Archive for the ‘Hell’ Category

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 or lest receiving too-frequently make this most sacred gift feel common. According to the Code of Canon Law (which governs Church practices) the faithful may receive Our Eucharistic Lord twice daily. However, 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.

Evil: Unholy Holes — Tuesday, 5th Week of Ordinary Time—Year I

February 8, 2011

“God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good.” Everything that God has made, everything that has being, contains God’s goodness. What then is this thing called evil?

Think of a hole in the ground. What is the hole made of? Nothing really. If not for the good earth surrounding it you would not even know that a hole was there. Evil is like that hole, it’s an absence, a deprivation, a negation of something good. Evil can only be present within something good, as a corruption. Even though evil is essentially nothingness, that doesn’t mean that it can’t still hurt you, like falling into a deep, gaping hole.

Let no one think that evil is necessary for there to be good. No one should think of evil as the Ying to God’s Yang. God created a universe which was entirely good. It has been the free choices of the demons and of us to rebel in sin which have brought evils upon us.

Because of the goodness that remains in them, God shall love and preserve the Devil, the demons, and the damned forever. They shall not be destroyed, but they shall no longer do harm. They shall be as the wounds in Jesus’ hands, feet and side, which are as they are due to evil, but which cause no more pain, only glory.

Rich Man’s Loss — 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year C

September 26, 2010

[The rich man] cried out, “Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.”

Why does the rich man suffer in flames? It’s not that Abraham is unaware of him, for when the rich man speaks Abraham answers him. And it’s not that Abraham no longer acknowledges him, for Abraham calls him “my child.” It’s not that Abraham lacks in mercy, for Abraham once intervened to spare a city of sinners. The rich man is not in the flames because of Abraham, or Moses, or the prophets of God, for if he had listened to them he would not be in torment.

So why does the rich man suffer in flames? He suffers because he feasted each day, while Lazarus starved. Because he dressed in fine linen, while Lazarus went naked. Because he was clothed in purple, while Lazarus was covered in purple sores. Yet the rich man is not in the flames because he is rich, for King David was far richer than he and is heralded as a man after God’s own heart. The rich man suffers because the dogs who licked Lazarus’ wounds showed the poor man more kindness than he ever did.

The rich man was not unaware of Lazarus lying at his door, for he had passed him enough times to recognize him when he saw him. The rich man even knew Lazarus by name, for he calls out, “Father Abraham… Send Lazarus…”  The rich man suffers in flames because he did not care about Lazarus. The rich man suffers because he did not love. If we wish to avoid the flames, we should ponder and act on this question: Who is Lazarus in your life?

Strive to Enter — 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year C

September 2, 2010

The Emmy-winning Servant of God, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, once said that in Heaven we will have three surprises: 

  1) We’ll see people there that we didn’t expect to see…

  2) We won’t see people there that we did expect to see, and…

  3) We’ll be surprised to see ourselves there!
 
 
In today’s gospel, someone shouts out from the crowd, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” Jesus answers Him, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” Instead of giving the man a figure, Jesus gives him more valuable counsel, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for whether or not you will be saved depends (in part) on you.” Yet we are still left wondering, “Will the number saved be many, or only a few?”

On the one hand we have John’s eyewitness testimony from the Book of Revelation. When he say the worship of the saints in heaven he saw  “a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.” (Note that this ‘countless multitude’ is much larger than 144,000 which had just been counted.) It is as the Lord said through the prophet Isaiah in our first reading, “I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory.” Based on this we can say that many will be saved.

On the other hand, in the Gospel of Matthew, in the parallel passage to today’s gospel, Jesus says, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” The ‘few’ who find the narrow gate certainly sounds like less than the ‘many’ who don’t. Based on this we can say that many will not be saved.

My purpose in raising this topic is not to frighten you, for Jesus said, over and again, “Do not be afraid.” But I believe it is with Jesus’ heart that I urge you not to be complacent. To be complacent is to be self-satisfied and unaware of possible dangers. Jesus urges us to, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate” for many will not be able.

There is no way to know, but something in me suspects that the man who called out to Jesus assumed his own salvation to be a certainty; he was merely curious if many others would be joining him.  Jesus warned him not to be presumptuous, and this gospel has come down to us today because it’s a message meant for us too.

All of us come to church, and that’s a very good thing, but coming to church every Sunday does not guarantee our salvation. In the parable that Jesus told, the master of the house arises like the judge of our world at the end of time. People knock on the locked door and say, “Lord, we ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.” We eat and drink in Jesus’ company too, and he teaches in our streets. We eat and drink with Him here, at the Eucharist, and whenever the Scriptures are proclaimed, Christ speaks. Being a disciple of Christ, a true friend of Christ, means more than just coming to church.

We must strive to enter the narrow gate. We must pursue and embrace holy discipline for our lives, as we heard from the Letter to the Hebrews: “…Do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines…. At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.  So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed.”

What in your life needs holy discipline? Do you pray every day, or is God only a bedtime afterthought? Do you pray with your spouse and your children, besides at mealtimes? Do you read and watch things that feed your soul? Do you fast and give alms? Do you treat every Friday as a day of penance and every Sunday as a day of joyful rest? What good habit do you need to begin? And what persistent sin do you need to fight, like a life-threatening cancer, for indeed it is. If you were to look back on your life someday from your deathbed, what would you most regret having left undone?

Jesus says to us in this present age, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Are you asking, are you seeking, are you knocking? Strive for holiness while the door remains unlooked, and be encouraged, for Jesus is also striving after you. In Revelation He says, “Those whom I love, I reprove and chastise. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, (then) I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.”

Jesus knocks on the door of our hearts, minds, and souls; in our feelings, thoughts, and deepest desires. If we open our doors and welcome Him now, and strive with Him for holiness, Jesus will open for us the door to Heaven and welcome us inside.

C.S. Lewis on Our Immortality & Potential Glory

August 14, 2010

From The Weight of Glory:

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.

It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.

This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.

Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere Latitat [Latin, “truly hides”]—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.

Praise is Fireproof — Tuesday, 17th Week in Ordinary Time—Year II

July 27, 2010

St. Therese of Lisieux, one of the greatest and most beloved saints in modern time, once remarked that she almost wished that she could go to Hell.  That way, she said, at least her small, solitary voice would lovingly praise Him from there. Of course, this is impossible. Those in Hell ‘wail’ in sadness, and ‘grind their teeth’ in anger, but they never praise God. No one praising Him would remain in Hell. Let us take comfort in the knowledge that if we persevere in our praise of God we shall not join their number.

Thursday, 17th Week in Ordinary Time—Year I

August 17, 2009

In the daytime, the Hebrews saw the cloud of the Lord over the meeting tent. But at night, fire was seen in the cloud. In the daytime, the cloud above the meeting tent seemed to invite communion. But at night, the cloud seemed to threaten.

Was there always fire in the cloud, night and day? I suspect that there was, even though it could only be seen in the night, for God appeared to Moses in the burning bush as fire, and as the letter to the Hebrews says, “our God is a consuming fire.” The cloud itself did not change. The difference was one of perspective, whether you looked at the presence of God from within the light, or in darkness.

The same thing may apply for vastly different experiences of heaven and hell. In the parable about the end of this age, Jesus describes how the good and bad fish will be sorted out, as Wisconsin fishermen separate carp from bass, muskie, & trout. The bad will be separated from the good.  In this way, after the judgment, the wicked will no long be able to cause harm to the saints. The good will be gathered together. The bad will be widely scattered.

For the saints, God’s presence will be as the welcoming, mysterious cloud; but for the condemned, even the outermost reaches of God’s presence will be a fiery furnace. There will be no escaping Him, for nowhere in the universe is there a perfect hiding place from God. Our God is a consuming fire of goodness, truth, justice, and love.

Forever frustrated and angry, the wicked will long to be farther and farther from Him, for this movement away from Him has defined their lives on Earth. But for the saints, the goodness, truth, justice, and love belonging to God will be like home. For in their lives, the saints, like the psalmist, prefer the house of God to dwelling in the tents of the wicked.

So Christian disciples, yearn and pine for the courts of the Lord. Continue to follow the cloud of His presence, and He will lead to your promised home.