The Church’s understanding of infallibility is often misunderstood. Many people wrongly believe that every word that comes from the mouth of the Pope is to be considered without error, completely true and therefore must be believed by every Catholic. This simply is not true. There are strict criteria governing how a teaching is made infallible and not all of them need the Pope’s formal consent. Tests for whether a definition of a teaching has been made infallible include: (a) if a pope is writing, does he use the phrase “define” and (b) if a church council is writing, does it use the phrase “let him be anathema” (the word anathema is this case means “outside of communion with Christ and the Church”). If either of these is the case, it’s probably an infallible definition, especially as this language has been used in recent centuries. There are other ways popes and councils can issue definitions, but these are phrases commonly used to do so. The Church has not yet compiled a list of all infallible teachings. However, the most common infallibly defined teachings are: the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption, the reservation of priestly ordination to men, abortion and the deliberate killing of innocent persons. Some of them—the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption—have been infallibly taught by a definition of the extraordinary magisterium (i.e., in a definition of a pope or an ecumenical council). Others—the male priesthood, the intrinsic evil of abortion and the deliberate killing of innocents—are infallibly taught, without a definition, by the Church’s ordinary magisterium (i.e., upheld in the Sacred Tradition by bishops and lay faithful). While the vast majority of what the Pope and Church councils say in spoken word and in writing are not considered infallible, this does not discount their truth or their relevance for our lives. It simply means they have not made a solemn pronouncement on the topic.
The book of Genesis just mentions Adam and Eve having only two sons, Cain and Abel. Whom did Cain and Abel marry? It says they had offspring but there is no mention of any other women?
It is important not to read Sacred Scripture as a history book or scientific manual. While there may be some historical truths and scientific claims in the Bible the authors of the books had the intention of passing on spiritually inspired truth from God rather than facts and figures. For example, the Book of Genesis takes the presence of women for granted, seldom naming them and merely observing, in chapter 5, verse 4, that Adam “begot sons and daughters.” We know that names in the Old Testament may often stand for nations or races rather than individuals. “Adam” may well sometimes stand for the whole human race; “Eve” for all women. In the story of the fall, we know from the Church’s teaching that these names stand for the two particular individuals who were the first human pair and whose particular act of choice is told to us. But this may not still apply at the beginning of chapter 4, the story of Cain and Abel. Indeed, it seems more reasonable to suppose that the inspired writer (whose whole concern is with man’s position before God, not with archaeology or historical evidence) is here skipping over many hundreds of thousands of years, when he gives the story of the murder of the shepherd by the farmer. As Catholics, we read the Bible literarily, never literally. We must take into consideration the author’s intention, the audience, the time period, type of literature and other factors in order to prevent ourselves from reading things too literally.
I had a friend of mine who isn’t Catholic say that the veneration of relics is superstitious and condemned by the Bible. Is this true?
No, this is false. Although the ancient Christian practice of venerating the relics of saints, especially martyrs, can be abused in a superstitious way by some who misunderstand the purpose of relics; it is not itself in any way superstitious.
A relic is an object, such as a piece of clothing or, more commonly, a piece of bone from a saint’s body, which had spiritual value because it belonged to one of God’s saints. The Bible records many accounts of the value of relics and even episodes of miraculous events connected with them. “People brought to Jesus all who were sick and begged him that they might only touch the tassel on his cloak, and as many who touched it were healed.” (Mt 14:35-36; cf. Mk 6:56, Lk 8:43-44). It was not uncommon for ordinary objects, like the tassel on the Lord’s cloak, to have miraculous characteristics. Look also at Acts 5:15, where even Peter’s shadow could cause miraculous healings.
Regarding the relics of saints, especially martyrs (about whom the bible says, “Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his holy ones” [Ps 116:15]), look at 2 Kings 13:21: Elisha died and was buried. At the time, bands of Moabites used to raid the land each year. Once some people were burying a man, when suddenly they spied such a raiding band. So they cast the dead man into the grave of Elisha and everyone went off. But when the man came in contact with the bones of Elisha, he came back to life and rose to his feet.
Relics are an important spiritual connection to the Saints of our Church and have a long and prominent history in Sacred Scripture and Tradition.
At what point of the Mass, when someone arrives after it has started, is it too late to receive Holy Communion? Is it OK to leave Mass after receiving Holy Communion?
Attending Holy Mass means accepting the Lord Jesus’ invitation to participate in His great Banquet sacrifice which unites Heaven and earth. It is responding to a King’s invitation to join him at a feast. Such an invitation means being there to eat a five course meal that includes the soup, the appetizer, the salad, the main entrée and the dessert. Would it be polite to arrive late? Would it be polite to tell the King that you do not care for the soup or the appetizer? Or would it be polite to skip the dessert and leave early? All of these behaviors would be rude.
To arrive late for Mass is not just a matter of fulfilling one’s Sunday obligation, it is an act of love and respect for the Lord Jesus who is gathering His children to share in the great moment during the Holy Mass when He will become physically present among the faithful. Each and every part of the Holy Mass is important, inseparable from one another. Prior to Vatican II, some theologians taught that arrival before the offertory was necessary to fulfill one’s Sunday obligation. The Catholic Church no longer supports this teaching. Its emphasis is now on the overall unity of the Holy Mass. The Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist are intimately united. Listening to God’s Word proclaimed in Sacred Scripture prepares the soul to receive the Incarnate Word of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion.
The second question is much easier to understand--Leaving right after Holy Communion is unacceptable: Where we have just received the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus, Our Lord, it is extremely disrespectful and shows others you may not believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. After Communion, we have a period of silence where the Body of Christ is encouraged to pray immediately after receiving the Eucharist. We pray prayers of thanksgiving and pray for help and assistance for the coming week. I like to call leaving Mass early the Judas Shuffle, because Judas left the eleven Apostles immediately after the Last Supper.
If you arrive late for Holy Mass, ask yourself with a sincere heart if you should receive Holy Communion. You be the judge of the matter before God. If sharing in the Lord’s Banquet means something to you, then you should be there from the entrance procession at the beginning of the Holy Mass to the final dismissal and closing hymn.
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