TCA Life for November/December 2012

Eucharist Protocols

Q. I have been searching for information for the proper way of being a Eucharistic minister. My question is: When Communion is done, is it proper to leave standing at the altar when the priest is still doing the consecration ... before or after? I feel that we do not leave the altar until the priest is done with the consecration. 

Name withheld, via e-mail 

A. Hmmm. I think you’ve used the wrong word to describe the situation. The “consecration” takes place during the Eucharistic Prayer, which is before holy Communion, not after. In essence the “consecration” takes place when the priest says “This is my body” or “This is my blood.” I think what you are referring to is the act of ablutions after holy Communion by which the priest purifies the sacred vessels. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) offers a number of ways this can be done — either during Mass or immediately afterward; either at the altar or at the credence table; either by the priest, or the deacon, or a duly appointed acolyte, which in some cases might be an extraordinary minister of holy Communion (see Nos. 163, 183, and 192 of the GIRM [2012]). 

As to your case, the extraordinary ministers of holy Communion can return to their place while the priest purifies the vessels at the altar. 

Three for One

Q. I receive your magazine and love your Q&A sections. I have three questions that I don’t know how to search in Google. 

1) I am a Jewish convert to Catholicism, and since my first day in the Church I have been rising three times on my toes when we say the Sanctus, because Jews say the same “Holy, holy, holy” in the synagogue, and the appropriate thing to do at that point in the synagogue service is to rise three times. I do it as a nod of respect to my past. But is it inappropriate to do it in a Catholic church? 

2) Because of this same tradition, I have also been rising to my toes when we respond to the priest, “We lift them [our hearts] up to the Lord.” But then I sat at the side of our church one day, and I noticed that our priest rises to his toes when he tells us to “Lift up your hearts.” I know there are other cases in which the Church is clamping down on laypeople mimicking the priest’s gestures when they shouldn’t, but I’ve never seen any other priest rise to his toes at this point, so I’m wondering if it’s just something our priest does, or if it’s something priests are supposed to do, and so I shouldn’t. 

3) Also, Jews do not pray in any posture except for standing or sitting. But sometimes at night, I am so tired that I pray the Rosary lying down in bed. Is this disrespectful? 


A. 1) I see no problem with you doing that. In fact, I think it’s rather charming. 

2) I’ll bet the priest is not even aware that he rises to his toes when he tells you to “Lift up your hearts.” He’s probably just putting his heart into the liturgy and it happens automatically. Again, I see no problem with his exuberance nor do I see anything wrong with your practice. After all, you’re not a corpse. But it’s not something that the priests are supposed to do. 

3) If what you say is true, that “Jews do not pray in any posture except for standing or sitting,” then they’re missing out on a lot of opportunities. Christians can — in fact, all people can and should — pray anywhere at any time: standing, sitting, kneeling, walking, running, climbing, jumping, skipping, crawling and even lying down. I don’t think it’s disrespectful to pray the rosary lying down in bed, but I’ll give you odds you’re much more likely to finish the rosary if you say it walking around in the garden with a prayer partner at your side.

Cohabitation Concerns

Q. Our grandson will be getting married next year. We found out the couple have just moved in together. How do we in good conscience attend the Mass knowing they have been living in sin all that time? They are both Catholic, and also went to Catholic schools, and should know right from wrong. What are we supposed to do about attending? My husband says he will not attend, and I feel the same way. We want to be faithful to Almighty God when it comes to breaking the Sixth Commandment. I feel we would be hypocrites if we go to a wedding like that. I know we risk losing contact with him, but we have to stand up for what is right when it comes to pleasing God not man.  

Patricia, Warren, Mich. 

A. You express a valid concern about your grandson cohabiting with his fiancé before marriage. For most people, that would be considered a near occasion of sin because sexual intimacy is for marriage only, and one presumes that if they are living together and sleeping in the same bed, they’re having sex. If they are not married, they should not be having sex. Maybe they’re not; but maybe they are. 

If they get married in the Church, it is likely that the priest will discourage them from living together before marriage. He may even recommend that they live separately before marriage. He may even encourage them to go to confession before marriage, which is always a good idea for anyone. Furthermore, some Catholic parishes and dioceses stipulate that cohabiting couples are not to be married at a Mass, but can get married in the Church. 

Nevertheless, sins against the Sixth Commandment and cohabitation are not impediments to marriage, even though such behavior can handicap spouses in their marriage if it is a sign that they willfully disregard the teachings of Christ and His Church. Marriage takes a lot of humility; a good place to start is to humbly follow the Church’s guidance on this. 

From my experience, I think you and your husband should invite your grandson and his fiancé out to dinner and talk about your married experience and how Jesus and the Catholic Church have helped you every step of the way. Now is the time to get more involved in their lives and witness to them. Do not be afraid to open your mouths and speak with them. The chances are that their behavior is not entirely their fault. It is possible, although I know it is not always the case, that young people who cohabit before marriage have received very little formation in the practice of chastity and objective morality. 

Come what may, you will not be a hypocrite if you attend their wedding, so long as you have opened your mouth beforehand and expressed your disapproval. Only Our Lord and His Blessed Mother were sinless. The rest of us are sinners.

Pornography Issues

Q. My husband is into pornography. We are in our 70s with a nonexistent sex life due to physical problems. I’m sure he uses the pornography as an outlet. He does not go to confession. Being a convert to Catholicism, I’m not sure about his views on the sacrament. I worry so about his salvation and wonder if and how I am to help him. Confronting him would be difficult for me. Please help. 

Name withheld by request, via e-mail 

A. Thank you very much for your candid question. I will pray for you and your husband. Unfortunately, the situation you describe is becoming more and more common. But there is hope! Tell him about the website, sponsored by Elizabeth Ministry, a wonderful Catholic lay organization that is coming to the rescue. 

It is good for you to be concerned about his salvation. So pray, offer up sacrifice, encourage him to check out that website, and then he will likely pursue God’s mercy and liberating grace through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. 

It is possible for people to overcome their addictions, but only with humility, transparency and God’s grace, which will not be lacking. 

First Communion Gift

Q. My 7-year-old niece recently made her first holy Communion. My brother is her godfather. I am not a godparent. A Catholic pastor/friend advised me that for my niece’s Communion gift, I should give her $100. I was horrified by his suggestion, and the pastor and I became involved in a spirited debate. He was convinced that money was the proper gift to give.  

I tried to explain to my pastor/friend that cash is inappropriate for a holy Communion gift. I thought, shouldn’t the tables be turned in which HE should be explaining to ME that there were other more appropriate gifts to give for holy Communion that embody the meaning of the Sacrament? 

I am certain that my niece received money from other relatives, but what lesson am I sending my niece if I gave her $100 cash for her Communion? My niece needs to realize the importance of this sacrament as it lays the foundation for her Catholic upbringing. We want to encourage her to attend Mass on Sundays and enjoy her religion classes. In my view, money as a gift diminishes the meaning of holy Communion. For her next sacrament, confirmation, my niece would expect money also. I gave my niece a Children’s Bible from which she reads out loud every night for 20 minutes. My niece told her grandmother that her favorite story was “Creation.” 

Jeannine, via e-mail 

A. Choosing the right gift for a 7-year-old can be a challenge, and even more so around the occasion of a first Communion. I agree with you, that giving a kid a hundred bucks might send the wrong message, and I’m not sure good parents would really appreciate it. I think the first step is to ask the parents for their suggestion. 

I still remember my first Communion and the gifts, and the way we celebrated that occasion. For first Communion I received a new suit, a rosary, a prayer book, a GI Joe and a pack of firecrackers from one of my older brothers. After Mass, we all went out for breakfast at International House of Pancakes. It was a splendid affair, with just the right mix of sacred and profane. 

Burial Options

Q. May a Catholic be buried in a non-Catholic cemetery? I have a free veteran’s plot at a popular non-Catholic cemetery in Grand Rapids, Mich. They also provide major discounts for my wife, who is a lapsed Catholic. There are several Catholic cemeteries in the area, but they are so expensive!

James McDonald, Wyoming, Mich. 

A. A Catholic may be buried in a non-Catholic cemetery if need be, but the Church would prefer that the deceased members of the faithful be buried in sacred ground, as are Catholic cemeteries. Customarily, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass will be celebrated for the repose of the souls of those buried in the Catholic cemetery, especially on All Souls’ Day and on Memorial Day in the United States. Still, there is nothing to prevent burial in a non-Catholic cemetery. If you choose such disposition, you still want your local priest to come and bless the plot where you will be buried. 

From Christian to Witchcraft to Crystals

Q. My younger sister was very involved with the Church, but when she went to college, she fell into friendships with a “bad” crowd of people. She is currently not speaking to me because I expressed my concerns at the change in her. The person she is today is as if she is a completely different person from the sister I shared a close relationship with when we were children. She is now into practicing witchcraft, believes in the power of crystals, etc. I was extremely upset when I found out about this. She has also been extremely disrespectful to our parents. For example, she stated she was getting an apartment with her friend and so my parents signed the lease for her to live in this apartment with her female friend. Afterward, she announced that her boyfriend would also be living with them. When she and I had our fight about her life choices, I later apologized because, while I had good intentions, I realized I did not handle the situation well or in a prayerful manner. However, my sister told me outright that my apology was not accepted. She did not come to my wedding and, to this day, mostly refuses to talk to me. Her soul is deeply troubled. Her situation seems grave to me because she is actively consorting with the devil, whether or not she realizes it. Would this be a correct assessment? Again, are there any prayers or saints I may use for assistance in this matter. I guess I want to have all of my family experience the joys of heaven. Is that selfish of me?  

Lynn B., Texas  

A. Your desire to “have all of [your] family members experience the joys of heaven” is not selfish. On the contrary, it is praiseworthy. 

Whether or not your sister is “actively consorting with the devil” is beyond my reach, but wandering from the faith, engaging in “witchcraft” and superstitious beliefs in crystals certainly does not come from God. If it does not come from God, what else can we conclude? 

It is true that during college years many young people turn on a dime and make choices that will affect them for life — all the more reason for parents to be especially prudent and vigilant in choosing where to send their children to college. 

As for prayers and the intercession of the saints, pray to the Blessed Mother, “Destroyer of Heresies,” and St. Joseph, “Terror of Demons,” as well as to St. Michael. It sounds like your sister is in a spiritual battle and really needs powerful graces to come back to Jesus through the sacrament of reconciliation. 

Schismatic Services

Q. I can’t believe that you recommend that we not to go to Mass of the Society of St Pius X. Are you sure? I thought Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre was a good bishop and he would be blessed someday by Pope Benedict XVI. I used to go to the traditional Latin Mass; it is beautiful. Now more people go to the Latin Mass because of quiet and reverence. 

JC Sherman,via e-mail 

A. Yes. I am quite sure. While I agree that the extraordinary form of the Mass is beautiful and reverent, you should not attend any liturgical services officiated by clerics of the Society of St. Pius X, because they do not have permission and therefore do not exercise the power of jurisdiction, something that is necessary for the valid witnessing of a marriage and for the valid absolution of sins in confession. It is true that Pope Benedict XVI lifted the penalty of excommunication from the four bishops who were illicitly and schismatically consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre, but the Society of St. Pius X remains divided from the Pope. TCA 


Q. What does the Church have to say about dreams, imagination and whimsical fantasies that aren’t of a sinful nature but are not centered around God and the Church? For example, when a young girl dreams of becoming a princess in a castle, while there is no way that dream could come to reality, is there something wrong with harboring it? 

Anonymous, via e-mail 

A. If thoughts and daydreams are centered on yourself, be careful. Indulgence in such thoughts can be a slippery slope toward pride and narcissism, leading to neglect of duties and hardness of heart toward others. Besides, it’s often a waste of time. 

If a 4-year-old girl dreams of being a “princess in a castle” or another 4-year-old dreams and pretends to be Spiderman or Darth Vader, all of that is part of normal child development. But if the girl is 17 and withdraws into her own dream world where she is the princess, odds are she will be disappointed with reality. The same holds true for the 27-year-old man, who in his vain imagination, is the hero of his thoughts. Real life will disappoint him.

Infertile Couples Marrying?

Q. In the May/June 2012 issue of The Catholic Answer, there is an article titled “May I Attend the Wedding?” In the case of attempted marriage of persons of the same sex, the author writes, “Marriage is about children, and two persons of the same sex cannot procreate children, so marriage is not possible.” 

As the author believes marriage is solely about children, is he stating infertile people cannot marry in the Catholic Church? What if a person is found to be infertile after the wedding — are those grounds for an annulment? Adoption is not an answer to the question of an infertile heterosexual couple marrying, as in 14 countries and in some U.S. states homosexuals can adopt also. 

I have never been married, have no children and am infertile. I am also considering RCIA classes and considering becoming Catholic. Although I do not plan to marry, currently, whether or not I can marry in the Catholic Church will be a pivotal factor in whether I pursue any more information about Catholicism. Can you provide some clarification on the Church’s policy concerning infertile people marrying? 

My personal perspective is marriage is not solely about children. Genesis states, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone’” (2:18). It also states that after God brought all the animals to Adam “none proved to be a helper suited to the man” (2:20). God does tell Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, but the first reason for creating Eve was for Adam and Eve to be companions and helpers to each other. 

Anonymous, via e-mail 

A. Thank you for your question. You raise a good point, and your quotations from Genesis are helpful. Indeed, it is not good for man or woman to be alone. 

I did not intend to give the impression that marriage is “solely about children.” Nevertheless, the ability to have sexual intercourse (which is the cause of children) is an essential element of marriage. The Church states that marriage “is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1601). So, there are two ends of marriage: the good of the spouses and children. 

Infertility is not an impediment to marriage, but “antecedent and perpetual impotence to have sexual intercourse, whether on the part of the man or on that of the woman” is an impediment (see Code of Canon Law, No. 1084). Later, that same canon states, “Sterility neither forbids nor invalidates a marriage.” So, in summary, the inability to have sexual intercourse is an impediment, but sterility is not. For that reason, an infertile person — by reason of age or other factor — may validly marry. For that reason also, two men cannot marry and two women cannot marry, because they cannot have sexual intercourse. Whatever they attempt to do is entirely different. 

The Catechism later points out: “Spouses to whom God has not granted children can nevertheless have a conjugal life full of meaning, in both human and Christian terms. Their marriage can radiate a fruitfulness of charity, of hospitality, and of sacrifice” (No. 1654). 

So, please move forward with your RCIA classes, and we hope God leads you to His Church. We will also hope, that if it be God’s will, you may find a soul mate for your life’s journey.

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