Catholic Questions & Answers
"Knock and it shall be opened unto you" Matthew 7:7
Life is filled with questions, from the very beginning. In a way, our faith begins with a question and it is often a sign that the person is ready to go deeper in his or her spiritual journey.
Question, from the Latin quaero, means 'to seek to know' or 'to search'. Seeking answers it’s a journey that God guides us through over time and in a variety of ways. But when we seek after the Spirit of God, Jesus promises to guide us towards the truth. “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13).
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you." Matthew 7:7
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The questions below are of a random nature, covering various aspects of Catholic life. They appear here in the order we receive them.
Catholic Questions & Answers
The Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence is the belief that Jesus Christ is literally, not symbolically, present in the Holy Eucharist—body, blood, soul and divinity.
Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist because Jesus tells us this is true in the Bible: “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6:48-56).
Furthermore, the early Church Fathers either imply or directly state that the bread and wine offered in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is really the body and blood of Jesus Christ. In other words, the doctrine of the Real Presence that Catholics believe today was believed by the earliest Christians 2,000 years ago!
Yes! No matter where or when you go to Mass, you will always know what you’re going to get! Jesus Christ celebrated the first Mass with His disciples at the Last Supper, the night before He died. He commanded His disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). The celebration of the Mass then became the main form of worship in the early Church, as a re-enactment of the Last Supper, as
Christ had commanded.
Each and every Mass since commemorates Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross through the Holy Eucharist. Because the Mass “represents” (makes present) the sacrifice on Calvary, Catholics all around the world join together to be made present in Christ’s timeless sacrifice for our sins. There is something fascinating about continuing to celebrate the same Mass - instituted by Christ and practiced by the early Church - with the whole community of Catholics around the world… and in heaven.
First of all, a lot of things seem boring to us if we haven’t taken the time to really learn about them. Perhaps you can think of a sport that seemed really dull and confusing to you until you learned the rules of the game. Then, everything became much more exciting. Why? Because you were “in the know,” and that made participating so much better. The more we learn about the Mass, the more we fall in love with it and can get more out of our experience at Mass. If you learn about the biblical roots of the Mass parts, why we do what we do (sit, stand, kneel, cross ourselves, use holy water, etc.), and how important the Eucharist is in our lives, you will begin looking forward to participating in all of these things when you go to Mass because you’ll know what’s going on! Also, practicing your faith is like practicing a sport. Sometimes, practicing can be difficult, but we have to remember that practice points toward a goal—the game. At each and every Mass, we practice what it will be like to worship God in heaven, which will bring us supreme joy and no boredom. Start using Mass as an opportunity to practice prayer, practice talking to God, practice learning the story of the Bible through the readings, and so on. Use other resources to learn more about the Mass, and you will discover more the gift that it gives.
Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, meaning that what appears to be bread and wine is really Jesus’ body and blood—not just a symbol of his body and blood. When Catholics receive Holy Communion, it is an expression of the unity among all those in communion with the Catholic Church throughout the world, who maintain the belief in the Real Eucharistic Presence of Christ. Therefore, only those who believe in the True Presence may participate in this sacrament of oneness with Christ and his Church. “… The celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice is wholly directed toward the intimate union of the faithful with Christ through communion” (CCC 1382).
Ultimately, Catholics believe that we cannot celebrate this unifying sacrament with other Christians while there are disagreements about the Eucharist itself. However, Catholics pray for the day when we can reconcile with other Christians and share in the unity of God’s people through the Holy Eucharist.
Catholic communities express this desire for unity: “We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ’s prayer for us ‘that they may all be one’” (John 17:21).
In Matthew 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22, Jesus says of the bread, “This is my body.” He says of the wine, “This is my blood.” Rather than saying, “this is symbolic of,” or “this represents,” He says, “this IS.” In John 6, He repeats Himself, like He does nowhere else in Scripture, to emphasize the fact that He expects us to eat His flesh and drink His
blood and that His flesh is real food and that His blood is real drink. There are several facts that point to the literal meaning that Christ meant to convey here.
- Fact #1: The Jews took him literally in verse 52.
- Fact #2: His disciples took him literally in verse 60.
- Fact #3: the Apostles took him literally in verses 67-69.
If everyone who heard him speak at the time took Him literally, then all of us today, 2000 years after the fact, are also called to take Him literally, in accordance with the Scriptures. Also, in verse 51, Jesus says that the bread which He will give for the life of the world is His flesh.
When did He give His flesh for the life of the world? On the Cross. We know that Jesus was not speaking symbolically here. Since we conclude that Jesus was speaking literally of dying on the Cross, we should also conclude that He meant what He said about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. When we believe that Jesus is talking symbolically here in John 6, we come across a real problem when it comes to John 6:51. Did Jesus give His real flesh and blood for the life of the world, or was it only His symbolic flesh and blood?
No, you ought to first go to confession. The Catechism, in conformity with ancient teaching about the necessity of attending Mass says, “Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit grave sin.” (#2181).
Hence you ought to go to confession first. There are some reasons that one might miss Mass that are legitimate such as serious illness, the care of the sick, or some lack of capacity due to weather or distance. So also struggle with work schedules. But in this matter they should consult with their pastor or confessor and also seek solutions.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation, or Confession, is a sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ providing a means for those who fall into sin after Baptism to be restored into God's grace. It involves the admission of one's sins made to a duly approved Priest in order to
It is one of the most unique and beautiful aspects of Catholicism. Jesus Christ, in His abundant love and mercy, established this sacrament, so that we as sinners can obtain forgiveness for our sins and reconcile with God and the Church. The sacrament “washes us clean,” and renews us in Christ.
“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’” (John 20:21-23).
If you haven’t been to Confession in a while, the Catholic Church wants to welcome you back, and invites you to participate in this beautiful sacrament of healing. Take a step in faith. You’ll be surprised about how free you feel after taking part in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. So many Catholics describe incredible feelings of peace, joy, relief, and love that they never expected. Jesus is calling you to experience His mercy in this way too.
Passages from the Catechism of the Catholic Church to consider:
- “The sacrament of Penance is necessary for salvation for this who have fallen after Baptism” (CCC 980)
- “the Church possesses the power to forgive the sins of the baptized and exercises it through bishops and priests normally in the sacrament of Penance” (CCC 986)
- “In the forgiveness of sins, both priests and sacraments are instruments through which our Lord Jesus Christ, the only author and liberal giver of salvation, wills to use in order to efface our sins and give us the grace of justification” (CCC 987)
- “those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin and have thus lost their baptismal grace… the Sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and recover the grace of justification.” (CCC 1446)
- “When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called ‘perfect’ (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.” (CCC 1452)
- Each faithful of right discerning age is “bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year.” (CCC 1457) Some might be tempted to just do the minimum. The Church allows it at one per year after all. But diligent selfexamination will reveal that almost each one of us, if not all, actually sin several times - making a yearly Confession simply not enough.
Besides performing his penance after confession, the penitent, if he has justly injure another in his goods or reputation, or if he has given him scandal, must as soon as possible, and as far as he is able, restore him his goods, repair his honour, and remedy the scandal.
Father’s Day is celebrated worldwide to recognize the contribution that fathers and father figures make to the lives of their children. This day celebrates fatherhood and male parenting. Although it is celebrated on a variety of dates worldwide, many countries observe this day on the third Sunday in June.
The idea of a special day to honour fathers and celebrate fatherhood was introduced from the United States. There, a woman called Sonora Smart Dodd was inspired by the American Mother's Day celebrations in the church. So, she decided she wanted to designate a day for her dad, William Jackson Smart and to honour all fathers as well. Dodd’s mother had died in childbirth, and Dodd’s father a Civil War veteran, had taken the responsibility of singlehandedly raising the newborn and his other five children. So from then on, Father's Day has been celebrated in June since 1910 in USA. The celebrations in the United Kingdom and other countries are thought to have been inspired by the American custom of Father's Day. This is in contrast to Mother's Day, which has a very different history in the United States and the United Kingdom.
In our Catholic Tradition, we only have one “Father”, “Abba” who is our God. He is perfect image of a Father who looks after His children, cared for them and provided their needs. Likewise, we also have the image of St Joseph, who served as the foster father of Jesus, who protected him from harm, considered Him as his true son, and taught him everything what He needed as He was growing up.
The Seal of Confession is the bond of secrecy that forbids the priest to reveal for any reason whatsoever what has been told to him in confession. The penitent himself is the only one who can release the priest from that bond. A priest cannot reveal what has been told to him in Sacrament of Confession even to save the whole world from destruction. Rather than violate the seal of confession, a priest must be prepared to suffer false accusations, disgrace, and what is worse, death. If a priest were ever guilty of having deliberately broken the seal of confession, he would be penalized with the strictest type of excommunication the Church can inflict.
What does the priest do if a crime has been mentioned in the Confessional?
Always remember that there are processes during the confession. The sinner must first confess, he or she must be genuinely sorry and then he or she must make restitution or serve ‘penance’ in some way before Absolution will be granted by the priest. In the case of child abuse, the restitution would be for the priest to tell the penitent to turn themselves over to Police and make amends to what he/she has done wrong.
There are six sins against the Holy Spirit:
- Despairing of being saved,
- Presuming of being saved without merit,
- Opposing the known truth,
- Envying another's graces,
- Obstinately remaining in sin,
- Final impenitence.
These sins are specially said to be against the Holy Spirit, bacause they are commited through pure malice, which is contrary to goodness, the special attribute of the Holy Spirit.
Purgatory is a place or state in which are detained the souls of those who die in grace, in friendship with God, but with the blemish of venial sin or with temporal debt for sin unpaid. Here the soul is purged, cleansed, readied for eternal union with God in Heaven. The suffering of the soul in Pergatory is intense, yet it is a suffering in love: the souls in Pergatory are not turned from God; they are deprived of the vision of God but they are united with Him by love. Theirs is a twofold suffering, that of privation of God for a time and that of physical pain.
UNDERSTANDING THE PARTS OF THE MASS (weekly SERIES)
By Fr. Francis J. Hoffman, JCD
We begin the Mass – as we begin almost every prayer and sacrament – by making the Sign of the Cross, using the exact words that Jesus taught us (Mt. 28:19) just before He ascended into heaven. By signing ourselves with the cross as we say “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen,” we call to mind two central truths of our Faith: that God is a trinity of persons, and that our Saviour Jesus Christ died for us on the cross. No other gesture so clearly marks a person as a Roman Catholic than the Sign of the Cross.
Next, the celebrant greets the faithful with the words, “The Lord be with you,” to which they respond, “And with your spirit.” What a wonderful greeting, what a wonderful wish! What could possibly be better than having the Lord with us? And what could possibly be better than the Lord being with your spirit in the state of grace?
Have you noticed that the more enthusiastic and robust the response by the congregation (“And with your spirit!!!”), the better the homily will be minutes later?
The Confiteor, of all the magnificent prayers at Mass, it is one of my favorites, and it comes at just the right moment: the beginning of Mass. It is deeply powerful, sincere, searching, and human. “I confess to Almighty God,” screams, “I am NOTHING! Help me God! And everyone else help me too!” We exclaim it at the beginning of Mass to prepare ourselves for what is about to take place, much like a humble and respectful guest removes his dirty shoes when he enters someone’s beautiful home.
Here is the Confiteor:
I confess to Almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault; therefore I ask Blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.
But why do we repeat “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa” (through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault)?
We say that three times because important truths need to be repeated, or we just don’t get it. Much like a mother who shouts, “don’t touch it!!” three times as her little twoyear-old boy runs to touch the whistling tea pot.
The opening scene of the black and white film, Lord of the Flies (1963), shows British schoolboys marching in formation on the beach of an island in the South Pacific as they cheerfully sing their upbeat version of “Kyrie, Kyrie, Kyrie eleison.” They are seemingly oblivious to the meaning of the words, “Lord have mercy”, and unaware that the island where their plane just crashed may look like paradise, but in fact is paradise lost because they have been deprived of adult leadership, authority, and the calm and prudent use of reason. Soon these marooned boys will become slaves of their passions; no more marching in formation, no more cheerful singing, no more working together for a common goal. In short order many of them begin to behave like savages. The movie is a metaphor on the effects of original sin.
When we honestly come to grips with the reality of our situation - fallen human nature as a result of original sin—how can we fail to cry out, “Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison”, (Lord, have mercy, Christ, have mercy, Lord, have mercy)?
On Sundays and feast days, but not on Sundays during Lent or Advent, the Gloria is sung or recited by the faithful. It is a song of joy and praise to God and expresses the most fundamental sentiments of the creature to his Creator: thanksgiving, praise, worship, and adoration.
First sung by the angels the night our Saviour was born, the Gloria has inspired composers the world over and down through the centuries to create stunningly beautiful musical scores for choir and orchestra. Some of the greatest—in my humble opinion—are by Handel and Mozart. But the finest, most sublime setting for the Gloria—again in my humble opinion—is the Gloria from the Mass, “Cum Jubilo,” a classic Gregorian chant. But we do not know who composed it. It is reported that Mozart once said he would gladly let someone else take credit for all of his musical compositions if he could only claim credit for composing the Gloria of the “Missa Cum Jubilo.”
On very special occasions, the bells are rung during the Gloria: Midnight Mass on Christmas, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, and Easter Vigil.
“When this hymn is concluded (the Gloria), the Priest, with hands joined says: ‘Let us pray.’ And all pray in silence with the Priest for a while.” So state the ‘rubrics’ in the Roman Missal.
The Collect is also called the ‘Opening Prayer’ and it is the moment for all the faithful gathered at Mass to collect their thoughts and intentions for the Mass that has just begun. Accordingly, we pray in silence. That is the moment to silently tell God in our heart what we are praying for at Mass: family, friends, relatives, a child who is seriously ill, a new job, for vocations, the Pope, and upcoming elections ... whatever. Since there is an infinite amount of grace available at each Mass, we can pray for as many persons or intentions that we wish.
“Then the Priest, with hands extended, says the Collect prayer, at the end of which the people acclaim Amen.”
Pay attention to the Collect prayer—it is usually centred on the theme of the Mass, whether it be a saint or a season or a solemnity of the Lord.
After the Greeting, Penitential Rite and Gloria are completed, the faithful may be seated and are invited to listen attentively to the Word of God.
As a teacher, I have found the most effective way to communicate a message is with audio and visual aids. For that reason, the faithful are encouraged to read the readings for themselves even before Mass. You may also find it helpful to follow the readings in your Missalette as the reader is proclaiming the Word of God.
On weekdays, we have three readings: the first, the Responsorial Psalm, and the Gospel. On Sundays and Holy Days we have four readings: typically one from the Old Testament, the Responsorial Psalm, one from the New Testament, and then the Gospel.
When we read the Sacred Scriptures we should ask the Holy Spirit for help to understand the meaning as it applies to us today, here, and now.
With the reform of the Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council, the Psalms now have a more prominent place in the cycle of readings. Every day, we have a psalm during the readings at Mass. Because the congregation participates in the singing or chanting of the Psalm by repeating a selected phrase, we call this a ‘response’ – hence, the ‘Responsorial Psalm’. The Psalms can be recited or sung; they can be sung in plainchant or with musical instrument accompaniment.
King David composed many of the Psalms, and there are 150 in all. They express various 12themes, emotions, and needs of the human creature with respect to his Creator and fellow human beings.
It is remarkable that even though these Psalms were composed thousands of years ago, we see that human nature has not changed during the course of time. The creature hungers for his Creator, repents of his sins, longs for protection and the goodness of the Lord.
Following the Responsorial Psalm or the Second Reading, as the case may be, the people stand and sing “the Alleluia or another chant laid down by the rubrics, as the liturgical time requires.”
I’ll never forget when a thousand voices and musicians sang Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus at the Canonization of St. Josemaria in 2002. Talk about magnificent and inspiring praise!
Simply put, we are to sing the Alleluia before the Gospel except in Lent, when another acclamation is used. On weekdays, if not sung, the Alleluia may be omitted.
I find it fascinating that Jesus would have sung the Alleluia (it’s a Hebrew word, after all) in the Synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath when he was a youngster. It literally means “Praise Yahweh”.
Did you ever wonder what the deacon asks the priest before he proclaims the Gospel? He says: “Your blessing, Father.” And then the priest says, in a barely audible voice: “May the Lord be in your heart and on your lips, that you may proclaim the Gospel worthily and well; In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
If no deacon is present, the priest bows to the altar and quietly says: “Cleanse my heart and lips Almighty God, that I may worthily proclaim your Holy Gospel.”
The deacon or priest proclaims the Gospel loudly and clearly and in such a manner that the faithful can understand it. All stand for the Gospel as a sign of respect. The Gospel readings for weekdays follow a two year cycle, and for Sundays follow a three year cycle.
The Gospels are according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The four Gospels we use today are the same used by the early Christians. In fact, the New Testament as we know it, 27 books in all, has been the same since at least 170 AD.