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By Father Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.

Influencing From Beyond the Grave

Q U I C K S C A N

Can I Disinherit Two Children?
Wrong Prayers Being Answered?
Where Can I Find the Readings?
Is Spirituality Increasing?
What Is an Oblate?



Can I Disinherit Two Children?

Q: Is it wrong to exclude some children from my will? I am a widow with four grown children. My husband of 48 years and I were good parents and had a good life with our children. He was generous and worked very hard.

Two of our children are greedy and are jealous of their siblings. At different times, these two did not speak to my husband or me. Since my husband got into an argument with them and I stood by him, they had nothing to do with me for two years.

We all made up eventually. My husband had them out of his will at that time. Since my husband has died, these two children have not changed. My other children are wonderful to me.

These two are interested only in money. One lives close by but never invites me for my grandchildren's birthdays, etc.

Now my will includes all my children; I have always been generous and loving to them and my grandchildren. I hate the way I feel about taking these two children out of my will, but I know that all they want from me is money.

Would I be offending God if I excluded them from my will? I have prayed for these two children for many years.

A: I am not sure that it is morally wrong to exclude a child from one's will. I am also not sure that it is a wise thing to do.

You may be fully justified in taking this action, but have you considered carefully what this could do to relations among these four siblings? By disinheriting two of them, are you guaranteeing "bad blood" within family? Will relations among your grandchildren be soured because of who inherited and who did not? You may not intend these things to happen, but they probably will, poisoning family relations for years to come.

There are options besides including these two for an inheritance or not. You could include them on an equal basis and write letters to everyone—sealed, for distribution only at the reading of your will. In such a letter, you could urge the greedy children to be careful of the example they are setting for their own children. Say whatever you want to the non-greedy children.

Another option would be not to give these two anything in your will but include a bequest to some charity in their honor—a charity that you know they support or one that you choose. Regardless of what you do, check with a lawyer to be sure that your will is valid in the state where you live. Wills can be contested, and I am sure you want to minimize that possibility.

May God help you find the best way of handling this difficult situation.

Wrong Prayers Being Answered?

Q: Some people appear to be deeply spiritual (attend meetings regularly, quote Scripture, tithe perhaps, etc.) and do not practice in real life what they preach. Yet most of the time their prayers are answered quickly while those who have tough times see more tough times coming their way. Why does God answer the prayers of this first group?

A: Is this really happening? If these people are indeed hypocrites, are they also exaggerating their success in terms of how many of the petitions they made have been granted?

Is prayer a way of informing God about things that urgently need more divine attention? Or is prayer a way of opening one's heart to God's grace?

We cannot rate success at prayer the way we rate the success of someone playing baseball, golf or basketball. A successful prayer does not guarantee that things will work out as the people praying think best.

A successful prayer does guarantee, however, that those praying are more open to God's grace than they were before they began praying. That grace cannot be reduced to percentages.

If you look at the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector praying in the Temple (Luke 18:9-14), you might be tempted to say that the Pharisee's prayer was more successful, but that is not what Jesus says. What does his teaching about this tell us?

Although people should pray for what they need, in doing so they are not giving God a "to do" list or cross-examining God about why certain things have not happened. Prayer is always a celebration of God's generosity and our desire to respond generously to it.

Where Can I Find the Readings?

Q: Can you identify a book or a Web site where I can find the Sunday and weekday readings at Mass? I would like to check the Gospels for May.

A: A liturgical desk calendar will list these; so will some monthly devotional booklets. Magnificat gives the complete text for each day. You can also find the readings at www. usccb.org. The ones for the Easter season are listed at www.AmericanCatholic.org.

Is Spirituality Increasing?

Q: What do you think about the wave of spirituality that is engulfing the world, especially the Western world, including the United States?

Can practicing Catholics use spirituality methods (for example, meditation) to help us become more enlightened about the spiritual world around us?

A: This "wave" of spirituality means many things to many people. The best-case interpretation is that more people are opening their lives to God's grace and God's way of evaluating whether something is good or not.

The worst-case interpretation is that this "wave" is only a fad, simply a way to sell more books, videos and audiotapes, or charge for lectures.

Attendance at churches, synagogues and mosques in the United States rose for a few weeks after the September 11 tragedies. Many places now report that attendance levels have returned to pre-September 11 levels.

Because of September 11, some people are having second thoughts about what constitutes "the good life" and are asking deeper spiritual questions than they once did. Others feel more convinced that there can be no genuine peace apart from real justice for all parties in any conflict.

Spirituality-as-fad strikes me as simply one diversion among many for bored people. Spirituality-as-journey-to-God is the "real thing."

If you go into major chain bookstores in this country, there will be almost as many, if not more, books in the New Age section as in the one for Religion. How much room for a transcendent God does the New Age approach allow? Are Jesus' cross and Resurrection even important to New Age spirituality? Is New Age spirituality sometimes a smiling and respectable cover for ruthless individualism?

Yes, I think there is a spiritual hunger in the United States and in the world at large. Yes, I think many people are responding generously to God's grace.

Over 60 years ago, C.S. Lewis wrote The Screwtape Letters, fictitious yet insightful advice from Screwtape, a senior devil, to Wormwood, an inexperienced devil charged with tempting a particular man. Part of Screwtape's advice is that Wormwood present religion as something to be embraced enthusiastically because the "in" group has embraced it—religion as fad. Sooner or later the novelty will wear off and the person being tempted will follow the "in" crowd to its next diversion.

Meditation has been an important form of Catholic prayer long before the current "wave" of spirituality arose. Catholics can meditate, and some have been doing so for many years, helped by the rosary, the Way of the Cross or the Jesus Prayer.

While encouraging your interest in spirituality, I urge you to find solid food to feed your spiritual hunger.

What Is an Oblate?

Q: I have heard the word oblate used in regard to religious communities, but I have never been able to get a clear explanation of this term.

A: The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church says this word has three meanings: 1) children entrusted to a monastery for their education, 2) laypeople who lived at a monastery or in close connection with it but who did not take religious vows, and 3) part of the title of some religious communities (for example, Oblates of Mary Immaculate).

Meaning #1 is no longer in use. Meaning #2 makes these men and women the monastic equivalent of a "Third Order." Most Oblates of St. Benedict, for example, are laypeople who find Benedictine spirituality a great help on their life's journey. Other religious congregations use the term associate to convey a similar relationship between community members and people attracted to their spirituality but who live without formal religious vows.


If you have a question for Father Pat, please submit it here. Include your street address for personal replies enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, please. Some answer material must be mailed since it is not available in digital form. You can still send questions to: Ask a Franciscan, 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.


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