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June 14, 2019 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Editor’s Note: Commenting on the Vatican accord last year to give the Communist regime in Red China a say in the naming of new Catholic bishops, Fr. George Rutler of the Church of St. Michael in New York City offered these trenchant comments in a recent bulletin:
“While the Holy See invokes two thousand years of diplomatic experience, China beats that by more than twice, and has treated the 2018 agreement as tissue, tearing down churches and persecuting faithful Catholics, not to mention banishing over a million Uighur Muslims and Falun Gong cultists to concentration camps. The issue is not theology but control. The Vatican secretary of state said that ‘an act of faith is needed’ for the agreement to work, but the heroic Cardinal Zen replied that a ‘miracle’ is needed, and miracles are rare in Rome and Beijing.
“Diplomacy is a delicate art, and there have been saints among Catholic emissaries, though few remember Eusebius of Murano, Conrad of Ascoli, Anastasius Apocrisarius, and Fulrad of Saint Denis. There remains the haunting specter of the only diplomat among the twelve apostles, ‘who by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place’ (Acts 1:25).”

Q. When saying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy by oneself, is it more appropriate to say “for the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on me and on the whole world,” or “have mercy on us and on the whole world”? If one is praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet by oneself, who would the “us” be? — G.P., via e-mail.
A. We would stick to the official prayer and use the word “us” because we are linked with our brothers and sisters in the Communion of Saints and are including all of them in our prayers. Just as when we pray the Our Father, we don’t say “me,” but rather “give us our daily bread, “forgive us our trespasses,” “lead us not into temptation,” and “deliver us from evil.”
The “Our” of the Our Father, like the “us” in the last four petitions, leaves no one out. It should overcome all divisions and grievances and make us one family. For if God is “our” Father, then we are all His children — all brothers and sisters. So in asking God to “have mercy on us and on the whole world” we are showing concern for the salvation of our brothers and sisters, as well as our own salvation.

Q. Regarding your recent reply on speaking in tongues, I’m no expert, but doesn’t the practice supposedly copy what the apostles did on the first Pentecost after the Holy Spirit enlightened them? What the apostles did was the presumed opposite of what the modern version is. They spoke in their native language, but everyone within earshot understood what they were saying, regardless of what language they were familiar with. What people nowadays do is speak in “gibberish,” which nobody understands, including the speaker. — F.W.R., Florida.
A. In his commentary on the Acts of the Apostles (cf. p. 46), Fr. William S. Kurz, SJ, said that “the tongues reported at Pentecost appear to be a unique phenomenon, different from the gift of tongues that St. Paul discusses in 1 Cor. 12-14, and probably also from tongues in Acts 10:46; 19:6. At Pentecost, the disciples are able to speak and be understood in many other languages. In contrast, Paul indicates that in common prayer at Corinth, speech in tongues is not understood by others without an additional gift of interpretation (1 Cor. 14:2, 6-9, 13-19, 27-28).”
Fr. Kurz said that “Paul affirms tongues as a charism for prayer and praise (1 Cor. 14:4-5, 18), but since such a tongue is unintelligible and therefore not useful to the listeners, he urges the Corinthians to prefer the gift of prophecy, declaring messages that can strengthen the faith of others. The event of tongues at Pentecost is actually a form of prophecy, since it is proclaiming ‘the mighty acts of God’ — what God has done in Jesus Christ — in a way that the listeners can understand (Acts 2:11).”
There may be people today who sincerely believe that they have the “gift of tongues,” but we should pay attention to what Paul says: “If you, because of speaking in tongues, do not utter intelligible speech, how will anyone know what is being said? For you will be talking to the air” (14:9). He says that “I give thanks to God that I speak in tongues more than any of you, but in the church I would rather speak five words with my mind, so as to instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (14:18-19).

Q. In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles today, it says that the letter sent to Gentile converts urged them “to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right” (15:29). Can you explain the meaning of this passage? — M.G., via e-mail.
A. In his commentary on Acts, which was mentioned in the previous reply, Fr. William Kurz gives this explanation (cf. pp. 238-239):
“These four conditions have biblical precedent. They are drawn from those stipulations in the law of Moses that applied not only to Israelites but also to the Gentile resident aliens who lived among them (Lev. 17:8-18:30). Pollution from idols refers to eating meat that had been sacrificed to pagan gods — a common affair in the ancient pagan world, even for meat sold in the marketplace, and something that remained a temptation for Christian converts (see 1 Cor. 8:1-13; 10:18-33; Romans 14).
It may also allude to immoral practices in pagan temple worship. Blood refers to consuming anything with blood in it (such as blood sausage), strictly forbidden in the law of Moses because blood, as the seat of life, is sacred (Gen. 9:4; Lev. 17:13-14; 19:26). The meat of strangled animals refers, similarly, to meat from animals not properly drained of blood (Lev. 17:13-14).”
Fr. Kurz said that the term translated as unlawful marriage interprets “the Greek porneia as referring to intermarriage within closer degrees of kinship than was allowed by the law of Moses (see Lev. 18:6-18). But porneia, literally, sexual immorality, can also refer more broadly to the various forms of sexual immorality mentioned in Lev. 18:6-23). If Gentile Christians break from their pagan past by avoiding these four kinds of defilement, Jews and Gentiles together will be able to enjoy fellowship in one community and share in a single Eucharist.”

Q. I know that a half a dozen dioceses still celebrate the Ascension on Thursday, but most dioceses have moved the feast to the following Sunday. Why? — D.M.D., via e-mail.
A. Probably for the same reason that the bishops decided that certain holy days (the Assumption, All Saints, and the Immaculate Conception), if they fall on Saturday or Monday, are not obligatory. My goodness, we don’t want to compel Catholics to worship the Lord two days in a row, do we? Or to celebrate the Ascension on a weekday when it can be moved to Sunday, when most Catholics don’t go to Mass anyway? This continued dumbing down of Catholic worship and practice has certainly led many Catholics to believe that it no longer matters whether they go to church or not. And it helps to explain why the second-largest religious group in the country is made up of lapsed Catholics.
Contrast this comfortable Catholicism, which makes few if any demands on its adherents, with the courageous Catholicism of our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted and executed in great numbers in the Middle East and Africa simply because they refuse to turn their backs on Jesus and bravely go to Mass on Sundays, knowing full well that they are risking their lives.
Pope Benedict often referred to the martyrs of a village in North Africa who were killed after refusing to stop attending Mass on Sunday. When their persecutors threatened them with death unless they stopped going to Mass, those brave Catholics said, “It is not possible for us to live without the Eucharist.”
That was 1,700 years ago, but in the Iraqi town of Mosul a car bomb exploded outside the Church of St. Paul in 2003. Two Mass-goers were killed and many were injured. Talking to reporters afterwards, Fr. Ragheed Ganni said that “Mosul Christians are not theologians; some are even illiterate. And yet, inside of us for many generations one truth has become embedded: Without the Eucharist, we cannot live.”
This holy priest was shot to death by terrorists in Mosul in 2007.

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