I was delighted to see 3 million people at Mass on a Rio beach with the Pope. However, this is in contrast to the Church's rules that a marriage must be celebrated in a church. What do I tell my nieces who want to have weddings outside?
All the sacraments, as a general rule, should be celebrated in a sacred space. Therefore, a dedicated parish church or oratory is almost always the proper place for the celebration of any sacrament.
But, as is almost always the case with general norms, there are exceptions. For example, in danger of death, baptisms are sometimes celebrated in the hospital. On account of urgency, or as the result of a pastoral moment, confessions are sometimes celebrated in settings other than the church.
In the example you cite, no Church building exists to accommodate the three million who assembled in Rio. The use of the beach was actually a backup plan that had to be implemented when the large open field that had been designated was rendered soggy by pouring rains.
Hence, for urgent pastoral reasons, many general norms can be adapted where necessary.
Regarding weddings, certain permissions can be obtained for weddings to be celebrated outside of the sacred space. However, the reasons ought to be serious, not just because it would be more convenient or pleasing to someone in the wedding party.
While permissions are sometimes granted, most dioceses resist granting these permissions too easily. Of all the Sacraments, the celebration of Holy Matrimony tends to be most influenced by secular trends. And many of these trends take the focus off Christ and the actual Sacrament that is being conferred. The emphasis too easily falls on dresses, flowers, food, and other social aspects. Moving weddings to beaches, backyards, reception halls and other such places, shifts the focus even further away from the Sacrament itself. It also tends to open the doors even further to certain passing trends, many of which are questionable, even frivolous or scandalous.
Hence, the celebration of the Sacraments ought generally to take place in the parish church. For serious pastoral reasons, such as stated above, exceptions can be made. But weddings seldom present pastoral conundrums significant enough to warrant the movement of the Sacrament outside the church and, more problematically, shift the focus even further from where it should be.
The catechism here references a quote from St. Athanasius, and also a clarification by St. Thomas Aquinas. It is true that Athanasius speaks boldly, as Saints often do! But as both St. Athanasius and St. Thomas were careful to do, distinctions are necessary.
The exact quote from the catechism is For the Son of God became man so that we might become God. The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.
Note that the second sentence, a comment by Thomas on Athanasius’ statement, the word “gods” is not capitalized. And this is to make it clear, as Athanasius would agree, that we do not become a god as separate and distinct from the one, true God. But rather, that we “partake” or “participate” in the Divine nature.
To partake, or participate comes from the Latin Word particeps, meaning to take up a part of something, but not the whole. Thus, though we come to share in aspects of the Divine nature, we do not do so in a way that is separate from being members of Christ’s Body, through baptism. We access this “share” in a part or aspect of divine life and nature only in union with Christ, only by entering into communion with Jesus at baptism, and thus receiving divine sonship.
When I was young I was taught to conclude my confession with, "For these and all the sins of my past life, I ask pardon and absolution." This is a strange expression and almost seems to imply I've had other lives in the past, does it not?
No, it does not. This is a mode of speaking, an expression, and should not be understood in a strictly literal manner. There are all sorts of expressions and manners of speaking which, if read in a literalist manner, make little sense, but everyone knows what they mean euphemistically.
For example, a mother may say to her child, “Put on your shoes and socks.” Literally, this would be difficult and clumsy, since it seems to say that I should put on my shoes, and then my socks on top of the shoes. But of course, it means no such thing. And while it is more true to say one ought to put on his socks and shoes, everybody knows what it means. Another example is the expression “coming and going.” But of course one cannot really come, until they first go. So the expression more accurately should be “going and coming.” But despite poor word order, everybody knows what “coming and going” means and adjusts.
And thus, when we ask forgiveness for the sins of our “past life,” it is clear we are referring merely to the sins we have committed in the past. If this saying is bothersome to you, then you may amend it, for it is not a formal or prescribed way of ending the confession, but it is simply a common sentence many use to tell the priest they are done mentioning their sins.
Theologically, one is not required to ask forgiveness for sins of the past which have already been forgiven in the sacrament. And thus, another way a penitent can end his confession is to say something like “For these, and other sins I cannot recall, I ask for pardon and absolution.”
Our new priest does not wash his hands at offertory in daily mass. He says without a server it is hard and the rite no longer has practical use. Is this right?
The priest celebrant should wash his hands, even if there is no server. Though it is a bit awkward to pour water over one's hands from a cruet, finger bowls can perhaps be used for the purpose.
Father's explanation that there is no practical necessity for him to wash his hands does not hold. It is true that the hand washing in ancient times had more practical purposes due to the reception of many and varied gifts during the offertory procession. Handling these things often soiled the priest's hands. But liturgical rites don't have a merely practical point. The washing of the priest's hands has an important spiritual dimension as well, indicating his desire to be free of sin before offering the Holy Sacrifice, and handling the Body and Blood of Christ. Omitting this rite is not permitted.
Our Bishop closed our parish. My grandparents were among those who built and paid for this parish. By what right does the bishop close what is ours?
Canonically, there likely are some solutions that permit the lay faithful to take possession of a building slated for closure, undertake its maintenance and keep them open as chapels etc. under the supervision of the local church. Frankly, though, most congregations that have reached a critical state where closure is deemed necessary are not in fact able to undertake such solutions.
While there are legitimate canonical issues, as the lay faithful you have canonical rights at the closing of the parishes, I am not a canon lawyer and would like to answer your question pastorally.
And from a pastoral point of view, it seems evident that bishops do not close parishes, people close parishes. Some wish to explain the widespread closing of Catholic parishes, especially in the Northeast, as mere demographic shifts. And while there are demographic issues, the fact remains that with the Catholic population almost double what it was in the 1950s, many parishes filled to overflowing back in that era now sit increasingly empty.
This is a teachable moment, and we must accept some very painful facts. When only 25% of Catholics go to Mass nationwide, and when Catholics stop having many children, or effectively handing on the faith to their children, this is what happens.
The Church simply cannot maintain parishes and other institutions such as schools and hospitals when Catholics are largely absent. Pastorally speaking, people, not Bishops alone, close parishes. Many parishes, schools, seminaries and convents now sit largely empty. And as they begin to go empty, bills are unpaid, maintenance is deferred, and the situation eventually becomes critical. Dioceses do not have endless amounts of money, or priests and other personnel to staff and maintain increasingly empty, no longer viable parishes… Decisions have to be made.
Pastorally, one would hope that long before things go utterly critical, that bishops, working together with communities that are going into crisis, can speak honestly and work for solutions. But this is not simply the responsibility of the Bishop, it is the responsibility of all the people of God to have such honest discussions.
Thus, we are left with a difficult but teachable moment about what happens when the faith handed down to us is largely set aside by the vast majority of Catholics. It's time to Evangelize and make disciples, as Christ commands.
I have inherited a first class relic. Are there any norms for what I should do or not do with the relic?
Other than a brief mention in Canon 1170 forbidding the sale of relics, there are surprisingly few directions on the care of relics.
Certainly, they are meant to be reverently kept, and ought not be simply cast in a drawer or some forgotten place. Ideally they are put in an ostensiorium, a display vessel easily purchased in most Catholic bookstores, shrine shops or catalogues. Relics ought to be displayed in a suitable place of prayer in one's house. Ideally the place should be uncluttered with other more worldly things like souvenirs, collectibles etc. If the possession of relics is not conducive to one's spiritual life, they ought to be given to another who might benefit or placed in the care of the local parish.
Relics are meant to remind us of the Saints, their stories, and what God can do even with weak human flesh. They should summon us to prayer and trust. But they ought not to be regarded superstitiously as if their mere presence could ward off all suffering or work independently of the will of God. The great wish and prayer of any Saint is that we know and love God and be conformed to His will and plan for us.
At our parish the priest says a shortened creed. Some Sundays he omits it altogether. When I talk to him about it he gets angry. Should I go to the bishop?
The creed is to be said each Sunday. It is possible that the shortened version you mention is the Apostles Creed, which is a permitted option.
Complete omission of the Creed is wrong, and if your request that the priest follow the requirement continues to be ignored, you should inform the diocesan bishop and ask for a written reply from his office as to how your concerns will be addressed.
Many have died for what the Creed announces. It is no mere ritual recitation.
At the Mass, when the priest offers the bread and wine we say, "Blessed be God forever." But how is it possible for us to bless God? He does not need our blessings and blesses us.
Linguistically the response you cite translates the Latin Benedictus Deus in saecula. The benedictus in Latin, literally means to speak well or favorably about someone or something (bene = well + dictus = say or speak). Hence what we mean by “blessed” and the phrase “Blessed be God forever” is that “It is well that God should be forever praised.” We are not claiming to confer some sort of grace or favor upon God, as is often the meaning of the word “blessing” in English.
Theologically though we can distinguish between God’s intrinsic glory and his external glory. As you point out, there is not one thing we can add or take from God’s intrinsic glory. God is glorious and blessed all by Himself and has no need of our praise.
However, we can help to spread God’s external glory by our praise and acknowledgment of him before others, as well as by reflecting his glory through lives of holiness, generosity and conformity to the truth.
In this sense we can also understand the phrase "Blessed be God forever" to mean, "May God's external glory and blessedness be extended and experienced in all places and times. May God be blessed (praised) everywhere, and unto the age of ages."
I have read that in some countries it is legal to sell blood and organs. What is the Catholic view of this practice?
Organs and blood should not be sold and no Christian can seriously propose such a thing. In the first place, it violates Scripture which says, “You are not your own. You have been bought at a price! So, glorify God in your body.”. (1 Cor 6:19‐20). Hence, we are not owners of our bodies, merely stewards. We should not sell what does not belong to us.
To be a steward means to use what belongs to another in a way that accords with the will of the true owner. Hence, we are permitted in charity to donate blood, and to donate certain organs while we live and other organs upon our death. These acts of charity conform to the will of the true owner of our body, God, who is love. Thus, Scripture encourages, “The gift that you have received, give as a gift.” (Matt 10:8)
The second reason not to sell blood and organs is the harm that it does to the poor. If they can be sold, the number of those who simply donate them will decline. And the price of purchasing them will surely be high. This gives the poor less access to healing remedies.
Hence, the buying and selling of organs and blood is an offense against Catholic teaching. It violates both the principle of stewardship, and also of charity.
An Evangelical Christian saw a holy card on my desk of the Blessed Mother. He was rather dismissive of it and my Catholic faith. I did not know how to answer him. He understands we don't worship her but still says we ought to focus only on Jesus.
In discussing such a matter with evangelical Protestants, it's best to stick with Scripture. While there are many scriptures we could quote, it seems the most fundamental passage to set the stage for the discussion is from the Gospel of Luke. There, Mary, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and rejoicing with her cousin, Elizabeth, says, “From henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name” (Luke 1:48-49 KJV)
Now, if the Word of God is inspired, and it is, then we should be asking a few questions of our own to good brothers and sisters in the evangelical tradition. Since Scripture says that all generations would call her blessed, aren’t we Catholics fulfilling exactly what Scripture says? And if we are thus fulfilling Scripture, how are you, and why do you criticize us for doing it?
It is not to the detriment of God to call Mary blessed, any more than it is a slight against an artist to praise a masterpiece by him. Mary is God's masterpiece, and as the text says, she is blessed because God who is mighty has done great things for her. In calling her blessed, we bless the artist, who is the Lord himself.
At some point, we need to start answering questions by asking a few of our own in a kind of Socratic method. And thus, a simple and humble question to ask our critical Evangelical brethren is "How do you fulfill what Scripture says of Mary, "all nations will call me blessed"? We should ask this with humility, but in silence, await and insist upon an answer.
"Building our Catholic faith one question at a time."