Yes, you can greet one another before Mass

Q. According to one article that I read, the bishops addressed the practice of inviting members of the congregation to greet those around them before the Mass begins -- their feeling being that this detracted from the sign of peace, which the liturgy places just before Communion. Sadly, though, this action continues in many parishes. What is your take on it? (Walnut Creek, Calif.) Q. We have all been told that Jesus and Mary were like us in all things but sin. I take that to mean that they felt all the emotions that humans naturally experience. But I heard a nun say on television that Jesus was not afraid to die. I don't believe that. I think he was terrified. Likewise, the early 18th-century St. Louis de Montfort said in one of his books that Mary suffered no pain in childbirth. Why not? Was she human or not? (Carrolltown, Pa.)

Our heart’s loneliness for God

One of my memories of growing up on a Midwestern farm is the feel of a harsh, southern wind blowing on a very hot day. This recollection conjures up childhood loneliness, which seemed all the more real on Sunday afternoon with no air conditioning, no school and seemingly nothing to do after we changed out of our church clothes. Neighbors were a distance away, play dates few and far between. My brothers traipsed through the woods and played on the tire swing. I clung to my paper dolls and an over-active fantasy life in which I created a huge family of imaginary cousins who lived nearby.

Pope: To fight evil, Jesus uses humility and love, not armies

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Jesus does not need an army to fight evil in the world; he uses the victorious weapons of love and humility, Pope Francis said. And Christians, likewise, should be known for bringing forth the light of Christ, not darkness, to fight the world’s demons, he said Sept. 3 during his morning […]

What to keep, what to lose, to get through the narrow gate

"Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” Lk. 13:24 Jesus’ words in this passage from Luke can be difficult for me to listen to, surfacing images of a divine sieve that only a few of us can pass through. But St. Cyril of Alexandria, a fifth century doctor of the Church, suggested in his commentary on Luke’s Gospel that I listen more closely to the exchange.

Children are still legitimate after annulment; questioning nail marks of crucifixion

Q. Would you please clarify the church's position regarding a marriage annulment's effect on children? I have some friends who are in a second marriage. They would love to have their first marriages annulled and their present marriage blessed so that they can receive holy Communion at Mass. But they have refrained from doing so because the children of their first marriages say that an annulment would render these children illegitimate or "nonexistent." It is a tender situation, and I believe that your reply would bring comfort and enlightenment. (Schenectady, N.Y.) Q. In a book about the Shroud of Turin, I read that when Jesus was crucified, the nails were driven through his wrists. The photos of the shroud seem to confirm this. But if that were so, then why did saints such as St. Francis and Padre Pio have stigmata wounds on the palms of their hands rather than their wrists? (Glen Allen, Va.)

Not our will, but God’s will

Last month, I received a strange call from a woman who was angry with God for not answering her prayers. Apparently she had come across an old column I had written on prayer and wanted some information. The conversation went something like this: "Since you know so much about prayer, tell me how you can get God to help me win the lottery."

Stop to listen for angels softly singing in glass

Even a silent chapel has something to say to us. The design of a church is meant to both speak to us of God’s saving work and to encourage us to speak to God in return. Images, whether frescos or stained glass windows, facilitate these conversations.

Faith isn’t ornamental, but means making tough choices, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Faith isn't something decorative one adds to life, but is a commitment that involves making choices that may require sacrifice, Pope Francis said. Faith "is not decorating your life with a bit of religion as if life were a cake that you decorate with cream," the pope said Aug. 18 before reciting the Angelus with visitors in St. Peter's Square.

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.)