Silence: The key to staying composed in a busy world

During a harried day, did we ever try to balance its rush with moments of composure in which we shut out distractions, went inside ourselves and enjoyed an inner sense of unity?

Why go to Mass; rules for eucharistic fast

Q. When our family members get together, Mass attendance always seems to come up. Most of them don't go, and they cite reasons such as hypocrites who do attend (especially cheating husbands) and priests who have abused children. They know that I go to church every week and I feel that I should speak up, but I don't know what to say. Can you tell me in simple words how to explain it, or should I just keep my mouth shut since they are probably not going to change their ways anyhow? (Erial, N.J.)

Changing a child’s godparents; Mass for an aborted child

Q. I was wondering whether you're allowed to change your child's godparents and, if so, how to go about it and have it be acceptable to the church. The situation is this: When we chose our daughter's godparents, seven years ago, they were Catholic and went to church. But over the years, they stopped going to church, and I'm not even sure that they still consider themselves Catholic.

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."