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June 11, 2021 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. When was the Catholic Church born? Was it when Jesus proclaimed, “The kingdom of God is at hand,” when the side of Jesus was pierced and blood and water flowed, or at Pentecost? — J.B., Washington State.
A. According to Pope Pius XII, all three of those events signaled the birth of the Church. Writing in his 1943 encyclical on the Mystical Body (Mystici Corporis), the Holy Father said:
“As We set out briefly to expound in what sense Christ founded His social Body, the following thought of Our predecessor of happy memory, Leo XIII, occurs to Us at once: ‘The Church which, already conceived, came forth from the side of the second Adam in His sleep on the Cross, first showed Herself before the eyes of men on the great day of Pentecost.’ For the Divine Redeemer began the building of the mystical temple of the Church when by His preaching He made known His precepts; He completed it when He hung glorified on the Cross; and He manifested and proclaimed it when He sent the Holy Spirit as Paraclete in visible form on His disciples” (n. 26).

Q. Recently I heard a claim that new historical research has shown that Pope Pius XII was involved in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler at the height of World War II. I was wondering if there is any truth to this claim. — M.S., via e-mail.
A. Yes, it is true, and the details can be found in Mark Riebling’s 2015 book Church of Spies: The Pope’s Secret War Against Hitler. The main premise of the book, said Riebling, “is that Pius opted to resist Hitler with covert action instead of overt protest. As a result, he became involved in three separate plots by German dissidents to remove Hitler.” The Pope himself did not try to kill Hitler, said Riebling, but he was “a key cog in conspiracies to remove a ruler who is a kind of Antichrist because good people ask for his help, and he searches his conscience, and he agrees to become an intermediary for the plotters — their foreign agent, as it were — and, thereby, he becomes an accessory to their plots.”
The plotters included Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, the head of German military intelligence who had turned against Hitler; Munich attorney Josef Muller, whose business trips to Rome enabled him to convey information to aides of Pius XII; and Fr. Augustin Rosch, head of the Jesuit order in Northern Germany and a longtime foe of the Gestapo.
None of the plots succeeded because Hitler had “the luck of the devil,” said Ronald J. Rychlak, professor of law at the University of Mississippi and author of Hitler, the War and the Pope. He said that Hitler “canceled speeches without knowing that snipers were in position and ready to take him out. He missed parades where bombs were set to explode. Plotters attempted to kill him by blowing up his plane, but the bomb didn’t go off. By shifting a meeting from a concrete bunker to a wooden barracks, Hitler evaded another attempt, memorialized in the movie Valkyrie.”
Hitler eventually killed himself in an underground bunker in Berlin in 1945 as the Allied forces were entering the city.

Q. In doing some research, there seems to be more than a little controversy as to whether the Church has fully condoned the reception of the Holy Eucharist in one’s hands. People have expressed concerns about lack of reverence, the hands of the communicant not being sanctified, and the possibility of fragments of the Host falling to the ground. This also seems to bring into question the use of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. Can you help clarify these matters? — A.C. Tennessee.
A. Receiving Communion only on the tongue was the norm for centuries until the 1960s, when certain countries in Europe, and some parishes in the United States, began experimenting with Communion in the hand. Pope St. Paul VI wanted the traditional practice of receiving on the tongue to continue, but he said that Communion in the hand could be permitted in countries where two-thirds of the bishops petitioned Rome for permission. Once that door was cracked open, authorization for Communion in the hand in the United States followed quickly in 1977.
The danger of abuses, and even of sacrilegious uses of the Holy Eucharist, while not unknown when the Eucharist was received only on the tongue, is greater of course with Communion in the hand. In a 1980 letter on the Eucharist (Dominicae Cenae), Pope St. John Paul II noted that “cases of a deplorable lack of respect toward the Eucharistic species” had been reported to him. He traced the blame for this “not only to the individuals guilty of such behavior, but also to the pastors of the Church who have not been vigilant enough regarding the attitude of the faithful toward the Eucharist” (n. 11).
The attitude of the faithful toward the Holy Eucharist is not much better today, when many Catholics don’t even believe in the Real Presence of Jesus. Maybe reverence could be restored by requiring all Catholics to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, and by good catechesis on the meaning of this profoundly important sacrament.
As for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (not of the Eucharist), the General Instruction of the Roman Missal says that “in the distribution of Communion, the priest may be assisted by other Priests who happen to be present. If such Priests are not present and there is a truly large number of communicants, the Priest may call upon extraordinary ministers to assist him, that is, duly instituted acolytes or even other faithful who have been duly deputed for this purpose. In case of necessity, the Priest may depute suitable faithful for this single occasion” (n. 162).
The GIRM goes on to say that “these ministers should not approach the altar before the Priest has received Communion, and they are always to receive from the hands of the Priest Celebrant the vessel containing the species of the Most Holy Eucharist for distribution to the faithful.”
In the USCCB Norms for the Distribution of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds, it says that “Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion should receive sufficient spiritual, theological, and practical preparation to fulfill their role with knowledge and reverence. . . . Their number should not be increased beyond what is required for the orderly and reverent distribution of the Body and Blood of the Lord. In all matters, such Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion should follow the guidance of the Diocesan Bishop” (n. 28).

Q. Regarding your reply about God answering prayers “outside of time,” I had a co-worker who died suddenly at an early age as I was preparing to witness to him. I wondered if my prayers could have reached back and benefited him before his death. A priest I asked said no, his chance ended with his last breath. I’m hoping the priest might be mistaken, and I wouldn’t presume to know where my co-worker ended up, although his lifestyle didn’t exactly fit the idea of someone heading in the right direction. — T.M., Michigan.
A. If you were to walk through a cemetery, noting the dates on the stones regarding when a particular person died, you might see chronological dates of, say, 1900, 1950, 2000, and 2020. You would see each of the stones over the period of time it took you to walk through the cemetery. But if you flew over the cemetery in a helicopter, you would see all of the stones at once. That’s how God sees our lives and the choices we make, not over a span of time but all at once because He is outside of time.
So God sees all of our prayers at once, whether they were uttered years ago or today. He would know that you were going to pray for your co-worker, and He would take those prayers into account and in some way inspire your friend to repent of his sinful lifestyle before he died. The priest was right that your friend’s chance ended with his last breath, but what we don’t know is whether the prayers you said for him motivated some repentance before he took his last breath.
We know that God wants everyone to be saved (cf. 1 Tim. 2:4), and perhaps your prayers helped put your co-worker on the road to Heaven.

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