Saturday, November 28, 2009

Catholic Q&A: Part 3

Here is a recent batch of questions that I answered in the "Catholicism" category at WikiAnswers. Also see Part 1 and Part 2.
  • What is proper behavior in a Catholic church both before and after Mass?

    One should act reverently in a Catholic church both before and after Mass, and even when Mass is not being celebrated, because the Eucharist is present.

    When a Catholic first enters the church building, he dips his fingers in the holy water font and makes the Sign of the Cross. Once he finds the pew in which he would like to sit, he genuflects towards the tabernacle, makes the Sign of the Cross, and enters the pew. Once in the pew, he kneels in prayer, preparing himself spiritually for the Mass that is soon to begin. Silence is observed from the moment he enters the Church, so as not to distract anyone in their prayer.

    Once Mass has ended and the priest has left the sanctuary, then one is free to go, although it is praiseworthy to sing the entire closing song (or "recessional hymn"). Once the song has ended, it is customary (although not required) to kneel in the pew and say a prayer of thanksgiving, or the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. When the Catholic exits the pew, he genuflects towards the tabernacle, makes the Sign of the Cross, and then approaches one of the exits. Before leaving, he dips his fingers in the holy water font and makes the Sign of the Cross. Silence is observed once the closing song is finished, so as not to distract anyone in their prayer.

    Which sacrament is the greatest?

    The Church's greatest sacrament, the source and summit of her faith and worship, is the Eucharist.

    How is the Catholic bible different from other bibles?

    The Catholic Bible is different from other Bibles in that it contains 7 more books (Sirach, Tobit, Wisdom, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, and Baruch) as well as additions to Daniel and Esther.

    What are the four main parts of the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

    Those are contrition, confession, absolution, and satisfaction. To learn about each one, see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 1450-1460.

    Who is called to defend the Catholic Church?

    All Catholics are called to defend the Church, and are empowered by the sacraments to do that very thing.

Do you know your faith? Help me tackle some unanswered questions. Of course, if you have any questions of your own, just leave me a comment or send me an email.

Pax Christi,

Friday, November 27, 2009

Catholic Q&A: Part 2

Here is a recent batch of questions that I answered in the "Catholicism" category at WikiAnswers. Also see Part 1.
  • What is the idol of gold that the Israelites created?

    You may be referring to the golden calf that the Jews created once they began to doubt that Moses would ever come down from Mt. Sinai. You can read about the creation and destruction of the golden calf in chapter 32 of the Book of Exodus, from the Old Testament of the Bible.

    Does a Catholic have to confess to a priest before receiving Communion?

    If a Catholic has committed a mortal sin, then he must confess this sin to a priest in the Sacrament of Confession before he can receive Communion. If he has committed only venial sins, then he is free to receive Communion without going to Confession, and his reception of Communion will actually result in the forgiveness of those venial sins.

    Who painted the Sistine Chapel?

    Many of the greatest Renaissance artists of the day are responsible for the paintings that adorn the Sistine Chapel: Michaelangelo, Raphael, Bernini, Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Cosimo Roseli, Luca Signorelli, and others. Of all these, Michelangelo is most often associated with the Chapel, thanks to the dramatic scenes that he painted on its ceiling.

    Who were the most influential figures of the Catholic Reformation?

    There are many saints who were influential in renewing the Catholic Church around the time of the Council of Trent. These include St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Pius V, St. Francis de Sales, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and St. Philip Neri.

    What does the water represent in baptism?

    Water is a very rich symbol in baptism. It represents death in that when you go under the water this is symbolic of a death to your old, sinful self. It represents life in that when you come out of the water, this is symbolic of a resurrection to new life. Water is symbolic of spiritual rebirth, since, just as we are physically born when we come out of the water of the womb, we are "born again" when we come out of the waters of baptism. Water is also symbolic of cleansing. Just as regular water cleanses dirt from our bodies, the water of baptism cleanses us of sin. Finally, water itself is often a symbol of the Holy Spirit since it is the Spirit that causes the various effects of baptism that are symbolized by the water.

Do you know your faith? Help me tackle some unanswered questions. Of course, if you have any questions of your own, just leave me a comment or send me an email.

Pax Christi,

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Catholic Q&A: Part 1

Here is a recent batch of questions that I answered in the "Catholicism" category at WikiAnswers. I do this from time to time because I think it's good to get the right information out there when it comes to the Catholic Church, and because it also serves as good material for my weekly column in my church bulletin.
  • Does First Communion come before Confirmation?

    It depends on when your diocese has chosen to celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation. In the United States, Confirmation can be celebrated anywhere between the age of reason (7 yrs) and age 16. So, if your diocese celebrates Confirmation in the second or third grade, then it will come before First Communion. But, if your diocese celebrates Confirmation in the eighth grade, then it would come after First Communion.

    What is the mystical process in which the bread and wine become Jesus?

    That “mystical process” is called transubstantiation.

    What is man’s earthly purpose?

    According to the old Baltimore Catechism, man was made to know, love, and serve God in this life, and to be with him in the next.

    Who was the first Catholic bishop?

    The Catholic Church believes that the first bishops were the 12 apostles themselves. It's difficult to say which, from among the 12, became a bishop first. Perhaps it is Peter, who Jesus built His Church upon (cf. Mt 16:18).

    When did the Holy Spirit originate?

    The Holy Spirit is God. This means that He has no beginning or end. Thus, there is no point in time in which we can say that the Holy Spirit first came to be and there is no point in time in which we can say that the Holy Spirit did not exist.

    When did Roman Catholicism begin?

    The Catholic Church considers Her origin to be on the day of Pentecost, around 33 AD, when Jesus poured out His Holy Spirit upon the apostles and disciples in the Upper Room. It was this Spirit that gave the Apostles the courage to preach the Gospel with boldness and to establish local churches wherever they traveled.

    Who was the first one to call the Church “Catholic”?

    The first instance that historians have found of someone referring to the "Catholic Church" is in Ignatius of Antioch's Letter to the Smyrneans, where he writes, "Let no one do anything of concern to the Church without the bishop. Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop or by one whom he ordains [i.e., a presbyter]. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church."

Do you know your faith? Help me tackle some unanswered questions. Of course, if you have any questions of your own, just leave me a comment or send me an email.

Pax Christi,

How to Read the Bible

Should the Bible be taken literally? Is any of it metaphor?

Well, it depends. Besides the literal sense of Scripture there is also a spiritual sense. This in turn is divided into the allegorical, moral, and anagogical senses. Each one brings a different layer of meaning to the text.

The literal sense is the sense that the human author wished to convey to his immediate audience. Once one considers the historical context in which the author lived, exactly who he was writing to, the circumstances in which they lived, and the purpose for his writing, then one is able to derive the literal sense of the text.

The spiritual sense is the meaning that the divine author – God, the Holy Spirit – wishes to convey to mankind in every age. It is the meaning that is found in a passage once that passage is read in the light of Christ and of Christian revelation. The allegorical, moral, and anagogical senses are all spiritual senses of Scripture.

The allegorical sense is the one in which persons, objects and actions depicted in a text are taken as representing other things not present in the text. With the allegorical sense, Moses becomes a type of Christ in his intercessory role for the people. The snake he raised up to heal them becomes an image of Christ crucified.

The moral sense is that element of Scripture that teaches us how to live rightly. As St. Paul says, “These things ... were written down for our instruction” (1 Cor 10:11). Within all of the suffering that the Jewish people had to endure is a moral lesson for us, to strive to do the will of the Lord in all things.

The anagogical sense provides the eternal significance to the realities and events of Scripture. It shows the reader that Scripture has an end in sight. Scripture not only speaks of the author’s day and of our own circumstance, but also of that final culmination of history, when Jesus Christ will make all things new.

Knowing now that there are multiple senses of Scripture, we must also keep in mind that Scripture is made up of many genres or styles of writing, such as history, poetry, parable, song, apocalypse, narrative, prophecy, etc. Once you know the genre of a writing then you know how best to understand it. For example, since the Book of Revelation is apocalyptic literature, we know that it is highly symbolic and thus we don’t think for a second that an actual dragon will appear with seven heads and ten horns when the world comes to an end (cf. Rev 12:3). Instead, we try to figure out what that dragon symbolizes.

Once you consider the multiple senses of a passage and the style in which it was written then you can capture the full breadth of meaning to be found in that passage.

Pax Christi,

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Defending the Book of Maccabees

A friend recently told me that the Book of Maccabees shouldn’t be in the Bible because it has prayers for the dead in it. How should I respond to that?

There are a handful of books in the Catholic bible that are not included in Protestant bibles. These are Sirach, Tobit, Wisdom, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, and Baruch, as well as additions to Daniel and Esther. Protestants refer to these books as the “apocrypha,” or the “apocryphal books.” One reason why these books are excluded is because Protestants find in them various doctrines or practices that are supposedly at odds with the rest of Scripture. Your friend is using that argument, and there are at least two ways to respond to it.

One approach is to defend the practice of praying for the dead. After all, your friend is assuming that there is something wrong with praying for the dead, when in fact it is perfectly fine. Catholics pray for the dead because we believe in the reality of Purgatory, the state of being cleansed by God of any remaining impurities before we enter heaven. Souls undergoing this purging can benefit from our prayers because death does not separate us from the Body of Christ. As members of one Body, we can pray for each other and offer up our hardships for one another. A lengthy defense from Scripture is usually necessary before one can convince most Protestants that praying for the dead is a legitimate practice. Read the Catechism on these subjects, as well as a few articles from and you can find all the verses you need. You may also consider a different approach.

Another way to tackle this is to simply show your friend that prayers for the dead can be found in his Bible as well as the Catholic one. I like this approach because it turns his argument against him. Now, in order to be consistent, he has to start tearing out books that no one in his right mind would ever dream of excluding! Elijah (cf. 1 Kings 17:20-22), Peter (cf. Acts 9:40), and even Jesus himself (cf. John 11:41-43) are all seen praying for the dead in books that are well established in Protestant bibles. It is true that the prayer is for the person to come back to life. But, that doesn't change the fact that the soul of a dead person is still being prayed for, which, according to Protestants, is strictly forbidden. Note also that, in order for these souls to return to their bodies, they must have been in an intermediate state, since heaven and hell are irrevocable and eternal judgments. This is what "prayer for the dead" is: prayer for souls in this intermediate state. Also, in 2 Tim 1:16-18, Paul prays for the soul of Onesiphorus, that he will find mercy on the day of Judgment. So, prayer for the dead is certainly to be found in the Protestant bible.

This same two-fold approach can be used to defend the legitimacy of the other “apocryphal” books as well. If you have never read them before, I highly suggest you do!

Pax Christi,

Mary's Fiat and Magnificat

I always hear people speak of Mary’s “fiat” and her “magnificat.” What are these things?

Mary’s fiat is found in Lk 1:38. It is her “yes” to God, which she declared once the Angel explained to her that she would conceive a son by the power of the Holy Spirit. Her specific words were, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word.” In Latin, it is, "Ecce ancilla Domini; fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum." The Latin word for “be it done” (or “let it be done”) is fiat, so that is the name used by scholars to refer to Mary’s response to the angel.

Mary’s fiat is special because it is through this act of humble submission to the will of God that the Son of God makes his entrance into human history, taking on a human nature and becoming one like us in all things but sin. It is an example to us of obedience and a lively faith in the Lord. Just imagine if all people responded to the will of the Lord by saying, “Let it be done!”

The magnificat, also called the “canticle of Mary,” is the song of praise proclaimed by Mary after Elizabeth rejoiced at Mary coming to visit her. It is from Lk 1:46-55:
  • "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever."
The first few words in Latin are, "Magnificat anima mea Dominum . . .” so that is why these words of Mary are referred to as the magnificat. This canticle is noteworthy because it is a beautiful example of praise and thanksgiving to God for all that He has done for His people and for those in need. We tend to only pray to God in our down times. We could all learn a lesson from Mary here and redouble our efforts to pray to the Lord in good times as well as in bad.

Most people don’t know what the fiat or the magnificat is because they aren’t familiar with Latin. But, Latin is a revered language that the Church has been using in her worship and her authoritative documents for many centuries. It is good to know at least a few Latin words, at least for the simple purpose of preserving our Catholic traditions and ways of speaking.

Pax Christi,

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Short Video of My Wedding

Here's a little preview of the wedding video that Amy and I had made. I am told it is not finished yet, but it will give you some indication of the joy of that day. The song in the background is "Book of Love," by Peter Gabriel. It was the song that Amy and I chose for our first dance. Oh, and the two testimonials at the end of the video were recorded towards the end of the reception, when Amy and I both were about to pass out from exhaustion.

Thank you Lord for my beautiful wife.

Pax Christi,

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

NBC Tackles the Abortion Issue

Check out this amazing clip from an episode of Law and Order: SVU

I never saw the episode myself, so I don't know what the verdict ends up being. But, as it stands by itself, this clip does a good job of exposing a little bit of the horror of the abortion industry. The whole reason the defense attorney is frustrated is because he knows that the jury has just been awakened to that horror and he will be hard-pressed to create the cognitive dissonance necessary for the jury to not feel completely repulsed by what the doctor has done.

I'm surprised that this episode even saw the light of day. What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know.

Pax Christi,
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