Father Kenneth Doyle

Q. I had been away from the Catholic Church for a very long time, but I recently returned and I have a question. I was married in the Catholic Church and got a divorce, but I did not get a church annulment. Later, I married a different man (not a Catholic) and divorced him as well. My question is: What do I need to do now in order to go to confession and receive the Eucharist?

I spoke with two priests and received two different answers. One said that I cannot go to confession and receive the Eucharist right away, but that I would first need to get a church annulment (which I have started to do). The other priest, though, said that since I am no longer married, I can go to confession and Communion immediately, without waiting for an annulment.

Please clarify this for me. I am trying very hard to follow the Lord and don’t want to do anything that would endanger my relationship with him. (northwestern Virginia)

A. I agree with the second priest. You may, and should, return to full participation in the sacraments by going to confession and holy Communion right away.

Many Catholics are under the mistaken impression that a divorce alone renders them ineligible for the sacraments, but that is not so. It is the second marriage — outside the church — that, according to the traditional teaching of the church, would do that, but you are no longer living in that second marriage.

I am assuming — since you make no mention of it — that you are not planning on remarriage. If you were, you would first need to go through the church’s annulment process with regard to your first marriage, since that one is still considered a valid marriage in the eyes of the church.

And while you were at it, you would also take another step — this one, simpler and shorter — to have your second marriage declared null because that marriage was done without church approval.

Q. Will we ever get the low Mass back? I miss its reverence and simplicity, when I could actually follow along with the priest instead of singing. I would especially appreciate a period of quiet after Communion — instead of quickly hearing, “Please turn to page xxx.”

I know that you will tell me to go to a weekday Mass, but if you work or babysit, you can’t. It would be nice to have a choice on the weekends. (Altoona, Pennsylvania)

A. Whether singing is required at every parish Mass on a Sunday is not a simple question. Even the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (the church’s “rule book” on liturgy) seems to offer two different answers.

No. 40 says that “every care should be taken” that singing should “not be absent” during Sunday celebrations; but No. 115 — while noting that singing on Sundays is especially appropriate “in so far as possible” — admits that such a Mass “may, however, take place even without singing.”

My conclusion is that, while singing is clearly the preferred choice of the church for a Sunday Mass, the directive is not absolute.

I know, in fact, of Catholic parishes that celebrate one “quiet” Mass early on Sunday mornings, particularly for people who might be on their way to work. You might look for such a Mass in your area.

And with regard to “a period of quiet after communion,” you are right on target. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal instructs that “sacred silence” is to be observed at designated periods throughout the liturgy, and it mentions in particular “after Communion,” when people “praise God in their hearts and pray to him” (No. 45).

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Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at askfatherdoyle@gmail.com and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, New York 12203.