Q. My nine-year-old grandson asked why, on August 15, the Gospel of Luke about the Visitation was read when it was the Feast of the Assumption. What should I tell him? — E.C., via e-mail.
A. You can tell your grandson that there is no Gospel reading about the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven because that event is not recorded in the Gospels. Catholic belief in Mary’s Assumption, body and soul, into Heaven at the end of her life can be traced back at least to the sixth century, although it was not formally proclaimed by the Church until 1950.
This dogma is related to the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which says that Mary was free from original sin from the moment of her conception in the womb of her mother, St. Anne. Since the corruption of the body in the grave is a consequence of original sin, and the Blessed Virgin did not have original sin, she did not suffer the decay of the grave. It is not unreasonable to think that Jesus would want His Mother to share in His bodily glorification since it was her body that sheltered Him for nine months.
In the sixth century, St. Gregory of Tours wrote that the Lord Jesus came to earth at the end of His Mother’s life and commanded that her body “be taken in a cloud into Paradise, where now, rejoined to the soul, it rejoices with the Lord’s chosen ones, and is in the enjoyment of the good of an eternity that will never end.” In the 16th century, St. Robert Bellarmine explained the rationale for the Assumption in these words:
“And who, I ask, could believe that the ark of holiness, the dwelling place of the Word of God, the temple of the Holy Spirit, could be reduced to ruin? My soul is filled with horror at the thought that the virginal flesh which had begotten God, had brought Him into the world, had nourished and carried Him, could have been turned into ashes or given over to be food for worms.”
Q. Believe it or not, my wife and I had friends over yesterday who told us that Halal food — so common now in America — in fact is prayed over and “sacrificed to Allah,” and therefore must not be consumed by Christians. They tell us that they have had to return a certain cheese to the grocery store, telling the store manager that they discovered a tiny “Halal” label when they got home, and that they are Christians and cannot eat this cheese. The manager refunded their money. They also say that they generally will eat only pork when at a restaurant because so many restaurants have “meat sacrificed to idols” — see 1 Cor. 10:28 and Acts 15:29. At home, they have been consuming mostly meat from cows raised by friends. Can you comment on this? — J.G.B., Alabama.
A. All we know is that “Halal” is an Arabic word that refers to food that is permissible to eat under Islamic law. For meat to be certified “halal,” it cannot be a forbidden cut, such as meat from hindquarters, or meat such as pork. The slaughter of a halal animal, says the website www.thekitchn.com, must follow certain guidelines:
Allah’s name must be pronounced during slaughter.
The instrument must be very sharp to ensure humane slaughter. The animal must be slit at the throat.
The animal must not be unconscious.
The animal must be hung upside down and allowed to bleed dry. Eating blood is not halal.
These steps must be accomplished by a Muslim or the People of the Book (Christian or Jew). Many observant Muslims find kosher meat acceptable.
The animal must have been fed a natural diet that did not contain animal byproducts.
Q. My daughter is in the process of getting a divorce. Their grounds, if they needed any, are incompatibility. They have tried counseling, without success. Before my conversion, we were members of the Episcopal Church and my daughter was baptized and married in that church. Her soon-to-be ex-husband is Presbyterian.
My daughter has been friends with a young woman and her brother for some years. Lately, the relationship with the brother has developed into a romantic attraction (not an adulterous affair, however). I feel that there is a strong possibility that they may marry when my daughter is free to do so. This young man is devout Orthodox and has spoken to his priest regarding his feelings toward my daughter.
My daughter feels confident that her divorce would be acceptable to the Orthodox Church and that she may remarry in that church. My question is, if this divorce and remarriage is acceptable in our sister church, but perhaps not in the Catholic Church, should I attend the wedding? — Name and State Withheld.
A. The question you need to ask is whether divorce is acceptable to Jesus, and the answer of course is no. Speaking to a crowd one day, Jesus told them: “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and the one who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery” (Luke 16:18). On another occasion, when Jesus was asked if it were “lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatsoever,” He replied:
“Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Matt. 19:4-6).
Twenty centuries later, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, following the command of Jesus, says that “divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death. Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is the sign. Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery” (n. 2384).
The Catechism goes on to say that “divorce is immoral also because it introduces disorder into the family and into society. This disorder brings grave harm to the deserted spouse, to children traumatized by the separation of their parents and often torn between them, and because of its contagious effect which makes it truly a plague on society” (n. 2385).
So if you were to attend your divorced daughter’s attempted remarriage, you would be turning your back on Jesus and the Church He established to guide us in our moral decisions. You would also be approving the entry of your daughter into a permanent state of adultery, a grave sin that will separate her from God. If you decline to attend, on the other hand, you will no doubt hurt your daughter’s feelings, but what is more important — her feelings or the truth handed down to us by the Son of God? This is a very difficult situation for you, and we will pray that you have the courage to make the right decision.
Q. There is a parish in Texas where the priest’s dogs accompany him to the altar and stay throughout the Mass. This just seems like a great distraction away from the whole focus of the Mass, which is Our Eucharistic Lord. It would seem that people’s attention would be drawn to what the dogs are doing. Though the dogs may be gentle and endearing, there is a time and place for them and not at Mass because of the distraction they would naturally cause.
Does this seem like an egregious situation and a lack of respect toward the Holy Eucharist? — J.H., Arizona.
A. Unless the priest has seeing or hearing problems and needs the dogs to help him (shouldn’t one dog be enough if this is the case?), we can think of no good reason for having the animals in the sanctuary during Mass. We don’t remember reading about the presence of any dogs at the Last Supper.