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 Oct. 1, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)

Father I.J. Mikulski Q. We are told that the tilma of St. Juan Diego contains a miraculously imprinted image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In 1648 Miguel Sanchez wrote, “upon her head there is a crown of 12 stars.” In all of the older images in the U.S. and Mexico the image of Mary is wearing a crown. About 1900 this crown disappeared from the “original” tilma in the Basilica of Guadalupe. Where did it go?

A. The Q.B. scrivener didn’t know it was missing. Who stole the crown jewels? Who knows more about her missing crown than Our Lady?

As long as we’re reviewing apparitions, here’s a list of the duly investigated and approved shrines the Blessed Virgin Mary: Banneux, Belgium: eight appearances. Beauraing, Belgium: 33 times. Fatima, Portugal: six times. Guadalupe, Mexico: four times. LaSallete, France: times unknown. Lourdes, France: 18 times. Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, France: three times. Total approved apparitions: 72.

Q. Whatever happened to hell? Jesus mentions hell more than any other person in Scripture. Has it changed since Vatican II? So what’s the skinny on hell?

A. Let there be no doubt about it. There is a hell. Described by writers as a grotesque place of torment and depicted by artists as a lurid place of agony, hell exists because it must. Dante’s Inferno with its descending rings of ever more painful suffering for ever more notorious sinners is a classic because we believe God is just.

The punishment of hell must be remorse for the sheer stupidity of being separated from God, the source of love and beauty, forever.

Jesus often spoke about an urgent call to conversion. “Enter through the narrow gate. The gate that leads to damnation is wide, the road is clear and many choose to travel it. But how narrow is the gate that leads to life, how rough the road and how few there are who find it” (Matthew 7:13).

Jesus, often described as gentle and kind, was blunt about hell. He will “send his angels and they will gather ... all evil-doers and throw them into the furnace of fire ... Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire” (Matthew 25:41).

It’s a matter of choice, as all sins are, that leads to a state of permanent definitive self-exclusion from communion with God, the source of all that is loving and beautiful.

God pre-destines no one. It’s our choice.

Q. Are Jesus and his mother Mary the only real persons without sin?

A. Yes, unless you can think of someone else. The Q.B. writer is not aware of anyone among my best friends who qualify and I’m sure they exclude me the same way. But some of them come close.

Q. Does it seem to you that the age we’re living in is getting more corrupt when breaking God’s Ten Commandments gets to be so common we hardly notice? In public life we have lost our sense of sin. Everybody’s lying. Perjury is lying under oath. We’re slipping away.

A. Adlai Stevenson was right. “A lie is an abomination to the Lord and a real help in time of trouble.”

Sins, and combinations of endless varieties of sins, have been part of the human condition ever since Adam blamed Eve for his bad judgment. It’s her fault. In the second generation we have advanced to murder, a capital crime. Again, Cain blames the victim. It’s Abel’s fault.

The Q.B. writer is not aware of any objective test that can prove that our present generation is more or less corrupt than, say, the 18th century. Or the 15th. Or name your own.

Classic theology gives general guidelines to assess degrees of sin:

• Serious matter. The common “white lie” is a different breed than the sin of perjury, the blackest sin that destroys the legal system. Major, not minor. Heavy, not light.
• Sufficient reflection. Fully aware of the gravity of your decision and the consequences. You know what you’re doing.
• Full consent. You understand those two conditions and you decide to go ahead and do it anyway.

Those three conditions are an infallible guide.

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