Pope says Mary is always near, helping the church face its trials

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Mary, the mother of Jesus and mother of the church, already is in glory in heaven, but she is always with the church and helps it face the trials of the devil, Pope Francis said. While the church is blessed and holy, on earth it continues to live through “the trials […]

Catholics and resuscitation; so what if a Mass lasts an hour?

Q. I am an 83-year-old woman currently considering how to word my health care proxy. I'm wondering about the ethics of requesting that I not be resuscitated if I stop breathing or my heart stops. Might I consider this to be "God calling me home" or would that be premature since I am not very elderly or very ill? (I've heard that resuscitation can cause ribs to break, which in turn can injure lungs and heart; I've also been told that one does not necessarily recapture the original state of health after being revived.) (Green Bay, Wis.) Q. I enjoy reading your column, and your answers are informative and insightful. A while ago, though, one of your columns really irked me -- not your answer, which was fine, but the question itself. A woman wrote to complain about the length of her parish's Sunday Mass. She moaned that it took more than an hour, and I say, "So what?" She minded the fact that the lector had to walk from pew to the lectern (which probably took all of 30 seconds). She mentioned that she and her husband are of Social Security age and have no patience for delay. (My husband and I are that same age, and we love going to Mass.) Think about this: Jesus spent three hours on the cross in a terrible agony. Before that, he was whipped by Roman soldiers, had thorns pushed into his head and was made to carry a cross. And we can't spend an hour a week honoring him? That woman definitely needs prayers, and I will include her in mine. (Metuchen, N.J.)

Poetry gives insight into faith, religion gives wisdom to know when to blink

"I'm spiritual, but not religious," is a current catchphrase, often deployed to suggest that I'm aware there is more to the universe than I can see or express, but I want to be sure you know that I reject any organized religion.  But how often do you hear "I'm religious, but not spiritual?"   Can you be one without the other? Two articles appeared in my email this week tackling aspects of each of these questions, one of those seeming serendipitous juxtapositions that makes me wonder if the Holy Spirit is indulging in a bit of fun.

Annulment query leads to bigger point: how to question church teaching

Father Ken Doyle clarifies a reader's understanding of the church's marriage annulment process, and how top-down teaching may be influenced from the bottom up. Also, he explains the exception that may allow a Protestant to receive holy Communion in a Catholic Mass.

The trials of travel point to our ultimate destination

The grueling travels had made me more aware of how grateful I was for the ways in which I had been welcomed. Each was a sacramental encounter, each a potent reminder that I am a pilgrim in this world. Reminders, too, of what awaits us in heaven, a welcome replete with unearned, overflowing grace.

Sainthood cause of Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich; centering prayer

Q. Recently, I listened to Mel Gibson being interviewed about the making of his film, "The Passion of the Christ." He referred to the visions of a certain Anne Catherine Emmerich. That prompted me to read more about those visions, which I found to be inspiring and, frankly, life-changing. What is the Catholic Church's stance on Emmerich? Is she a candidate for sainthood? (Atlanta) Q. Having seen references in a book I read to something called "centering prayer," I decided to learn more -- and now I'm quite confused. A number of websites, which identify themselves as Catholic, condemn centering prayer as dangerous or even heretical. But I've also heard that centering prayer was developed and promoted by some Catholic priests. So I have two questions. First, is centering prayer a good thing or a bad thing? And if it's acceptable, then why do people object to it so strongly? (Finksburg, Md.)

Mass just too long? There are answers, and options

Q. At our parish, so much of the Mass is sung that the Mass lasts more than an hour. Also, when it comes time for the readings, the lector walks all the way up from a pew in the congregation, and that creates further delay. Then there is a minute of silent reflective time after the readings, which I find tedious. My husband and I (who are both of Social Security age) have no patience for such deliberate delay. Many parishioners have complained, but the pastor has dismissed our voice. What can we do, short of joining another parish? (Cherry Hill, N.J.) Q. My wife and I are in our mid-70s and have bought cemetery plots and made our funeral arrangements. We selected immediate burial, without any rites, ceremony or embalming. But after talking to family members, we are worried that perhaps, in not having a Catholic funeral Mass, we are sinning gravely and making an irrevocable mistake. Please advise us about this decision, which now weighs heavily on our hearts. (McCamey, Texas)

Pray for us: How a pledge of prayers for a friend links us to communion of saints

Columnist Michelle Francl-Donnay sees the connection between prayer, the hope of resurrection and people praying for each other -- one of whom is a dearly departed fellow columnist for The Catholic Standard and Times, Msgr. Francis X. Meehan.

Praying to family members; rules for liturgical ministers

Q. Sometimes when I pray, I ask for the intercession of certain well-known saints. But at other times I pray instead to departed people whom I have known, loved and respected -- my grandmother, for example, or my aunt. Q. Sometimes I'm confused about my church. Recently, as chairperson of parish ministries and acting on orders from my pastor, I had to tell a young woman who is in an invalid marriage that she could not serve as a lector or eucharistic minister. (She was devastated and felt rejected by her church.)

Look for the mercy of God, not his punishment

"The Bible" is the name of a TV mini-series that aired on the History Channel earlier this year and proved to be extremely popular. A husband and wife team produced it. They are actress Roma Downey (of "Touched by an Angel"), and reality show producer Mark Burnett (who produced "Survivor" and "Celebrity Apprentice").