Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Catholic Q&A: Part 10

Last year and the year before, I had a series of posts where I would provide short answers to common questions that people have about Catholicism. I have answered tons of questions since then, but never posted any of it on my blog. Now seems as good a time as any to continue that series and make some of this material available to more people.

Typically, the questions I answer come from the following sources:
  • the unanswered Catholicism questions at WikiAnswers
  • the parishioners of the church where I am the Director of Religious Education.
  • readers of my blog, via email
  • readers of my blog, via the Formspring in my left sidebar

If you have a question, please let me know. For the previous parts in this series, see the "Catholic Q-A series" blog label.

Without further ado, let us begin:

What is the name of the prayer of the Divine Office that is said at 3 PM?

Before the reform of the “Divine Office” -- also known as the Liturgy of the Hours -- the prayers said at 3 PM were referred to as None, which is Latin for “ninth.” This was because the first prayers of the Divine Office were said at 6 AM, and 3 PM is nine hours later. With the reform of the Divine Office, Prime (6 AM), Terce (9 AM), Sext (noon), and None were consolidated into what is now called “Daytime Prayer.”

What does the word “catechism” mean?

A catechism is a summary or compendium of doctrine about faith and morals. Catholic catechisms are usually organized in 4 parts (Creed, Sacraments, Morality, Prayer) and may or may not be in question and answer format. The word “catechism” comes from the Greek word katekhein, which means “to resound” or “to echo down.” This is fitting because that’s what a catechism does: it takes the teaching of Christ and the apostles that has “echoed down” through these many generations and passes it on to us.

What is the name of the place where the priest lives?

This building is commonly referred to as a “rectory.”

Why does the bishop tap the person to be confirmed on the cheek or ear?

Since the reform of the Rite of Confirmation in 1971, this is no longer done. In the older rite, the bishop would strike each candidate on the cheek, symbolizing that the Christian is now a soldier for Christ and must endure suffering and the persecution that comes from conflict with the world. This was supposed to be done gently, although I’m sure there are many parents and grandparents among us who may recall a rather robust “reminder” by the bishop of the trials of the Catholic life!

Why did the priest face away from the congregation before Vatican II?

The orientation of the priest in the Latin Mass is not “away from the congregation” but towards the Lord. When the entire liturgical assembly -- both priest and people -- are facing in the same direction, this communicates the reality that, in the Mass, we are all together offering our praise and worship and all that we have to the Father, and the priest is offering the Sacrifice of Christ to the Father on our behalf.

Pax Christi,

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