Catholic answers for a reborn Christian; and placing the creche in a church

Q. I have a friend who is driving me crazy about "reborn Christians." That's all he ever talks about, and he says that is the one way to salvation. I think he needs to be straightened out. Would you please give me all the information you have on this topic? (Huletts Landing, N.Y.)

Where is the fire of Catholicism?

A blistering appeal for church reform by Swiss Abbot Martin Werlen has Europeans excited. "The situation of the church is dramatic," he said in a homily on the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council last October. "The real problem is not a problem of numbers. What is missing is the fire. We must face the situation and find out what is behind it."

Letting go and finding contentment in 2013

What might be a refreshing, unique resolution for the new year? May I suggest we use a seldom-used means for increasing true joyful contentment? It's called detachment. The mystic St. John of the Cross would encourage us to rid ourselves of inordinate attachments that weigh us down. The more we have, the more they take possession of us, the more we desire them. Once in the mood of seeking more attachments, we become discontent.

Is a priest needed for confession? Are memories of marriage sinful?

Q. Must confession (the sacrament of reconciliation) be done in collaboration with a priest? I see very small lines these days for the confessional, but it seems that 90 percent of those attending Mass receive Communion. So my question is this: Are we allowed to "self-confess" without the assistance of a priest and thus be eligible to receive Communion? (Toms River, N.J.)

Confusion over holy days of obligation

Q. There was considerable confusion among my friends over the recent feast of the Immaculate Conception (Saturday, Dec. 8). My own parish announced it as a holy day of obligation, but the church in the next town over simply called it a "holy day." Both parishes had only one Mass on that Saturday morning, whereas in times past, churches used to have two or three morning Masses on a holy day of obligation and perhaps another one in the evening. But this time on Saturday evening, churches had only the vigil Mass for Sunday, and some people thought that by attending that they were covering both obligations. I thought that any holy day pertaining to the Blessed Mother was never done away with. Can you clear this up for us? (Somerset, N.J.)

Having coffee with Jesus: A Christmas meditation

My regular spiritual reading list is almost impossibly eclectic.  At the top of my list at the moment are fourth century Father of the Church John Chrysostom’s reflections on Christmas, 20th century Christian apologist C.S. Lewis’ essay “The Weight of Glory,” theologian Karl Rahner S.J.’s Advent homilies — and Radio Free Babylon’s edgy (and occasionally over the edge) cartoon strip, “Coffee with Jesus.”

Pope Benedict XVI’s prayer intentions for January

General intention: "That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him." Mission intention: "That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance."

Pronounced as man and wife; no fan of sign of peace

Q. I recently attended the wedding of a young man and his bride who are both practicing Catholics. At the end of the ceremony, the congregation was confused when the priest (newly ordained) did not pronounce the couple as "man and wife" and introduced them as such to the attendees. A. Sometimes at Protestant weddings -- and often in television and movie weddings -- a minister at the end of the ceremony pronounces and presents the couple as man and wife. That is not -- and, to my knowledge, never has been -- part of the Catholic marriage rite.

This Advent in the cold night, look not east, but up

O Lord, we look to you; your name and your title are the desire of our souls. (Is. 26:8b)   I love the music of Advent. At a time when most people seem to be dreaming of white Christmases and Silent Nights, I’m tuned into Isaiah, at least as Handel imagined him. A firm voice […]

Addressing spiritual arrogance and naming churches

Q. In our parish, though, there is a group that makes just about every Cursillo in the area and they project an attitude of being "better than" the rest of us who have not attended. Our pastor just seems to encourage them. I don't think that he sees the divisive nature of their actions. What advice can you offer?