I recently saw a picture of Pope Francis seated near the back of the chapel instead of up front in the special chair for the Celebrant. I am moved by this humility, and wonder why must the priest sit up front during Mass.
To clarify, Pope Francis was seated in the back of the chapel prior to the sacred liturgy. Once the liturgy began he vested and moved forward to the celebrant’s chair.
The celebrant of the mass sits up front in virtue of the fact that he acts in persona Christi. Hence, the celebrant’s chair, and he, being seated in a prominent, visible place in the sanctuary, is not honoring of “Fr. Joe Smith” the man, but, rather, of Jesus Christ who acts in and through the priest, who is configured to Jesus by holy orders.
In this sense, through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the priest in the liturgy is a kind of sacrament of the presence of Christ. It is Christ who is honored, and has a prominent seat. Jesus Christ is the true celebrant and high priest of every liturgy.
Christians are wrong to celebrate Christmas on December 25. Jesus could not have been born then—it would have been too cold for the shepherds to keep their flocks outdoors (as described in Luke 2:8).
There are several problems with this challenge.
First, the Catholic Church celebrates Jesus’ birth on December 25, but this is a matter of custom rather than doctrine. It is not Church teaching that this is when Jesus was born (note that the matter isn’t even mentioned in the Catechism of the Catholic Church).
Second, although most Christians today celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25, this was not the only date proposed. Around A.D. 194, Clement of Alexandria stated Christ was born November 18. Other early proposals included January 10, April 19 or 20, and May 20 (Jack Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, 2nd ed., §488, §553). By far the most common proposals, however, were January 6 (ibid., §§554–61) and December 25 (ibid., §§562–68).
While the last was eventually adopted by the Catholic Church for use in its liturgy, the fact that the Church did not declare alternate proposals heretical shows the matter was not considered essential to the Faith.
Third, the proposals that put Jesus’ birth in the colder part of the year (November 18, December 25, January 6, and January 10) are not ruled out by the fact that there were shepherds keeping watch over their flocks at night.
Ancient Jews did not have large indoor spaces for housing sheep. Flocks were kept outdoors during winter in Judaea, as they are elsewhere in the world today, including in places where snow is common (search for “winter sheep care” on the Internet). Sheep are adapted to life outdoors. That’s why they have wool, which keeps body heat in and moisture out.
Sheep are kept outdoors in winter in Israel today: “William Hendricksen quotes a letter dated Jan. 16, 1967, received from the New Testament scholar Harry Mulder, then teaching in Beirut, in which the latter tells of being in Shepherd Field at Bethlehem on the just passed Christmas Eve, and says: ‘Right near us a few flocks of sheep were nestled. Even the lambs were not lacking. . . . It is therefore definitely not impossible that the Lord Jesus was born in December’” (ibid., §569).
My daughter-in-law was watching “The Bible” on TV and said she did not understand why Jesus had to suffer so much. I am not sure how to answer why His Father made him go through so much.
One of the difficulties in understanding why Jesus suffered for sinners is that many of us, especially in the modern world, tend to think of sin only in legal terms as the breaking of some abstract rules. But sin causes real harm, and has real effects, and these must be healed. Something actually has to happen.
For example, let us say that you see me near the edge of a cliff and I warn you to take three steps to the right. But let us also say that, out of rebellion, I take three steps to the left, and slide down a great cliffside into an abyss. I lie there, injured and utterly incapable of ever rescuing myself. Let us then say, in my humiliation and pain, I cry out and ask you to forgive me. In your mercy, you say yes. And that is forgiveness. But in order to be healed and restored, you will now have to expend great effort to come down the cliffside, care for my wounds, and carry me out of the abyss.
As I hope you can see by this analogy, my sin was not simply the breaking of rule. Deep and devastating effects happened in my life, and I was incapable of restoring myself. And this was our state; we were dead in our sins (Col. 2:13). We were incapable of ever restoring or healing ourselves.
Jesus therefore, not only brought us God's forgiveness, but also extended the effort and agony to come down, heal our wounds and lift us up. This was a great, and painful, effort. Our sinful disobedience had brought us suffering and death. Jesus took up that suffering and that death in order to restore us, even elevate us to a higher place.
The horrible suffering of Jesus shows us very clearly how awful sin really is, how it disfigures, wounds, and even brings us death. These are realities, and Jesus takes them up in order to heal them and carry them away for us. We tend to make light of sin today. It is no light matter, and to remember that, we do well to look to any crucifix and see what love cost him.
Can Catholic actors accept roles that require of them nudity and enacting illicit sexual union on screen or stage?
As a general rule, no. To do this is to engage in scandal wherein one gives temptation to others, and contributes the lowering of moral standards. It is wrong to celebrate or encourage immoral activities. There is, however, the fact that movies and drama do comment on life and the human condition, which includes violence, treachery, corruption and sexual sins and so forth. To treat of these matters in drama, (as even the Bible does), is not per se wrong. What is wrong is to celebrate such sinfulness, or seek to justify and normalize it.
Even more erroneous is to unnecessarily display what should not be seen. For example, to include a murder in a movie does not require us to watch a person brutally killed and dismembered. Likewise, to report a sexual infidelity does require us to watch it pornographically portrayed. Subtlety and discretion are required to treat topics like these.
So Catholic actors should not transgress when sin is either celebrated or inappropriately displayed.
My Saturday was busy and I ended up folding laundry on Sunday. Is this a violation of the Third Commandment?
As a general rule, there is a precept that we refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, The joy proper to the Lord's day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body. (Catechism #2185).
That said, we also do well to avoid an excessive legalism against which Jesus himself taught when he said The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Mk 2:27)
Hence, while one might ordinarily seek to avoid folding laundry etc. on a Sunday, such activity is not intrinsically wrong. Perhaps one finds such an activity relaxing in the company of other family members. Perhaps too, since the activity could not reasonably be accomplished on Saturday, it is an act of charity that helps the family to be prepared for the week ahead.
Thus, we do well to seek a proper balance between maintaining the principles of joyful rest on Sunday, and avoiding excessive legalism.
Is viewing pornography on the Internet a mortal sin? What is a good method to get away from what I know in my heart is wrong?
Of its nature, the viewing of pornography is a mortal sin. As with any mortal sin, one’s culpability (blame worthiness) is affected by how freely one consents to the act, and the degree to which one fully knows and understands the gravity of the evil involved.
Internet pornography presents a very serious temptation to many, and many pastoral challenges for the Church. The fact is, today, increasing numbers of people compulsively view this sinful material, and many are outright addicted to Internet pornography.
As any confessor or pastor of souls will be able to attest, large numbers are approaching the confessional and counseling and are quite “stuck” in Internet pornography. Many have seen their relationships and marriages greatly harmed, and some even end up with criminal charges related to the viewing of pornographic images of minors. Addiction to pornography is a slippery slope that leads to increasingly debased and degrading imagery. Pornography is indeed, a snare, which lures its victims with promises of momentary delights, only to leave them quickly hungry for more. This is due to the increasingly insatiable lust that it ignites.
One of the more effective remedies that has emerged recently is a system of accountability, wherein one's Internet activities are monitored and recorded, and a daily report is sent to someone of the pornography addict’s choice. This “sponsor,” of sorts, reviews the list and holds the addict accountable. Certainly too, filters can be of some help, to prevent tempting materials from appearing in the first place. These filters can be of great help to those who struggle more mildly with the problem. Sadly though, many true pornography addicts know their way around such filters.
Finally, this salutary reminder: absolutely nothing we do on the Internet is private. When we are on the Internet, we are out in public, and our browsing habits are not hard to discover, for those who might wish to know. What’s done in the dark can be brought to the light.
Take Internet pornography seriously, it is a grave sin, which causes great harm, and is highly addictive to many people. The Scriptures say, Flee fornication (1Cor 6:18). And one does well to heed this prescription in a particular way related to Internet pornography. Flee pornography; it is a snare.
Is there a difference in the meaning between the words Hallelujah and Alleluia? And if not, why are they spelled differently?
No, both words are the same. Hallelujah is a Hebrew word, ( הַלְּלוּיָהּ Hallal (Praise) + Yah (The LORD). Hence “Hallelujah” means, “Praise the Lord!” But the exact way that the Hebrew letters are transliterated into English and other languages has varied a bit over time. Perhaps most influential is the fact that the Greek New Testament rendered the Hebrew word Hallelujah as ἀλληλούϊα (allelouia). And since Greek is generally more influential in English spellings than Hebrew, many English translations render the word as Alleluia.
However, not an insubstantial number of English translators have preferred over the centuries, especially when translating the Old Testament Hebrew, to render the term Hallelujah. Some translators will use Hallelujah for the Old Testament and Alleluia for the New Testament.
Music has also influenced the decision over which spelling to use since some of the famous compositions from the Baroque period, such as Messiah, used the spelling Hallelujah that was more common in earlier English translations of the Bible.
At the end of the day, it is the same word, just with different spellings.
Since the Church says that having children is intrinsic to sex and marriage, should we just strip the sterile and older people of their right to marriage?
The Catechism says that sex must be ordered per se to the procreation of human life (# 2366). “Per se” does not mean every act can be fertile but only that “by itself” (i.e. per se) the act is not intentionally hindered from its natural ends. This is what contraception, homosexual acts, and certain heterosexual practices, that do not complete or naturally render the marital act, do. But it is clear to any biology novice that not every sexual act results in conception.
Consider by analogy, that I call a friend, and this might result in speaking with her, or perhaps being sent to a voice mail. Whatever the final result, my reason and purpose for calling was to try to reach my friend. One would likely consider me a madman if, in dialing the numbers, I had no intent of reaching my friend, and was angry if she did pick up the phone and begin to speak. Whatever the final result, the calling of my friend is per se related to speaking with her.
And this is what it means that marriage, and sexual activity, must be “per se” related to the procreation of children, even if the results of that activity do not always attain the full purpose of that action.
Older and/or sterile people do not intentionally exclude one of the two fundamental reasons for marriage and sexual activity.
At a recent funeral of a friend her ashes were brought into the Church for the Mass. I thought this was not allowed?
The practice you describe is allowed. In 1997 the American bishops received permission from the Congregation for Divine Worship for the celebration of funeral rites in the presence of cremated remains.
There are some adaptions to the rites, however. The priest may greet the remains at the door and sprinkle them with holy water, but the covering of the remains with the cloth (the Pall) is omitted. The Easter candle may be placed near the cremated remains, but there was no mention of the priest incensing the remains. Otherwise, the funeral mass is celebrated as laid down in the Roman Missal and the funeral ritual.
Prayers, which do not make reference to honoring the burying of the body of the deceased, should be chosen, instead of those, which have these references (cf Funeral Ritual #428). The prayers of final commendation at the end of the funeral mass are largely followed in the normal way. It is uncertain at this point whether the remains are to be incensed or not. It would seem this is permitted, but not required. The deacon or priest concludes the funeral Mass with an alternate dismissal listed in the rite, which makes no reference to the body.
The forbiddance of cremation by the church in the past was due to the fact that many made use of it as a denial of the resurrection of the body. This is seldom the case today, but such an attitude must be ruled out before cremation is permitted. But note, "Although cremation is permitted by the church, it does not enjoy the same value as Burial of the body. The Church clearly prefers and urges that the body of the deceased be present for the funeral rites, since the presence of the human body better expresses the values which the Church affirms in those rites. (# 413)
I have been offered a job with a large pharmaceutical company, which, among other things, supplies materials for stem cell research. Am I able to take such a job?
Part of the answer depends on an important distinction, which many lose, in the Church’s teaching about stem cell research. The Church does not oppose all, or even most stem cell research. There are, for example, no moral issues with using stem cells harvested from adult humans, or from the umbilical cord after birth. It is only the use of stem cells acquired from human embryos, which the Church opposes, because it requires the killing of human life in order to obtain them.
Hence, the company in question is not committing sin per se in supplying material for stem cell research. Only those who wrongfully use stem cells acquired from human embryos commit wrongdoing.
However, let us suppose that it is clear to you that the company is certainly supplying some materials for the specific purpose of embryonic stem cell research. The morality of you accepting employment with this sort of a company would vary based on a number of factors.
Let us presume, as is usually the case, that the pharmaceutical company is large and supplies a vast variety of pharmaceuticals for a wide array of medical purposes. In such a scenario taking employment with such a company would only involve you in remote material cooperation. And such associations, while not ideal, are morally permissible.
However, if the position in the company that you are taking would require you to promote embryonic stem cell research to advance the sales of specific products related to embryonic stem cell research, such work would be of a more direct material cooperation. In such a case, you ought not take the job which would involve you directly advancing and cooperating in a moral evil.
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