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?”

Why do Catholics use Latin?

12-13-2016Why do Catholics do that?

With the coming of Advent you may have noticed that many of the Mass parts are now in Latin. This is for added solemnity due to the season. Many believe that the Church got rid of Latin after the Second Vatican Council, but nothing could be further from the truth. What did happen was that the vernacular (English, Spanish, etc.) was allowed to be used. The Vatican II document "Sacrosanctum Concilium" explains: "The use of the Latin language...is to be preserved in the Latin rites. But since the use of the vernacular...may frequently be of great advantage...a wider use may be made of it especially in readings, directives and in some prayers and chants" (SC 36). As Latin Rite Catholics (there are 25 rites in the Catholic church, the largest being the Latin Rite, but also includes such rites as the Chaldean Rite from Iraq, the Syro-Malabar Rite from India, and the Melkite Rite from Lebanon, etc.) we retain this practice.


How should Catholics receive Communion?

12-27-2015Why do Catholics do that?

As Catholics we get to receive the greatest gift God could give: Himself in Holy Communion. "There is nothing so great as the Eucharist, if God had something more precious, He would have given it to us" (St. John Vianney). For this reason, I wanted to say a few words about reception of Holy Communion and how to best honor Our Lord while doing so. This may seem redundant for some, but reminders are always helpful!


What are “indulgences” and why do Catholics still believe in them?

12-20-2015Why do Catholics do that?

(See Catechism of the Catholic Church #1471-1484)

The word "indulgence" is not used very often today. We are often hard pressed to find any reference to them in any modern prayer books. I have even talked to people that say they had never heard of the word in their entire lives, except perhaps regarding chocolate. The Church still does teach indulgences, but because indulgences are often misunderstood, there can be a lot of confusion. Here I will look at what an indulgence is, why we need them, and then how to gain the indulgence for the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.


Why should Catholics dress up for Mass?

12-13-2015Why do Catholics do that?

The term "Sunday best" seems to be lost to the ages and has been replaced with the friendly tagline "come as you are". But even "come as you are" does not mean "stay as you are" as an implicit moral code, and it certainly isn't meant to be a dress code.


Why do Catholic Priests wear different color vestments?

11-22-2015Why do Catholics do that?

I received an email from a parishioner asking about the priest's vestments and the different colored chasubles (a priest's outer garment) that they wear.

First a note on why priests wear vestments. In his Confessions, St. Augustine of Hippo famously says "Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!" While he is talking about his relationship with the Lord, this quote can also be attributed to the Church and her liturgy. The church is truly "ever ancient, ever new". This is clearly seen when priests wear vestments. They recall the ancient Greco-Roman juridical and kingly robes. It also helps the lay people to see that the priests stands "in persona Christi" or "in the person of Christ" while the liturgy is taking place since it is truly Christ that is offering Himself on the altar to the Father. During the Mass we should not see the man who is the priest but rather Christ the high priest. This symbolism would be totally lost if the priest wore a modern worldly suit and tie.


Why do Catholics light so many candles? Part IV - Paschal Candle

11-08-2015Why do Catholics do that?

In the back of the church near the baptismal font you will find the most noble candle of all: the Paschal Candle. In the great Exsultet sung by the deacon at the Easter Vigil it is described as : "a pillar of fire...a solemn offering, the work of bees and of your servants' hands, an evening sacrifice of praise, this gift from your most holy Church….which glowing fire ignites for God's honor, a fire into many flames divided, yet never dimmed by sharing of its light, for it is fed by melting wax, drawn out by mother bees to build a torch so precious." The text of the Exsultet was composed around the 4th century but its author is unknown.


Why do Catholics light so many candles? Part III - Votive Candles

11-01-2015Why do Catholics do that?

Today we (the Church Militant) celebrate the Feast of All Saints, which commemorates all those that are already in Heaven (the Church Triumphant). Tomorrow, on November 2nd, we celebrate the Feast of All Souls Day, which commemorates and prays for the souls that are in Purgatory (the Church Suffering).


Why do Catholics pray the Rosary?

10-25-2015Why do Catholics do that?

Since October is the month of the Rosary I am going to postpone the series on candles and take a look at why Catholics pray the Rosary.

First, what is the Rosary? The Rosary is a prayer and it is a spiritual weapon. It is a combination of vocal prayer and meditation which uses beads to count out 5-20 sets (called decades) of 10 Hail Marys to help souls reflect on the lives of Our Blessed Lord and His Mother.


Why do Catholics light so many candles? Part II

10-18-2015Why do Catholics do that?

I want to continue my discussion about candles this week by looking at another rich tradition, that of the Sanctuary Lamp. The Sanctuary Lamp is the red candle that hangs near the altar on the left side. As mentioned last week, this isn't just another candle to give light but rather it represents something deeper. When the Sanctuary Lamp is lit it means that Christ is present in the tabernacle. Mystically it signifies Christ, for by this material light He is represented who is the "true light which enlighteneth every man" (John 1:9). There is a Sanctuary Lamp in every Catholic Church and it is always hung near the tabernacle. When you visit any Catholic Church look around for it! It means God is there! It always remains lit, unless for some reason the Eucharist is not present (like on Holy Thursday night, when it is removed and processed to another place with the choir singing the glorious Pange Lingua, to represent Christ in the tomb.)


Why do Catholics light so many candles? Part I

10-11-2015Why do Catholics do that?

Perhaps it is the pyro in me, but I find that lighting candles is an intriguing tradition in the Catholic Church. As you look around the inside of a Catholic Church you will notice many different kinds of candles being used. To many this may appear strange since we now have electric lights to light up the interior of a building (we now even have electric candles!). So why wax candles? For the next four weeks I want to look at four different kinds of candles that you will see inside of a Catholic Church.


Why do we say “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic” in the Creed each Sunday?

10-04-2015Why do Catholics do that?

Some may remember the Baltimore Catechism:

Q. Has the Church any marks by which it may be known?
A. The Church has four marks by which it may be known: it is One; it is Holy; it is Catholic; it is Apostolic (#548)

So how is the Church all of the above? The Church is One because all members believe in one set of teachings called the deposit of faith, we share in one Communion, the Eucharist, and we have one head, the Pope who is the vicar of Christ on Earth (#549 Baltimore Catechism). The Church is Holy because it's founder Jesus Christ is Holy, because it is directed through the working of the Holy Spirit, and because it calls all people to live a holy life (#563 BC). The Church is Catholic, (the word "catholic" here means "universal", and is not referring to the proper noun "Catholic Church") because it is present in every continent, and embraces people of all ages, cultures, and maintains all truth (#564 BC). The Church is Apostolic because it was founded by Christ on His Apostles, and is governed by their lawful successors (the bishops), and because it has never ceased, and never will cease, to teach their doctrine (#567 BC).