Q: What is your favorite part of the Mass and why?
A: It seems to me that most people have a favorite part of the Mass, whether we are speaking about the music, the homily (yes, that can be a favorite part of the Mass) or the readings. In fact, my favorite part of the Mass is the Liturgy of the Eucharist and in particular the Eucharistic Prayer.
I say this because the Body and Blood of Christ, namely, the Eucharist, unites us with Jesus Christ. In this spiritual food we become who we receive. The growth we experience as Christians completely depends on our reception of the Eucharist, especially the frequency of receiving Communion.
May we not forget that Jesus himself instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper. Do we not hear at Mass each and every time, “Do this in memory of me”? Jesus has given himself in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, and we should be forever thankful for this gift, which exceeds all expectations.
I am profoundly grateful as a priest and bishop to be God’s instrument at the moment of the Transubstantiation when the bread and wine become Jesus’ Body and Blood at the altar. This sacred moment is for your salvation and mine.
Q: Why do the Catholic bishops of the United States not endorse a presidential candidate?
A: We are well aware that several organizations endorse publicly various candidates and initiatives in an election year. While many are free to do so, the Catholic Church maintains the position that she has the teaching authority to educate the general population regarding the issues and how they directly affect our Catholic faith.
For instance, the Catholic bishops in the United States do not intend to tell Catholics for whom or against whom to vote, but instead help Catholics to form their consciences in accord with God’s Truth. While the responsibility to make choices in political life rests with each individual voter, the teaching authority of the Church is to bring to light the truth for a properly formed conscience.
Many issues surround the present political arena and several should be taken most seriously and guide an individual voter’s conscience: • respect for the lives of unborn children; • respect people who are terminally ill; • protect traditional marriage; • avoid excessive consumption of material goods due to destruction of our natural resources; • protect fellow Christians and religious minorities throughout the world; • protect religious freedom and our freedom of conscience, as well as the freedom of the Church to serve; • economic policies to assist the poor; • fix our immigration system; • promote peace in our communities and our world.
All of these recent developments above should assist one in the determination of his or her political responsibility, especially during this election season. The Church’s obligation to participate in the moral fabric of society is essential, as we recognize our right to vote should not be limited to a human endeavor, but one in which we share the truth of Jesus Christ in political dialogue, especially when it comes to which future path we intend our nation to take. Our public practice reflects our personal beliefs.
Q: If God knows what will happen to us after we die, does that mean we lack free will because we can’t do anything to change what is already determined?
A: This is a question which probably many of our readers have struggled with when it comes to the truth behind our free will. We must remember that God is the master of all reality and the Catechism of the Catholic Church is quite clear when it states, “ ... the ways of his providence are often unknown to us. Only at the end, when our partial knowledge ceases, when we see God ‘face to face’ will we understand how God has guided creation for which he created heaven and earth.”
While we are limited in our human nature to understand completely God’s divine providence, we appreciate the fact that at the same time God has given us free will by which we journey to our ultimate destiny by our free choice and preferential love. We are not possessors of artificial intelligence, but instead real intelligence. God has given us the gift of free will, which makes us responsible for our own acts in that they are voluntary. Although God knows all things, he has entitled us with the ability to make our own choices.
God does not set us up for failure, but instead gives us the freedom to set ourselves up for failure ... or for success, if we follow his will.
As we embark on this new academic year, together let us pray for all students, teachers and staff to delve deeper into the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.
To “Ask the Bishop,” direct questions to, Diocese of Steubenville Office of Christian Formation and Schools – P.O. Box 969, Steubenville, OH 43952; (740) 282-3631.
The "Ask the Bishop Question Form" can be found here.