Question corner: purgatory and the good thief


Difference Between Priest and Monsignor

Q. Could you explain to me the difference (if any) between “priest” and “monsignor”? Under what circumstances does a priest receive the title of “monsignor”? (Burke, Virginia)

A. “Monsignor” is a title given to a priest who has distinguished himself by outstanding service to the church. It is a title bestowed by the pope – usually, on the recommendation of the priest’s diocesan bishop. It is a purely honorary title and has no effect on the priest’s duties or ministerial assignment. In January 2014, Pope Francis ordered bishops around the world that diocesan priests no longer receive the title until they reach the age of 65. No reason has been released for the pope’s decision, but Pope Francis has often warned priests against careerism and personal ambition. . He seems to have long been hampered by ecclesiastical titles; when he was bishop and later cardinal in Argentina, Pope Francis always asked people to call him “Father”. And in particular, while he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires (1998-2013), he did not once petition the Holy See for one of its priests to be named monsignor.

Purgatory and the good thief

Q. If I understand purgatory correctly, it is a place where purification takes place, even if we have received the sacrament of the anointing of the sick and/or made a good confession and had our sins absolved before death. My question is this: the day Jesus was crucified, he said to the good thief: “Today you will be with me in paradise”; so, are we to assume that no purification in purgatory was required for him? And if so, why not? (Philadelphia Cream)
A. Your understanding of purgatory is correct. This is a clear and constant belief of the Church, as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “All who die in the grace and friendship of God, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death, they undergo a purification, in order to attain the holiness necessary to enter into the joy of heaven” (no. 1030). What we don’t know, of course, is what this state of transition consists of. How long it lasts, if it could even be instantaneous, and what it looks like are matters beyond our calculations while we are still on this side of eternity. What also needs to be taken into account – and some might not be aware of it – is a prayer called “apostolic forgiveness”. This prayer of blessing is usually administered by a priest when someone is close to death and follows the anointing of the sick and, if possible, the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist as viaticum, bread for the journey. In this prayer, the priest says: “Through the holy mysteries of our redemption, may Almighty God set you free from all chastisements in this life and in the life to come. May he open the doors of paradise to you and welcome you into eternal joy. And even if a priest is not available, the Church provides in the Manual of Indulgences that a dying person who is well disposed and who has prayed regularly during his life can be granted this same plenary indulgence (no. 28 ). So to me, it is entirely reasonable that Jesus could have absolved the repentant thief of both sin and punishment. If a priest can do it, why not Christ?

Will Sister Ita Ford be a saint?

Q. Recently four men were beatified as martyrs in El Salvador. In 1980 Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated while celebrating Mass, and in 2018 he was declared a saint. Are there efforts underway to beatify Sister Maryknoll Ita Ford and the three other churchwomen who responded to Archbishop Romero’s call for help? They were also brutally murdered in 1980. Aren’t they martyrs too? (Fredericsburg)

A. Sister Ita Ford was a Catholic sister from Maryknoll who grew up in Brooklyn. She served as a missionary in Bolivia, Chile and El Salvador, working primarily with the poor. She was beaten, raped and murdered on December 2, 1980 by members of the Salvadoran army along with three other missionaries – Maryknoll sister Maura Clarke, Ursuline sister Dorothy Kazel and lay missionary Jean Donovan. In January 2022, Mass was celebrated in El Salvador at the tomb of Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford by retired Bishop Octavio Cisneros of Brooklyn and Bishop Oswaldo Escobar of Chalatenango, El Salvador. After Mass, Bishop Escobar said the Salvadoran bishops were working on a cause for canonization that would include the four female martyrs.

“Lead us not into temptation”

Q. When we say the Our Father at Mass, we pray: “Lead us not into temptation. Why would God lead us into temptation? I know God allows temptation to happen, but the word “lead” is an active verb that implies that God can be actively involved in our temptation. Could you please clarify the church’s teaching on God’s role in temptation? (Chambersburg, Pennsylvania)

A. I agree with your concern about the phrase lead us not into temptation. But more importantly, so does Pope Francis. In an interview with Italian television in 2017, Pope Francis said, “That’s not a good translation.” He suggested as a possible alternative: “Let us not fall into temptation. And within two years, Vatican-approved translations into French, Italian, and Spanish included equivalents such as “Leave us not in temptation.” This corresponds to the biblical Letter of James which says: “No one who undergoes temptation should say: ‘I am tempted of God’; … On the contrary, everyone is tempted when he is attracted and seduced by his own desire” (1:13-14). The Catechism of the Catholic Church specifies that the Greek formulation used in Scripture “means both ‘let us not enter into temptation’ and ‘let us not yield to temptation’” (no. 2846). . So be reassured: the God who created us out of love would not deliberately place us in temptation and prepare us to fall into sin.

Sanctuary collection basket

Q. Recently a new priest came to our church and started a tradition that many of us consider disrespectful and in bad taste. When the ushers take the collection, they put it in a covered basket and bring it up the aisle, just behind the gifts of bread and wine. Then the priest accepts the donations, places the basket on the floor of the sanctuary and the mass continues with the basket in front of the altar. Is there anything in Catholic doctrine that indicates whether or not we should do this? (Atlanta)

A. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal is the Church’s official “guide” for the celebration of the Eucharist. Here is what he says about the procession of the offerings: “The offerings are then brought forward. It is a commendable practice that bread and wine are presented by the devotees. …Even if the faithful no longer bring bread and wine for the liturgy from their own possessions as was the case in the past, the rite of carrying the offerings nevertheless retains its spiritual efficacy and significance” (no. 73) . This same section of the instruction responds to your concern about the particular placement of monetary gifts: “Money or other gifts for the poor or for the church, brought by the congregants or collected in the church, are acceptable; given their destination, they should be placed in an appropriate place, away from the Eucharistic table. From the wording of the instruction, it seems clear that the position of the collection basket should not distract attention from the mass.


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