Q: Why did God make carnivores if his commandment is thou shall not kill?

A: Thank you for starting us off with the Bible, which is, of course, God’s revealed Word. As we are referring to the Book of Exodus, Chapter 20, Verses 2-17, it is good for us to take a look at the underlying meaning of all the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments, also known as the Decalogue (or 10 words), are instructions from God to be followed if we wish to be faithful to him. These laws were given to Moses a long, long time ago on Mount Sinai.

While each one of these laws is meant for us human beings, we must understand that these Divine Laws focus squarely on our relationship with one another. In other words, God is not ordering us to become vegetarians, but instead to make certain we respect the life of one another. Each one of us people has been made in God’s image and likeness and God does not want us to forget that. “Thou shall not kill” means for you and me to respect the life of one another as God has made us to be good. We live all of these commandments in light of the two commandments Jesus reminds us of as we are meant to love God and neighbor. It seems to me that those two commandments are the ones which so many people find difficult to follow.

Q: Did Mary actually die when she lay down and closed her eyes before her Assumption? I have gotten different answers to this question in the past.

A: We will continue with the Bible theme for we are very familiar with Mary’s role in the life of Jesus.

In 1950, Pope Pius XII, the pope at that time, declared the truth that Mary was assumed into Heaven, body and soul when her life was finished here on earth.

We need to remember here that this truth is not new since 1950 for it is part of the very fabric of the tradition of our faith. Mary had not simply a unique role but the highest role of any Christian; namely, to be Jesus’ Mother. Mary is the Mother of God! At the Annunciation, that is, when Mary was visited by the Archangel Gabriel on behalf of God (Lk 1: 26-38), Our Lady accepted God’s invitation to be Jesus’ Mother. In doing so, we honor, of course, Jesus’ conception in Mary on May 25, nine months before the great celebration of Christmas. Mary had the highest honor of conceiving Jesus, carrying Jesus in her womb and then to remain with him as Jesus would share with the whole world that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is at hand. Humanity finally has hope.

As for the Feast of the Assumption, we acknowledge that Mary did not suffer any of the affects that are associated with death for she participated in Jesus’ Resurrection immediately at the end of her life’s service here on earth. How fortunate we are to have such a great Mother whom we can imitate.

Q: How far back can you trace your succession? Do you know who the original apostle was in your line?

A: You and I are taught to “do our homework” in supporting what we wish to share. It is important for us to remember that as we look across different eras sometimes the recordings are not as complete as we would like here in the year 2013. I say that because through written confirmation I can trace back my apostolic succession all the way back to 472 years ago (1541) and that would be Cardinal Scipione Rebiba.

Now you might ask the question, what happened to the other 15 centuries? We need to recall that the 16th century was an era of great upheaval and discontent. Think about it. We are speaking of an era in which there is the Protestant Reformation, the Counter Reformation, military campaigns as well as sociological challenges like plagues. Many challenges handicapped the ability to keep a constant written record. However, with a number of popes following along to the extent that we can research the apostolic succession even with the challenges of the Reformation times and social upheaval, we can trace my episcopal lineage back to the original apostles.

As for the specific apostle, I can safely say it was one of them! Perhaps Peter or James?

You touch upon though a very significant truth about the Catholic Church and that is there are significant pillars upon which our faith is built; pillars which, of course, find their firm foundation from Jesus Christ himself. One pillar is Sacred Scripture, also known as the Bible, God’s Revealed Word. Another is Tradition, that is, the continuance of the gifts of the Church shared with us by Jesus Christ himself and meant to be protected and defended at all times. And, of course, what you have touched upon today, the Magisterium or the apostolic leadership in the Church which my brother bishops and I share in the leadership under the successor of St. Peter himself and that is Pope Francis. How fortunate we are to have such a rich reality in our faith as we share with our brothers and sisters the reality that Jesus Christ is the only way, the only truth and the only life. In no other name can we find our salvation.

How fortunate we are that Jesus Christ Our Lord and God loves us so dearly as we also are blessed with his Mother Mary, our Mother in Faith, who keeps us also so dear to her Immaculate Heart. May you and your loved ones find joy and safety in the presence of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, patroness of the Diocese of Steubenville.

To “Ask the Bishop,” write, Office of Christian Formation and Schools, P.O. Box 969, Steubenville, OH 43952, attention, Joseph M. Taylor, catechetical consultant and youth ministry coordinator, or email jtaylor@diosteub.org.