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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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  1. Hi Fr. joe,
    Thank you for your answer to my question about novenas, devotions, and indulgences. Something you said made me wonder. Why are souls in purgatory ‘helpless’? Why can’t they do anything to ‘help themselves’? Is it possible that a soul could then remain in purgatory forever? Is not the pain of purgatory enough to satisfy the temporal punishment to free someone from purgatory?
    Thank you.

    FATHER JOE: The test comes in this life. One’s spiritual state is fixed at death. The souls in purgatory will also be counted as saints. After their purgation they will see God in heaven. They may be purified by the fire of God’s presence; however they can make no meritorious work or act as we can by joining ourselves to the paschal mystery of Christ. Like the patient in the hospital, they must be worked upon by others. Like the prisoner in a cell, they cannot be released until someone unlocks the cell door. The souls of purgatory will know differing duration because some are closer and others are further away from spiritual perfection. The angels may have been created in ranks. Our standing in the afterlife will be measured in terms of how we have ascertained divine grace and holiness. Already in this world we can observe that we are not the same. Some have the jump on others in terms of holiness or sainthood. I would not worry about this. No matter whether we find ourselves in the basement or penthouse of heaven, the main joy will be the same… we will see God and know endless joy.

  2. For the past year or so my depression has been getting worse. My anger also grows as well. I have seizures in my left temporal lobe (responsible for emotion, memory, etc.) I having been doing everything I can think of to help. I pray for answers to help take the pain away. I take my medication. Yet, it still gets worse. Is it possible that my condition and depression is a form of penance for sins that I can’t remember?

    FATHER JOE: Any pain or struggle that we cannot outrun can become a penance for spiritual advancement. However, please know that God is NOT out to get you. While we are sinners and bring much trouble upon ourselves; the hard truth remains that we are born into a difficult, imperfect and wounded world. We can pray for healing but the mystery of suffering remains a profound mystery— one in which we find solidarity with the crucified Christ. While God might spiritually heal the bodies and minds of some to show us the reality of his power; our Lord’s real interest is the healing of the souls and the forgiveness of sins. Do not forget that God has also given us one another. While God hears and answers all prayer, he does not give us everything that we immediately want. God has also given us each other— we have brothers and sisters who are gifted therapists, counselors, doctors, etc. Those who are in pain should also appeal to those in the community who can and want to help us.

  3. Fr Joe, Is it a sacrilege to make an act of spiritual communion when in a state of mortal sin? Say you were unable to get to confession due to work or some such unavoidable obligation, and therefore could not sacramentally receive.

    FATHER JOE:

    Generally speaking the conditions for a spiritual communion are best when the person could just as well receive the Eucharist. The problem making it impossible might be work, distance from a church, illness and lack of mobility, etc. Such a person would be a Catholic in a state of grace who devoutly wants to receive the sacrament and to know the loving grace of Christ.

    There is some truth to the criticism that the graces of a spiritual communion would be impaired by mortal sin and from disassociation from the Church established by Christ. But, of course, only God can ultimately judge souls and so we would still suggest a spiritual communion for Catholics who are estranged from the Church (as in irregular unions, failing to receive absolution in confession and for acts that would constitute the matter of mortal sin). I have often encouraged non-Catholics to refrain from taking the Eucharist and to attempt a spiritual communion, praying for that day when Christians will truly be one. The element that may give this effort efficacy is the love they have for Jesus and for full union with him.

    A famous prayer is this: “My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the Blessed Sacrament. I love you above all things and I desire you with all my heart. Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, I ask you to come spiritually into my heart. I embrace you as if you were already in my heart and unite myself to you completely. Please do not let me ever by separated from you.”

    An act of spiritual communion is entirely personal and the Church would generally render no judgment upon whether or not it is efficacious for this or that person. The public act is the actual reception of Holy Communion. That is where the Church places her interest. The posture or disposition of one who would make a spiritual communion would be a spirit of contrition, a genuine love for Jesus and a desire to be in union with the community of faith that receives the Eucharist.

  4. Father, I recently read about St Francis Xavier Cabrini, and learned that when the sainthood process started they removed her head and took it to a shrine in Tome, while her arm was placed in another location, and her other remains are in a third location. Same with Blessed Stanley Rother, his heart is in Guatemala, but his body is in Oklahoma. I know the church now allows cremation, but specifies that the ashes must be kept together on one place. Why does the church require the faithful to not have their remains separated, but don’t require that of the saints? Is it purely for veneration purposes?

    FATHER JOE: You hit it on the head… veneration.

  5. What would you say to someone who has dealt with scrupulosity in the past very seriously and still does although they have come a long way and they feel as though they have made instantaneous promises to God about silly things like “I will not drink coffee again” and feel as though they are bound to this. Some promises actually feel as though God was speaking to them to do this.

    FATHER JOE: No, do not be deceived. God would not have you make trivial promises, especially ones that you will likely not keep. The only lasting or permanent promises we should make before God are those of our initiation (baptism and confirmation) as well as those that speak to our state of life (marriage, holy orders and religious life). Promises made to God should be kept. Frivolous promises (kept or not) may trespass into sin. You should not elevate something like a New Year’s resolution to the level of a vow to God. Even those who once made the pledge as against drinking alcohol only did so until they reached the age of majority. It is my experience that those who make a habit of swearing to God often do not keep their promises. Indeed, the whole practice probably dishonors the dignity of God and trivializes our discipleship. If you do what you are supposed to do, there is no need for the practice. Swearing to God or making random promises to the divinity will grant no grace for fidelity— you will merely be convicted for a juvenile faith or for being a liar without conviction. Tell God you are sorry for making silly promises and just struggle to be a faithful Christian and to be contrite when you fail. Peace!

  6. Hi Fr. Joe,
    With Divine Mercy Sunday coming this Sunday, I’m in the middle of my 1st EVER Novena. I’m not sure why, but I’ve never prayed a Novena before now. But, it has me wondering….what is the difference between a Novena, a Devotion, and a Plenary Indulgence? Are they all basically the same thing?

    I’m doing the Divine Mercy Novena as it says, starting on Good Friday and ending on Divine Mercy Sunday. But, I think you can do it other times of the year too? Do we pray Novena’s usually for a specific intention?

    Can you dedicate a Plenary Indulgence or a Novena for the soul of someone else….either living or dead…especially if you are concerned that they might be in Purgatory?

    Is confession necessary to complete a Novena/Devotion/Plenary Indulgence? Do you have to go to confession on Divine Mercy Sunday in order for the Divine Mercy Novena to be complete? I went the 2nd week of Lent, and I was told that might satisfy that part. The Novena flier that I have just says, “Go to confession” and doesn’t really elaborate.

    Lastly, can you pray more than one Novena at at time/ or pray as many as you want to pray? Or is there a limit?

    Sorry so many questions.
    Thank you, and Happy Easter!

    FATHER JOE:

    A Novena is often a list of prayers to be said as a grouping or a type of prayer (and sometimes spiritual activities) spread over a period of days (like 9 or 30 or whatever). A Novena is a type of devotion but so is the Rosary or the Stations of the Cross, etc. When people regularly say their favorite prayers, it might be remarked that they are about their daily devotions.

    The Divine Mercy Devotion was granted an indulgence by the Holy See in 2002. Many prayers and devotions or spiritual activities have indulgences attached to them by the Church. Such grants of indulgences can also be removed or changed by the Holy See over time. What is an indulgence? A plenary indulgence means that by the merits of Christ, the Virgin Mary and the communion of saints, a full remission of the temporal punishment due to sacramentally forgiven sins is obtained. If all the conditions are not satisfied then a plenary (full) indulgence becomes partial.

    The Divine Mercy Chaplet can be said at any time but the indulgence attached to the devotion is time sensitive: “A plenary indulgence, [is] granted under the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer for the intentions of Supreme Pontiff) to the faithful who, on the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday, in any church or chapel, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, take part in the prayers and devotions held in honor of Divine Mercy, or who, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (e.g. Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!).”

    Ordinarily such an indulgence could be gained for oneself or for a soul in purgatory. Many of us seek them for the dead. But remember that even the slightest venial sin would reduce the indulgence to partial or if mortal sin, forfeit it entirely. Further, the souls in purgatory (unlike us) are in a helpless state. They cannot help themselves. They died in good standing with God (no mortal sin) but with venial sins and temporal punishment pending upon their souls. Remember, Confession absolves sins; indulgences remit temporal punishment due to sin. It is not the same thing. The overflowing graces of the saints can be applied to others. The Pope has authority over this treasury of grace.

    The penance that a priest gives after confession is also to help resolve temporal punishment. That is why we should always complete the penances given and seek out our own penances or sacrifices to help form our souls as vessels of grace and to make ourselves more receptive to the overtures of God.

  7. Fr. Joe,

    I have a question regarding a close non-Catholic family member (former Methodist/ now attends a non-denominational church)
    who wants to debate my husband and me about our Catholic faith.
    She believes the “end times” are very near and continues to say to us at the end of any and all conversations, “Just keep looking up!”
    She also wrote it under her signature on the Easter card she sent to us. We’re unfamiliar with its meaning.
    After our online research, we gathered it may mean ” be alert for The Rapture.” If that’s the message, our family member would know we don’t believe in this interpretation of Scripture, which leaves us even more confused. Thanks for any insights you may be able to offer.

    FATHER JOE:

    It has been my experience that little or nothing is usually gained by debate, especially when what is shared is mutual ignorance. If your Catholic parish has a Bible Study Group then you might join and then ask if she might like to participate. The odds are that she will say no. Keep yourself in a place of strength. While she probably intends no ill will, many fundamentalists have memorized select “proof” texts so as to exploit or victimize Catholics.

    Some of the evangelicals wrongly read “rapture” into the Bible, but any such reference should really refer to the second coming of Jesus and judgment day:

    “Immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a trumpet blast, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (Matthew 24:29-31).

  8. Hi Father, My mother is going to be ‘marrying’ a transgender ‘woman’ (male-to-female). While her partner is male, he is legally female and they and everyone else involved view this event as a same-sex ‘wedding’. I don’t see how I can attend their wedding, as I am a Catholic and by going I feel I would be publicly endorsing something that goes against my faith, and against God. Am I in the wrong here? Especially considering I am under 18 (I may be a legal adult by the time they marry, though). Do I have to go in order to honor my parents as God commands? I’m just really confused and I really don’t want to support something so contrary to God’s design for holy matrimony, but is it my duty to go?
    Thanks.

    FATHER JOE: While it is often the other way around I have also known many minors who have suffered much because of errant parents. Once you are 18 years of age our society considers you an adult and you would be within your rights to refuse attending. However, let your mother know that while you disagree with what she is doing that you will always love her. Be prepared for repercussions, because while she might understand it is likely that her partner will not. Is your mother Catholic? Does it not bother her that this attempted union will have no standing in the Catholic Church? Where is your father? Is he still living? I will keep you in prayer. You can explain to your mother that as a faithful Catholic, you do not feel that you can morally attend or participate in what is purportedly a same-sex union, albeit with a transgendered male. You are right the question of the union is blurred by the fact that it is actually a mixed-gender union. Nevertheless, it would still not be sanctioned by the Church as transgendered sexuality is regarded as problematical and the union is not witnessed in a church by a priest.

  9. I agree Fr. Joe. Thanks for your perspective. I feel Dom’s frustration but I agree there is room for all. It does not have to be all or nothing. When in a Mass with more or less praise music from the radio posing as good liturgical music I focus on the Sacrament and why I am at Mass in the first place. This has helped me to be to be more charitable and open.

  10. Father, I attend Mass every Sunday and Holy Day but I do not always receive Holy Communion. To be honest the changes in the Mass make it seem more Protestant than Catholic and I have a lot of problems stomaching simply sitting through this new Protestant-like service much less receiving the Blessed Sacrament. I have received Holy Communion earlier this year but not during Lent. I went to the Holy Saturday liturgy last night with the intention of receiving but the service was so effeminate with the singing and piano and inclusive language (I am sorry but it was like a Protestant service with Kumbaya style songs replacing real Catholic hymns ) I couldn’t receive. Did I commit a mortal sin by not receiving Communion? I was praying during the Mass to Mother Angelica and to Bishop Sheen to ask God to please restore the Roman Catholic Mass so we could properly worship him again.

    FATHER JOE:

    I can sympathize with your preference for a more traditional liturgy. If you have received the Eucharist at least once during the year then you are likely in good standing in terms of the precept of the Church. As for those who need to make their Easter duty, it would include the entire Easter season.

    While Mother Angelica preferred the traditional Mass with Latin, her priests offer the reformed liturgy, albeit in Latin and English. Archbishop Sheen gave us a wonderful dramatic depiction of the old Mass; however, he also regularly celebrated the reformed rites. I am still of the mind that the liturgy after Pope Paul VI can be offered in a solemn and respectful manner. Admittedly, there is much abuse and the choices made regarding accidentals are sometimes quite questionable.

    Of course, the first priests guilty of Modernism (even succumbing to atheism) were still saying the Tridentine liturgy. Gregorian chant and beautiful Latin was no perfect insurance against heresy and a possibly defective intention.

    Similarly, what I cannot speak to is what you actually believe in your heart. If you failed to receive because you do not believe that the Mass you attended was a genuine Eucharist and participation with our Lord on Calvary… then your Catholic faith may indeed be in jeopardy. If you refused to take Holy Communion because you denied the REAL presence of the risen Jesus in the sacrament… then the sin might be far more serious than an infraction against the Easter duty.

    Did you suffer because of the accidentals of the Easter liturgy? Did you not recall that our Lord had to suffer the Cross on his way to the empty tomb and Easter morning? Could you have not offered your discomfort so as to be in solidarity with Christ? It seems to me that certain traditionalists and progressives share the same ailment… a preoccupation with themselves and with the notion of personal satisfaction or even entertainment. The Mass is the Mass not because it is beautiful and satisfies everyone’s stylistic tastes; the Mass is the Mass because it is a command performance done in remembrance of Christ within the proscribed worship of the Church with a genuine priest who stands in the person of Christ at the altar. I would prefer the Mass offered in a barn by a stuttering old priest compared to anything with delightful music and beautiful surroundings lacking a true priest and the current sanction of the Church instituted by Christ. But that is me…

  11. Hi I have a few questions, here they are:

    What is coveting and when is it a mortal sin?

    What is Avarice? When does it arise to grave matter?

    Is Prodigality a mortal sin?

    Thank you
    And is wishing evil on yourself a sin?

    FATHER JOE:

    All your short questions are really about mortal sin, more so than simple definitions.

    COVETING = Coveting is a form of greed or an inordinate desire for things. It would be like a miser counting his coins but not taking delight as he wanted ever more and more. It becomes a type of idolatry. The things or stuff become more important than God and neighbor. The Christian can have possessions but we should not allow the possessions to have (or to possess) us. This runs against the grain of a materialistic world. People have more and more but they remain essentially unhappy. If coveting displaces God then it becomes mortal sin.

    AVARICE = Avarice goes beyond coveting and takes greed to another level of seriousness. If coveting is an inordinate desire for things or wealth; avarice is an inordinate desire for gain after one has more than he needs. While coveting can afflict the poor and the rich; avarice is more the sin of the wealthy. Like coveting it is a form of idolatry, too. Often it is also associated with malice, meaning that the person will stoop to any means for greater gain. If simply an expression of pleasure in having things it would not be a mortal sin. When the person acts unjustly against others to procure the wealth then it quickly becomes a mortal sin.

    PRODIGALITY = If coveting and avarice are about the amassing of wealth and stuff, prodigality is about a wasteful extravagance. The word comes from the Prodigal Son parable where the younger son squandered his inheritance. The waste of resources can be either mortal or venial depending on the amount of the waste and the associated need. For instance, it is one thing for a man to gamble away a few dollars for fun; it is entirely another for a man to forfeit his baby’s needed milk money. We are called to be good stewards with the gifts that God gives us.

    WISHING EVIL ON YOURSELF = It can be a mortal sin, especially if it is a symptom of despair or places the person in danger of self-destruction.

  12. Father, is deliberate reading of decent material for answers to sexual questions a mortal sin if it causes feelings of arousal. The intention of reading was not to raise these feelings, but it was known they would happen. Probably occasion to sin.

    FATHER JOE: Just as teens must learn something about human sexuality and morality, there is no sin inherent with such materials. Of course, everyone must be on guard about fantasies and wrongful motivations.

  13. I have missed mass a few times because of sickness, and did not feel well, and also did not want to pass around my germs. is it a sin to miss mass, and i have not been to confession, for about 2 years, it just got to be uncomfortable, to go and confess my sins, because, at age 71 , i do not know at this period of my life what is really a sin. but i went to communion a couple of times. can you enlighten me, on this god bless

    FATHER JOE: Missing Mass when you are sick or disabled is not a sin. Having said this, you should go to Confession more regularly.

  14. Fr Joe,
    This is bothering me a great deal. I have been a huge fan of Game of Thrones since it came out and have enjoyed the story immensely. The final season has started and I am dying to see how it ends. For some reason I cannot fathom, I allowed a comment on the internet to plague me and I ended up asking 2 different priests if it was a sin to watch it. I got 2 different answers. That alone boggles my mind. One said I was fine, enjoy the last season. One sent me 2 articles that basically stated that I was asking the wrong question: I should be asking “does it do anything good for me…does this instill any virtue in me?” If it does, then fine, watch. If it doesn’t, then you shouldn’t be watching. While I see their point, I then fail to see what TV anyone should be allowed to watch, unless you count mass.

    GOT has its problems. I hatehatehate the blatant sexuality. It would be so much better without it. But the story is so good. The acting is great. It is rather violent….but they are at war for most of the series.

    I don’t tune in to be turned on by the sex. It makes me impatient and annoyed. I just want to see how it ends. I should add that I realize I sound petulant and I kind of hate myself right now (especially since I am writing this on Good Friday). But I need to know if I finish watching these last 5 episodes if I am committing a mortal sin. Because I want to. But I don’t want to spit in God’s face, either.

    Maybe if the author had finished writing the dang books, I wouldn’t have this issue. I don’t recall this much sex in the books I read.

    FATHER JOE: Sorry, I never read the books and never saw the show. Someone told me that the television version is spiced up with sex. But that is all I know. I opted never to start watching it.

  15. Hi Father. This is a weird question but does phlegm, mucus, or sputum break the fast if one swallows them? Thanks

    FATHER JOE: Of course not, ridiculous!

  16. My adult daughter, after marrying a non-Catholic man in a Catholic wedding, drifted away from the Church. You described her as an apostate. I continue to pray that the Holy Spirit will inspire her and that she will return to the Church and baptize her 3-year old and her second daughter due next month.

    I have never confronted her about this except once when I asked her why she left Catholicism. She said she had “doubts”. I told her that the parish priests less than 1/4 mile away could help. She never tried.

    My question is whether I have some obligation to try to help bring a return to fruition. Frankly, I have decided to focus on my own Catholicism and let her deal with her decisions. But, I feel badly that for some reason she has moved on.

    She occasionally attends a Baptist-type
    Of “church” but seems to have no real commitment there either.

    It’s an empty feeling that I have to see such a good woman adrift. At dinner when in her house I say grace before meals. I watch her bless herself and can’t understand why she does that.

    I leave that unexplored.

    FATHER JOE: I do not recall labeling your daughter an apostate. I would urge you to keep her in prayer. If she is a reader, you might suggest some good spiritual books. The DVD Jesus of Nazareth is a nice Easter present. Peace.

  17. Hi Fr. – I am trying to understand why priests do not say anything about unbehaved children and crying infants during mass. I understand that infants and children are unpredictable but I do not understand why something cannot be said when children are screaming during mass and the parents are either oblivious or don’t care. I recently went to confession and when I mentioned impatient as one of my sins, I was told to be more compassionate. My compassion goes out the door when I cannot concentrate on my own praying and listen to the priest. Thanks.

    FATHER JOE:

    What if I were to tell you that the crying infant is the baby Jesus. Would you still want him silenced or removed from the church meeting space.

    I can appreciate the distraction, but it may a good cross to carry and to offer for the faith and salvation of that family. A failure to understand such trying situations often pushes struggling families out of the Church. Our Lord warned his disciples about any self-preoccupation, even a spiritual one, if it hurts the neighbor.

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