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Cradle Catholic with a lot of questions; such as, why am I just figuring this stuff out now?

February 27, 2011

Rachel and the Abortion Issue

Jeremiah 31:15: This is what the LORD says: "A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.

Project Rachel, Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries, and Rachel’s Hope are a few of the abortion outreach efforts associated with Rachel, wife of Jacob and mother of Benjamin and Joseph. She is also remembered during the Feast of the Holy Innocents, which is celebrated on December 28th. Ironically, the name, memory, and words of Rachel (Jeremiah 31:15) are used by both proponents and opponents of abortion.

Who was Rachel - Rachel lived approximately 1,500 years before Jesus walked the earth. She was well-known for her beauty and her status as the mother of two of the twelve tribes of Israel. During 597 King Nebuchadnezzar conquered and destroyed Jerusalem. During the next decade the Jewish population was gathered in Ramah, one the cities alloted to the Benjamin by his inheritance. From there the Jewish population was resettled throughout Babylon, beginning their 60-year exile. As Jeremiah reports, the sound of Rachel weeping is heard. She weeps for the future of her sons and their descendents.

Matthew 2:16-17 refers to this Jeremiah passage when describing King Herod’s orders to kill all the male children of Bethlehem. According to the gospel “then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah.” Okay, technically the people of Bethlehem belonged to the tribe of Judah - who was not Rachel’s son. But the tribes were somewhat intermingled at that point. Anyway, the Catholic Church adopted the feast of the Holy Innocents over a thousand years ago to remember the poor children that lost their lives because of Herod’s rage. Over time, this feast day has expanded to encompass the memory of all the innocent unborn children. Consequently, December 28th is often selected as a day to pray or even picket outside of abortion clinics.

While the original passage was not in reference to abortions, the biblical passage powerfully conveys a mother’s inconsolable grief over an irreversible loss.

February 24, 2011

The Priest Shortage

The Catholic Church is facing a priest shortage crisis. In the United States alone, the Catholic population rose from 29 million in 1950 to 64 million in 2005. This is great, but during this same period, the population of priests not only failed to keep up but actually fell by 2,000. This is a concerning trend. There are approximately 41,400 priest in the United States today. Aside from local parishes, the Catholic Church runs a considerable number of schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and charities. Increasingly the Church has been forced to rely on deacons, lay ministers, nuns and brothers. But given the consistent increases in the Catholic population, changes are needed fulfill the role of the priests. There are many possible solutions, ranging from changes in parish districting to revolutionary changes that address the rules for who is allowed to assume church leadership roles. In the book “American Catholics Today” an extensive survey was undertaken to understand how practicing Catholics view challenges, such as the priest shortage, and what solutions they felt were acceptable. In terms of parish leadership options, approximately 9 of every 10 respondents were supportive of sharing a priest with another parish, bringing in a priest from another country to lead, and merging two or more nearby parishes into one. In terms of expanding eligibility, most respondents favored allowing priests who married to return to active ministry (81%) and allowing married men to be ordained. More than 50% approved of allowing women to become priests.

The response of the Church’s leadership, including the Pope, has been limited at best. Pope John Paul II refused to consider expanding priest eligibility. So far Pope Benedict XVI has at least allowed some discussion of the matter, but it has not been embraced by the church leaders. So the question remains - what will we do to address this growing concern? And will the Church leadership ever be willing to change eligibility requirements if that’s what it comes down to?

American Catholics Today by William V. D’Antonio et al.; 2007

February 20, 2011

How Jesus Got His Name

According to the gospel of Luke, it was the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:31) who informed Mary that she was going to give birth to a son. His name would be Yeshua - aka Jesus. The name Jesus doesn't mean anything - it comes from the Latin transliteration of the Greek name Iesous. The original Hebrew name Yeshua, which was an abbreviation of Yahoshua, meant “Lord who is Salvation.”

During the time of Jesus there were relatively few names used to name people. Nearly one in every four girls was named Mary, nearly one in every ten boys was named Yeshua. Yeshua was the fifth most common name at the time - the equivalent of the name William in popularity within the US for the year 2010. Right now there is a chance you know someone with a baby named William. There were other Yeshua's, but probably just one Yeshua of Nazareth, given the size of the population at the time.

The Nazarene Way: Yeshua, Jesus, or YH-Zeus?
Jesus 8880: The Evolution of the Name Jesus

February 17, 2011

The Female Disciples of Jesus

Jesus’s disciples were students who followed his teachings. There are variations among the four gospels regarding which women followed Jesus and their exact roles. The disagreement about the extent and the place of women within the gospels has carried into modern times. So who were these women and what do the gospels say about them?

There does seem to be consensus concerning the presence of women at the crucifixion and the resurrection, events which are a major focus of the gospel readings. All four gospels report that Mary Magdalene and some other companions were the first people to find the tomb of Jesus empty. In two gospels Mary Magdalene is the first to see Jesus resurrected. In Mark 15:40-41 and Mark 15:47, their attendance is noted as follows:

In Mark 15:40-41 “Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.”
Mark 15:47: “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.”

Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Joses and Salome play an important and integral part of the finding the empty tomb and seeing Christ risen from the dead. Their connection in these critical events seems to me to suggest their importance to the Lord.

The Birth of Christianity by John Dominic Crossan

February 16, 2011

Crucifix versus Cross

The cross is the most widespread, recognizable sacramental of the church. Until the end of the 6th century, all crosses were shown without the figure of Christ. The depiction of the body of Christ on the cross, called a crucifix, began in about the 13th century. Over the course of the past several hundred years it has become traditional for Catholic families to hang crucifixes around their neck as well as throughout their home as a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice for mankind.

Protestant crosses typically are not adorned with a corpus. Early Protestant leaders, to varying degrees, rejected both the crucifix and the cross as idolatrous. Over time, the image of a plain, unadorned cross gained acceptance within the Protestant community, however many Protestant factions still oppose the crucifix as a symbol of their faith.

February 11, 2011

How to Meet the Pope

Let’s say you’re planning a trip to the Vatican and you would like to meet the Pope. The most feasible option is to request a general audience, since private audiences are reserved for heads of state. Here are a few things to keep in mind while preparing your visit.

What is a general audience - General audiences with the Pope take place on every Wednesday morning at 10:30 am. The location for the event varies - St. Peter’s square, the Paul VI Hall, or St. Peter’s Basilica are possibilities. During the summer, audiences may also be held at Castel Gandolfo. This is a by-invitation-only event with very limited seating. Attending this sort of event is open to all Christians, but arrangement must be made two to ten weeks in advance.

How to request tickets - there are several options. By mail, you may write to the Pontifical Household at:
Prefettura della Casa Pontificia,
Palazzo Apostolico,
Vatican City State

Or you may contact the U.S. Bishops’ Office for Visitors to the Vatican:
Casa Santa Maria
Via dell’Umiltá
30, 00187 Rome, Italy
fax: (39) 06690011
Online, you may request tickets through the Church of Santa Susanna, which is the American Catholic Church in Rome.

Dress code - Conservative dress is required. Dark colored clothing is common. No shorts or tank tops are allowed. Woman must cover their shoulders. Most men wear business suits while woman wear formal dresses.

On the day of the event - If you have not been assigned a reserved seat, you will want to arrive early. Aisle seats with a view of the alter are best.

Tips - You may get better seating as a newlywed couple (within 8 weeks of your wedding date), particularly if you show up in wedding attire. Ask for a newlywed ticket and make sure you bring your partner and Catholic wedding certificate.

Other opportunities to see the Pope - the Sunday Angelus is presided over by the Pope. It is held at noon in St. Peter’s Square.


February 9, 2011

Apostle or Disciple - What’s the Difference?

The terms “apostle” and “disciple” are often used interchangeably. There is a difference. An apostle, if the definition is taken from the Greek root, is one who is sent forth as a messenger. The word disciple refers to a follower or a student. Basically, while all apostles are disciples, all disciples are not apostles. In fact, many apostles had disciples. The terms disciple and apostle imply different roles and responsibilities within the Church.
The twelve original disciples are considered to be apostles. They were chosen by Christ to spread the gospel following the crucifixion. Does this mean that the term apostle may only apply to the twelve original and immediate followers of Christ? Not necessarily, Saint Patrick, who died in 493, is called the Apostle of Ireland in honor for his missionary work. Saint Paul and other early Christians that spread the faith are also honored with the title apostle.


February 7, 2011

More Than One Type of Catholic Priest

Actually, there are two types of priests within the Catholic Church. This includes the diocesan priests and the religious order priests. Both have the same priesthood faculties. The fundamental differences lie in who they report to, the type of work they engage in, and their general ways of life. In addition, religious order priests take an additional vow not shared by the diocesan priests - the vow of poverty. Once they take that oath, they are totally financially supported by their religious order.

Most of us are probably more familiar with diocesan priests. These are the priests that look after the needs of their church. They are actively involved in their community and lead a parish within a particular diocese. Religious order priests belong to one of four orders, which includes the Jesuits, Benedictine, Dominican, and Franciscan orders. Superiors within the religious order provide assignments the priests. Religious order priests perform much of the missionary work of the church. While both diocesan and religious order priest teach, diocesan priests typically focus on schools associated with their parish while religious order priests staff high schools or institutions of higher learning. Overall, diocesan priests are more common than religious order priests - nearly two-thirds of priests are diocesan.

Occupational Outlook Handbook: Roman Catholic Priests
College Grad.com:Roman Catholic Priests

February 6, 2011

Requirements to Become a Catholic Nun

  1. Be a practicing member of the Catholic faith.
  2. Be single and without dependent kids. Nuns cannot be married. They can be widows. They may be considered if they have released marriage bonds through an annulment - but that will be up to the religious order whether or not to accept the applicant. Woman with dependent children are also not considered.
  3. Be in good health and financial standing. Prior to becoming a nun you will undergo several stages, which includes, Candidacy, Postulancy, and Novitiate period. During this time you will become immersed in the religious community. In all, these stages last about 3.5 years. You will want to be in good financial order - ideally debt free. This may be a requirement of the religious order you are joining. And you’ll want to be in good health. A nun is responsible for their own psychological, dental and physical health until they take their final permanent vows.
  4. This is more a suggestion than a requirement, but don’t wait until you’re too old. It used to be that you had to be young, but these days there’s a little more leniency regarding age. Regardless, check with your prospective religious order if you are over the age of forty, for some that is the age cut-off.
  5. Bring experience/education to the table. It is not a requirement to have a college degree or professional experience, but both are considered very desirable.
A Nun’s Life Ministry: How to Become a Catholic Nun
Hubpages: How to be a nun

February 5, 2011

Irrefutable Facts About Jesus’ Life

So what exactly did Jesus do/inspire during his time on earth?  In 1985, E.P. Sanders identified “almost indisputable facts” of Jesus’ life within his book “Jesus and Judaism.” The following is a list of what he considered facts about Jesus.  Moreover, most scholars seem to agree. 
  1. Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist
  2. Jesus was a Galilean who preached and healed
  3. Jesus called disciples and spoke of their being twelve
  4. Jesus confined his activity to Israel
  5. Jesus engaged in a controversy about the temple
  6. Jesus was crucified outside Jerusalem by the Roman authorities
  7. After his death Jesus’ followers continued as an identifiable movement
  8. At least some Jews persecuted at least parts of the new movement (Gal. 1.13, 22; Phil. 3.6), and it appears that this persecution endured at least to a time near the end of Paul’s career (II Cor. 11:24; Gal. 5.11; 6.12; cf. Matt. 23.3; 10.17)
Sanders asserts that Jesus was not a contradistinction to Judaism, but rather a product of the context within which he was raised.  The book exams these “facts” to better understand Jesus as a Jew.  Interesting reading.

“Jesus and Judaism” by EP Sanders

February 4, 2011

Catholic Throat Blessing

Yesterday I just so happened to be at my daughter’s school, which is Catholic, counting pennies for a fundraiser. After about thirty minutes a large group of students came into the room where I was, single file, to have their throat blessed. Ah, yes I guess it was February 3rd after all. Basically, during a catholic throat blessing a priest says the Saint Blaise blessing while holding two consecrated candles, held open but crossed in a “V” shape on both sides of your throat. Happy Feast of Saint Blaise Day! Time to get your throat blessed.  An interesting and relatively obscure annual Catholic tradition.

It is thought that Saint Blaise was a bishop in Armenia, who was martyred for his faith in 316. Saint Blaise is attributed to a legend where he miraculously saved the life of a child that was about to die from choking to death on a fishbone. Saint Blaise is thought to intercede in cases of throat illness. Fortunately his feast day seems particularly well-timed, at least for North Americans, occurring during the height of cold and flu season.

Blessing of Saint Blaise
“Through the intercession of St. Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from ailments of the throat and from every other evil. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

References: “Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast” By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.