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A Xt3 Member asked at 8:29pm on November 12th 2017
Good afternoon from Canada,

My question is about cohabitation. My girlfriend lives in a 3 bedroom house with her sister and her sister's husband. Seeing as I already spend most of my days with them, share and cook meals with them and leaving only to sleep at the end of the night in a room (no access to kitchen) rented less than a kilometre away, I brought up the idea of renting the third room from them. My girlfriend brought up the issue of cohabitation. So three questions arise:

1. What is cohabitation in definition to the Catholic Church?

2. Are we crossing any boundaries by spending time at the house, cooking and sharing meals everyday leaving out sleeping in the house?

3. Are we crossing boundaries by me renting the room?

Thank you so much once again for taking time to answer my questions and those you respond to everyday. May God bless you and the work that you do.


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Hi Romell, I'll try to answer your 3 questions in order:

1. Cohabitation would mean a couple living together as man and wife before they were married.

2. Since spending time at that house your girlfriend shares with her sister and brother-in-law doesn't seem to be causing any trouble, I can't see anything wrong with it.

3. But I think your renting a room there might make things more difficult for you and for your girlfriend-the very fact that she mentioned 'cohabitation' is enough of a red light. While at the moment, you mightn't feel it's putting yourself or her under pressure, you just never know what could happen in the near future.

But (and of course I'm not in a position to meet you face to face) I have a question too-which is, if you and your girlfriend have become so close, meeting each other every day, why don't you both get married?

I think putting the question in terms of crossing or not crossing boundaries is the wrong way to go. The real question, in terms of genuine Christian love is, how can I love my girlfriend the way God loves her-for herself alone? At your wedding ceremony, I hope not too far in the future, you'll be promising to love your bride 'for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.' That means, to love one another without conditions, ready to lay down our lives for each other. And it's in that context that all our questions are best placed. So, wishing you both very well for I hope a happy marriage in the near future, if that's at all possible, Fr Brendan
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Do I bow or genuflect in front of a closed tabernacle that is located behind an altar?

in topic "Other"
A Xt3 Member asked at 1:12am on November 5th 2017

I am learning to become a sacristan. One question I have - Do I bow or genuflect in front of a closed tabernacle that is located behind an altar? Does it matter if I have a candle lighter or another type of religious/sacred object in my hand(s)?

Thank you very much.


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Hi Hidalgo,

The work of a sacristan typically involves many trips to and from the altar, so I would be inclined to suggest that you bow every time you pass that tabernacle (obviously only if the Blessed Sacrament is kept there). And I can't see that it matters whether you have something in your hand-what you're doing is showing Jesus that you're aware He's present there and that you deeply respect that.

Very best wishes for your progress on your way to becoming a sacristan-people watching you go about your work will have their faith deepened by seeing your own faith in action!

Very best, Fr Brendan
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in topic "Other"
A Xt3 Member asked at 4:42am on October 31st 2017
Hello! My husband and I are living on the West Coast of the United States for just a little while longer, and we have always wanted to see Alaska. We decided that now would probably be the best time to do it (logistically and financially), before leaving the West Coast. We are looking in to a cruise, and we found one that is affordable and will work with our schedule. However, because it will leave on a Saturday afternoon, I do not know if we will be able to attend Mass that weekend. The cruise ship does not have a priest onboard. We always make sure to go to Mass when we are on vacation, but I don't think we'll have the option if we book this cruise. Would it be a mortal sin if we booked this cruise, knowing that we probably won't be able to go to Mass?

Thank you, and God bless you!

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Hi Nicole, you're never bound to do what's impossible, so there's no obligation to attending Sunday Mass when travel makes it impossible. What I often suggest to people travelling on cruises as you and your husband will be doing, is on the Sundays you're onboard, to give God the time you'd have given at Mass. So you could read the readings of the Mass for that day (easily available, for example on Lectionary/1998USL.htm), possibly pray through the principal prayers of the Mass, including the Our Father, make an act of spiritual communion by inviting Jesus to enter more deeply into your lives, make a short thanksgiving, possibly pray the Rosary together.

And remember what Jesus promised in Mt 18:20, 'where two or three are gathered in my name (that is, ready to give all for each other, as you promised on your wedding day!), there am I among you.' That promised presence of Jesus in your midst is a real presence, different from the Eucharistic presence, but still a real presence.

I've only once been a little bit up Canada's West Coast (a drive up Vancouver Island to Port Hardy, then across to Bella Coola) but even that glimpse of the inland passage was beautiful, so best wishes for a great trip! Fr Brendan
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All things vegan

A Xt3 Member asked at 8:29am on October 29th 2017
Dear Father,

I am hoping all is well with you. Can you please kindly help me understand if being vegan is a sin? I had not consume animal flesh or animal products for eight years. How could it become a sin? I do, however find peace being Catholic. But I do find myself questioning why many in our church consume meat. There are scientific studies supporting that consuming animal products cause diseases in Western-based society. I am aware that Christ said that what is more important is what goes into the mouth and not what comes out of it. My family eats meat and dairy products. But they support my dietary practice.

Thank you for your time reading this.


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Hi Joe, in Church history, many women and men religious who lived in monasteries refrained from eating meat for most if not all of the year - there are manuscripts of the Gospels in Latin by Irish monks copied around the 700s AD, and sometimes they wrote notes on the side. These notes in Old Irish included poems about their cats, and at least one monk complained that he was tired of eating salmon all the time! There's nothing sinful in being a vegan - obviously if your doctor felt your diet was unbalanced and recommended a change, I'd suggest you follow that advice.

Regarding why most Catholics eat meat, I'd ask you to check the famous vision St Peter has in chapter 11 of the Acts of the Apostles. He was commanded by a voice to 'kill and eat' from the animals contained in a great sheet he saw lowered from heaven. He refused because some of the animals (including beasts of prey, reptiles and birds) were unclean in Jewish law. Then Peter was told from heaven: 'What God has cleansed you must not call common [or unclean].' In other words, Christians weren't bound by the Jewish dietary laws.

And St Paul has a similar freedom, this time in allowing Christians to eat food (we can presume meat is meant here) sacrificed to idols - because not all of it was retained in the pagan temple, but sold more cheaply on the market (see 1 Cor 8 and 10). So, you're free as a Catholic to be vegan and others, like those in your family, are free not to be. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Will I go to Hell for practicing Witchcraft?

A Xt3 Member asked at 12:06pm on October 28th 2017
When I was in elementary school, I was obsessed with wolves and dogs. I tried a spell to turn myself into one, and now, I'm regretting it. They didn't work, because I think I stopped in the middle of it. But I'm still worried God won't forgive me. I'm trying to get to confession today, but I'm scared my mortal sin won't be forgiven.

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Hi Emily, to commit a mortal sin we must have full knowledge and full consent, and what we're doing must be seriously wrong. Since what you write about happened when you were in elementary school, I very much doubt if you were fully aware (or aware at all) that what you were doing could be seriously sinful, and knowing that, continued to do it. Anyway, there's no sin so serious that it can't be forgiven.

I think by the time you read this, you'll already have told a priest in confession what you did and I'm sure he'll have shown God's infinite mercy even for what I believe at the very most was a minor venial sin. You're now much more aware of how harmful to our souls any dabbling in spirits can be, and I'm sure you'll never do that again. Assuring you of my prayers for all the good things you're hoping to do in your life. Very best, Fr Brendan
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What bible says about betting?

in topic "Other"
A Xt3 Member asked at 2:32pm on October 27th 2017
Hi everyone, i am from Turkey and i am raised by muslim parents, so i do a few things about religions, but i would like to learn and know more about Christianity, here is my question:

in Islamic doctrines we have a haram, and helal which means sin and halal, so in our actions in the gods eye we are making a halal or haram, so how does Christianity judge that? i mean what is your typical judgments for that?

And my another question is, is it sin to play bettings from websites or in general, is it sin to have an actually earnings from betting games?

(sorry for my bad english)

Best regards.

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Hi Betamik, the Arabic word 'haram' means what is forbidden by Allah ('halal' is its opposite, what is permitted), and includes a range of sins that Christians also regard as seriously sinful, like pre-marital sex or murder. Like Muslims, Christians regard these activities as sinful in God's eye, but also as sinful in themselves - so that every human being is forbidden to commit them. Basically, all Christians are bound to obey the Ten Commandments listed in chapter 20 of the Book of Exodus, which lay out our duties to God (the first 3 commandments) and to our fellow human beings (the last 7 commandments).

Christians are bound not only by the Ten Commandments, but by Jesus' commandment in chapters 13 and 15 of the Gospel of St John to love one another as he has loved us - that is, to be prepared to die for one another - which is what he meant by 'as I have loved you,' since he did die for us. Almost every Surah of the Koran addresses Allah as 'the Merciful,' and you could say that Muslims should be merciful like Allah. There are beautiful echoes of this in some Muslim poets, like the thirteenth century poet Rumi, who wrote that 'God has predestined us eternally for love.' And there are similar words in the great medieval Sufi scholar, Ibn Arabi:

'My beloved, love me!

Love only me, love me with a true heart!

No one is closer to you than I.

Others love you for themselves. But I love only for you.'

Even when our beliefs are different, as Muslims and Christians, nothing can stop us trying to love one another.

As regards betting, maybe it would be better to speak with a Muslim scholar or holy man, since I think the Koran forbids gambling, while for Christians, gambling would only be sinful if we were spending money we should spend on looking after our family or ourselves. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Confession, Reparation and OCD/Scrupolosity

in topic "Sacraments"
A Xt3 Member asked at 9:23pm on December 19th 2016
Hi Father

I have been away from the church for a long time but his year I made a general confession. However I am finding a lot of problems. I am also suffering from OCD and scrupolosity and I am having treatment for these conditions. One of the problems I am facing is that of reparation of sins. During my life I told some lies/exagerations/inaccuricies about people. I have confessed such sins and have been given absolution but will I have to tell the individual that I lied to the truth about another person in order that my sins to be forgiven? If I fail to tell the person that I have lied to the truth about another person will I be guilty of another sin? The problem is that four or more years have passed from when I lied and it is a bit difficult to talk to certain persons and telling them that in that particular occasion I have not told the truth about the other person. The problem is that many of them are not exactly clear cut lies; they may be a bit exagerated, I may have left some information out or I lied about a person without the intention to harm him/her. Some of the persons may also not know the person I lied about or may know him and have no connection with him/her. Some may have some connection.

My great problem is that of how to tell another person that I lied to about the other person. Just imagine contacting a person in person or by e mail and then telling him something that I may have said about another person; things which he may have long forgotten or just don't care about them. I am finding this extremly difficult to do. I have tried to amend my lies/inaccuricies/exagerations and in a case it was a success, in another I think that I have been largely ignored or with little success but in another I was told that I was saying that because I have something in mind such as some trickery or for some other obscure reasons. The problem is that you cannot just contact a person and telling him/her that some years ago I have told them a lie/inaccuracy/exageration about a person and not being looked as I am not quite well mentally. You just can't force such things since I feel that I will look very strange and awkward. I have told about these problems to my wife (which is very religious) and she told me that I am not obliged to contact such persons about my lies/inaccuricies/exagerations of time ago. She also told me that what I have said about certain persons was probably true; which probably she may be right but I have changed a bit the truth. She then turned very worried and promptly contacted the psychiatrist which he adjustd my treatment. I know that currently I am suffering with OCD and scrupolosity but I think that I need also some spiritual direction.

I strongly feel tha telling the truth will not make any difference to the persons that I lied on. Maybe the persons that I lied to may look at the other person a bit more favourably although I dont' think that it will have any serious positive effect. Some years have also passed. What is your opinion about my problem? Do you think that I should stop thinking about this problem and look forward?

Thanks and Kind Regards


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Hi James, no confessor would ever require a person who'd lied to go back and confess to the people the lie was told about. Maybe if it was the kind of lie called perjury, where I swore in court something that involved another person being wrongfully accused of a crime, I'd be bound in duty to do all I could to right that wrong. Or if I lied about a person's competence, saying that this or that person was a qualified surgeon or engineer, whatever, where that person might do serious injury to others.

We could do greater harm to our relationships with this persons if we in fact owned up to lies we'd told about them. Much better to pray for them and trust that God will make up now for any injury done them in the past - if indeed there was any injury caused them, which doesn't sound like it from what you've written.

But sometimes I may have seriously wronged others, who have perhaps died since, or at any rate can no longer be contacted. How can I make it up to them? In these matters I remember what a famous Jewish philosopher called Martin Buber wrote about this: 'the wounds of the order-of-being can be healed in infinitely many other places than those at which they were inflicted.' In other words, by trying as best I can to love the people I'm with now - since Jesus is in every one of our neighbours - I am also loving the Jesus in the person I may have wronged, and I can trust it to Jesus to 'pass on' that love to the other, whether they've left this world or are far removed from me now. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Becoming a catholic

A Xt3 Member asked at 11:03am on October 23rd 2017
I'm 15 and my parents don't have a religion, so I grew up not believing in any gods. I was sent to a Catholic school when I was 9 and I still go to one. Through those years of religious education, I have come to start believing in God and the Catholic Church. I want to become a Catholic, but I'm not sure my parents will understand. What can I do?

I am planning on getting baptized once I become independent, but what if I die before I get to do it?

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Hi Marie, it's wonderful that you've discovered God, who is Love, and the Catholic Church.

One possibility would be to have a chat with your parents and ask them if they'd mind if you were baptised as a Catholic. After all, they did allow you to attend a Catholic school, and sometimes people who have no religion can at least have respect for it. If they would prefer you didn't, maybe it would be better to wait for a few years, as you say.

But even before you're baptised, you could get hold of one of those little booklets of Catholic prayers you can find at the back of some Catholic churches, or in a Catholic bookshop - or you can even find them online. And it might be possible for you to attend Mass sometime in a Catholic church. You won't be able to receive Holy Communion yet, but if you cross your hands on each shoulder, the priest will understand and give you a blessing at Communion time. Even desiring to receive Jesus in Holy Communion will bring him into your heart: remember he said 'Look, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him, and he with me' (Revelation or Apocalypse, chapter 3, verse 20).

He also gave us the basic rule that holds for all his followers: 'Whatever you do to the least of my brothers, you did to me' (see the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, from verse 31 on). So there are many ways you can begin to live as a Catholic even before you are baptized - by prayer (including, if possible, attending Mass), and by loving Jesus in each person you meet. Every time you do that, you're already building a beautiful relationship with Jesus, and even when you fail, the great thing about being a Christian is not being perfect, but being ready to start again. Then, once it's possible for you to seek baptism, you'll be so well prepared to become fully adopted into God's family.

I promise to keep you in my prayers, and I'm sure God will reward you for your courage and your patience - and also for your love for your parents, who gave you life and indirectly, by sending you to that school, for helping you to find the true faith. They also gave you the name of Marie, so Mary the Mother of Jesus, will be watching over you with all the love she has for her own Son. Very best, Fr Brendan
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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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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


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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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