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Why do priests wear a gown and not trousers?

A Xt3 Member asked at 3:17am on December 20th 2017
Is it for comfort or just tradition?

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Hi Benedetto, it can be both! When I was a student in Rome many years ago, we always wore what are called cassocks or soutanes, which in warm weather, were quite cool, and in cooler weather, warm enough. But they're just remnants of what were traditional male clothing for everyone hundreds of years ago. In some countries, like Mexico until recently, and Ireland up to the early 20th century it was illegal to wear a cassock in public.

Then, at least in the 1950s and 1960s, public wearing of cassocks (as distinct from in church) went out of fashion among many clergy, at least in the English speaking world. As a recently ordained priest studying in Leuven, Belgium, I was surprised in the early 1970s to see priests there still wearing them. But it's a free choice, and some, often younger, clergy, choose to wear cassocks in public, while members of various religious orders, like the Capuchins, generally wear their religious habit in public too.

Still, let's not forget the kind of clothes we should all wear, priests and laypeople, when he writes: 'Put on the Lord Jesus Christ' (Rm 13:14), and 'Put on then, as God's chosen ones... compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness and patience... and over all these put on love' (Col 3:12-14). Very best, Fr Brendan
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Rod and staff

A Xt3 Member asked at 9:48am on December 14th 2017
Hi Father,

Have a happy and holy Christmas.

I just wanted to ask a quick question. Hypothetically if Jesus held out a rod and staff to a person what might it mean? I can only find protestant interpretations.

Thank you.

Camilla.

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Hi Camilla, that's a tough question to answer, since we've no record Jesus ever did such a thing! But Psalm 22 (or 23), the one beginning with 'The Lord is my shepherd,' addresses the Lord with great confidence: 'Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.' For Christians, that's a beautiful reference to the hands on care of the one who said of himself, 'I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep... I know my own and my own know me...' (Jn 10: 11, 14).

I was in St Peter's Square for the homily Pope Benedict XVI gave at the Mass for the Year of the Priest on June 11th, 2010, and what he said I think fully explains the meaning of that reference you're asking about:

The shepherd points out the right path to those entrusted to him. He goes before them and leads them. Let us put it differently: the Lord shows us the right way to be human. He teaches us the art of being a person. What must I do in order not to fall, not to squander my life in meaninglessness? This is precisely the question which every man and woman must ask and one which remains valid at every moment of one's life. How much darkness surrounds this question in our own day! We are constantly reminded of the words of Jesus, who felt compassion for the crowds because they were like a flock without a shepherd. Lord, have mercy on us too! Show us the way! From the Gospel we know this much: he is himself the way.

Then there is the phrase about the "darkest valley" through which the Lord leads us. Our path as individuals will one day lead us into the valley of the shadow of death, where no one can accompany us. Yet he will be there. Christ himself descended into the dark night of death. Even there he will not abandon us. Even there he will lead us. "If I sink to the nether world, you are present there", says Psalm 139(138). Truly you are there, even in the throes of death, and hence our Responsorial Psalm can say: even there, in the darkest valley, I fear no evil. When speaking of the darkest valley, we can also think of the dark valleys of temptation, discouragement and trial through which everyone has to pass. Even in these dark valleys of life he is there. Lord, in the darkness of temptation, at the hour of dusk when all light seems to have died away, show me that you are there. Help us priests, so that we can remain beside the persons entrusted to us in these dark nights. So that we can show them your own light.

"Your rod and your staff - they comfort me": the shepherd needs the rod as protection against savage beasts ready to pounce on the flock; against robbers looking for prey. Along with the rod there is the staff which gives support and helps to make difficult crossings. Both of these are likewise part of the Church's ministry, of the priest's ministry. The Church too must use the shepherd's rod, the rod with which he protects the faith against those who falsify it, against currents which lead the flock astray. The use of the rod can actually be a service of love.

Wishing you and all who visit the xt3 website a grace-filled and hope-renewing Christmas, Fr Brendan
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Prayer and Free Will

A Xt3 Member asked at 6:24am on November 30th 2017
How will God respond to one's prayer about praying for specific person to fall in love with her/him? I am aware that God does not intervene the person's free will. Recently, I've just learned that there is no really the one for each person in this world.

If I am praying to God to open the heart and mind of this particular single man (that I knew personally) to see my feelings and to possibly reciprocate it, am I doing it in a wrong way?

Or should I pray to remove this desire from heart?

How does this differ from praying for a person's conversion?

Thank you.

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Hi Youkai, surely there's nothing wrong with praying for someone to fall in love with you in the hope of your marrying the right person to share your life with in marriage. It's always good to remember that behind every prayer we say, since our prayers are taken up by Jesus to his Father, is the intention of his own prayer in the Garden of Olives: 'Father, let not my will, but yours be done.'

That means what you're praying for is what God knows is best for this man and for yourself. And by praying for that, you're respecting his freedom too, since what you want is his free choice, please God, to share his life with you in matrimony. I'd be inclined to entrust your prayers also to St Rita of Cascia, who's a great saint for obtaining difficult or almost impossible intentions - you'll find plenty prayers to her on the internet.

It's different to praying for someone's conversion, which would be for a person to turn to God - either from a life of serious sin, or towards the true Church founded by Jesus. You're praying for a particular good - your marriage to the right person. And of course even if that prayer isn't answered, because you're praying for whatever is best, including for yourself, we can pray that prayer will be answered in the future, since no prayers are ever wasted. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Pagan Blood in Christ's Lineage

A Xt3 Member asked at 12:51am on September 11th 2017
I'm just curious about what the pope said that Christ had pagan blood running through his veins. (This is the proper translation. I've run it a few times and double checked it with Catholic sites that posted his full Homily in english)



What does he mean that Christ has Pagan blood running through his veins? The only thing I can find in his lineage would be Ruth who was born a Moabite but became a convert to Judaism. Is that what he means by Pagan blood in Christ's veins?



Cause It just doesn't sound right.

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Hi Dee, Pope Benedict in his wonderful little book, The Infancy Narratives, notes that in the genealogy in St Matthew's Gospel, before Mary is mentioned at the end, 'four women are mentioned by name: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and the wife of Uriah... none of these women were Jewish [though as you say, Ruth converted to Judaism]. So through them the world of the Gentiles enters the genealogy of Jesus - his mission to Jews and Gentiles is made manifest' (pp. 6 - 7).

But Abraham wasn't Jewish either, since we can say that it's only with him that the Chosen People came into existence. As we see often in the life of Jesus, the pagans, like the Sidonian woman, like the centurions, are often way ahead of their Jewish brothers and sisters in their openness to Jesus -- so that what counted with Jesus, and then, after some hiccups, with St Peter and obviously St Paul, isn't blood but faith. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Alternative to Magic Spells Safe for Catholics?

A Xt3 Member asked at 7:36pm on August 4th 2017
Good afternoon, Father Brendan,

I have a question regarding this particular website: http://main.morethanlife.org/logos-home.html

From what I've gathered, it's hosted by a group called More Than Life Ministries, which seems to be a general Christian ministry focused on prayers and prayer requests, with no specific denomination in mind. This half of their website, however, concerning the Logos, is touted as the alternative to a magic spell, and is said to be more effective and far safer. It also says that anybody of any religious background can use it. My question is is it in fact okay for a Catholic such as myself to use such a service? I ask because I would really like to experience some of the luxuries that purportedly come about with the use of the Logos, but I also want to be in good standing with God. And I don't want to end up in a situation like my Dad's, where I am so consumed by my work life that I don't have time for my family or kids. (if I even have one, but that's another question for another time). I would really like to know your thoughts concerning this website, should you take the time to peruse it. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Ryan

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Hi Ryan, I checked out that website, and I'd definitely steer clear of it. Whatever its claims to be of Christian inspiration, here's a sample of what it says about More Than Life Ministries:

  • Have a powerful Master of the 'Logos' put his skill and experience to work for you
  • If you are looking for love, wealth, happiness, personal goals, fulfillment, truth, enlightenment... whatever your personal need, you need the power of the 'Logos' at work for you.
  • The 'Logos' was the creative word spoken at the beginning of time now our Masters of the 'Logos' will direct that creative word in your direction.
  • Passed down from generation to generation since the beginning of time the secret of the 'Logos' has been entrusted to wise men who have used its authority to speak into being the wants, wishes and desires of those who truly believe and give themselves to its mystical power.
  • Now we have joined with international Master of the 'Logos' Chakar Santil to bring the power of the Universal Word to those who are in need...

All this is so vague, with no mention of the Church, nor even of the Chosen People of the Old Testament, just these mysterious Masters of the Logos (rather scarily depicted on the website, in black, wearing what looks like black Ku Klux Klan headgear), led by the mysterious International Master of the Logos, Chakar Santil, and certainly no mention of Jesus Christ. And I find odd its assertion that invoking their logos is nothing like a magic spell, with none of the bad effects gained from contacting (on the basis of the website's illustration) evil spirits: as if the kind of people they expect to recruit are those who have already been trying out magic of some sort. Which makes me feel that the Logos website has its origins in some mixture of Eastern religions.

Nor is it too bothered about its success stories verging on forms of moral behaviour that would certainly go against either Judaism or Christianity: 'I was heartbroken when my lover left me for another woman. I cried all night long and was desperate for him to return. A friend told me about the "Bring My Lover Back" logos. Within days he was back and our relationship has been better than ever. Petra T.'

My advice would be to turn to Christian prayer, to pray through, in and with Jesus to the Father, for whatever you wish. But the basic form of all Christian prayer is Jesus' prayer in the Garden of Olives before he died, 'let not my will, but yours be done.' Along with all the usual prayers we say, especially the Rosary. I don't have time to go into the very obvious appeal for cash donations, the huge importance of 'seeds of faith' - which for all I know are used, as the website says, for feeding the hungry and helping the homeless. But the connection of success in those prayers with cash donations reminded me of some of the much disgraced televangelism rackets. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Exorcism

A Xt3 Member asked at 3:15pm on July 24th 2017
How long does an exorcism take place?can it take months?

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Hi Celestine, from what I've read about exorcisms, it can sometimes take months, as you say, with multiple exorcisms required to finally rid someone who has been possessed of an evil spirit. Some individual exorcisms I've read about can take several hours.

In over 50 years as a priest I've only encountered one clear case of possession. When I was with this person, their face changed expression, they spoke in some unintelligible language, there was an eerie laugh, and when I tried to pray a simple exorcism prayer over them, they banged their head against the wall very painfully - so much so that I was sure the person hadn't being pretending in any way. An ordinary priest isn't allowed to carry out exorcisms, only one delegated by the bishop. I immediately contacted the authorities in my diocese so I could put this person in touch with the diocesan exorcist. From what I heard, he carried out several exorcisms, and I think the evil spirit, who had been tormenting this devout person, left. Thank God Jesus has given this power of driving out evil spirits to his Church!

Very best, Fr Brendan
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addiction

A Xt3 Member asked at 11:41pm on July 12th 2017
Good morning Father.I really want to know about "addiction diminish culpability".I have readed a lot of information about addiction or vice.For example,if i have a true addiction like watching pornography,does my addiction diminish or mitigate my culpability?but how the addiction can diminish my culpability even though we know that pornography is a grave matter?thanks and God bless.

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Hi Christopher, I'm afraid I have to say that I wouldn't approach this issue quite like that. The people I know who have overcome addictions all say the same two things: You have to throw yourself into God's hands, and you have to have zero tolerance - absolutely no half measures.

Let's take alcohol addiction: If, because I'm already an alcoholic, I crash into a pedestrian on a legitimate pedestrian crossing, my guilt isn't less because I'm an alcoholic - it's greater. Firstly, because I'm responsible for 'nursing' my addiction at an earlier stage, and secondly, because of that addiction, I should never have put myself behind the wheel of a car when I was drunk. And no matter what I'm addicted to - drink, drugs, or pornography - the cure is the same: zero tolerance. That involves the pain of going cold turkey, but people who want to reform take that on no matter how painful it is.

How does a Christian face into zero tolerance? By relying completely on God, maybe saying that prayer of Blessed John Henry Newman, "O my Lord Jesus, low as I am in Your all-holy sight, I am strong in You, strong through Your Immaculate Mother, through Your saints and thus I can do much for the Church, for the world, for all I love." Or, with Blessed Chiara Badano, "If you want it, Jesus, I want it too" - that was her prayer in great agony from bone cancer.

If you had a look at St Augustine's Confessions, where he tells the story of his own conversion (including from sexual sins), you'll find out how, thinking of the saints, he could say, if they can do it, why can't I? So, instead of depending on ourselves - who are never strong enough on our own to give up an addiction - we learn to be able not to be able to do anything on our own, but with St Paul, discover that 'I can do all things in him who strengthens me' (Phil 4:13). Very best, and keeping you in my prayers, Fr Brendan
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Can God command us to do evil?

A Xt3 Member asked at 2:18pm on July 1st 2017
Hello Father,

I was looking through a book called "Hard Sayings: A Catholic Approach to Answering Bible Difficulties". I read the book of Joshua in the Bible and there were commands from God to kill women and children of other societies. In the book the author says one way to look at these commands is that because God is the author of all life, he can give and take away life even if they are innocent so perhaps he did this through the Israelites.

In most atheism vs theism debates, Christian debators often talk about God being all-good and how it would be against his nature to request evil acts from us because he is perfect. Moral truths exist because God is perfect goodness itself and so it would be impossible for him to sin or be evil by definition with common examples of moral truths given being killing innocent people, rape etc.

So my question would be, if it is objectively wrong to kill innocent people like children, how should I respond to this idea that God is sending the Israelites to commit an evil act? So, if God is all-good why would he send people to act in a way contrary to his nature?

Thanks for your help.

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Hi Miguel,

It's helpful to remember that the Bible isn't just one book, but a whole library of books, where the Old Testament is covering a period of about 1800 years, from Abraham on, through Moses, King David, the Prophets, the later Wisdom writings and so on. The story those various books tell is a gradual unfolding of God's plan for his people, where that unfolding is accompanied by the people of Israel - at least some of them - slowly growing in understanding and appreciation of that plan.

The people were chosen by God, but that choice didn't suddenly change them from being a tribal group with similar customs to the groups around them. Law, punishment for crime, and the rules of war, marriage, religious worship, and so on, took many centuries to move in the direction of the teaching of the great prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. It's not until those later writers, say from 700bc on, that you get a clear notion of individual responsibility, of marriage as between one man and one woman, and guilt as not determined by the action of members of the tribe in the past, but only by each one's own wrongdoing.

So I wouldn't be inclined to use the explanation given in Hard Sayings. Rather, just like the patriarchs having several wives, I'd see the rule of war in Joshua as expressing the normal slaughter that goes on among human beings (if you want equivalent slaughter among the 'highly civilized' Athenians slaughter of the inhabitants of the island of Melos (covered by Greek historian Thucydides) in 416bc, you can see how 'normal' that treatment of enemies was. God's patience extended to allowing the Chosen People gradually to see the implications of his covenant with them.

If you'd like modern examples of how slowly human beings respond, even to Christianity, think of William Wilberforce's struggle in then Christian England to have slavery abolished in 1807. And regarding war, St Augustine was the first to develop what's now called 'just war theory' in the 400s - and that was in light of Christ's teaching to love our enemies. He asked how a Christian can engage in war while following Christ's teaching. Summarizing what later was developed by St Thomas Aquinas, and much later, adopted in secular law from Grotius in the 1700s on, they taught in war you should never kill innocents, and only aim at preventing evil rather than at killing enemies. This means that legal agreements like the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war - often ignored even in our own times - come mostly from the New Testament and the teaching of Christ. It takes us human beings a long time to learn! Very best, Fr Brendan
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catechism

A Xt3 Member asked at 3:05pm on May 31st 2017
Hello,

Are all catechisms valid?

For example: https://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/goda21a.htm

Thanks

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Hi Anna, all officially approved Catechisms are surely valid (which would exclude, for example, the Dutch Catechism of 1966, which had certain areas that were not considered to be in line with the Church's teaching). So the Baltimore Catechism, first published in 1885, is fine. But why not use the Catechism of the Catholic Church first issued in 1992 and easily available online? It's more up to date with all the Church's teaching since 1885, and there are various shorter, summary versions of it too. Very best, Fr Brendan
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full knowledge

A Xt3 Member asked at 1:22pm on May 25th 2017
Shalom.i have a question.What does the term "full knowledge" mean? Does full knowledge mean one has to have the most knowledge about sins (like most knowledge of why watching pornography is a sin)?

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Hi Christopher, we say that the requirements for our being responsible for any action, means that we must know what we're doing and choose to do it. So 'full knowledge' means just an ordinary awareness of what we're doing, not at all some kind of scientifically validated knowledge. Say I'm a truck driver or airline pilot, whatever, it's not rocket science for me to know that if I've been drinking, I shouldn't get behind the wheel or into the cockpit. Maybe I can take a small beer or single glass of wine (everyone has different capacities), but it's a professional requirement for me to know I can't go even one drop over the minimum allowed by law.

Regarding pornography, a friend of mine gave me the example of a 'cyanide sandwich' -- all you need is a tiny dot of cyanide in an otherwise normal sandwich to kill you . In areas to do with sexuality, the only way to deal with pornography is zero tolerance, never to allow even the slightest image that could be an occasion of sin. Because if the devil spots that I'm lowering my guard (a bit like an opposing team can spot if a guy on the other side is scared of being tackled, they'll fall on him like a ton of bricks), he'll let me compromise a little here and a little there, and like St Peter warns, he's going about like a lion looking for someone to devour. Then he pounces on me because I haven't refused to compromise in the least. Very best, Fr Brendan
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