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January 16, 2015 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Editor’s Note: Regarding a recent question about there no longer being a canon law requirement that women wear veils or head coverings in church, we said that women can still wear such coverings if they wish.
Now Taylor Flanagan, a senior at Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, has spoken out about her involvement in the “Wear the Veil” campaign that is being sponsored by the Latin Mass Society. “Wearing the veil, in addition to being a beautiful tradition in the Church, provides women with the opportunity to show an example of true womanhood to the world,” said Flanagan.
She said that the campaign “will enhance and impact spiritual life not only at Belmont Abbey, but at other colleges across the country. Many people are simply not aware of the beautiful tradition of wearing the veil in church and have never been exposed to it. Once the message is spread, then many will share in the limitless grace that it can offer. Our culture today promotes a poor image of women, and it is oftentimes a degradation to our very nature. Therefore, I think it is particularly important for young women to make this traditional yet powerful statement in order to regain much of the beauty that has been lost.”

Q. Concerning the manner of Jesus’ birth, you quoted St. Bernard as saying that the child born to Mary did not tarnish the beauty of Mary’s virginity. I have been taught that Mary was born, lived, and died a virgin, and certainly your response confirms that. However, in Matthew’s Gospel (1:24-25), he says that “when Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.”
The footnote to this says “until she bore a son” was used by Matthew because he was “concerned to emphasize that Joseph was not responsible for the conception of Jesus. The Greek word translated ‘until’ does not imply normal marital conduct after Jesus’ birth, nor does it exclude it.” I find this somewhat confusing. Does the Church have an approved position on the virginity of Mary or not? — R.H.T., via e-mail.
A. The Church certainly does have an approved position, namely that Mary was a virgin before, during, and after the birth of Jesus (cf. the Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], n. 499). That’s why we refer to her as “ever-Virgin.” The Greek word may not specifically exclude normal marital conduct between Mary and Joseph, but the New American Bible footnote should have said what the footnote in the Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition said:
“Here Matthew emphasizes only that Joseph had no involvement in Mary’s pregnancy before Jesus’ birth. Mary’s perpetual virginity is firmly established in Church tradition. Its doctrinal formulation is traced to the Lateran Synod of AD 649 and was reaffirmed in 1968 by Pope Paul VI (The Credo of the People of God, n. 14; CCC nn. 499-501).”
As for the word “until,” we tend to interpret that today to mean that something happened afterward. But in the Bible “until” (or “till”) meant only that something had not happened up to that point in time. It did not imply, as it does today, that some action happened later. The Greek word for “until” is heos, which always refers to the past and never to the future.
Consider an example from the Old Testament that shows how absurd this interpretation can be if the modern sense is applied to the Bible. In 2 Samuel 6:23, it says that “Saul’s daughter Michal was childless to [till] the day of her death.” Does this mean that she had children after her death? Of course not. In Luke 2:36-37, it says that the prophetess Anna had “lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.” Does this imply that Anna got married again after the age of eighty-four? No.
So, too, saying that Joseph had no relations with Mary “until she bore a son” does not mean that the couple had relations after the birth of Jesus.

Q. Some of my friends are very much involved in yoga and see it as a good exercise program. But aren’t there some spiritual problems for Catholics who practice yoga? — M.K., Florida.
A. In his book Catholics and the New Age, Fr. Mitch Pacwa said that the word “yoga” is Sanskrit for “yoke” or “union” and, in Hinduism, it describes “the general category of various kinds of disciplines meant to unite a person with the divine. Yoga can refer to physical (hatha), mental (raja), sexual (tantra), or other disciplines to achieve enlightenment” (p. 225). He cautioned Catholics to remember that “Hindus did not devise these exercises for athletic limbering or muscle building. All were meant to lead the practitioner to enlightenment and the awareness of his or her inner divinity” (p. 33).
Obviously, therefore, said Fr. Pacwa, Catholics should avoid getting involved in yoga to seek enlightenment or awareness of one’s “inner divinity” since it could lead to involvement in New Age activities.
There is a great deal more about the spiritual dangers of yoga in the book Spiritual Deceptions in the Church and the Culture by Moira Noonan and Anne Feaster. Miss Noonan spent many years promoting yoga and other New Age spiritualities before rejecting that life and coming back to the Catholic Church. She described her sometimes harrowing journey from darkness to light in her first book Ransomed From Darkness: The New Age, Christian Faith and the Battle for Souls. Noonan now devotes her time to exposing these false spiritualities through radio and television appearances and talks at international conferences.
In Spiritual Deception, she noted that more than 20 million Americans are involved in yoga, 82 percent of them women, and that they spend more than $10 billion a year on classes, wellness programs, equipment, CDs and DVDs, conferences, festivals, and retreats. The true goal of all forms of yoga, said Noonan, “is to attain self-enlightenment through the discipline of the system used to unify the self with the Supreme Being, which the yogis call Atman (Hindu term for the individual soul).” She said that “the basic goal of yoga is the same: union with the ultimate reality, the impersonal energy force, god-force, or universal energy. Hindus believe that when this is accomplished, the spirit is no longer bound to the body; it is free to roam the netherworld, guided by a spiritual entity” (p. 58).
While Hatha Yoga, the most popular form of yoga practiced in North America, “is presented as nothing more than a stretching program,” said Noonan, “in reality it is very different from jogging, jazzercise, aerobics, or Pilates, for in the discipline of yoga, the goal is to transcend the body through postures and breathing techniques, to use the body to detach oneself from the body. In yoga the belief is that the spirit is held in bondage by the physical body, and the objective is to free oneself from that bondage. Sacred Scripture does not tell us to try to detach ourselves from our bodies or that the body is evil; this is Gnostic teaching. St. Paul teaches us in 1 Cor. 3:16 and 6:19 that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and that ‘the immoral man sins against his own body’ (1 Cor. 3:18). Thus, the body itself is not evil; sin is evil” (p. 61).
Not only can yoga open up the desire to practice Eastern religions, said Noonan, but it can “lead individuals out of their faith as it did for me, sending me further into apostasy at first and then occultism.” She said that “most Christians who take yoga classes are not aware that they are in a practice whose intention is to connect to the universe, which is a belief of Hinduism, not a belief of Judaism or Christianity. . . . As Christians, we know that we are not divine, that only God is divine; therefore, this view is contrary to the Christian Faith” (p.63).
To those who think that yoga can be “Christianized” by adding quotations from Scripture or prayers to Jesus, Noonan said that “this is mixing two religions, which is syncretism, and the Catholic Church warns against syncretism.” She said that those who think they can mix Christianity with non-Christian religions should heed the words of St. Paul: “Do not bear the yoke with unbelievers. For what has justice in common with iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what part has the believer with the unbeliever?” (2 Cor. 6:14-16).
The book includes warnings against yoga from such Vatican documents as Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the “New Age,” which was issued in 2003 by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and the Letter to Bishops on Certain Aspects of Christian Meditation, which was issued in 1989 by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

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