Somewhere in Scripture it is written that a naked man was seen running from the scene of Jesus’ arrest. Where is this and what does it mean?
It is in Mark: A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind (14:51-52).
Who this young man is, and the exact meaning of this passage, are rather debated and uncertain. Most modern scholars think the young man is Mark himself who is describing a humorous story of when his faith was not strong.
Note he is described as a young man, possibly less than 12, which may explain why he was lightly clothed. Like today, youngsters might be permitted to wear fewer clothes. Others see the image of youthful virility in this description, since the description of the clothing points also to gym clothing.
The meaning of the text is much debated. However, two explanations seem most likely. First, there is the link to Gen 39:12 described by several Fathers of the Church. In that passage Joseph, seeking to escape the seduction of the wife of Potiphar, flees naked. Thus the Christian must be prepared to leave everything behind to avoid the snares of the sinful.
A second explanation focuses on the youthful strength of the young man and ties the event to a prophecy of Amos: And he who is stout of heart among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day, declares the LORD (2:16). Thus the text indicates the weakness of even strong men and the need for God to save us.
Are women permitted to have their feet washed on Holy Thursday? Someone told me that there is a Cardinal who claims to have a letter from Rome permitting the practice.
“Permitting” might be a strong word. The Cardinal’s Archdiocese issued a statement in April 2005 that read in part: “At the time of the ad limina visit to Rome, the Cardinal sought clarification on the liturgical requirements of the rite of foot washing from the Congregation for Divine Worship, which has the responsibility for administering the liturgical law of the Church. The Congregation affirmed the liturgical requirement that only the feet of men be washed at the Holy Thursday ritual, which recalls Christ’s service to the apostles who would become the first priests of the Church. The Congregation did, however, provide for the Cardinal to make a pastoral decision concerning his practice of the rite if such a decision would be helpful to the faithful of the archdiocese.”
And while the Cardinal did not comment publicly on the response from Rome, his practice since has been to include women in the Holy Thursday foot washing. The statement from Rome stops short of “permitting,” and issued no official indults. In the end it left the matter to the pastoral judgment of the Cardinal, and, presumably, all Ordinaries, while reiterating the norm of men only.
Sadly, the Holy Thursday foot washing has become a kind of countersign, emphasizing power and rivalry, instead of service and unity. What should bespeak charity has often issued in conflict. Though the norm has never been unclear, it must be admitted that the practice of including women today in the ritual is widespread. While priests today are generally more obedient to liturgical law, many have inherited the practice and, for similar pastoral reasons, have accepted it, choosing not to further inflame an already tense matter, which occurs only once a year and is optional.
There are 7 sacraments that give grace, and things called sacramentals that do not give grace. Why do I read in my Church bulletin about classes being offered to prepare people for "sacramental marriage?"
Well, in your bulletin “sacramental” is being used as an adjective, not a noun. Hence it is not wrong to speak of sacramental marriage. But, your bulletin could be clearer by saying “Sacrament of Marriage (or Matrimony).”
That said, your distinction between the nouns, “sacrament” and “sacramental”, is sound. Sacramentals include things like blessings, blessed objects, holy water, medals, etc. They bear a resemblance to the sacraments. But sacraments, as “efficacious signs,” absolutely confer the grace they announce, presuming the recipient is properly open to receive them. Sacramentals are signs that prepare us to receive grace, and dispose us to cooperate with it, but are much more dependent on our disposition to be fruitful. More at the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1667ff).
St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that life does not begin until the second trimester. How should we answer this, especially in regard to abortion?
The wording of your question is slightly inaccurate. St. Thomas did not deny that life in the womb was, in fact, life. The teaching of Aquinas to which you refer is that an unborn baby receives a soul 40 or 80 days after conception, depending on gender. (Note this is much earlier than the second trimester). Aquinas held this opinion based on Aristotle, who said a child has a soul when it first has a human “form"--that is, when the child looks human. The difference in gender was based on the point at which genitals could be observed on miscarried children, earlier for boys, later for girls.
While many link this position of Aquinas to the abortion debate, the date of ensoulment is not essential to the Church’s position on the sinfulness of abortion. The Church roots her teaching in Scripture (e.g. Ex 21:22-23; Ps 51:5; Ps. 139:13-16; Job 10:11; Is 44:24; Jer 1:5), Tradition and Natural Law.
St. Thomas never wrote directly on abortion. There are only a couple of indirect references in the Summa (IIa, IIae, q.64, a 8; q.68, a 11). But surely St. Thomas was well aware of the Scriptures above, as well as the ancient teaching of Tradition forbidding abortion at any stage. Beginning with the Didache written around 110 AD which said "Thou shalt not murder a child by abortion" (2:2), and continuing with Barnabas, Clement, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Basil, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome and many other Fathers, and also authoritative Councils, the Church had consistently condemned abortion in no uncertain terms. Hence we ought not presume Aquinas, who never spoke on abortion directly, ever intended by engaging in a discussion of ensoulment, to contest the immorality of abortion at any stage.
Regarding his teaching on ensoulment, theologians do not hold such an opinion today and most regard Thomas’ positions as rooted in a primitive understanding of embryology. Clearly natural science today demonstrates the existence of a genetically unique individual at conception.
Finally, even if one wanted unreasonably to hold that Aquinas supported early abortions, St. Thomas, venerable and respect though he is, is not infallible and is not the magisterium. While his teachings are influential, they have not been universally adopted by the magisterium. One obvious example is that St. Thomas was not supportive of the, then unofficial, belief in the Immaculate Conception of Mary.
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