Q. My husband of 40 years has been “born again.” He says that this is the only way to get to heaven when “the rapture” happens and that the rest of us will be left behind for seven years of terror. He thinks Jesus is going to come any day now and so he refuses to make needed repairs to our 30-year-old mobile home. (He also says that our niece should not plan for college next fall.)
Last night, he brought this up to our parish priest who said that he does not believe in the rapture and that, as long as we are ready to meet God by living a good life, we will be saved. What is your own take on this? (Frustrated near Green Bay, Wisconsin)
A. The Catholic view links being “reborn” to the sacrament of baptism. The Catechism of the Catholic Church in No. 1265 says that “baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte ‘a new creature,’ an adopted son of God.”
Evangelical Christianity links being “born again” to an adult “conversion experience” in which a person consciously accepts Jesus as his or her personal savior.
As for “rapture,” many evangelical Christians, particularly fundamentalists, link it to the end times (the return of Jesus) when those who are right with God will be silently and secretly taken up into heaven and those who are living in sin will remain on earth for a period of tribulation and chaos.
Catholic theology does not support this type of event and views the theory as a misinterpretation of Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. The Catholic Church does not believe that being “born again” is the only route to salvation.
The Second Vatican Council asserted in “Lumen Gentium” (No. 16) that “those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or his church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do his will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.”
I agree with your pastor. Since no one knows when Christ is going to return (and the odds are that your life on earth will end long before that), why not play it safe? Try to live by the Gospel and you won’t have to worry when you meet the Lord, whenever that occurs. (And meanwhile, I think I’d get my mobile home fixed.)
Q. Recently, on Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception (which is always a holy day of obligation) occurred on a Monday. Our church, a large suburban parish with three priests in residence, scheduled Masses for the feast only on Monday. (On Sunday evening, there was the regularly scheduled Mass at 6 p.m. but that was not a feast-day Mass and only “counted” for Sunday.)
The times for the holy day Masses (7:30 a.m. and noon) were very inconvenient, if not impossible, for adults with jobs or for students in public schools.
It seems inconsistent to me to require Mass attendance but then to schedule the only Masses at times when most parishioners will not be able to attend. I happen to work in a downtown area with several convenient churches, but everyone is not as fortunate.
EWTN provides more flexible alternatives, but watching the Mass on television (when that is the only option) is not the same as being there in person (especially since one is unable to receive the Eucharist). (Philadelphia)
A. Your concern is valid. As you indicate, the Immaculate Conception (the patronal feast of the United States) is a holy day of obligation when Mass attendance remains mandatory even when the feast occurs on a Monday or a Saturday.
When the feast day falls on a Monday, having a vigil Mass the night before is problematic in many parishes: either because there is a regularly scheduled Sunday Mass in the evening or because the only priest has already celebrated a full schedule of Masses for the weekend.
One solution is to have a feast-day Mass on Monday evening as well as on Monday morning. In our parish, we had three Masses for the feast: the regularly scheduled weekday Mass at 8:15 a.m., a school Mass (to which all were invited) at 9 a.m. and an additional Mass at 5:30 p.m. on Monday.
As you suggest, as long as Mass is obligatory on feast days, we must do our best to accommodate parishioners’ schedules. The last thing we need to do is to trouble people’s consciences by making it impossible to attend.
Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org and 40 Hopewell St., Albany, N.Y. 12208.