TCA Life for January/February 2013

Attending the Baptism?

Q. Just got my answer about attending a wedding not in the church (TCA, May/June 2012, “May I Attend the Wedding?”). Now comes the question about baptism in a Calvary church of a baby born of a Catholic dad and non-Catholic mom. Their first child was baptized in the Catholic Church and now this one in the Calvary church. Don’t plan on going to this, but don’t see that the answer is much different from attending the wedding. 

Great-grandmom Mary Roslansky, via e-mail 

A. Hang in there, Grandma! Yes, you can attend the baptism of your great-grandchild in the “Calvary” church if it is a valid baptism, which it will be if the child is baptized “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” while water is either poured over the crown of the head of the child, or the child is immersed in water. The reason you can attend a “non-Catholic” baptism is because it will still be valid. On the contrary, the marriage of a Catholic to a non-Catholic outside of the established canonical form would not be valid, and so it would be problematic to attend the wedding if your presence fostered in any way defection from the Catholic Church. 

As the elder stateswoman in your clan, I think you should talk to the Catholic father of the child and ask him, “Did you not promise to do everything possible to raise your children as Catholics when you got married?” (see Canon 1125.1 in the Code of Canon Law) 

I completely understand the dilemma you face. You regard your presence at the baptism as possibly promoting “religious indifferentism,” a dangerous attitude that “it really doesn’t matter what religion you practice — they’re all the same.” You have to avoid religious indifferentism on the one hand, and on the other hand you need to keep up a relationship with your relatives so as to help bring them back to the one, true Church.

Receiving Communion?

Q. I am Presbyterian, baptized. My husband, married in the Catholic Church, is a lapsed Catholic; they had two children, and she died after a four-year battle with a brain tumor. He married twice more, and each woman left him for another man, and he divorced twice (no children from these marriages). He married me after that. We have been married 20 years and are now celibate due to his medical condition (irreversible), and I have no problem with that as we are devoted to each other.  

I lived (unmarried) with a man (violent) and had two children; left that man when our two sons were babies, now grown men. Years later I met and married my husband, my only marriage; married by a Protestant minister. I am attending the Catholic Church, feel it is the true Church, go to Mass (almost) every Sunday and am studying Catholic teachings.  

Will I someday be able to join and take Communion? If my husband has a change of heart, will he be able to come back to the Church? 

Anita, via e-mail 

A. Dear baptized Presbyterian yearning to be a Catholic: Thank you for your question and for laying out most of the facts of the case. 

From what you describe, if your husband’s second and/or third marriages were not valid for whatever reason (lack of the required canonical form, some impediment, etc.), your current marriage could be recognized and blessed by the Catholic Church. It may take some sorting out, but you will be able to join the Church and take holy Communion, and your husband, if he has a change of heart, can come back to the Church. That’s what we hope and pray for. 

In your husband’s case, when his first wife died, he was free to marry again. The fact that his second and third marriages did not last perhaps highlight the devastating effects of the grief he experienced after his first wife died from a brain tumor. If neither the second nor third marriages were in the Catholic Church, those attempted marriages would not be valid due to lack of canonical form. Such a determination is easily declared, because it is clear-cut. If either the second or third marriage took place in the Catholic Church, we would assume the marriage(s) were valid; in that case, he would need to receive an annulment of those marriages before he could validly attempt marriage to you. That process takes more time. 

Let me assume that neither the second nor third marriages took place in the Church and he was still formally in the Catholic Church. The competent ecclesiastical tribunal can declare both marriages invalid due to lack of canonical form. At that point he is free to marry you in the Catholic Church. Since your marriage to him is your first, and since that marriage did not take place in the Catholic Church, and assuming you both still want to be married, after he receives a declaration that the second and third marriages were invalid, you can ask your pastor to either witness your vows or ask for a retroactive validation of your vows per Canons 1156-1165. 

In either case, the future looks bright for both of you. 

I know this sounds enormously complicated, but sometimes life is that way. At any rate, the Catholic Church makes a “big deal” about this because marriage is a “big deal,” and Jesus spoke and taught about marriage in a very clear and challenging way.

Washing Feet?

Q. This will be the third year in our parish church in which our priest wants women to sign up to have their feet washed. I told him it was my understanding that only men could do this, because the apostles were men, and I did not know the Church changed the law in regards to this. Please let me know what canon law has to say about this. I know the bishop didn’t tell him to do this because the other churches in this diocese are not doing it. 

Carol Vander Velden, via e-mail 

A. Canon law per se does not address this issue. You have to look to the rubrics in the Roman Missal for the Liturgy of Holy Thursday for your answer. It’s not mandatory to have the washing of the feet, but where it is done, the rubrics indicate that viri selecti (“selected men”) may come forward to have their feet washed. The rubrics specify “men” as in males, but it does not specify how many men: it could be 12, or could be fewer. 

In fact, in many places in our country a custom has arisen which is contrary to the letter of the law of the rubrics with regard to the washing of the feet ritual, and women come forward to have their feet washed, too. Liturgists explain this as in keeping with the spirit of Jesus at the Last Supper, a spirit of “humble service and charity.” However, I think such reasoning as justification for ignoring the clear indications of the rubric is a bit forced and certainly not persuasive in that liturgical context. 

feet washing

Let’s be honest. Everyone — male and female — needs their feet washed by Jesus, and everyone is called to imitate Our Lord’s charity and humble service. I think the “ordinary Joe in the pew” like you gets concerned about women having their feet washed because, according to the Gospel, Jesus washed the feet of His apostles. And they were men. Many ordinary and simple Catholics just want their priest to do what Jesus did, and they want their priest to humbly follow the rubrics. As a wise and generous woman once remarked to me, “Father: read the black. Do the red.” For a priest, it is very liberating to follow the text.

Proper Use of Purificator?

Q. I have a question about using the purificator while distributing the sacred Blood of Christ at Communion. What is the proper way to use it? I noticed some wipe with the same side and spot on the linen each time a person drinks from the cup, and others open the linen and use a different area each time someone receives the blood. Some have questioned this after Mass as to which is the correct way. 

Shirley, via e-mail 

A. The purpose of the purificator is to absorb any drop of the precious Blood of Christ that might be lost because it is adhering to the outside of the chalice at Communion time. Secondarily, the purificator can also be used to wipe away any disagreeable residue left on the chalice by the previous communicant. After holy Communion, the purificator is used to purify the sacred vessels by drying them and polishing them. For that reason, the purificator — normally made entirely out of linen — is laundered according to specific regulations to enhance our reverence for the sacred species. As to your specific question about using a fresh spot on the purificator after each communicant, there are no official directives in this regard. Let good common sense and supernatural sense dictate your actions.

Defining Rubrics

Q. Our parish has had numerous “workshops” on the new translation of the Mass as well as introducing new music to accompany the changes. But have there been any changes to the rubrics of the Mass? Am I correct in defining “rubrics” as the actual motions involved with the Mass — for example, standing, sitting, kneeling? In our own diocese now, different parishes stand and kneel at different times, and across the nation, the same. Can’t the bishops get together and all do the same? It would seem that with the new translations, which more fully enrich our participation in the Sacrifice of the Mass, that our actions would follow this, too. 

Patti M. Brown, via e-mail 

A. Things are not as different as you may think from one place to another. On the contrary, I frequently hear from businessmen who travel far and wide how much they “feel at home” when they attend Mass in a foreign country and in a foreign language: they might not understand the words, but they know exactly where they are at Mass. And they are very grateful for that universality of the Catholic faith and liturgy. There have not been any major changes to the rubrics of the Mass, but there have been a few minor changes and local adaptations. The Mass does allow for some flexibility in the implementation and interpretation of rubrics, especially as it relates to postures: kneeling, sitting, standing.  

Design Pics

For instance, should the faithful stand at the Orate fratres, or wait until the celebrant finishes the last word of the invitation to rise to their feet? The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM, specifically Nos. 43 and 146), in my opinion, are not clear in this regard. But I think the actual rubrics in the Order of the Mass text are clear.  

Nevertheless, Mass is not a game of “Simon says,” or even less should it be like a marching band, where everyone does exactly the same thing at the same time. It’s true we have to pray with our body and our soul, and be united with others, but let’s not be scrupulous about it. 

In point of fact, I recommend, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” and that should apply to you where and when you attend Mass. 

You ask, “Why can’t the bishops get together and do the same thing?” It’s not as easy as you might think! I answer, “Why can’t Microsoft produce software that doesn’t crash?” or “Why can’t Apple and Google get together and do the same thing?” I just guess life happens. Moreover, a little inconvenience is good for the soul of those of us who are “control freaks.” Or as my mother would say, “Offer it up, sonny!” 

For the record, this is what the GIRM has to say about posture: “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).

“Under My Roof?”

Q. I understand that the new translation of the Roman Missal is more faithful to the Latin, but what exactly was the point of adding, “I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof” at the point when we receive Communion. It sounds a little weird to me. Why did the Church make that change?  

Name withheld by request, via e-mail 

A. The previous translation read: “Priest: This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper. All: Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”  

The new translation reads: “Priest: Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb. All: Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”  

“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter unto my roof” is the literal translation of what the Roman centurion said to Jesus in Matthew 8:8 when he asked Jesus to cure his servant. The Church made that change to the translation to reflect more accurately the original meaning. When we say it, we adopt the attitude of the Roman centurion who needed a miracle of mercy — for himself and for his servant — and responded to Jesus that he was simply not worthy for Jesus to come to his home. We are invited to embrace that same humble and faithful attitude when we approach the holy Eucharist. One day, God willing, we’ll get to shake the hand of that Roman centurion in heaven and thank him for his inspiring example. 

Living a Lie?

Q. I enjoy your magazine and feel it is a great outlet for those of us who have questions about our faith. My question is a little different. Years ago I had an affair, and have since then confessed and am on a much better path. When I confessed I had to say that one of my children is a result of the affair and I needed to know if I had to tell my husband. The real father knows the child is his. The priest told me I did not have to tell my husband. I am feeling like I am living a lie. Was he correct in telling me this, or do I need to tell my husband, which, of course, will result in tragedy with my entire family. Please help me be released from this load and help direct me in the path that Our Lord needs me to follow. I realize that not all questions sent to you will be published, but I am desperate for an answer. I hope you will respond. I fear to use my name and address.  

Anonymous, via e-mail  

A. I doubt you are the first person who has faced this situation. First, congratulations for confessing your sin, turning your life around and for not having an abortion. 

It is never right to lie. But it is not always prudent to tell everything you know. You have to discern with the help of the Holy Spirit what is best for your family. The advice the priest gave you, in most cases, is sound. However, in some cases, when there is profound conflict and unhappiness in a family, the only way out is to tell the whole truth. 

If you tell your husband about the affair, what will happen? Will that destroy your family? Will he leave you? Divorce you? Do you have any idea of the negative impact that will have on your children? 

As for looking for relief from that “load” of remorse and guilt and shame you are carrying, give it to the Lord and keep giving it to Him. Perhaps the weight of that load is your cross to carry in life. If that’s the case, it could yet make you a saint.

Lifetime of Wandering . . .

Q. I have a friend who was raised Catholic, and at the least had CCD. She married right after high school to a Catholic man in the Catholic Church. It lasted three years, and they had no children. She said they were young; it didn’t work out, so they divorced. Later, she married before a justice of the peace. They have one daughter, were married about 15 years, then divorced. Since then, her second husband has died. She doesn’t know where the first one is! She has been with a man friend on a job and probably lived in for convenience. Now that gentleman friend (who really helped her when she was quite ill) has left. She sees him sometimes. She does not go to Mass or receive the sacraments. She says annulments are very expensive. She is often unemployed. She says she prays that “the Lord is caring for her.” I wish for her to come back to Mass and the sacraments. What does she need to do? What should I do? 

Adelaide Murphy, St. Joseph, Mo. 

A. If your friend is not currently living with any man and does not intend to marry, I do not know why she would need an annulment. In the eyes of the Church, she is still married to her first husband, but if she is not living with another man, then she is not currently living in sin. The situation is not as complicated at the present moment as some might think. 

She is free to come back to the Church. Encourage her to come back and to make a good confession, and she will be so happy, and the angels will rejoice! The priest at her parish will give her sound advice and guidance. You should pray for her without ceasing and treat her with kindness and understanding. Be sure to pray to St. Joseph for her conversion.

Holy Communion Twice in One Day?

Q. I was involved in a discussion about receiving the holy Eucharist daily, and the question was, If a person was receiving Communion daily, can they receive at a Saturday morning Mass and again at a Saturday night Mass. Referencing the Catechism of the Catholic Church (see No. 1388), I said you could because it involves two different Mass requirements. Then the question became, If the Vigil Mass is counted as a Sunday Mass, can you receive Communion Saturday night and again Sunday morning? Again, I believe you should be able to so you can maintain the daily holy Eucharist schedule. I don’t see why one can’t, because, calendarwise, if you want to receive Communion daily, why can’t you fulfill the daily obligation of receiving Communion daily? Would you please clarify this ruling please?  

Leo A. Renne, Jackson, Mich. 

A. Since 1983, Catholics have permission to receive holy Communion twice in the same day, if the second time is at a Mass. So, as to your question, you can receive holy Communion twice on Saturday, and twice on Sunday. 

Apostolic Pardon?

Q. Is the apostolic blessing at the hour of death still used by Roman Catholic priests? 

Deacon Marty Wager, Littleton, Colo. 

A. Yes, the Apostolic Pardon is still used by priests. In fact, just eight days prior I gave the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, along with viaticum, to an elderly man. But first I heard his confession. As part of the ritual, I also offered him the Apostolic Pardon, explaining to him and all present that in danger of death a priest has the faculty to bestow the Apostolic Pardon upon the penitent and thereby absolve him from all sins and any and all canonical penalties attached to those sins. This gave the man tremendous peace. We prayed the Litany of the Saints and then he renewed his baptismal promises. He was transformed by the power of grace and the mercy of God. He died 24 hours later, and I am confident that he went to heaven. We should all be so lucky to die fortified by the grace of the sacraments.Here is the formula: “By the authority which the Apostolic See has given me, I grant you a full pardon and the remission of all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” TCA

Which Eucharistic prayer should be used?

Q. I have a question about the Eucharistic prayers. The priest who says Mass always seems to use the Roman Canon. It seems so much longer than the others. Are there times when he should use some of the others? And how are they different? 

Anonymous, via e-mail 

A. I suppose your priest prefers Eucharistic Prayer I, commonly known as the Roman Canon, because of its beauty and depth. It is indeed longer than the others, and is rooted in the long and beautiful liturgical tradition of the Church. It is the Eucharistic prayer that our ancestors knew and loved and prayed for hundreds of years, and it is appropriate to keep continuity with tradition. 

There is no indication when the priest should use other Eucharistic prayers except when there might be a Mass of Reconciliation. In that case, either of the Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation could be prayed. In general, I think most priests reserve the Roman Canon for Sundays and special holy days that warrant greater solemnity. In fact, Eucharistic Prayer I has special “additions” for special Masses such as weddings, the Octave of Christmas, the Paschal Triduum, Easter Week, Pentecost, etc. On weekdays, many priests prefer Eucharistic Prayer II for its simplicity and noble austerity. 

All of the Eucharistic prayers are beautiful and enrich the lives of the priests and the faithful. The priest is entirely free to pray whichever one he chooses. In addition to the four usual options, there are also two for Masses with Children, two for Masses of Reconciliation, and four for Masses for various occasions. Quite a lot to choose from! [Editor’s note: This very topic will be examined in detail in an upcoming issue of TCA.]

Is a crime an impediment to ordination?

Q. My question is actually twofold. The first part will likely be most useful in the magazine should it be chosen for publication, as it is of a more general nature. 

Does a conviction for a crime automatically make one ineligible for the diaconate or priesthood? I understand that the degree and type of crime would have to be considered. 

Now, the second part of my inquiry, which directly concerns my situation. 

I am nearing the end of a sentence given to me due to an automobile accident which tragically caused someone’s death. Prior to this I’d have described myself as spiritual, but not religious, although interest in the Catholic Church was growing when I look back at all the reading I was doing. When I entered prison, I immediately began attending Mass and a weekly Bible study. In May 2010, I received baptism, confirmation and first Communion, praise be to God. 

The future is certainly open, but I feel a pull in me, I think, toward a priestly vocation. Does my conviction make this an impossibility, or is there a way? 

Jeffrey, Ontario, Ore. 

A. God has been active in your life, and you are responding to His grace! Congratulations. Some crimes could be an impediment to ordination, such as willful murder. But if the accident that resulted in a death was not intentional, that would not necessarily be an impediment to ordination, but it would certainly raise questions about your prudence and reliability. For anyone who approaches ordination, it’s best that they make a full disclosure of who they really are to their superiors. Your bishop would be the best person to judge your suitability for ordination. There are marvelous stories of conversions down through the ages, and some converts have turned their errors into triumphs for the Lord. You may turn out to be one of them. 

The Code of Canon Law addresses the topic of irregularity and impediments for ordination in Canons 1040-1049. The principal irregularities and impediments are insanity, psychological infirmity, apostasy, heresy, schism, marriage, willful homicide, abortion, attempted suicide, holding public office, acting as surety in business or carrying out trade or commerce. A priest needs to be free from encumbrances: past, present and future.

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