Sacraments & Sacramentals

I have been asked this question many times over the last few weeks. With churches closed and sacraments suspended, what can we do if we need to get to confession? Here is how I answered that question for a young man named Jose.

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JOSE ASKS: What can I do if I’ve fallen into mortal sin and there is no priest around for confession? Steve, it is really important to me.

STEVE RAY HERE: Hello Jose, yes, I understand your situation and distress. Two things you can do:

If you live near a church you can call and make an appointment with the priest for confession. From what I understand, he won’t refuse you. Call and tell him you need to have him hear your confession. He should invite you over, probably with you wearing a mask and keeping within their rules for distancing, but he should hear your confession.

If you are unable to get to a priest, or if for some reason he will not hear your confession, there is a remedy which is explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Read paragraphs 1451 and 1452:

download (1)CONTRITION
No. 1451 Among the penitent’s acts contrition occupies first place. Contrition is “sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again.

No. 1452 When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called “perfect” (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.

So Jose, if you cannot get to confession, confess your sins directly to God with contrition for your sins based on love for God. Then resolve to go to a priest as soon as one is available, and even your mortal sins will be forgiven.

1 John 1:9  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

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Coronavirus, Mass, and Catholic Life

by Steve Ray on March 19, 2020

Coronavirus, Mass, and Catholic Life  by Jimmy Akin

First, here is my 15-minute show with John Harper on Relevant Radio discussing how the shutdown is affecting families and what we can do. My segment begins at the 30:00 minute mark.

Now to Jimmy Akin’s excellent article:

The coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic has produced many questions and controversies, including how it is impacting people’s ability to attend Mass and receive the sacraments.

How dangerous is the virus? What should be our response as Catholics?

Here are eight things to know and share.

1) How dangerous is the coronavirus?
Nobody knows for sure. The virus only emerged a few months ago, so doctors are only now getting experience with it.

Some have compared Covid-19 to the flu, which is a well-understood and predictable disease.

It appears that Covid-19 is much more infectious than the flu. A person with the flu will infect an average of 1.3 other people, but a person with Covid-19 will infect an average of between 2 and 3.11 additional people. Covid-19 thus has the chance to spread much more rapidly.

Covid-19 is also much deadlier than the flu. In the United States, the death rate for the flu is usually around 0.1%. The death rate for Covid-19 is not yet well understood, but it appears to be between 1.4% and 2.3%—making it between 14 and 23 times more deadly than the flu.

While it is true that—at present—more people are killed by the flu than by Covid-19, governments and health authorities are working to keep the latter from becoming as common as the flu.

There are around 27 million cases of flu each year in the U.S., resulting in around 36,000 deaths. If COVID became as common as the flu (and, remember, it’s actually more infectious than the flu), there would be around 500,000 deaths.

This is what authorities are trying to prevent. Current Center for Disease Control guidelines for how to protect yourself are online here. 

2) Is everyone equally at risk?
No. Covid-19 hits certain people much harder than others. People younger than 60 are much less likely to die because of the disease, though they can still catch and spread it.

They may even have it but not feel sick and yet spread it to others. In fact, a recent study suggests that more than 80% of current cases were spread by people who did not know they had the virus.

People older than 60 are much more likely to die, and the risk increases with each decade of age.

People with other underlying conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease also have increased risk of dying. Current Center for Disease Control guidelines for how to protect yourself are online here.

3) Why are bishops cancelling Masses and dispensing people from their Sunday obligations? Aren’t Christians called to be martyrs?
Christians are called to be martyrs when we are forced into the situation. If we are directly asked if we are followers of Christ, we cannot disown our faith. “If we deny him, he also will deny us” (2 Tim. 2:12).

However, this doesn’t mean we are called to rush into martyrdom. In fact, Jesus said that we can flee persecution for our faith: “When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next” (Matt. 10:23).

The requirement to witness to our faith thus does not mean Christians can’t take reasonable steps to protect themselves from physical danger.

If it is morally permissible to leave town to avoid one physical danger (being killed by people who hate our faith), so is staying home from Mass for a few weeks to avoid another physical danger (being killed by a plague).

4) Are bishops being too quick to cancel Mass?
The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen Gentium 11), so no bishop will take the decision to suspend Masses lightly.

The decision involves a prudential judgment call, so there is no single answer that obviously applies in all situations. This means the faithful should pray for the bishops as they wrestle with this issue and show respect for the difficult decisions they are having to make.

They also should bear in mind that:

  • The conditions in some areas are much worse than others.
  • In some places, bishops may not have much of a choice, as public authorities have prohibited public gatherings over a certain size.
  • Epidemics grow exponentially, so the only way to stop them is to take early action—before the situation becomes severe. If you wait until an epidemic has gotten really bad in an area, it is too late.

5) When are people allowed to stay home from Mass?
People are allowed to stay home from Mass in three situations:

  • When one has a legitimate excuse (e.g., because a person is at elevated risk of acquiring Covid-19)
  • When one is dispensed by the competent authority (e.g., the pastor or bishop)
  • When it is impossible to go (e.g., because Masses have been cancelled)

6) On what basis can pastors and bishops dispense a person?
The Code of Canon Law provides that the pastor of a parish can give a dispensation in individual cases, as can the superiors of religious institutes (can. 1245).

The bishop’s authority is greater. He can “dispense the faithful from universal and particular disciplinary laws issued for his territory” by the Vatican (can. 87 §1). This is the category of laws that the Sunday obligation belongs to.

7) What should we do if staying home from Mass?
One is not legally obligated to do anything on these days. However, the Church strongly recommends that the faithful undertake another form of spiritual activity:

If participation in the eucharistic celebration becomes impossible because of the absence of a sacred minister or for another grave cause, it is strongly recommended that the faithful take part in a liturgy of the word if such a liturgy is celebrated in a parish church or other sacred place according to the prescripts of the diocesan bishop or that they devote themselves to prayer for a suitable time alone, as a family, or, as the occasion permits, in groups of families (can. 1248 §2).

Watching a Mass on television or the Internet also is a possibility, and some parishes and dioceses stream Masses on their web sites.

Participating in the Liturgy of the Hours is another possibility (can. 1174 §2), as are reading the Bible or spiritual works.

8) What should I do if I’m not sure whether I’m getting sick?
Err on the side of caution. With many diseases, people are most infectious just before they start feeling sick and just after they start having symptoms. Therefore, if you think you might be getting sick, you may be at the point where you have the greatest chance of infecting another person.

Even if you do not feel sick, you may be able to spread the virus to others, so it is important to follow safety practices even if you currently feel fine.

This applies especially if you have contact with older people or those with health conditions that put them at greater risk of dying from Covid-19.

Remember: We are not just protecting ourselves; we are protecting those around us.

If we don’t have the virus, we can’t give it to others. Even if we’re young and healthy, we’re protecting the more vulnerable. That is a physical work of mercy, and it’s an act of love for others. As Jesus taught us, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).

FOR A MASSIVE LIST OF RESOURCES PROVIDED BY TERESA TOMEO, CLICK HERE.

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Revet Elizabeth wrote:

I grew up Catholic, left off practice of my faith, then wandered around several churches before coming back.  It just seemed like the preaching I was hearing treated the Bible like Ann Landers, and people wanted to be soothed rather than challenged.  There would be preaching and singing but no Eucharist.  It’s like foreplay without consummation.  

The one time I was handed a tray of cut-up Wonder Bread and shot glasses of grape juice, I asked the person sitting next to me, “What is this?”  They answered, “Bread and grape juice.”  I passed the tray without taking any. 

At that time, I didn’t even really explicitly, consciously know the doctrine of the Real Presence but I knew it in my bones, and I knew that was a pale imitation.  I thought, I don’t care if there is a world-class university professor organist here, a shot glass of grape juice just shattered my illusions.  These people can’t even share a communion cup, what can they teach me about loving my neighbor?

downloadMy Dad had taught me years ago about shadow and substance.  I felt like I was in the land of shadows — pale imitations.  Only Catholicism and Orthodoxy have substance — the Real thing.

 If it’s not the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of God’s dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, then…to hell with it  (paraphrasing Flannery O’Connor).

What did Flannery O’Connor say about the bread and grape juice? Here it is:

“Well, toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. Mrs. Broadwater said when she was a child and received the Host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the ‘most portable’ person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, ‘Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.’ That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable.”

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Protestant Pastor Discovers the Eucharist of the Early Church!

January 20, 2020

Protestant pastor Chan with a huge following is sharing his new ideas about the Eucharist and the Early Church. As a convert, I know the signs, and I would suggest he’s realizing the truth of the Catholic Church. Only 3.5 minutes; WORTH a listen. Pray for him. 

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Did St. Ignatius of Antioch REALLY Believe in Transubstantiation in the 1st Century?

January 6, 2020

A friend and fellow pilgrim got in a row with a friend on Facebook and asked for my help. You might enjoy the question and the answer. My friend wrote: “I have a quick apologetic question.  A Protestant Facebook page was denying the Eucharist and I pasted St Ignatius’ quote about the Eucharist, “Let us […]

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What Does “Water and Spirit” Mean?

October 2, 2019

Since we were just at the Jordan River, where Jesus was baptized in water and the Spirit came down, I thought I would share this post again. A while ago a Protestant friend tried to prove that Born Again by “water and Spirit” did not mean baptism. Here is one paragraph that he sent me: In John, […]

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Short Primer on the Mass

September 21, 2019

A while ago a Lutheran attended Mass with me. To prepare him in advance for what he was going to experience, I put together this short “Primer on the Mass.” I hope you find it helpful and useful. Pleases share if with family and friends if you think it could help them to understand.  Click […]

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Riddle: What is the New Testament?

September 16, 2019

This is a question that very few people think about. The natural reaction to the question, “What is the New Testament?” is that it is a collection of books in the Bible. But before you say the New Testament is “a book” ask yourself what the book says the New Testament is. A hint is […]

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“If the Eucharist is only a Symbol, then to Hell with it!”

September 6, 2019

‘If The Eucharist Is Just A Symbol, To Hell With It’ (quote by Flannery O’Conner) Friday, 06 September 2019  An article written by my good friend and attorney Bob Sullivan; published in the Southern Nebraska Register A few months ago, I devoted four consecutive columns to transubstantiation. In that series I said that there was one Catholic teaching which […]

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The Kiss of Mercy

August 28, 2019

My daughter-in-law Anna is very insightful about spiritual things, and in raising our grandkids. Couldn’t ask for a better daughter (in-law, though we consider her our daughter by now :-) She put this up on her FaceBook page a while ago and I was compelled to share it again. Janet and I read this with […]

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Is the Eucharist just a Symbol? Podcast on the Eucharist with Steve Ray

June 26, 2019

In this episode of The Cordial Catholic Podcast, I talk to Steve Ray, author, speaker, and Catholic evangelist about the Eucharist. Is it a sign and symbol like Protestants say that it is, or something more? What did the Early Church believe? We unpack Steve’s conversion story to find out how a Bible-believing Baptist of 30 […]

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Corpus Christi Sunday: Multiplication of Loaves a Miracle or Just a Lesson in Sharing?

June 23, 2019

When confronted with this at Mass a while ago I wrote a letter to the priest which became an article in Catholic Answers Magazine. Article HERE. The priest said there was no miracle when Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish. All he did was teach selfish people to share and they pulled extra loaves and fish from […]

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Interesting Explanation of Baptism from Protestant Dictionary – “baptism…in itself is unimportant”

May 11, 2019

I was looking up Greek definitions of the word baptism and found this interesting “definition.” This dictionary is usually very good but I found this summary of biblical passages on baptism very intriguing and disingenuous. Take a look at this definition and think about it for yourself. Analyze it and the verses used. Notice how they […]

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Genuflecting a No-No?

May 5, 2019

Several years ago my wife and visited a new parish (new for us). I genuflected before receiving the Blessed Sacrament. Believe it or not, I was reprimanded by the Extraordinary Minister while he handed me the host. After Mass I spoke with the priest about it and he reprimanded me as well. I told them Quite […]

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“This Is My Body” – Meaning What? :-)

May 2, 2019
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Gary Michuta Refutes Anti-Catholic William Webster on the Eucharist

March 7, 2019

A Critique of William Webster’s article: The Eucharist Steve Ray here: I have tangled with William Webster often in the past. You can read my debates with him at www.CatholicConvert.com/resources under the heading “My Books, Talks & DVDs: Reviews and Defense. Go to the end of the list. But this article, response and critique of […]

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