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January 24, 2020 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. Regarding your comments on the three Wise Men in a recent Wanderer, Fr. Dwight Longenecker has written a book on the subject — Mystery of the Magi: The Quest to Identify the Three Wise Men. Based on his research, he concludes that they were diplomats from the kingdom of Nabatea in northern Arabia coming to pay homage to the newborn King and maintain good relations with Herod. The book is most interesting, and I believe that Fr. Longenecker makes a compelling case for his conclusion. It’s available on Kindle, as well as hard copy. — J.D., via e-mail.
A. Thank you for the information.
Q. Does the Catholic Church still consider the church a “house of prayer” and not a “den of thieves”? Or is it now acceptable to rent out a church or make it available for civic musical productions as long as the Blessed Sacrament is moved somewhere else? — C.S., Arizona.
A. Canon 1210 of the Code of Canon Law spells out the universal regulation governing the use of churches:
“In a sacred place only those things are to be permitted which serve to exercise or promote worship, piety, and religion. Anything out of harmony with the holiness of the place is forbidden. The Ordinary may, however, for individual cases permit other uses, provided they are not contrary to the sacred character of the place.”
A letter from the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, dated November 5, 1987, offered further details:
“The principle that the use of the church must not offend the sacredness of the place determines the criteria by which the doors of a church may be opened to a concert of sacred or religious music, as also the concomitant exclusion of every other type of music. The most beautiful symphonic music, for example, is not in itself of religious character.
“The definition of sacred or religious music depends explicitly on the original intended use of the musical pieces or songs, and likewise on their content. It is not legitimate to provide for the execution in the church of music which is not of religious inspiration and which was composed with a view to performance in a certain precise secular context, irrespective of whether the music would be judged classical or contemporary, of high quality or of a popular nature.
“On the one hand, such performances would not respect the sacred character of the church, and on the other would result in the music being performed in an unfitting context.”
Noting that it is up to the local bishop to safeguard the use of sacred space, the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship said that the ordinary can specify the following conditions:
“a) Requests are to be made in writing, in good time, indicating the date and time of the proposed concert, the program giving the works, and the names of the composers.
“b) After having received the authorization of the Ordinary, the rectors and parish priests of the churches should arrange details with the choir and orchestra so that the requisite norms are observed.
“c) Entrance to the church must be without payment and open to all.
“d) The performers and the audience must be dressed in a manner which is fitting to the sacred character of the place.
“e) The musicians and the singers should not be placed in the sanctuary. The greatest respect is to be shown to the altar, the president’s chair, and the ambo.
“f) The Blessed Sacrament should be, as far as possible, reserved in a side chapel or in another safe and suitably adorned place (cf. canon 938 §4).
“g) The concert should be presented or introduced not only with historical or technical details, but also in a way that fosters a deeper understanding and an interior participation on the part of the listeners.
“h) The organizer of the concert shall declare in writing that he accepts legal responsibility for expenses involved, for leaving the church in order, and for any possible damage incurred.”

Q. In the reading at Mass today from the First Letter of St. John (2:18-21), he says that “it is the last hour; and just as you heard that the antichrist was coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. Thus we know this is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of our number; if they had been, they would have remained with us. Their desertion shows that none of them was of our number.” What does John mean? — T.H., via e-mail.
A. He means that there were some Christians who broke away from the early Church because they did not believe that Jesus was God and Messiah, and they tried to take others with them. In verse 22 of this chapter, John asks, “Who is the liar? Whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Whoever denies the Father and the Son, this is an antichrist.” Note that John is talking about “an antichrist,” of which there have been many through the centuries, but it is Church teaching that there will be a capital “A” Antichrist, a real person who will engage in a final apocalyptic struggle with Christ before the end of the world.
St. Paul doesn’t use the word “Antichrist,” but he talks about “the lawless one…the one doomed to perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god and object of worship, so as to seat himself in the temple of God, claiming that he is a god” (2 Thess. 2:3-4). Paul says that “the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord [Jesus] will kill with the breath of his mouth and render powerless by the manifestation of his coming, the one whose coming springs from the power of Satan in every mighty deed and in signs and wonders that lie, and in every wicked deceit for those who are perishing because they have not accepted the love of truth so that they may be saved. Therefore, God is sending them a deceiving power so that they may believe the lie, that all who have not believed the truth but have approved wrongdoing may be condemned” (2 Thess. 2:8-12).
Commenting on these verses, the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible says that the lawless one is “a man of extraordinary evil. When he comes, he will deify himself, claiming to be God (2:4); he will dazzle the wicked with displays of his power (2:9); and he will deceive the world with falsehoods of every kind (2:10). Most identify this figure with ‘the antichrist’ prophesied by John (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 1:7) (CCC, nn. 675-77).” The commentary also says that “the Antichrist will declare himself God and demand to be worshiped,” but “Christ will descend from heaven as a divine Warrior to destroy the man of lawlessness with a word and trample the last remnants of evil underfoot (1 Cor. 15:24).”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 675) says that “before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers [cf. Luke 18:8; Matt. 24:12].” The persecution of the Church, the Catechism continues, “will unveil the ‘mystery of iniquity’ in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh [cf. 2 Thess. 2:4-12; 1 Thess. 5:2-3; 2 John 7; 1 John 2:18, 22].”
In paragraph 676, the Catechism says that “the Antichrist’s deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment.”
After going through “this final Passover,” says the Catechism (n. 677), the Church “will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection [cf. Rev 19:1-9]. The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God’s victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven [cf. Rev. 13:8; 20:7-10; 21:2-4]. God’s triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world [cf. Rev. 20:12; 2 Peter 3:12-13].”

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Beware of those who claim to be progressive and yet place the environment. certain social ills, same sex attraction and also social ills that have plagued us for years on the same level as abortion. Makes no sense.

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Catholic Replies

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