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NFP and Serious Reason

A Xt3 Member asked at 11:02pm on March 21st 2017
Hello Father,

Thank you so much for all you do. I am writing, because I am conflicted about the "serious reasons" for using NFP. My husband and I really want children and look forward to having them. We do not want to use NFP with a contraceptive mentality. However, he will be going overseas for 7-9 months starting in July, as he is in the military, and I cannot go along with him. Then, about 3-4 months after he returns from being overseas, we will most likely have to move about 3,000 miles across the country to a new location. If we were to conceive a baby before he left for his deployment, there would be a good possibility that he would miss the baby's birth. Then, we would have to relocate across the country with an infant a few months afterwards. I don't want to be selfish, and we are very open to life, but at the same time, having a baby in the situation I described above is not exactly the most convenient. Would our situation be considered a serious reason to postpone pregnancy?

Thank you, and God bless you!

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Hi Nicole, first of all, congratulations for using NFP, which demands sacrifice from both you and your husband. And that you both want to avoid a selfish use of NFP, which as far as I remember, Blessed Paul VI also warned against. In the light of that, the reasons you give for not wanting a child just yet seem more than adequate. But the Church has always left to married couples the decision (always accepting that each child is a gift of God) as to how many children and when they should have. So I agree with you completely, in postponing a pregnancy till your husband returns.

But you can also be sure, if you both draw on the grace you have received, and continue to receive from your sacrament of matrimony, that you will have the wisdom together to arrive at these decisions. I always think of that line from the Gospel, 'where two or three are gathered together in my name [that is, in my love], there am I among them.' In your marriage, it's this presence of Jesus among you that will give you the wisdom to make the right decision (which will always be in line with the Church's teaching anyway). And we're told by Christian writers in the early Church that you can have Jesus among you even at a distance.

So I'm praying that you both experience His presence and support during that long separation of over a year, keeping you united in His Love, and also that your dear husband returns to you safe and sound after his service abroad. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Private vows

in topic "Vocations"
A Xt3 Member asked at 8:41am on March 17th 2017
Hello Father:

I have 3 questions please. Thank you so much

4 Years ago I made private vows (alone) of poverty, chastity, and obedience to God while living in the States.. I now live in France and would like to live a personal rule of life which incoperate my private vows ... can my spiritual guide (a priest) bless this rule of life which I call:

~ A contemplative way of life while living in the world, the Solitary Way ~ ?

If so, is there a certain blessing format? And if so, can this rule of life be blessed during spiritual guidance, and on a certain day of my choice ?

God Bless,


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Hi Odile-Lyllian,

The answer is yes to both questions. Private vows and a rule of life can be discussed with one's spiritual director. A person only needs to profess vows with a bishop when such vows are made publicly.

God bless, Fr Michael
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Theology of the Tabernacle

in topic "Theology"
A Xt3 Member asked at 2:09pm on March 14th 2017
Hello! I would like to ask how did the tabernacle develop up to the present day?

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Hi Joseph, the tabernacle means 'dwelling place,' so when St John (1: 14) says that 'the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,' that word 'dwelt' can also be translated as 'tabernacled among us.'

The Jewish tabernacle was the portable Temple, where the people of Israel worshipped God. God commanded Moses to put some of the manna there: 'And Moses said to Aaron, "take a jar and put an omer of manna in it and place it before the Lord, to be kept throughout your generations"' (see Ex 16: 32-34). This sacred manna was to be reserved in the Holy of Holies of the Temple, not for the people to eat it, but to look upon it: 'so that they may see the bread.'

When Jesus explained the Eucharist in chapter six of St John's Gospel (6: 48-71), he didn't draw on the symbolism of the Paschal Lamb, but of the manna. Brant Pitrie in his marvellous Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist suggests (pp. 94-95) that line in the Our Father where we normally say 'give us this day our daily bread,' means 'give us this day our supersubstantial bread' (Mt 6:11). He suggests that the Greek word epiousios means what today we'd call 'supernatural,' with 'epi' meaning 'above' and 'ousia' meaning 'substance' or 'nature.' So the Our Father is referring to our Eucharistic manna, nourishing the faithful daily with Jesus on their own journey towards their face to face meeting with Him in Paradise.

In the light of the Old and New Testament, I think it's easy to see how, following Christ's own language about the Eucharist as the 'bread of life,' that the Church chose to call the receptacle of the Blessed Sacrament the tabernacle. That's where the Eucharistic Hosts are reserved both for later reception outside the Mass by those who are sick, and to be worshipped by the faithful, far more than the original manna which the Israelites looked upon in the Temple tabernacle. Very best, Fr Brendan
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in topic "Other"
A Xt3 Member asked at 1:05am on March 15th 2017
Dear Father

Is it alright to modify the praying of the stations of the cross by praying before a presented images in powerpoint before a group of people, children because we don't have built in crosses or we lack the time to prepare crosses around our place?

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Dear Sarah, since the stations of the cross are a popular devotion rather than part of the Church's liturgy (which of course doesn't mean they can't be a powerful source of grace for whoever prays them!), you can present them any way that's in keeping with the traditions of the stations - they're basically a set of meditations on various aspects of the Passion of Christ.

Anything that will help people to relive those aspects and apply them to their own lives via the stations would be great. Very best, Fr Brendan
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in topic "Other"
A Xt3 Member asked at 8:35pm on March 13th 2017
I had a sinful dream and I woke up an I was having sex by myself is this a mortal sin????? I have never had anything like this before

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Hi Joe, the dream you had wasn't sinful, since dreams aren't under our conscious control. So if the dream included, as part of the dream, what you said, that wasn't a conscious act. In which case, the dreamt act wasn't sinful, just dreamt, even if what was dreamt triggered a sexual action in the body.

If what was happening in the dream continued when you woke up, and if you were aware of consenting to it, then I'm afraid it may have been sinful. Serious sin requires three things - what's called gravity of matter, full knowledge, and full consent. It's quite possible that a person who was only half-awake, and coming out of a dream state, might have continued an action begun within the dream. Then only that person can say how responsible they were at the time. If something like that happened, I'd mention it in confession and both you and the priest will be able to judge what level of knowledge and consent was involved. Very best, Fr Brendan
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What is the reason why we don't eat meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and Fridays in Lent?

in topic "Theology"
A Xt3 Member asked at 7:11pm on March 1st 2017

I have been asked so many times today about why we abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all Fridays in Lent? Are there biblical references or any church documents that could prove this practice?

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Hi Romell, the basic background to Lent is the 40 years the People of God in the Old Testament were wandering in the desert on their way to the Holy Land, and the 40 days Moses had to wait at Sinai before he received the word of God in the Ten Commandments. Then Jesus took up that symbolism with his own 40 days in the desert (Mt 4:2), which the Church asks us all to participate in during Lent.

We have evidence of this in the early Church, where, for example, St. Irenaeus (d. 203) wrote to Pope St. Victor I, commenting on the celebration of Easter and the differences between practices in the East and the West: 'The dispute is not only about the day, but also about the actual character of the fast. Some think that they ought to fast for one day, some for two, others for still more; some make their 'day' last 40 hours on end. Such variation in the observance did not originate in our own day, but very much earlier, in the time of our forefathers.' Lent became more regularized once Christianity was legalized in 313 ad. The Council of Nicea in 325 laid down two provincial synods to be held each year, 'one before the 40 days of Lent...' St Athanasius, who died in 373 asked his congregation to make a 40-day fast before the more intense Holy Week fasting, with St Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386), and St Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444), writing of the 40-day fast requirement. Pope St Leo (d. 461) preached that the faithful must 'fulfil their fasts with the Apostolic institution of the 40 days' - so he regarded Lent as having apostolic origins.

Avoidance of meat is a spiritual practice that goes back to the earliest days of the Church, a tradition that dates back hundreds of years.

In an article from Mark Hart (LifeTeen), he says:

"Some say it was because the church was trying to support the fishing industry when times were tough. There is some historical evidence of that, dating all the way back to the second century.

Some say it was safer to eat fish than meat. Everyone knew the specific time frame in which it was safe to eat fish, while people tended to test that time frame with beef. There's some historical evidence to that too, dating back to about the seventh century.

Some point out that hundreds of years ago only the very wealthy could afford meat. Fish (in comparison) was the poor man's meal. It was cheap, humble food that you had to catch yourself.

Some say that not eating meat helped folks to focus on the humility of Christ, who lived a simple man's life."

In the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 10:9-16), St. Peter has a vision in which God reveals that Christians can eat any food. So, when we abstain, it's not because the food is impure; we're voluntarily giving up something good, for our spiritual benefit.

Very best, Fr Brendan
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A Xt3 Member asked at 2:21am on February 28th 2017
Hello! This probably sounds like a ridiculous question, but what does the church teach on young relationships? What is acceptable and what's not?

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HI Jacob, I remember when I was a young priest giving retreats to high school students not all that much younger than me at the time. A favourite question was (in terms of boys' relationship to girls) 'how far can you go?' It took me a while to see that this was the wrong question, and that trying to answer it was a mistake. I can't remember how I dealt with it at the time, but I'd be inclined to say now that the real question should have been, 'how can I love a person of the opposite sex?'

We get the answer in about the only thing Jesus said explicitly about sexual relations: 'Anyone looking at a woman lustfully commits adultery with her in his heart' (Mt 5:28). He didn't have to say much more, since if looking at a woman lustfully is ruled out, I guess a lot more serious sexual activity is included there. What 'adultery' means here is betraying the other as a person. There's lots more in the writings of Sts Peter, Paul and Jude about sexual activity outside marriage, all of which, if we want to follow Jesus, we have take seriously.

St John Paul II has a beautiful commentary on that line in Mt 5:28, where the Saint focuses on the positive meaning contained in what Jesus is teaching. He notes how Jesus uses the word 'heart' - that he wants us to love each other from the heart - that is, from our deepest core. Which is how God loves us, for our own sake, for who we are, not for his own sake. It's the relation between men and women that's expressed in the marriage ceremony, where each promises to love the other for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. That is, each says to the other, I love you for you, no matter what changes you undergo. It's a high standard, but one that deepens those who put it into practice. That kind of genuine, non-exploitative and non-instrumentalizing relationship doesn't ever repress our love - as you'll often be told by people who don't understand the Gospel's call to true fulfilment, including true psychological fulfilment - but lifts it up to the level Jesus invites us to, when he asked us to 'love one another as I have loved you.' The 'as' there means, ready to lose our life for the sake of the other - that's the source of true romantic love.

In the light of that, what about relationships between a teenage boy and girl who are not necessarily thinking of marriage, at least not in the near future? There's no doubt each can help the other to grow, since even if they have shared interests, they'll nearly always have different ways of looking at things. I never had any sisters, and I think I might have been helped if I'd had a few friends of the opposite sex, to gain from their perspective on things. Maybe the best context for these friendships would be in a group or club, where the friendships would take place along with the shared activities of the group. Given the massive pressure of media, entertainment and society on young people today, I'd be inclined to suggest that the relationship would need to be lifted up and given a Christian spirit by prayer and other religious activities so that it doesn't conform to the standards of the world around us. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Teens and Transgender

in topic "Other"
A Xt3 Member asked at 3:11am on February 25th 2017
I'm a Confirmation teacher and last week a teen asked where the church stands on transgender. I answered that I really wasn't sure and I would look into it and get back with the answer. Can you help?

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Hi Barbara, thanks for your question, which I won't attempt to fully answer here - I'd suggest checking out the study by Michelle Cretella, MD, 'Gender Dysphoria in Children,' American College of Pediatricians - August 2016, along with a few articles I've saved on the topic: 'Pediatricians back Pope Francis on 'gender theory' Thomas D. Williams, Crux August 9, 2016; 'Dutch cardinal floats idea of encyclical on gender theory,' Simon Caldwell, Crux, November 7, 2016; Paul McHugh, 'Transgender Surgery Isn't the Solution A drastic physical change doesn't address underlying psycho-social troubles,' Updated May 13, 2016, Wall Street Journal; Peter J. Leithart 'How to Preach About Bruce Jenner,' First Things, May 6, 2015; Brendan O'Neill, 'Call me Caitlyn or else: the rise of authoritarian transgender politics,' 2/6/15, Spectator; Margaret Wente, 'The raging battle over transgender kids,' The Globe and Mail, 8/5/15.

First, I think we've learned from the experience of those who identify as homosexual or lesbian, to first of all respond to the person with love, whoever he or she may be. A male who strongly identifies with being female, or a female who strongly identifies with being male, is for every Christian, a face of Jesus - and in the suffering that often accompanies these experiences, a face of Jesus Forsaken on the Cross.

Second, as with homosexuality, we have to distinguish between individuals and the aggressive and intolerant movements that claim to speak for what are called trans people. While each individual is a brother or sister to be loved, those who are pushing their case have to be argued with. For starters, they represent a very tiny minority of people. But the more that media, medical doctors and psychiatrists advocate for what are often irreversible procedures as necessary, the more that minority may grow, since especially young people may be unsure of their sexual identity and advocacy for sex-change can lead them to believe it's necessary for them. However, young people are rarely able to make balanced judgments about life-changing procedures, particularly when the majority of those who feel they need such change grow beyond that. The various articles I refer to above go into the details more than I can here.

Thirdly, demands for implementing physical changes to one's sex occur within a world where the notion that there is a God whose plan for humanity as outlined in Genesis is to be followed is completely rejected. Even without religious belief, a Plato or an Aristotle, on the basis of reason, argue for accepting a moral order which is above the feelings and desires of any individual. There's an old pagan quotation as true as ever, that 'If we throw mother nature out the window, she comes back in the door with a pitchfork.' The various essays I've quoted bring out the serious health dangers involved in the lifelong hormonal treatments required to maintain the sex change against the sex one was born with, along with the enormous psychological burdens and suicide rate of trans people.

So what would I say to a person experiencing themselves as trans? Firstly, not to rush into a treatment that may be irreversible and which you may deeply regret later. Secondly, God will never allow anyone to be tempted beyond their abilities, and try to humbly accept - as many who experience themselves as gay do - that they are bound by the same rules of chastity as everyone else, so that the only context for moral sexual activity is within sacramental marriage. Very best, Fr Brendan
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in topic "Other"
A Xt3 Member asked at 8:08pm on February 23rd 2017
I grew up with a pentacostal preacher as a grandmother who was very hypocritical and shoved relgion down our throats. I have always believed that god is real and jesus died for our sins. But I'll admit my religion has not been a priority in my life. I have not been to church in probably 15 years or so except with my in-laws once for a baptism, which was a spanish speaking ceremony which I don't speak. I have found a little difficulty with my faith and trying to raise my children with a religion, I believe the fundamentals of but am jaded with, by my past. It's been something that's been bothering me for a couple of years now. But this morning I was sitting on my couch while one of my daughters played with our pets, I dozed to sleep, it felt so very real. I was in my home with my family celebrating something and a group of us stepped outside to get some fresh air. It was night time and pitch black outside except for the street lights lining the road. my father and brother were quietly talking, while two others stood behind where I stood. and there was a blinding flash of light that lit up the sky, it was like the middle of the day. I looked to my father and brother and found them staring up into the sky with there mouths open, so I followed there gaze and found the most amazing thing I had ever seen in my life. It was this bridge made from these vibrant purple clouds, so intricately detailed, it was incredible. As anyone in this day and age I pulled my phone out and started snapping photos and as I snapped these phots, within them not only was there this remarkable bridge, there were these rolling green hills that went on for as far as the eye could see. breathtaking just isn't a strong enough word to describe it. Then just as suddlenly as it appeared a blinding light shown again and it was gone. leaving a vague shape of a bridge in the clouds, in the night sky. As I walked up the steps to my house a thought jumped into my head, "well, I don't have doubts anymore." should I view this as just a dream or was it more? I wasn't sure where or who to talk to about it so here I am. Any guidance would be helpful.

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Hi Misty, well, plenty saints have had mystical experiences and dreams which I've no doubt were messages from heaven - St Teresa of Avila had many mystical experiences which she called 'favours from God,' and Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, the heroic martyr under Nazism had a dream which helped to change his whole life, from being an uncommitted believer to becoming a courageous martyr. I keep coming across stories of people who have converted from non-belief to deep religious commitment through similar 'favours from God' that lift up their souls to a new dimension.

What I'd be inclined to do in your case would be to renew your love of God by trying to live each moment in your lovely family for Jesus, saying in your mind, 'for you [Jesus],' 'for you'. That's what's called the Little Way of another Teresa, St Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, who showed us that everyone can become a saint by putting love at the centre of our lives wherever we are. Then, since Jesus invited us to follow him not just as individuals, but together, because I'm Catholic, and believe the Catholic Church is part of God's plan for us, through its sacraments, and especially the Mass, to reach him, maybe consider reconnecting with your local Church community. Or if your background isn't Catholic, well, surely you'll find support in your local Christian Church, whichever denomination it is.

Certainly, God has a beautiful plan for you, and that dream is only a little shadow of his immense love for you and your family. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Catholic?&Protestant Bibles

in topic "Other"
A Xt3 Member asked at 2:15am on February 23rd 2017
Is it wrong for Catholics to read protestant Bibles?

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Hi Michael, I don't think so. Most Protestant Bibles are the same as Catholic ones, although there can be a slight bias in some of the older Protestant ones in translating texts to do with Our Lady or with Christ's giving St Peter authority over the Church - my favourite is a version, I can't remember which, where Christ is translated as saying to Peter, 'Upon this stone [rather than 'rock'] I will build my Church' (Mt 16:18)! It's good to remember that the Bibles most of us use are translations, and no translation is perfect.

I'd recommend the Jerusalem Bible for its helpful division of the texts into meaningful sections, and the great footnotes, though I'm sometimes disappointed here and there with its New Testament translations. For myself, the most accurate Engish translation is the Revised Standard Version Second Catholic Edition by Ignatius Press. Other versions in recent years have given way to translation fads by avoiding what's seen to be sexist language, deforming at times the text. Very best, Fr Brendan.
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