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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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Withholding Sins in Confession

downloadQuestion 263

I have been going to confession more frequently lately to help with three big sins and two smaller ones that have been stumbling blocks for me. The last two times in confession (with a different priest each time), the same thing has happened. So much time was spent talking about sin number one that I did not get to confess my other sins. Also, I had to be mindful that there were other people waiting for confession. Because my confessions focused only on one big sin, I feel that I am finally making progress on sin number one. This has actually given me hope that I might overcome them! Each time I received really good advice and encouragement. Both priests were generous in their time and help; however, as I said, the focus was only on one sin, which actually seems good to me. Maybe trying to talk about all my sins at once was overwhelming me?  I had not felt that I had made any improvement until now.  When someone has multiple big sins to tackle, might 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 number one and putting sin numbers two and three on the “back burner”?  My intention is to make better spiritual progress with one sin. I would ask God for absolution for all my sins and later move on to make progress with other sins, not denying sins number two and three.  What I want to know is if this would be okay for me to do?

Response

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.

Communion Song: Prayer or Distraction?

downloadQuestion 262

Dear 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 very distracting. I treasure the quietness to contemplate upon having received Our Lord. Am I wrong to feel that way?  I prefer silence while waiting to receive Holy Communion and thereafter to contemplate on our Lord whom we have received.  Should there not be some time for prayer and reflection?

Response

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/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.

The Brothers & Sisters of Christ

downloadQuestion 261

Last Sunday in the Gospel reading it made mention of 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 woman. Why would she have remained celibate in a loving marriage? Where is the basis for this in the Bible? Why is it important to Catholics that Mary never went on to have more children or to share in a physical relationship with her husband?

Response

I have spoken about this before and thus some of the material in this response is repeated from a previous question.  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.

Manner of Receiving Holy Communion

downloadQuestion 260

Hello Father, I recently had my civil marriage convalidated; thus I am now able to receive Communion. I have not received Communion in over 25 years. 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 13 years old places the host in her mouth, returns to her place in the pew and just stands there. She made her first Communion when she was 8. What is the correct thing to do?

Response

After reception and making the sign of the cross, the communicant goes back to his or her pew and kneels in prayer. The pattern is simple and unchanged. I am not sure why your daughter fails to kneel. Are there kneelers in your church?

Deceit in Marriage

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I was married two months ago in the Episcopal Church. While I thought he was truthful about finances I now find out that he owes over $20,000.  I am having a hard time forgiving him.  Although I am in my 60’s, this has forced me to take three jobs to try and pay it off.  I am so angry about his lies!  Can I get an annulment?  Please pray that I might find it in myself to forgive him.

Response

If you are a Catholic and got married in the Episcopal church without a dispensation, then (after a civil divorce) you could apply for a declaration of nullity because of a lack of canonical form. Catholics are required to get married before a priest or deacon. The documents required are as follows: baptismal certificate, copy of marriage license and divorce decree.  If you can make the relationship work then you should see a priest about a convalidation.

Growing Up & Autonomy

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I am in my twenties and having a difficult time with my mother. She is increasingly not respecting my personal space in our home.  She comes into my room unannounced. It is particularly disconcerting when I am getting cleaned up or dressing.  I have asked her to knock and to request permission.  Although I believe I am only asking her to respect my boundaries, she has become offended and has resorted to calling me names. I depend on my parents for transportation and I am looking for someone to turn to for assistance— there are very few people I know.

Response

As a young woman, you are certainly entitled to your privacy; but, more so, you should be treated as an adult and not as a child. Your education and work opportunities should be directed toward a personal autonomy. Your parents should also focus on this. However, families are not perfect and sometimes there are hindrances to maturation and even faith within the home. You can try dialogue with your mother, but there is no guarantee about how others will act. Growing up and breaking out is rarely easy. I would suggest keeping yourself grounded upon Christian faith and values. This is important as even the culture can lead us in the wrong direction.

Seeing Ourselves in Peter’s Denial

Questiondownload

I am a Lenten backslider.  There is so much I could have done but have failed to do, especially to help the downtrodden. As I think about my own spiritual failures I am reminded of Peter’s thrice denial.  Was his denial of Christ a mortal sin?  After he was forgiven by Jesus did he sin again?  Returning to myself, despite going to Confession I have defiled myself by my actions

Response

Peter’s denial of Christ was serious, but he was healed by the risen Christ on the beach when asked three times, DO YOU LOVE ME? Sin is ultimately a failure to love as we should. Regarding your life, I cannot speak to the gravity of sin without specificity, but it is true that we can sin by the things we do and by “the things we fail to do.” In any case, in light of Peter, remember that our Lord is merciful. We are all weak and sinful. Jesus heals us all the same.

Was Peter sinless after his encounter with the risen Jesus on the beach?  All we can know is that Jesus would always lift him up if he should stumble.  Such is the message that you must take to heart.

If past selfishness troubles you, there is still time to embrace a life of charity.  You have stumbled upon a profound truth, “Charity covers a multitude of sins.”

Our Lord would have us forgive as he forgives.  We read in Matthew 18:21-22:

Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.

This colloquialism or saying literally meant endless forgiveness.  God’s mercy is always available to those with contrite hearts.  Accept his forgiveness and share it with others.

Priests Vulnerable to Scandal

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I am a 19 year old girl currently on vacation with my uncle, with who I am very close. He is a Catholic priest. He has been acting very sneaky and deceptive lately . I went on his phone and found out that he is having an affair with a woman I once met. I do not know what to do. Should I talk to him about it? I am planning to go with him on a pilgrimage to Fatima in May. Others will be going as well, including this woman.  He only first met her last May. Should I do something about it now or should I wait? I am so anxious about it that I have trouble even looking at him.  I want to save his priesthood.

Response

Are you on a family vacation? Because of heightened propriety, priests are intensely vulnerable to scandal. Given your age, family or not, there should be a chaperone and/or others on vacation with you. You say that the two of you are close but then note that he is “sneaky” and lies to you. Is this negative judgment based upon the phone call you overheard? Priests are normal men who are pledged to celibate love and service. This does not mean that they write off friendships with half of the human race. We do not want priests in ministry who hate women. Might you be presumptuous of a few words of friendship or innocent love spoken over the phone? If they were having an affair, it seems unlikely to me that they would select a pilgrimage to Fatima as an opportunity for an illicit encounter. Given how you are affected, it is probably necessary for you to sit down with him to clear the air. Apologize first for invading his privacy. Next, share what is troubling you. You may find that you have misinterpreted the situation. If there is a problem, then it will wake him up and he can take steps to distance himself from the woman. Hopefully he will do what is right. Keep confidentiality and forgive him for being a flawed human being, as we are all weak and sinners. Ultimately, you cannot fix his priesthood. Only he can do that… by God’s grace.

Praying for a Wayward Son

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My wife and I pray daily.  Our son’s safety especially consumes our prayers.  Despite our prayers, last night he was arrested.  He is out on bail but refuses to accept God into his heart. He argues that God is not real. I feel that I have somehow let him down.  Maybe I did not do enough to raise him right?  Maybe I should have prayed harder?  I feel empty. He is twenty-two years old and this is his second drug arrest.

Response

Do not blame yourselves. I suspect he would have been arrested anyway, no matter how many prayers you offered. God hears our prayers but when it comes to others, they must be disposed or open to God’s grace and help. Keep praying for his conversion. Let him know that you will always love him. Do not despair. God’s providence is mysterious. We cannot know what the future holds. Hopefully, the day will come when your son will turn to the Lord and amend his life. Right now, he may not believe in God but let him see and know the “reality” of your love for him.

Disassociation from the Family

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I have been married for thirteen years and love my husband very much.  Nevertheless, I feel that he has given up on me and the family.  His work consumes him and he hardly spends any time with the family.  He has stopped going to Mass and refuses to have anything to do with Mass.  He says he loves me but his actions fail to show it.  I would like your advice.

Response

Has he explained why he sees no value in the Mass? It sounds as if something has happened that has turned him off to it. Often changes in practice are due to anger or to a loss of faith or because something has happened that clashes with the values of the Gospel and brings unwanted guilt. You mention it within the context of his disassociation from the family and his failure to express his love to you.  Dialogue with him about the situation is the first course.  It appears that there may be a secret eating away at him.  Lacking details I am fearful of suggesting various possibilities, but I am sure that you have speculated yourself about what might have caused this change.  Answers might not be forthcoming. Would he be resistant to counseling? Marriages should be happy and nurturing. Unfortunately, something can happen to change that. Continue to love him and to be faithful, even if you have to carry a cross in the relationship. The obligations of marriage always mean sacrifice and sometimes weigh heavier upon one spouse than another. I knew one woman who loved her husband even though he showed little feeling and few gestures of tenderness and intimacy. She gave 100% and he maybe gave 10%. He worked and provided for the family— but he was cold. He refused to change but she never gave up on him. Returning to your situation, I will keep you, your family and your husband in prayer.