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There Can Be Graces in Sickness

Is Sickness of the Devil?
Self-made Eucharistic Prayer
Was Joseph Guilty of Child Neglect?
Who Was St. Cloud?

Is Sickness of the Devil?

One of the magazines I read had an article that said, "Christ never encouraged the sick to live with illness but instead treated illness as a manifestation of the kingdom of Satan, which he came to destroy." I can go along partway with that statement. But what of the redemptive side of suffering?

Your letter about sickness raises some profound and difficult questions. To begin with, the assertion that all sickness is the work of the devil reminds me of the occasion when a group of people told Jesus about Pilate murdering some Galileans and mingling their blood with that of the sacrifices they offered.

Jesus asked if, because these Galileans had suffered in this way, the people thought they were greater sinners than all other Galileans. And he answered his own question, "By no means!" Jesus went on to ask if 18 who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem. Again he answered himself, "By no means!" (see Luke 13:1-5).

Your letter also reminds me of the passage in John 9:1-3 when one of Jesus' disciples asks him if a man blind from birth was blind because of his own sins or the sins of his parents. "Jesus answered, 'Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.'" Jesus promptly went on to give the man sight.

The point that I am trying to make is that we cannot automatically make sickness and suffering the result of personal sin or pronounce it the work of the devil. At the same time God does not expect Christians to be complacent in the face of pain and illness. Surely God blesses the work of doctors and nurses, therapists and pharmacists--all who minister to the sick and look for cures. And surely God blesses families and friends who visit and care for the sick. In most parishes visiting the sick and bringing spiritual care to them is an important way of carrying out the corporal and spiritual acts of mercy.

When the priest anoints a sick person, he prays that God will give that person healing and strength. The priest asks God to show the sick person mercy and compassion and restore him or her to health. So God does expect us to struggle against sickness and disease. You are right, of course, to see the redemptive value of suffering. Pope John Paul II pointed out this purpose to suffering in his encyclical on suffering some years ago.

I am sure many who have endured physical affliction could speak to you of the graces they discovered in sickness. St. Ignatius Loyola would surely tell us how he discovered God, how his whole life was changed during his recuperation from a broken arm and leg suffered in battle. And Francis of Assisi would tell us how God came to him in the midst of sickness and imprisonment.

Through sickness God often stops us in our tracks and turns us around. We are forced to stop and reflect on our values and goals in life. In sickness we experience our own weakness and helplessness. We are invited to seek out God as our hope, our strengthener, our consoler and comforter.

Through sickness God detaches us from this world and turns us to his everlasting kingdom. Sickness can be a time of purgation and preparation for heaven. And in the sick who bear their suffering patiently and heroically, who consecrate their pain to God and unite it to the redemptive suffering of Jesus, we find inspiration and example.

In the midst of sickness we see the love and goodness of God in those who minister to us and make Christ present in our lives.

There are also graces for those who care for the sick. They receive the opportunity to practice charity. They are given the opportunity of finding Jesus in the sick.

Out of pain and suffering God can and does draw good.

Was Joseph Guilty of Child Neglect?

This question concerns the fifth joyful mystery of the rosary about Jesus being found in the Temple. Being found indicates that he was lost. There are few details as to how this occurred other than both the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph thought that he was traveling with the other.

But there appear to be only a few ways that this could happen. Perhaps Mary and Joseph failed to tell Jesus that they would be leaving. That's hard to believe. Possibly Jesus intentionally stayed behind, disobeying his parents. Since Jesus could not sin, he could not have done this unless disobeying one's parents is not a sin, which would bring the Commandments into question. So another the ory has to be discarded.

The only logical answer is that Mary thought that Joseph had told the child that he was with Joseph, and that Joseph didn't tell the child and left him behind. That raises the question of child neglect. Since Joseph is the only one of the three who could sin, then he apparently has to take the blame, right?

Actually the one and only account of Jesus' trip to Jerusalem at the age of 12 is Luke's brief recital of events, Luke 2:41-52. And it appears Luke tells the story as a kind of prologue to the events of Jesus' public life and a foreshadowing of Jesus' final trip to Jerusalem and the Temple when, faithful to the will of the Father, he will be put to death.

Luke tells us nothing of what was said and agreed on about the return trip when Mary, Joseph and Jesus made the journey up to Jerusalem. But we do know that at 12 years old Jesus was on the edge of adulthood. According to William Barclay in The Gospel of Luke (Westminster Press), a Jewish boy became a man and a son of the Law at 12. He assumed the obligations of the Law and a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the Temple. And as W.J. Harrington, O.P., observes in his commentary on Luke in A New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, edited by Reginald Fuller (Nelson), at 12 Jesus was well able to look after himself.

Further, by custom women in a travel party would begin the journey home before the men. They traveled more slowly. The men would follow later and the two groups would meet at the first stopping point. It is not unreasonable to suppose that a youth of 12 might travel with either group or move between them, visiting friends and family members.

Any member of a modern family that has taken a vacation trip to Walt Disney World or gone into the downtown of a city like Chicago or New York for shopping or entertainment events knows how easy it is for people to get separated in the confusion of large crowds and the distractions of new and exciting sights.

If this was Jesus' first trip to the Temple after the infancy events, we can understand how exciting and engrossing it must have been to witness the sacrifices and encounter the priests and wise men learned in the Law and Scriptures.

No wonder, then, Barclay's statement, "It was not through carelessness that they [the parents] did not miss him [Jesus]." What happened was part of the human condition. I see no reason to accuse poor Joseph of sin and neglect!

Self-made Eucharistic Prayer

In our parish on all Sundays from Easter through Pentecost, Joncas's "Table Prayer" was used as the eucharistic prayer. I had never heard it before and could find no imprimatur on it. My questions have to do with the legitimacy of this prayer.

1) Is this approved for general use?

2) If the eucharistic prayer is correctly Jesus' prayer to his (and our) Father, is it even proper for the people to share vocally in this prayer by alternating with the priest (who is present "in persona Christi")?

3) I am not a priest but may soon be ordained. Assuming that this prayer is not approved, how would you recommend the matter be handled if the pastor tells the associate to use this prayer and the associate disagrees?

To be brief: Father Michael Joncas's "Table Prayer" is not an approved eucharistic prayer.

Approved for use in the United States are: 1) the four eucharistic prayers in the Ordinary of the Sacramentary; 2) two eucharistic prayers for Masses of Reconciliation in the Appendices of the Sacramentary; 3) three eucharistic prayers for Masses with Children; 4) the recently approved Swiss eucharistic prayer printed in four forms.

I showed Joncas's work and your letter to a professor of liturgy in a major seminary. He wondered if perhaps your pastor was using it as a series of acclamations together with an approved eucharistic prayer--inserting the parts of "Table Prayer" as acclamations to parts of the eucharistic prayer. He saw no great problem with that.

I personally do not like tampering with the texts of the eucharistic prayer. And I'm certainly opposed to self-composed eucharistic prayers. I believe that even validity can be at stake. The May 1987 newsletter of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy called attention to the prohibition against the use of any eucharistic prayers other than those in the Sacramentary.

As in any other case, if conscience--after proper efforts to inform oneself--tells a person to do or refrain from doing something, the person must follow his or her conscience. It can sometimes be painful to do that.

You may want to note how the Introduction to the Roman Missal describes the eucharistic prayer as a prayer of thanksgiving and sanctification. It says, "The priest invites the people to lift up their hearts to the Lord in prayer and thanks; he unites them with himself in the prayer he addresses in their name to the Father through Jesus Christ. The meaning of the prayer is that the entire congregation joins itself to Christ in acknowledging the great things God has done and in offering the sacrifice."

That's hardly the private prayer of the priest! And the eucharistic prayer already calls for the response of the people in the acclamation following the consecration and in the great amen. I see no reason why other eucharistic prayers could not incorporate more acclamations.

Who Was St. Cloud?

I have a medal with St. Anthony on one side and St. Cloud on the other side. I have been to several religious stores and no one has any idea who the saint is.

I suspect that the people of St. Cloud, Minnesota, and St. Cloud, Florida, will be disappointed that their patron is not better known in this country. According to Butler's Lives of the Saints, St. Cloud (Clodoald) was the grandson of Clovis, king of the Franks.

When Clovis died, his kingdom was divided among four sons. Among those sons was Clodomir, father of Cloud, also called Clodoald, and two other sons. When Clodomir died fighting his cousin Gondomar of Burgundy, Cloud's grandmother and widow of Clovis, St. Clotilda, took over the raising of the boys. Cloud's uncles, however, conspired to take Clodomir's lands. To secure control, they murdered Cloud's brothers, Theodald and Gunther. The eight-year-old Cloud, however, escaped and hid in a hermit's cell.

When he became an adult, he made no effort to reclaim the kingdom. I presume he had seen enough of intrigue and struggles for power. Cloud lived a hermit's life near the town of St. Cloud (which I presume was named for him) in the vicinity of Versailles in France. Cloud died at the age of 36. He is invoked for assistance by those who suffer from carbuncles. And, because of a French play on words, he is the patron of nail makers.

I don't know why he and St. Anthony were paired on the same medal.



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