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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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Ask a Priest

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!




3,717 Responses

  1. I would suggest finding you priest email address and emailing him just what you put here then ask for an appointment. It normal to be afraid. You have to find it in youself to do this but writing an email might allow the priest to understand the situation.

  2. Thanks, Fr. Joe. I believe what you said, that most priests are gentle and kind men.

    I met an exception at my first confession years ago. I also recognize that my fear is irrational at this point now that I’m older. But I’ve had this fear since I was 7. I am justified for feeling anxious because of my experience. I think what I fear now is that I won’t have a good experience again, and that I’ll never go back.

    As a kid, I had dyslexia and a lot of trouble reading. Luckily, lots of speech therapy and reading therapy fixed it, but at age 7 it was really bad. When I opened the door to the sacristy where 2 chairs had been set up, I hesitated because the priest did not look happy (no smile). He was older and did not appear very friendly. He said, “Shut the door behind you and sit here.” From the beginning I wanted to run. I had been prepared for certain things to happen, and no one said that I’d have to read anything. He had me read a paragraph from the Bible and with my reading challenge, I butchered it. It was all scrambled and made no sense. I got so upset about it. The priest scolded me saying that I was reading “God’s words” and that I needed to do better than that. He had me read it again, and because I was so upset, I did worse! Then he read it to me, but it might as well have been in Chinese because I was so focused on the doorknob and leaving, I didn’t understand a word. He was upset that I hadn’t “paid attention,” but I was completely overwhelmed. When I had no explanation of what the reading “meant to me,” he grabbed the arms of my chair and pulled my chair towards him. His knees were on either side of mine, and I felt trapped. He was pressing my knees together with his. I wanted to cry, but I didn’t want to walk out of the room crying to face my friends. Then I forgot everything. I couldn’t remember any of my sins I had prepared and wanted to confess. I knew the Act of Contrition by heart before going in there, but in my panic, I couldn’t recall a word. I remember thinking how angry God must be at me for doing such a bad job. I felt so terrible about myself. I was only 7 years old! I don’t remember anything good that came from this. I’m sure the priest gave me absolution, but I don’t remember that. All I wanted to do was get out of there, but I was trapped by his knees and his robe covering my legs. To this day, I can still see that doorknob. I remember him asking if I was ready to go, and I nodded. I’m sure he gave me a penance, but I didn’t hear that either. He finally pushed back his chair to let me leave and I flew out of my chair to the door. I remember trying to walk back into the pews as if everything was okay, but I was definitely not okay. All I could think was that I wanted to go home, and that I was NEVER doing that again. So needless to say, I never did. Even at my confirmation retreat, I went in to the screen room for 2 seconds and walked back out because I was short of breath. I believe now kids do their first confession in plain sight rather than behind a closed door. I am angry that I had this experience because I should have left happy and feeling God’s mercy.

    I have to forgive this priest and know that I did not encounter Jesus that day. I will try your suggestion about meeting with a priest first, because I definitely want to know that “good” and “light” feeling that people describe after receiving this sacrament. I need a good experience and someone who is going to help me because it’s been so long. I’m sure there are others who have had bad experiences that have kept them from going to confession, but I also know a lot of people who said that they had a great 1st confession! That sounds amazing to me. I think it’s very important to get priests who are sensitive to very young kids for 1st confession and who understand that the first experience will shape how kids feel about this sacrament. It could make all the difference. I’m sure this is discussed in the seminary, right?

    Thanks Fr. Joe.

    FATHER JOE: Thank you for sharing your story. It brought tears to my eyes. I do not know about seminary formation these days. As I recall there was very little attention as to how we should invite and guide children into the sacramental life. In any case, what you describe seems like abuse. I am sorry for how you were treated and how it wounded you for years to come. Know that you are in my heart and prayers. If you were local, I would say come see me for the sacrament. God bless!

  3. Hi Father,
    I had a really rough 1st confession as a kid. We had a wonderful pastor at our church, but I had the visiting priest who had come to “help”. What happened to me is story for another day, but I remember being so traumatized and confused that I ended up crying in my room for most of the afternoon.That experience has kept me from ever going back to the sacrament. Now, in my mid 20’s, I’ve wanted to give it another chance, but I honestly feel myself panic at even the thought. About a month ago, I got as far as making it inside the confessional which for me took so much effort! I couldn’t even say anything because I was out of breathe and “frozen”, so I panicked and blurted out, “Sorry Father”, and ran out. This hasn’t helped my cause. Now I’m nervous that will happen again.

    What advice do you have for people who may have had tough 1st experiences that have kept them from this sacrament? How can I overcome this? My response seems to be out of my control. I feel badly because I know I shouldn’t receive communion, and sometimes I do after silently asking for God’s forgiveness for my sins and for not being brave enough to go to confession, etc. He knows my story. I know there are far more good, kind, and compassionate priest out there. And, I want to be able to give this sacrament another chance. I know I need it, but I have to find a way to get there.
    Thank you Fr Joe.


    I am not privy as to what the priest said that traumatized you. Certainly confessors should give special care for small children receiving the sacrament of penance for the first time. Your story is not new to me; indeed, I have known adults angry about treatment in the confessional who distanced themselves both from the sacrament and from the Church. This is always a terrible tragedy. While the greater weight or responsibility is with the priest, sometimes the penitent is resistant to criticism or to admonishment for change. I have asked a number of the laity to re-evaluate their experiences and consider that a confessor they rated as mean or gruff might merely have had a bad day or was ill. Most Priests are cognizant of their own sins when dealing with the faults of others and the need for mercy. We might not like going to the doctor, but we all want to be healthy or well. The priest is a physician for the soul. He was not ordained to hurt or torture others, but to heal and to bring peace in Christ.

    If anonymity is not a big concern you may want to make an appointment to sit and talk with a priest prior to the sacrament. You can tell him your experience as a child.

    You might also just “man up” and go. You are no longer a child but an adult. What is it you fear the priest might do? As an adult yourself, you can correct the priest if he gets out of line. (But this rarely happens.) If you tell your sins and are truly contrite then he is obliged to give absolution. That is the whole point of the sacrament. He cannot reveal anything you tell him. Most priests are gentle and caring men.

  4. Dear Fr. Joe,

    Thank you for answering my past questions and for keeping this blog and “ask-a-priest” section going.

    I have two unrelated questions.

    I’m paraphrasing. I’ve been recently getting to know someone from another denomination. We’ve gone out on a couple of dates. On the second date she had a few comments/questions in regards to her disagreements with the Catholic Church on certain teachings, etc… Unfortunately I’m not a debater and don’t have the sharpest memory. I tend to think of the things I should of said after the fact. I wasn’t able to provide sufficient answers during our conversation. At one time I was asked if there was scriptural basis for the intercession of Saints and why it would be needed when we have Christ as sole Mediator. She was also of the belief that the “dead”, the Saints don’t focus on us, because there are no tears in heaven – only joy. I knew there was scriptural basis for the intercession of Saints (prayers supplications and petitions are pleasing to God, our God is a God of the living, Revelation incense/prayers in the golden bowls are the prayers of God’s people, etc…), but I couldn’t remember these at the time. I said I would have to look up verses and send her quotes. She said – that’s o.k. – which I believe meant to not worry about it.
    Anyway, I was thinking about providing (either sending an email, or printing out a list, etc…) of Catholic beliefs with scriptural basis, and possibly early church quotes for support of tradition. I don’t want to force this on her if she doesn’t want it, but I also want to help her and others understand a little better. This could also be something I keep on me at all times in the event another conversation arises.
    Would sending her something be advisable or not, and if so, should I ask her permission prior to sending?

    My second question has to do with a recent Confession.
    After confessing my sins, I said that I was also sorry for any other sins I may have forgotten. The Priest then proceeded to give me counsel and it was during that time that I remembered something — watching tv shows/movies that had crass humor and/or irreverent material…
    I didn’t speak up, but said the Act of Contrition when I was asked to do so… Is this something that needs to be brought back to Confession? or would watching these shows and movies not necessarily be a sin, but a near occasion?

    Thank you Fr. Joe. I appreciate your help.


    The covenant made with the Jews is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The root to understanding the communion of the saints and their intercession is rooted in the corporate nature of Judaism which is later extended to Catholic Christianity. God calls, not just individuals, but communities to himself. He reveals himself and establishes a covenant with his people. Similarly, Jesus calls to himself his apostles and says to Peter that he would be the rock upon which he would build his Church. The Jews, who believed in an afterlife, viewed an essential blessing as passed down to them from their father in faith, Abraham. No matter whether Protestants believe that Second Maccabees is canonical Scripture or not, it is a historical testimony of practical Jewish belief. It depicts the deceased high priest Onias and the prophet Jeremiah as extending their benediction upon the Hebrew soldiers. Indeed, there were even prayers that invoked the intercession of the archangel Michael, much to the chagrin to the rabbinic legalists. It must be said that just as certain rabbis were starkly opposed to graven images and gave a heightened emphasis to the law, some opposed such prayer practices as a threat to their monotheism and the singular place of God. Idolatry and polytheism was a constant threat given their pagan neighbors. However, as believers came to believe in life after death; the matter became more significant. It comes to a head with Christ who sides with the Pharisees over life beyond the grave. He also emphasizes the link with the saving community. When questioned by the Sadducees who denied life after death, he stated: “As for the dead being raised, have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God told him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead but of the living. You are greatly misled” (Mark 12:26-27). Sanctoral intercession does not bypass God but is made possible because of our life and unity with God. The link is not breached by death. Jesus’ redemptive work insures the healing of the breach. Love is stronger than death. The saints are alive, aware and share in this love. Love by its nature reaches out or intercedes. The saints of God both pray for us and with us. As Christians we speak about this in terms of the unity of the Church: the Church in glory, the Church in purgation and the Church on earthly pilgrimage. As you can see, one teaching is readily interweaved into another: the corporate nature of the Church, the unity of the community called by the Lord, the victory of Christ over sin and death, the substantial quality of love as intercessory, etc. The various Marian apparitions that are elements of private revelation that attest to the continued role that is fulfilled by those who have gone ahead of us.

    Catholicism gave us the Bible when the bishops of the Church determined which books were canonical. However, this was never intended as a dismissal of sacred tradition. Thus, the Church would not be limited to just Scriptural references for her beliefs. Many contend that the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 indicates a concern and possible prayer for by the dead for the living. St. Thomas Aquinas quotes Revelation 8:3-5: “Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a gold censer. He was given a great quantity of incense to offer, along with the prayers of all the holy ones (saints), on the gold altar that was before the throne. The smoke of the incense along with the prayers of the holy ones went up before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with burning coals from the altar, and hurled it down to the earth. There were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.”
    There is also a reference to heavenly intercessors in Job 5: “Call now! Will anyone respond to you? To which of the holy ones will you turn?”

    Of course, a distinction must be made for the abode of the dead before and after the redemptive work of Christ. The righteous dead awaited the coming of their Savior in the limbo of the fathers. Now that Christ as made himself the bridge to heaven, this limbo no longer exists.

    Christ is our Savior and singular Mediator before the Father. Catholicism believes in various forms of secondary mediation: the translation of the Bible, parental formation of children, catechists and evangelism, the lived prayer and faith of the community, the role of deacons, priests and bishops as extensions of Christ’s ministry, etc. Your friend’s argument would also mean that she would have no need for you to pray for and with her. Such a privatized religion is not what the Lord intended and is, at its heart, a terrible fiction that violates charity.

    The dead are alive in the Lord. It is true that their main focus is not upon us but upon God. The beatific vision is the source of infinite joy in heaven. When we speak about tears, it is in reference to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary… two hearts that beat in harmony in love with us and which were pierced by the passion and death of Christ. The two-fold commandments are fully realized in heaven by the saints. The first focuses on our total love and surrender to God and the second speaks as to how this love spills over to our neighbor. It is in this love that the saints care and pray for us. It is precisely because they love the Lord that they love us, we who struggle in this veil of tears.

  5. HI Father,

    Just wanted to share a little bit about the “brothers” and “sisters” of Jesus.

    As you had mentioned; brothers and sisters could be cousins and I agree; it would be similar to our culture, where
    1. the children of two sisters are not cousins, rather they are brothers
    and sisters and the same with the children of two brothers.
    2. however, the children of a brother and sister are cousins.
    3. The children of two cousins (male and female) are not cousins but
    they are brothers and sisters; and
    4. the children of two cousins (female and female) or (male and male)
    are cousins.
    There are terms to describe each relationship in our language, but in the English language its just cousins, brothers and sisters ….

  6. XHello Father,
    I recently had my civil marriage convalidated, thus I am now able to receive communion. I have not received communion in over 25 yrs. I already went to confession. My question is, after I place the holy host in my mouth and make the sign of the cross, what am I supposed to do? I remember receiving communion in my mouth and never touching it. I also remember going back to my place and kneeling in prayer for a brief moment. But nowadays, my daughter who is now 13 places the host in her mouth and returns to her place in the pew and just stands there (she did her first communion when she was 8). What is the correct thing to do?
    Thank you,

    FATHER JOE: After reception and making the sign of the cross the communicant goes back to his or her pew and kneels in prayer.

  7. XHi Fr. Joe,
    Last Sunday in the gospel reading it made mention to the “brothers” and “sisters” of Jesus. Did Mary have other children after Jesus or are the words “brothers and sisters” to mean friends and family instead?

    Also, why do we as Catholics refer to Mary as “ever virgin”? She was a married women. Why would she have remained celibate in a loving marriage? Where is the basis for this in the Bible, etc? Why is it important to Catholics that Mary never went on to have more children or share in a physical relationship with her husband?

    Thank you,


    No one denies that the Bible mentions brethren of Christ, as in Mark 6:3. Such references are a real stumbling block for Protestants to believe in Mary’s perpetual virginity. Many Catholics might also suffer from such confusion, particularly in the absence of good catechesis and preaching on the Blessed Mother. While there are biblical supports, Marian teaching is an area where the importance of Sacred Tradition is proven. Our beliefs about her have been passed down from the days when she was treasured as our Lord’s most intimate living witness in the early Church. Since she was not the direct mother of the “brothers and sisters” of Jesus, she is entrusted to John at the Cross. The family of faith will take care of her and in return she will manifest a spiritual motherhood among them.

    Protestants generally agree with Catholics that prior to the birth of Jesus, Mary was a virgin. The prophecy of a virgin with child in Isaiah 7:14 is fulfilled in Matthew 1:23. The scene of the annunciation confirms her virginity. The angel Gabriel tells her that she will conceive and bear a son (Luke 1:31). Mary immediately asks how this could be since she has not known man, in other words, had sexual relations. The angel makes it clear that the agency for her pregnancy would be divine power: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35).

    The brothers and sisters of Christ have always been regarded as cousins of Christ. Mary lived in the early Church and this is the truth that has been passed down to us by those who knew. This is an element of Sacred Tradition. The Jews referred to such relations as brothers and sisters and we translate it literally. Expanded families of uncles, aunts, cousins, etc. lived together.

    The truth of Mary’s perpetual virginity was always held by the Church, East and West. Indeed, even the early Protestant reformers like Luther, Zwingli and Wesley insisted that such was dogma.

    The following quoted text intimates that the people speaking do not know what they are talking about:

    “‘Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary, and his brethren James and Joseph and Simon and Jude? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Then where did he get all this?’” (Matthew 13:55-56).

    “‘Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, Joses, Jude, and Simon? And are not also his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him” (Mark 6:3).

    They cannot fathom where Jesus has received his special authority and wisdom; indeed, by designating him as “the carpenter’s son,” they are even in the dark about his virgin birth as the incarnate Son of God. If they can be wrong about St. Joseph being the father of Jesus, then a cursory reading of these Scriptures may lead us into a similar error regarding Mary and the other family members. Note that they are listed as kin to Christ, cousins perhaps, as nothing more can be certainly determined from the Oriental custom of calling all such, brothers and sisters. Not once is Mary called their mother. Actually, the phrasing is quite careful to separate Mary, as the mother of Jesus, from these other brethren. Another point of interest is that Jesus on the Cross entrusts Mary to his apostle John, rather than to these kin. If they were actually half brothers and sisters, such would have been understood as a great insult to the family. It just was not done. Another point of correction is the presence of Mary as the beloved matriarch of the early Church. She was protected and cherished by the believing community. This same family of faith, who knew Mary so intimately, would transmit as part of our living tradition the truth that Mary remained a perpetual virgin. Also, such virginity was befitting the dignity of Jesus Christ as the unique God-Man and Savior. Looking at the Scriptural citations, there are certain practical problems to the use of these bible passages in opposition to Catholic teaching. Look at the names of the brethren here; Mark 15:40 informs us that James the younger and Joses (Joseph) were the sons of another Mary who was related to the Virgin Mary. As for the others, they may have been cousins, or if a second century work entitled The Protevangelium of James is to be trusted, the children of Joseph from a previous marriage. The image of a widower would collaborate the tradition that Joseph was much older than Mary. Such a view was also supported by other ancient authorities: Origen, Eusebius, Gregory of Nyssa, and Epiphanius. St. Jerome, knowledgeable in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, argued that they were cousins. He contended that Mary (a sister to the Virgin Mary?), the wife of Clopas (also known as Alphaeus), was the actual mother of the brothers and sisters of Christ.

    Here are some other interesting Bible citations:

    [Two of the brethren of Christ are listed as children of another Mary]

    “And some women were also there, looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses (Joseph), and Salome. They used to accompany him and minister to him when he was in Galilee— besides many other women who had come with him to Jerusalem” (Mark 15:40-41).

    [Semitic usage of brother and sister applied also to nephews, nieces, cousins, and others]

    “He recovered all the possessions, besides bringing back his kinsman [BROTHER] Lot and his possessions, along with the women and the other captives” (Genesis 14:16).

    “Laban said to him: ‘Should you serve me for nothing just because you are a relative [BROTHER] of mine?’” (Genesis 29:15).

    “Then Moses summoned Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel, with the order, “Come, remove your kinsmen [BROTHERS] from the sanctuary and carry them to a place outside the camp” (Leviticus 10:4).

    St. Joseph is the step-father of Christ and protector of the Holy Family. Yes, according to Jewish law he was married to Mary but she also has an overriding spousal relationship with the Holy Spirit. Just as Moses took off his sandals to step upon holy ground when he approached the Almighty in the burning bush; Mary is the ultimate holy ground. She belonged to the Lord and he avoided even the slightest profanation. The ultimate reason this belief is held by Catholics is that it is true and has always been believed. St. Joseph steps back, as he does when they find the teenager Christ teaching the teachers in the temple. He says not a word and the conversation is entirely between Jesus and Mary. Our Lord says to her, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). Note that there is no sign or mention of other children or siblings running around.

  8. xDear Father
    I normally attend a Tridentine parish with priests from the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. I recently was out of state and attended a non-Tridentine Mass. As the Communion procession was taking place and some of the Communicants were back in their pews with others still waiting to receive ,the choir asked everyone to sing the Communion hymn. I found it so distracting. I treasure the quietness to contemplate upon having received Our Lord. Am I wrong to feel that ,while waiting to receive Holy Communion and thereafter to have a few minutes of silence to contemplate on Our Lord Whom we have received ,there should be some time for prayer and reflection?


    There is much to be said about an aura of silence and solemnity.

    Scola Choirs sometimes sing for the older rite. There might be a recitation or chanted elaboration upon the Communion verse. Similarly, the reformed liturgy on weekdays includes the recitation of the Communion Antiphon although on Sundays this is usually replaced with a full hymn. Neither version of the Roman rite allows much time or silence for any post-communion contemplation. It is for that reason the Church has long encouraged people to remain in church after Mass to ponder the great mystery they have received.

    As for singing, we must remember that it is ideally a form of prayer that is supposed to both dispose or orientate us to the mystery we receive and to celebrate the gift that God has given us. By contrast, you are interpreting it as only a distraction to the mystery received.

  9. xHi Father Joe
    I’ve been going to confession more frequently lately to help with 3 big sins and 2 smaller ones that have been stumbling blocks for me. The last 2 times in confession (with a different priest each time), the same thing happened. We talked so much about sin #1 that it took up a lot of time, and I didn’t get to confess the other sins. There were people also waiting for confession so I was trying to be mindful of that. BUT, because my confessions were focused only on one big sin, I feel that I’m finally making progress on sin #1. This actually gave me hope that I could overcome any of them! Both time I got really good advice and encouragement. Both priests were generous of the time and help, but it was focused in on one sin which actually was good. It made me think that maybe taking on all my sins at once was overwhelming me because I haven’t felt like I had done any better with any of them until now. When someone has multiple big sins to tackle, can it be better to focus on one at a time instead of all of them at once?

    Does it make my confession invalid if I go into confession with the intention of only confessing sin #1 and putting sin #2 and #3 on the ‘back burner’ if my intention is to make better progress on one sin? I am not denying sin #2 and #3, I would ask God for absolution for all my sins and then move on to make progress with sin #2 and #3, and so forth.

    I just want the know if this would be ok for me to do.
    Thank you,


    The lines once common for confession are less so today. Traditionally, because of the need to hear as many penitents as possible, priests would urge those who needed or wanted counseling to make an appointment. Anonymity might be lost but a more thorough deliberation might then be offered without frustrating the needs of others to have their sins absolved. Even if there should be some short counsel, it is probably best form to quickly list your sins from the start (with limited details). Then the priest and or the penitent can return to the most refractory ones.

    You are obliged to confess all mortal sins. They cannot be “deliberately” withheld. Otherwise, one makes a bad confession. That is why priests often say, “Is there anything else?”

    REMEMBER, the primary purpose of confession is not counseling or therapy… it is absolution or the forgiveness of sins.

  10. xDo animals have souls?

    FATHER JOE: I think the most that can be said is that various species share substantial forms.

    John Paul the 2nd said yes in 1990.

    FATHER JOE: He did? Please cite where he said this.

    I’ve also been told they don’t.

    FATHER JOE: If you mean do they have something akin to a human soul then the Church’s answer is NO.

    I think St. Francis of Assisi thought they did or that they go to a different heaven.

    FATHER JOE: I must have missed this as well. Where did he say this?

    This topic isn’t my main area of focus in our faith. However, it does cause illogical bickering between many people, including my own family. If this question is google searched one will see all the confusion.
    Can we get a clear answer? It seems like one does exist.

    FATHER JOE: Animals do not have immortal souls. If they did then they would be persons. But we do not regard them as such… despite sentimentalism about cats and dogs, the fact remains that we EAT animals.

  11. xin this situation father correct me if I am wrong but breast implants would be understood by the Lord he is merciful it is like pressure suits for children who are burns victims I don’t think it would count as vanity. In Australia this type of surgery in this situation is paid for by tax payers which all of us 100% agree with. I have two perfectly functional breasts and still couldn’t breast feed. What’s more important is the attachment between mother and child. PLEASE be kind when you see her scars not that you wouldn’t be but say something like I love you just the way you are you are the most beautiful woman i have ever met because I can see your soul

    FATHER JOE: Yes, there is no prohibition about implants; but neither are they required.

  12. your so strong and resilient to hold onto your faith through this. God bless your children I’m sorry you need to explain why Daddy isn’t there. Speak to father but i think it’s worth going for an annulment to keep yourself open to Gods will for more children you seem to be great at getting pregnant which is another blessing. Peace be with you know there are others like me facing the same struggles. I feel bad even though my husband is the one leaving because Catholics don’t get divorced

  13. xHi Father,

    I read somewhere, that we Catholics changed the 10 commandments, with regards to keeping the Sabbath day Holy … it said that we changed it from “keep the Sabbath day Holy”, to “keep the Lord’s day Holy.” …

    . I know which day is the Sabbath and I know why we have Mass on Sunday …. I kind of felt insulted by the accusation that we changed the 10 commandments. But Fr. is there even a difference between the two?


    Read DIES DOMINI by Pope John Paul II. The answer is there.

    The transition can be found in the New Testament where Christians would gather on the Lord’s Day to celebrate their Christian faith (the Mass and the Agape). The commandments were modified or re-interpreted in light of Christ and his saving works. The incarnation of our Lord changed the economy of images. Thus, the prohibition against images (which was never absolute) is relaxed. Jesus is the revelation of the Father. God reveals himself with a human face. The early Jewish Christians were expelled from the synagogues where they gathered on the Hebrew sabbath (Saturday). All they had left then were their gatherings on the Lord’s Day (Sunday morning). Thus, the commandment was now associated with our re-creation in Christ instead of the creation story in Genesis. Most churches, Catholic and Protestant, view this transition as legitimate. Certain cults and the Seventh Day Adventists do not.

  14. xDear Father,

    I have an unusual query. I have attempted to send this earlier but I’m not sure if it was posted due to logging on problems. As such, I’ll try a resend.

    I have a curiosity. Suppose a woman loses both her breasts to cancer through a double mastectomy, as she is no longer able to breast feed even though she is still young enough to bear children, is it a sin for her to marry or is there anything in the Catholic Church that would prevent her from marrying? Also, she loves her fiance very much and as act of trust and fidelity, not sexual, she wishes to show him her scars before they marry. She merely wants him to see her scars and understand her experience, not to entice him sexually. As they are both respecting Catholics, they wish to know if there is anything wrong or sinful in this. What advice do you have? Thank you.


    A mastectomy would not prevent a woman from getting married.

    A woman wants to be accepted by her spouse and know that he finds her beautiful, even after losses of this sort. Before they get married, she wants to share the truth about herself and her woundedness. It will also help her to take measure of the man. Given that there is no overt sexual enticement, I can understand what she proposes and would not fault her.

  15. xHi Father,
    What is the distinction between envy, which I know to be a sin, and just admiring, acknowledging, or wishing you had something? I go to church alone. When I look around and see couples standing side by side or holding hands during Mass, it’s beautiful to see that devotion and love. I am happy for them, but it makes me wish that I had someone I love (and who loves me) standing beside me as well.
    There are also beautiful qualities in people that I admire, that I wish I could be more like. Again, I’m happy that people possess these beautiful qualities and talents, but I wish I could also be more like them. There is a cottage I love that is by the ocean where I vacation in the summer. I always think how much I love that spot and how amazing it would be to live there. I’m not sure if these are examples of envy. I don’t think it’s sinful to admire people’s talents, beauty, gifts, relationships, or possessions, is it? When does admiring become envy. Or are both sinful? How does one know when they’ve crossed the line from not-a-sin to a-sin?

    Thank you for clarifying!

    FATHER JOE: Envy means feeling injured or getting upset at the good fortune of others. It is not merely wanting what another has but also resenting that they have something we do not. It is a chief source of unhappiness and division in a world obsessed with possessions, privilege and power. It is always a sin because it desires the misfortune of others. Malicious envy corrupts the minds and hearts that by grace should be likened to Christ’s. It is at the root of the second sin committed by mankind, the murder of Abel by his brother Cain.

  16. Thank you, Fr. Joe.
    “While I prefer that marriage bonds be saved and healed….”, your words brought me to tears because I have prayed for two decades for this. But healing can only come when both parties work towards healing and reconciling. I honestly can forgive the infidelity, I can forgive the deception, I can forgive his actions of selfishness, etc. But, I cannot live under the stress of his cruelty, unfair treatment, and mean heartedness.

    As far as William’s difficulties, I am not sure what to think. It took us 4 days on our honeymoon to consummate our marriage because he had such difficulty. I thought it was normal since what did I have to compare it to?! We likely would have never conceived had it not been for my Natural Family Planning charts. I knew my fertility, and having kids was motivation for William. For each child, I knew the exact day of conception because there was only one occurrence. Intimacy during pregnancy was 100% not an option according to him. We had only been married 6 1/2 years when he was unfaithful (which I now know was with a man) and ended up with a permanent STD that ended our already limited physical intimacy. It’s hard to wish he had been honest about his confused sexual orientation from the start because that would mean the 3 kids I love with all my heart would not be in this world. At least there is 3 amazingly good things that happened from this mess. I thank God for them multiple times a day.

    I am not seeking 100% happiness, I know that is not promised in this world. But, I believe God is calling me to breathe, to find some peace, to live without this abuse, and to spread the joy of my Catholic faith with others. If it’s “to death do us part” with William, that’s fine with me as long as we can live separately. I’m not interested in falling into anyone else’s arms. More than anything, I recognize how much I desire to stay in God’s grace. There is still so much I have to offer this world, and all of it can be done living on my own. Finding the trust to take that first step is the hardest part. But I will get there.

    God Bless,

  17. xFather Joe, apon further inspection, what i last asked you was not a question, but jumbled
    Half paragraphs. Sorry about that.
    What I meant to express was, can you please expound on the gap between trusting Our Savior and impatience? What about asking for reassurance from our Savior?
    Did Moses show impatience with God in the story of numbers 20:8?
    I have learned from your past answers to other people’s questions , and only wish to
    prod or nudge you . Thanks

    FATHER JOE: The sin of Moses and Aaron was not impatience but rather that they feared the people more than the Lord. The “impatience” you ask about is a failure to surrender and to trust in divine providence. God is not our genie that we can command with wishes.

  18. xHi,
    I understand that committing a mortal sin requires full consent, but how much pressure is needed to make your consent not full? Thanks.

    FATHER JOE: What you ask is very subjective and hard to answer. It is almost like asking someone else, how high is up? The issue is intention and freedom. That must be judged in each case.

  19. Father joe, thank you for your blog. My question is concerning Moses and the “promised land” that he did not enter alive. The question of trust seems to be in play here. I have prayed that nothing glorious and doubt overcoming should be shown me I am asking here that I, and really all those who hear, should see life giving water, when our flame is rekindled

    FATHER JOE: I am unsure what you are trying to say. There is no question asked.

  20. xHi Father,
    I did not expect you to remember since you get so many questions and posts, but I sent you the below post in April. (I copied and pasted my questions and your helpful response-see below). Since I wrote this post to you, I confronted William, and he admitted to having homosexual experiences before our marriage (of course he never shared that information with me), that he was confused and honestly felt “asexual”. He said that he never has felt any sexual desire, and honestly doesn’t know if he is homosexual or heterosexual since he is not really attracted to either. I’m not sure what to believe, I’m so heartbroken over the dishonesty, and all the years of heartache that resulted. And, to add to all this, he is angry, selfish, verbally/emotionally abusive, miserable, sarcastic, spiteful, and brings me to tears daily. He is the source of so much stress in my life. There is absolutely no kindness or concern for me as far as he is concerned. I know that God calls me into a peaceful life away from all of this. I know he sees my struggles and wants to bring me to happiness. I feel like God is reaching out His hand to me, but I’m too afraid to grab onto it, to trust that it will all be ok, because this messy life is all I’ve known for over 20 years.

    My 3 amazing kids are my life. My oldest is almost 20, traveled to Haiti to work in an orphanage recently and is in college for nursing. My oldest son is graduating high school and is attending Fordham in NYC in the fall. And my youngest son is a HS freshman, a great kid who is one rank away from Eagle Scout. I only share the info on my kids because they have been my mission in life. I have been their constant shield from all this mess, showered them with love and shared the joy I have in my heart. I have had to be both mother and father. But now that they are older, I feel I need to save myself from this darkness I live everyday. I was made for more by the God who loves me. I desire peace. I pray for happiness and living out the Catholic faith that I adore.This is why I need to find the courage. I know that it will be battle. William will not make this an easy process even though I am willing to negotiate and find mutual solutions. That is just not his way unfortunately. He fails to see beyond himself. Even with his own children, he focuses on the negatives (messy rooms, not achieving enough, etc) and is very hard on them. He fails to see them for the blessing that they are!

    I have lived a celibate “married” life for at least 8-10 years, and probably most of my marriage in all honestly. Living in God’s grace is where I find my greatest happiness. So I know what divorce would mean for me. And that’s ok. This is the area where I struggle the greatest to forgive Willian. I did not get to fully experience the way God intended the love between a husband and wife to be. But, God has assured us that we will never be alone. “Jesus, I trust in you”.

    Thank you for your prayers, Fr. Joe. God Bless you.
    You are in mine as well.
    Peace, Sarah

    SEE PREVIOUS POST: April 11, 2018


    The passage of time and the use of the same name by people, who communicate with me in various forums, often make it hard to immediately connect the threads between posted questions. I remember bringing your plight to prayer.

    While I would prefer that marriage bonds be saved and healed, only the two of you can determine how you should proceed. The failure to reveal homosexual tendencies and experiences before marriage constitutes a degree of deception. His assertion that he has never experienced any sexual desire is hard to process given that you have a family and that he did pursue homosexual relationships. It is impossible for me to diagnose him; however, I am told that chronically depressed persons often have diminished passions. However, nothing excuses his bad treatment toward you which you describe as “angry, selfish, verbally/emotionally abusive, miserable, sarcastic, and spiteful.” Much could be forgiven and endured if there were acts of compassion that brought joy, instead of “daily tears.”

    No one should have to endure abuse. No one can assure you perfect happiness in this world. But we can find peace in Christ.

  21. xThank you for the response Father; another question:

    its on the use of Missal’s at Mass. Are we allowed to use them?

    Why am I asking? One of our previous parish priest would tell the people off in church if they were found with the missal at Mass. But it was usually the more senior members of the parish that would use them. There was a time, before reading the Gospel, he told a man, to put down the Missal; otherwise Mass would not continue. I kind of felt bad for the old man; our priest had sorta scolded him in front of everyone in church. but previous priests had never come up with that rule before and he was the first. I use it sometimes; especially when I find it hard to understand the lector; or if Mass is in another language. So is it wrong for us to use the Missal?

    FATHER JOE: There is a school of thought that missals should be read prior to Mass and not during. Initially they were books that translated the Latin. However, some have trouble hearing and need the missals to follow the Scriptures. Others can better reflect upon the richness of prayers because of a book with written texts. The priest in question erred grievously in how he treated the elderly man at Mass. Congregants have every right to employ a missal. The priest should apologize to the man and seek his forgiveness. Indeed, if this reflects how he treats the people in the pews then recourse should be made to just authority for his “fraternal correction.”

  22. xHello Father,
    I have a question. I always worry about fraternal correction and when I am supposed to give it or not. I am on a mission trip and we are allowed to wear shorts to Mass since we are doing summer camp and have Mass every day but sometimes my teammate wears shorts that may be too short. I usually wear longer shorts because I feel like I should. I don’t really wanna say anything because This girl would probably be mad at me and I have to work with her all summer. But if it is a serious sin not to , I guess I will have to. I haven’t said anything yet, but do you think I should?

    FATHER JOE: You might warn her that the moderators of the mission trip might say something. Otherwise, you might leave it to those in charge as they must see what you see. They are the ones with the main responsibility here.

  23. xHello Father,

    I have a few questions:

    1. On the Blessed Trinity: Nicene creed we say “I believe in the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son..” and yet the Trinity are One. The Blessed Trinity is the beginning and the end. Why is it that in the Nicene prayer it almost seems like the Holy Spirit comes after the Father and the Son? Or am I looking at this incorrectly?

    2. During Confession; is it a requirement for a priest to wear a stole?

    3. If a Catholic woman/man weds a non-Catholic in a non-Catholic service, the Church does not see that as a valid marriage; why is this so?


    About the Trinity…

    There are three eternal relations or generations or processions in the Trinity. The Father in knowing himself generates the eternal Word or the Son. Between the Father and the Son and the Son and the Father is an infinite goodwill or love in which they generate the Holy Spirit. There is no before or after. God exists outside time in an eternal present. “God is one divine substance in three divine Persons.” None of this is created; rather, it is simply what God is.

    About Confession…

    The priest is directed to wear a stole but in a necessity the priest can absolve sins without one.

    About Marriage…

    The Catholic party is bound to the Church’s laws of marriage. Marriage between two baptized persons constitutes a sacrament. The Catholic Church has rightful jurisdiction over her seven sacraments, including matrimony. It is best that Catholics marry Catholics.

  24. xDear Fr. Joe,
    I recently found out the my biological father has passed away. I never met the man in person, and only spoke once to him on the telephone for about 10 minutes 13 years ago. I feel as if I should be upset that the person the contributed 50% of my DNA is no longer on this planet and that I no longer have an opportunity to meet him. But I honestly could care less. Sure I feel bad that someone has died, but no more than any other stranger.

    Is it a sin to not care. Should I feel as guilty as I do for not caring.

    FATHER JOE: You do not have absolute control over your emotions. The situation is a tragedy but it was not of your making and you should not feel responsible.

  25. xHi Father,
    I know I need to make some big changes in my life. I’ve known this for a long time, but I’ve been afraid to take that first step. I really feel like it’s time for me to break free. However, living in the “status quo” (even though it’s a heavy and burdensome place to be) is less risky than stepping out into the unknown.

    I’ve been praying about trusting in God’s love and plan for me. I have been asking God to fill me with his strength. I feel broken, defeated, and question whether I have enough faith to do what I know I need to do. If I only had myself to worry about, it wouldn’t be so stressful. But, I have 3 teenage children to consider. I have a lot of fears about dealing with struggles that will most certainly come. I know I can’t do this on my own, but I’m not sure I’ve fully been able to tap into my faith to prepare me for the “battle” ahead.

    I guess my question is about trust. I’ve been trying to put all my worry, fears, concerns, hardships, and pain into God’s hands. I feel like I’m trying to hand it all over to him, but I’m unable to let go. I believe I fear giving up control. I read passages about how God cares for us, how we should trust him, to be reassured that He will never abandon us, and to give God our worries and burdens, but I just can’t seem to FULLY trust so I can take that first step.

    How do I go about living in trust of God? I have a Divine Mercy picture in my kitchen, and I keep reading “Jesus, I trust in you”. I keep waiting for that conviction to fill my heart. I would welcome any suggestions you have for me, readings that might build me up, or maybe even saints who stepped out into the unknown in trust of God, etc. I need to step out of the darkness of my life and head towards the light. But, I’m stuck in the darkness because it’s all I’ve known for SO many years.

    Thank you Fr. Joe. Praying for you, and I’m very thankful that you take time to read and answer all our questions.


    FATHER JOE: Discernment is important as people plan big or decisive changes in their lives. Why do you feel “broken” and “defeated”? What is the “battle ahead”? What is this “darkness” from which you feel a need to escape? Certainly we are called to trust in God’s providence, knowing that he loves us and wants the best for us. That should be the backdrop of the Christian life, even as we take responsibility for our lives and embrace a saving faith in Christ that is realized in loving obedience. I am reticent to speak further as I am not sure what actions you plan. As a mother of three teenagers, they are your primary charges. A major element of your vocation is how you nurture and protect them. I will keep you in prayer.

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