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 Sept. 10, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)

Father I.J. Mikulski Q. In my parish we have communal penance services before Christmas and Easter, with confession to any of the visiting priests. If someone goes to confession at Christmas, but then decides to delay his next confession until Easter, it will be more than one year. Could an individual be in non-compliance with that precept of the church?

A. Well, yes and no. You’re beginning to think like a legalistic Pharisee who takes umbrage under the law just enough to cover his backside.

Canon law (C. 989) addresses your topic with minimal disturbance. “After having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year.” There’s a matching piece that requires Catholics to receive our Eucharist at least once a year and it specifically mentions “at Easter time.” Church law likes to keep similar topics together and those two sacraments are a natural pair.

That theology of obligation seems a bit strained. Why in God’s name do we need laws to insist on minimal observance? The sacrament of forgiveness is a wondrous gift that eradicates all sins in all their stages, deeply imbedded or merely superficial, to regain the wholesome grace of God that makes us whole again. The sacrament of Eucharist renews the loving relationship with Jesus Christ, a miracle he insists on sharing with us.

But why must we make them mandatory? Do it or else?

Q. You explained what we mean by “rapture” in the Catholic tradition. Now what is the Catholic view on the end times? We hear a lot about end times from many preachers, but we don’t know what the Catholic Church says about it. Will you please fill in that part?

A. Let’s call it by its formal name, eschatology, meaning the last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell. We refer to that doctrine every time we say our ancient Nicene Creed: “he will come again to judge the living and the dead.”

Scripture scholars don’t always agree on the fine points of theology, but they do agree on this: Paul was in Corinth when he wrote the epistle to the Romans in early 58 AD. That letter is the groundwork for everything you need to know about eschatology end-times. It’s like a road map taking us through a series of essential doctrines.

“Christ died and lived again that he might be Lord both of the living and the dead.” His ascension to heaven, his second coming that will shake the faith of many believers, the attempted deception of anti-Christ, the victory over evil and the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world.

Paul’s epistle to the Romans has it all, even though “it is not for you to know times and seasons which the Father has placed by his authority.” It’s our core belief. It’s why we are Catholics.

The Q. B. scrivener suggests you get a lucid commentary on Paul’s epistle to the Romans and settle down for a good read.

Q. My parish office cannot give me a statement for the amount of my contributions last year. They say there is no record of same. I know the amount I gave each week on average so why won’t they endorse a statement that I need for the IRS?

A. Because they don’t know. Since you made weekly non-traceable donations to your parish for an entire year we must assume those were free-will offerings of cash, bills or coins, that leave no traces. If you had used your parish envelopes the oversight would have been spotted in the first quarter.

Here’s an old saying among experienced pastors. There are only two kinds of donors who wish to remain anonymous: the extremely generous and the extremely cheap, each for personal reasons. Since you are surely in the first group you should be prudently careful to keep all receipts for tax purposes.

Stewardship means we are accountable for what we do with what we have been given. Jesus told a folksy parable about your troubles: “Give an accounting of your stewardship, for you can be my manager no longer.” Your parish wants to keep you as a good steward, so get thyself registered by phone or in person and your troubles will vanish.

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