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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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Feel free to submit a new question or concern in the comment box below.  Various topics and questions are archived here for easy retrieval.  Please be courteous.  God bless you!

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3,324 Responses

  1. Father Joe. I know that it is sinful to talk disparagingly about others (e.g., friends, neighbors, family members, etc.) . Just wondering, what are your views if a store employees are rude, inconsiderate, nasty, etc. and the company wants you to provide feedback on its customer service? Should I provide the company with negative/disparanging feedback? Should I be general and vague? Thoughts?

    FATHER JOE: Honest feedback is both proper and a means toward better customer service. This is quite different from negative or destructive gossip.

  2. Hi Father.Everytimes when i make confession with different priest,they got the different answer in the same question from the different priest.i wonder why some catholic priest give different opinion and answer to penitent?Do they give answer n opinion based on CCC or their opinion,if the answer is not based on CCC and just their opinion,are the priests contradicting catholic teaching(liberal)?So how do we know if the priest is conservative or liberal?thanks

    FATHER JOE: Not knowing the question, I really cannot say. The context and how the mysterious question is asked might change the response. I suspect most priests try to answer in a way that is faithful to our beliefs and which properly applies to the penitent’s situation.

  3. Thank you so much, Father, for your response. I have learned so much from your blog and your responses to others’ questions. I hope you know how much you are helping so many. P.S. I really appreciate the book suggestions because my husband loves to read. God bless you!

  4. Dear Fr Joe,
    Thanks for your blog. I write to comment on a question by a certain Dana E Carr on your blog. I could have written that email when I was depressed. Having lived with mental illness for long now what is described is very possibly symptoms of a deep depression. When mentally ill all one can do is obsess about how helpless and hopeless one feels. It may manifest as self absorption but earlier before I was officially diagnosed a priest hurt me terribly when he told me I was just being selfish when I told him about my suicidal feelings. Please if it is possible may I suggest that Dana gets counselling and frequents Mass and confession though it may be very difficult. Offer the difficulties to Jesus for love of Him and in reparation for sin. Also the big life transition into a life of retirement could bring on the feelings of apathy you describe. Take heart Dana all will be well. Take care and keep close to God. Pray more now that you have all that free time.
    God bless you all.

  5. I’m a cradle Catholic and strayed from the faith in my 20s. During that time, my husband and I had 3 children. He is also a cradle Catholic and while pregnant with our first born, we went to a Catholic church to attend a meeting about infant baptism. After the meeting, my husband decided that he couldn’t “lie” and say he believed in the baptismal vows. I was unsure of what I believed at the time but felt it was important to still get our baby baptized. But he wouldn’t agree to it and I didn’t know at the time that I could have done it without him. So, none of our children got baptized nor grew up in the Catholic faith. Fast forward several years and by God’s grace, I fully returned to the Church and the sacraments and always attend Sunday Mass. I do my best to model the Catholic faith and I (and God’s grace) was able to convince my husband three years ago to send our children to Catholic schools. However as teenagers and not being fully initiated in the faith, they are not interested in becoming Catholic themselves, and they listen to my husband’s atheistic views more than mine and what I try to teach them about God. It is totally my fault for not getting them baptized and fulfilling my obligation of what I promised in my marriage vows to raise my children in the faith. I carry this cross every day but I’m not complaining about it because I know that what I did back then was wrong. I firmly regret it and suffer every day for it, but as much as I want to, I know that I can’t go back in time and redo it. I pray for my children and I also pray for my husband’s return to the faith. I’m sorry for this long backstory. My question for you is – Will God be willing to grant my children His Grace and have mercy on their souls because their non-belief was my fault? I’m very concerned about 1) their salvation (because they do not believe in God nor have accepted Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life), 2) my husband’s salvation (because he continues to purposely turn away from God), and 3) my own (because I feel guilty trying to get to heaven knowing that they might not be able to get there). I’ve also prayed to Saint Monica and one of my Lenten promises I did was to pray Ephesians 1:17-19 for my husband. What else can I do besides prayer and modeling the faith and encouraging them/teaching them about the faith?

    FATHER JOE:

    First, praise God that you have come back to the Lord and to the practice of your faith. Second, given your history, I think you are doing about all that can be done. You pray for your family and you witness to your Catholic faith.

    When it comes to your husband, it saddens me that he no longer believes in God but his personal integrity or honesty on the question is admirable. Too many believers simply “go through the motions” and do not truly believe. Indeed, when one looks closely at their lives, they have become “practical” atheists. My hope is that his mind would remain open to the truth and that his heart would be receptive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. There is a militant form of atheism today that exults experiential science and radical materialism over the use of natural reason in philosophy and the longings of the heart that are satisfied by the truths of faith.

    The atheist is tempted by a type of metaphysical despair or hopelessness. Find your happiness now because tomorrow holds only suffering, death and oblivion. While Christians believe that God loves us as his children and that he wants us to live with him forever; atheism sees us as part of a cosmic accident in an indifferent and cold or uncaring universe. According to this estimation, we are destined only to be forgotten and to become the food for worms. Catholicism interprets pain and dying in terms of our participation in the saving paschal mystery of Jesus. Those without faith (or with a defective faith) would rush towards euthanasia, running to escape the wounded human condition. If he is open-minded, I would urge that your husband research the question of faith and meaning. Too many atheists arrive at their status simply by being passive to the negative influences around us— they have yet to truly reflect “personally” on the ultimate questions of meaning. I would recommend:

    The Godless Delusion: A Catholic Challenge to Modern Atheism by Patrick Madrid and Kenneth Hensley

    Answering the New Atheism: Dismantling Dawkins’ Case Against God by Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker

    Why I Am Catholic (and You Should Be Too) by Brandon Vogt

    From Atheism to Catholicism by Marcus Grodi

    From Atheism to Catholicism: How Scientists and Philosophers Led Me to the Truth by Kevin Vost

    What is Truth?: The Journey from Atheism to Catholicism by John Reuben Smith

    Catholic Realism: A Framework for the Refutation of Atheism and the Evangelization of Atheists by Dr. Sebastian Mahfood and Dr. Ronda Chervin

    As for the afterlife and the status of your family before the Lord, that is a question that only God can answer. While we can assist in bringing people to Christ, I know many parents who raised their children in the faith who have also seen their charges walk away. We do not come to God alone but we must each answer for ourselves in how we respond to our calling and grace.

  6. Dear Fr. Joe, I would just like to respond to Marcin concerning his food stamps. I have been reading the book of Acts, and it is very clear that our Christian brothers and sisters in the early days shared their possessions. I have also read — perhaps you can correct me if I am wrong — that according to Catholic moral teaching, if you have more than you need, you are in effect stealing it from others, and it is your duty to provide for your brothers and sisters who have less.

    I am a “traditional Catholic” as some would say, but this does not mean I am politically conservative. In fact, this is my view of Democrats and Republicans. There are four sins that cry out to God for vengeance: willful murder, sodomy, oppression of the poor, and depriving the worker of his just wage. I believe #4 refers to a “living wage” according to at least one pope.

    In my view, one party facilitates sins #1 and #2, while the other party, which calls itself “conservative”, facilitates sins #3 and #4. I do not belong to any party. I pray one day there will be a Christian party that I can support.

    So I say to Marcin that if he is unable for whatever reason to make enough to even buy enough food for himself, that it is the duty of a Christian society to provide for him. Of course if one can work, one should work. But many are unable to find a job that even pays a living wage. This is what I believe Father Joe you referred to earlier as “systemic injustice.”

    As a young person I was actually homeless for a time, and as an older person I know what it is to go without enough nutritional food due to lack of money. I would not judge my brothers or sisters who apply for food stamps.

    IMHO Marcin should not feel guilty about receiving food stamps. As a Christian, I think perhaps some in power would benefit by reading Acts and reflecting carefully about how our society treats the poor.

    I am sure Fr. Joe will correct me if I am wrong.

  7. Thank you for responding with such gentleness and kindness, Fr. Joe. I appreciate the thoughts you shared and you have helped lift me up. I truly loved William, but the man who live in my home is unrecognizable to me. It is a tragedy. He has missed out on so much!!

    Yes, I am the luckiest mom in the world! God has blessed me with 3 amazing kids. They make every tear, heartbreak, and struggle disappear. Also, i believe you are correct with the idea of William feeling unlovable. There is so much more to this story. His mother abandoned their family when he was a year old and he grew up with his abusive, alcoholic father who died suddenly when William was in his 1st year of college. He has had loss after loss in his life. I never thought of it before, but I probably AM the one person who has tried to stay by his side. And. he has pushed me away because of his feelings of unworthiness. I do believe he has some psychological diagnoses underlying as well. In prayer I have asked God if “for better and for worst” in the marriage vows, can ‘worst” be a bottomless pit? Is there a limit to worst?
    I am thankful that I work as a physical therapist and could provide financially, plus I do have good family support. I know they have been very concerned about me in this marriage, and they don’t know even half of everything!!
    I do feel very comfortable with our parish priest. He is the one who hears my confessions and is always kind and compassionate. He may be young, but that’s not why I hesitate to share this with him. He is filled with joy and fresh enthusiasm. I just feel badly unloading this overwhelming and heavy story on him. Would this be difficult for a new priest? I don’t want to overwhelm him. I could try to connect with another more seasoned priest I have in mind from the next town over.
    I am praying for you too Fr Joe.
    You are right, life is messy sometimes.
    But God’s love surrounds me and reassures me.
    We are His. And I know it will all be ok.
    God Bless,
    Sarah

  8. I attend mass alone and I am 37 with a family. Sometimes my daughter will come but she is only 3. I used to suffer from social phobia and hated shaking the other persons hand. I used to feel embarrassed by being alone with a wedding ring on my finger. As I became closer to God my heart changed. Now I smile and shake everyones hand in reach especially childrens and I really mean it ‘peace be with you’ its a great way to love others as Jesus would we are all lovingly crafted in the palm of Gods hand. You are never alone your guardian angel is always with you. The more you go to mass the more your heart will change the more you will understand that you cannot live without it. You have a reason to get up to praise the Lord and complete good works offer up your suffering to save souls, smile at someone, sit near someone else who is alone in church and keep them company.

  9. Sarah, I will pray for you, as well.

  10. Hello.
    I am confused about Easter.

    Starting with Good Friday, I’m confused on why it is considered to be a sad day. The whole point of Christ’s life was to die for our sins, I think. So anything and everything that helped that to happen would be good (thus Judas, the Pharisees, Pilate, et. al should be seen as good guys). And we should celebrate with happiness on Good Friday the fulfillment of Christ’s purpose on earth.

    Why don’t we? Why is it sad? It’s called GOOD Friday, after all.

    Also, yes, God gave his son for us… but then why the resurrection? As the pundits online say, Jesus gave his weekend for our sins. God gave his son, but then brought him back a couple of days later. So that’s kind of weird to me. Christ should have been totally sacrificed. Not just kept away for a couple of days.

    And when Jesus was resurrected, was he human or spirit? Was he raised as a human or as some sort of quasi-divine entity?

    Thanks.

    FATHER JOE:

    Good Friday is regarded as “good” because of what it accomplishes for us. What you call sadness is the expression of sorrow and contrition that believers experience in regard to the terrible price that Christ paid due to our sins. We acknowledge that we are guilty and deserve to be punished. The primordial rebellion brought sin, suffering, sickness, disharmony and death into our world. As creatures we dishonored almighty God and left to ourselves could not heal the breach. God enters the human family and makes himself one of us: vulnerable to betrayal, his passion and ignominious death. The sins of all mankind throughout all human history nailed Jesus to his Cross. We cannot imagine the pain this gave to Christ as the immaculate Lamb of God. His sacred heart loved us with an infinite love even as we turned from him. This heroic saving act touches human hearts and the emotions, given that we do not deserve mercy and are guilty. Divine providence can draw straight lines or goodness even from our crooked lines or iniquity.

    It was not according to fate that Judas betrayed Jesus and that Caiaphas condemned him. It was due to a lack of faith and the hardness of hearts. The contributing actors in this divine drama were not good; it was Christ that was good. Jesus was faithful to the heavenly Father, even unto the Cross.

    You approach the paschal mystery of Jesus with a lack of proper reflection and gravity. Jesus was convicted and executed as a liar or false prophet— as a blasphemer. His resurrection overturns the false conviction of the Sanhedrin, Pilate and the world. Jesus redeems us by his death and in his resurrection shows that he has made reparation for the sin of the first Adam. He has power over the grave and promises a share to those who believe in him. If Jesus did not rise, then as St. Paul says, we would be the most pitiful of people, still in our sins. Our saving relationship is not with a dead Jesus but with a living Christ. That is what gives joy to Easter!

    Look to the prologue of John’s Gospel. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word takes flesh. Jesus is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. God is Triune. He enters human history through the incarnation. Jesus takes to himself a complete human nature: a soul and a body. However, he remains a divine Person, not a human person. Jesus dies in his humanity on the Cross. Death is real. It is not the way things were supposed to be. Sinless, he did not have to die. He dies for us, that we might be forgiven and healed. Jesus rises from the dead. The resurrection is real and tangible. God the Son (Jesus) has a glorified body. Mary his Mother is assumed into heaven body and soul. She also has a glorified body. The Church teaches that we will also be restored body and soul after the judgment. Our bodies will not remain corpses and our souls will not be reduced to wandering ghosts. We will be restored, never to suffer or to die again. We will be reunited to others in the communion of the saints. This is the hope of Easter.

  11. Hi Fr. Joe,
    God Bless you for answering questions and helping people!

    I’ve wanted to ask a couple related questions for a while, but these are hard questions for me to ask so it took some time to find the courage. Sorry in advance that it’s so long!!

    I’m in a very broken marriage. We were married in the church 21 years ago….and I found great joy in my Catholic faith at that time. I took my vows very seriously and loved my husband with all my heart. We had some trauma to our marriage very early on. We lost a child and handled the grief very differently. I held the body of our child, mourned, cried, sobbed, prayed, prayed and prayed….and found some peace in the end. William just wanted to forget it since nothing would change what happened and never really showed any emotion. From the beginning, he had a lot of difficulties sexually, and this wedge between us only made it worse. I then learned of significant abuse he suffered as a child which I thought explained his trouble. He refused to get help.

    Then he was in an accident where a woman lost her life. It was his fault in causing the accident….but it was truly an accident where speed, alcohol, or cell phone use were not factors. He never recovered emotionally from this, and he wouldn’t seek help even though I begged him. This was a stressful number of years legally. He lost his license, did community service, and had several court appearances. He became withdrawn, depressed, and even suicidal. When he got his license back, he told me how he picked out the tree he planned to crash the car into. We had 3 very young kids at the time. I contacted his doctor and tried to pull him back to the Michael I married, but he was descending into darkness and I felt so helpless in helping him.

    Months later, I was out of the country for a few days for work when he called me hysterical. He admitted to being unfaithful, and that the person he had a relationship with was not female. He also had to be treated for an STD at that time. That was 8 years ago. He moved into a different room in our home and we are raising our kids who are now teens. We have not even held hands since, and both lead separate lives under one roof. We don’t talk. We vacation and celebrate holidays separately. It’s excruciating for me. I can barely recognize the man I married.

    There is more trauma that I could share here, but as it is, this account is almost impossible to believe as it is. All of this heaviness pulled me away from my faith for many years. I stopped taking my kids to church, pulled them from CCD, and stopped praying. These were some hopeless years for me. Luckily, one day almost 3 years ago, God gently and lovingly found a way to reach me in great darkness. And, slowly I found my way back to church, to prayer, to grace, and to know His great love. I have found hope. It has been a process, but there is some joy in my life despite my circumstances. I am trying to live fully the way God calls me to live in my Catholic faith, because truly that is where I have found happiness. With God’s help I am chipping away at sin in my life, and I continue to learn what being Catholic requires.

    That said, I honestly don’t know what I’m supposed to do in this situation. I have been abandoned by my husband. I am married, I have been faithful, I have lived a celibate life for over 8 years, there is great sadness when I think of my marriage. It feels like a giant anchor in my life that I’m constantly working against. I have prayed for William, asked him to go to counseling, to try Retrouvaille with me, even just to come to mass. No is always the answer. He is so closed and so distant.

    What God has joined, let no man separate. Is divorce ever acceptable?
    Would God understand? Or, do I continue on living with someone who ignores me completely (and is often verbally harsh/unkind)? Also, I did not choose a celibate life, but here I am. I never really put much thought to it until recently, but is female masturbation a sin? There are times when I’ve experienced urges and satisfied them. Not often, but it happens. I’m sorry for such a direct question, but the glue that is holding me together is my Catholic Faith. It’s what is helping me raise my kids and to have hope. I really need to know what God is asking of me in this area. Most information on line is directed to men. If it is a sin, I struggle to imagine trying to confess it if I need to. This whole situation is a struggle, a situation that has landed on me hard. If I need confession for this, I will find a way to do it. I would also have to confess the resentment I feel towards my husband for putting me in this position. I’m working on forgiveness.

    We have a new parish priest who was ordained only 2 years ago (and is very young). He came to us about 5 months ago. He is a wonderful priest, but it would be hard to go to him with all of this. This is all overwhelming, but maybe in time I could, piece by piece. So, I really appreciate you “listening” to my story and questions.

    To end of a positive note, I would like you to know that my kids are doing great despite all of this. I have worked hard at protecting them from a great deal of this mess. They have started coming to mass with me…not always, but I’m working on it. My oldest was accepted to college for next year. They are happy and healthy. God is so good, Father. I have many, many blessing to count. Including that writing this has helped me to unweight some of my burden. God Bless you Father Joseph. Peace, Sarah

    FATHER JOE:

    Hello Sarah,

    Given the many elements you share, I hardly know where to begin. I have no perfect answers or magical solutions, but I will share my thoughts with you.

    Twenty one years is a long time, and with all your troubles, the two of you brought beautiful children into the world. It has not all been in vain and if possible it would be worthwhile to salvage the bond. But only the two of you can know if it is possible or not.

    Life is messy and sometimes (after all is said and done) we have to live with the messiness. You lost a child, many couples undergo this tragedy, but the proper recourse is to commend the small soul to the Lord. You were right to mourn. Your husband may have tried to forget and showed little external emotion; but this could not resolve the pain inside him. We cannot run away from pain. As our Lord tells us, we must take up our crosses and follow him.

    Personal history helps to form our identity. It sounds like your husband was wounded again and again: abuse as a young person; sexual difficulties in marriage; loss of a child; and at fault in an accident that claimed a woman’s life, legal hurdles leading to the loss of his license, financial penalties, and community service. Throughout, he refused to seek help or counsel. It is no wonder that he became “withdrawn, depressed, and even suicidal.”

    Not knowing much about the infidelity, I cannot say whether he had long struggled with disorientation. Certainly what he did and his hysterical call was a radical acting out. Was he (on some unconscious level) trying to push away the one person who had not given up on him? I find that some people who endure great hardships often view themselves as unlovable and beyond redemption. Thus, they reject assistance or any kind of spiritual counsel or psychiatric therapy. These couplings usually unravel but I have also heard of situations as you describe where spouses live separate lives as strangers in the same house.

    What can you do now? You have tried ardently to make things work. It sounds to me that he would need serious professional counseling prior to Retrouvaille; but it is a moot point as he refuses to seek any help or reconciliation. Many might wonder where you find the strength to live with a man who emotionally and verbally abuses you. Thank God you have recovered your faith and find consolation in the Lord. Unfortunately, here too you walk alone even though your spouse promised to be your partner and help-mate.

    You are quite right that the Church frowns upon divorce. However, was this “a true marriage” from the beginning? Did his sexual difficulties reflect a homosexual disorientation that he brought into the marriage? Other grounds for an annulment might also be explored. If you separated, could you maintain yourself financially? It sounds to me that a simple separation might be preferable to the situation of the past eight years. (As to your question about the sexual faculties, they are only legitimate in terms of the intimacy of a husband and wife in regards to the marital act.)

    If you would feel better speaking to an older priest, there is no wrong in seeking out a priest in a neighboring parish. A situation like yours is best served by a priest on the ground. You can continue as you now are but I fear that you will be further victimized. You seem willing to forgive your husband but he is apparently unreceptive or dismissive of the mercy and understanding you extend him. If he is as you say, then he fails in his duties as a husband and father. It is a true tragedy.

    I will keep you in prayer.

  12. I would like to know if thinking about and considering suicide is a sin. And if it is and it is confessed does the priest have the obligation to keep it confidential that a person is considering such a thing or could he tell someone under the guise of getting them help? Thank you, Sofia

    FATHER JOE: Seriously considering suicide is either sin, sickness or both. The priest cannot violate the seal of confession for any reason. In other words, he can say nothing to anyone.

  13. My boyfriend attends mass with me and believes that the Eucharist is truly the body and Blood of Christ. He is not Catholic but doesn’t understand why he can’t partake in communion if that is truly what he believes even though he isn’t Catholic.

    FATHER JOE: The reception of Holy Communion is both an affirmation of the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and of our “communion” or unity with Christ in the Catholic Church. Given that he does not profess the Catholic faith and has not been incorporated into the Church, the latter element is missing.

  14. Dear Fr Joe, I have another very quick question. Can you think of any possible justification for bishops to not refuse Holy Communion to Catholic politicians or other prominent people who, obstinately and over a long period, very publicly continue to support so-called “abortion rights?”

    FATHER JOE: I can think of reasons but I cannot say that I find them convincing. But, alas, I am not a bishop, just a poor parish priest under authority.

    I thank God for Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki who did announce that Senator Durbin is no longer allowed to receive Holy Communion in the Bishop’s diocese. I pray that every Bishop in the nation will do as Bishop Paprocki did. Most of all, I pray for a return to laws which thoroughly protect the unborn.

    FATHER JOE: I fully sympathize with you. Bishop Paprocki is outstanding!

  15. Dear Fr. Joe,

    Thank you for your answer to my question about 20th century innovations in Catholic marriage.

    You ask me what I mean by “innovations.” I mean ways in which Catholic marriage changed in the 20th century, compared to previous centuries. I view the 20th century as a century in which Satan was more or less given free rein over humanity, so I tend to distrust innovations of that century.

    No one has been able to point out to me any waiting period in previous centuries, other than the banns. Those were published to give people an opportunity to point out any canonical impediments. If there were no canonical impediments, the marriage went forward. In more recent centuries, a marriage license could be obtained which would make it possible to skip the publication of the banns.

    No one has been able to point me to any authoritative reference that states it was up to the priest or bishop to decide if the couple was “ready” in some way to be married, or to make them spend time figuring out if they were really suited to each other.

    Of course if there is such a reliable reference, which specifically mentions a waiting period other than the publication of the banns period, I will pay attention to it. I am studying this issue because I am interested in how the Church changed in the 20th century.

    Another point is that the average marriage age was much younger than it is today. Making young people wait until they are so-called adults is a very un-Catholic attitude in my opinion. I am not certain this is established doctrine, but I learned that Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit when Our Lady was fifteen. In older Canon Law the low age limits for marriage were twelve for girls and 14 for boys.

    My last point on this topic is that I trust the Church of 2000 years. I do not trust 20th century innovations, particularly if they originate in non-Catholic societies like the USA.

    Thank you and Happy Easter.

    FATHER JOE:

    Ours is a living tradition and a living Church, there is no real separation from the Church of the past. They are one and the same. The current marriage regulations signify a proper response to modernity where the very definition of marriage is at stake. Further, while people are older today than in the past in getting married, it is my experience that couples tend to be far less mature in their manner and Catholic in their values. Six months is little to ask, especially when we are talking about the rest of people’s lives. Priests who promise celibate service and love spend eight to ten years in formation after high school. Those coming into the Church spend a little less than a year. While the Church does not believe in long engagements; some time is vital if we are to properly assist couples and help to fight the plague of divorce.

    The publication of banns served many purposes: to advertisement toward other suitors to stay clear, to verify that there was no prior bonds, to allow for time in preparation and a period of celebration in regard to the transition. While banns today are often dismissed, there is a need for time so that the pastor and maybe others with him can prepare the couple, correct modern misconceptions about marriage and insure that they are ready for the sacrament.

    Canon law is authoritative as is legislation from the bishops. The laity is called to obey such stipulations.

    Can. 1063 Pastors of souls are obliged to take care that their ecclesiastical community offers the Christian faithful the assistance by which the matrimonial state is preserved in a Christian spirit and advances in perfection. This assistance must be offered especially by preaching, catechesis adapted to minors, youth, and adults, and even the use of instruments of social communication, by which the Christian faithful are instructed about the meaning of Christian marriage and about the function of Christian spouses and parents; personal preparation to enter marriage, which disposes the spouses to the holiness and duties of their new state; etc.

    Can. 1067 The conference of bishops is to establish norms about the examination of spouses and about the marriage banns or other opportune means to accomplish the investigations necessary before marriage. After these norms have been diligently observed, the pastor can proceed to assist at the marriage.

    CLICK HERE for the regulations in the Archdiocese of Washington.

  16. Praised be Lord Jesus Christ!

    I have a question regarding morality and justice and probably sin in this instance. I have been receiving Food Stamps for at least 4 years and my priest told me that it is ok if I am sick(I am chronically sick without any income) and depend on my family. However when I apply for food stamps I am asked to provide a letter stating that I am sheltered by my family. They support me but I don’t feel comfortable saying that I am sheltered because my parents pay for my doctors and all. Is it morally lawful to do this and is it not sinful. I have pangs of conscience because of this. I make my own meals and use the food stamps for my own food but sometimes I eat what my family buys.

    FATHER JOE: Given that you are “chronically sick without any income,” I would agree with your local priest. Food stamps are precisely an entitlement to help people like you. Peace.

  17. I define myself as a terminal Catholic. I have an active prayer life, but since retiring I find myself being neglectful of Mass attendance. I am alone and find myself withdrawing in general from most social interactions. I just don’t want to go to Mass alone and shake hands with people. I am already alone and going to Mass makes me feel more alone. I know it’s not about me, but I don’t see any resolution to this issue. Sometimes I go to daily Mass if I am able to get up. I don’t really have any reason to get up for anything though, so getting up to go somewhere to be more alone doesn’t help. Maybe I should just breathe and be where I am at the moment?

    FATHER JOE: Sounds to me that you are overly preoccupied with yourself. Beware of self-absorption. The reason we go to Mass is to worship almighty God. We do this as a community of faith and it is the Lord’s due. It is about a lot more than where you sit or whose hand you shake.

  18. I have asked a serious question here twice that, I am deeply concerned, pertains to my salvation. I haven’t been able to see a reply, yet I am privy to the reply of many other questions. Please advise me on how to view your answer to my question.

    God Bless you and happy Divine Mercy Sunday!

    FATHER JOE: I have answered you twice. Please scroll through the comments. (April 5 & March 30)

  19. Thank you, Fr Joe! My Confirmation was very special to me. I made the decision in high school not to be confirmed with my class. I just didn’t feel ready at that time, and I know it disappointed my
    Mom. It was hard not to just go along with getting Confirmed to avoid the controversy. But, it meant so much more when i was fully ready for that Sacrament. I think I am much more grateful for my Catholic faith because I waited. Not everyone has to be on the same timeline I hope.

    Thank you for the answer to my question. At the time of Communion it seemed like the right decision, but almost immediately after communion, I felt regret that I didn’t receive. By then it was too late unfortunately. I think I only felt more grumpy! Next time I wake up at n the wrong side of the bed, I will definitely not let grumpiness keep me from receiving. Thanks again!

    God Bless!!
    Ali

  20. Father,

    I need some guidance. I was married in the Catholic Church to a man who turned into a monster. I want to pursue an annulment, but I’m concerned. This is a man who paid for me to be killed (we lived outside the US). He is also a convicted a drug trafficker.

    My identity has been legally changed to protect me.

    Is there an answer to my problem or am I simply stuck. I don’t know how to contact him and don’t want him to know where I am or my new identity.

    FATHER JOE: Priests keep the seal and the Church knows how to keep confidences. I would urge you to talk with your pastor. Given your special situation, I am confident that discrete intervention could be made. The history itself speaks against the marriage.

  21. If one believes that a particular sin is not grave and does not confess it as grave, is the person responsible for that if the sin would be considered grave by the confessor? I am confronted by thoughts that might be sacrilegious but I do not dwell on them. I think of Christ’s passion and suffering for such sins. This helps. Yet the frequency of those thoughts troubles me greatly and I am at a loss how to avoid and deal with them.

    FATHER JOE:

    Momentary or flashing thoughts lack due deliberation. Remember that mortal sin requires (1) grave matter, (2) awareness of the wrong, and (3) deliberate (freely willed) consent. Do not be overly scrupulous about this!

    The grave matter that would constitute a sin is neither up to the penitent nor to the confessor. God has revealed his will through both divine positive law and the nature of creation. The Lord and his Church sets the parameters for grave matter. Note the Gospel reading this past Sunday:

    Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

  22. Dear Father Joseph
    I heard a Priest say I couldn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus as it had to be through the church. I was surprised by this but may have been confused as he
    mentioned feelings and not to rely on them.
    I would appreciate comments on how best
    to have a personal relationship with God.

    FATHER JOE: Catholics are called to both a personal and communal faith relationship with Jesus. Our faith and incorporation into the Church through baptism makes possible our reception of saving grace. After the initial reception of this gift from God that justifies and transforms us into children of God, we are called to cooperate with the Lord, allowing him live in us and to work through us. We do not come to God alone, but as a family in faith— the believing community or Church instituted by Christ. How would we maintain any relationship? We need to encounter and to communicate with him in prayer, in study, in service and in worship.

  23. Hi Father, I have 2 questions, please:

    1st question is on counting prayers:
    I try to pray the rosary everyday but a lot of times I just don’t feel like saying all 5 decades of the rosary so maybe I just say 1 decade…my question is, does God see this is as lazy? Does he count the number of prayers? I feel we as Catholics are so guilty over everything, to include not reading the prayers exactly right, or not saying a set number of Hail Mary’s that I never know what does God want verse what are we just feeling guilty about.

    2nd question – the same sin:
    I struggle with certain things, I go to confession, I repent, I try to change, then I screw up again – most times doing the same thing. It’s sort of hard to really feel true emotional remorse at that moment of screwing up when you know you just did exactly what you said you wouldn’t, and have been doing it for some time – let’s call it an addiction. I just feel numb…thus is saying, ‘I’m sorry’ even something God bothers to hear at this moment or does one need to wait until the ‘feeling’ of remorse comes back? Trying to change isn’t due to a lack of effort, somethings, a lifetime of bad habits just can’t be turned off.

    FATHER JOE:

    Counting prayers or precision in recitation is all accidental. Our main objective in prayer is to remain in communication or dialogue with almighty God. We honor the Lord by trusting in him. The numbers of prayers is not as significant as whether or not true prayer is being offered. Prayer is also not magic. There are no incantations. We praise the Lord. We adore God. We beseech divine guidance. We implore with contrite hearts the mercy of God. We thank God for what he has done for us. We invoke the communion of the saints to pray for and with us.

    Sorrow for sin would have us attempt a true amendment of life. Even if we should fail, we should fully intend to do our best in avoiding sin and to do good works. No coach would tell his football team in the locker room, “Just try to do your best, although we all know that you are a lousy team bound to lose.” No, he would urge each of them, “You can do it! You’re winners! We can win this game!” We might fail but we set our sights on success. Anything less is to lose before even trying. We should not take despair with us when we leave the confessional. Rather, we should be motivated to work with grace and to become holy. Then, if we should fall short, we can do it all again. God is always ready to forgive, yes, even our habitual sins. But we must remain a people of hope… to the very end of this mortal life.

    Further, while the emotions might be engaged, the notion of contrite hearts is deeper than chemistry or human feelings. Contrition is remorse in the face of both punishment and the prospect of dishonoring God. Jesus surrendered his flesh in atonement for our sins. That self-donation and oblation calls forth from us a profound humility and thankfulness. If God could love us this deeply, then why do we find it so hard to love him and our neighbor?

  24. Dear Father,
    I am wondering if it is okay to attach a non religious charm to the string of my scapular. The charm is from a loved one and has significant sentimental value. I would like to attach it to my scapular so that I always have it on me however I do not want to negate the power of the scapular. Thank you!

    FATHER JOE: There is no intrinsic power or magic in a scapular. It is a sacramental that connects us with a Third Order and with Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It is worn as an expression of Christian faith and trust in the Lord. You could attach something to it but I would generally urge against it as this would change its overall meaning. The nature of the charm might also be problematical.

  25. Hi Fr. Joe,
    I’m in college and just was confirmed in January!!
    I feel like I still have a lot of questions because there is a lot to know about being Catholic! But, I am trying to learn which is why I am writing to you.

    I go to mass at a church near campus on Wednesday mornings most weeks. I usually always receive communion unless I haven’t been to confession and know of a sin. (Which doesn’t happen much…but is why I go to mass on Wednesdays!!! Being in college can make it hard to avoid sin, but going to an extra mass helps me I think, and then I don’t have to go to confession as much!) That’s my strategy at least!

    Anyways, last Wednesday I woke up in a really bad mood for some unknown reason!!! I was really tired from not getting much sleep, but I was also really grumpy and miserable. I didn’t want to see or talk to anyone. I still went to church that day, but when it came time for communion, I felt like I was NOT in a good place as far as my mood and emotions and decided not to receive communion. Then, I felt bad and mixed if I had made the right decision? Is this a valid reason not to go to communion?!? If we are not in the right state of mind or emotions?
    Most of the time I’m happy and fine, but I think most of us have “those days” when we are out of sorts. I’m guessing this will happen to me again at some point, so I wanted to know what you thought.

    Thank you very much,
    Alison

    FATHER JOE: If you are not in a state of mortal sin then I would urge the reception of Holy Communion at Mass. You are not obliged to take the Eucharist every time you participate at Mass, but remember that the sacrament is both food and spiritual medicine. It can help you to deal with bad moods and give strength to witness your faith on campus. Congratulations on your recent Confirmation!

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