Year of Youth 2018

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contacting pope francis

A Xt3 Member asked at 4:03am on August 28th 2018
dear fr.

i would just like to ask how can i possibly contact pope francis via email?

that's all thank you so much

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Hi Princess R, since you can imagine hundreds of letters to the Pope arrive every day, if you want him or his assistants to read your letter, it's recommended that you keep your letter short. And of course show the Pope the respect of his office by writing to him as ‘Your Holiness.' Also, if you'd like a reply, include your address and phone number. Here's the address for writing to him:

His Holiness, Pope Francis
Apostolic Palace
00120 Città del Vaticano, Vatican City

Vatican City is a country on its own, so that's enough, and the postage will be the same as postage to Europe. Very best, Fr Brendan
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When to report crimes?

A Xt3 Member asked at 6:51pm on September 25th 2018
Hi Father, I wanted to know when do we have to report crimes that we see or hear other people doing? Like for instance, I know some people who have fake IDs and who pirate movies/music online. Am I obliged to report them by moral law as legally, we're not obliged nor is it my job. What about people I know who drive buzzed on beer but are still concious of how they drive and all? This has been really bothering me because I know many people who do illegal things and I find it overwhelming that I have to report it if I am obliged.

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Hi Karen, in many parts of the English speaking world there's difference between a crime and a civil offence. A crime is considered as committed against the whole state and these are prosecuted by the state; civic cases are considered to be offenses against an individual and these are dealt with by civil law lawsuits. Since crimes are much more seriously considered, concealing crime d result in a person being accused as accessory before, during or after the fact - if they had knowledge of the crime about to be committed, or while was committed, or after it had been committed.

But all of your examples have more to do with civil offences. I'd be more inclined if they were friends of yours to point out the dangers they were running - like driving while drunk. You're definitely not obliged to intervene in these cases, since often those offending are unlikely to listen to your advice. A lot of law is a matter of common sense and for me you're not obliged to report most of the cases you mention. What if there's knowledge of real crime, like drug dealing? A lot depends here on just how good the local police are. If you've a fair suspicion they'll inform on to the drug dealers, I'd say were putting yourself at unjustifiable risk and should keep quiet about what's going on. I'm really sorry I don't know what country your writing from and I could be more specific if I knew. Keeping you in my prayers, Fr Brendan
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Missing mass

A Xt3 Member asked at 12:05pm on September 25th 2018
Hello, my mother wants me to miss mass to visit/care for my grandmother, who is mourning the loss of my uncle, (her son) is it still a mortal sin to miss mass?

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Hi Emma, this isn't an easy question to answer, since they are few details here. So please accept I don't have enough of these details. I'm presuming we're talking about the obligation to attend Sunday (or Saturday evening Mass).

Since in most countries, Sunday Mass doesn't take more than an hour, it doesn't seem asking too much to take that hour and dedicate it to God. When you visit your grandmother you are bearing within you the presence of Jesus - you might even consider becoming an extraordinary Eucharistic Minister so you could bring your grandmother Jesus. You'll find the answer to your question on missing Mass in the Catechism of the Catholic Church S2042.

Normally someone is excused from attending Mass if they're seriously ill, have just become a mother and what I find hard to understand is that not being with your grandmother for just one hour a week (are there no others who could help out here?), or, and forgive me for this, is there some kind of personal difficulty between you and your mother that could be resolved in an a friendly discussion? With very best wishes and prayers, especially for your grandmother's tragic situation. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Is it immoral to purchase products that test on animals?

A Xt3 Member asked at 12:49pm on September 9th 2018
Especially if they are not necessarily for our care and saving of human lives like cosmetics and shampoo, even household cleaning supplies? I have read that even a chocolcate company is doing tests on animals. Must we avoid them or can we buy from them since our cooperation is remote? Or must we buy alternatives and boycott those companies. Although I read in some of the comapny's websites that they are trying to reduce it and find alternatives and that they do it when required by law and when it's necessary.

I can't find an answer anywhere whether or not this is a sin. it has been bothering me a lot and would like an answer. thanks.

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Hi Karen, here's one of the most recent Church statements on animal testing, where in paragraph 130 of his encyclical letter on ecology, Laudato Sii, Pope Francis wrote:

While human intervention on plants and animals is permissible when it pertains to the necessities of human life, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that experimentation on animals is morally acceptable only "if it remains within reasonable limits [and] contributes to caring for or saving human lives".[106] The Catechism firmly states that human power has limits and that "it is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly".[107] All such use and experimentation "requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation". [108]

Most of us haven't a clue as to whether products we're buying have been developed by means of animal testing, but because people have been questioning animal testing for beauty products, there have been a range of these goods which explicitly say that animal testing wasn't involved in producing them. So if you have a choice, it'd be better to use those products.

I don't think we can speak of sin whether or not you use these products, since as you say, a person's cooperation in the wrong of unnecessary animal experimentation is pretty remote, but the more people protest about this abuse and boycott those products, the quicker will producers find more ethical means of production.

Very best, Fr Brendan
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A Xt3 Member asked at 8:58am on August 28th 2018
All human beings will die at some point. Is it a sin if I ask God to let me die sooner rather than later?

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Hi Laura, I think the best answer to your question can be found in Jesus' own attitude to his death - as man, he feared death, and yet as the Son of the Father, completely open to his Father's will, he prayed, 'Father...let not my will but yours be done' (Lk 22:42). If you make Jesus' prayer your own, you're opening your life to God's will, and then you can be sure you're on the right way. I've quoted before what Blessed Chiara Badano's version of this prayer. Undergoing great suffering, at 18, from the bone cancer she knew would kill her very soon, she used to pray: 'If you want it, [Jesus], I want it too.' Let me assure you of my own prayer for you too, in any difficulties and pain you may be going through, very best, Fr Brendan
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Struggling to Pray: Distracted and/or Lazy

A Xt3 Member asked at 7:00pm on August 25th 2018
Hi Father,

I have been struggling to pray for a while now. This becomes a daily struggle as whenever I go to pray, I daydream, get distracted and sometimes don't even want to. I feel terrible about this and end up confessing this every time but after I do, I make the exact same mistakes of distracting myself and saying "I'll do so and so first then I'll pray" but never doing it.

Its no doubt in God or the church or anything like that, it seems like I have no motivation or desire to pray while at the same time I do want to. I know this sounds very lazy of me seeing as prayer can even be just 5 minutes before sleep but even this becomes difficult for me because I just want to do other things or I start planning the next day instead.

Could you give me some advice on how to deal with this? I basically always feel troubled about this because I find it so hard to focus and when this negligance of prayer is about to happen, I can see it from a mile away but I don't do anything to stop it, its like I'm programmed to do the exact same thing every time. That is what troubles me even more, I know the problem, I see it and I have ideas on what to do about it but I just don't.

Please help. Thank you Father.

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Hi Miguel, what you're experiencing with difficulty in prayer isn't just you-it's most of us, at one time or another! That's why short prayers-shorter even than most tweets-have been used by Catholics for centuries. Take that little prayer revealed by Our Lady to the children at Fatima, 'O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and bring all souls to heaven, especially those who have most need of your mercy.' Then there's the prayer said by many Orthodox Christians-we can surely say it too: 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

Obviously you could try saying just one decade of the Rosary, or-one of my favourites, the Stations of the Cross. Often on long trips-by Irish, not Australian standards!-I'd take my time praying about each station, sometimes thinking of them in terms of Mary, sometimes as Jesus, sometimes for the sufferings the Church is going through at the moment-so many variations are possible.

Advice I've given here from time to time is that the most important moment in my prayer is that the most important element in our prayer is to connect with whomever I'm praying to-if I'm saying the Morning Offering, it's you, Jesus, I'm speaking to, if the Our Father, I'm speaking to you, Father, if the Hail Mary, I'm speaking to you, Mary, if the Glory be, I'm speaking to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

A way of understanding my own distractions is, to imagine someone, while chatting to me is also looking at their mobile at the same time. You can feel a bit insulted by their lack of attention. Well, like you, a lot of my praying-even though I'm too old fashioned to be bothered using a mobile, or do my best not to-is as if I were looking at my phone rather than at Jesus, Mary, the Trinity, and so on. So I have to keep waking my faith up to get in contact again.

No one said that praying is easy: when I started my first year in the seminary, it felt as if I were lifted up onto Cloud Nine, but after that first year, way back in 1960-61, I almost never feel anything. That brings me closer to Jesus' own huge suffering at prayer, when he cried out, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' I think he wants us to be with him at that moment, unable to pray, and still pushing ourselves to say, in Him, to our Father, 'Into your hands I entrust my spirit.' Or with those who follow St Faustina's Divine Mercy prayer, 'Jesus, I trust in you.' I think the more we're like little children, barely able to say a word, the nearer we are to that prayer of Jesus. And of course the best preparation for meeting Jesus in prayer is making the effort to find him in whoever our neighbour happens to be at the time. Hope that's a bit of help, very best, Fr Brendan
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A Xt3 Member asked at 12:06pm on August 16th 2018
What does the Catholic Church teaches on monarchy? Also, what does the church teach on divine right of kings, coronation ceremony and anointing of kings?.

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Hi Olamide, Christ taught us very clearly, 'Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's' (Mt 22:21). St Peter wrote, clearly separating our political from our religious duties, 'Fear God. Honour the emperor' (1 Pt 2:17). In Chapter 13 of St Paul's Letter to the Romans, he begins by saying-since some Christians were making the mistake of thinking they could do what they liked, independent of the political situation they found themselves in: 'Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God' (Rm 13:1).

This isn't all that different from what Jesus said to the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate: 'You would have no power over me unless it had been given to you from above' (Jn 19:11). Of course this doesn't mean Christians are bound to obey unjust laws (like those permitting abortion or euthanasia), or those of an evil ruler like Hitler or Stalin, insofar as they went against morality. That's why St Paul goes on to give the context that obliges Christians: 'Owe no one anything, except to love one another' (Rm 13:8), and the further context, that our time on earth is limited, 'For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed' (Rm 13: 11).

The whole history of the Jewish people showed how their kings were under God, not gods, as the rulers of the great empires around them claimed for themselves. And in the light of Christ's teaching, no Christian king could claim to be above the law of God. The whole development of, for example, English Common Law was based on this principle. Just to take one example, Henry of Bracton (1210-1268) wrote that 'the king himself out not to be under man but under God, and under the law, because the law makes the king.' And he takes the example of Christ, who 'was willing to be under the Law, "that he might redeem those who were under the Law."' Some profoundly misguided monarchs like James the VIth of Scotland and 1st of England claimed this 'divine right of kings' but it has no basis in English law, and course the 20th century has seen various 'empires' claiming total control of their subjects, in Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, present day Communist China, North Korea, not to forget numerous tinpot rulers like President Maduro in Venezuela, and I'm sure you could add a few more to that list.

So, the Church, right from the time of Christ, while it may sometimes have become uncomfortably close to endorsing this or that time of regime, monarchic, oligarchic, republican, whatever, its basic aim is to help its followers to live the Gospel, and this can happen in most political setups.

Whatever ceremonies that get attached to those who happen to be in power, like the coronation and anointing that occur in the British monarchic system, or the inauguration of the US or Russian President, belong to those countries' traditions and have their own value, in some cases accepting a religious aspect to political power. But the Church isn't tied as such to any political structure, asking only that it be run honestly and justly for the sake of the good of all the country's citizens. Very best, Fr Brendan
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A Xt3 Member asked at 12:03pm on August 16th 2018
Why is marriage a mystic union? . At what point in ceremony did the two become married?. How did the man and woman truly became one?. Is sexual intercourse the main element or the marriage itself?.

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Hi again, Olamide. Just last Sunday we had that beautiful reading from Chapter 5 of St Paul's Letter to the Ephesians, where he compares the love of husband and wife to the love of Christ for the Church. And of course the presence of Jesus at the wedding in Cana has traditionally been understood as anticipating his presence in every Christian marriage. I think if you check out the Catechism of the Catholic Church (easily available online), you'll find an indication of its mystical depth:

In the Latin Rite the celebration of marriage between two Catholic faithful normally takes place during Holy Mass, because of the connection of all the sacraments with the Paschal mystery of Christ. In the Eucharist the memorial of the New Covenant is realised, the New Covenant in which Christ has united himself for ever to the Church, his beloved bride for whom he gave himself up. It is therefore fitting that the spouses should seal their consent to give themselves to each other through the offering of their own lives by uniting it to the offering of Christ for his Church made present in the Eucharistic sacrifice, and by receiving the Eucharist so that, communicating in the same Body and the same Blood of Christ, they may form but 'one body' in Christ (1621).

But the whole section on marriage there is well worth reading, 1601 - 1666, where you'll find more beautiful reflections on how marriage belongs closely to God's plan for humanity, an expression of his Covenant or promised relationship with us. The Catechism also points out that the actual Sacrament of Marriage comes about in and through the spouses' mutual declaration of consent-it's good to remember that the priest or deacon present at their wedding is only there as a witness for the Church. It's the couple themselves that confer that sacrament of Matrimony on each other at that moment.

Only if, for whatever reason-since marriage includes openness to having children within that relationship-sexual intercourse does not take place over a certain time, there could be grounds for an annulment of the marriage. However, that's a discussion for another time, since there are so many other factors that may be involved here. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Judgement Day

A Xt3 Member asked at 11:11am on August 12th 2018
Hello Father,

I don't know how the judgement on judgement day will be, but i just realised how imperfect humans are and how imperfect i am and how i am not capable of handling them. I do not understand God's Standard for judgement and i am so terrified about my imperfections. Will God judge us based on our imperfections not minding our weakness and incapability ?

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Hi Olamide, Jesus has already told us the question we'll be asked at that most important 'exam' at the end of our lives, in the 25th chapter of St Matthew's Gospel, verses 31-46. That question will be in terms of 'whatever you do to the least of your brothers (and sisters) you did it to me.'

I just came across this nice example of that, from a young married woman who'd recently started living the Gospel in her family, this is what she said: 'I experienced a joy I never had before and wanted to share this love outside the four walls of our house. For example, I remember running to the hospital to visit the wife of a colleague who'd attempted suicide. For quite a time, I'd known of their difficulties, but being absorbed in my own problems, I hadn't bothered to help her. But then I felt her suffering was my own and I couldn't rest until the situation that had driven her to that point was resolved. This experience marked the beginning of a change in my mentality. I understood that, if I love, I can be a reflection of God's love for everyone I meet, even if only a very small one.' As St John of the Cross put it, 'in the evening of our life, we'll be examined on love.'

So don't be worried about your imperfections-often I say to people in Confession, 'being a Christian isn't being perfect, it's being ready to start again.' We all fail, especially in love. My father, among other things, was a boxer, and, like my mother, he'd come from a broken family and I'm sure missed having his father around. So he had a bad temper and as children we were used to many rows at home. But both mo parents knew that line from St Paul (Eph 4:26), 'Don't let the sun go down on your anger.' And no matter what fireworks there had been, they always made it up by suppertime. I now realize they made what's been called 'a pact of mercy,' where they saw each other the next day as new people, starting again and forgetting whatever failures there'd been the day before. I've tried to do the same with my own imperfections and failures, knowing that Jesus only looks on me-and you!-with mercy, and will carry every burden that's wearing us down. Another great line from St Paul (Rom 8:28) is: 'We know that in everything God works for good'-and St Augustine adds to that, based on his own experience, 'yes, even our sins.' So even my failures, which keep me humble, open me to receiving the unending mercy of Jesus. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Illegal Downloads & Restitution

A Xt3 Member asked at 9:37pm on August 6th 2018
I've recently learned that we as Catholics are obliged to abide by civil law. Now, I had always regarded things like copyright law to be the stuff of trivial man-made laws and nothing God would care about. I regarded internet piracy as being among these trivial things. Doing some online research and hearing what others had to say on the matter, it seems that illegally downloading things as I'd been doing for years was akin to theft for some and to others, very clearly theft. I saw that the Catechism stated, regarding theft, that restitution was required and failure to make restitution would be a sin. In my case, wouldn't restitution involve paying for the thousands of songs I've amassed, as well as the movies, comics and occasional game? If so, would I need to pay for the ones I currently have or all the ones I've ever downloaded? I've read some answers to similar questions that simply say to delete all the illegal downloads and resolve to do things legally from now on. I've already deleted some of the material. However, if this is theft then surely restitution is required? The owners and creators of the music for example were missing out on justly earned revenue because I chose not to purchase their work legally. But I wouldn't have gotten so much music if it wasn't for the fact that I was able to get it for free. At the same time, many artists' music is often available to listen to officially on Youtube for free, and I likely would've simply used that in many instances instead of paying. That being the case, is it even possible to calculate how much they've actually lost out on? Also, would it be right to pay restitution for songs or other things that in some instances weren't exactly spiritually good?

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Hi James, I'm inclined to agree with the advice you've already received, which is not to download illegally in the future, and that you don't owe restitution for what you've already downloaded. For example, a good accountant should look for loopholes in poorly drafted legislation, so that his client only pays taxes on what is required by law. This is what I think is called tax avoidance, and not tax evasion, which is a crime. I've a feeling that it's the responsibilities of the various sites that make material easily downloadable without payment-they should make the effort to insert a paywall. I'm not very informed in this area, but I think it's become a lot more difficult to make what are considered illegal downloads now.

Years ago, a friend working in Beijing who knew I was working on the Hitler period, sent without my asking, what I guess was a pirated DVD of The Triumph of the Will by Leni Riefenstahl, film director under the Nazis. Since I hadn't bought it myself, I watched it and later sent it to a young German film producer, because at that time, I think it wasn't available to him. Now it's freely downloadable on Youtube. Again, I don't feel any need to make restitution. And I'd say the same to you: just don't do that anymore, and presume God has spotted your obvious good will in even asking this question. Very best, Fr Brendan
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