TCA Life for May/June 2013

Married, Divorced and Ordained?

Q. Our pastor was a married and divorced man. My question is how can a divorced man become an ordained priest? 

Name withheld, via e-mail 

A. I can understand why this situation is confusing. We expect our priests to imitate Jesus Christ, who was never married, much less divorced. Normally, only unmarried celibate men are ordained to the Catholic priesthood. If your pastor is not married now, he evidently was free to be ordained as a priest because at some point the competent ecclesiastical tribunal declared his marriage null. 

Rising for 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).  

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 (former and 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, via e-mail 

A. We can find the answer to your question 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. 

Marriage Laws for Eastern-rite Catholics

Q. Do the marriage laws in Eastern-rite Catholic Churches follow the Roman Catholic laws, or do they follow Eastern Orthodox laws that permit a second marriage? 

Name withheld, via e-mail 

A. There are two bodies of Canon Law for the Catholic Church: one for the Latin rite and another for the Eastern rites. When it comes to marriage, divine law stipulates, “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” Therefore, the only reason a Catholic could attempt a second marriage in the Catholic Church — Latin rite or Eastern rite — would be if the previous marriage was declared null by the competent ecclesiastical tribunal, or was dissolved in favor of the Petrine privilege or the Pauline privilege. 

Proper Posture

Q. What is the proper posture of the people during the Agnus Dei when the people say, “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (three times). Should we stand or kneel?  

Darcy M. Tabotabo, via e-mail 

A. You should stand during the Agnus Dei. The posture that follows the Agnus Dei depends on your dioceses. 

We can find the answer to your question in the 2012 Edition of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal:  

“In the dioceses of the United States of America, they should kneel beginning after the singing or recitation of the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy) until after the Amen of the Eucharistic Prayer, except when prevented on occasion by ill health, or for reasons of lack of space, of the large number of people present, or for another reasonable cause. However, those who do not kneel ought to make a profound bow when the Priest genuflects after the Consecration.  

“The faithful kneel after the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) unless the Diocesan Bishop determines otherwise. 

“For the sake of uniformity in gestures and bodily postures during one and the same celebration, the faithful should follow the instructions which the Deacon, a lay minister, or the Priest gives, according to what is laid down in the Missal” (No 43). 

Wandering Sheep

Q. I have some children that were raised Catholic, baptized and went to church with the family on Sundays. But they left the Church and belong to other Protestant churches, and two have formed their own church and talk about the Bible, etc. I have read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that it is wrong to leave the Church (if I am reading it right). Am I right that they should not have left the Church, and that it is a mortal sin? I am praying and have been praying for them to come back to the Church. 

Jerry, via e-mail 

A. You are correct. Your children should not have left the Catholic Church, because the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ and has the fullness of the truth and the fullness of the means of salvation. Those who wander away from the practice of the Catholic faith, especially the practice of the sacraments of confession and holy Communion, put themselves at a disadvantage for their eternal salvation. 

Leaving the Catholic Church for another ecclesial group could be heresy, could be schism, or could be apostasy. Technically, all three are mortal sins under the usual conditions (full advertence, full consent, serious matter). Only God and your children would know if they made such a sad choice fully conscious of what they were doing. Odds are, they never really learned or practiced the faith growing up, and so we beg God’s mercy for them.  

To their credit, they are not atheists, and they seem to be actively involved in seeking God — all of that is a good thing. 

You should continue to pray for them every day so that they return to the Catholic Church.  

And get others to pray too! Daily Mass, daily Rosary and other sacrifices offered for their conversion will win their souls. You may not see them return to the practice of the faith in your lifetime, but your prayers will not be wasted, and God will have mercy on them, for He is the Good Shepherd who never gives up on His sheep. 

Hearing voices

Q. I have a daughter, age 50, who left the Catholic Church years ago. Sometimes she goes to Protestant churches. She claims that God the Father speaks to her. She says she will not believe anything other than what she hears God the Father tell her. She does not believe that Jesus is present in the holy Eucharist. She says that the love God has for her is so great that all of her sins are forgiven. She learns a lot about God and the Bible from the Internet, all from Protestant speakers. I am concerned that she is deceived. Perhaps she is hearing from someone other than God. Why wouldn’t God tell her to go to confession and to go to Mass? It seems if it is God, He does not care if we are Catholic or not. If God is speaking to her, and He does not tell her to go back to the Catholic Church, why should I try to?  

Mary, via e-mail 

A. Certainly, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit speak to us, but normally God the Father speaks to us through His Son Jesus Christ and His Church. That’s why He sent Him into the world. And Jesus Christ speaks to us through His Church, which He established 2,000 years ago.  

He established His Church on the pillar of the apostles, and the prince of the apostles was Peter. It was to St. Peter that Jesus said, “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt 16:19). It seems that your 50-year-old daughter needs to read the Bible and pay close attention to what Jesus said.  

Your daughter might be hearing God, but she may also be hearing voices. She might also be hearing God on some things and not listening to Him on others. I suspect that is the case here. The safest course to follow is to listen to God by listening to His Church: the Catholic Church.  

If she believes that Jesus Christ is God, she should pay attention to Him. His words were very clear: “Upon this rock I will build my Church” (Mt 16:18). There is only one God, so there can only be one true Church: the Catholic Church. Jesus also said, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them” (Jn 20:23). Your daughter needs to read the Bible more and beg God for humility. 

Good Intentions?

Q. I have been an extraordinary minister of holy Commuion for many years and have seen many ministers abuse their calling. One abuse that will remain forever vivid was that of a minister pouring the Precious Blood into the mouth of a teenage girl, who was obviously not Catholic, as she had not taken the Eucharist properly and was not aware as to the procedure in receiving Our Lord’s Blood. Meanwhile, an elder friend who attends daily Mass, weekly proclaims the readings, and dutifully attends Bible studies, and who is also an extraordinary minister, told me that he also brings Communion to the elderly in an assisted-living establishment. This is the part that set me aback, as he revealed that one of the elderly ladies indicated interest in receiving but that she was not Catholic. He then asked her if she believed that the host was truly “the Body and Blood” of Christ, and she replied in the affirmative. He says that from that time on he has been giving her Communion. I was flabbergasted and had no reply. 

Name withheld, via e-mail 

A. Thank you for your concern for reverence of the Most Blessed Sacrament. There are so many extraordinary ministers of holy Communion out there these days that sometimes “quality control” is a problem. Certainly, we need to do a better job in preparing these good people, and we need to make a greater effort to provide better instruction in the fundamentals of our faith. 

Bringing holy Communion to the elderly in nursing homes and such can be pastorally challenging. Some patients may think they are not Catholic, but it turns out that because of their dementia they forgot they actually are — and vice versa! 

I once visited an elderly woman in a nursing home who had left the Catholic Church decades earlier when she married a Lutheran, but the day I showed up she was living in her past thinking she was a Catholic, so when I offered the Last Sacraments (confession, anointing and viaticum), she was delighted to receive them having completely forgotten she had left the Church! It was very good timing in my opinion. The next day she could no longer talk. Not long after, she passed away and the Lord took her home. 

At other times, there are some very lonely souls in the nursing homes who have no visitors, no family, no hope; so when they see a cheerful Catholic bringing holy Communion to some of the other patients, they don’t want to be left out. Who can blame them?  

Reminds me of the blind beggar Bartimaeus sitting by the side of the road while many were telling him to keep his mouth shut, but he persisted in shouting out, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me!” (Lk 18:38).  

I can well understand why the non-Catholic patient in the nursing home wants to receive Jesus. And I can well understand why the EMHC does not want to deny him. A priest in that situation has the ability to hear that person’s confession and receive him/her into the Church, and that would rectify the entire dilemma.  

Your friend who brings holy Communion to the elderly should speak with his pastor in order to clear up any confusion.  

Litany of Healings?

Q. I would like to have a Catholic Litany of Healings on an urgent basis. Can you please help? I can’t find any within my reach? Lots of God’s creations are depending on this. 

Teresa Seow, via e-mail 

A. I am not quite sure what you are referring to or what you are asking. I have never heard of a “Catholic Litany of Healings.” Here’s my suggestion. When you need help or healing, turn to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and keep repeating: “Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me. Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me. Sacred heart of Jesus, have mercy on me.” 

It works for me. I hope this helps. 

Daylight Savings Time?

Q. Was the Catholic Church ever opposed to daylight saving time? At a recent dinner someone stated that the Church was opposed to DST. I have no skills at historical research tools. Can you investigate and answer this problem for me? 

Charles McGrath, via e-mail 

A. If it sounds untrue, it probably is untrue. The Catholic Church is not opposed to daylight saving time. DST saves energy and saves lives, especially the lives of youngsters going to school in the morning. Instead of traveling in the dark, they can go to school in the light. The increased daylight reduces accidents. Next time someone says something that sounds foolish at dinner time, just ask them to produce written documentation of their claim. 

Proper Role?

Q. Can divorced or remarried Catholics become Eucharistic ministers? 

Name withheld, via e-mail 

A. Let’s keep working on the correct nomenclature: we do not call them “Eucharistic minsters,” we call them “extraordinary ministers of holy Communion.” The nomenclature is important. Any member of Christ’s faithful may be deputed by his pastor to serve as an EMCH as the situation requires. If the person is divorced, we would hope he has rectified his situation with God and the Church. The same applies for those who are remarried. 

Your question reveals an admirable concern about the “worthiness” of the minister. Any person serving in any capacity as a minister in the Church should do all he can to make himself worthy — through prayer, sacrament and growth in grace — mindful all the while that no one — bishop, priest, deacon, layperson — is truly worthy to administer the sacraments. For that reason, every single one of Christ’s faithful repeats the words of the noble Roman centurion at Mass: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” 

Nevertheless, the validity of the sacraments does not depend upon the holiness of the minsters, as the sacraments work ex opere operato. 

Dealing with Atheists

Q. I know an individual who is an atheist. He says God hasn’t revealed anything to him to make him believe there is a God. I am praying for him and have given him personal testimony of what God, through Jesus Christ, has done in my life since my conversion. He says he has had religion shoved down his throat growing up. Any additional suggestion? 

Mike, via e-mail 

A. It’s helpful to remember that faith is a gift. You can’t force it on people, and you can’t argue them into believing. It’s a gift. Nevertheless, the First Vatican Council declared that we can come to certain knowledge of the existence of God even without supernatural revelation and even without supernatural faith (see Dei Filius). 

It sounds like this individual needs a good and loyal friend who prays for him and helps him along his journey through life. In calmer moments, when he claims that “religion was shoved down his throat when he was growing up,” you could ask him if he objects to his parents having fed him when he was a toddler, or taking him to the doctor to be vaccinated against smallpox and other diseases. I doubt he complains about the food and the medicine. That might help him to be less antagonistic about his childhood faith experiences. 

It seems to me that the path to faith for your atheist friend is to develop the virtue of gratitude for his blessings. Pray for him. Every day. That’s the best advice I can offer. 

Altar Cloth

Q. Our Catholic Church has just recovered our altar with a new and ornate covering which covers the entire altar and looks very much like a bedspread! I have always been used to a white linen covering. The new covering is distracting from what the priest is doing during the Mass. It seems to me that the altar is a “sacrificial” structure and should not be covered with such a fancy overly decorative cloth. It is not a “table.” What is the proper covering for a Catholic church’s altar? 

Ann, via e-mail 

A. Here’s what the General Instruction of the Roman Missal says on the matter: 

“Out of reverence for the celebration of the memorial of the Lord and for the banquet in which the Body and Blood of the Lord are offered, there should be, on an altar where this is celebrated, at least one cloth, white in color, whose shape, size, and decoration are in keeping with the altar’s structure. When, in the Dioceses of the United States of America, other cloths are used in addition to the altar cloth, then those cloths may be of other colors possessing Christian honorific or festive significance according to longstanding local usage, provided that the uppermost cloth covering the mensa (i.e., the altar cloth itself) is always white in color” (No. 304). 

Cooperation in Evil?

Q. If someone purchases a product that is good in itself, but it is advertised with obscene pictures, does the person indirectly promote the spread of obscene advertising by purchasing the product. Should the person cease to the purchase the product? An example is cosmetic products. 

Name withheld, via e-mail 

A. I suppose to some degree you are supporting the indecent advertising when you purchase a product with indecent pictures on the cover. If you could purchase another of the same quality without the offensive pictures, you should do that. If nothing else is available, and it’s necessary to purchase the product, you can do so, but be sure to complain to the manager and to the manufacturer. That will get their attention! TCA

What is the Stigmata?

Q. I have been a good Catholic all my life. I have heard that God sometimes blesses some worthy Catholics with a miracle called “stigmata.” Does the Catholic Church acknowledge the existence of stigmata, or is it a hoax perpetrated by some human beings who just want attention? 

Manny, via e-mail 

A. The stigmata is a miracle, and the Church does recognize it after careful scrutiny. But sometimes it turns out to be a hoax. The two worthiest Christians ever (Our Lady and St. Joseph) did not bear the stigmata, although Our Lady bore the wounds of Christ in her heart, which was pierced with a sword (see Lk 2:35). The stigmata can be a sign of holiness, but it does not make a person holy; nor does the absence of the stigmata suggest a person is not holy. 

The stigmata, or the five wounds of Christ, are a blessing in disguise because it usually brings great physical and spiritual suffering to the person who bears it. The term comes from St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians: “I bear the marks of Jesus on my body” (6:17). The four most famous stigmatists were St. Paul, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Catherine of Siena and St. Padre Pio. There have been dozens of other verified cases of the stigmata down through the ages, with the majority of the cases happening to saints and blesseds, most of whom were women. 

Sadly, there have been hoaxes about the stigmata, too, and some poorly formed Catholics consider mystical signs and wonders evidence of holiness, and flock to see the curiosity. But true holiness is usually found in the sanctification of ordinary life and ordinary daily duties, accompanied by growth in the virtues.

Is Reiki Catholic?

Q. Is Reiki not in concordance with the Catholic Church? 

Name withheld, via email  

A. Reiki is not Catholic. The doctrinal committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops studied this question in 2009 and provided an answer several pages long. I copy some lines from that document: 

“Without justification either from Christian faith or natural science, however, a Catholic who puts his or her trust in Reiki would be operating in the realm of superstition, the no-man’s-land that is neither faith nor science. Superstition corrupts one’s worship of God by turning one’s religious feeling and practice in a false direction.” 

The document concludes with this statement: 

“Since Reiki therapy is not compatible with either Christian teaching or scientific evidence, it would be inappropriate for Catholic institutions, such as Catholic health care facilities and retreat centers, or persons representing the Church, such as Catholic chaplains, to promote or to provide support for Reiki therapy.” 

The document was signed by eight bishops and archbishops. 

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