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Burial of Ashes

A Xt3 Member asked at 11:15am on April 23rd 2018
I have a sister who was married to a non catholic. After her death he did allow a Catholic funeral mass to be done. However, he has yet to allow the burial to take place. She has been deceased over a year. Out of respect I have not been forceful in requesting burial for her. Not that i would be forceful but encouraging. I would like to quote and use the support of our Catholic Doctrine. My sister was a practicing Catholic, even though at times it was lukewarm, her Faith still remained with our Catholic teaching.

As I looked in the Catechism sm of the Catholic Church it doesn't really give me the “meat” shall we say that gives the argument of burial. Also she has a son that wants to spread her ashes on ground that is not consecrated or even approved to be a site for a shrine.

What I need, I believe is the doctrinal support to convince her husband and son to be comfortable that since she was a practicing Catholic she would wish to be buried and especially not spread around.



Thank you and Gods Peace to you,

Marie Ochsner

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Hi Marie, I hope you don't mind if I give two answers to your question! Firstly, your sister's husband is her closest relative, and if he's been slow to allow the burial (I presume of her cremated remains) it could be because he finds it hard to let her go. He may not have a strong belief in life after death, so that 'losing' her to a Christian burial is really difficult. And her other closest relative is her son, who wants to scatter her ashes. Again, he may not have a Christian understanding of how important burial in hallowed ground is, and this scattering presumably has a meaning for him - I'm guessing in a place that meant a lot to your sister or to him. So my advice would be to remember that your sister's spirit is either in Heaven or purgatory - that is to say, completely in God's hands, and that she is at peace. Only at the end of time will her spirit be re-united with her body, risen in Christ's own Risen Body. In the end of the day, I would think it was better to keep a good relationship with your sister's husband and son, rather than allowing their unwillingness to have her given Christian burial. As St Peter puts it in one of his letters, 'before everything, mutual love, for love covers a multitude of sins' (1 Pt 4:8).

The second answer, only to be drawn on, I'd feel, if it can be done without breaking that mutual love we have to have for everyone, would be that a Christian burial shows our reverence for the body of someone who belongs to Christ. And their burial is a participation in the burial of Jesus' own body after his death on the cross. That being buried with and in Christ (including the burial ritual that accompanies it) is an anticipation of the resurrection of your sister's body at the end of time. The trouble is, that this kind of explanation only works for seriously believing Christians, which is why it just mightn't be appropriate for your sister's husband and son.

However, your sister is aware of your deep love for her and is praying for you just as much as you are praying for her - she hasn't 'disappeared' but is even more present to you now than when she was on earth. And I'm sure she wants, above all, for you to be a kind of mediator of the love of God to her husband and son, for which I'll be praying too. Very best, Fr Brendan
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How should I go about confessing things related to mental illness?

A Xt3 Member asked at 7:59pm on April 18th 2018
Hello Father! Thank you in advance for your help. I am in a really hard spot. I suffer from Pure-O OCD. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Pure-O so I’ll try and give you a quick idea just in case you’re not very acquainted with it. It’s an agresiva form of OCD that gives me intrusive thoughts, feelings, and urges that I do not like, want, or enjoy, thought the intrusive feelings sometimes confuse me about this . It comes with hidden physical and mental compulsions and feeds off guilt. My main issue comes with confession. I have been advised by professionals not to get into my OCD thoughts and urges in confession because validating them only makes them stronger and more aggressive. However, the thoughts or “obsessions” created by Pure-O are always extremely disturbing and I always feel extremely guilty for them and wonder if Our Lord sees them as sinful. I have tried to confess them in the past, and it is true that it makes them stronger, I actually had to be hospitalized because I had a massive OCD episode where I ended up isolating myself in a panic thinking that since the thoughts were sinful, then they must be true and I am indeed a monster. When I just think of the thoughts as intrusive, I have moments when I almost don’t notice them, but whenever I think of them as sinful, they do come back full force. I want to confess correctly, especially because with the intrusive feelings, false attraction ( also created by my Pure-O), and intrusive urges along with the thoughts plaguing me, I honestly sometimes wonder to what degree I cooperate with these things. There are days when I feel like they come from me, but then just as quickly, I realize how much I absolutely hate them and don’t want them. I don’t want to use my illness to sugar-coat or to justify something if I did wrong, however, I also don’t want to lose my mind. I am at a very scary place where I wonder if maybe in the eyes of God these things are sinful and I’m just too much of a coward to own up to it. As a priest, how do you recommend me confessing these things in a way that works both for Our Lord and for my recovery?

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Hi Jessica, Pope Francis has again and again reminded us that confession shouldn't be 'a torture chamber,' so I'd suggest that on no account do you mention these disturbing thoughts in confession any more. After all, in your case, they're certainly not sinful, since to commit a serious sin I need to have full knowledge and full consent, and even though you're ever so painfully aware of these thoughts, you don't consent to them in the least.

In fact, reading your question, I was struck by just how close to God you must be, persevering in your faith despite all these Pure O-OCD sufferings you're going through.

Two things to remember: one of the greatest saints of the Church, St Catherine of Siena, all her life was plagued by what she experienced as bad thoughts. But, like you, she didn't consent to them. When these thoughts were swirling about in her head, she said, 'the top of my soul is in God,' choosing to remain in close unity with God no matter where her imagination seemed to be leading her.

And secondly, the suffering you're going through was shared in by Jesus on the Cross when he cried out, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' At that moment, he experienced himself far from God, which was a suffering even greater than the physical torments he was going through. And yet he could say, 'Into Your hands I entrust my spirit' - like you, he didn't consent to this awful experience of being separated from his Father, but willed to be one with him and his will. So, keep up your brave struggle, you're helping not just yourself, but you're a living tabernacle, helping the whole Church, by what you're suffering so bravely. Very best, and assuring you of my prayers, Fr Brendan
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Confession

A Xt3 Member asked at 12:28am on April 12th 2018
Can you please tell me where in the Bible the confessionhas been instituted? Who institute it? Thank you.

Patrizia

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Hi Patrizia, let's start with chapter 2 of St Mark's Gospel, where, to answer the Pharisees, who correctly say that only God can forgive sins, Jesus replies, saying 'that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins' (2:10). To prove he has that divine power, he cures the paralytic before their eyes. Later, he tells St Peter that he will give him 'the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven' (Mt 16:19; and see Mt 18:18 and 28: 16-20). After his Resurrection, Jesus 'breathes' on the Apostles, conferring the power of forgiveness of sins on them and to those legitimately ordained by them: 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any they are retained' (Jn 20: 22-23). You'll get a great account of this sacrament in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, SS 1422-1484, which is available online. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Communion

A Xt3 Member asked at 5:14am on March 31st 2018
Hello,

I hope you can answer my following questions. I have been reading the bible lately, because my faith is getting shaky. I am Italian (born in Italy) so I have been catholic all my life.

The two questions I have are the following.

Why do we take communion whenever we feel like we are in the grace of God?

Reading the bible I see that Jesus instituted the communion replacing passover, which happens only once a year. And the early Christians, the ones who probably knew better than us, did also, as statetd in Matthew 26:1-2, 1Corinthians 5: 7-8, the Schaff-Herzog Volume IV pages 43-44, McClintock &Strong Volume VIII page 836.



Second question. Stil reading the bible, it looks like only the 144,000 can actually eat Jesus body and drink his blood, because the new covenant is just between him and them. Luke 22 verse 22 and 28-30. Looks like we cannot all be judges, so just the 144,000 can have commuion. Revelation 5:9-10, 14:1-3 and Luke 12:32, John 10: 16

It also look like that there 144,000 are the only ones who actually will go up in Heaven, the rest of the flock (the saved people, will live on this hearth, which will be like Eden used to be.



Please tell me, as catholic, why I misunderstood the bible, if I did. It is very important to me. I hope you are willing to help me and show me us catholics are right.



Best regards.



Patrizia Sammartino

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Hi Patrizia, I'm not a scripture scholar, but will do my best with your questions in the order you ask them. But firstly, we should not receive the Eucharist 'whenever we feel like we are in the grace of God.' The Council of Trent taught that we can never be sure that we're in the grace of God. For that assurance, we need to be in full communion with the Church, which means that we've received the sacrament of reconciliation, where any mortal sins we may have committed have been forgiven. It's also Church teaching that such a serious sin can be forgiven through an act of perfect contrition, but that in itself wouldn't be sufficient for the reception of Holy Communion - we must first confess that repented sin and receive sacramental absolution before we approach the Eucharist.

Secondly, Schaff-Herzog's enyclopedia (based on the 19th century Realencyklopadie fur protestantische Theologie und Kirche), not surprisingly expresses a profoundly Protestant understanding of Christianity. The same goes for Methodist ministers McLintock & Strong's Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, also prepared in the 19th century. And while both may be valuable resources, they're hardly likely to be in tune with the Catholic Eucharistic tradition. You can find the best recent statement of Catholic Church teaching on the Eucharist in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1322-1405, or in St John Paul II's two great writings on the Blessed Eucharist, his 2003 The Church of the Eucharist (Ecclesia de Eucharistia) and probably his last ever document, his 2004 Stay With Us, Lord (Mane Nobiscum Domine) - all these are on the net.

And of course, scripture scholarship has a deeper understanding now of the Jewish context for the celebration of the Eucharist than was available in the 19th century - you'll find an excellent treatment of this for example in Brant Pitre's Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper (2011).

The excellent Catholic Straight Answers website I think gives a good reflection on your question about the Passover and its relation to the Mass:

'Not that [Christ] might offer Himself there again and again, as the high priest enters year after year into the sanctuary with blood that is not his own; if that were so He would have had to suffer death over and over from the creation of the world. But now He has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sins once for all by His sacrifice...' (Heb 9: 25 - 28)... With this in mind, we also remember that our Lord commanded, as recorded in the Gospel of St. Luke (22:14ff) and St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians (11:23ff), 'Do this in remembrance of me.' Clearly, our Lord wanted the faithful to repeat, to participate in, and to share in this sacramental mystery. The Last Supper event which is inseparably linked to Good Friday (and the resurrection) is perpetuated in the Holy Mass for time eternal.

The sacrifice which Christ offered for our salvation remains an everpresent reality: 'As often as the sacrifice of the cross by which 'Christ our Pasch is sacrificed' is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out" (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, #3). Therefore, the Catechism asserts, 'The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit' (#1366)...

Therefore, the actual sacrifice of Christ on the cross and the sacrifice of the Mass are inseparably united as one single sacrifice: The Council of Trent in response to Protestant objections decreed in its Doctrine on the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: 'The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered Himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different,' and 'In this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered Himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner.' For this reason, just as Christ washed away our sins with His blood on the altar of the cross, the sacrifice of the Mass is also truly propitiatory. The Lord grants grace and the gift of repentance, He pardons wrongdoings and sins.

Thirdly, the first thing to keep in mind when reading St John's Revelation/Apocalypse is that it belongs to a kind of literature flourishing from two centuries before Christ (like the Book of Daniel, considered to date from around 165bc), to the second century after Christ. What makes St John's Revelation different from other apocalyptic writings is that Daniel prophesied how the central meaning of history was to be fulfilled in the Son of Man who came on earth some 150 years later. For St John, that meaning of history has been achieved in the death and resurrection of Jesus, whose witness John is.

Within that apocalyptic context, the number 144 is simply 12 times 12, where the old meaning of 12 as referring to the 12 tribes of Israel, is superseded by a factor of 12 - which for St John, stands for the entire number of those who will be saved, and was never intended to be taken as a literal number. I'd suggest keeping in mind what St John writes in the Prologue to his Gospel, where he says of the Word made flesh: 'to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.' St John also has the famous 'God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life' (Jn 3: 16), and of course Jesus' prayer in chapter 17 of his Gospel, 'that all may be one.' The Apocalyptic 144 is meant to indicate the universal salvation obtained by Christ for the whole of humanity - of course it's very much up to each one of us to fully cooperate with his overflowing grace.

I hope these few thoughts are a help, very best, Fr Brendan
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Liturgical Music

A Xt3 Member asked at 11:44pm on March 16th 2018
Hi Fr Brendan

I was wondering if there is an official list of approved hymns for use at Mass in Australia. I seem to remember being told that one or two of the ones on a running sheet weren't on that list and thus not to be included.

It was something to do with the Australian Bishops conference but I've tried googling it and not got very far. Could you point me in the right direction?

I'm after a specific list rather than just the criteria upon which the list is based. But the latter would be better than nothing I guess, and interesting all the same.

Kind regards

Marcus.

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Hi Mark, I'm a liturgical disaster, appallingly uninformed on the kind of detail you're asking about! But if it's so hard to find an official list, I think you're fully entitled to presume there isn't any. Wouldn't it be enough to use your I'm sure well-informed doctrinal, musical and liturgical common sense, to filter out any rubbishy hymns, or ones that are poor in doctrine or in melody?

For example, I'm very fond of American Gospel music - just think of the wonderful 'I go down to the river to pray.' But there's a limitation they carry from their generally Baptist origins - they tend to be rather individualistic, focusing on the individual's relation to Jesus, with slight if any awareness of belongingness to the Church. That won't stop me enjoying them, but their ecclesial and sacramental thinness makes them less suitable within Catholic worship in my humble opinion. Hope that's some help. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Should I confess Self Harm

A Xt3 Member asked at 5:43am on March 18th 2018
Not goign to try hide it from this discussion. I self harm.

With reconcilliation coming up this I can't stop questioning wether I should confess this though.

On the one hand, I want to confess, but at the same time It's really sensitive, and as one of the few teenagers in my church, the priest isn't likely to know how to deal with it well.

So what it boils down to are these three questions;

- is it a mortal sin to self harm (not for attention btu as a way to cope)?

- Is it so sensitive to mention to a preist?

- Will he notify my parents?

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Hi Megan, I'm so sorry you're going through such pressure as to feel the need to self-harm as a way to cope. While we're not allowed to damage our own bodies, the fact you feel you need to indicates your need for professional help from a psychological counsellor.

Rather than see what you're doing as sinful - any more than I'd be inclined to see someone who is anorexic as sinning, since what they're doing doesn't fall under the 3 things needed for mortal sin: serious matter, full knowledge of what one's doing, and full consent to that. While self-harm is serious enough, it's better handled as a psychological matter, not a moral one. So I wouldn't think you're bound to confess it in reconciliation. But on no account, if you did mention it to the priest in confession, can he notify your parents, since he's bound by the confessional secret.

I'd very much recommend your talking out why you feel this need, with a sympathetic and experienced counsellor. If, for example, you don't think your school counsellor could help, it's highly likely she knows a qualified person who has experience in dealing with clients who self harm. I meet regularly with an adult who self harms from time to time, and that seems due to deeply buried negative experiences in their past, for which they're receiving helpful ongoing psychiatric counselling.

You're going to be in my prayers every day, Megan, so that in the not too distant future, you see light at the end of that tunnel and are able to move on beyond the pressures that are weighing you down at the moment. With very best wishes, Fr Brendan
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Receiving Communion

A Xt3 Member asked at 10:01am on March 11th 2018
Hi



I am a member of a Religious Community in temporary vows, and I have a question regarding non baptised people receiving communion and also the supremacy of the Holy Father who I believe is the ultimate leader and is the only one who can change the rules of the church.



I'm looking for confidential advice and in particular who a Religious Brother can go to for advice if he is not able to go to his Prior, anyone in his Community / Order or his Bishop. Any suggestions on this? I'm happy to make direct contact with a priest or Bishop but I don't know how to and in particular I do not want it to get back to my Community at this stage.



Is there a way of contacting the Holy Father for confidential advice or is that not done?



Thanks

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Hi Mark, I think the obvious step for you would be to locate a priest you can trust and who has the time to for a good in depth chat to help you resolve whatever questions you have. Any such conversation will be treated in confidence (provided only it's not regarding a possibly criminal matter, which could require legal intervention, which I'm sure isn't your situation!). The Holy Father has so many calls on his time that I'd strongly suggest not contacting him - he couldn't possibly read more than a tiny number of the thousands of messages sent to him every day.

On your other questions: a non-baptized person is never allowed to receive the Eucharist.

Regarding the Holy Father is the leader of the Church and his teaching - you can get an idea of his and of the Church's teaching authority in Chapter 3 of the Vatican II document on the Church, called Lumen Gentium, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church S888 - S892 (all these are available online).

The Pope can't 'change the rules' of the Church whenever they are part of divine revelation, whether in Scripture, supported in the Tradition dating back to the early Church, or belong to the established teaching of the Church. Every Pope is bound to work within that framework. But of course he can change merely human rules - say rules about fasting and abstinence, about the language used to translate the liturgy, and so on. He can also initiate new ones, like the addition of the invocation of St Joseph to the Eucharistic Prayers. Very best, Fr Brendan
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THE CHURCH

A Xt3 Member asked at 2:43pm on February 4th 2018
Good day Padre, my question goes thus:
When can it be said that an individual has left the catholic church? Is it until the individual start attending other churches? Or can he be said to have left the church due to not receiving the holy communion for quite some time despite the fact that he still attends mass regularly? Or can he be also said to have left the church because he tried to seek spiritual help from other sources though still participating in the Catholic church?

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Hi Lawrence, the most important aspect of belonging to the Catholic Church is the relationship I have with Jesus both in himself and with Jesus in our brothers and sisters. I remember Blessed Paul VI saying when visiting a Church in Rome in the early 1970s, when he said being a Catholic isn't just being baptized in the Church or having our name on the parish register. Rather, it's whether the community I belong to is living Jesus' saying, that where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them' (Mt 18:20).

In the Jewish tradition, a person's 'name' meant the whole depth of a person, so what Jesus meant by saying 'gathered in my name' meant being ready to die for one another, like the first Christians. So while there are legal (in terms of Church or Canon Law) issues to being a Catholic, and I don't think any of the points you make - not receiving Holy Communion for some time, while still regularly going to Mass, or seeking spiritual help from other sources - would mean a person was leaving the Church.

But not receiving Jesus in the Eucharist for a long period would mean cutting myself off from the dearest gift he wishes to make of himself to me - obviously that would mean regular reception of the sacrament of Confession so I can receive him worthily. Have no doubt that Jesus misses us much more than we may miss him! I'd be inclined to feel that attending Churches other than the Catholic Church, or seeing spiritual help from them could mean that a person has maybe some work to do to recover the riches that are surely available spiritually within the Church - if not from a person's own parish, at least from the wider Church - even checking out good Catholic bookstores and publishers like Ignatius Press would open up lots of these treasures.

To get back to what I was saying at the beginning, when I was teaching philosophy at University College Dublin for nearly 35 years, students who were trying to live the Gospel as well as they could would just say '18.20' when they met up in the very secular atmosphere of our university. That was their way of renewing their love for one another according to Matthew chapter 18, verse 20 - they realized that they could build little churches wherever they met, in the restaurant, in the library, on the way to class - Jesus will always keep to his promise and reveal himself to these flying churches once we're ready to give our lives for one another. Rather than work out the legal details about leaving the Church, I think it's a lot more in keeping with who you are to set about building or rebuilding the Church wherever you are - some young Catholics I heard of, when they were jailed for witnessing to their faith said it doesn't matter, as long as we can have Jesus among us, we have the Church even in jail! Very best, Fr Brendan
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Conversion

A Xt3 Member asked at 7:18am on January 25th 2018
My daughter was baptised Romanian Orthodox and in doing so also recieved the Eucharist and confirmation at the same time. We have since had her changed to become a Catholic (Reception into full Communion with the Catholic Church). She has been de-registered with the Orthodox church. Can she now recieve the sacraments of First Eucharist and Confirmation in the Catholic church?

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Hi Caroline, thanks for your question. Since the Catholic Church fully recognizes the sacraments administered by the Romanian Orthodox Church as valid, your daughter is already baptized and confirmed. And because that Eucharist she received along with her baptism, was the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, she can of course receive the Eucharist with other children who are making their First Holy Communion, but it wouldn't be her First Holy Communion - except that of course it would be her First Holy Communion in the Catholic Church.

As with her baptism, she has already been validly confirmed, so if you're wondering could she take part in a confirmation ceremony in the Catholic Church, why not ask if it might be possible to have the sacrament renewed (as wedding couples sometimes renew their vows years later) by the celebrant, along with the other children being confirmed. And of course she should take part in preparation for the sacrament, since she probably doesn't remember too much about receiving it! Hope that's a help, keeping you and your family in my prayers, and thanks for bringing all the gifts as baptized and practicing believers you're bringing with you from the Romanian Orthodox Church into the Catholic Church, Fr Brendan
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Thoughts

A Xt3 Member asked at 10:03pm on December 25th 2017
Hi, Fr. Brendan! First of all, Merry Christmas!

I need some advice. This year, due to a childhood trauma from many years ago, I'm facing some psychological problems. I'm under therapy, and I show some symptoms related to PTSD, depression and anxiety, among scrupulosity. In fact, there are chances that I'll have to treat these symptoms with medication. Due to these high levels of anxiety, unfortunately I sometimes have those intrusive thoughts which make me question my faith, my beliefs. Sometimes even makes me wonder about the reality of things, of life, if things and people are real, like an existential crisis and so on. The problem is: I don't want to believe in these thoughts, they bother me and make me feel sad and lonely. I feel like sinning because of them and they scare me because I'm afraid I believe in them, even though deep down I like to think that I don't. I just want to be one of those people with an unshaken faith. Don't want to have doubts or question the nature of things, I just want to be a happy and faithful catholic person as I guess I was before all of this started. Am I sinning? Will I be held accountable for that? Some days are easier than others, should I stay calm in the tough days and wait for the brighter ones? I really don't want to offend God or sin but I'm still in the beginning to learn how to manage those thoughts so I can't avoid them. Thanks in advance!

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Hi Maria, many thanks for your Christmas good wishes! Could you have a look at what I said in answer to the previous question, which while quite different, has something in common with yours. I used to wonder just why did Jesus allow himself to be tempted by Satan in person for all of forty days. But I think one of the reasons was that people tempted severely would know for sure that Jesus was never closer to them than at those moments, encouraging them to do as he did, and decisively reject the devil and his temptations. Later, Jesus is struggling in the Garden of Gethsemane, again under such ferocious pressure, yet prays, 'Father, if you are willing, remove this chalice from me; nevertheless, not my will but yours be done' (Lk 22:42). And on the Cross, you remember he cried out, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' (Mt 27:46). Again, he wanted you to know that the moment you feel you've been abandoned by God is the moment when you're closest to Jess as the moment of his greatest act of love, when, despite feeling that abandonment, he still can say 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit' (Lk 23:46).

You're certainly not sinning, any more than Jesus wasn't sinning during those toughest moments of darkness. Just ask Jesus to help you rise from that darkness as he did. Even before Christianity, the most mature expressions of Greek and other cultures included an awareness that real human maturity included crossing the darkness of that inner desert you're crossing in the company of the loving Heart of Jesus - the word that sums up Greek tragedy is the phrase 'wisdom through suffering' but for Christians, we're never suffering heroically alone, but always supported by Jesus Crucified, and by Mary, standing by your Cross just as she stood beside her Son's. Very best, Fr Brendan
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