Questions and Answers
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Have a Question?
We all have questions about our faith, about the sacraments and the celebration of Mass. Often other people may have the same question, and just did not know where to inquire. Our Question & Answer Forum provides common questions about the practice of our Catholic faith.
Don’t see your questions here? Fr. Jerry will be happy to respond to questions you email, then share your inquiry anonymously and his response on this web page to help others.
A friend of mine stated that a priest told her every church was required to have a crucifix on the wall behind the altar. I have been in several churches of fairly recent construction and this is not always true. In some of these churches the risen Christ is displayed. I do not find either way to be troubling; I am just curious as to what is correct or if both are acceptable.
I could find no requirement that there be a crucifix on the wall behind the altar in every church.
The General Instruction on the Roman Missal (#270), however, does require that there be a cross, clearly visible to the congregation, either on the altar or near it.
The Appendix to this Instruction, for the dioceses of the United States, says, "Only one cross should be carried in a procession in order to give greater dignity and reverence to the cross. It is desirable to place the cross near the altar so it may serve as the cross of the altar. Otherwise (if there is another cross already in the altar area) it should be put away during the services."
These documents also warn against multiplying the same images and symbols because in doing that the images and symbols lose their impact. Thus, Environment and Art in Catholic Worship, written by the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, tells us, "A symbol claims human attention and consciousness with a power that seems adversely affected by overdose. For example, the multiplication of crosses in a liturgical space or as ornamentation on objects may lessen rather than increase attention to that symbol."
The bishops’ committee also urges, "A cross is a basic symbol in any Christian liturgical celebration. The advantage of a processional cross with a floor standard, in contrast to one that is permanently hung or affixed to a wall, is that it can be placed differently, according to the celebration and the other environmental factors."
The iconography (statues and images) in newer churches, just as in older church buildings, is influenced by many things. Some examples are national and ethnic groups who use the church with their particular patrons and forms of piety, the religious order staffing a parish, or the saint or mystery for which a church is named.
Thus, it should not be surprising to see a mural or statue of the risen Jesus in a church named for the Resurrection. The same would be true of scenes and statues in a church named for the Ascension or Annunciation.
But when I talked to a liturgist, who is consulted on the art and architecture for many new churches, he knew of no general trend to include statues or pictures of the resurrected Christ in all churches. Churches use different art or hangings behind the altar and in the sanctuary area.
Many Christians pray only to Jesus, so why do Catholics pray to the saints also?
Good question and it has been a controversy between Christians for many years. Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and humankind. That must be said first and most importantly. No one can and should take the place of Jesus in the life of the Christian. Jesus established a church which he built upon the apostles and the disciples. Through their work, prayers and sacrifices the message of Jesus spread throughout the world. We are all reaping the benefits of their love and devotion. But in saying this, we are implying that Jesus did see the need of other intermediaries in the spread of the Gospel and faith. We wished that the community of believers have that "human dimension if', both in this world and in the next, for death does not cease our involvement with the body of Christ, the Church. We are to love one another, assist one another, and pray with one another. He said, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, their I am in their midst." But this directive doesn't just mean here in this life, but in the communion of the saints (those who believe in God), those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith. In this sense, when we pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, the Apostles, our own special Saints, we pray with them and they with us. Together we join the fellowship of believers and pray for our needs and the needs of the whole world. Maybe the problem in understanding is our use of the terms “praying to” and “praying with.” Catholic Christians pray with the other members of the Church who have gone before us and truly form a blessed communion in a fellowship divine
I went to my daughter’s parish last year and a priest was Confirming some adults. I thought only Bishops could Confirm?
You are partially correct. Yes, the ordinary minister/celebrant of the Sacrament of Confirmation is the Bishop, however, he can delegate any priest to Confirm in his place. In the Middle Ages, as it became less and less an occasion for the bishop of the growing dioceses to Baptize new members, the formal rite of Baptism was entrusted to the local parish priests. People saw their Pastor (Bishop) very rarely if at all. In order to have a presence in the life of the Christian, the Sacrament of Confirmation was “reserved” to the Bishop of the diocese with the hope that at least on this occasion he would have a “hands on” presence in their church lives. This is still the case in many dioceses today. Bishops come at least once a year to the local parish to Confirm the children who have been prepared. But as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (R.C.I.A.) became more and more the norm of adult catechesis, the Bishop was not able to be in every parish on the same night, i.e., the Easter Vigil. The delegation to celebrate Confirmation was given to the principle celebrant of the Easter Vigil, so that there could be a continuous flow from Baptism to Confirmation to Holy Eucharist, the Sacraments of Initiation. In some diocese, this delegation to priests has been extended to Pentecost Sunday also, but only for adults and not catechetical age children.
I am attracted to the Catholic faith because of the sacraments. My reluctance is that I enjoy worshiping the Lord in a more jubilant fashion than what I have seen in the Mass—not to mention that I do not understand much.
I enjoy praise songs. Is there anything wrong with other kinds of worship instead of the Mass?
Although there is nothing wrong with other kinds of worship besides Mass, the Eucharist is the greatest type of worship possible. At Vatican Council II, the bishops described it as “the source and summit of Christian life” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, #11).
In one sense, the Mass is a divine action in that it is God’s love that is active, God who is being praised, God’s word which we read in Scripture and Christ the priest who offers this sacrifice.
In another sense, the Mass is a human action in that human beings can communicate well or not so well, the singing can be inspirational or dull, etc.
The Church is never more Church than when it celebrates the Eucharist. Every celebration, however, cannot be equally intense, memorable or jubilant. Human beings have highs, lows and many so-so times.
I participate in Mass partly for my own need and partly to support the needs of others. I write this as a priest who has been celebrating the Eucharist for 25 years now. Best wishes as you explore your faith and follow its lead. Maybe you can also join a Charismatic Prayer Group.
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