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June 15, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. Can you tell me the difference between a basilica and a cathedral? — M.N., California.
A. A basilica is a title of honor given to certain churches which may be classified either as major basilicas or minor basilicas. The only four major basilicas are located in Rome. They are St. John Lateran, St. Peter, St. Paul Outside the Walls, and St. Mary Major. Some churches outside of Rome have been designated minor basilicas and enjoy some of the privileges of the major basilicas.
A cathedral is the official church of the bishop, where his permanent episcopal chair is located and where he usually officiates. It is the mother church of all the other churches in the diocese and is usually located in the city for which the diocese is named.

Q. In his book Purgatory and the Means to Avoid It, Martin Jugie asserts that at the second Fatima apparition, our Lady said, “After each decade of the rosary, you will say, ‘My Jesus, pardon me my offenses. Keep me from the fire of Hell and console the souls in Purgatory, especially the most abandoned’.” Have you ever heard of this? – M.L., Arizona.
A. Yes, but not in those exact words. According to what we have read, the Blessed Mother, during her third apparition on July 13, 1917, showed the three shepherd children a frightening vision of Hell, with demons and souls in human form shrieking and groaning as they floated in a sea of fire.
“You have seen Hell where the souls of poor sinners go,” said our Lady. “To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace.”
After this scary vision, our Lady taught the children a prayer to be said at the end of each decade of the rosary: “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fire of Hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy.”
This is a very important prayer and it should be said at the end of each decade of the rosary, or it could be said apart from the rosary in an effort to get hardened sinners to repent and seek the mercy of God.

Q. At a priestly Ordination recently, someone mentioned a poem about the “Beautiful Hands of a Priest.” Do you have the words for this poem? — F.A., via e-mail.
A. The poem originated in Ireland many decades ago and has been passed down in poetry and song. Here are the words:

The Beautiful Hands Of A Priest

We need them in life’s early morning, / We need them again at its close;
We feel their warm clasp of true friendship, / We seek them while tasting life’s woes.
When we come to this world we are sinful, / The greatest as well as the least.
And the hands that make us pure as angels / Are the beautiful hands of a priest.

At the altar each day we behold them, / And the hands of a king on his throne
Are not equal to them in their greatness. / Their dignity stands alone.
For there in the stillness of morning / Ere the sun has emerged from the east,
There God rests between the pure fingers / Of the beautiful hands of a priest.

When we are tempted and wander / To pathways of shame and sin,
‘Tis the hand of a priest that will absolve us / Not once but again and again.
And when we are taking life’s partner, / Other hands may prepare us a feast,
But the hands that will bless and unite us, / Are the beautiful hands of a priest.

God bless them and keep them all holy / For the Host which their fingers caress.
What can a poor sinner do better, / But to praise Thee who chose thee to bless.
When the death dews on our eyes are falling, / May our courage and strength be increased
To see, raised above us in blessing, / The beautiful hands of a priest.

Q. My wife and I are asking if we are in sin from viewing movies involving nudity and adult language. When we grew up, there was a Legion of Decency that advised of movies that were acceptable. As we all know, times are changing in the movie theater, and the rating system seems more complicated. When we bring this up in Confession, we receive the advice that if we are mature enough and it doesn’t lead into further sin, it is a venial sin. Is this good moral advice or not? — A.B., via e-mail.
A. Jesus says that we are to be holy as His Father in Heaven is holy. Holiness means being close to God. So does viewing films with nudity and adult language bring you closer to God? Or do the images on the screen crowd God out of your mind and replace Him with thoughts that are far removed from Him? Do these films portray sex as a beautiful gift from God that belongs only in the context of a faithful, fruitful marriage between one man and one woman? Or do they glorify sinful activity, such as fornication and adultery?
As for adult language, you probably have the decency not to pepper your conversations with the “F” word, but have you noticed how many people, especially the younger generations, can’t put a sentence together that does not contain that word? What else but “adult” movies and TV programs are responsible for this coarsening of our culture? But it’s only a venial sin, some say, but venial sins are still sins — thoughts, words, or deeds that weaken our relationship with God and could pave the way for mortal sins, which break our relationship with God. It’s like saying that a little poison in our system is okay since it won’t kill us.
In the section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church entitled “Offenses against chastity,” we find these words:
“Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of the participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials” (n. 2354).

Q. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus curses a fig tree and causes it to wither and die because He could not find any fruit on it. But Mark says that it was not the time for figs to be ripe. So what was the point of Jesus’ action? — J.N., Oklahoma.
A. If you look at chapter 11 of Mark, you will see that this incident was followed by the Lord’s cleansing of the Temple in Jerusalem. In his commentary on Mark (Bringing the Gospel of Mark to Life), George Martin said that “Mark, by weaving together his accounts of the fig tree and the Temple, indicates that the two incidents are to be understood in light of each other. In both cases, Jesus went somewhere with a hunger or an expectation: to the fig tree with physical hunger (11:12) and to the Temple with spiritual hunger for the establishment of God’s reign. In both cases, Jesus knew that His expectations would be disappointed.”
Martin explained that Jesus realized “that he would not find any edible figs on the tree, despite its leaves, for it was not the season for figs to be ripe (11:13). He knew that he would not find God’s reign properly manifested in the Temple, despite its magnificent trappings, for he had previously gone to the Temple and seen what was happening there (11:11). Jesus pronounced the end of a fig tree as a sign of the end of a Temple that had become a profit center and an architectural showcase. It wasn’t the fig tree’s fault that it was fruitless…but those who controlled the Temple were responsible for what they had done with it” (p. 299).
This lesson has application in our own time as well. How many today put on an outward show of religiosity, but their hearts are far from God? We know with much more certainty today that Jesus is the Messiah, but how many of us live as if He had never come?

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Catholic Replies

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