Hardened hearts

Question: Recently in OSV Newsweekly, there was a wonderful column about the Mass by Father Robert Hater. If everybody only understood what Mass was really about, there would not be a dry eye in the house. Is there a plan in the Church to incorporate this kind of re-education in homilies, etc.?

Josie Rodriguez, St. Petersburg, Florida

Answer: Father’s column was wonderful indeed. But, as I am sure Father Hater would agree, education is only part of the solution.

In the modern world, we tend to think that education is the main answer to most things. To be sure, education is essential and of great value. One cannot love someone or something they know nothing about.

But the biblical world speaks to an aspect of the problem we often overlook today: the will. Plainly stated, people do not know much of the Mass or the things of God, because they don’t want to.

Jesus spoke to this problem when he said: “Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them” (Mt 13:15).

It is not that people simply have a lack of information. Information abounds in our world today as never before. It is not that people aren’t smart. There is great skill evident in worldly matters such as careers, sports and hobbies. Rather, the problem stems more from hardened, sinful and unrepentant hearts of many who are not interested and are resistant to the things of God.

What then is the solution? Education, to be sure. But to this we must add prayers for repentance and the call to repentance. St. John Vianney surely taught his congregation, but above all, he prayed and fasted for them and exemplified a ministry of repentance through hours in the confessional.

Such a ministry of prayer should not be limited to priests. Parents should not cease praying and fasting for their children to stay faithful to Mass and/or return to the Faith. Parishioners should pray and also fast for the return of many to the Church in their territory or region.

Education will generally be ineffective for those with hardened hearts and closed minds. For them, the logjam must be broken through the grace of repentance, a grace for which we must be more intentional about seeking and pleading.

Holy angels

Question: When we invoke Michael the Archangel, we call him “St. Michael.” Isn’t the term “saint” only applied to human beings?

Robert McBride, Cheswick, Pennsylvania

Answer: The word “saint” means “holy.” St. Peter, more literally rendered, is “Holy Peter.” And while we usually apply the term “saint” in our tradition to canonized men and women in heaven, this is not exclusively the case as you note. The angels are holy, and thus are rightly called saints.

Since we know the names of only a few of them, we generally speak of them merely as angels. But for the three names we know from Scripture, we do assign the title “holy” Thus: St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. Raphael are rightly termed saints since they are most certainly holy and among the highest multitudes in heaven.

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org. Send questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to msgrpope@osv.com. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.