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July 3, 2022 - 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Question: Why do we have a liturgical season called ordinary time? Can you explain?
Answer: Ordinary time is the longest season of the liturgical year. It begins the Monday after January 6, the Epiphany, and goes until the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. That period can last anywhere from five to eight weeks, depending on when Easter is celebrated. Ordinary time picks up again the Monday after Pentecost Sunday and lasts from twenty-three to twenty-seven weeks, until the end of the liturgical year, the Saturday before Advent begins.
Why the name ordinary? “Ordinary” is not in contrast to “extraordinary” or “special” but rather stresses the Latin language notion of “ordinal” or numbered Sundays. The Latin title for the season, tempus ordinarium, conveys the sense that this time of the year is measured or numbered time. Measured time can allude simply to the numbered Sundays, or the notion that these Sundays are a “measured” time to deepen and immerse ourselves completely in the realities of Jesus’ incarnation, ministry, passion, death, and resurrection. Ordinary time offers us the opportunity to connect the ordinary lived experiences of our lives with those of Jesus, who modeled for us how to live a truly human existence.
June 19, 2022 - The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Question: If one’s gift or talent is making money, and one uses that money for honorable purposes, is it considered a spiritual gift? What does our faith teach us about wealth and stewardship?
Answer: Jesus said it best: to whom much is given, much is expected. All gifts come from God, and our abilities are given to us to be used for the benefit of ourselves and of others and at the service of the Gospel. In an article entitled “The Many Faces of Stewardship,” Catherine Doherty wrote about stewardship in the “nitty-gritty everydayness of my life,” and about the currency or “money” of spiritual stewardship: love, understanding, and unselfishness.
For a gift to have a spiritual benefit, our intention and involvement would be part of the consideration. If I give money to a charity, but do so in order to gain a tax advantage, it could hardly be a virtuous thing on my part. But if I give because I want to help and, in fact, am even willing to get involved, I have committed myself in a deeper, more meaningful way. Regardless of our money-making talents, in the end, true stewardship comes down to how well we practice the virtues of faith, hope, and love within our life and with those in our community and church. Ultimately, the most important element in stewardship is not intangible—it’s you!
June 12, 2022 - The Most Holy Trinnity
Stem Cell Research
Question: Why is the Church against stem cell research, especially if it offers the possibility of cures for diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s?
Answer: Like so many issues, the truth about stem cell research is more complicated than a few sound bites and vague promises of cures. For the Church, the problem is with embryonic stem cell research, not the research itself. The destruction of human life, even for a seemingly noble cause, is never acceptable. The ends cannot justify the means. Stem cells can be obtained in other ways, including from the placenta as well as from adults. So research is possible without the destruction of other life.
On the other hand, stem cell research shows much promise, but no concrete results. Some scientists also dispute what diseases might be cured by new discoveries. The research is still in its early stages. The question for our country is whether we should invest a lot of money in research now, looking for cures that will probably remain out of reach for most people, or should we invest that money in other programs with more immediate benefits, especially those that stress prevention and education. It is indeed a complex issue that requires close scrutiny and investigation before we jump to inaccurate conclusions or make decisions based on good, but misinformed, intentions.
June 5, 2022 - Pentecost Sunday
Mass Celebrated Around the World
Question: Is the Catholic Mass really celebrated the same throughout the whole world?
Answer: One of the truisms of the Catholic Faith is that “wherever you go in the world, the Mass is the same.” In fact, the answer to this question is both “yes” and “no.”
On the one hand, the essential elements of the Roman Rite are the same. The structure of the Mass as it is presented in the Roman Missal is consistent and this is one of the beauties of belonging to a liturgical tradition.
On the other hand, however, there are elements of celebrations that can vary depending on the country or even local region you might be in. For example, in certain parts of the world, certain feasts and solemnities are celebrated on different days (even here in the United States the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord can be celebrated on Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter or it may take the place of the Seventh Sunday of Easter, depending on what diocese you are in). Whether it is the use of certain liturgical colors, local celebrations of regional saints, special seasonal blessings of crops or produce, or the use of dance and processions all demonstrate a sort of organic variety that can exist even within our established liturgical tradition. While we always respect what is essential to the rite, such local variations and traditions are very much in keeping with the vision of liturgical renewal and adaption envisioned by the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (nos. 37-40).
May 29, 2022 - 7th Sunday of Easter
Question: At a parish council meeting, our pastor mentioned the need for deacons. It is something I am considering. How do I know if I have a vocation? What steps should I take next?
Answer: Any and all gifts that the Holy Spirit gives to the church are for the good of the community. As members of the Body of Christ, what one member does affects all. What the body does also affects each member. A vocation or call to ministry is tested and verified by the church. Through prayer, instruction, and service, a vocation is tested, and then acknowledged by the official call to orders or to service.
If you are considering becoming a deacon, the first step would be to talk to your pastor. He will be able to give you more specific information on the program in your diocese, what is expected of you, and how you apply. You might also begin to see a spiritual director, someone who can help you with your faith journey and vocation discernment. They do so by focusing on prayer, your relationship with God, and spiritual practices. Finally, you’ll need to see the diocesan vocation director in charge of deacons to apply. Best wishes!
May 22, 2022 - 6th Sunday of Easter
Responding to God
Question: I can’t explain it. I feel a nudge from God to something out of the ordinary. How do I respond?
Answer: You’re in good company! Abraham was asked to leave all he knew and loved for a strange land, with only abstract divine assurance that such a sacrifice would be worth it. Plenty of prophets protested against God’s call, whether it was claiming they were too young (Jeremiah) or running away entirely, only to end up in a whale’s belly (Jonah). St. Joseph was asked to do something very strange. He was asked to believe — on the word of an angelic appearance in a dream — that his betrothed was pregnant not from another man, but by a miraculous intervention of God. Then he was called to marry her.
Author Flannery O’Connor once wrote, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd.” Sometimes God’s invitation might seem strange or challenging. It might require sacrifices we never expected to make. Our life might look different than we had always imagined. But as we all know, life throws its own curveballs, regardless of whether or not we’re listening for God’s will. Better, one would think, to be open to the promptings of God and to follow along the strange trails that they lead. We have the assurance that, eventually, we will find green pastures.
May 15, 2022 - 5th Sunday of Easter
Question: At my grandson’s Baptism, the priest put a bib on the baby. I do not remember seeing this before. Why is this done? Is it something new?
Answer: When an adult is baptized, there is a part in the ceremony when the newly baptized is vested in a white garment. It is symbolic of the changes that baptism brings in the life of the baptized as they are freed from the bonds of sin and brought into the saving grace of Christ. Realities that are so profound are symbolically presented so that we might better grasp and understand them.
Infants are often dressed in a baptismal dress, which is the baptismal garment. In some places, the bib is used as a kind of baptismal garment. At the place in the ceremony where the investiture takes place, the bib is used. Some are poncho-like and fit over the baby's head. Others are simply placed on the baby's chest. If the baby is dressed in a white garment, nothing else is needed. The prayer says it all: “See in your white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity ... bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.” In baptism, we are given our purpose and goal in life as believers and this is symbolized by the white garment.
May 8, 2022 - 4th Sunday of Easter
Daily Prayer Versus Mass?
Question: I have a friend who says she doesn’t need to attend Mass because she prays to God every day. What are your thoughts on this justification?
Answer: If the only reason for going to church were to talk to God, your friend might be right. Prayer is not something limited to a physical place or even a holy place. If the sole purpose of the Church were prayer, it would be a narrow purpose indeed. The Church is a community of believers, formed by “one Lord, one faith, one Baptism.” It is an outward sign of our faith in God instituted by Christ, and the purpose of the Church is to give us grace, that is, a share in God’s life.
Coming to Mass is not really for God’s sake, but for ours. If we believe that Jesus is truly present in the holy Eucharist, then we will want to be in his presence. We will want to be fed by him. Our daily prayer and good works are strengthened by our authentic encounter with our Lord. For Catholics, it is at Mass that we celebrate the source and summit of our faith. If this is true, why would we ever stay away?
May 1, 2022 - 3rd Sunday of Easter
Choosing Organ Donation
Question: Are Catholics allowed to donate their organs?
Answer: Yes, Catholics are allowed to donate their organs. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church praises this practice when it notes that, “Organ donation after death is a noble and meritorious act and is to be encouraged as an expression of generous solidarity” (no. 2296).
The Church has a series of guidelines for health care providers called The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Services. This document helps us see organ donation as an act of charity, but it also reminds us that we have to be sure that donations of organs by living donors do not “sacrifice or seriously impair any essential bodily function and the anticipated benefit to the recipient is proportionate to the harm to the donor” (no. 30); trained medical professionals can help to make this assessment. In the case of organ donation at the end of life, we must be sure of the intentions of the donor or of their proxy are always respected, and that the dignity of the human body is always respected.
In the end, we can look to Pope Saint John Paul II and his encyclical Evangelium Vitae, where he noted that organ donation is a beautiful act of expressing the culture of life, when “performed in an ethically acceptable manner, with a view to offering a chance of health or even of life itself to the sick who sometimes have no other hope” (no. 86).
April 24, 2022 - 2nd Sunday of Easter
Who Can Offer Anointing of the Sick?
Question: Can anyone offer the Anointing of the Sick to a sick or dying person, or is that only something a priest can do?
Answer: The Letter of James speaks to us of the ancient tradition of a special anointing and blessing of those who are sick: “Is there anyone sick among you? Let him send for the presbyters of the Church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord … If he has committed any sins, they will be forgiven him” (5:14, 15b). This passage forms the foundation for the theology of the sacrament that we call “Anointing of the Sick.” In keeping with what we read in the Letter of James and the ancient tradition of the Church, the anointing of a person of who sick or dying many only be performed by a priest or bishop.
Although deacons and other members of the Church are not able to celebrate the sacrament with a person who is sick, we can read Sacred Scripture and pray with and for those who are ill. Resources like the Book of Blessings also contain special blessings that can be celebrated by deacons or lay ministers. In the end, we want to be sure that we show a special care and concern for the sick, helping them to always experience God’s loving comfort through made tangible through our acts of charity and service.
April 17, 2022 - Easter Sunday
Fruits of Holy Communion
Question: What are the "fruits" of Holy Communion?
Answer: The Eucharist, like all sacraments, offers its own unique grace. We receive a special share in God's life that helps us in our faith journey. We are given all we need to sustain and nurture our relationship with God. The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. Everything we are and everything we hope to become is found in this sacrament. It is essential to the life of the church, to each member of the church. Without it, there is no church. The Eucharist is the center of our spiritual life and has enormous effects on our growth, our holiness, and our way of life.
The fruits of holy Communion are the benefits one receives from the sacrament. These fruits of holy Communion are discussed in the catechism in the article on the Eucharist. The primary benefit is union with Christ. We become one with him sacramentally, just as we hope to become one with him for eternity. The Eucharist also separates us from sin, both past and future. It forgives the venial sins of the past and, by the love we receive, protects us from mortal sin in the future. The church community is also unified and strengthened by the Eucharist. It unites us to the poor and offers the pledge of eternal life.
April 10, 2022 - Palm Sunday
Question: Why is it so important that we register in a parish? Isn't it good enough that we go to Mass?
Answer: Registration is the official way we join a parish community. Many people think that because they attend a particular parish they automatically belong. At times, young adults who have moved away for years think they are still signed up under their parents. But membership requires signing up, formally enrolling yourself in a parish. Registration is a commitment to a community, a way to be included in the religious, social, and ministerial activities of your parish. Your registration affects the parish in many ways. Census numbers can determine how many priests are assigned to a church, what benefits and obligations the community has to the diocese, and how Masses, Confessions, and devotions are planned and scheduled.
Registration shows you belong. It is also necessary for certain benefits, like scheduling sacraments, obtaining sponsor certificates, and getting donation statements for taxes. Most importantly, it lets the parish count on you, to call on you to assist in its mission. Registering in your parish is a statement of faith and confidence in the life and work of your parish.
April 3, 2022 - 5th Sunday of Lent
Tithing vs. Stewardship
What is the difference between tithing and stewardship?
Both tithing and stewardship are part of a spiritual way of life that calls us to use all of our resources for the service of the Gospel. Everything we are and everything we have comes from God. Offering back to God what He has given us is part of how we worship and give thanks to God.
Tithing is the practice of giving back 10 percent of what we earn. It comes from the Old English word for “ten.” The first Scriptural example of tithing came from Abraham who gave a tenth of his possessions to the priest Melchizedek. He did so as an act of thanksgiving to God.
Stewardship as a way of life calls us to use well all that we have and all that we are, placing all things in service of others and God. Stewardship helps us see the good we can accomplish by making God and our spiritual life the most important values in our life. Whatever we accumulate in this life stays here. We can’t take it with us! Both tithing and stewardship help us remember that nothing is mine or even ours … all belongs to God.