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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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Marriage & Love after a Mastectomy

downloadQuestion 265

Dear Father, I have an unusual query. Suppose a woman loses both her breasts to cancer through a double mastectomy; as she is no longer able to breastfeed (even though she is still young enough to bear children), is it a sin for her to marry?  Is there anything in Catholic teaching or laws that would prevent her from marrying? Also, she loves her fiancé very much and as act of trust and fidelity, not sexual temptation, she wishes to show him her scars before they marry. She merely wants him to understand her experience, not to entice him sexually. As they are both practicing Catholics, they wish to know if there is anything wrong or sinful in this. What advice do you have?

Response

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 may 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.

Question 266

How would the Lord view the use of breast implants for cancer survivors? Correct me if I am wrong, but I would assert that a merciful God would understand, just as in the case of pressure suits for children who are burns victims.  I do not think that the use of implants would simply count as vanity.  In Australia the costs for this type of surgery is paid by taxpayers.  There is virtually 100% agreement here about this. Addressing myself to one concerned about his beloved’s breast surgery, PLEASE be kind when you see her scars.  Say something like I love you just the way you are.  Tell her that she is still beautiful.  Let her know you are still soulmates.

Response

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

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Do Animals Have Souls?

downloadQuestion 264

Do animals have souls? Pope John Paul II said yes in 1990. I think St. Francis of Assisi thought they did or that they go to a different heaven. What perplexes me is that others have told me that animals do not have immortal souls. This topic is not my main area of focus in our faith. However, it does cause illogical bickering between many people, including in my own family. If this question is google-searched one will see all the confusion. Can we get a clear answer?

Response

As to the question of animal souls, I think the most that can be said is that various species share substantial forms. As for the two saints, please give citations as I am unfamiliar with any such statements in favor of animal souls. If you are asking if animals have something akin to a human soul then the Church’s answer is NO. 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.

This is an entirely separate question from whether or not certain animals might exist in heaven or upon any new earth.  There is speculation about this but nothing conclusive from the Church.  I would propose that our attention or sight will be upon the Creator more than upon his creatures.

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?

Have a Happy & Holy Easter!

As I ponder the mystery of the season, there are twelve themes that I would put forward for reflection and prayer:

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(1) A new day has dawned. (The LIGHT of Christ casts aside the darkness.)

(2) The promise of old has been fulfilled. (The long-awaited Jewish Messiah is the Christ and Savior of the entire world.)

(3) The breech is healed. (Jesus is the New Adam and the bridge between heaven and earth— he is the way to the Father.)

(4) The salvific work of Christ has redeemed us from the devil. (Our Lord paid the price that we could not pay.)

(5) While the primordial trespass brought suffering and death into the world– Christ’s fidelity ushers forth healing and life. (The damage from the primordial garden is repaired and we are called to faith and hope in Christ.)

(6) Nothing will ever be the same again. (The course of human history has changed; Christ’s victory changes everything.)

(7) Death is conquered if not entirely undone. (The war is over but a few battles must still be fought because of our fallen nature and the spite of the devil.)

(8) We no longer need fear the specter of death. (Jesus tells us, “Be not afraid.”)

(9) The grave will not consume us. (Neither the grave nor hell is the end of the story for those who walk with Christ.)

10) No one need live in vain. (Our Lord reveals to us the loving face and mercy of God.)

(11) Like the apostles we are called as witnesses to the saving truth. (Both faith and charity, if real, must be given away or shared.)

(12) Christ becomes the pattern of our discipleship: we must die with Christ if we hope to live with him. (The paschal mystery calls to us as missionary disciples.)
Have a blessed Easter!

—Father Joe Jenkins