Q: Your March issue included Michael
Daley’s fine article “Going to the
Mall for Confession” about a Catholic
chapel in the Millcreek Mall in Erie, Pennsylvania.
Although I think this option is marvelous,
I am a bit confused because a few years
ago my son and his fiancée wanted to be
married by a priest in a beautiful lodge in
Colorado. Her father has a nice home
nearby. Two bishops and an archbishop
told us that they had to be married in a
parish church, not in a chapel or some
It seems to me that the Sacrament of
Matrimony is much more important than
the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If so, why
is it necessary to receive the former in a
church but not the latter? Is this a local
A: The marriage of a Catholic couple
is a statement of their faith
and of the Church’s faith as well. The
Catholic Church indicates that the
local bishop must give permission for
a Catholic couple to marry in a place
other than the parish of either spouse
or a parish where they have lived for at
least a month (Canon 1115 of the Code
of Canon Law). The 1917 Code specified
the parish of the bride.
Although weddings reflect the personal
preferences and cultural backgrounds
of the couple, they are not,
strictly speaking, private celebrations
because marriages have major consequences
for the Church and society.
Thus, the state has regulations about
minimum age, blood relationship of
the spouses, legal records of marriages,
who can be its witness at a wedding
and similar matters. The Church universal
has additional regulations—for
example, man and woman as spouses,
adequate preparation for the sacrament,
“faculties” for the priest or deacon (permission
to celebrate this sacrament in
this place) and other directives.
At a wedding, a Catholic priest or
deacon is the Church’s representative.
He is not employed by the couple in
the same way that florists, musicians,
photographers, caterers or others are.
Because a Catholic couple is preparing
to enter a marriage in the Lord, the
ceremony needs to reflect the Church’s
understanding of this sacrament.
There are countless beautiful places
in this world, and many of them would
make good spots for wedding receptions
or pre-wedding celebrations. It
does not seem unreasonable that the
Church asks couples to marry in the
context of a local faith community.
In the course of their marriage, they
may change parishes several times, but
the Church proposes the local parish as
the usual place for weddings because
some local parish will presumably be
part of their marriage in the Lord.
The Church has different requirements
if a Catholic marries a Christian
from another denomination or marries
an unbaptized person.
No matter where the Sacrament of
Reconciliation is celebrated, the priest’s
words of absolution show its connection
to the whole faith community.
Q: Because this story is in the Bible
(Genesis 5:1—9:28), some of my
non-Catholic friends say that the flood
actually happened and that the whole
human race is descended from the eight
people on the ark (Noah, his wife, their
three sons and one wife for each son).
Those same friends, however, wonder why
people of different races do not look the
same. Is the story about Noah true?
A: Is it true in the sense that, with
the proper equipment, someone
could have recorded it on videotape
or by some other means? Not
necessarily. Is it true in the sense that
God uses this story in the Book of Genesis
to tell us something important
about God, ourselves and one another?
According to Genesis 5:5, Adam lived
930 years. Noah died at the age of 950,
says Genesis 9:29. Chapter Six of Genesis
begins with an account of the sons
of heaven (Nephilim) who had had
children with human women (6:1-4).
These two details (the great life spans
of the patriarchs and the Nephilim)
suggest that we are not dealing with a
historical account such as Jesus’ trial
before Pontius Pilate. The biblical
account about Noah interweaves elements
from much later writing, perhaps
up to the sixth century B.C.
Several other cultures in the Near
East had flood stories, but the Genesis
account differs from those in affirming
the providence of God.
Noah’s son Ham is later cursed for
failing to cover his father’s nakedness;
Shem and Japheth cover Noah (9:18-27).
Some people have interpreted the
story of Ham and his descendants in a
racist way. The Bible, which does not
support that interpretation, is best
understood within the faith communities
that recognize these writings as
inspired by God.
Q: An item in the March “Ask a Franciscan”
concerned someone who
was walking his puppy and cursed a
woman jogger who said he needed to control
You asked why he became so angry,
why he allowed himself to become
“hooked” by her remark, why his anger
was so frequently near the boiling point.
For over 30 years my mother has
pushed my buttons, trying to control me.
Nothing I do is ever good enough for her.
When I challenge her and tell her how
that makes me feel, she responds, “That is
not how you feel.” That kind of stress is not
good for my epilepsy.
A: Thanks for writing. Few expressions
in any language are more
futile than “You don’t feel that way” or
“You shouldn’t feel that way.” People
do not need anyone else’s permission to
feel what they feel. For good reason, we
do not act on all our feelings, but denying
that those feelings even exist cannot
be what God expects of us.
Jesus called people to conversion,
but the Gospels never indicate that he
called them to deny what they feel or
to encourage others to lie about their
feelings. Admiring a nice car does not
justify stealing it. My feelings do not
wipe out your rights.
It is unlikely that you can change
your mother on this subject now. You
can, however, remove those “buttons”
of yours that she constantly pushes. If
you cannot change her, you can still
For example, if she compares you
unfavorably with some relative or
acquaintance, you can say, “I’m proud
of myself and what I’ve done,” because
deep down you are honestly proud—without inflating your accomplishments
or denying what others may
have contributed to them.
This attitude does not mean that you
have no further goals, but it does mean
that you are driven not by shame but
by an inner sense of your dignity as
someone created in God’s image.
This new way of responding will, of
course, leave your mother confused,
but that is her problem—not yours.
Your polite but firm responses might
help her to be more honest about her
feelings and act differently.
Even if she does not change her
behavior, you have still won because
you have asserted your dignity and
Q: At my nephew’s wedding last year, his younger brother was the
best man. That nephew and his wife are expecting a baby in a few
months, but the older brother’s parish priest says that the younger
brother needs to be confirmed in order to be the child’s godfather.
The younger brother missed Confirmation classes because his parents were
going through a divorce. Can he be a baptismal sponsor now?
A: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist were originally celebrated
together, as they are in the Orthodox and Eastern
Catholic Churches. For historical reasons, these sacraments
came to be celebrated separately in the Western Church—with a bishop
as the ordinary minister of Confirmation.
Baptismal sponsors should themselves already have been confirmed
and have made their First Communion. Sponsors for infants can help
them prepare for these other sacraments.
Canon 874 of the Code of Canon Law (for the Western Church) indicates
five conditions for a baptismal sponsor: intention of fulfilling this
responsibility, at least 16 years old unless the local bishop indicates otherwise,
is confirmed and has made his or her First Communion and lives
a life of faith, is not under some canonical penalty and is neither the father
nor mother of the person being baptized.
Your younger nephew can approach his parish priest to make arrangements
to be confirmed. The local bishop can do the confirming or can
delegate a priest to do it.
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.