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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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  1. Hello Father;

    Can you help me understand Ephesians 5: 22- 24.

    My issue:
    A friend of mine shared to me that, him and a couple of other guys at work used to watch me attend daily Mass and when I started dating (my husband now – who is not a Catholic) … they became curious whether I’d convert. Our conversation went as follows:

    Self: Why would I convert?
    Him: Don’t you want to be one with him?
    Self: we are one..
    Him: Sorry I meant one in faith..
    Self: We are one in faith; we’re both Christians
    Him: I meant don’t you think you and your son should be in the same Christian faith as him. After all the wife must submit to her husband.
    Self: The bible also says: that the husband must love his wife… So he loves me for who I am… A stubborn, abrupt, short-tempered but wonderful Catholic Woman … he never fell for an AOG woman but a Catholic woman … Furthermore submission to my husband does not require me to give up my Faith; I am in the Faith founded by Christ himself; how crazy would I be; if I converted to be another denomination founded by man… you may argue they were holy men …but they are not Christ. As for my son and any other children God decides to gift us with. They will be Catholics, my husband has already approved of it; and I have no right to hold them from receiving the Sacraments; and as a Catholic woman; it is my responsibility to ensure that I do not withhold them from receiving the sacraments… lastly my husband and I both made a vow at our wedding Mass to raise our children in the Faith, the Catholic Faith.

    That was my response; I’m not even sure if I said the right thing … but really Father, does submitting to my husband require a woman to give up her faith? In fact a friend of mine converted to be in the same faith as her husband, i asked her why and she said “Submit” … I was, as usual abrupt and told her to convert back, “because you’re giving up the Eucharist and the Sacrament of reconciliation… and we need them in our lives.. they are tooo important to give up.” yeah she stopped talking to me after that ….

    Can you help me understand Ephesians 5: 22- 24?

    FATHER JOE:

    Just as the authority of a parent cannot compel a child to commit evil or sin; one spouse does not have absolute moral jurisdiction over the other. Marriage is a partnership that includes both liberty and responsibility. Certain fundamentalists would be wrong to reduce it to repression and bondage or slavery.

    The marriage analogy given us by St. Paul implies that the husband and wife share the same faith. The fragmentation of Christianity would only inflict the Church in subsequent years, especially after the Reformation. The husband is the head of the Christian home. The wife is its heart. Yes, the wife submits to her husband; however, note that the husband must love his wife as Christ loved the Church. The Lord loved the Church so much that he laid down his life for her. While the roles can be differentiated; there is a mutuality and complementarity in their surrender for the beloved “other.” While it might not seem fair, we view the Catholic faith as true and Catholics must continue to be faithful to their holy religion, even if they are given dispensation to marry a non-Catholic. Fidelity in faith and raising children as Catholics is a promise of the Catholic party. If the non-Catholic objects then there can be no marriage in the Church. You are perfectly right about this. As for your friend, keep her in prayer because she wrongly prized the love of a man over the love that should compel us all to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Keep her in prayer because there is a terrible spiritual danger when one disowns Christ. The Holy Spirit makes him present both in his Church and in the sacraments. Pray that this same Spirit will one day bring her home.

  2. Thanks for understanding, Father Joe.
    He and I have talked about this and striving to dedicate ourselves to God by being chaste. We are at a Catholic university so you’d think we’d be surrounded by others who are trying to do the same, but that doesn’t seem to be the case!! It’s hard when everyone around you seems to be giving in. There should be a group on campus for couples who are sharing this struggle to support each other. There has to be more than just the two of us, right?
    You are correct, when we pray together, or sit in the chapel together, my love for him explodes. We both have so much school ahead since he wants to go to medical school and I want to get my master’s. If he is the one, marriage won’t be for years!!
    We probably have to stop watching movies at night together. A lot of times his roommates go out and we are alone, and that’s when the temptation is the greatest. (And when we’ve come the closest to not resisting that temptation).
    This weekend he asked if I’d be his sponsor for Confirmation if he went thru the Confirmation program on campus for next school year! I just got Confimed in January, and I’m so excited about this for him. Maybe having these classes will help somehow too. At least he will get to know our campus priest better. Our priest here is great, but I haven’t found the nerve to talk to him about overcoming temptations. But maybe my boyfriend and I could go talk to him together. Do you think there are ways a campus priest could help with this? He is a very young priest, so I wouldn’t want to make him feel uncomfortable.
    Thanks Fr Joe. We will pray for you!!! Ali

    FATHER JOE: I think sharing your situation with the local priest would be a great idea. Maybe the two of you could be the start of that group of young people seeking to be holy and loving? Many blessings!

  3. I have a question about the Sunday obligation in my specific case. I am the mom and caregiver of my totally disabled adult child. I am 69 and she is 43. We have been doing great about getting to Mass on Sunday, unless one of us is ill. Lately, however, it is getting more difficult. Getting her in and out of the car and the wheelchair is getting harder on my body. I think the time is coming when it will be too difficult for me to do and I do not have help on the weekends. I can go to daily Mass because my daughter goes to a day program and is picked up by a handicapped van. I know rhe obligation is for Sunday, but am wondering if I should approach my parish priest to see what I can do. I am just wondering if you have come across a situation like this before. Thank you.

    FATHER JOE: You can only do what you can reasonable do. If your adult child receives communion, then an arrangement may be made through the parish for someone to bring the sacrament. Talk to your priest and continue to participate at Mass whenever possible. Such situations regularly come up. God understands.

  4. Hi Father,
    Could I have mistakenly opened my soul up to darkness, the Devil, or evil forces?! I wanted to know if Hell existed so I googled “what does the Bible say about Hell”, “Does Hell exist”, and I watched interviews on line where people claimed to have died and gone to Hell but then were revived. It was horrific and frightening what they said. I probably got carried away with looking things up, reading, and watching videos.

    I have been feeling a sense of doom and heaviness, like every sin I ever committed was pushing down on me. I have also felt afraid, fearful, and lacking my usual hope. I went to church to pray and be in silence one night which is something I always do. Being there alone never bothers me even in the dark. But this night, the darkness seemed extra dark and heavy and as I sat there I became anxious and aware of a feeling that progressed from uncomfortable to evil. I tried to pray it away with the Our Father and some Hail Marys but that didn’t seem to help. I ended up leaving in fear with my heart racing. I have never felt like this before. I am so afraid of Hell now, I feel like my faith disappeared, I just don’t feel like myself, and I don’t know what to do.

    I’m not sure if it was something I did, but I didn’t mean for this to happen! I feel afraid of God now too, that He will judge me not worthy of Heaven. Please, Father. Any advice?! Evan

    FATHER JOE: Some people are impressionable and easily made anxious by watching the types of things you described. Not knowing you, I cannot say if the situation is purely psychological or if there might be a spiritual component. As a priest, I have sometimes experienced spiritual assault. The response is to keep faith and pray even if it is difficult to do so. There might be a sense of a dark presence and one becomes both depressed and overly anxious. Except that you are awake, I would liken it to the night terror than some feel when between sleep and awakening. Your sins weigh heavily upon you and you feel that all you have done (even toward the good) has been in vain. The experience eventually passes. Demonic attack and oppression is real but one should not surrender to it. As soldiers for Christ, it is an occasion for spiritual combat. We pray and make reparation for our sins and those of the world. We trust in the power of Christ and the intercession of the Blessed Mother. Remember the words of our blessed Lord, “Be not afraid.”

  5. Hi Father,
    My mother had a friend a year or two ago who asked her to drop off her divorce papers somewhere (idk, I guess at court?) I’m not sure if this friend was even Catholic, or Christian. I just recently started thinking about this again and am wondering if it was a sin that I didn’t tell my mom that maybe she shouldn’t do that. I don’t think I was really thinking about it at the time, or even if I knew she did it until after the fact. Should I bring it up to my mom now and tell her that was wrong? And is that even wrong since I don’t know if the friend was Catholic?

    Lastly, should is it a mortal sin and should I confess that I never said anything to my mom when she first told me she did that? ( Again, I don’t think I even thought to say anything or if I did I didn’t want to be haughty to my mom because that is something ive been in the past). Thanks for your help!
    -college student

    FATHER JOE: Your mother is probably no more culpable than would be the mailman. I would not worry about it.

  6. Hello Father,
    I know that it is a sin to wish harm upon a person and it is a mortal sin to wish grave harm. But can you tell me if this situation is a sin on my part? I just did a group project and two of the people in my group barely participated. So I don’t want them to receive the same grade as us in the project who did most of the work. And I didn’t give them the best ratings on the Peer evaluation form. I was honest and fair. Is it a sin that I don’t want them to receive the same grade as me and I don’t really care too much if their grade suffers? (I don’t want them to fail the class but they definitely shouldn’t get a great grade on this project because they don’t deserve it). Thanks!

    FATHER JOE: You say yourself that you gave them an evaluation that was “honest and fair.” You did not allow your emotions to erupt with injustice. I would urge you not to worry further about it.

  7. Fr. Joe,
    I’ve been struggling with temptation in a consuming way!!
    And, I’m afraid that I might fail and give in to this temptation.
    I’m in college.(which is a breeding ground for temptation in general I think!!) I’ve had a boyfriend for almost a year. He is a Christian, but not Catholic. He does come with me to mass sometimes though. (so there’s hope that maybe he will be someday!!) He is at the same college so we see each other a lot. I can’t say he is “the one” because I have more school ahead to focus on, but I love him very much. We have a lot of fun together with similar interests. He is kind and thoughtful, hardworking, etc. There is a lot of attraction between us, so I’m sure you know what I’m struggling with even without saying it. I pray about this and ask God for strength. But, are there specific prayers to help with temptations and what do we do when these feelings are so strong that it feels like you’re holding back the universe?!?! I’m panicked a little because we came close to giving in last weekend, and it’s freaked me out. I could use some suggestions if you have any.
    Thank you! Ali

    FATHER JOE: I would suggest prayer, even prayer together; but surprisingly that can sometimes make temptations even stronger. How is that? The fact is the more you love each other the more you want each other. Love cries out for union. This is true with both our relationship with God and with the bonds of men and women. Has the young man ever expressed his own struggles with chastity? It is good to be open about this as Christians and friends. If either of you should fall, know that God is merciful. However, while God can forgive there are consequences for our actions. You know what I mean. What would I suggest? Given that you are young students, place an emphasis on school and group activities. When you go out as a couple, it is best to remain in public places like movie theaters, sporting events, concerts and restaurants. Beware of prolonged parking in secluded spots, spending time alone with each other behind the closed doors of your rooms, etc. Many of your friends may think this is silly. They may already be sexually active. But if he proves not to be “the one” then you will have to live with the memory of what you do when the true love of your life comes around. Don’t hate your sexuality as it is a great gift. Try not to be afraid of each other even as you have a profound respect for the tension and sexual powers you both possess. Help each other to be holy. God bless you both.

  8. Question about receiving communion and Orthodox faith.
    I was baptised as a Lutheran (during late teens) and then converted to Catholic faith (was received five years ago). I sometimes visit my mother who lives on an island and it takes a day to drive there. There’s no Catholic Church nearby (only protestant and Orthodox nearby). So it’s very hard to fulfil my Sundays obligation while staying there. I asked my priest and he said that it fulfils my obligation if I participate in Divine Liturgy of Orthodox Faith. He also added that all sacraments are valid and I can even receive communion in such circumstances. I contacted local Orthodox priest and he said that it’s ok to receive communion as a Catholic. Just in case I fasted like an Orthodox (after midnight before Divine Liturgy) Before going to receive the Eucharist he asked me if I was the catholic who contacted him and I received communion. It still seemed awkward (like still being in the wrong place) ;I participated more but never received communion there.
    Now I’ve read and heard from the Orthodox perspective that orthodox don’t consider Catholic sacraments valid (unlike Catholics) and it wasn’t right to receive communion. I’m bit confused….Help!

    FATHER JOE: Certain Orthodox extremists feel that Catholicism is devoid of grace. However, they do not all feel this is so. More importantly, they are wrong and we have a good relationship with many of the Orthodox churches. The Orthodox priest saw no problem with you receiving communion. Similarly, the Roman Catholic Church permits it (given the situation) as we recognize Orthodox sacraments as valid. You should have no further anxiety about the matter.

  9. Thank you, Father Joe.
    God Bless you.

  10. Thank you, Father.
    My favorite line in the Canticle of Zachariah is, “In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us”. I am so grateful for that, ‘tender compassion’!
    I do believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.
    I pray that it’s that tender compassion that saves those who love the same God with a different faith.
    I have heard accounts of those who claim that they had died and found themselves in Hell, but ended being revived to tell of their harrowing experience. There are many horrifying common accounts. I wouldn’t want that for anyone (and I know God does not want it either!!). If they are true, it’s a place I pray that God spares those who don’t necessarily travel through ‘the narrow gate’, but live with a life of faith with their lives in line with Jesus’ teaching (whether they realize or not).
    Does God have full control over who ends up in Heaven or Hell? Or, can His hands be tied to help up if we have failed so greatly, not believed in His salvation, or not repented for our sins? Do you think God watches with great sadness and helplessness when souls descend into Hell?! How does a loving God allow Hell to exist?

    FATHER JOE: I suspect that it is precisely because of love and justice that hell must exist. Love cannot be compelled or forced. It must be freely given. The price of sin (punishment, alienation, pain and death) is precisely the failure to love as we should. That is why Jesus emphasized the two-fold commandment of love… toward God and neighbor.

  11. Hi Father,
    As Catholics, do we believe that non-Christians will not go to Heaven and end up in hell? I’m not sure what to think about this. Jesus said the He is the way, and whoever believes in Him will have eternal life. But what about those who don’t know or accept Jesus as their savior, but are kind/good people? I have a friend who is devoted to her Jewish faith and was raised Jewish, a great mom and wife, works as a nurse who is caring and kind, and does a lot of good work in the community for people. How do we reconcile this? I can’t imagine God turning his back on her and others who are forces for good in this world.

    FATHER JOE: The Catholic Church does not teach that non-Christians will necessarily go to hell. We leave the judgment of souls to almighty God. However, we do believe that there is no way to the Father except through Jesus Christ. Indeed, because of our appreciation of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church also teaches that there is no salvation apart from (or outside of) the Catholic Church. As the mother of all the sacraments, the Church is regarded as the great saving sacrament of encounter with Jesus Christ. Jesus is the one Mediator or Savior. We take seriously that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life. The Church preaches the kerygma of salvation. She seeks the repentance and conversion of souls. She prays for and intercedes on the behalf of her own and (as in the Good Friday supplications) for those outside our visible community. We know that saving grace is active within the Church. God is sovereign in his possible extension of grace outside the Church. Even individual Catholics can forfeit salvation by the souring of faith and their refusal to love and obey the Lord as they should. Salvation is a gift. Being good in itself cannot save us because we cannot save ourselves. Non-Catholic Christians still have elements of the Church’s faith and sacraments. Their love for Christ will surely be measured by God. Salvation comes from the Jews and the New Covenant is built upon and fulfills the ancient Hebrew Covenant. God keeps his promises and he called them to be his people. The situation becomes increasing tenuous for others; but again, we leave the question of ultimate salvation to the Lord. We are creatures and must humbly acknowledge the Creator’s authority over his handiwork. We can be hopeful about salvation but absolute assurance can become wrongly presumptuous. I would suggest praying the psalms with your Jewish friend— these are wonderful prayers that we have in common and they make up our Liturgy of the Hours. Seek unity, love one another and trust that we have a God far more merciful than sinful men. Peace!

  12. Father,
    I did something horrible and my parents don’t know. I’m sick with guilt and fear over it, but I don’t have anyone I can talk to.
    I’m 16, and sometimes I go in anonymous chat rooms. I met a guy who said he was 17, and I sent him several pornographic pictures. He didn’t send me any back, but I added him on Hangouts and continued to send him pics for several months. We made conversation as well, and in passing I mentioned to him which state I live in, and even showed him a picture of our new house.
    Finally, I realized how dangerous and sinful what I was doing was, and I blocked him on Hangouts. I didn’t hear from him for a few days, but then he made a new account and added me again. He told me that he was very angry. I tried to explain that I couldn’t talk to him anymore because I knew what I’d done was wrong. He told me he could “ruin me”, and that he “won’t be so nice if he sees me again.”
    Now I’m really scared that he might mean me harm. He knows in general where I live, and since he never showed me any pictures of himself, he might not even be 17. I’m also sick to death with guilt about what I did, because I know how sinful and bad it is. I don’t know who I can talk to about what I’ve done. My parents will hate me if I tell them. Father, you’re the only personal I can talk to. PLEASE help me. I’m so afraid.
    Sincerely,
    Livvy

    FATHER JOE:

    I do not know your parents and so I cannot say how helpful it will be to divulge all this to them; however, given that you are a minor and that they care about you, it is probably best that you speak to them. Good parents will understandably get upset but they also love their charges and seek to protect them. It sounds to me that you have run into a dangerous predator. Even if he fails to find you, he can exploit images that were sent to him. Your parents can make the decision as to whether the threat level requires contacting the police.

    (I do not know very much about HANGOUTS but it seems to me that through your weakness and misjudgment you have polluted the waters and it might be best to give it up altogether. Does he know your full legal name? If he does not have your email, phone number or address, this would effectively end communication. You really do not want to transmit anything further to him.)

  13. This is why I love this forum so much … Fr. Joe you are soo awesome. thank you for answering my question.

  14. Hello Father, I have friends that don’t believe in god and are non Christians and seem to get every blessing to them while I struggle praying to god everyday to help me in my time of need and being silent? I just want to give up on God

    FATHER JOE: The reduction of belief to an arrangement of satisfaction is a pretty shallow faith. Ours is not the ice-cream-god. We are not promised perfect happiness in this world. Jesus says to take up your cross and follow him. It is true that some wicked people flourish and certain pious people suffer. This question about pain and misfortune emerges in the story of Job in the Bible. God will reward his own with eternal life. The rich man ignored the needs of the beggar Lazarus and he suffered fire in the world to come. Ours is a God of both justice and mercy. We should not judge our favor in light of what we achieve or get in the here-and-now. Catholics do not subscribe to the prosperity gospel mentality.

  15. Why does God love us this much?

    FATHER JOE: Because he desires to do so.

  16. Peace, Father.

    There are so many ways God had shown (and continues to show) His love for us. Every day I recognize at least one way (if not many ways) that He has cared for me and shown His love. I could fill pages upon pages in a journal of all that I’m thankful to God for and all my many blessings.

    But, when you look at the world in all it’s anger and hatred, and the way people often treat each other (or themselves) and see how ugly and unkind we can be to each other……and when I look at myself and recognize my own failures, sins, and darkness…..I wonder WHY does God love us the way He does?! Sometimes it’s easy to feel unloveable and wonder why God doesn’t give up on us. Recognizing my own unworthiness and repeated failures, it’s hard not to get discouraged. Does God get discouraged by our actions and the current state of the world?

    Blessings to you,
    Sarah

    FATHER JOE: The nature of divine providence would make discouragement impossible within the triune godhead. However, God can be dishonored and in Jesus (who took upon himself human nature) our sins certainly weighed heavily upon him on the Cross.

  17. Hello, Father. How would you respond to the memes we see on social media, like the one showing a cartoon God saying “I’m everywhere, yet children are raped, murdered, and tortured. But, hey, I work in mysterious ways and have a plan.”

    FATHER JOE: I really know next to nothing about internet memes. I suspect it is just a modern, albeit simplistic and mocking way, of expressing atheistic cynicism in the face of the mystery of pain. What is left unsaid is that God did not spare himself such ill treatment due to sin that was perpetrated by us against our own brothers and sisters. If God did intervene to stop us, the same critic would be angry that God tampered with human freedom.

  18. Hi Father! I was wondering- is it a mortal or venial sin if I don’t tell my teacher that some people in my class are doing some form of cheating and they may do so on The exam? My teacher allows us to use our notes for tests but people take advantage and print out things from online where the teacher may be getting her questions and answers. I have already talked to this teacher about other nitty things this semester (not cheating), but I feel like she doesn’t like me or I would just be annoying if I told her about this. I am very scared to do this but I don’t even know if I have an obligation to do so.

    FATHER JOE: The school may require that you report such dishonesty. Cheating hurts everyone. If you are afraid of retribution, could you report the situation anonymously? Admittedly, it can be a difficult situation. I recall a case where a teacher was involved with the cheating, improperly assisting students with grades who would not otherwise be eligible for a sports program. You must also be certain that there is cheating. Suspecting without proof might harm the innocent. Peace!

  19. Hello Father,
    I can’t rmb if I have posted this before, but I’d like to ask something.
    To summarize, I’ve been losing my hearing since I was 14, I’m now 22 and almost deaf. Will be going for cochlear implant surgery in May this year.
    I realised that this hearing problem started when I too started PMO and getting addicted to it. I’m not sure if it is even possible for there to be a correlation between PMO and going deaf, but I do feel bad doing it too and sometimes I wonder if going deaf is my punishment for it?
    I still really do not want to do the cochlear implant surgery because it feels unnatural, and I don’t want to live with a foreign object inside my head. I am hoping for a miracle, but it almost seems impossible because my hearing has not improved at all and surgery is next month.
    I keep having the feeling like, maybe if I don’t go for surgery, who knows, maybe a miracle might happen soon, but I can’t delay surgery anymore because I need to start school soon and I need to hear again (I already took 2 years off school).
    I really do not know how to go ahead with this surgery. I feel like I might have regrets if I do, but I also really need to hear again.
    Thank you.

    FATHER JOE: Repentance, forgiveness and conversion is definitely the way you should go spiritually; however, I do not think the addiction had any connection with hearing loss.

  20. Hi Father,

    One of my brother’s and I were debating about homosexuals yesterday: he was saying that they are made that way, he was coming from a scientific point of view (something about estrogen and testosterone levels); and then the issue of “feelings”, i.e. we all feel what we feel; feelings cannot be explained; if you feel something for someone, that’s just it. they feel what they feel;

    I was more on the side of choice: that it was/is their choice. I understand we feel what we feel; because it is human to feel; but being human also means we can control our feelings. I can fall in love with a married man; but it doesn’t mean I should pursue those feelings.

    Nonetheless my brother’s views did make me wonder: are homosexuals really born to be homosexuals? Born that way? I know what the Church teaches about the act of homosexuality but what does the Church teach about homosexuals?

    FATHER JOE:

    While there can be a movement of the will or the soul that is distinct from emotions, particularly in reference to justice and charity; I would concur that much in the way of feelings is a result of how we are made and the chemistry of our brains and bodies. The latter is why the Church sometimes speaks of homosexual attraction as “disorientation.” Many critics do not like the label because it apparently implies that something is broken or unhealthy about same-sex attraction.

    It is my understanding that the correlation of estrogen and testosterone levels in adults to heterosexuality or homosexuality is not decisive. However, there is growing research that the impact may have been prenatal with anomalous glandular conditions and sex steroids. I suspect that the answer to the question of nature versus nurture may not be exclusive but include both factors. Education, early relationships, possible trauma and social restraints may also play a crucial role in the formation of gender identity. In other words, I am of the mind that there are different types of homosexuals.

    How we behave, regardless of orientation, is our choice. For instance, I am heterosexual, but have vowed to live out a celibate love as a priest. Others seek to preserve purity while single and later give themselves to their spouses in holy matrimony (the natural bond between a man and a woman). Others abandon the moral law and pursue sexual relations outside of marriage.

    One is not culpable in regards to orientation and feelings. Nevertheless, we will be held accountable for our actions. I would urge those Catholic men and women who “feel” they cannot marry the opposite sex or engage in heterosexual intimacy to join an organization called COURAGE. “Courage members are men and women who experience same-sex attractions and who have made a commitment to strive for chastity. They are inspired by the Gospel call to holiness and the Catholic Church’s beautiful teachings about the goodness and inherent purpose of human sexuality. Through our apostolate, people who experience same-sex attraction receive pastoral support in the form of spiritual guidance, community prayer support, and fellowship.”

  21. Hello Father, is it a mortal sin when G-d damn it and other forms of taking Gods name in vain come into your thoughts. I don’t speak these out loud, but they are very lucid in my mind and I feel as if I have committed a sin. How do I know if I have willed such thoughts. In the past I have not confessed it. Thank you in advance!

    FATHER JOE: Many thoughts and vulgarities may flash before our minds. Culpability is reduced or none existent if we refuse to give in to such desires and/or do not ruminate in a sinful way… as with lust, vengeance, hatred, etc. What is really in our heart and mind?

  22. Thank you, Fr Joe.
    And thank you for being patient with me.
    I feel like there is a lot I know and understand about my Catholic faith, and maybe even more I don’t fully get yet. But I am trying. I hope that God sees us trying and understands.
    I appreciate what you wrote about graces from suffering and temporal punishment here on earth as to be able to go straight to Heaven. I probably haven’t seen that there could be a purpose to suffering. It’s just hard to see someone you love or care about suffering so greatly. I’m sure Mary felt these same emotions.
    Thanks again. God Bless.
    Ali

  23. Father, is it ok to go on a history tour that explores history of mob in my city? Would I be vulnerable to evil by going? My friend asked me to go.

    FATHER JOE: I see little problem with such a tour. We take children around here to the Holocaust Museum. Sometimes knowing about atrocities and evil can help strip away the glamour.

  24. Thank you for answering my question, Fr Joe. That gave me a lot to think about. You are right, I didn’t see that It is God who provides mothers to comfort children, and that He is the ultimate source of that love. I hadn’t thought of it that way before. Also, when I pray, I probably do far more ‘talking” then listening and don’t approach prayer as two-way-street. I’m definitely going to try and be better about listening. You asked some tough questions. Do I “underestimate the weight of the cross” that Jesus carried, suffered and died for us? If I’m honest, I probably do underestimate it. But, I am a work in progress, and I hope God is patient with me as I grow to understand more fully. I am trying to put it all together. I think I have come far but still have a long way to go.

    If I could clarify, as far as prayer, we pray for God’s intercession (for either ourselves or for someone else) not necessarily to change God, but to open up communication with Him? So we can be open to receive his ‘answer’ even if it’s no, yes, or not now? If someone were to ask you, ‘why do you pray’ is the answer solely about growing a relationships with God? If we don’t change God, should we only pray for His will to be done, and then pray in thankfulness for the love and comfort He provides in times of struggle?

    I have been praying for my Uncle’s suffering to end. The end is very near. He is restless and in so much pain even with the pain medicine. I wish God would come for him very soon so he is at peace. In praying for him, I am opening myself up to God’s comfort for myself? Am I close? I’m sorry if I am a frustration to you. I don’t mean to be, but this is important for me to understand.
    Thank you, Ali

    FATHER JOE:

    “If someone were to ask you, ‘why do you pray’ is the answer solely about growing [in] a relationship with God?” Gifted with intelligence, self-aware and conscious of our utter dependence, we pray because this is the existential posture of the creature to the Creator. Christianity insists that we are not saved by any philosophy or book of rules; but rather, that our salvation consists of a vital and real faith relationship with the Lord. Our path to God is to follow the WAY that is Jesus. The oration of the Mass makes possible our participation with Christ in offering the one sacrifice that makes true atonement for sin and which honors almighty God.

    Even the pagan who throws grain or animals into a fire as a sacrifice has an awareness of his posture of dependence before something greater than himself. His sacrifice falls short because of the breach of sin and his finite power. Jesus is a divine Person and so his oblation has infinite value.

    Why do we pray? It should be obvious. We ask God for things just as a child will ask a parent for a cookie or for something to drink. Supplication comes from human needs and wants. There is so much that we cannot do for ourselves and so we turn to God. We trust he hears us and cares about us.

    Why do we pray? If a boy and girl fall in love, must they be forced to spend time together or to utter those sweet words, “I love you.” No, they cannot help themselves. They are constantly in each other’s company. Again and again, by gesture and words, they express their love. We spend time before the Blessed Sacrament. We spend time with God, not just because we have to do so but because we want to be intimate with God. He completes us. All our prayers and our service is an expression of love to the one who is LOVE, himself.

    Why do we pray? Many people today are enamored by certain celebrities. Boys collect the cards of great baseball players or have a signed mini-helmet of a football player. Fans go to games, concerts and movies to see certain athletes or stars. What are any of them compared to God? God has made the entire universe and sustains all of creation. We are to honor God in prayerful praise and thanksgiving just because he is almighty God. We find something of this sentiment in Scripture where we read, “No one is like you, LORD, you are great, great and mighty is your name. Who would not fear you, King of the nations, for it is your due! Among all the wisest of the nations, and in all their domains, there is none like you” (Jeremiah 10:6-7).

    Why do we pray? Let us be honest, there are many who do not. These are likely the same people who rarely if ever thank anyone for a gift or good service. They feel that they are self-made and owe nothing to anyone. The person who is in right relationship both with God and man is by necessity, gracious and appreciative. We thank God for what he has done and for what we have been given. What some do not understand is that we thank God for the good and for that which might not seem so good. Note the Beatitudes: “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you” Matthew 5:10-12).

    Why do we pray? A child disobeys his parent and finds his mother upset or crying. One spouse has spoken meanly to the other, resulting in silence and tears. Both instances bring about a sense of guilt. One goes to the other and says, “I am sorry.” Similarly, we also make our appeal to God with contrite hearts, seeking forgiveness. We look to the scourged Christ on the Cross, we acknowledge what our sins have caused. We have not only spiritually disfigured ourselves, but we are grieved because our sins have “offended” God “who is all good, and deserving of our love.” Yes, imperfect contrition also fears the loss of heaven and the pains of hell; but perfect contrition reflects the movement of our hearts in response to the pierced Sacred Heart.

    We are told by Jesus that if we appeal to his saving name, then our supplications will be efficacious. This final struggle for your uncle touches the mystery of divine favor and fact of human mortality. There may be graces from this ordeal, for the both of you that will have a lasting spiritual impact. What is offered up now may make amends for temporal punishment due to sin. I suspect that those who undergo their purgatory here on earth will have little or no need of purgation when they finally approach the throne of God.

    There is no issue in praying that your uncle’s pain will end and that he will be sped on his way to the kingdom. We place this in God’s hands. There is in the Catholic tradition what is called the hope for a happy death.

    PRAYER TO THE CRUCIFIED CHRIST

    O Jesus, while I remember your dying breath, I beg you to receive mine. Since I do not know whether I shall have command of my senses when I depart from this world, I offer you now my last sufferings and all the sorrows of my passing. I give my soul into your hands for you are the Lover of Humanity my Lord and my Savior. Grant that the last beat of my heart may be an act of perfect love for you. Amen.

  25. Hi Fr. Joe,
    How does prayer work?
    If God is all knowing and all loving, wouldn’t he want to help us no matter what? My uncle is at the end of his life with cancer and suffering a lot. I’ve been praying for him. His suffering keeps getting worse and worse. He has loved God all his life and has a life long practicing Catholic, a great dad and husband, only recently when he was too sick did he miss Mass. It’s very hard to see him suffer in so much pain!
    When we pray, does it change God or does it change us?
    How does prayer help or intervene?
    I guess the same question for when we pray for Saints to help us.
    Do saints appeal to God on our behalf?
    If God loves us and cares for us, why would we have to pray in order to have his care and assistance. If a young child falls at the park and gets hurt, the mom rushes over to help without being asked. Is this not the same care we receive from God or do we have to ask?
    Thanks for your answer.
    I really would like to understand this.
    God Bless you Fr. Joe,
    Ali

    FATHER JOE:

    Prayer is communication with God. We might use the words of Scripture or those of others in the Church or we might employ our own. Prayer can be vocal or mental. Prayer can be personal and/or communal. Most begin with the child’s prayer of petition or supplication; however, some never clearly mature to the other forms of oration: as with praise, blessing, thanksgiving, intercession and contrition. Prayer is not a soliloquy. It is a two way form of dialogue. We need to open ourselves up to God— speaking to him honestly and awakening our hearts and minds to his response. Prayer obviously requires faith but it also demands humility. We must surrender ourselves as both dependent upon and instruments of divine providence.

    Our Lord tells us that any who would be his disciples must take up their cross and follow him. Suffering, sickness and pain are negative elements but nothing is wasted by God. The Cross of Jesus is transformed from a sign of despair and death to one of hope and redemption. Christ lays down his life; he dies that we might live. There is no path to the empty tomb and Easter that fails to pass through Good Friday. The believer can pray as our Lord that the cup of anguish might pass him by. However, again like Jesus, we might also have to pray, “Not my will but thy will be done.”

    God as God is a perfect spirit and is the unmoved mover. Nevertheless, it is in Jesus that the Second Person of the Trinity enters human history. The incarnation, the institution of the Church and the paschal mystery is the ultimate response to our hopes and prayers. It is in Jesus that God approaches us, all so that by grace we might be transformed into the likeness of Christ.

    We are called to pray unceasingly. Our whole life should be one endless conversation with God. Does God intervene? He already has. You could not say that Jesus is Lord or even begin to pray if God did not take the initiative in you by sending the Holy Spirit. As for particular petitions, God answers all prayer. He sometimes says YES, at other times NO and he might also respond, NOT NOW.

    The saints pray FOR and WITH us. They are alive and members of the Church. We want to be where they are.

    Do you appreciate everything that God has already done for you? God has been generous with many of us with food, drink, clothing, shelter and people who care about us. It was God who gave children a mother to rush to their aid. Do you not see this? Would you have God do everything? We are not animals or robots. Sin, suffering and death came into the world through human rebellion. Our Lord suffered the weight of the entire world’s sins on the Cross that we might now have the opportunity to offer ourselves with him to the Father. Do you underestimate the weight of this Cross? He was sinless and did not deserve to die. He dies for each of us by name. All the powers of hell targeted him. He would have us freely will to follow him with our little hurts.

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