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December 31, 2021 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. I am attaching a prayer card that I recently discovered and wondered if you are familiar with it. — D.M., Virginia.
A. Yes, we are familiar with the Christmas Anticipation Prayer and have said it daily each December for many years. Also known as the St. Andrew Christmas Prayer because it begins on the Feast of St. Andrew (November 30) and ends on December 24, the prayer is to be recited fifteen times a day (all at once or perhaps in three segments, say, at each meal), while asking God to grant us some favor in honor of His Son’s birth. The text of the prayer follows:
“Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.”

Q. As a longtime reader of your “Replies,” it is apparent that many of your followers are very much interested in Purgatory, as we all should be. There are many books on the subject, but two that I have found to be most informative are Purgatory: Explained by Lives and Legends of the Saints by Fr. F.X. Schouppe, SJ, an eminent nineteenth-century theologian, and Visitors From Purgatory: Eyewitness Accounts by Dennis Mary Chikata of Nigeria. Both books discuss the period of time souls may spend in Purgatory, the forms of suffering endured by the souls, the importance of our prayers for them, and many other interesting details. I would appreciate any comments you may have. — H.D.G., Wisconsin.
A. We have read Fr. Schouppe’s very interesting book but not the one by Mr. Chikata. Other books about Purgatory that are worth reading include What Really Happens After We Die? by James Papandrea, Purgatory Is For Real by Karlo Broussard, St. Catherine of Genoa’s Treatise on Purgatory, and the section on Purgatory in Peter Kreeft’s book Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Heaven.

Q. I am glad to see that you are answering a few questions in between your teachings in The Wanderer. It’s a good juxtaposition. My question is whether it is more efficacious to wear the brown cloth scapular or the scapular medal? I and a lot of my friends wear the medal because of sensitive skin, and I believe one of the Popes allowed the medal in place of the cloth. But I have heard that the brown scapular is more protective. Your thoughts? — S.A., California.
A. The Church recognizes some twenty scapulars for devotional use, with the brown scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel probably the most common. In 1910, Pope St. Pius X authorized the substitution of a scapular medal for a cloth scapular. It may be worn, said the Holy Father, “either around the neck or otherwise, provided it be in a becoming manner, a single medal of metal….The right side of this medal must show the image of Our Most Holy Redeemer, Jesus Christ, showing His Sacred Heart, and the obverse that of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary.”
Scapulars are sacramentals, that is, holy objects that can bring graces to those who go through an enrollment ceremony and who use them correctly. Their efficacy depends not on the object itself, but on the faith and devotion of those who wear the scapular. Wearing one will not automatically keep a person out of Hell or ward off the power of the Devil; the person must sincerely try to lead a holy life and seek God’s mercy and forgiveness if he falls into sin. A person wears a scapular not as some magical token, but as a holy reminder that our eternal destination is Heaven and that we have a responsibility to live in such a way as to reach that destination.
As for the Blessed Mother’s promise that those who wear the brown Carmelite scapular “shall not suffer eternal fire and, if wearing it when they die, they shall be saved,” Pope Pius XI said that this doesn’t mean that one can lead a sinful life and expect to benefit from this promise. He put the promise into perspective when he wrote:
“Although it is very true that the Blessed Virgin loves all who love her, nevertheless those who wish to have the Blessed Mother as a helper at the hour of death must in life merit such a signal favor by abstaining from sin and laboring in her honor.”
In other words, the type of scapular one wears is not as important as the kind of life one lives, and no scapular is more protective than another. Our Blessed Lady will assist all sincere disciples of her Son.

Q. Pope Francis recently said that he had never personally refused Communion to anyone, but if a person stubbornly refuses to repent of such a serious sin as abortion, shouldn’t that person be denied the Eucharist? St. Paul warned about the consequences of receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord unworthily (cf. 1 Cor. 11:27-32), and he also said that “neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). So is a priest doing a known unrepentant sinner any favor by giving him Communion? And what about the soul of the priest who profanes the Eucharist in such a way? Lastly, has the excommunication of any unrepentant sinner ever led any of them to repent? — A.G., Maryland.
A. We can’t cite any particular cases regarding the last question, but we are sure excommunication has prompted some grave sinners to turn back to God. The penalty of excommunication is meant to be medicinal, that is, to show the sinner how wrong their action was and to prompt them to repent and seek reconciliation with the Church.
As for the other questions, the priest is certainly not doing a grave sinner any favor by giving him the Eucharist since the person then is guilty of the additional sin of sacrilege, that is, showing contempt or irreverence for something sacred, such as the Body of the Lord. And if the person who approaches the altar is known publicly as a grave sinner, then the priest is obligated under canon 915 to refuse him Communion. By giving Communion to a person known to the priest to be someone who “obstinately persist[s] in manifest grave sin,” the priest himself is cooperating in the sin of sacrilege.

Q. You told us many years ago not to contribute to the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, and we haven’t. But what about the Propagation of the Faith, Catholic Relief Services, and Catholic Charities? Can you give us an update? — Name and State Withheld.
A. Michael Hichborn of the Lepanto Institute continues to monitor CCHD and reported last month that multiple groups who receive funds from the Catholic Campaign “are members of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP). The problem is that NCRP is very active in working for the total decriminalization of abortion.” It has opposed “heartbeat” laws in Texas and elsewhere as “unconstitutional violations to abortion access.” Based on his extensive research, Hichborn said that “it is time to END the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.”
Writing in these pages a few weeks ago, Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, said that he had stopped collecting for CCHD and Catholic Relief Services because “there are too many allegations of corruption, of those Catholic entities promoting evil contrary to the Catholic Faith. They are allegations…but they are significant enough that I have said our dollars will go to our local Catholic Charities that receives no funding from anyone except you.”
Bishop Strickland said that “corruption must be addressed. If the allegations are false, I will be the first to say the bishops of the USCCB need to sue those making false allegations.” His concern, however, is that “the only response to 150 pages, in some cases of allegations of deep corruption, is a one-page letter saying, ‘Trust us.’ Too many don’t. We need proof. We need truth!”

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