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Faith Grows At One's Own Pace
By Father Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.

Q U I C K S C A N

Faith Growth and Blended Families
Why Isn't There a Saint for Every Day?
Logistics of God's Judgment
Do Saints Hear Our Prayers?



Q: My husband and I are now married in the Catholic Church. Our previous marriages were not Catholic marriages. Between the two of us, we have three daughters.

After his divorce, my husband returned to the Catholic Church. He says that one of his mistakes was not introducing religion to his daughters, who are now 19 and 24. They live with us but do not understand or want to know about the “Catholic Dad” they suddenly have.

Because of their questions and disagreements with the Catholic Church’s teachings, my 12-year-old daughter is now questioning the upbringing that I have been teaching and living as I promised to do when she was baptized in the Catholic Church.

This is perhaps our biggest challenge as a blended family. Any advice or suggestions would be appreciated.

A: I think it is important to begin by saying that the “one-size-fits-all” approach does not fully respect how a person grows in faith. True, the object of our faith (God) does not change, but our ability to understand and appreciate God develops. Faith has content (truths about God and revelation) but faith is also a relationship, which must either grow or decline.

Different issues become urgent at various points in a person’s life. What someone learns about God at age five is true as far as it goes, but by itself it cannot fully support that person’s faith at age 12, 19, 24 or 67.

The best approach may be for your husband to explain to his daughters why faith in general and being a Catholic in particular have become so important to him in recent years—what was lacking before and how his life has changed.

This may be difficult for him to do without seeming to run down their mother. He probably needs to speak about his own blindness regarding faith when the daughters were growing up. You may be able to help him prepare for this talk.

If their birthmother is in their lives, he should probably encourage them to ask her to explain how she came to whatever faith she now has.

Your 12-year-old daughter has her own challenges to faith. She is certainly influenced by her stepsisters, but the situation is not likely to improve until she more fully “owns” her faith issues and begins facing them seriously. Her stepsisters’ questions and disagreements are exactly that—their questions and disagreements.

If you talk to other Catholic mothers who now have or recently have had 12-year-old daughters but are not in blended families, you will probably hear some of the same doubts and objections that your 12-year-old daughter is voicing. Her situation has been influenced by her stepsisters but was not completely created by them.

You can help your daughter in her faith growth, but you cannot do that work for her. You might want to begin by acknowledging that some faith matters that seemed very clear to you at age eight, for example, became much less clear at age 12—and how you dealt with that.

Your goal is not to give her the total faith that sustains you today but to help her believe that her current faith issues are not insurmountable. In some ways, doubt can be an invitation to deeper faith. Perhaps that is what the father of a boy from whom Jesus expelled a demon understood when the father said to Jesus, “I do believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

Your daughter is regularly observing how deeply faith is influencing your life. You are probably giving her more good example than you suspect. Being ready to speak about your own faith journey in a way appropriate for her age is probably the greatest help that you can offer her now.

Why Isn't There a Saint for Each Day?

Q: Although several Catholic Web sites have a “Saint of the Day” feature, the Roman liturgical calendar does not have a saint for each day. Why hasn’t the Church designated at least one saint for each day of the year?

A: The 2001 edition of the Martyrologium Romanum lists over 6,500 saints, only a fraction of the “great cloud of witnesses” mentioned in the Letter to the Hebrews (12:1). All saints point us to God’s saving love. Perhaps because the saints are mentioned collectively in each approved Eucharistic Prayer, the Church has not assigned one saint for each day of the year. Some days already have other celebrations assigned anyway (December 25, for example).

Although the Roman liturgical calendar does not assign a saint for each day, bishops’ conferences and individual dioceses can have supplemental liturgical calendars, honoring selected saints and blesseds. The general calendar for the United States currently includes Saints Elizabeth Ann Seton (January 4), John Neumann (January 5), Katharine Drexel (March 3), Peter Claver (September 3), Isaac Jogues and Companions (October 19), Frances Cabrini (November 13) and Rose Philippine Duchesne (November 18). Mother Theodore Guérin, recently canonized, will be added to this list.

There are also days assigned for four blesseds with a U.S. connection: Damien Joseph de Veuster of Moloka’i (May 10), Junipero Serra (July 1), Kateri Tekakwitha (July 14) and Francis Xavier Seelos, C.Ss.R. (October 5).

When the worldwide liturgical calendar was revised in 1969, celebrations for several saints were moved to dates outside the Lenten season.

Not all saints in the Martyrologium Romanum are martyrs. Only six of the 18 entries for November 3, for example, are martyrs. Some of those saints are in the 12-volume Butler’s Lives of the Saints (Liturgical Press, 1995-2000).

Q: My husband and I are in our 80s, both cradle Catholics and practicing despite our limitations. We are now spending a lot of time “cramming for our finals,” so to speak.

One thing that bothers us is how God can judge individually the large number of people who may die in a single instant, say during a plane crash or a flood. Does each person appear before God at that same instant?

A: God is not limited by time the way that you and I are. God is limited only by whatever would contradict what being God means. Thus, for example, God cannot be a racist because that would contradict what being God means.

Over six billion people on this planet are now alive because God wants each of them to be alive. If that is true and if God knows the hearts of each of those people at every moment, then God can certainly judge hundreds or thousands of people who die in an instant.

The logistics of God’s judgment have been a subject of speculation or worry for centuries. That concern is a significant part of First Thessalonians, the first New Testament writing to be completed.

Some Christians in Thessalonika (northern Greece) worried that those who were alive at the time of the world’s final judgment would have an advantage over the people who had already died. St. Paul wrote: “For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, console one another with these words” (4:16-18).

Salvation is through God’s grace with which we need to cooperate. Your good decisions and your husband’s are the best preparation for your “finals.”

Q: Can saints in heaven hear our prayers? According to a former Catholic, people are wasting their time praying to the saints. Is there any help from Scripture on this issue?

Saints in heaven hear us but cannot answer prayers independently of God. We do not pray to saints because they are an alternative to God, for example, the way a child may seek to obtain from one parent something that the other parent has turned down.

We pray to saints because they are outstanding examples of how to cooperate generously with God’s grace. Their example helps us do the same. That is the spirit in which Chapter 11 of the Letter to the Hebrews praises holy men and women in the Hebrew Scriptures.

In praying for saintly intercession, we are asking that the saints join their prayers to ours. They encourage us to join them at the river of life-giving water that flows from the throne of God (see Revelation 22:1).

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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