Catholic’s Frequently Asked Questions – Part I

Dear Friends in Christ:

I am often struck when good people ask questions that I think I have already answered 10,000 times. The truth is that I have addressed the questions before, just not to these particular individuals. So this means that indeed the questions are sincere and honest and I am getting older! What are some of the topics that people most often ask about? Well, let’s see!

Baptisms: Infants should be baptized at the earliest possible time and baptism should never be needlessly delayed. In case of an extreme emergency and danger of death, baptism of infants, children or adults, should be administered immediately. If a priest or deacon is unavailable, any baptized Christian can administer the sacrament by pouring water over the head of the individual and pronouncing the formula of “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” Ideally, infants should be baptized within the first few months after birth and definitely before the first birthday. They should be given a patron saint’s name signifying their re-birth in Christ. Children and adults who have never been baptized should be baptized for the eternal salvation of their souls. Baptism should normally be celebrated in the parish church of the family.

Godparents: One Godparent must be a baptized, confirmed and practicing Catholic and if married, they must be married in the Catholic Church. Godparents do not have to be married to each other. When there are two godparents, there must be one male and one female (This is the Universal Law of the Catholic Church).

Confession: Practicing Catholics must go to Confession at least once a year and any time they are in a state of mortal sin. Practically speaking, Catholics should go to Confession every month or so. The Sacrament of Penance forgives all sins committed after Baptism. The parts of the sacrament are: Contrition (sorrow for sinning), Confession (admission of the sins), Absolution (forgiveness of the sins) and Satisfaction (penance).

Holy Mass: Catholics are obliged to participate in Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation unless prohibited by some serious, unavoidable cause (serious illness, stuck on a deserted island, hurricane). Staying out too late, having visitors from out of town, being too tired, the football game is on early, was busy doing chores etc., are not legitimate reasons to deny God our worship at Holy Mass. Failure to attend Mass on Sunday or a Holy Day of Obligation is a sin against the Third Commandment. Parents who do not bring their children to Sunday Mass are guilty of sinning against the Lord and breaking the vows that they made at their wedding and at the baptism of their child.

Eucharistic Fast: We are to observe a fast from food and drink (except for medicine) for at least an hour before the reception of Holy Communion.

Holy Communion: We should not receive Holy Communion if we are aware of having committed serious sin. If we are in a state of mortal sin, we should first go to Confession before receiving Jesus in Holy Communion. Even if we cannot receive Holy Communion, we should still attend Mass.

Confirmation: Every Catholic should be confirmed as it is one of the three sacraments of Christian Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist). For those not Confirmed in their youth, they should seek the sacrament at the earliest possible date. Confirmation should be received prior to marriage if possible. We have Confirmation preparation classes every year at SJV.

Holy Matrimony: Catholics are obligated to observe Church teachings concerning marriage. Couples should live a moral life and not live together prior to marriage. They should practice their faith and practice virtue, especially chastity and purity. Catholics are to be married in a Catholic Church according to sacramental form. That means no destination weddings on beaches or forests or state parks and no privately composed vows. Holy Matrimony is a sacrament and the liturgy should be treated with reverence and dignity. When a Catholic marries a non-Catholic, the marriage should still take place in a Catholic Church and according to sacramental form. While it is not obligatory for a non-Catholic to convert to Catholicism to marry a Catholic, the non-Catholic party should be graciously and respectfully invited to pray and consider becoming Catholic. All children born of the marriage of a Catholic are to be baptized and raised as Catholics. This is part of the solemn vow that the couple makes at their wedding. In mixed marriages, it is the Catholic’s solemn responsibility to have their children baptized and raised as Catholics. The non-Catholic spouse is to understand this and agrees to this at the time of the marriage.

Sacrament of the Sick: The sacrament should not be delayed until the moment of death. A seriously ill person who has previously been anointed may receive the sacrament again if their condition significantly worsens, but it is not obligatory. The sacrament is to be received for serious illness or infirmity due to age. One should be anointed before major surgery, even before going to the hospital.

Funerals: Catholics should be given a Catholic Funeral (Let your family and friends know your wishes, write in your funeral plans).  Normally, there is a Rosary/Vigil at the funeral home the night before, a funeral Mass at the church the next morning followed by the burial at the cemetery.  It is customary to have a reception following the committal.  While cremation is now allowed, bodily burial is still preferred in the Catholic Church in imitation of Jesus’ burial.  When cremation is chosen, it is proper to have the body present for the vigil and funeral Mass with cremation following.

Following the cremation of the body the remains (ashes) are to be treated with the same dignity and respect of the body and are to be buried or placed in a columbarium with the Rite of Committal.

The ashes may never be scattered, discarded, abandoned or simply left on the mantle or in a closet. The ashes are not to be divided and distributed among family or friends.

For a fuller explanation on any of these topics, please refer to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

To be continued. 

In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately