Why do we do that? Catholic Traditions Explained.
Question: July 26 is the feast of Joachim and Anna. Who are they and what do we know about them?
Answer: Joachim and Anna are the parents of Mary, the mother of Jesus, yet there is absolutely no biblical reference to them whatsoever. So where do we get their names, and what is their story?
Their names are found in an apocryphal (hidden) gospel known as "The Infancy Gospel of James." Apocryphal, or hidden gospels, consist of accounts of Jesus' life that were ultimately not accepted as inspired works, and thus were not included in the Bible. However, they sometimes captured the Christian imagination, spilling into the devotional dimension of the community. James' infancy gospel begins with the parents of Mary and their desire for a child. In their prayer and petitions to God, they are heard and given the blessings of a child, whom they named Mary. While we have no idea who Mary's parents really were, the fact that we celebrate the feast of Joachim and Anna indicates that the bond of family love is important in the Christian life. Long before Grandparents' Day was established, the church had a feast that honored the presumed grandparents of Jesus. While their names are part of non-inspired apocryphal legends, the fact of the Savior's human ancestry is not. Christ, the incarnate Word, dwelt among us in the flesh in a human family. In honoring the grandparents of Jesus, we really proclaim our faith in the Incarnation -- God becoming human!
There seems to be a lot of division in some Christian churches over moral issues, especially abortion, ordination, and end-of-life care. If all Christians follow the Gospel of Jesus, why is there such a difference of opinion?
There is always a struggle between culture and religion,and part of that struggle is politics. To be politically correct means that you must embrace the secular virtue of the moment so that you are "enlightened," "sensitive,""aware," and, most importantly, "open-minded."Unfortunately, common sense can be sacrificed in the race to be "PC." Some factions within Christian denominations have tried to redefine tradition, history, and biblical teaching to bend it around the politically correct religious thinking of the day. On the life issues that you mention, there are those who began with their own conclusions and have tried to bend theology around their conclusions. This is possible in part because of a lack of a central teaching authority and partly because society has become apathetic to these issues. It will result in a lot of division, factions, and schisms. The Gospel calls all believers to embrace the truth, to turn from sin, and to seek holiness and justice. No matter how hard some may try, a square peg will not fit a round hole. The camel cannot fit through the eye of the needle.
Question: Can you explain what we mean by a vocation or calling? I have heard this term used in many different contexts and am not sure what it means. Does it apply to religious life?
Answer: A vocation or calling refers to a spiritual experience whereby a person senses within oneself the closeness of God and what he is asking in one's life. It is a realization of what one's part in God's plan could be. Vocation comes in all kinds of ways. Some are as dramatic as St. Paul's, being knocked off his horse, blinded, and hearing God's voice. Others are less dramatic, often occurring over time through little events and personal interests. Others happen in a hurry, accompanied by great spiritual insight or conversion. We often think that this applies to religious vocation, but in fact, every Christian
has a vocation, a calling to serve others in and through the Church. Whether married or single, religious or lay, we are all called to live out our baptismal commitment to preach and teach the Gospel message. Each of us has our role to play in God's plan, and we become coworkers with God in the work of redemption. With a little confidence, a willing spirit, and God's grace, we can and will respond to his unique call.
Question: Who invented the Stations of the Cross?Answer
: The first Stations of the Cross were walked by Jesus himself on the way to Calvary. Known as the "Via Dolorosa" ("The Way of Suffering") or the "Via Crucis" ("The Way of the Cross"), it was marked out from the earliest times and was a traditional walk for pilgrims who came to Jerusalem. The early Christians in Jerusalem would walk the same pathway that Jesus walked, pausing for reflection and prayer. Later, when Christians could not travel to the Holy Land, artistic depictions of "The Way of the Cross" were set up in churches, or outside and
Christians would walk from station to station, reading the Gospel account of the Passion, or simply praying and reflect-ing on each event. While the content or place of each
station had changed, the intention was to make a
mini-pilgrimage and follow--literally--in the footsteps of Jesus. This devotion became better known in the Middle Ages, and the Franciscans are credited with its spread. Lent is a time when many people make the Stations and some churches present Passion plays or Living Stations. But anyone can pray the Stations at any time. It is a simple and personal reflection on the passion of Jesus and what it means to us.
Question: Can you recommend some good books for Lenten spiritual reading?
Answer: On more than one occasion, a coach being interviewed about his team--successful or not--will be asked about the next step. The inevitable response includes something about getting back to basics. Reviewing the fundamentals of the sport strengthens performance and builds confidence. The best Lenten reading takes us back to the fundamentals. If Lent is the time for the Church to be on retreat, then we should focus on the texts that help us deepen our understanding of our faith. Spend time reading one of the Gospels, and use a Scripture commentary to learn all you can about the passion of Jesus. Read about the lives of the saints, especially your patron saint and that of your parish. Perhaps there is some local candidate for sainthood, like Father Walter Ciszek, SJ, who wrote several faith-inspiring books. Finally, you can use the Catechism of the Catholic Church to learn more about the church's teachings and beliefs. The sections on prayer and the Mass are really great reflections. Focusing on the basics really helps us take another step forward in our faith. We have not only a better understanding of what we believe and practice, but also why we believe. With that belief comes the confidence we need to be better, more faithful witnesses to Christ.
What is holy water and how do I explain the reason that it is placed at the entrances of churches to my non-Catholic friends?
Holy water is a sacramental; a reminder of the life of the Church expressed and celebrated through the sacraments. By blessing ourselves with holy water as we enter the church, we are reminded of our own baptism and our call to conversion. Remember, the Church is sacramental. God's grace is mediated through word and gesture (the outward signs). This comes to us through Jesus (instituted by Christ) as he entrusts to the Church his saving mission (to give grace). In turn, the Church shares that grace and mission with us. We especially use holy water during Easter when the priest sprinkles the people. It serves to remind us that we are indeed on a journey of faith that makes us one with Christ. Blessing ourselves not only reminds us that we are baptized into a community of faith, but also helps us renew our own baptismal promises to reject sin and to believe in God. It is the heart of Christian belief to turn from sin and toward God. Holy water and baptism make it a visible sign for all of us to follow.
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