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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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Intercessory Prayer & the Saints

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ROB:

Where do we ever see person praying to another human being in the Bible?

FATHER JOE:

We see plenty of instances where people pray together and where prophets pray over their people. Catholicism sees almighty God as the proper object of all prayer. Obviously we are not going to notice much in the way of praying for sanctoral intercession while the gates of heaven are closed and the righteous dead are still awaiting their Savior in the limbo of the fathers. I am often amazed that Christians still interpret so very much with the eyes of the Old Testament instead of the New.

ROB:

Please don’t say tradition or something like that.

FATHER JOE:

In other words, you want me to accept your terms from the very start and deny a basic element of Catholicism and true Christianity. The New Testament itself arises from Sacred Tradition. This font of revelation did not disappear after the complete Bible was composed and compiled by the Catholic bishops at Hippo.

ROB:

Think about what you are saying.

FATHER JOE:

The trouble is that YOU are not thinking enough about what you are trying to say. None of us come to God alone.

ROB:

How God ever forget to tell us such an important part of our faith?

FATHER JOE:

God did not forget anything. The trouble is that bigots dismissed the authority instituted by Christ, threw out Christian traditions going back to the apostles, and then settled on an edited version of the Bible missing books.

ROB:

How can it never be in the Bible? Do you ever ask yourself why? Or do you just believe because it’s tradition.

FATHER JOE:

I already said the Bible is not silent. When Catholics pray to the saints, they are asking that they pray for and with them. We do not pray to them as deities. This is the same intercessory prayer that was realized among the Jews and later in the community of the Church. In Christ, all are alive. Do you argue that the saints are asleep or that they cannot hear us? Have you no appreciation of the communion of the saints? Look at the petition or supplication of the Hail Mary Prayer: “Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” Is your faith so personalized that you will allow no one, walking on earth or among the blessed of heaven, to pray for and with you?

The Catholic practice is based upon a profound hope in the resurrection. Here are some pertinent verses in the Bible where supplication is offered for others: 1 Timothy 2:1; Matthew 18:19-20; James 5:13-16; Ephesians 6:18; Isaiah 62:6; Philemon 1:1-25; and Job 1:1-22.

Can a Priest Deny Sacraments to a Gay Man in the Hospital?

The news was on fire this morning about a DC priest who purportedly refused to give Last Rights to a gay heart-attack patient at the Washington Hospital Center.

Oh boy, here we go again! This man condemns the priest but we only have his side of the story.

I suspect there is a lot more to the story than what we are hearing.  A priest was requested and Father Brian Coelho came to the bedside of the patient, Ronald Plishka.  The priest followed the ritual by offering the Sacrament of Penance prior to the Anointing of the Sick and Holy Communion.  If a patient is unconscious, the priest will often presume contrition and a desire for the sacraments, giving absolution even without auricular confession.  In this case, the patient was alert and responsive.  The patient seemed to want to make small talk and remarked about how as a homosexual person he was so happy that the Pope was accepting of gay people.  But he next asked if this admission bothered the priest, almost as if he were baiting him.  The priest said it did not but offered to pray with him.  Nothing more was said about Extreme Unction and Viaticum.  While left unsaid in the article, this intimates that this dialogue took place as part of a Confession.

Because the disagreement probably happened during Confession, the priest is silenced by the seal and cannot share his side of the story. Indeed, he would face automatic excommunication if he says anything… something I hope that Church authorities appreciate. Even they cannot question the priest.

Instead of a civil conversation, the patient rejects the offer of prayer and tells the priest “to get the [deleted] out of here!”  That in itself probably demonstrates an improper disposition for God’s mercy.  Then the doctors came in to calm him down.

We should pray for all the parties involved. 

Anointing & Faith Healing

JOANA:  Father, my question is about faith healers and quack doctors.  Are they considered genuine or given the power to anoint a sick person?

FATHER JOE:

Only Catholic bishops and priests have the authority to offer the official Anointing of the Sick. It is a sacrament of the Church and very closely connected to the priestly charge over the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. It is an element of the priest’s power to forgive sins or function as a minister of reconciliation. God is at liberty to grant or to facilitate physical restoration and yet the most important element is spiritual healing.

The definition of a “quack doctor” is that he is a fraud. There are too many of those around.

The issue of “faith healers” is more complicated as they include both Catholics and Protestants. There might be an anointing or just the laying on of hands and prayer. God can use whomever he wills. A constant theme of mine is that we should not seek to stifle or ridicule where the Holy Spirit might be active. We can discern something of the truth by the fruits but must be ever on our guard against deception.

I recall an expose several years ago where a minister used a portable receiver in his ear to learn about attendees at the revival or meeting.  The information was whispered to him from a pre-show interview with volunteers. It gave the appearance that the minister was somehow clairvoyant and knew their ills before they came forward. Some of those healed were plants and others had been sent to a special hospital where they were treated but told to keep quiet about the medical intervention. Others got caught up in the euphoria of the moment, claimed healing, only to find themselves still belabored by pain or crippled when the meeting was over and the cameras were off. There was one minister who used to berate those not healed, saying that it was their own fault and that they did not have sufficient faith.  Of course, the organizers were still very quick to pass the money basket to the assembled throng. 

However, with all this said, the miraculous sometimes happens. Miracles of healing are often reported and investigated in the process of canonizing saints. The late Fr. John Lubey here in Washington, DC, (and the priest who married my parents and baptized me), regularly offered healing services along with Mass. People would sometimes collapse (sleeping in the Spirit) when he placed his hands on their heads. He told me that the ministry started in the late 1950’s when he blessed a woman who suffered from a disintegrated hip.  She returned a week later walking with ease and holding x-rays that showed a perfectly formed hip. He was a very humble man and regarded ALL priests as “healing” priests.  He gave all credit to our Lord and never asked for any money for his services.

Anointing of the Sick

James 5:14-16: Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders [priests] of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

Some Protestant critics claim that such practices as found in James no longer apply to the Church. However, the ordinances of Christ to his apostles have perpetual value. We do what the Church has been commissioned to do; indeed, what she has done from the beginning. Jesus forgave sins. The Church forgives sins. Jesus brought healing. The Church brings healing. Jesus gave us his body and blood. The Church gives us Christ’s sacrament in Holy Communion. The Bible instructs us plainly that the anointing of the sick and the prayer of a priest may bring forgiveness of sins and even the restoration of physical health. We are faithful to this biblical testimony, most Protestant churches are not. They even reject such intercession for another and the use of sacramentals like oil.

For more such reading, contact me about getting my book, DEFENDING THE CATHOLIC FAITH.

Questions & Answers About Anointing of the Sick

Does the Bible say anything about priests praying over the sick and anointing them with oil?

It most certainly does say something about this. “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders [priests] of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (James 5:14-15). We also find this passage in Mark 6:12 where the apostles “anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.”

Is not the authority of the Letter of James rather dubious?

No, Christianity has acknowledged this book from Scripture from the earliest days. It is absolutely authentic, inspired and truthful. Only in the sixteenth century, namely with the Protestant reformer, Martin Luther, was it rejected since it contradicted his views regarding the unimportance of works in our salvation.

Have not some rightly argued that James meant faith by his use of the word “oil”?

Such a contention is silly. If James had meant faith, instead of oil, he would have said so plainly. His teaching reflected the practice of the apostles in anointing the sick with oil. This practice comes all the way through the centuries to today. It is an olive oil blessed by the bishop, usually on Holy Thursday.

What other sacraments are associated with that of anointing?

When applied to the dying, the anointing of the sick has been called Extreme Unction. If the person is conscious, it is usual for them to go to confession first. If not, the presumption is made that they would like the sacrament and are sorry for their sins. Certainly, if aware and able, any serious sins should be confessed. Following the anointing, and again if possible, the sick person would receive Holy Communion. These three sacraments are sometimes called the Last Rites.

How is it administered?

The sacrament is offered by the priest who first lays his hands upon the head of the person. Then, anointing the forehead and hands, he prays: “Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. [Amen.] May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up. [Amen.]

What are the effects?

It forgives some sins, remits temporal punishment due to sin, gives assistance to patiently suffer and to die a holy death, grants strength against the devil’s temptations, and sometimes even restores physical health.

How should a room be traditionally prepared for these sacraments to the infirm?

A table is covered with a white cloth. A small crucifix stands between two candles. Along with these items, holy water and a glass of ordinary water may also be placed upon the table.

For more such material, contact me about getting my book, CATHOLIC QUESTIONS & ANSWERS.