Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

The Question Box

by Father I.J. Mikulski

(From the Feb. 5, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)

Father I.J. Mikulski Q. As a regular reader of your column I think you’re well qualified, but there is one thing that bothers me. Too often, why do you begin your answer by asking another question?

A. I do? The Q. B. scrivener will be alert to such faults.

We should consult St. Francis De Sales (d.1622) bishop of Geneva, patron saint of journalists, for guidance while never missing a deadline. Behold, over these many years we are often assured that God is good and people are nice.

What was that question again?

Q. If I could ask just one question about Catholic faith I would ask about the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ. I have attended your Masses and services with respect. I have high regard for your people and priests. Your doctrines are worthy of belief, except I cannot agree with your elevation of Virgin Mary as co-redeemer with Jesus Christ.

A. Ultimately, we may find the response to your inquiry in the major distinction between worship and veneration. Only God receives our worship; veneration is for anyone else. Only God the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is worthy of worship and adoration. Veneration and respect is for human persons among whom the Blessed Virgin Mary is pre-eminent.

Veneration of Mary as the top-level human saint in no way diminishes worship of the Trinity. Vatican II has many references to this. “Let the faithful be taught that our communion with those in heaven by veneration ... in no way diminishes the worship of adoration given to God the Father, through Christ, in the Spirit; on the contrary it greatly enriches it” (Constitution on the Church, #51).

The authors of that paragraph borrowed it from St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan, Italy (d. 397). Here’s what Bishop Ambrose wrote. “Mary’s salutary influence does not hinder in any way the immediate union of the faithful with Christ, but on the contrary, fosters it.”

Already in the fourth century the distinction between the adoration of God in the Trinity and the respectful veneration of Mary as the Number One saint among us was an important link in Catholic theology.

Q. A wonderful person has become essential in my life, a really good man who has more kindness in his little finger than some people I know in our parish. It’s beyond me why he doesn’t know enough to express a desire to join us. It seems natural to me that he can be Catholic right now. In your experience, what’s missing? Anything I can do?

A. The same dilemma caught the attention of Paul. He told his little community of converts at Ephesus they should guard their precious faith “because it is by grace that you have been saved, not through faith, not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God, not by anything you have done so that anybody can take credit. We are God’s work of art.” It’s a theological “given” that grace is a gift from God.

Whenever we approach the perimeter of God we get clouded over by mysteries. It’s like a “white-out” pilots experience when points of reference are fogged in and every point above, below and both sides look the same. Well, what did we expect? That we could analyze the mind of God like a computer printout?

We can only stand on the sidelines and watch the grace of God work its way with people. Why these but not others? No one knows. Paul told that first generation of Catholic converts that, since they were the lucky ones, they should guard their precious treasure of faith.

Treasure your faith. The day will come when it’s all you have.

Q. You’ve explained the rules of fasting before Communion, but nothing about chewing gum. Does that break my fast?

A. No, but it certainly puts a dent in your good manners. If people will chew gum and burp in church, liturgical decrees will not impress them. The Q.B. writer once saw the mother of the bride being ushered with considerable pomp to her front row seat resplendent in new gown and hair-do and chomping on a wad of Wrigley’s best.

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