Our website is made possible by displaying online ads to our visitors.
Please consider supporting us by whitelisting our site.

Question Corner

First slide

How to 'bless the Lord'? 

Q. Please clarify something that I don't understand when I am praying. In the Gloria at Sunday Mass, we say, "We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you." In Psalm 63, we pray, "I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands, calling on your name." And in Psalm 103, we say, "Bless the Lord, my soul; all my being, bless his holy name!" My question is this: What does it mean for us to "bless the Lord"? How can we do that? (Indiana) 

A. Your question makes sense: How can we, who have received all that we have from the Lord, bless God who possesses everything already? And the answer has to do with the Hebrew word for "bless." It has the same root as the word for "kneel," and it really means to "adore" God, to praise him for his magnificence and thank him for his abundant favors.

Psalm 103, for example, whose opening verse you quote, goes on to say: "Bless the Lord, my soul; and do not forget all his gifts, who pardons all your sins, and heals all your ills ... and crowns you with mercy and compassion, who fills your days with good things."

When God blesses us, we are helped and strengthened and made better off than we were; but when we "bless" God, that adds nothing to God's greatness but simply indicates our wholehearted gratitude for his divine favors.

Sacraments and Eastern Catholics

Q. I know a family who are originally from Jordan but are now U.S. citizens. They are members of the local Eastern-rite Catholic Church. They would like to get their 5-year-old grandson baptized in the Roman Catholic Church.

Also, they said that while a relative who is an Eastern-rite Catholic nun was visiting here from Jordan, she was refused holy Communion at a Latin-rite church.

So I have two questions: What are the rules for receiving Communion if you are a Catholic of the Eastern rite? And how should I advise her about her grandson's baptism? (Midlothian, Virginia)

A. First, as to holy Communion, which is the easier part, Eastern Catholics are in full communion with Rome and the Vatican and are, of course, welcome to receive the Eucharist in any Catholic church.

As to baptism, a valid baptism in the Latin Church is recognized as a valid baptism in the Eastern churches, and vice versa.

But I do have a couple of questions: First of all, why is it the grandparents who are deciding about the baptism? Normally it is the parents of the child who make that determination, and in fact the Code of Canon Law provides that "for an infant to be baptized licitly, the parents or at least one of them or the person who legitimately takes their place must consent" (No. 868).

And second, in which church is the child going to be brought up? If the boy is going to be raised and educated as an Eastern Catholic, doesn't it make sense to begin his sacramental path in that same church?

Is 'purgatory' in Bible?

Q. Some 50 years ago, I converted to the Catholic Church. But one question has always bothered me: Where will I find the word "purgatory" in the Bible? (Elmer City, Washington)

A. This is a question I am often asked. The answer is that you won't find the specific word "purgatory" in the Bible. But the concept is surely there -- the notion of a period of purification after death before one is worthy to enter heaven.

In fact, even before Christ the Jewish people recognized that there could be such a need and believed that the prayers of those still living could aid in that cleansing. In the Second Book of Maccabees (12:39-46), Judas Maccabeus prays for his fallen comrades who had died in battle while wearing amulets dedicated to pagan idols.

That Old Testament passage tells us that Judas turned to prayer as an expiatory sacrifice and "thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be absolved from their sin" -- showing his belief that the deceased could still be helped by the intercession of the living.

In the New Testament, arguably the clearest reference to purgatory comes in Matthew's Gospel (12:32), where Jesus states that "whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come" -- implying that there are at least some sins that can be forgiven in the next life.

Such scriptural references leads to the church's belief, stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, that "all who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven" (No. 1030).

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021