Dear Father Rutler,
I don’t want a single penny of my earnings to go to the bishops until they’ve cleaned up their act, but I’ve heard that the diocese will cut our priest’s personal stipend or withhold funds from the parish if the collection plates come back light. Is that true? Is there a way to make sure our priest and parish are taken care of without giving anything to the diocese?
Patrick G from Boston, MA
An incardinated priest cannot be deprived of his legitimate stipend as a punitive measure. Nor would a diocese withhold funds from a parish for the simple reason that, save in the case of a church in need, parishes give to the diocese and not the other way around. Pastors are moved by the generosity of pious souls, and chagrined by the tightness of some who put a coin in the collection and then spend many times that on football tickets or restaurants. Most parishes would be wealthy if every parishioner were on social welfare and tithed their government cheques. The only voice that many of the laity have, though, is that spoken through the purse. If diocesan money is wasted on projects inimical to the Faith, people may observe the principle of subsidiarity: giving specifically to the capital purposes of the local parish. Almsgiving is an evangelical imperative, and not an option, for the faithful must pray, fast and give alms, and almsgiving itself is both a form of praying and fasting.
I’m a big reader and like my novels to be edifying, but I’ve more or less exhausted the big Catholic names – Waugh, Chesterton, Tolkien, Greene, etc. Can you make any recommendations?
Pamela N from Palo Alto, CA
Like Molière’s gentleman who spoke prose without knowing it, some novelists write Christian messages without deliberately intending to do so. George Orwell’s 1984 is a lesson in the hell of mankind without man’s God. Willa Cather was not a Catholic, but she wrote Death Comes for the Archbishop. Among Catholics, just to pick from a long list: Alessandro Manzoni, Sigrid Undset, Georges Bernanos, Walker Percy and, for a slightly lighter style, Robert Hugh Benson. As a parish priest, I find novels not as entertaining as a single day lived with an observant eye. Best of all are the lives of saints, because they are real.
My priest pulled me aside last week after Mass because I knelt on the floor to receive Communion. Father told me that it would be appropriate to kneel at an Extraordinary Form parish; but that, during a Mass in the Ordinary Form, I should observe the custom of standing. Is it disobedient or disrespectful if I choose to keep kneeling?
Alicia L from Fayetteville, NC
You might respectfully pull him aside and inform him that the General Instruction of the Roman Missal established standing for Communion as the norm in the Ordinary Form but allows kneeling. The Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum provides: “It is not licit to deny Holy Communion to any of the Christian faithful on the grounds, for example, that the person wishes to receive the Eucharist kneeling or standing.” Around 300 AD, Abba Apollo said that the Devil will not kneel because he has no knees. Altar rails would solve the problem, but many were destroyed by frenzied puritans and nothing is more contradictory than a Catholic puritan. There is a danger of “virtue signaling” by being conspicuous in kneeling, or causing delays. You might also remind the kindly priest that in lieu of kneeling, a communicant is supposed to bow the head in reverence before receiving. Since Transubstantiation is our daily Theophany, we should fall on our faces. This is common sense, but such sense is not common in liturgical matters. My late friend Dr Eric Mascall wrote:
There was an old priest of Dun Laoghaire,
Who stood on his head for the Kaoghaire.
When people asked why,
He explained it all by
The latest liturgical thaoghaire
My wife keeps chiding me because we never go to coffee hour after Mass, but it’s hard enough keeping six kids quiet for 45 minutes. Honestly, when it’s over, I just want to go home. Should I be doing more to get to know our parish community?
Kyle R from San Antonio, TX
If you have six kids, you deserve a reward richer than coffee. But your wife is entitled to some society outside your nest of domestic bliss, and it should not be denied her. When I was a rambunctious child, my French grandfather, who had no patience for coffee socials, shared with me a little proscribed absinthe, also known as wormwood (Revelation 8:11) or mugwort. The Roman philosopher Lucretius Carus (d 55 BC) recommended it for children, laced with honey. It was said to have a calming effect on parents and children alike, though it perhaps should not be encouraged today. An unconfirmed tradition holds that John the Baptist wrapped about his loins the plant from which it comes.
Fr George Rutler is the pastor of St Michael’s Church in New York City. To seek his advice, write to [email protected]