Christian life is a time to prepare to enjoy heaven, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Christian life is about allowing Jesus and the Holy Spirit to prepare each person to truly see and enjoy the beauty of eternal life, Pope Francis said in a morning Mass homily. Some may say, "'But, Father, I see well. I don't need glasses.' But that's a different type of vision," he said April 26. "Think about those who suffer from cataracts and need an operation. They see, but after the procedure, what do they say? 'I never thought I could see like this.'"

Does forgiveness have limits? Who has a right to Catholic burial?

Q. In Matthew 18:21-22, we are given a standard of forgiveness which I interpret to mean that we are to forgive always ("not seven times, but seventy seven"). I'm at a loss, though, as to how to apply that in my case. Is it enough that God knows I've forgiven my mother, or must I show it by giving her another chance with my children? (Rochester, N.Y.) A. You are correct in thinking that the mandate for a Christian is to strive to forgive always. I hope that your mother knows you've forgiven her, and I imagine you've been able to communicate that to her. Forgiveness, though, does not demand that you put your children in peril, and you, as their parent, are in the best position to know what would cause them harm.

Flag over casket; did Christ come to save all or many?

Q. I have noticed that the casket of a veteran is no longer draped with an American flag at the funeral Mass. Why not? The service of these men and women helps provide the freedom of worship that we all enjoy. Why does the church no longer honor that? (Daly City, Calif.) A. The Order of Christian Funerals says in No. 132 that "any national flags or the flags or insignia of associations to which the deceased belonged are to be removed from the coffin at the entrance to the church."

Pope: God is real, concrete person, not mysterious, intangible mist

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Christian faith teaches that God is a real, concrete person, not some intangible essence or esoteric mist like “god-spray,” Pope Francis said. In his homily April 18 at an early morning Mass in the chapel of his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, Pope Francis said many people say they believe […]

Death of a friend reminds him that life is a ‘matrix of spirits’

On Good Friday, I was told that my best friend of 50 years, Father Raymond Garbin, had died. I thank God for the beautiful memories of Ray Garbin, but he is more than a passing memory. His spirit lives on in me and those he touched. It is an undying spirit of wisdom and down-to-earth style, mirroring Christ, who, in addition to giving us his flesh and blood, gave us his undying spirit.

For lawmakers and nonpracticing Catholics, questions of Communion

Q. I read in the paper that Vice President Joseph Biden and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi both received holy Communion at the Vatican during the installation Mass of Pope Francis, in spite of their pro-choice views on abortion. Is there an official church position on this?(Clifton Park, N.Y.) A. In 2004, Catholic bishops in the United States held long discussions at several meetings on the very issue you raise. With a few bishops in favor of withholding Communion from politicians who favor abortion and the majority against, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops decided to leave such decisions to individual bishops in their dioceses.

A question about the validity of Anglican orders

Q. My wife is a serious Christian and a faithful churchgoer. She is a member of a reverent and active congregation. Her pastor is a man who gave up a lucrative profession to become a priest. My wife receives the Eucharist every Sunday, and she believes fervently in the real presence. As I understand my own Catholic Church's teaching, the Eucharist my wife receives is invalid because she is an Episcopalian and her priest's ordination is invalid. I have a hard time not believing that Christ is present in the bread and wine consecrated by an Episcopal priest. Jesus is supposed to be present when people gather in his name. Doesn't that apply to my wife's church service? (Lynchburg, Va.)

Constant complaining keeps one from noticing Jesus’ presence, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Complaining frequently and stewing over disappointments can easily become an obsession that blocks one’s view of Jesus’ presence in difficult situations, Pope Francis said. Celebrating morning Mass April 3 with staff members from the Domus Romana Sacerdotalis, a nearby residence and guesthouse for clergy, Pope Francis preached about the Gospel story […]

Pope Francis’s prayer intentions for April

General intention: "That the public, prayerful celebration of faith may give life to the faithful." Mission intention: "That mission churches may be signs and instruments of hope and resurrection.”

Unhappy parishioners get incensed every Sunday

Q. How often is a priest supposed to use incense at Mass -- every Sunday or just at special times? Our priest uses a pungent form of incense at each Sunday Mass. A lot of people are allergic to the incense he uses; we have approached him about it, but he seems to ignore the fact that people start coughing and sneezing -- and some even walk out of church. Then he tells us that it is sin to leave early. (A "distressed and allergic parishioner" from Indiana.)