiness of the minister. Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1128). 

Jesus Christ instituted seven sacraments, and all seven are valid in the Catholic and Orthodox churches because the apostolic succession has not been broken. Some sacraments, which do not require the agency of a validly ordained priest or bishop (do not require apostolic succession), are valid in the non-Catholic Christian communities — for instance, baptism and matrimony are valid in the Protestant communities. But the sacraments which require the sacred power of a validly ordained minister (Eucharist, confession, anointing of the sick, confirmation, holy orders) are only valid in churches which have maintained the apostolic succession. This is found in the 22 rites of the Catholic Church, and in the Orthodox churches, as well as the Assyrian Church. Most Protestant denominations do not claim to have apostolic succession nor do they think it is necessary, because they do not recognize seven sacraments. Some Protestant assemblies — high Anglicans and some Lutheran communities and other smaller congregations — do claim apostolic succession, but upon further and careful review the Catholic Church has determined that the true apostolic succession was broken by these Christian communities centuries ago. 

Even though the Catholic Church and the Orthodox churches have been in schism since 1054, the Orthodox bishops continued the apostolic succession: their validly ordained bishops validly — but illicitly, we would maintain — consecrated the succeeding bishops. 

Protection from Evil?

Q. My question came to me when some Catholic friends were telling me that I need to anoint with blessed oil and pray over the foster children that come into our family for protection from the sins of their parents. They wanted to know if I ever did it to my adopted daughter. I never did it, but she was baptized. I thought that when she was baptized the sins of the past are removed. I always pray for all the family. What do you know about praying and applying blessed oil for things children inherit from their parents. It does not set well with me. 

Donna, via e-mail 

A. For the record, sacraments are more spiritually powerful than sacramentals. When your adopted daughter was baptized, she received both an exorcism and the anointing with the oil of catechumens on the chest and the chrism on the crown of the head, far more powerful than any other blessed oil. 

The most powerful spiritual protection your adopted children can receive is from the sacraments, chiefly baptism, holy Eucharist, confirmation and confession. It is fine to bless your children with holy water or even with blessed oil from a shrine, but no such sacramental will drive away the “sins of their parents.” The “original sin” we inherit from our first parents, Adam and Eve, is washed away in baptism. 

Searching for a Saint

Q. Hi! Please help me in my search for a specific saint! I know the feast day is between Dec. 12 and Christmas, that the saint’s name is Juana or Juan or a variant, such as Joan, Ione, Jean, Ivan, and that she or he was probably venerated in northern Spain and/or southern France (Basque Country), and that she or he was born before 1500! I have been searching for a long time, and was about to give up, but have hopes you can help me. I am wondering if this saint might have been on the Mozarabic calendar, as opposed to the Latin-rite calendar, but I haven’t been able to find any list of Mozarabic saints.  

Julie Sweet, via e-mail  

A. Who do you think I am, Inspector Clouseau? Not knowing where to begin, I ran to my library and opened Butler’s Lives of the Saints to Volume IV, October to December, and found this entry for Dec. 13: 

“St. Judoc, or Josse (A.D. 668) 

“JUDOC was a son of Juthaël, King of Armorica (Brittany), and brother of that Judicaël who has a cultus in the Diocese of Quimper (France). . . . About the year 636 Judoc withdrew from secular life and, it is said, was ordained a priest in Ponthieu. After a pilgrimage to Rome he eventually settled as a hermit at Runiacum near the mouth of the Canche, later called after him, Saint-Josse. Here he died about the year 668. . . . The saint’s name figures in half-a-dozen old English calendars and he is mentioned in the Roman Martyrology. Chaucer’s Wife of Bath swears ‘by God and by Seint Joce.’” 

I hope that helps. 

Holy Communion and Civil Marriage?

Q. I’m a Catholic, but due to some circumstances with our papers we weren’t able to be married in the Church, and another reason is my partner is not a Catholic. It has been almost three years now that I have not received holy Communion, but I go to church. I heard it’s not OK if you receive holy Communion when you’re not yet married in the Church because you’re not yet obeying the sacrament of the Church. That’s why I don’t do it, but now, I know so many people who have a civil wedding that receive holy Communion every time they go to church. This makes me a little bit confused: What is the real answer for this ... a couple with civil wedding can receive holy Communion or not?  

Marife, via e-mail  

A. You sound like a very good person, and I’ll bet you’ll get to heaven before me! You are humbly obedient to the Church’s indications about marriage: the Church asks you to marry in the Church, and if you do not do so, you should refrain from holy Communion, until you marry in the Church. 

Marriage questions are frequently complex issues. Much of what I want to tell you depends on what you mean by your first statement, “due to some circumstances with our papers.” I suspect you are referring to proper documentation about your status as a resident or citizen or immigrant to the United States. I suppose if those papers were in order, you could go down to the County Court house and get your marriage license and then the local priest would be free to witness your marriage. The fact that your spouse is not Catholic is not an obstacle to a valid marriage. 

Nevertheless, if you truly want your marriage to be recognized in the Church and therefore return to receiving holy Communion, I suggest that you make an appointment with the priest of the church you usually attend, explain your situation to him (as you did in your question) and ask him that he petition from the bishop for the sanatio in radice (retroactive validation) provided for in Canons 1161-1165, with reference to Canon 1123 and 1672 as the case may be. That should fix your problem and allow you to return to the sacraments. While you’re at it, encourage your friends who got a civil marriage to do the same. 

Abstinence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Q. What is the Catholic Church’s current stand/view on not eating meat on Friday. Fifty-two Fridays a year? Only during Lent? Only Good Friday? Age limits? My 87-year-old mother and I go round and round on this several times each year.  

Janet Gebhardt, San Leandro, Calif. 

A. If your 87-year-old mother is not prohibited by her doctor from abstaining from meat, then she should abstain from meat on the Fridays of Lent as well as Ash Wednesday. On all the other Fridays, she can either abstain from meat or choose to perform some other act of penance in memory of Our Lord’s passion. Since she is over 59 years old, she is not obliged to fast on Ash Wednesday or Good Friday. If a solemnity falls on a Friday, the faithful are dispensed from penitential practices that day. 

Singing the Alleluia?

Q. When is the proper time to stand for the singing of the Alleluia that precedes the Gospel reading? Is it at the start of the singing or when the priest stands? 

Here’s the background on my question. In the past, we always stood at the beginning of the Alleluia chorus — as does every other church I’ve ever attended (Catholic or not). Starting several years ago, however, our priests do not stand until the second singing (the cantor sings by him/herself first, then the priest and congregation stand as it is sung a second time). When we got a new priest he stood at first the first week, then did not the second week. When we clustered with another church, another priest stood the first time and hasn’t since. Even when our new bishop celebrated Mass at our church the first time, he stood up, but subsequent times he has not. I believe this is wrong and disrespectful, but I’m told that I should follow the priests’ lead. When I’ve asked the two priests (our former and our current) about this, I feel they’ve been evasive with their answer, as if their behavior was being dictated to them by someone else. When our priest celebrates Mass in the other parish in our cluster, he stands immediately. 

Name withheld by request, via e-mail  

A. We can find the answer in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM). “The faithful should stand . . . for the Alleluia chant before the Gospel” (No. 43). Later, we read, “It [Alleluia] is sung by all while standing and is led by the choir or a cantor, being repeated if this is appropriate” (No. 62). So, the GIRM tells us to stand for the Alleluia, and makes no distinction about first verse, second verse, or to stand only when the priest stands. As soon as you hear the word “Alleluia,” you should stand up. My understanding is that everyone should stand for the Alleluia, as soon as the music starts. The missalettes currently in use, as well as the Roman Missal on the altar, and the personal copies of daily Roman Missals all indicate the same thing: stand for the Alleluia. 

Holding Hands?

Q. I am in a church study of the Mass and the changes. One of the subjects brought up was the holding of hands during the Our Father and how it is not Catholic to do this. I have a very clear memory of being in my childhood church and the priest telling us of changes to the Mass. This would have been during the early 1980s, I believe. At that time, he said that one of the things that was new was the holding of hands during the Our Father. Is it true that this is no longer an acceptable practice? 

I’ve also noticed some people are accepting Communion on the tongue, rather than in the hands. Is one way more correct than the other? 

Lori, Perham, Minn.  

A. In the past, when I have written on the widespread practice of holding hands during the Our Father or praying with hands raised, I have noted that the practice is neither mandated nor prohibited by the GIRM, so I was of the opinion, “let folks do it if they want, but no one can command people to do it.” But recently, with the new translation of the Roman Missal, I noted that one well-respected bishop wrote that since “holding hands during the Our Father or praying with raised hands is not provided for in the GIRM, we should not do it." 

So, it is true that holding hands during the Our Father or praying with hands raised is no longer an acceptable practice in some places. In doubt, do what your parish priest asks you to do, because he will follow the indications of his bishop. 

As for receiving holy Communion, the GIRM (no. 160) states: “The norm established for the Dioceses of the United States of America is that holy Communion is to be received standing, unless an individual member of the faithful wishes to receive Communion while kneeling (Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, March 25, 2004, No. 91). When receiving holy Communion, the communicant bows his or her head before the Sacrament as a gesture of reverence and receives the Body of the Lord from the minister. The consecrated Host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant. When holy Communion is received under both kinds, the sign of reverence is also made before receiving the Precious Blood.” 

Almost There!

Q. First, some background: I am attending RCIA classes with the deep hope of being confirmed in the spring. I was baptized as a child in a United Church of Christ church and so have had that sacrament properly done. I was married nine years ago, but not in the Catholic Church. My husband, while confirmed Catholic many years ago, does not consider himself a Catholic any longer. He harbors no malice for the Church and has encouraged me throughout my interest in the Church and through RCIA, but he does not want to be part of “organized religion.” 

Are We Roman Catholics?
Q. The one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church, in all official writings, refers to herself as “Catholic Church” or simply, “Church.” Never does she call herself Roman or Roman Catholic. This is an appellation of Protestant origination. Father Hoffman uses this adjective in the Jan./Feb. 2012 edition. 
 
Ed, Muscatine, Iowa 
 
A. You mean I’m not a Roman Catholic? That’s news to me! I always took pride in telling people, “I’m a Roman Catholic.” But upon investigation I think you are right: the Church in her official writings refers to herself as the “Catholic Church.” And remember, there are also the Eastern Catholic Churches! 
 
I’d like to pass along this correction to my dear mother, a daily communicant, who taught us that we were “Roman Catholics,” but she has long since passed. I hope she made it to heaven having tainted her children with such a Protestant notion.

I know that before I can receive holy Communion, the Sacrament of Matrimony must be “put to rights,” so to speak. I know this means having my marriage convalidated by a deacon or priest. I know I must also have the Sacrament of Reconciliation before I can be confirmed, which I am willing and eager to do. With respect to my marriage, however, my husband is not ready to go through the convalidation process. And so my question is: Does my marriage need to be convalidated before I can be confirmed? I know that I cannot take holy Communion until my marriage is convalidated even if I have been confirmed. But does my confirmation have to be put off until my marriage is convalidated? I believe my husband will one day be ready for this, but at present he is not. I have such a yearning to be closer to full communion with the Church and am saddened to think this process may stall.  

Name withheld by request, via e-mail  

A. It’s not as complicated as you think. Assuming that this is the first marriage for both you and your husband, you can request a sanatio in radice (retroactive validation) of your marriage from the bishop through your parish priest according to Canons 1161-1165, and 206. As a catechumen, you already have rights in the Church. So, here’s the plan: continue with RCIA, request the retroactive validation of your marriage, go to confession, get confirmed, receive holy Communion, and live happily ever after! 

Patron Saint before Canonization?

Q. My question is regarding my granddaughter who is to be confirmed soon. After much careful and prayerful consideration, she wishes to have Kateri Tekakwitha, the Lily of the Mohawk, for her patron saint. The problem, of course, is that while Pope Benedict XVI has said that he will canonize Blessed Kateri sometime this year, it may not take place before the confirmation ceremony. Will this prevent my granddaughter from having St. Kateri as her patron saint? 

Kathy, Romeoville, Ill. 

A. Your granddaughter can take the name Kateri Tekakwitha for her confirmation name even before Blessed Kateri is canonized, and she can do this for at least two reasons. First, taking a confirmation name is not an essential element of the Sacrament of Confirmation, and in some countries youngsters do not choose a saint’s name at confirmation. So it’s not required to take a name.  

Second, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha has already been beatified, which means she is in heaven, and therefore a saint. The canonization ceremony further confirms her sanctity while at the same time extends veneration of this saint to the universal Church. It will be a great day for the Church when Pope Benedict elevates Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha to the rank of saint in Rome on October 21. TCA 

Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D., serves as Senior Director — Mission, Programming, Development for Relevant Radio, the Catholic talk radio network.