Have you ever thought to yourself: “Why do Catholics do that?” Perhaps you even find yourself doing something that you only do because you see everyone else doing it. In this space each week I hope to address the question: “why do Catholics do that?”

What is the Catholic Church’s position on extra-terrestrials?

06-26-2016Why do Catholics do that?

This topic stems from a conversation I was having with a co-worker earlier last week. Plus I just thought it would be fun to do a topic on aliens! I will look at this topic in three separate questions below.

What is the Church's position on the existence of aliens? Well, there isn't one. The Church has never made an official declaration on whether or not aliens exist. Why? Because this is a question for the scientific community, and not one of theological significance. So, as a Catholic you are free to believe what you like about the existence of aliens! Though it would appear that many in the scientific community that are looking for aliens (and spending millions of dollars in the process) have the goal of disproving creation by showing that evolution is true (a topic for another day!).


What should our disposition be during Holy Mass?

06-19-2016Why do Catholics do that?

Imagine for a moment that you are standing at the foot of Calvary. In front of you is Jesus hanging on the Cross.At the foot of the Cross are Mary and St. John weeping. Soldiers surround the Cross on all sides and St. Longinus is prepared to pierce Our Lord in his Sacred Heart. Having witnessed the entire Passion of Our Lord from His Agony in the Garden up until His death on the Cross you have seen many things. You have witnessed people spitting in His face, soldiers shoving him while He carried the heavy Cross, and members of the Sanhedrin mocking Him. Far from being just a memory of a meal, the Mass is the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. We are not re-sacrificing Him, but rather the ONE Sacrifice is re-presented in an unbloody manner at every Mass. This means that when we attend Mass we are standing at the foot of Calvary witnessing the crucifixion of Christ. The Mass is a time machine and we are time travelers. This is why a crucifix is required in every sanctuary.


What is Eucharistic Adoration?

06-05-2016Why do Catholics do that?

"When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, 'So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.'" (Matthew 26:40-41)

In the southwest corner of our campus we have an adoration chapel. It is called Queen of Peace Adoration chapel, and is attached to the Teen Center which is behind the preschool. If you were to go into the adoration chapel you would find a small room with kneelers and chairs facing a small stone altar. Upon the altar is a monstrance, a metallic vessel used to display the Eucharistic Host. At any point of the day you can go in there and worship the Lord in the Eucharist. There is also a sign up sheet where people take specific hours of the day to come and be with the Lord. The goal is to have at least 168 people signed up, so that every hour of every day is taken so that the monstrance would not be left unattended. Some parishioners are here at the early hours of the morning, keeping watch with Jesus and praying for the parish.


What is Corpus Christi?

05-29-2016Why do Catholics do that?

In the 12th century St. Juliana de Liege began to have visions at the age of 16. She would see images of a partially eclipsed moon. It was finally revealed to her by our Lord that the moon represented the liturgical calendar, and that it was incomplete without a feast in honor of the Blessed Sacrament, the Eucharist. He tasked her with spreading a devotion o the Blessed Sacrament and securing a place in the liturgical calendar for a feast in order to make reparations for the many heresies against the Eucharist as well as for the many lukewarm Catholics who had little devotion to it. Keeping these things to herself for 20 years out of fear of persecution, she finally revealed her visions to her confessor. Her confessor informed many high ranking clerics, including one bishop who would become Pope Urban IV. St. Juliana was harassed by many clerics, and many thought a new feast was superfluous. Pope Urban IV, being favorable of a new feast, instituted the Feast of Corpus Christi a year in 1264 following a Eucharistic miracle at Orvieto, Italy, in 1263 where a consecrated Host began to bleed. The corporal with the blood stains can still be seen in the Cathedral of Orvieto. Pope Urban IV asked St. Thomas Aquinas to compose Propers for the Mass and an Office for the Feast Day, which would take place on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday. After Vatican II the Feast was transferred the Sunday following Trinity Sunday. The 750th Anniversary of this feast was celebrated in 2014.


Why do Catholic priests wear black with a white collar?

05-22-2016Why do Catholics do that?

While the origins of the clerical dress of a priest are dubious, I will give you one of the most common explanations of it's evolution. In the middle ages the cassock was a common form of dress for all men. Cassocks were long one piece tunics with buttons down the front. Cassocks were also characterized by a small rectangular notch cut out in the throat of the collar. As churches were built bigger they became harder to heat, so as styles changed priests would continue wearing the cassock since they were generally warmer. Many priests would place pieces of cloth, often white, behind the collar to prevent irritation. This cloth would show through the notch in the front of the collar. Eventually this style become so familiar, especially in Rome, that it became the common garb of the priest. In more modern times the clerical attire was adapted to two pieces, the clerical shirt and black pants. These clerical shirts retain the characteristic rectangular notch where the white Roman collar shows through. While these clerical shirts are the most common today, some priests continue to wear the traditional full length cassock.


Can a Catholic receive communion at a non-Catholic Church?

05-15-2016Why do Catholics do that?

This question has come up two different times now so I thought it would be good to address here. Living in a country where there are roughly 30,000 denominations of Christianity, it is likely that many Catholics have had to attend a non-Catholic service (e.g. for funerals or weddings, etc.) for family or friends. So what should we as Catholics do if we find ourselves at a non-Catholic church and they start distributing communion?


What are relics?

05-01-2016Why do Catholics do that?

What are relics?

The use of relics is a rich tradition in the Catholic Church. Relics can be classified in three classes:

  1. A first class relic is a piece of the body of a Saint, such as bone or hair. Sometimes full bodies are kept in tact.
  2. A second class relic is an item that the saint used or touched such as a cassock or a rosary.
  3. A third class relic is a piece of cloth or another object that has been touched to a first or second class relic.

Traditionally, relics were required to be placed in every altar. This helped remind us that the first altars were the tombs of martyrs in the catacombs. Relics would have been kept in the altar under what is called the 'altar stone'. The altar stone is a small square piece of stone that is removed so that a relic can be placed inside the altar. The altar stone would then be replaced and sealed during the consecration of the altar by the bishop. When a priest kisses the altar at the beginning of Mass they are kissing the altar stone. Traditionally the priest would ascend to the altar, kiss the altar stone and say "We beg you, O Lord, by the merits of your saints whose relics are here, and of all the saints, to grant me forgiveness of all my sins."

Today, according to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the practice of keeping a relic in the altar should be retained. However, due to the difficulty in obtaining relics, many churches either do not have them or have not sought them. In other cases, the altar is constructed in such a way that it would not support a relic or an altar stone. This latter case is true at Our Lady of Joy. The top of the altar is made of relatively thin wood and so no relic has yet been placed, though it is the will of the pastor to do so.

In some churches, especially in Europe, you might find altars which contain full bodies of Saints. Some of these Saints, such as St. Bernadette, are incorruptible meaning that their bodies by the grace of God have not deteriorated. A quick Google search for 'incorruptible Saints' will lead you to a great deal of information about these miraculous occurrences. One such Saint is St. John Neumann whose body rests in Philadelphia. Fr. Jess had the opportunity several months ago to celebrate a Mass on the altar in which the Saint's body reposed.

Relics are generally kept in 'reliquaries'. Reliquaries are usually small round brass or gold disks with a glass cover, almost like a small monstrance used for displaying the Eucharist for adoration. There is generally some written indication of the name of the Saint and what part of the body the relic is take from (i.e ex ossibus, or "from the bone"). Other reliquaries are much more ornate and come in different shapes and sizes.

I want to emphasize once again that Catholics do not worship Saints. We venerate Saints. They are our heroes in the Faith, just as we might visit the tomb of George Washington, or go to a museum to see the items he used. The difference is that we know the Canonized Saints are in heaven (Matt. 16:19) which means that they can pray for us (Rev. 5:8). These Saints, through their earthly bodies given by God wrought many miracles and good works. Therefore, relics help us to become close to these Saints and imitate their virtues, but more importantly they bring us closer to Him whose martyrs or holy virgins they are.

God Bless, Andy Miller

For comments or suggestions on future topics email me at amiller@oloj.org.

Blessings Part 2: What does it mean when a priest blesses something?

04-24-2016Why do Catholics do that?

Blessings Part 2: What does it mean when a priest blesses something?

In a general sense, a blessing is a formula recited by a person for the spiritual good of another person or an object. Throughout the Old testament we see that the patriarchs like Isaac passed on their blessing to their children. This was seen as a sure way to secure God's benevolence, peace, and protection (Catholic Encyclopedia: Blessing). This blessing meant so much that Jacob stole his father's blessing from his brother Esau (Gen. 27). Since this is clearly in the realm of the spiritual welfare of the people of God, the Church has made great use of the power of blessings since the earliest days of her history.

Since it is in the realm of spiritual welfare it is in the Church's authority to assign sacred ministers, that is priests, to the task of sanctifying objects and persons. But why do people and objects need to be blessed? Didn't God create all things and call them good? Yes, God did create all things and call them good, but we cannot forget that after the fall of the first man Adam, sin entered the world and corrupted all of creation. It was at that time that death, pain, hurricanes, breakable bones, and 115 degree weather entered into the world. All objects in their original pre-fall state only existed for our good. After the fall, all created things now have the potential of causing us harm especially in the hands of evil spirits. For example, diamonds are created for the beautification of the world, however they can become the object of our greed if we become too attached to them. St. Ignatius of Loyola says in his famous First Principal and Foundation: "All other things on the face of the earth are created for human beings in order to help them pursue the end for which they are created. It follows from this that one must use other created things, in so far as they help towards one's end, and free oneself from them, in so far as they are obstacles to one's end [heaven]." This shows how objects have been affected by the fall, and I need not explain how people have been affected by the fall. Therefore, it can be "...seen how very reasonable is the anxiety of the Church that the things which are used in daily life and particularly in the service of religion, should be rescued from contaminating influences and endowed with a potency for good" (Catholic Encyclopedia: Blessings).

The priest is the ordinary administer of blessings. There are a number of things that deacons can also bless, but if a priest is present, precedence should always be given to the priest, and likewise to the bishop if he is present in an ordered understanding of Church hierarchy (Heb. 7:7). So we know the importance of a blessing, but what are some of the effects that can be derived from a blessing?

  1. Excitation of pious emotions and affections of the heart, and by means of these, remission of venial sin and the temporal punishment due to it.
  2. Freedom from the power of evil spirits.
  3. Preservation and restoration of bodily health. (Catholic Encyclopedia: Blessings).

If you have any sacramentals such as rosaries or scapulars, have them blessed by a priest. Invite a priest over to bless your home, especially if you are aware of any mortal sins (or the use of tarot cards or other occult practices) that have been committed there since these things invite evil spirits. Also, it is always appropriate to ask a priest for a blessing which will be beneficial in granting you divine favor, bodily health according to God's will, and the remission of venial sins. To receive a blessing it is always appropriate to kneel since this is the fullest sign of receptivity and humility. Most importantly, stay until the end of Mass to receive the priest's final blessing! You will not regret it when you find that you have a considerably shorter stay in Purgatory!

God Bless, Andy Miller

For comments or suggestions on future topics email me at amiller@oloj.org.

Blessings Part I: How do we Bless the Lord?

04-17-2016Why do Catholics do that?

Blessings Part I: How do we Bless the Lord?

I received an excellent question in my inbox: "In Daniel 3:57-88 this Canticle is all about how we 'Bless the Lord'. So how being a mere servant can we Bless the Lord?" I will do my best to answer this question in this short article, but I also hope to write more on the topic of blessings over the next few weeks. It is a fascinating topic and something that affects all of us as Catholics.

First I will give some background on the story of Daniel. After the fall of Jerusalem in 597 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar called for "youths without blemish" to be educated in the king's palace. Among these youths were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Dan 1:1-7). The latter three are better known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Daniel, who would be called Belshazzar, won great favor from the king by interpreting his dreams (Dan 2). Later, Nebuchadnezzar built a statue which he commanded all to bow down and worship (Dan 3). Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who were appointed over the affairs of Babylon, failed to worship the statue, and were therefore cast into a fiery furnace which was heated seven times hotter than normal so that it killed even the men that threw them in. The flames, however, did not burn the three faithful Jews, and they began to sing in the midst of the furnace: "Bless the Lord, all the works of the Lord, sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever. Bless the Lord, you heavens...etc." (Dan 3:35-36). The story ends with Nebuchadnezzar acknowledging the power of the God of the Jews.

We also read in Psalm 103: "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!". The questions remains: "How do we bless the Lord?" By the word "Bless" we can mean many different things. We normally think of a priest blessing some sacramental like a rosary or a scapular. In this sense, the priest with the authority of the Church, is setting aside that object for a divine purpose. The word is also sometimes used to express goodwill of fortune on another person ("Blessed art thou, and it shall be well with thee" Psalm 128). However, when we say "Bless the Lord", we are neither setting aside God for a Divine purpose (He is already Divine!), and neither are we hoping for Gods goodwill or good fortune (He is already goodness itself!). No, we recognize that God is the giver of blessings. So "How do we bless the Lord?" is a very natural question. I have two short answers that might serve to satisfy this curiosity.

1. The word "Bless" in the story of Daniel, seems to serve as a synonym for the word "Praise". We can see an example of this in Psalm 33 when David exclaims: "I will bless the Lord at all times, His praise shall be always in my mouth". If we substitute the word "Bless", for the word "Praise" in the Book of Daniel, it makes much more sense. But still, why would the word " bless" be used over the word "praise", if that it what he was trying to say? I will explain this in point 2.

2. I imagine a father of a family who each night before bed blesses his children and his wife with Holy Water. In this sense of blessing, the father, as the head of the family, is setting aside his family for a divine purpose, but also asking for God's blessing over them. We can also see this as an expression of goodwill towards the members of the family, especially since Holy Water is a sacramental which drives away demons. Now imagine that one of the small children, after being blessed looks up and asks, "Daddy, can I bless you now?". Does the Father scold the child and say, "No! it is not your place!"? Certainly not! This father would be totally delighted to allow the child to return his blessing. We now get the image of the child dipping her finger in the Holy Water and tracing the Sign of the Cross on the father's forehead. It's too darned cute to even stand it!

God works in a similar way. Everything that we own is a gift from God. We made nothing ourselves, and we wouldn't even be here if it were not for God willing it. Everything is blessing! By giving us freewill He allows us to love Him in return, and what do we have that we can give to God? We have our voice, our love and devotion, our material goods, etc. When we return these things to God they become a blessing to Him.

In the Traditional Latin Mass, before the priest takes the chalice at Communion he says the words of Psalm 116: "What return shall I make to the Lord for all the things that He hath given unto me? I will take the chalice of salvation, and call upon the Name of the Lord. I will call upon the Lord and give praise: and I shall be saved from mine enemies."

God Bless, Andy Miller

For comments or suggestions on future topics email me at amiller@oloj.org.

Where did the Bible come from?

04-10-2016Why do Catholics do that?

Have you ever considered where the Bible came from? We read it at every Mass, we use it for personal devotions, and some even use it to justify their point in arguments! It has been engrained in us to put complete credence in the Bible as the Word of God, yet many people do not even know where it came from! Did it fall from the sky? Was it given by God to a particular saint in it's current form? I hope to provide you with a short history of where the Bible came from, and why it is a 100% Catholic Book.

What we now call the Old Testament was written by kings, prophets, and other chroniclers. By mandate of Ptolemy II, the Torah (the first 5 books) was translated into Greek (the most widely spoken language in the Mediterranean at the time) by 72 scholars in the 2nd Century BC. Each of the 72 scholars translated the text separately, and each of them were inspired to translate it exactly the same. This text became known as the Septuagint (which means 70) or "Greek Canon". The other books were translated over the next two or three centuries. This text was used by Greek speaking Jews throughout the known world, as well as by the early Christian Church. This canon included such books as Baruch, Judith, I and II Maccabees, Tobit, Sirach, and Wisdom (Deuterocanonical books). These seven books were not included in the Hebrew Canon which was compiled by Jewish scholars several hundred years later for use in Palestine.

What we now call the New Testament was composed by fishermen, tax collectors, and the like, many of whom were Apostles of Jesus Christ. In the first centuries of the Church there was not yet a Bible. In fact, some 6,000 separate documents were used by the early Church and were thought to be inspired scripture. Many of these traditions were passed down only by word of mouth. One can imagine that there were many discrepancies between communities based on the multiplicity of texts that were being used.

By 325 AD when the Church was able to come out of the catacombs, there was a great need to codify the texts into approved scriptures to ensure unity. But who on earth had this kind of authority? Jesus Christ Himself granted authority to Peter to be the head of His Church in Matthew 16:18. Peter later established his universal (catholic) Church in Rome (Roman Catholic Church). The early Church looked to Peter and his successors as an authority, a shepherd over a sheepfold. St. Peter was the first pope and his successors were charged with maintaining unity in the Church as it spread throughout the world. Therefore, it was the Roman Catholic Church which took on the task of codifying the scriptures. The bishops of the Catholic Church convened at two separate councils (Hippo in 393 and Carthage in 397) to sift through the various texts and determine which ones were inspired by the Holy Spirit (imagine the task!). The canon (official order) was closed in 405 AD by Pope Innocent I. This canon was uncontested for 13 centuries until an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther (who claimed that the only authority is the Bible, even though the Church didn't even have a Bible for 4 centuries) opted to use the Hebrew Canon in his new translation of the Bible (note that no one uses the German Luther Bible today because of its great number of textual and theological errors.) This is why Protestants have 7 less books in their Bibles than Catholics.

The Bible was ultimately translated into Latin in the 5th Century by St. Jerome, because if a person could read and write, they read and wrote in Latin, making it much more available to the people. To produce one Bible it would have taken over 200 deer skins (paper was too fragile) and 3 years of a monks time to copy a complete volume. One Bible would have cost 3 years wages. The Bible was the first book to be printed after the invention of the printing press in the 1300s. However, the idea of every household having a Bible wasn't even a viable option until the 1800s. Next time you meet a Protestant that says that they rely on the authority of the Bible alone (sola scriptura) , gently remind them that it was the authority of the Roman Catholic Church that gave them their Bible in the first place.

God Bless, Andy Miller

For comments or suggestions on future topics email me at amiller@oloj.org.