Q: From your experience, is the Catholic Church playing a greater role in local people’s lives?
A: This is a very good question as we live in the era of the New Evangelization. However, it is a difficult question to answer because we are looking at different times in which the Church has been present. For example, there is a significant contrast between the Church in 1955 and the Church in 2015.
In 1955, the Church was much more part of people’s daily lives, from Sunday Mass attendance to parish-sponsored sports programs. Also, a larger percentage of Catholic youth attended Catholic schools. Not to mention, more men and women married in the Church and therefore began a spiritual foundation to their marriage. Still, there was a need for further growth and outreach as Pope St. John XXIII indicated there was need for a New Pentecost.
In 2015, we are in the midst of the New Evangelization as begun by Pope St. John Paul II. St. John Paul insightfully acknowledged that the Church can do a better job at reaching out to Catholics, especially those who have fallen away from their faith. While I believe we are doing a better job at reaching out to Catholics, we have a long way to go in order to equip the laity in sharing the faith with others. More forms of communication are at our disposal for evangelizing, especially as Catholic school enrollment has declined and as more Catholics have demonstrated the fact they need a refresher course on the definition of marriage. As you can see, the culture of the time impacts the manner in which the Church plays a role in people’s lives. The answer is, unfortunately, yes and no.
Q: What happens to babies that die before they are baptized?
A: As Pope Francis has mentioned frequently, God is an all merciful God. Baptism conforms us to God in direct participation with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It is imperative that a baby be Baptized not too long after he or she is born in order to receive this irreplaceable gift. We are aware though that some children die before being Baptized, even the unborn children who are preparing to be born but something goes terribly wrong before the child can be born.
We as Catholics believe that God knows each one of us better than we know our own selves. This being said, we also know God wants all of us to be together in heaven. God’s love and mercy is too vast and deep for the human imagination to fathom. Therefore, we entrust all of our little brothers and sisters who died before making it to the Sacrament of Baptism to our loving Father who is the very definition of love and mercy. We pray they all are in heaven waiting for us and praying for us.
Q: Who do priests confess their sins to?
A: Priests confess their sins to other priests. Bishops confess their sins to priests, even to other bishops if they wish. The Sacrament of Penance requires a priest to take the place of Jesus in the confessional. While priests are entrusted with the holy gifts of the Church, to be distributed without reservation to the people of God, the priest also is very much human. Priests share in the fallen nature of humanity and consequently are in need of the same mercy and forgiveness you receive at Confession.
I find great satisfaction in celebrating the Sacrament of Penance as a confessor, but I also experience the healing touch of God on my soul when I celebrate the sacrament as a penitent. Please pray for our priests, the distributors of God’s saving grace in the confessional, that they too may maintain a healthy practice of frequent celebration of the sacrament for themselves.
How blessed we are with the immeasurable treasury of the Catholic Church. Jesus Christ has made it so.
May God bless you and your family as we commence the school year.
To “Ask the Bishop,” address questions to Joseph M. Taylor, catechetical consultant and youth ministry coordinator in the Diocese of Steubenville Office of Christian Formation and Schools.
Address “Ask the Bishop” to Taylor at P.O. Box 969, Steubenville, OH 43952. Questions can be emailed to Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, Taylor can be reached by telephone at the chancery in Steubenville, (740) 282-3631.