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").

‘Fear the Lord,’ but don’t be afraid — there’s a difference

Q. I often hear references, both in worship and in religious teaching, to "fear of the Lord." I struggle with this because I think of God as so forgiving and passionate in his love for the people he has created. Do we really mean "fear," or just the highest respect? (Farmington Hills, Mich.) Q. Regarding vocations to the priesthood, what is the church's stance on whether to let a homosexual person enroll in the seminary? (North Plainfield, N.J.)

Resist sleek cars, ‘living on the edge,’ Pope tells future priests, nuns

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Be joyous, authentic and loving while resisting fly-by-night commitments, catty gossip and sleek cars, Pope Francis told future priests, brothers and nuns. Vocations don’t come from catchy campaigns or pursuing personal goals; the consecrated life is the result of prayer and answering an “unsettling” yet loving invitation from God, he told […]