Year of Youth 2018

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A Xt3 Member asked at 3:00pm on May 7th 2018
I recently disclosed to my brother that a mutual Catholic friend of ours carrys a new age crystal with him, and that it makes me very uncomfortable along with some other aspects of his behavior and speech that mostly have to do with purity. When I asked my friend about the crystal, he said it's for energy which seems like a sin against the first commandment. I disclosed it because it seems a little dangerous to me, but my question is: Did I sin by disclosing it to my brother even though he already knew from a previous conversation, and do you think I should refrain from communion? I failed to correct the friend myself properly, but I already confessed that.

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Hi Joseph, you certainly didn't sin in telling your brother about your mutual friend's carrying that new age crystal with him, so there's absolutely no need to refrain from communion. As you know, I'm sure, many baptized Catholics are unaware of their duties as Catholics. But that doesn't mean our first duty is to correct them or put them right - it's always good to remind ourselves that our first duty is to love them. It's far more likely if a friend is aware that we love them without conditions, that they might respond to our advice. So once you're sure he won't take your comments in a negative way, sometime in the future, you could explain why Catholics shouldn't be involved in any kind of superstitious practices.

I'd be a lot more inclined to take steps regarding his behaviour and speech in the area of purity - at least to gently let him know certain types of conversation aren't tolerated when you're around. And if that's something he's not prepared to do, you might have to ask yourself whether you can be at least a close friend of someone persisting with that kind of talk, since it's hard for us not to be dragged down to the same level. No matter what, keep him in your prayers, and there's a good chance your good example will help him to improve in that area. Very best, Fr Brendan
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A Xt3 Member asked at 5:29am on April 22nd 2018
I am Christian and i use witchcraft. However, i only use rain spells and nature spells. Does that affect my religion? Im only using witchcraft for nature and not about Satan. I'm afraid that if it is bad, then confession wont help me since its a moral sin.

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Hi Wafaa, any kind of dabbling with spiritual powers has always been considered very dangerous - a lot more so than messing about with high-voltage electricity! So I would strongly advise you to immediately give up any spells or invocations, and turn to prayer instead - to God, to Mary and to the Saints, all of who will be only too glad to listen to your prayers and, if appropriate, answer them. Remember that under every Christian prayer is Jesus' prayer in the Garden of Olives,'not my will, but yours be done' - that is, we give God the credit of knowing what's really best for us, which mightn't be what we think is at the time!

Regarding confession, of course confession can help you - I'd advise you when next you go to confession to tell the priest what you've said in your question and of course with the power of absolution he has from God, he'll forgive you whatever was sinful in what you were doing. Since it seems to me you didn't realize what you were doing was in fact sinful, then your guilt is very slight, or there's none at all, but at least you'll be sorting out things with God and He'll give you the grace to carry on your life with a new sense of complete dependence on Him and on His will. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Praying the Little Office

A Xt3 Member asked at 3:58pm on April 21st 2018
I am enrolled in the Brown Scapular and was wondering if you could tell me when to pray the different prayers of the Little Office.

Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

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Hi Joseph, as often on this website, I get questions I don't know how to answer - could you ever ask whoever enrolled you what the Little Office requires of you? I've looked it up on Wikipedia, where it says that some Carmelites have reprinted the traditional Little Office, and I'm presuming these are a set of prayers with some psalms you'd be asked to pray every day.

Since the Second Vatican Council, the Church has also recommended those in various Third or Lay Orders to pray some of the Divine Office each day. There are plenty editions of what's sometimes called A Shorter Morning and Evening Prayer, taken from the Divine Office - the edition I have includes Compline or Night Prayer as well. It would take at most 20 minutes to say these prayers each day, and although as a priest I say the whole Divine Office every day, I often bring the Shorter Morning and Evening Prayer with me so I can say those parts when I'm travelling by bus, train or ferry around Sydney. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Teaching catechism for first communion at a catholic school

A Xt3 Member asked at 8:03pm on April 19th 2018
Hi Father,
I recently applied for a job as a 2nd grade teacher at a catholic school. I would need to teach catechism classes for first communion to them. I have been baptized catholic and received my first communion but I never got confirmed. Can I teach catechism for first communion if I am not confirmed?
Thank you for your help with this question!

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Hi Nicole, congratulations on your new job - or if you don't have it yet, I hope you get it soon! Of course you can teach those catechism classes if you're not confirmed, but now that you're aware of it, why don't you ask someone to prepare you to be confirmed yourself? You'll get the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit - wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear (=reverence) of the Lord - gifts we all need lots of! Very best, Fr Brendan
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A Xt3 Member asked at 6:30am on April 9th 2018
Hi Father,

Been meaning to ask this question for years and here I am now.

I recite the Angelus twice a day - 6.00am and midday. Every time I wonder why the first "The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary and She conceived of the Holy Spirit" does not follow the second "Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Let be done to me according to your word"

It seems to me that the order is incorrect as Mary could not have concieved (as per first prayer) prior to her consent in prayer two.

Can you please elaborate as every time my mind side tracks to this inconsistency instead of concentrating on the prayer. Has become a real bug!

God Bless and Thanks


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Hi Charles, I'm not a historian and I'd suggest you check out the internet for the historical background both to the Hail Mary (which in the form we use it, including the original verses from Scripture, the addition of the name of Jesus, and the second half beginning with 'Holy Mary,' probably dates to the mid 1400s) and to the Angelus. These prayers weren't meant to give the actual sequence of events but to convey to Catholics the mystery of the Incarnation and Mary's role in that.

If you like, the first invocation focuses on the Divine aspect of the Annunciation, including the Angel's message and the effect of that message on Mary. The second invocation focuses on Mary's response to the Divine message, which, as you point out, was necessary for the Conception of Jesus in her womb. The third invocation seems taken straight from the Prologue to St John's Gospel, and again focuses on the Divine aspects of the Incarnation rather than on Mary's consent. It's possible that the first and second invocations are a deliberately interplay between the Divine and the human aspects of the Incarnation. Very best, Fr Brendan
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A Xt3 Member asked at 4:49pm on April 13th 2018
Hello, Father Brendan. I work as a graphic designer, and a friend of mine who likes my work asked me to create a logotype for his wife so she can use it in business cards, graphic flyers etc. The problem is, she is an "alternative therapist". I tried to delay my answer to him, because I wasn't sure if I should do it, but he kept me asking for days about how much would the logotype cost. I didn't want to argue and cause him to be upset so I finally said to him I would accept to create the visual layout of her logotype. My questions is, is it a sin to provide my work to create an logotype to someone which works contradicts our beliefs? She's a professional into techniques and beliefs non compatible with the Catholic faith, she's more into those new age therapies. I'll have to do this work now but I'm afraid I'm sinning, am I being too scrupulous (I suffer from it aswell and mainly thinks a lot of things that I do/thought are sins)? If I declined the service and explained my reasons to him, I guess I would look like someone "intolerant" or with prejudice from other religions so I accepted. Did I sin? Anyway, in my next confession I intend to tell this to the priest, because I don't want to offend God and I'll be creating the logotype afraid and against my real will (if I could decline what he asked me for without upsetting my friend, I would decline it). Thanks in advance, Father!

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Hi Maria, you're well aware of how people offering wedding services have been sued by activist homosexual couples when they refused to bake cakes for them, both in the US and in Northern Ireland. Those cases should have been protected by the right to one's religious belief to be exercised in the public square. But the new age therapies you mention and the beliefs of the therapist are hardly explicitly against Catholic belief. Often these therapies have a connection, however vague, to Hindu or Buddhist beliefs, and if you were asked by members of those religions for logotypes, I couldn't see any harm in it - as Christians we're committed to dialogue with people of these non-Christian religions, and a friendly contact with them through business could even open up a way for each to understand the other's religious viewpoint better.

Years ago, in Ireland, when the government was going to revoke the tax-exempt status of a Hindu religious group, they asked me - since I'd lectured on what was one of their most important texts, the Bhagavad Gita - if I would defend them before the Irish Tax Court. I spoke as a Catholic priest and a philosopher at University College Dublin, making it clear I didn't share the Hindu beliefs of that group, but that I could testify to their being a legitimate religious organization. I'm happy to say they won their case, and for me it was a chance to deepen dialogue with them. So I can't see where you'd be committing a sin by developing a logotype for this therapist - it's not really for us to judge whether this or that therapy is wrong - that kind of judgment would be needed only if you were convinced what they were advocating in itself was intrinsically immoral - say, sexual activity outside marriage, or non-medically authorized use of drugs. Hope that's a help! Very best, Fr Brendan
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Young adult catholic groups

A Xt3 Member asked at 6:11am on April 4th 2018

I have been really looking to join a catholic youth group kind of thing for young adults in Ottawa. Now there seem to be a lot for students but I want to join one that’s for everyone.

As I was searching google for such groups, I found one that sounded so good! Except the problem is that after doing my research I found out that it is not catholic, it is ethengelical. (Sorry if that is spelt wrong).

Is it ok to be joining that kind of group? I am very strong in my faith and anytime growing up (I’m almost 25) and tried to find who I was and where I fit in religiously, God has always brought me back to the Catholic Church. Always. So I know when I go to other types of churches wheather Christian or not, I feel secure. But is it ok to join in on a church that isn’t catholic just to fill this need to join in? I feel so conflicted.

Thanks for your help,

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Hi Jessica, obviously I don't know what's available in Ottawa, but I think joining an evangelical group could lead to them wishing to make you share their beliefs and sooner or later, to drop specifically Catholic ones like attendance at Mass, an understanding of how the New Testament grew up within the community and with the apostolic authority of the Early Church, the Church's teaching on the Seven Sacraments, devotion to Mary, and so on.

Given that likely result, however strong your faith, wouldn't it be better to 'compromise' and join a Catholic youth group for students - after all (having taught in a secular university for over 34 years) I can assure you that Catholic students are simply young Catholics taking up a variety of subjects from astronomy to zoology, but they're still primarily young Catholics.

An other possibility would be to look for Catholic movements in Ottawa - maybe there are people from say, Communion and Liberation, San Egidio, Focolare, Catholic Charismatics, or more practically oriented groups like St Vincent de Paul or the Legion of Mary. In other countries, many of the people in these movements are young people like yourself, and again, many of those movements are open to young people of different Christian Churches, non-Christians, or even non-believers. But their inner DNA is Catholic, so that provides a spiritually strong and healthy basis for cooperation with, say evangelicals, whose commitment to the Gospel is something we fully share as Catholics. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Questions regarding Pope Francis

A Xt3 Member asked at 12:35pm on March 18th 2018
Why does Pope Francis speak of God in multiple personalities or adjatives? Is God of the poor not God? Is Jesus Christ God? Why does the Pope/Church concern itself with global climate change? Sure I agree the earth is warming but what does that have to do with the Church? Is it a sin to not participate in stopping global warming even if we can? What about The sick? All Pope Francis seems to speak about is the poor. I am not rich, far from it, however I think many millions of people around the world are left out of much of the Popes messages. What about good practicing catholics that give to the poor and catholics who are suffering ,sick and poor in spirit. Pope Francis speaks of economy of the poor as though he believes in socialism. Many if not all countries want prosperity for there citizans except most dictatorships, communist and socialist countries. Another question is Pope Francis made a comment regarding President Trump and his wall. The comment seem to be a judgement when he said ("Christions should not build a wall"). The when he was asked about gay priests he stated who is he to judge. Doe the pope hold the keys to the kingdom as Jesus stated Peter did? It seems as though Pope Francis speaks out as a priest and not as the pope of all Catholics.

I am 56 years old and a practicing catholic. Please help me to understand his statements. I have never had to question our Pope in my life but am very concerned now.

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Hi Michael, I think part of the problem of responding to Pope Francis isn't only one of his making - it's the 24/7 availability to the entire world of whatever a public figure (he's that too) says. I think we'll all have to learn how to filter what any Pope from now on says, so we can sort out a Pope's personal opinions, say in an off the cuff interview, from his statements of official Church teaching.

For example, in his ecological encyclical, Laudato Si he's quite clear that on matters like climate change, while he asserts a greater role to human activity than I would, he also writes: 'On many concrete questions, the Church has no reason to offer a definitive opinion; she knows that honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views' (S61).

His famous remark in one of those interview in the skies, 'Who am I to judge?' wasn't an abdication of the Church's unchanged teaching on the immorality of homosexual actions. He was referring to a particular priest who had been accused of such acts years before. Pope Francis was saying it wasn't up to him to make a judgment on whether that priest was still engaged in such actions, or - far more likely in that particular case - that he had repented and reformed.

Part of the problem, and I think it's a problem for Pope Francis, is in answering leading questions from media, almost like 'have you stopped beating your wife?' He'd often be better off, in my opinion, to decline answering them--and in light of the recent media-storm about whether he'd said there's no hell (he didn't), he'd be better off in not having conversations with Signor Scalfaro, the over-90 year old founder of La Repubblica, who doesn't record or take notes and then comes out with alleged, juicy 'quotes.'

I happen to think his remark on President Trump's plan to build a wall between Mexico and the US wasn't a good one - he's careful not to intervene in Argentinian politics, which of course he understands very well, all the more reason to leave US politics alone: continental Europeans, and I dare say, South Americans, tend to understand Antarctican penguins better than (north) American politics!

Pope Francis is a South American, not European Pope, and, just as St John Paul II was a Pole through and through, that cultural background can be sometimes liberating and sometimes be a less than helpful baggage, in a role that has to be universal.

In my opinion, the sequence of Popes from Pius IX to Benedict XVI is possibly the greatest the Church has known - matched in terms of heroic witness only by the first Pope-martyrs from Peter till the end of the persecutions by the Roman Empire. Yet, even in that heroic sequence, you can easily find limitations and faults in almost all of them (well, John Paul I wasn't around long enough to make mistakes!). So, what's the best attitude to a Pope when he's less than perfect, at times a little encumbered by his cultural background? That's when the great saints who brought the papacy back to Rome at a time when the Popes were happier to enjoy the better weather, food, and local acceptance at Avignon (along with being happy to function as honorary chaplains to the Kings of France), show us the way.

St Catherine of Siena saw the Popes as 'sweet Christ on earth,' when few others could see them that way. She was joined by St Brigid of Sweden, and we can throw in here St Thomas More - none of these had other than rather poor successors of St Peter to lead the Church. But they all could see that, whatever their faults, their Popes were still carrying out Jesus' mandate, to be the Rock on which his Church was to be built. Pope Francis never stops begging people to pray for him, and personally that seems to me to be my part in the Church - to pray for his successor, as Jesus did for Peter, both in Peter's great gifts and in his weaknesses. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Attendance of services during Holy week

A Xt3 Member asked at 8:24am on March 31st 2018
Father, several family members work in the Armed Forces or for essential services. They are unable to get away or obtain leave to attend the services during Holy Week - Maundy Thursday and Good Friday - and are upset that they are unable to do so. It is not something that they can resolve of themselves. How do they maintain the practice of their faith in these circumstances?

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Hi Wendy, while it's very good for Catholics to attend all the services on Holy Week, we're only bound by the Church to attend Mass on Sundays and a very few Holy Days, which don't include Holy Thursday, and the Good Friday service isn't a Mass.

What I would advise your family members to do if this happens again, is to take the readings of the Holy Thursday celebration of the Lord's Supper, and reflect on them in their spare time, along with making an act of spiritual communion (asking Jesus to come into their souls in a very special way). On Good Friday, they could try to make the Stations of the Cross on their own, if they have a spare half hour, and, again, if they have the time, to read St John's account of the Passion, which is at the heart of the Good Friday service.

What I advised people to do this Lent, was, remembering that St Peter didn't exactly live the first 'Lent' that well, was to do what the Risen Jesus asked him to do, when he appeared to him after Easter and asked Peter if he loved him. You could sum up what he asked Peter to do was to love more. We all try to give something up during Lent, but what's maybe even more important is to take something up - and following Jesus' request to Peter, that could be, to try to love the people around us, maybe especially the ones we like the least, more. Even to try for a few minutes each day in Lent. As a friend remarked to me years ago, if you're trying to love your neighbour, you don't need a hair shirt (the kind of penance some monks used to impose on themselves as a penance, so they'd feel discomfort)!. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Vows in lieu of religious vocation

A Xt3 Member asked at 4:41pm on March 28th 2018

I am a young Catholic adult from Staunton, Virginia. I know that I am called to the religious life-- more specifically, contemplative life- but I want to live the life I will someday embrace as well as I am able while I am in the world. To do this, I want to make private vows of poverty, chastity and obedience with my pastor present. I was just wondering if there are guidelines on making private vows or not. Thank you so much and I look forward to your reply.

In Christ,

Loredana Mello

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Hi Loredana, I hope you won't mind if I suggest that you discuss your vocation with a religious sister, brother, monk, or priest-ideally belonging to a community which is itself a contemplative one-for example, a Carmelite, Cistercian or Bendictine. However convinced you are of being called to the religious life, there are many who have taken that path and have deep experience of what it involves and I'm sure they'll provide good guidance and the spiritual direction such a big step would need. Even consecrated virgins living in the world feel the need to have a support community they can refer back to, make retreats with, and so on.

Rather than any particular detailed guidelines, the most important thing is your radical choice of God, uniting it with Mary's choice, which involves embracing the 'sword' that Simeon promised her in the Temple. And since you'd be living out that choice as a member of the Church, you'd need the Church's blessing, including perhaps, your Bishop's approval and support. Assuring you of my prayers for that divine adventure for Our Lady's support-she too was a consecrated Virgin living in the world. Very best, Fr Brendan
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