Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
The Question Box
by Father I.J. Mikulski
(From the Oct. 2, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)
Q. We are getting more deacons than I ever heard of in my long life. What are the specific duties they perform to actually ease the duties of priests in a parish? I’m impressed by the deacons I have seen as very good men who take part in our liturgy.
A. Permanent deacons were a respected fixture in the early church. Now that we’re experiencing a diminishing number of ordained priests, permanent deacons are again stepping forward to fill the need.
Looking at this from the other side, there are two primary privileges a deacon does not have: he cannot celebrate Eucharist or forgive sins. Those two sacraments require ordination to priesthood.
Deacons receive several years of study. They can preach the Gospel, celebrate baptisms, witness weddings, preside over wake services, vigils, and funerals. They can direct parish office work for organizations and business administration, usually under the guidance of a neighboring pastor. All told, deacons are well respected. and rightly so.
Q. An ad in our local paper offered a reward to anybody who can prove from the Bible that our Sunday is the Sabbath of the Bible that we are bound to keep holy. The ad requires proof just from the Bible.
A. In polite society, that’s called an oxymoron. It’s a self-contradictory premise, a specious bit of slippery sophistry.
First, we question the major premise of that statement, namely that the Bible, and only the Bible, is the sole source of religious faith. Who said so? That concept, that the Bible is our only source of faith, does not appear anywhere in the Bible, not once in a thousand pages. That concept has a human source outside the Bible. There’s the self-contradiction. It first appeared in the 16th century, much too late to be included in the Bible.
The Bible says we should carefully “keep the traditions that we taught you, whether by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thess. 2:15). Nowhere in the Bible is an author told to “write this down.” Nowhere is anyone told to observe only what is written in the Bible.
Q. Is this possible? I heard there was a man who impersonated a priest even to where he wore a cassock and offered Mass. We had a similar case of impersonating a police officer who got arrested. Can that happen with a visiting priest?
A. Nothing is impossible, but impersonating a priest is highly unlikely. Priests are given “canonical faculties,” his license to practice. His faculties entitle him to administer the sacraments in his diocese and neighboring dioceses where he is known.
However, if a stranger moves into the area and asks permission to function as a priest, it’s a matter of courtesy to check in with the diocesan front office. A phone call to his home diocese will do. No priest is going to let a complete stranger celebrate Mass just because he appeared at the door in a Roman collar.
Q. How does a person come to faith in God, Providence, afterlife? I would like some way to convince a person I care about.
A. Your living example is supreme, worth more than a thousand words. There are many avenues that converge on faith in a loving God.
Years ago, Whittaker Chambers abandoned his Communist conspiracy and returned to faith in God when he silently admired the convolutions of his daughter’s ear as she played on the carpet before him. He reasoned that only Someone of infinite intelligence could have fashioned that wondrous instrument, the human ear.
Some find faith in God’s work. Some experience personal religious sensitivity. Some are deeply moved by a lover’s example.
A person may believe in God and still behave like a rascal, as though God does not exist. As the Yiddish proverb says, “If God lived on Earth, people would break his windows.”
(Father Mikulski welcomes your comments and questions. Write to him at 7718 Westwood Dr., Oscoda, Mich. 48750.)