Archive for the ‘Catholic Church’ Category

10 Things Catholics Don’t Believe

July 27, 2017

The Venerable Bishop Fulton J. Sheen (1895-1979) Celebrating Holy Mass

Sixty-five years ago, Time magazine dubbed the Venerable Bishop Fulton J. Sheen “the first televangelist.” His Emmy Award-winning TV show, Life is Worth Living, was watched by up to 30 million people weekly, with many non-Catholics among them. Bishop Sheen once observed, “There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing.” The cause for the canonization of Fulton Sheen, who helped lead a great untold number into the Faith, is currently being advanced by his home diocese of Peoria, Illinois.

This is a list of ten popular misconceptions and what Catholics actually believe:

  1. Catholics don’t believe St. Mary is a goddess, but that she is the holy mother of God and of all Christians.
  2. Catholics don’t believe the pope is sinless or inerrant on every topic, but that he can teach infallibly about faith and morals as the successor of St. Peter.
  3. Catholics don’t believe in worshiping lifeless statues, but that art can help us connect with our friends in Heaven.
  4. Catholics don’t believe lay people should not read the Bible, but that no one soundly interprets Sacred Scripture apart from Sacred Tradition.
  5. Catholics don’t believe we are “saved by works” or “earn our salvation,” but that we must remain faithful by cooperating with God’s gifts of grace.
  6. Catholics don’t believe purgatory is a “second chance” or “temporary Hell,” but that God’s saved, flawed friends are perfected there to enter his holy presence in Heaven.
  7. Catholics don’t believe in cannibalism, but that the Eucharist is truly the real, living person of Jesus Christ.
  8. Catholics don’t believe Jesus suffers and dies anew at every Mass, but that the Mass re-presents (makes present) his one sacrifice and applies its power here and now.
  9. Catholics don’t believe couples must have as many children as humanly possible, but that separating what God has joined in the marital embrace is both wrong and harmful.
  10. Catholics don’t believe all non-Catholics are going to Hell, but we desire everyone to come into full communion with Christ’s one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

Many of our Protestant brothers and sisters continue to be separated from us due to myths like these. Correcting the mistaken notions of our acquaintances about what the Catholic Church truly teaches is both a spiritual work of mercy and an important step towards the reunion of all Christians. A great harvest is to be found in this field, so let us all labor in it!

“Being Childlike Towards Jesus and Our Mother” — 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time—Year A

July 9, 2017

In the 1944 Best Picture Winning film, “Going My Way,” Bing Crosby’s character, Fr. Chuck O’Malley, shares this quip: “You know, when I was 18, I thought my father was pretty dumb. After a while, when I got to be 21, I was amazed to find out how much he’d learned in three years.” Of course, the joke is that the dad didn’t get much wiser in three years. The son’s lived experience revealed to him, “You know, my dad actually does know what he’s talking about.” What if your mother were about thirty lifespans old, alive with the same beauty, liveliness, and fruitfulness that she possessed in her youth? Would you listen to her, learn from her, and heed your wise mother’s words? God our Father has given us such a mother in the Holy Catholic Church.

In our first reading from the Old Testament, the prophet Zechariah writes: “Shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you;a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass.” This is a prophesy about the coming of the Messiah, the Christ. It was fulfilled about five centuries later with Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Jesus does not enter in as a conqueror, upon a warhorse with sword; but meekly, humbly, on a donkey. All the people are free to welcome him and follow him, and everyone is also free to ignore him and reject him. Jesus is not forcing them to do anything in response to him, much like his Church, which for a quite long time now hasn’t forced anyone anywhere to do anything. In this life, our personal response to Jesus Christ and his Church is completely voluntary, but that decision is not at all trivial.

In our second reading from the Letter to the Romans, St. Paul says: “Brothers and sisters, we are not debtors to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Now when St. Paul opposes “the Flesh” and “the Spirit” he is not saying that the material world and our bodies are evil or bad. At Creation, God saw that these were good, and as Christians we profess that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” St. Paul is using “the Flesh” as shorthand for those aspects of ourselves that are not properly ordered to “the Spirit” of God. Jesus has raised up a fallen world but aspects of our brokenness still remain. This brokenness is seen in both our bodies and minds: in our appetites desiring what is bad for us, and in our intellects rationalizing our wrong ideas. Imagine how much better this world would be if everyone knew and practiced what the Catholic Church teaches. To echo G.K. Chesterton: “The Catholic Faith has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found challenging and left untried.

Someone might raise the objection: “What about all the bad things Catholic clergy have done? How can sinners be guardians of God’s truth?” There have certainly been bad priests, bad bishops, and even bad popes whose personal sins have done great harm to many. They are a scandal and a sacrilege. But amazingly, even when the most unworthy men have been pope, none of them formally promulgated heresies over the Church. Jesus told his apostles: “Whoever hears you hears me,” knowing fully that Judas Iscariot, his betrayer, was among their number. None of the apostles were sinless men, but Jesus chose them and their successors to preach his message, cast out demons, cure the sick, and administer his sacraments. How tragic it would be if an innocent harmed or scandalized by Judas the Betrayer wanted nothing more to do with Jesus Christ’s Church. Jesus loves his little ones and does not want any to be hurt or estranged from his Church.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus praises his Father saying “you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned but revealed them to little ones,”  In saying this, Jesus is not rejecting higher education or those who possess it. However, even if you have some degrees on your wall and initials after your name, these are not enough in themselves to receive the teaching of Christ and his Church. We all must be childlike. Childlike, not childish. A childish person is selfish, immature, willful, rebellious, and you can’t teach them anything.  But a childlike person is open, humble, loyal, devoted, and teachable. As Jesus declares on another occasion: “Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”

Pope Paul VI observed, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” With than in mind I’d like to witness to a time when, despite my initial hesitancy, responding to Jesus’ teaching blessed me in surprising ways.

When I was in college, my schoolwork was a grind. I always looked forward to our vacations, but they were always weeks or months away, on the other side of my papers’ due dates and final exams. At that time, I realized that although I had always gone to Mass I had never kept Sunday as a special day of rest. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, (that hinder) the joy proper to the Lord’s Day, (that hinder) the performance of the works of mercy, (or that hinder) the appropriate relaxation of mind and body.” It then adds, “Family needs or important social service can legitimately excuse from the obligation of Sunday rest. (However,) the faithful should see to it that legitimate excuses do not lead to habits prejudicial to religion, family life, and health.

I didn’t want to reach the end of my days wondering what would have happened if I had been faithful to Christ in this area, so decided to stop doing my homework or studies on Sundays. There were some very late Saturday nights, but I kept faithfully to this rule. And, after a while, I noticed two surprising things. First, my Sunday rest never burned me. I don’t recall ever bombing a test, failing to meet a deadline, or doing worse on any of my assignments because of not having worked on Sunday. The second surprise was that I began to look forward to every Sunday as a one-day vacation. In addition to going to church, it was a day for taking a map, going out to eat, watching a movie, or just hanging out with my friends. I gave a gift of myself to the Lord and he gave me an even greater gift in return.

Perhaps you are afraid to let the teachings of Jesus Christ in his Church to impact your time or your money, your sexuality or your marriage, your politics or your addictions, but I urge you to be brave and wise. Just last week, we heard Jesus tell his apostles: “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” Jesus was not merely referring to receiving the apostles in their persons but the message that they preached.

We resist change because we fear the limitation of our freedom. We fear what the change might cost us. We fear a heavy yoke being locked around our neck and weighing upon our shoulders. But do not be afraid. Jesus offers you a better way. He says: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Please trust in Jesus, learn from him, and sacrifice your will to his. And do not be afraid, for God will not be outdone in generosity.

Printable Catholic Funeral Readings

July 4, 2017

My new parishes have had 53 funerals in the twelve months preceding my arrival. So, I clearly need to streamline my funeral preparation process. The MSWord (.doc) files below are first fruits of that effort and I am pleased to share them.

Send your own priest a link to this page and he is quite likely to be grateful. To receive this complete collection of files by email, write to victorfeltes at Gmail.

First Readings (for outside of the Easter Season)

C1 – 2nd Maccabees 12
C2 – Job 19
C3 – Wisdom 3 (long version)
C3 – Wisdom 3 (short version)
C4 – Wisdom 4
C5 – Isaiah 25
C6 – Lamentations 3
C7 – Daniel 12

First Readings (for during the Easter Season)

C8 – Acts 10 (long version)
C8 – Acts 10 (short version)
C9 – Revelation 14
C10 – Revelation 20
C11 – Revelation 21

Responsorial Psalms

D1 – Psalm 23
D2 – Psalm 25
D3 – Psalm 27
D4 – Psalm 42
D5 – Psalm 63
D6 – Psalm 103
D7 – Psalm 116
D8 – Psalm 122
D9 – Psalm 130
D10 – Psalm 143

Second Readings

E1 – Romans 5:5
E2 – Romans 5:17
E3 – Romans 6 (long version)
E3 – Romans 6 (short version)
E4 – Romans 8:14
E5 – Romans 8:31
E6 – Romans 14
E7 – 1st Corinthians 15 (long version)
E7 – 1st Corinthians 15 (short version)
E8 – 1st Corinthians 15:51
E9 – 2nd Corinthians 4
E10 – 2nd Corinthians 5
E11 – Philippians 3
E12 – 1st Thessalonians 4
E13 – 2nd Timothy 2
E14 – 1st John 3:1
E15 – 1st John 3:14

Gospel Acclamations

F – Acclamation Verses

Gospel Readings

G1 – Matthew 5
G2 – Matthew 11
G3 – Matthew 25:1
G4 – Matthew 25:31
G5 – Mark 15 (long version)
G5 – Mark 15 (short version)
G6 – Luke 7
G7 – Luke 12
G8 – Luke 23:33
G9 – Luke 23:44 (long version)
G9 – Luke 23:44 (short version)
G10 – Luke 24 (long version)
G10 – Luke 24 (short version)
G11 – John 5
G12 – John 6:37
G13 – John 6:51
G14 – John 11 (long version)
G14 – John 11 (short version)
G15 – John 11:32
G16 – John 12 (long version)
G16 – John 12 (short version)
G17 – John 14
G18 – John 17
G19 – John 19

Petitions / Prayers of the Faithful

H1 – Female Adult Version
H1 – Male Adult Version

(Adapted from the USCCB)

 

A Quirky Introduction to the Code of Canon Law

March 17, 2017

        Back in my seminary days, one of our priest-professors called canon law our most practically useful field of study. The Code of Canon Law regulates the workings of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church in every diocese from Aachen to Zrenjanin. The Code does not contain absolutely every Church rule (for instance, liturgical rubrics or policies enacted by bishops’ conferences) but it is a rich resource. To pique your interest in its seven “books” & 1,752 canons, I here present to you some of the intriguing implications & amusing applications of Church law:

 

BOOK I: General Norms
203 canons about the general application of Church law (#1-203)

  • The 1983 Code of Canon Law swiftly replaced the 1917 Code eighteen years after Vatican II ended.
    (Canon 6§1: “When this Code takes force, the following are abrogated: the Code of Canon Law promulgated in 1917….”)
  • The 1983 Code preserved existing treaties. Thus, by international law, Vatican City may float a papal navy.
    (Lateran Treaty of 1929, Barcelona Declaration of 1921, & Canon 3: “The canons of the Code neither abrogate nor derogate from the agreements entered into by the Apostolic See with nations or other political societies. These agreements therefore continue in force exactly as at present, notwithstanding contrary prescripts of this Code.”)
  • Your housepets are not bound by canonical law to keep the Lenten fasts.
    (Canon 11: “Merely ecclesiastical laws bind those who have been baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it, possess the efficient use of reason, and, unless the law expressly provides otherwise, have completed seven years of age.”)

 

BOOK II: The People of God
543 canons on the rights and obligations of laypeople and clergy, and the hierarchical organization of the Church (#204-746)

  • A priest is forbidden from becoming a U.S. Congressman.
    (Canon 285§3: “Clerics are forbidden to assume public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power.”)
  • The pope can unmake a cardinal, designate him to be his papal successor, or ask him to go to a small Pacific island.
    (Canon 333§1-3: “By virtue of his office, the Roman Pontiff … possesses power over the universal Church…. No appeal or recourse is permitted against a sentence or decree of the Roman Pontiff.” & Canon 335: “When the Roman See is vacant or entirely impeded, nothing is to be altered in the governance of the universal Church; the special laws issued for these circumstances, however, are to be observed.”)
  • If a bishop plays hooky from his diocese for more than six months, his archbishop is to tattle on him to the pope.
    (Canon 395§4: “If a bishop has been illegitimately absent from the diocese for more than six months, the metropolitan is to inform the Apostolic See of his absence…”)
  • The 666th canon cautions that means of social communication may be harmful to one’s vocation & dangerous to chastity.
    (Canon 666: “In the use of means of social communication, necessary discretion is to be observed and those things are to be avoided which are harmful to one’s vocation and dangerous to the chastity of a consecrated person.”)

 

BOOK III: The Teaching Function of the Church
87 canons about Christian ministry, missionary activity, education, and social communication (#747-833)

  • A priest is not required to preach a homily at Mass if no one else is there (besides the Holy Trinity & the saints, of course.)
    (Canon 767§2-3: “A homily must be given at all Masses on Sundays and holy days of obligation which are celebrated with a congregation…. It is strongly recommended that if there is a sufficient congregation, a homily is to be given even at Masses celebrated during the week….”)
  • Catholic schools must be careful to be at least as good as the public schools.
    (Canon 806§2: “Directors of Catholic schools are to take care under the watchfulness of the local ordinary that the instruction which is given in them is at least as academically distinguished as that in the other schools of the area.”)

 

BOOK IV: The Sanctifying Function of the Church
420 canons on the Sacraments and other acts of worship, places of worship, and feast days (#834-1253)

  • To be capable of being baptized, Superman must be “not yet baptized” and “a person.”
    (Canon 864: “Every person not yet baptized and only such a person is capable of baptism.”)
  • Despite Francis Ford Coppola, the Church permits each baptized person only one “godfather.”
    (Canon 873: “There is to be only one male sponsor or one female sponsor or one of each [for baptism].”)
  • It is canonically A-OK for Father to enjoy a coffee & a tasty jelly doughnut between his Sunday morning Masses. So chill.
    (Canon 919§2: “A priest who celebrates the Most Holy Eucharist two or three times on the same day can take something before the second or third celebration even if there is less than one hour between them.”)
  • Confessions are not to be heard in open hot-air balloon baskets except with a just cause.
    (Canon 964§3: “Confessions are not to be heard outside a confessional without a just cause.”)
  • Cardinals can hear confessions in Arizona, St. Louis, or whatever they happen to land.
    (Canon 967§1: “In addition to the Roman Pontiff, cardinals have the faculty of hearing the confessions of the Christian faithful everywhere in the world by the law itself….”)
  • You may not hire someone else to pray your penance from the Sacrament of Confession for you.
    (Canon 981: “The confessor is to impose salutary and suitable penances in accord with the quality and number of sins, taking into account the condition of the penitent. The penitent is obliged to fulfill these personally.”)
  • There are three degrees of Holy Orders: deacons, priests, & bishops. Three. Not two. Not four. Five is right out.
    (Canon 1009§1: “The orders are the episcopate, the presbyterate, and the diaconate.”)
  • Smitten with a special someone? Remember: you may not murder your spouse or theirs in order to marry that person.
    (Canon 1090§1: “Anyone who with a view to entering marriage with a certain person has brought about the death of that person’s spouse or of one’s own spouse invalidly attempts this marriage.”)
  • A marriage may be contracted through an interpreter but the pastor must be sure the interpreter is trustworthy.
    (Canon 1106: “A marriage can be contracted through an interpreter; the pastor is not to assist at it, however, unless he is certain of the trustworthiness of the interpreter.”)
  • A church’s name cannot be changed once it has been dedicated. So choose wisely, foreseeing all possibly-regrettable nicknames.
    (Canon 1218: “Each church is to have its own title which cannot be changed after the church has been dedicated.”)
  • During times of sacred celebrations, entry into a Catholic church is guaranteed to be free or your money back.
    (Canon 1221: “Entry to a church is to be free and gratuitous during the time of sacred celebrations.”)
  • A dead body may not be buried beneath an altar but a saint’s body can—because the latter is a relic.
    (Canons 1239§2: “A body is not to be buried beneath an altar; otherwise, it is not permitted to celebrate Mass on the altar.” & Canon 1237§2: “The ancient tradition of placing relics of martyrs or other saints under a fixed altar is to be preserved, according to the norms given in the liturgical books.”)

 

BOOK V: The Temporal Goods of the Church
57 canons concerning ownership, contracts, and wills (#1254-1310)

  • Any donation expressly given for the installation of pink and green shag carpeting can only be used for that purpose.
    (Canon 1267§3: “Offerings given by the faithful for a certain purpose can be applied only for that same purpose.”)

 

BOOK VI: Sanctions in the Church
89 canons about crimes and their punishment (#1311-1399)

  • Don’t slug-bug Pope Francis while riding in the popemobile — you’ll be instantly excommunicated.
    (Canon 1370§1: “A person who uses physical force against the Roman Pontiff incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See…”)

 

BOOK VII: Processes
353 canons about Church trials and tribunals (#1400-1752)

  • Canon law court judges cannot accept free sports tickets while presiding at trial, not even to Cleveland Browns games.
    (Canon 1456: “The judge and all officials of the tribunal are prohibited from accepting any gifts on the occasion of their acting in a trial.”)
  • The last canon treats of the transferring of pastors and notes that the supreme law in the Church is the salvation of souls.
    (Canon 1752: “In cases of transfer the prescripts of canon 1747 are to be applied, canonical equity is to be observed, and the salvation of souls, which must always be the supreme law in the Church, is to be kept before one’s eyes.”)

On Our Separated Brethren

October 30, 2016

At the end of this month, four hundred ninety-nine years ago, a German Augustinian Catholic priest and theology professor sent the archbishop of Mainz a letter and a list of ninety-five statements disputing the Church’s teachings on indulgences. The friar later may have also posted his “ninety-five theses” as an invitation for debate on his university’s chapel door in Wittenberg. Events would snowball from there, with examinations and public debate, and ultimately an excommunication. That monk’s name was Martin Luther.

martin-luther-portriat-by-lucas-cranach-the-elder-1528

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Luther rebelled in the belief that he was calling the Church to holy reform, back to its original purity, freed from all false additions. But unlike St. Francis, whose radical devotion to the Gospel and the Church strengthened Christendom, Luther’s efforts brought about division which remains to our day. The “Protestant Reformation” gave rise to Lutheranism, Calvinism, Anglicanism, and their many denominational breakoffs, including Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists,  Evangelicals, Pentecostals, and others.

What do we as Catholics believe about the Christians in these non-Catholic communities and what does the Catholic Church believe about herself? The following excerpts on this subject are drawn from The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraphs #816-822):

The sole Church of Christ is that which our Savior, after his Resurrection, entrusted to Peter’s pastoral care, commissioning him and the other apostles to extend and rule it…. This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him.

The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism explains: “For it is through Christ’s Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help toward salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained. It was to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, that we believe that our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant, in order to establish on earth the one Body of Christ into which all those should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the People of God.”

In fact, in this one and only Church of God from its very beginnings there arose certain rifts, which the Apostle strongly censures as damnable. But in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions appeared and large communities became separated from full communion with the Catholic Church – for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame. The ruptures that wound the unity of Christ’s Body – here we must distinguish heresy, apostasy, and schism – do not occur without human sin: As Origen wrote, “Where there are sins, there are also divisions, schisms, heresies, and disputes. Where there is virtue, however, there also are harmony and unity, from which arise the one heart and one soul of all believers.”

However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities that resulted from such separation and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers…. All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church.

Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements. Christ’s Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church. All these blessings come from Christ and lead to him, and are in themselves calls to “Catholic unity.”

Christ bestowed unity on his Church from the beginning. This unity, we believe, subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose, and we hope that it will continue to increase until the end of time. Christ always gives his Church the gift of unity, but the Church must always pray and work to maintain, reinforce, and perfect the unity that Christ wills for her. This is why Jesus himself prayed at the hour of his Passion, and does not cease praying to his Father, for the unity of his disciples: “That they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us, … so that the world may know that you have sent me.” (John 17:21) The desire to recover the unity of all Christians is a gift of Christ and a call of the Holy Spirit.

Certain things are required in order to respond adequately to this call:

– a permanent renewal of the Church in greater fidelity to her vocation; such renewal is the driving-force of the movement toward unity;

– conversion of heart as the faithful try to live holier lives according to the Gospel; for it is the unfaithfulness of the members to Christ’s gift which causes divisions;

– prayer in common, because change of heart and holiness of life, along with public and private prayer for the unity of Christians, should be regarded as the soul of the whole ecumenical movement, and merits the name “spiritual ecumenism”

– fraternal knowledge of each other;

– ecumenical formation of the faithful and especially of priests;

– dialogue among theologians and meetings among Christians of the different churches and communities;

– collaboration among Christians in various areas of service to mankind. “Human service” is the idiomatic phrase.

Concern for achieving unity involves the whole Church, faithful and clergy alike. But we must realize that this holy objective – the reconciliation of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ – transcends human powers and gifts. That is why we place all our hope in the prayer of Christ for the Church, in the love of the Father for us, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Pray for Our Religious Freedom — 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time—Year C

August 24, 2016

Sunday Readings

Christians Martyrs and the Lions

St. Paul asked “that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority.” To what purpose? “That we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity.” The Roman ruler at that time was the Emperor Nero and his later persecutions of the Church proved the timeliness of Paul’s request.

When I was in seminary, some of my peers predicted bloody persecutions against the Church in America, but I have always thought that our trials would be more subtle; not martyrdoms, but diminishments, exclusions, and humiliations. No law will explicitly forbid Catholics from being public officials, business owners, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, therapists, teachers or any other occupation; but laws could demand that all these professions act in ways contrary to our Faith. People increasingly-dubious that our churches and religious institutions serve society’s good could cripple them by stripping their tax-exempt status, and they would do so with the approval of their own consciences. Some people, like those the Lord denounces through Amos the prophet, care most about their pocketbooks, but we are called to always keep our Faith first in our lives, and we will, no matter what.

Jesus says “the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones,” and Psalm 146 says, “Put no trust in princes, in mortal men in whom there is not help… [but] blessed is the one whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD, his God.” So no matter who wins election this fall, let us pray to the Lord that religious freedom may be preserved in our time so that we may lead quiet and tranquil lives in all devotion and dignity.

Perspective for Our Times

August 9, 2016

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

So begins Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. Our time is a mixture of good things and bad. In some ways we’re progressing, while in others we’re in decline. Some despair, but the trials of past generations were far worse than ours. As St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A.D.) observed:

“Is there any affliction now endured by mankind that was not endured by our fathers before us? What sufferings of ours even bears comparison with what we know of their sufferings? And yet you hear people complaining about this present day and age because things were so much better in former times. I wonder what would happen if they could be taken back to the days of their ancestors–would we not still hear them complaining?  You may think past ages were good, but it is only because you are not living in them.”

There has been no perfect “Golden Age” since Eden. We learn from the New Testament that even the first-century Christian communities had controversies within and persecutions from without. Yet pining for a romanticized past pairs with an opposite, pervasive error today: thinking that “old things” have nothing to teach or offer us. C.S. Lewis noted this modern disposition in 1955:

“…Chronological snobbery [is] the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited. You must find why it went out of date. Was it ever refuted (and if so by whom, where, and how conclusively) or did it merely die away as fashions do? If the latter, this tells us nothing about its truth or falsehood. From seeing this, one passes to the realization that our own age is also ‘a period,’ and certainly has, like all periods, its own characteristic illusions. They are likeliest to lurk in those widespread assumptions which are so ingrained in the age that no one dares to attack or feels it necessary to defend them.”

The ignorant dismissal of the past leads to foolishness today. All advocate for change, but not all change is progress. For example, naively tearing down the wrong fences can permit evils to get in. G.K. Chesterton wrote in 1929:

“In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

We live in a time filled with serious problems and great blessings. We have grave reasons for concern, such as the present threats to religious liberty and the persistent Culture of Death, but we should not despair. Not only do we know Who wins in the end, but even today’s broken world has good things to offer. Computers are facilitating new technologies and improved communications. Healthcare advances are saving and enhancing lives. International economic development is helping billions rise from poverty. Imagine how these modern-day advances in communication, healthcare, economic wealth, and other fields could be utilized for the Kingdom of God. Jesus once asked his disciples:

“Do you understand all these things?” They answered, “Yes.” And he replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” (Matthew 13:51-52)

To keep proper perspective today we must be neither naive nor despondent. We should be conscious of both the dangers and the opportunities around us. These present times will surely try us, but there has yet to be an era of the Church that has not tested the saints. Our generation is called to be faithful witnesses to Christ’s Church and Sacred Tradition. As Scripture says:

Anyone who is so ‘progressive’ as not to remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God; [but] whoever remains in the teaching has the Father and the Son.”  (2nd John 1:9)

The world may refuse to heed us as it recklessly marches on but we can still benefit ourselves, for this life and the next, by holding on to  timeless truths. Our Church has persevered through controversies and persecutions from its beginning. It challenged the Roman culture while making use of the best things it had to offer to introduce and spread the Kingdom of God on earth. That Kingdom endures to our day. By keeping what is good and rejecting what is evil, let us remain ever-faithful to Jesus Christ in our times.

O Jerusalem by Greg Olsen

Hollywood’s Pope: Little Faith on the Small Screen

June 29, 2016

This fall, HBO will begin airing an eight-episode miniseries imagining the first American to be elected pope. While this drama may or may not attract viewers, I predict “The Young Pope” will fail to truly capture the Catholic Faith and Church. I had similar doubts when Showtime floated a similar premise in 2013. (“The Vatican” was to star the actor who played Adolf Hitler in the movie “Downfall” but none of its episodes ever aired.) The creator and director of “The Young Pope,” Paolo Sorrentino, describes what his new series will be about:

Jude Law stars as “the complex and conflicted” Pope Pius XIII in “The Young Pope

The clear signs of God’s existence. The clear signs of God’s absence. How faith can be searched for and lost. The greatness of holiness, so great as to be unbearable when you are fighting temptations and when all you can do is to yield to them. The inner struggle between the huge responsibility of the Head of the Catholic Church and the miseries of the simple man that fate (or the Holy Spirit) chose as Pontiff. Finally, how to handle and manipulate power in a state whose dogma and moral imperative is the renunciation of power and selfless love towards one’s neighbor.”

Though some are more optimistic, I have low hopes for this series. The Catholic Church has beautiful stories to tell, but “The Young Pope’s” trailer and the quote above telegraph brooding agnosticism free of Christian joy. “The Young Pope’s” Pius XIII is reportedlya conflicted man who must find a way to balance his ultra-conservative views with his immense compassion for the sick and the poor.” In other words, Catholic teachings will be falsely pitted against Christian love. Which one do you imagine will prevail in our hero?

A Vatican TV drama could be made with either the cynicism of “House of Cards” or the hopeful idealism of “The West Wing.” Which set of plot-lines below (“A” or “B”) do you think we could expect to see these days in a major miniseries about the papacy?

The Dinner Guest

A:  The pope invites to dinner a priest-friend from seminary. At table, the priest asks the pope to lift the “impossible burden” of celibacy. The pope sympathizes but he explains (citing solely pragmatic reasons) that there is nothing he can do. By the meal’s end, the priest is asking to be released from the priesthood so that he might marry a former nun with whom he has fallen in love (and sin.) The pope, sadly subdued, grants his second request.

B:  The pope invites to dinner a Roman beggar who once served as a priest. At dessert, the pope asks him to hear his confession. “I cannot do that,” the man replies, “I have renounced the priesthood. My priestly faculties have been taken away from me. I am no longer a priest.” The pope answers, “Once a priest, always a priest…  As Bishop of Rome and head of the Catholic Church I can restore your priestly faculties to you…” The man’s priesthood is restored and he hears the pope’s confession. The priest is then assigned to the church where he had previously begged with a special responsibility for the poor who seek alms at the church door.

The Persecuted Refugees

A:  As the cause advances to beatify Pius XII (the pope who reigned during the Second World War) the current pope personally investigates his predecessor’s record in the Vatican’s Secret Archives. When the pope concludes that Pius XII should have done more to save persecuted Jews from the Nazis, he places the entire beatification project on (permanent) hold.

B:  The pope intervenes to help when a religious minority is threatened by an evil state. He facilitates the safe escape of thousands, even housing refugees within Rome’s convents and monasteries and at the Vatican itself. When peace returns, a world-famous agnostic scientist declares, “Only the Catholic Church protested against this onslaught on liberty. Up till then I had not been interested in the Church, but today I feel a great admiration for the Church, which alone has had the courage to struggle for spiritual truth and moral liberty.”

A Target of Controversy

A:  After the pope describes the theory of evolution as being “more than just a hypothesis,” right-wing Catholic extremists plot to kill him for teaching heresy. After the nearly-successful bomb plot is thwarted, the pope laments the need to ‘lead our Church out of the Dark Ages.’

B:  A Muslim gunman critically-wounds the pope as he greets crowds of pilgrims in St. Peter’s square. After the pope’s recovery from four gunshot wounds, he visits his would-be assassin in prison, enters his cell, and forgives him.

Which of these plot-lines could more believably appear on television? While the “A” stories above are my own works of fiction, each “B” story relates a true incident. The episode of the dinner guest who heard Pope John Paul II’s confession is told in an article by K. D’Encer entitled “The Priest, the Beggar and the Pope.” It was Pope Pius XII who hid and helped thousands of Jews during WWII, and the agnostic scientist who praised the Catholic Church for defending his people was Albert Einstein. St. John Paul II did call evolution “more than just a hypothesis” but no reactionary Catholic extremists tried to kill him for expressing this non-heretical view. In 1983, Pope John Paul visited Mehmet Ali Ağca, the man who had tried to kill him two years prior, and forgave him face-to-face.

This is not to say that a truly great drama about the papacy would or should ignore the realities of darkness, sin, and division. But secular treatments of the Catholic Church in this world trace her shadows without acknowledging her light. As the Latin adage says,  “No one gives what he does not have.” (Nemo dat quod non habet.) Lacking a well-formed faith, no screenwriter can be expected to do justice to Jesus’ Church in its complex but saving reality.

Almost Nobody Hates the Church

June 22, 2016
Bishop Fulton Sheen

Bishop Fulton Sheen (1895-1979) was dubbed “the first televangelist” by TIME magazine in 1952. His Emmy-winning TV show, Life is Worth Living, was watched by up to 30 million people weekly. His cause for sainthood is currently being advanced by his home diocese of Peoria, IL.

 

The Venerable Fulton J. Sheen made this observation in his 1938 foreword to Radio Replies, a Catholic apologetics book:

“There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing. These millions can hardly be blamed for hating Catholics because Catholics ‘adore statues’; because they ‘put the Blessed Mother on the same level with God’; because they say ‘indulgence is a permission to commit sin’; because the Pope ‘is a Fascist’; because the ‘Church is the defender of Capitalism.’ If the Church taught or believed any one of these things it should be hated, but the fact is that the Church does not believe nor teach any one of them. It follows then that the hatred of the millions is directed against error and not against truth. As a matter of fact, if we Catholics believed all of the untruths and lies which were said against the Church, we probably would hate the Church a thousand times more than they do.

If I were not a Catholic, and were looking for the true Church in the world today, I would look for the one Church which did not get along well with the world; in other words, I would look for the Church which the world hates… Look for the Church that is hated by the world, as Christ was hated by the world. Look for the Church which is accused of being behind the times, as Our Lord was accused of being ignorant and never having learned. Look for the Church which men sneer at as socially inferior, as they sneered at Our Lord because He came from Nazareth. Look for the Church which is accused of having a devil, as Our Lord was accused of being possessed by Beelzebub, the Prince of Devils. Look for the Church which, in seasons of bigotry, men say must be destroyed in the name of God as men crucified Christ and thought they had done a service to God. Look for the Church which the world rejects because it claims it is infallible, as Pilate rejected Christ because He called Himself the Truth. Look for the Church which is rejected by the world as Our Lord was rejected by men…

If then, the hatred of the Church is founded on erroneous beliefs, it follows that basic need of the day is instruction. Love depends on knowledge for we cannot aspire nor desire the unknown.

Our great country is filled with what might be called marginal Christians, i.e., those who live on the fringe of religion and who are descendants of Christian living parents, but who now are Christians only in name. They retain a few of its ideals out of indolence and force of habit; they knew the glorious history of Christianity only through certain emasculated forms of it, which have married the spirit of the age and are now dying with it. Of Catholicism and its sacraments, its pardon, its grace, its certitude and its peace, they know nothing except a few inherited prejudices. And yet they are good people who want to do the right thing, but who have no definite philosophy concerning it. They educate their children without religion, and yet they resent the compromising morals of their children. They would be angry if you told them they were not Christian, and yet they do not believe that Christ is God. They resent being called pagans and yet they never take a practical cognizance of the existence of God. There is only one thing of which they are certain and that is that things are not right as they are. It is just that single certitude which makes them what might be called the great “potentials,” for they are ready to be pulled in either of two directions. Within a short time they must take sides; they must either gather with Christ or they must scatter; they must either be with Him or against Him; they must either be on the cross as other Christs, or under it as other executioners. Which way will these marginal Christians tend?… Only this much is certain. Being human and having hearts they want more than class struggle and economics; they want Life, they want Truth, and they want Love. In a word, they want Christ.

It is to these millions who believe wrong things about the Church and to these marginal Christians, that this little book is sent. It is not to prove that they are ‘wrong’; it is not to prove that we are ‘right’; it is merely to present the truth in order that the truth may conquer through the grace of God.”

The Precepts of the Church

January 28, 2016

(Catechism of the Catholic Church #2041-2043)

The precepts of the Church are set in the context of a moral life bound to and nourished by liturgical life. The obligatory character of these positive laws decreed by the pastoral authorities is meant to guarantee to the faithful the indispensable minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor:

The first precept (“You shall attend Mass on Sundays & holy days of obligation.”) requires the faithful to participate in the Eucharistic celebration when the Christian community gathers together on the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord.

The second precept (“You shall confess your sins at least once a year.”) ensures preparation for the Eucharist by the reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, which continues Baptism’s work of conversion and forgiveness.

The third precept (“You shall humbly receive your Creator in Holy Communion at least during the Easter season.”) guarantees as a minimum the reception of the Lord’s Body and Blood in connection with the Paschal feasts, the origin and center of the Christian liturgy.

The fourth precept (“You shall keep holy the holy days of obligation.”) completes the Sunday observance by participation in the principal liturgical feasts which honor the mysteries of the Lord, the Virgin Mary, and the saints.

The fifth precept (“You shall observe the prescribed days of fasting & abstinence.”) ensures the times of ascesis [self-discipline] and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts; they help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.

The faithful also have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his abilities.

The Names of Our Parishes

January 6, 2016

When a child is presented for baptism, the parents are asked: “What name do you give [or have you given] your child?” The Diocese of La Crosse is comprised of 162 parishes across nineteen Wisconsin counties and is home to more than 200,000 Catholics. These are the top ten names attached to parishes in the Diocese of La Crosse:

Holy Rosary – 3 Parishes

St. James, St. Anthony, Holy Family – 4 Parishes

St. Peter, St. Paul – 5 Parishes

St. John the Baptist, St. Patrick – 7 Parishes

Sacred Heart (of Jesus) – 13 Parishes

St. Joseph – 14 Parishes

St. Mary [with her various tiles] – 30 Parishes

Names are important; choose holy ones.

On Praying with Separated Brethren

November 21, 2015

This evening, I received an email from a concerned parish visitor who was responding to a pair of area ecumenical Thanksgiving services being promoted in our bulletin:

Dear Father. I was severely shocked and disappointed to see this in a CATHOLIC  bulletin.   I am a devout Roman Catholic visiting family in the area. Not only is this confusing to to parishoners. It is outright contradicting to Church doctrine. You have beautiful homilies, and seem to be a devout priest ! Which is why I’m so confused and outright shocked !!!  I will also be emailing the Bishop to address this issue with him.  God bless [F]ather. And may the Sacred Heart [guide] us both !  [-Signed-]

In case there is wider confusion and concern on this subject, here is the reply I sent.

Dear —,

Thank you for your note. Properly representing our Catholic Faith and preventing scandal are important to me and I’m glad you wrote me.

The Catholic Church calls Protestants our “separated brethren.” This is because we are united as brothers and sisters in Christ though, at the same time, divided in non-trivial ways. (I hope this teaching of the Church is clearly reflected through my preaching, for I believe our Lord desires all of his disciples and all people to come into full communion with his Catholic Church.) While Catholics and Protestants are certainly not in full communion with each other, we share and revere many of the same elements of Christian Prayer, Scripture, and Tradition. Without compromising on the truth, the Church allows Catholics to come together with other Christians for ecumenical prayer events such as the upcoming Thanksgiving gatherings you saw advertised in the bulletin.

This evening, I spoke with Mr. Christopher Carstens, our (solidly orthodox) diocesan director of liturgy, regarding your concerns. He confirmed that these ecumenical events are not condemned by the Church. In fact, The Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism promulgated by St. Pope John Paul II in 1993 states that, “In liturgical celebrations taking place in other Churches and ecclesial Communities [i.e, Protestant churches], Catholics are encouraged to take part in the psalms, responses, hymns and common actions of the Church in which they are guests. If invited by their hosts, they may read a lesson or preach.” (#118) The upcoming area Thanksgiving ecumenical services are celebrations of this sort, consisting of scripture readings, psalms, prayer responses, hymns, and talks (without common communion.) And so, Catholics may feel welcome to take part.

Through our participation in such ecumenical events and gatherings, while remaining firmly and unabashedly Catholic, I hope that our separated brethren may be drawn from (perhaps) prejudice against Catholicism, to curiosity, to understanding, to attraction, and finally into full communion with Mother Church. Sharing the truth with love and showing love informed by truth through encounters like these will be key to the reunion of all Christians.

Thanks again for writing me with your concerns, which are hopefully now relieved.

God bless,
Fr. Victor Feltes

Annual Appeal Videos

November 19, 2015

The story of a new, young priest, Rev. Billy Dodge.

 

About the La Crosse Diocese’s work with social ministries & concerns.

 

The good work of the diocesan TV Mass.

Charles Dickens’ Otherworldly Visitor

November 17, 2015

Charles Dickens by Frith, 1859        One night in 1844, the year after he published A Christmas Carol, a 32-year-old Charles Dickens seemingly encountered a visitor from beyond while vacationing in Venice, Italy. Within this dream or vision, Dickens thought himself speaking to his dearly-beloved sister-in-law, Mary Hogarth, who had died in 1837, yet he also observed that the spirit “bore no resemblance to any one I have known.” Dickens recorded this experience soon afterward in a letter to a friend:

“Let me tell you of a curious dream I had, last Monday night; and of the fragments of reality I can collect, which helped to make it up. [I] had laid awake nearly all that night…. [W]hen I fell asleep and dreamed this dream. Observe that throughout I was as real, animated, and full of passion as [the English actor William Macready] in the last scene of Macbeth.

In an indistinct place, which was quite sublime in its indistinctness I was visited by a Spirit. I could not make out the face, nor do I recollect that I desired to do so. It wore a blue drapery, as the Madonna might in a picture by Raphael; and bore no resemblance to any one I have known except in stature. I think (but I am not sure) that I recognized the voice. Anyway, I knew it was poor Mary’s spirit. I was not at all afraid, but in a great delight, so that I wept very much, and stretching out my arms to it called it “Dear.”

At this, I thought it recoiled; and I felt immediately, that not being of my gross nature, I ought not to have addressed it so familiarly. “Forgive me!” I said. “We poor living creatures are only able to express ourselves by looks and words. I have used the word most natural to our affections; and you know my heart.” It was so full of compassion and sorrow for me—which I knew spiritually, for, as I have said, I didn’t perceive its emotions by its face—that it cut me to the heart; and I said, sobbing, “Oh! give me some token that you have really visited me!

“Form a wish,” it said. I thought, reasoning with myself: ‘If I form a selfish wish, it will vanish.’ So I hastily discarded such hopes and anxieties of my own as came into my mind, and said, “Mrs. Hogarth is surrounded with great distresses (observe, I never thought of saying ‘your mother‘ as to a mortal creature) will you extricate her?” “Yes.” “And her extrication is to be a certainty to me that this has really happened?” “Yes.”

But answer me one other question!” I said, in an agony of entreaty lest it should leave me. “What is the True religion?” As it paused a moment without replying, I said—Good God in such an agony of haste, lest it should go away! “You think, as I do, that the Form of religion does not so greatly matter, if we try to do good? or,” I said, observing that it still hesitated, and was moved with the greatest compassion for me, “perhaps the Roman Catholic is the best? Perhaps it makes one think of God oftener, and believe in him more steadily?” “For you,” said the Spirit, full of such heavenly tenderness for me, that I felt as if my heart would break; “for you, it is the best!” Then I awoke, with the tears running down my face, and myself in exactly the condition of the dream. It was just dawn.

I called up [my wife] Kate, and repeated it three or four times over, that I might not unconsciously make it plainer or stronger afterwards. It was exactly this. Free from all hurry, nonsense, or confusion, whatever.”

One’s Catholic imagination wonders if this tender, compassionate, glorious “Mary” who visited Charles Dickens that night was actually the Blessed Virgin. Like Our Lady of Lourdes responded to Bernadette’s initial requests for her name with a silent smile, this visitor holds back at first to finally reveal a climactic answer. Whether this was a true vision or merely a dream we cannot say, but this visitor’s answer to his religious question does not disqualify our Blessed Mother: the glorious woman told him, “For you, [the Catholic religion] is the best!”

Would this statement imply that Catholicism would not be the best religion for some? Dickens himself held that the form of one’s religion did not greatly matter if someone tried to do good, and his strong distaste for formal religion had drawn him to Unitarianism. If our Mother Mary, who knew Charles through and through, wished to lead him into full communion with the Catholic Church, she would speak truth to him in the way which he could best receive it. Indeed, for him the Catholic faith truly would be best, but he may have balked-outright at her teaching that it is best for everyone. If his was a vision of the Blessed Virgin sent from God, the plan was to bring him into the fullness of the truth over time, as we often see God patiently doing with others.

Charles Dickens never did become a Catholic during his lifetime, but after 1847 (three years after this experience) he began attending the Anglican church near his home and prayed each morning and night. A year before his death, he wrote in his 1869 last will and testament, “I commit my soul to the mercy of God through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ….” Today his body lies buried in Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey.

Five Seeming Liturgical Abuses That Are Actually Legit

August 27, 2015

These five liturgical practices may seem unorthodox, but the Roman Catholic Church officially allows for each of them:

1.  Receiving the Blessed Sacrament Twice in the Same Day

The Church limits the number of communions the faithful may receive in a day, lest people misguidedly pursue sanctity by filling their days with numerous communions, and to keep the reception of this most sacred gift from feeling common by receiving too-frequently. According to the Code of Canon Law (which governs Church practices) the faithful may receive Our Eucharistic Lord twice daily. And, unless someone is in danger of death, the second time must be while participating at Holy Mass. (Canons 917 & 921)

Ten Commandments - Sacred Heart Catholic Church - Wauzeka WI2.  A Priest Eating Between His Sunday Masses

Ordinarily, a person who is going to receive Our Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from all food and drink (besides water or medicine) for at least one hour before holy communion. This is done to prepare oneself to worthily receive this most precious food (though the elderly, the infirm, and those caring for them are exempted from the fast.) The Church, recognizing that a priest could have difficulty finding time for needed nourishment, allows priests who celebrate the Eucharist two or three times in the same day to take something between their Masses, even if there is less than one hour between them. (Canon 919)

3.  Offering Mass for the Soul of a Notorious Person

May a priest offer a Mass for the soul of Osama Bin Laden, Adolf Hitler, or Judas Iscariot? Pastoral prudence may advise him against doing so publicly but the Code of Canon law affirms, “A priest is entitled to offer Mass for anyone, living or dead.” (Canon 901) While the Church has declared many saints and blesseds to be now in Heaven, she has never declared any particular human being to be presently in Hell. Since Jesus warns us so strongly and frequently about damnation, and we know that the devil and ‘one third’ of the angels are eternally consigned to Hell, it seems very unlikely that all people will be saved. (Revelation 12:4 & 9, Matthew 25:41, Catechism of the Catholic Church #393) However, even if hoping against hope, we may still offer our prayers (capable of transcending space and time) for the salvation of any and all human souls.

4.  A Wedding Couple Processing into Church Behind the Priest

At weddings in the United States, the groom typically takes his place near the altar to await his bride’s walk down the aisle. But the Catholic Rite of Marriage, while allowing for local custom, presents a different entrance as the norm: “If there is a procession to the altar, the ministers go first, followed by the priest, and then the bride and the bridegroom.” (Rite of Marriage, no. 20) The ministers of the sacrament of marriage are actually the bride and groom themselves — the priest (or deacon) simply presides as the Church’s official witness. (Catechism #1623) Thus, it is fitting that the couple enter the church on their wedding day side-by-side in liturgical procession.

5.  A Priest Dipping Hosts Into the Precious Blood at the Distribution of Communion

Host and Chalice - Sacred Heart Catholic Church - Wauzeka WIA minister of the Holy Eucharist who steeps the Host into the Precious Blood before placing it upon a communicant’s tongue is distributing by “intinction.” The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (or GIRM, which governs liturgical practices for Holy Mass) states, “The Blood of the Lord may be consumed either by drinking from the chalice directly, or by intinction, or by means of a tube or a spoon.” (GIRM, no. 245) While noting that “distribution of the Precious Blood by a spoon or through a straw is not customary in the Latin dioceses of the United States of America,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops reiterates that a bishop may allow distribution by intinction in his diocese. (Norms, no. 48 & 24, citing GIRM no. 283)

As the GIRM describes it, “If Communion from the chalice is carried out by intinction, each communicant, holding a Communion-plate under the mouth, approaches the Priest who holds a vessel with the sacred particles, with a minister standing at his side and holding the chalice. The Priest takes a host, intincts it partly in the chalice and, showing it, says, The Body and Blood of Christ. The communicant replies, Amen, receives the Sacrament in the mouth from the Priest, and then withdraws.” (GIRM, no. 287) The U.S. Bishops further emphasize that the faithful, including extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, are never to self-communicate by intinction. (Norms, no. 50) May an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist distribute by intinction? The GIRM passage above speaks of “the Priest,” but I would refer people to their local bishop’s norms on the distribution of Communion for a judgment on this question.