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?

Waiting, as an Advent spiritual exercise, is harder than it seems

Last year, I wrote a blog post about the practice of waiting. Concretely. Here and now. It’s one thing I found to meditate on waiting in this expectant time of the liturgical year, it’s quite another to choose to wait in the secular season of “free two-day shipping.” Just how anxious does it make you to think of letting the person behind you in the supermarket go ahead of you? Now imagine actually doing it. After work. Three weeks before Christmas. It makes me quiver just thinking about it, which is why I keep doing it. Practice, I hear, makes perfect.

What to do about priests with flashy bling

Q. While I realize that diocesan priests do not take a vow of poverty, it is almost scandalous to see so many pastors in our area driving Cadillacs and other high-end automobiles, buying vacation homes, wearing Rolex wristwatches, etc. In every case I know about, these priests live in lower- to middle-class parishes, and -- especially in the present economy -- the vast majority of their parishioners live in much more difficult circumstances. I have found your advice on church matters in the past to be caring and realistic and am hoping that you can weigh in on this situation. (New Jersey)

Which eucharistic prayer to use, and who may wear a Roman collar

Q. What determines which of the eucharistic prayers is used at Sunday Mass? When I try to follow along in my missalette, I often lose my place at this point, because I am trying to figure out which eucharistic prayer the celebrant has chosen. Is it simply up to him? I know that you're probably thinking that I shouldn't be reading the missalette at that point anyhow, just listening to the priest. But I have a learning disability and become quickly distracted hearing the spoken word alone. (Superior, Wis.) A. The choice of which eucharistic prayer to use is left pretty much to the priest-celebrant's discretion. There are, however, in No. 365 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, some guidelines that help the priest decide which prayer might be most appropriate -- with respect, at least, to the four basic options.

Advent: An opportunity to celebrate the beauty of order

In the corridors of the U.S. Capitol's House of Representatives, a colorful painting contains William Jennings Bryan's quotation, "Our government conceived in freedom and purchased with blood can be preserved only by constant vigilance." It echoes Christ's parable of the wise virgins who kept their lamps filled with oil in anticipation of the bridegroom. Scripture reminds us constantly to keep vigilance and be prepared. Why emphasize this? It is to be prepared to meet God.