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Feast of St Margaret Mary Alaquoque

in topic "Other"
A Xt3 Member asked at 11:59pm on October 15th 2017
There seems to be some confusion over the Feastday of St Margaret Mary Alaquoqe. Some calendars put the feastday down to the 16th of October and others the 17th of October. Which is the correct date?

I noted also that today is supposed to be the feastday of St Gerard Majella, but no-one seems to make much of it. When I was growing up in the 50's/60's/70's this feastday was very popular and in the schools the nuns used to relate interesting stories about this saint - nowadays, the children don't seem to be told about this saint in the Catholic schools.



Thank you.

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Hi Ethel, I'm just as puzzled as you are! In Australia and in the Roman Missal, her feast day is celebrated on October 16th, while some sites I looked up say it's on October 17th. In fact, it's what's called an 'optional memorial,' along with St Hedwig (who I'm also very fond of as I attended Mass in St Hedwig's Cathedral in what was then Communist East Berlin many years ago). Maybe it was originally on the 17th, but St Ignatius of Antioch's feast on that day might have 'bumped' her off that flight.

If St Margaret Mary was moved back to October 16th, it looks as if St Gerard Majella wasn't even let onto the plane - his feast day is also on October 16th, but he's not included in the Roman Missal any more (I don't know if he was there before). I guess the reason is because there are many new saints, so there isn't room for them all to be commemorated by the whole Church. But I'm sure he's still in the local calendar of his home diocese in the far south of Italy, and perhaps he's in the Italian national calendar of saints too.

St Gerard is patron of mothers in childbirth. This is because, when visiting a family, not long before he died at 29 in 1755, he'd dropped a handkerchief. One of the daughters ran after him with it, and he told her to keep it as she might need it one day. Years later, now married, she was in danger of death during childbirth (at a time when only a third of children survived birth). As soon as she'd asked for that handkerchief her pains went away and her child was born healthy.

An online version of another experience explains why he's also the patron of those wrongly accused: When he was 27, Majella became the subject of a malicious rumour. An acquaintance named Neria accused him of having had relations with a young woman. St Alphonsus Liguori, the founder of the Redemptorist Congregation, to which he belonged, confronted him with these accusations. The young lay brother remained silent. The girl later recanted and cleared his name.' He's a truly wonderful saint, what a pity we don't hear a lot more about him. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Transgender

A Xt3 Member asked at 6:50am on October 15th 2017
Dear Father.

If someone has gender dysphoria and shows up dressed as the opposite sex, is it okay to address them by their new chosen name and use their preferred gender pronoun (ie she/her, if the person was originally born a man and vice versa).

Or is it giving tacit approval to that?

Many thanks

Mark

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Hi Mark, the first requirement for all Christians is to love Jesus in our neighbour, especially in the one we regard as the 'least.' If I get that right, then the particular behaviour in any circumstance will follow, since I'm asking - as your question shows you're asking too - how can I love Jesus in this person who experiences himself or herself as transgender.

I'd be inclined to think of how Jesus responded to the woman caught committing adultery. Everyone surrounding her treated her as a sinful object, to be disposed of by stoning her to death. But Jesus went straight to her heart and saw her as an extremely vulnerable human being who'd been looking for love in the wrong place. And he took the risk of not treating her as a public sinner, knowing that those around him were only too keen on catching him out if he didn't agree with stoning her. Having asked her if anyone remained to condemn her, she replied, 'no, Master,' and he simply said, 'neither do I, go and sin no more' (see Jn 8: 1-11).

But before saying that, he'd built a relationship with her. And maybe that's what we have to try to do with the transgendered person who comes our way. Because only if they experience our genuine love for themselves as persons will it ever be possible to open up a dialogue with them to the point that we could encourage them to change their wrongful lifestyle. So I'd be inclined, if you're able, to suggest calling them by whatever term they want to be called.

It could be quite a different situation if you were in a position of authority, say a school principal, responsible for a sports activity, and so on. Then you might have to take a stand, since other people involved could be scandalized by publicly accepting their position. This is a very thorny question, and I'm not trying to deal with all these other situations here. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Types of business that's acceptable as a child of God

in topic "Other"
A Xt3 Member asked at 12:43pm on October 13th 2017
Please, I'd like to know what it means in the Church, for a Christian to run a betting or gamble related type of business.
Not a gangster style of business. Somewhat related to this type of online betting via sports game result. Please I need Godly and Biblical answer, inspire of the human view of it.
Thanks.

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Hi Peter, when I was studying politics many years ago, our lecturer pointed out that it was important for good people to get involved or else only bad people would enter politics. Since the Church has never taught that gambling is sinful, there is no reason why a Christian shouldn't be involved in running a betting or gambling business.

I think if you look at a similar situation, Christians also sell alcohol and run bars where alcohol is served. And in my opinion, the approach of a Christian to both kinds of enterprise would be the same. Fully aware of the harm that excessive gambling and excessive drinking can do, they'd try to run their establishments in such a way as to discourage such excessive use - which of course is a misuse - of either of these activities.

In gambling, you often hear about proprietors of gambling establishments fixing the machines or the various games so that they're dishonestly stacked against the gamblers, or that they encourage irresponsible gambling behaviour. So I think it'd be up to a Christian proprietor to do all he or she could to show a pastoral care for problem gamblers, advertise Gamblers Anonymous centres, and so on. The basic Biblical requirement holds for the person providing a gambling service that holds for us all - that we're to love Jesus in the least of our brothers and sisters, including those at risk, morally and spiritually, from excessive gambling (see Mt 25: 31 - 46). Very best, Fr Brendan
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Where does Church wealth come from and why is religion tax-exempt?

A Xt3 Member asked at 1:28am on October 4th 2017
Hi Father,

I read an article on a Catholic website on how it is the church uses its wealth to help people but where does those millions of dollars actually come from to begin with?

Also, there is a lot of people who say that religions should be taxed and should not have this non-profit status. I understand there are certain religious liberties the government should not be infringing upon but what is the purpose of the tax exemption status of the Catholic church for example?

Thanks

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Hi Antonio, very often what's called the wealth of the Catholic Church, particularly in a country like Italy, is the presumed value of its churches and works of art in places like the Vatican Museum. But these are unsellable, since the laws of Italy would never allow them to be sold, and in the case of the Vatican, the works are held there for the enjoyment of the whole of humanity. After that, the Church's wealth in each country depends on the contributions of faithful Catholics, and is normally used for the upkeep of the many Catholic services often not only to Catholics but to the poorest people in those communities. Countries like Germany, where Christians of the various Churches there pay a percentage of their tax for their Church's upkeep use a generous amount of what's over to support poorer Churches, for example in Africa.

However, individual clergy have to pay taxes in most English-speaking countries, including Ireland and Australia, if their earnings exceed the non-taxed minimum wage for citizens.

Every country is at liberty to work out its own tax arrangements, and generally there are the kind of exemptions all non-profit charities receive for their charitable works, while other sources of wealth, like land or property may be taxed. I'm no expert, but I imagine if you check out the tax arrangements of countries whose political tradition tends to be extremely secular, like France, or the US with its strict constitutional separation of Church and State, you'll find that exemptions are much the same as are extended to all religions and to NGOs like Amnesty International or the Red Cross.

Once I was asked on behalf of the Hindu Hare Krishna Movement in Ireland to defend their appeal before the Irish Tax Court, as the government was about to remove their tax exempt status, and I'm happy to say they won their appeal - while I don't happen to share the Hindu faith, even less the Hare Krishna version, I was certain they were a genuine religious movement and shouldn't fall under our normal tax laws.

To come back to your question, the purpose of any tax exemption in any country will be decided by its political rulers, and the Church is required to make its case like any other charitable body. And as happens, for example, in mainland China, and under some Communist governments, high taxation can be used as an instrument to repress and if possible destroy the Church. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Considering conversion

in topic "Sacraments"
A Xt3 Member asked at 4:05am on September 29th 2017
I was raised Protestant Assembly of God Christian. The enemy tempted me with occult practices. I have experimented with some of it but was convinced and was intended to be done in God's name, not Pagan Gods since I don't believe in Pagan Gods, I embrace the concept of the Apostle's Creed. I am still enthralled with praying the Holy Rosary and the Lord's prayer and have always loved the atmostphere of Catholic Chapels. If I am still allowed or able to convert to Catholicism, what do I need to expect when I confess to this type of sin? I heard there is a "harsh penalty" of some type to undergo in the Catholic Church when confessing this type of sin. I am humbly willing to undergo it out of love for the Lord and for the sake of my own salvation. I just don't want to be kicked out as soon as I get in. I would like to know what to expect. I have been yearning for someone I can trust to confess my sins to, someone in specialized, spiritual training who won't generate pride or harsh negative judgement against me for it. I know the word says to confess to one another to someone I trust, but I would feel more comfortable letting a priest counsel me and pray with me rather than my peers or family members who might not ever understand or might blow it out of proportion. Please describe to me if you can what to expect when confessing to forbidden practices. Thank you, Peace be with you.

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Hi Jodie, you heard wrongly about 'harsh punishments' for dabbling in the occult! For starters, from what you said, your dabbling wasn't very culpable since you thought you weren't doing anything wrong.

For a Catholic, to commit any serious sin, you need three things: gravity or seriousness of the offence (which in itself would include contacting occult forces or spirits), full knowledge of what you were doing, and full consent to doing wrong. While the first condition may have been fulfilled by you, you weren't in full knowledge that it was wrong, so you didn't consent to that wrongdoing. Even if you had, any priest hearing your confession would treat any sins committed before becoming a Catholic sympathetically and kindly. Which doesn't mean ignoring them, or if they were serious, their seriousness. But Jesus already set us the standard of how to treat sinners, both with his approach to the woman caught in adultery (Jn 8:1 - 11) and with the Good Thief, whom he forgave on the Cross (Lk 23:39 - 43).

In the Catholic Church, while people can of course confess their sins to one another, the reason why we confess our sins to a priest is because of the promise Jesus gave to the Apostles and their successors (that is to the Bishops ordained by what's called the unbroken Apostolic Succession going back to the Apostles, and to the priests ordained by those Bishops). In that promise Jesus said, 'whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them' (Jn 20:23), which echoes what he says to the Apostles in Matthew 16:9, 'whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.'

After he's said to the crippled man let down through the roof, 'your sins are forgiven,' the Pharisees righty say: 'Who can forgive sins except God' (see Mk 2:7), Jesus doesn't disagree. So this awesome divine power by the infinite generosity of God has been given to those he delegates to be his Bishops and through them, priests.

And of course when your sins are told in confession, they are told in utter confidence, and can never be revealed for any reason whatsoever, to anyone else. So Catholics have complete confidence that their sins are effectively, through His minister, told to God alone. You're most welcome to join the Catholic Church, and remember, Jodie, bring all the good that you have learned and lived through being a member of the Assembly of God - your knowledge of Scripture, your desire to identify with Christ completely as St Paul did when he said, 'for me, to live is Christ' (Phil 1:21), so that becoming Catholic will be a fulfilment of the Christian life you've been living up to now, but now reinforced especially by the sacraments of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation (Confession). Very best, Fr Brendan
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sukob

A Xt3 Member asked at 9:59pm on September 25th 2017
I plan to marry my filipina girlfriend but she tells me that her sister was married in August 2017 and we will have to wait a year to get married or one of us will die within a year. I do not want to wait. I know this is a supresticion from my research but she is stedfast in her belief. We want to get married in the church in Butuan. I would like the church's view on this superstition. I will be in Butuan in October and it would be great if we could get married as soon as I complete conversion to Catholicism. I need an opinion from the church. Please reply



C Fleegal

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Hi Chester, you're quite right, such a belief is mistaken - God has his plans for each one of us and they're not dependent on whatever beliefs people may have. At the same time, such beliefs are hard to shake, and there's a saying that it's better for people, including yourself and your fiancee, to do something that's less than perfect (we're not talking about anything sinful) together, than something perfect in a way that divides you.

Given your fiancee is convinced of this belief, wouldn't it be a sign of your love for her to cheerfully go along with her fears and wait till next year? Being right isn't everything! And your letting her win this 'argument' is a good sign that both of you will be able to build a lifelong relationship based on mutual respect. As you know, Jesus has said that where two or three are united in his name - that is, ready to love one another to the point of being ready to die for the other - there He is among them. And that continued presence of Jesus among you will be at the heart of the sacrament of matrimony uniting you. Very best, Fr Brendan
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I see sins everywhere

in topic "Other"
A Xt3 Member asked at 7:23pm on September 21st 2017
An atheist friend started to ask me out of curiousity if something particular was a sin or not. That forced me to think in Christian life as a bunch of actions to be avoided, even if I know it's much more. Because of that, I can't help but judge every single action I see in my friends life or even when I'm reading a biography or a fictional book, not because I feel better, but out of fear for their souls. That's very sad and I feel I've became a slave of sin and fear, not for me, but for everything else, specially those who are not practising Catholics or accept only part of the Church teaching. My Christian life before was full of joy and love to God, I did my best without being judgamental, but now I don't know what to do. Please, help me.

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Hi Luisa, St John of the Cross puts it very clearly for us - 'in the evening of our lives, we'll be examined on love.' And of course, Jesus has already told us what the questions will be, 'Whatever you did to the least of my brothers (and sisters), you did to me (Mt 25:40).' So being a Christian is being someone who loves, especially those who most need that love, a love expressed concretely, by visiting the sick, clothing the naked, giving food to the hungry, and so on. That's the core of Church teaching - or to remind ourselves of the commandment Jesus called 'his' commandment and the 'new' commandment: 'love one another as I have loved you.' (Jn 13: 34 - 35; 15:12).

All of this is about actions to carry out, definitely not to be avoided. And Jesus is very clear in telling us not to judge others (Mt 7:1), since we never know what grace that person has received from God. Remember Jesus' approach to the woman discovered committing adultery (Jn 8), where he first of all sees off the mob who were getting ready to stone her to death, then tells her he doesn't condemn her, and to sin no more.

So it's not up to us to judge anyone. Rather, we have to try to see Jesus in everyone, leaving judgment to God. If you try this every day, you'll find your day becomes full of joy, since each day gives us another chance to prepare for our final exam, our meeting with Jesus at the moment of our death. Having done our best to love him in each neighbour, he'll recognize us as an old friend! Very best, Fr Brendan
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Bad spirit demon

in topic "Other"
A Xt3 Member asked at 11:36am on September 18th 2017
Hi Father

Can a bad spirit or demon attach itself to you if your in the same house where a Oujia board is being used by people if you are not actually taking part or in the same room? Or is it just the people who are taking part in it who are vulnerable?

Thanks

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Hi James, while I wouldn't be too happy to be in a house where people were using an Ouija board, you may not have any choice in the matter. But an evil spirit can only do us spiritual harm if we freely invite them - which could unfortunately include people who, whether knowingly or not, are dabbling in that Ouija board.

As we know from the New Testament, and from the Church's experience over the centuries, evil spirits can sometimes bother saintly people, but cannot do them moral harm, since that kind of harm only comes from deliberate consent to evil. It strikes me that it's highly unlikely an evil spirit would in any way attach itself to you - there are enough ill-advised people already open to such evil spirits if they're using an Ouija board. But I'd keep up my personal prayer to Jesus, to Our Lady, St Michael the Archangel, my guardian angel and all the saints, to ensure my heart is completely closed to any evil presence, and maybe include those other folks in your prayers.

Very best, Fr Brendan
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Right to Refuse: Interracial Couple & Same-Sex couple

A Xt3 Member asked at 4:04am on September 15th 2017
Hi again Father,

I have been talking to someone about the plebiscite on marriage and in our discussions, he brought up the refusals of service to same-sex weddings from religious businesses. I said these people weren't discriminating against people but activities and that conscientious objectors in other areas of service aren't forced to violate their beliefs.

In response he said to me, "So how would you respond to a business owner who refuses service to interracial marriages? He isn't discriminating based on race because he will happily serve a black and white person themselves, he just won't serve at an interracial wedding because he disagrees with that. Owner is also refusing to serve the 'event' of an interracial marriage."

How should I respond?

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Hi Miguel, I'd be inclined to ask just where and when this refusal to provide services (I'm presuming hotel reception, flower supply or baking a cake) for an interracial couple actually happened. Is it a recent event - if so, I'd be surprised we haven't heard about it in the media, which are rather find of publicizing these kind of situations. Even in the US, where there's been no legal prohibition of interracial marriages since 1967. That objection seems to me at least 40 years out of date, as there's no way such a refusal would be allowed in the US today. As far as I know, once Australian Aboriginals were granted citizenship in 1967, there could have been no legal prohibition of interracial marriage here either.

For a Christian, as St Paul puts it several times, we're all one in Christ Jesus (see Gal 3:28). But Paul also very clearly regards gay or lesbian activities (the Church is careful to distinguish between a gay or lesbian orientation and gay or lesbian sexual activities) as sinful (Rom 1:26-27). That's why there's a difference between an interracial marriage which doesn't go against Christian morality, and a gay marriage (presumably including sexual relations) which does.

That doesn't ever mean that I consider myself morally superior to anyone else. As I was saying in my homily last Sunday:

'A few years ago, in Ireland, I was on a radio programme with Quentin Fottrell, a gay journalist, and was asked what about the Church's teaching that homosexual activity is an objective moral disorder. I said that that was the clear teaching of the Church going back to the New Testament, and even to Jesus' only statement about sexual sin, that 'anyone looking at a woman lustfully commits adultery in their heart.' In other words, that any using of another human being for merely sexual enjoyment is committing a form of adultery.

But I went on to say that when the Church says something is objectively disordered, it's not making a pronouncement about the person's subjective state. For example, if someone is involved in a gay relationship but doesn't understand or realize that it's sinful from a Christian perspective, we can't make a judgment about that person's subjective moral state. So I said to that journalist, Quentin, that you may be nearer to God than I am - which wouldn't be hard - since I can't comment on your personal moral status with God. And it's a big mistake for me, as a sinner, to ever think I'm better than anyone else.'

Very best, Fr Brendan
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Pagan Blood in Christ's Lineage

in topic "Theology"
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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