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September 8, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Editor’s Note: Continuing our summary of the six appearances of Our Lady of Fatima 100 years ago, here is an account of what happened on September 13, 1917.
On July 13, some four thousand people had gathered for the apparition, but now the word had spread even farther, so that an estimated 25,000 were present for the appearance in September. The children had difficulty getting through the crowd because so many were kneeling before them and begging for our Lady’s help. “If these people so humbled themselves before three poor children, just because they were mercifully granted the grace to speak to the Mother of God,” Lucia wrote later, “what would they not do if they saw our Lord Himself in person before them?”
When our Lady arrived, she insisted again on praying the rosary for an end to World War I, which concluded a year later. This should be a reminder to us of the power of the rosary to end the wars in our own time. The Virgin foretold some of the appearance in October, saying that our Lord would come at that time, that she herself would appear as Our Lady of Sorrows and Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and that St. Joseph would appear with the Child Jesus to bless the world.
After praising the children for their sacrifices, she cautioned them to modify the penance of tying a piece of rope around their waists, saying that God only wanted them “to wear it during the daytime.” This practice had caused the children much suffering, either because the rope was too rough or tied too tightly, and God wanted them to have some relief during the night. Imagine little children offering this kind of sacrifice for sinners!
As the Blessed Mother departed, Lucia cried out, “If you want to see our Lady, look there!” She pointed toward the east, and many people, without seeing the Virgin herself (only the children saw her), testified later that they had seen something like a luminous cloud moving toward the east. Many priests were there for the first time and later gave testimony that contributed to the official approval of the Fatima apparitions by the Church in 1930.

Q. A friend sent me an e-mail saying that a Catholic school in California had removed statues of Jesus and Mary so that students wouldn’t be offended. Please check this out. If it is true, it is an outrage. — D.L.H., Iowa.
A. Statues have been removed from San Domenico Catholic School in San Anselmo, Calif., including one of the Virgin Mary holding the Christ Child that had graced the school’s center courtyard, in order to make the school “inclusive of all faiths,” said Sr. Maureen McInerney, prioress general of the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael. Of the 660 students enrolled at the school, which was founded in 1850, many are not Catholic and come from various religious traditions, such as Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. The annual tuition for an incoming kindergarten student is $29,850.
“Over the last few years,” said Head of School Cecily Stock, “we’ve had fewer Catholic students as part of the community and a larger number of students of various faith traditions. Right now, about 80 percent of our families do not identify as Catholic.”
She said that rather than educate students about Catholicism, instruction is given in world religions and philosophy, adding that “it’s really about empowering each student and giving them the information so they can discover their own purpose, their own truth [!]. We believe the best way to understand your own faith is to learn about the faiths of others.”
All of which has led to removing the word “Catholic” from the school’s mission statement and getting rid of statues of Jesus and Mary and many saints. “If you walk on campus and the first thing you confront is three or four statues of St. Dominic or St. Francis,” said Amy Skewes-Cox, head of the school’s Board of Trustees, “it could be alienating for that other religion, and we didn’t want to further that feeling.” About 160 statues or icons were removed.
While Sr. McInerney insisted that “San Domenico is a Catholic school” that “welcomes people of all faiths,” it doesn’t sound much like a Catholic school to us since the students are apparently not given much information about Catholicism, but are rather encouraged to discover “their own truth.” We thought the purpose of a Catholic school was to lead the students to the discovery of the truth, who is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. We can’t understand why any faithful Catholic parent would pay that astronomical tuition to have their child’s faith undermined or lumped in with other “faith traditions.”

Q. Can a Roman Catholic meet his Sunday obligation by attending an Eastern Orthodox Mass and receiving Communion there? — D.M.D., Massachusetts.
A. First of all, according to canon 1248 of the Code of Canon Law, every Catholic is bound to assist “at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the holy day [Sunday] or on the evening of the preceding day.” Second, since Eastern Orthodox churches have a valid priesthood and valid sacraments, Catholics may attend Mass and receive Communion in those churches under certain conditions that are spelled out in canon 844 §2:
“Whenever necessity requires or genuine spiritual advantage suggests, and provided that the danger of error or indifferentism is avoided, it is lawful for the faithful for whom is it physically or morally impossible to approach a Catholic minister, to receive the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers in whose churches these sacraments are valid.”
So attending Mass and receiving Communion in an Eastern Orthodox church are permissible if it is necessary, there is a genuine spiritual advantage, there is no danger of error or indifferentism (i.e., believing that one church is as good as another), and it is impossible to attend Mass in a Catholic church.
We don’t know the circumstances that prompted D.M.D.’s question, but they would have to be highly unusual, such as danger of death, or imprisonment, or persecution, to justify having a Catholic attend Mass in an Eastern Orthodox church.
That is the Catholic point of view, but one ought also to consider the Eastern Orthodox point of view, which was presented to us some time ago by an Eastern Orthodox priest. He told us that having a Catholic receive Communion in his church would be “a totally unacceptable practice according to Orthodox canon law and spiritual practice. The Orthodox Church sees Holy Communion as the seal of unity in a common faith already achieved and not an individualistic act in which any priest may give Holy Communion to any person who wishes to receive a ‘dose of grace,’ as it were.”
He said that any Orthodox priest who would give Communion to a non-Orthodox person who had no intention of converting to Orthodoxy would be “introducing ‘modernistic,’ ‘relativistic,’ and ‘syncretistic’ practices into the life of the Church. As I understand from your columns, this is the very thing you condemn the Roman Catholic priests in this country for doing so eagerly. How can you condemn a Roman priest for ignoring the various injunctions of the Church and yet encourage an Orthodox priest to violate the injunctions of the Church?”
Q. I thought that Jesus died at the age of 33, but Bill O’Reilly says in his book Killing Jesus that He was 36 when He died. Who is right? — J.P.D., New York.
A. In his book, O’Reilly has Jesus dying on the cross in the year AD 30, and says that He was born in 5 BC. Don’t worry about how He could have been born five years “before Christ.” That apparent contradiction was the result of a miscalculation by a sixth-century monk named Dionysius Exiguus, who drew up a calendar that fixed the birth of Jesus in the Roman year 753, but scholars today agree that Dionysius was off by a few years. So it is certain that our Lord was born before year one of the Christian era.
We know that King Herod wanted to kill Jesus and that Herod died around 4 BC, so Jesus would have had to be born before Herod’s death. The actual year of His birth, then, would have been around 4 BC, so if he died in AD 30, He would have been around the age of 33 or 34. By using the year 5 BC for Jesus’ birth, O’Reilly can set Jesus’ death at the age of 36 and, without precise historical evidence about the actual year of our Lord’s birth, that is not that far removed from 33 or 34.

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