Mediums are an extra large no-no in church teaching

A skeptical reader wonders about a spirit "medium" communicating messages from the dead, and what the church's stance is on the subject. Columnist Father Ken Doyle replies that church teaching on the matter is crystal clear. Also, he addresses a question about one parish's ban on altar girls.

Pope: Judging others kills, reflects cowardice in facing own defects

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — People who judge and criticize others are hypocrites and cowards who are unable to face their own defects, Pope Francis said. Gossip, too, is “criminal” as it destroys, rather than exalts the image of God present in others, he said in his early morning homily Sept. 13 at his residence of […]

Programs for the happily married; position of the tabernacle

Q. We have a question that we would like answered with reasons, not just words. We hear about pre-Cana for engaged couples, the Christian Family Movement for those with children, Marriage Encounter for those with problem marriages and separate retreats for men and women. There is nothing for happily married couples who want to spend their trip to heaven together, as the unit they became when they were married. For what reason does the church not support the idea of couples being treated as one, as they strive to improve their spiritual life together? (Bluffton, S.C.) Q. When I was growing up, the tabernacle was in the front of the church on the main altar. I am upset that some Catholic churches today put our Lord in a small chapel in the back of the church. I consider that disrespectful and think that it must displease Jesus. (Bedford, Va.)

Pope: It’s impossible to live out Gospel without help from Christ, Mary

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- What God asks of people is too difficult and demanding to do without help from Jesus and Mary, Pope Francis said. People need to lose themselves in the contemplation of Mary's sweetness and Christ's suffering in order to receive the grace necessary to live out God's will, he said in his Sept. 12 morning homily at his residence in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

Fasting is a tie that binds us to Syrians and all suffering people

In his remarks last Sunday in Rome, Pope Francis called the whole church to a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria and the whole world. This is not the ritual fast before we receive the Eucharist, nor the traditional fast of Lent. This fast is a call to throw ourselves on the mercy of God, keening for the brokenness of the Body of Christ that has brought us — again — to the brink of war.

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.)