Tuesday 12th December 2017

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December 1, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. Is it permissible for a Catholic funeral to be held in a place outside of a church? — M.S., via e-mail.
A. Yes. According to the Order of Christian Funerals, “The funeral liturgy outside Mass is ordinarily celebrated in the parish church, but may also be celebrated in the home of the deceased, a funeral home, parlor, chapel of rest, or cemetery chapel” (n. 179).

Q. In the parish I am attending, it is customary to insert Baptisms, Confirmations, First Communions, and even weddings into the scheduled Masses on holy days of obligation. Shouldn’t those sacraments be administered separately? Also, Confessions are heard face-to-face without the option for confessing anonymously. — C.G.D., via e-mail.
A. Although the sacraments you mentioned are usually celebrated with just the participants and their families present, it is not unusual to include them in a regularly scheduled parish Mass. The idea behind that is to give parishioners an opportunity to witness a sacramental celebration that they might not ordinarily see. This practice can be overdone, of course, and if the pastor wishes to continue the practice, we would think that once a month would be sufficient for those sacraments which take place frequently.
As for the manner of going to Confession, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in 1974 that it is “considered desirable that small chapels or rooms of reconciliation be provided in which penitents might choose to confess their sins through an informal face-to-face exchange with the priest, with the opportunity for appropriate spiritual counsel.”
The bishops said that “it would also be regarded as desirable that such chapels or rooms be designed to afford the option of the penitents kneeling at the fixed confessional grille in the usual way, but in every case the freedom of the penitent is to be respected” (Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy Newsletter 1965-1975 [December 1974], p. 450).
This requirement to respect the penitent’s wishes was reiterated in the 1983 Code of Canon Law (c. 964 §2), which said bishops should see to it that “confessionals with a fixed grille between penitent and confessor are always located in an open area so that the faithful who wish to make use of them may do so freely.”
We can also see the wisdom of confessing one’s sins behind a fixed grille if the sins involved unchastity, especially if the penitent were a woman. This arrangement would make both penitent and confessor more comfortable.

Q. Is there guidance from the Catechism about proper respect and reverence when entering and leaving a church and passing by the tabernacle? It is on a side altar in my church and people seem to forget that Jesus is truly there. There is no mention from the pulpit. — R.T., via e-mail.
A. The only relevant paragraph in the Catechism (n. 1183) is one that says, “The tabernacle is to be situated ‘in churches in a most worthy place with the greatest honor’ [Paul VI, Mysterium Fidei: AAS (1965) 771]. The dignity, placing, and security of the Eucharistic tabernacle should foster adoration before the Lord really present in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar” [cf. SC, n, 128].” There is more information in the section on “Genuflections and Bows” in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal:
“A genuflection, made by bending the right knee to the ground, signifies adoration, and therefore it is reserved for the Most Blessed Sacrament. . . . If, however, the tabernacle with the Most Blessed Sacrament is situated in the sanctuary, the Priest, the Deacon, and the other ministers genuflect when they approach the altar and when they depart from it, but not during the celebration of Mass itself. Otherwise, all who pass before the Most Blessed Sacrament genuflect, unless they are moving in procession” (n. 274).
The fact that many people do pretty much anything in church these days, except genuflect, shows a failure of priests to catechize their parishioners about the proper respect and reverence that must be shown to Jesus truly present on the altar or in the tabernacle. And it’s not enough to mention this obligation only once in a while. It needs to be repeated often.
We recall, for example, when we were first told that receiving Communion standing was to be preceded by a reverent bow. While this gesture was announced at the beginning, we have not heard it reiterated since, with the result that fewer than half of those going to Communion make such a bow.
The same is true of genuflecting when entering or leaving church. It is a public demonstration of one’s belief that the church is not just another building, but the house of the Lord, who is truly present in the tabernacle.
This was brought home quite clearly to a priest we know. He was showing a Jewish rabbi the inside of his parish church and explained to him the Catholic belief that Jesus was really present in the tabernacle in the sanctuary. “If I believed that,” the rabbi said, “I would crawl on my knees up the main aisle to the tabernacle.”

Q. In the Gospel at Mass the other day, Jesus talked about the suddenness of His Second Coming. He said that “on that night there will be two people in one bed; one will be taken, the other left. And there will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken, the other left. They said to him in reply, ‘Where, Lord?’ He said to them, ‘Where the body is, there also the vultures will gather’ ” (Luke 17:34-37). Can you explain the meaning of that last sentence? — R.W., South Dakota.
A. Jesus was taking about the coming of His Kingdom, when the wicked will be swept away, as they were in the time of Noah and the flood, while the righteous will be spared, as were Noah and his family. He was probably also thinking specifically of Jerusalem, which would be destroyed by Rome in AD 70. So the “body” in verse 37 refers to Jerusalem, and the word “vulture,” which is sometimes translated “eagle,” to the armies of Rome because eagles were prominently displayed on Roman military banners.

Q. The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (1948), article 18, says that “everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.” Yet Communist and Muslim members of the UN General Assembly regularly persecute Christians and believers of other faiths. Have the Christian churches, including the Catholic Church, ever tried to form a delegation to the UN to protest against these open violations of religious freedom? — D.G., Ohio.
A. Yes, the Catholic Church and various Christian organizations have protested to the UN about the persecution of Christians around the world.
In a speech to the General Assembly in September 2015, Pope Francis decried “the painful situation of the entire Middle East, North Africa, and other African countries where Christians, together with other cultural or ethnic groups, and even members of the majority religion who have no desire to be caught up in hatred and folly, have been forced to witness the destruction of their places of worship, their cultural and religious heritage, their houses and property, and have faced the alternative either of fleeing or of paying for their adhesion to good and to peace by their own lives, or by enslavement. These realities should serve as a grave summons to an examination of conscience on the part of those charged with the conduct of international affairs.”
Non-governmental organizations have also repeatedly called the UN’s attention to violations of religious freedom. These organizations include the Knights of Columbus, the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam) under the leadership of Austin Ruse, the American Center for Law and Justice in conjunction with its affiliate the European Centre for Law and Justice, and ADF International, a global partner of Alliance Defending Freedom.
Of course, the United Nations pays little or no attention to the genocidal plight of persecuted Christians: which is why Vice President Mike Pence announced in October that the Trump administration will bypass the UN and give aid directly to beleaguered Christian communities in Iraq. He said that America will “stop funding ineffective relief efforts at the United Nations,” but will instead funnel aid to faith-based organizations.

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