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How Do Churches Get Their Names?
How Should We Confess?
Twelve Tribes, Twelve Apostles
Other Mysteries of the Rosary

How Do Churches Get Their Names?
How does a parish decide what to name the church? How was a name decided for a local church, say, 100 years ago?

Canon law is minimal on the naming of churches. Canon #1218 says only that each church is to have its own title which cannot be changed after its dedication. Commentaries then direct the reader to the current liturgical books which are more explicit on the titles of churches and are to be followed.

The Ritual for the Dedication of a Church states that every church to be dedicated must have a titular. This titular may be the Blessed Trinity, our Lord Jesus Christ invoked according to a mystery of his life or a title already accepted in the liturgy, the Holy Spirit, the Blessed Virgin Mary (likewise invoked according to some appellation already accepted in the liturgy), one of the angels or a saint inscribed in the Roman Martyrology or in a duly approved appendix (to the martyrology). A blessed may not be a titular without an indult from the apostolic see.

The ritual also indicates a church may have only one titular unless it is a question of saints who are listed together in the calendar of observances (for example, Cosmas and Damian, Peter and Paul). The ritual then gives to the bishop the responsibility of dedicating to God new churches built in his diocese.

The chancellor of the archdiocese in which I live tells me that, from a canonical point of view, the bishop alone has the authority to establish a parish. Part of the act of establishing a parish would include the dedication of that parish to God under a particular title. It is, therefore, the bishop who has the final say about the name of a new church. In practice, I am told, the bishop sometimes asks the founding pastor to recommend a name. In this instance, I would surmise that the pastor may sometimes consult the members of the new parish on a patron or title.

But sometimes the bishop has his own list of favorite names. Or he may want to be sure names are not duplicated. And it may be that someone who contributes greatly to the building of a church requests that it be dedicated under a particular title.

It's hard to say how particular churches came to be titled in the course of history. But the chancellor reminded me that after the definition of the Immaculate Conception (in 1854) many churches were named for Mary under this title. I'm sure the same was true of the dogma of the Assumption (an ancient dogma solemnly defined in 1950). And often enough after a new saint is canonized a church will be named for that saint, for example, St. Elizabeth Seton or St. John Neumann.

When religious orders build churches, those churches may well be named for their founders or saints of their order.

In some ways naming a church is like naming a baby--lots of people can get into the act.

Other Mysteries of the Rosary?

I am devoted to the rosary and say it daily. One time I heard that they were proposing two new sets of mysteries to add to it, but these mysteries were later discarded by the American bishops. Now there is nothing about it, even in the Catholic Almanac. My question is this: Why were these new mysteries dropped so suddenly and no mention of it is made?

In their November 21, 1973, pastoral letter on the Blessed Virgin Mary, Behold Your Mother, Woman of Faith, our National Conference of Catholic Bishops commented on the rosary. There the U.S. bishops reminded us that the rosary is more than a matter of racing through a string of familiar prayers and they spoke of the importance of reflecting on the mysteries. They also wrote: "Besides the precise rosary pattern long known to Catholics, we can freely experiment. New sets of mysteries are possible. We have customarily gone from the childhood of Jesus to his passion, bypassing the whole public life. There is rich matter here for rosary meditation, such as the wedding feast of Cana and incidents...where Mary's presence and Mary's name serve as occasions for her son to give us a lesson in discipleship....Rosary vigils have already been introduced in some places with an instructive use of readings from Old Testament as well as New, and with a recitation of a decade or two, if not all five. In a public celebration of the rosary, hymns can be introduced as well, and time allowed for periods of silent prayer."

Other than this statement of the U.S. bishops, I know of no stated intention of promoting a new set of mysteries.

Why have not more people taken the liberty of experimenting with different mysteries and styles of rosary recitation? We can only speculate on that. People do not easily change their habits of prayer. The familiar and accustomed bring comfort and ease us into prayer. Most prayer books or leaflets, moreover, and the Enchiridion of Indulgences itself continue simply to list the traditional 15 joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries of the rosary.

As far as I can determine, few people took the bishops' encouragement to experiment with the rosary. Walter Kern in his 1979 New Liturgy and Old Devotions (Alba House) suggests mysteries for each day of the week. Besides the traditional joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries, expressed in Scripture quotes, he offers mysteries based on doctrine, Genesis and the end times ("Jesus will judge the living and the dead"). St. Anthony Messenger Press in 1983 published The Healing Mysteries: A Rosary for the Sick, by Joanne Turpin. Turpin's listing of mysteries was: the healing of the crippled man at the pool of Bethesda, the healing of the woman with an infirmity of the spirit, the healing of the paralytic at Capernaum, the healing of the woman suffering from hemorrhage, the healing of the blind man at Jericho.

How Should We Confess?

I am middle-aged, married many years and lead a rather quiet and religious life. In his homily a priest said we shouldn't confess little things that are not really sins and confession shouldn't be like reading a shopping list. What then should we confess?

The reminder of the Catechism that we must confess all mortal sins of which we are aware, following a diligent examination of conscience, is taken for granted here. Also to the point is the Catechism's advice that, while it is not necessary, it is good to confess our everyday faults (venial sins).

With that said, I would note that the ritual for the Sacrament of Penance gives us a five-page examination of conscience in Appendix III. The examination follows the Ten Commandments under three general headings which look at our relations with God and each other and our efforts to grow in the likeness to God.

I think that any spiritual director would suggest that penitents using an examination of conscience look for what we call the predominant fault. Try to determine what drives you in your daily life. What motivates your actions? What determines the decisions you make in family life, in social life, in your business dealings? And look not just at the wrong you may have done but also at the good you left undone.

Is personal comfort the great determinant of your life? Are pleasure and sensual satisfaction your main consideration or motive for your actions? Or is your life characterized by pride, vanity or ambition? What would a confession following such an examination of conscience sound like? It might go something like this: "I find that I am very self-centered in my life. I spend more on my own pleasure and amusement than on anyone else in the family. I control the TV all the time. I determine with whom we are going to socialize. I overspend on clothing for myself. I took credit for another employee's idea to get ahead."

Or, "I discover I am proud and overly ambitious. I can never admit I was wrong, that a mistake was mine. I brag and take credit for all that goes right and blame others in the family or at work for what goes wrong. I'm so busy trying to make a buck I have no time to spend with my spouse and children. I have to have the newest in everything and put my family in debt unnecessarily to have it. I jeopardize the security of my spouse and family because of my extravagance and failure to provide for sickness and our old age."


Can you tell us how many people and who are the "stigmatized"?

When you speak of the stigmatized, I presume you mean those who have been marked by or bear the wounds of Christ in their bodies.

According to Ian Wilson in his book Stigmata: An Investigation Into the Mysterious Appearances of Christ's Wounds in Hundreds of People from Medieval Italy to Modern America (Harper and Row), there have been more than 300 stigmatics since St. Francis of Assisi. Besides St. Francis, the list ranges from such well-known people as Blessed Angela of Foligno, St. Catherine of Siena and Padre Pio to Johann Jetzer, a poor farmer, and Cloretta Robinson, a Baptist girl from West Oakland, California.

Wilson concludes that the presence of the stigmata is not a guarantee of sanctity or the miraculous. He sees the phenomenon as surrounded by mystery but also sees a relationship with the phenomena of multiple personalities and hypnosis and the power of mind over matter.

For another view of stigmatics, you can read They Bore the Wounds of Christ: The Mystery of the Sacred Stigmata, by Michael Freze, S.F.O. (Our Sunday Visitor, $14.95).

Twelve Tribes, Twelve Apostles

Is it coincidence or is there significance in the fact there were 12 tribes of Israelites and 12 apostles of Jesus?

There is significance in the fact there were 12 tribes and 12 apostles. In Matthew Jesus promises the disciples, "[W]hen the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will [you] yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matthew 19:28). In the Last Supper account Luke also has Jesus telling the apostles the Father will confer a kingdom on them that they may eat and drink at his table in his kingdom "and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Luke 22:29-30).

In Revelation John describes the new heaven and the new earth and he describes the new Jerusalem. There are 12 gates to the new Jerusalem and 12 angels stand at the gates. On the wall are inscribed the names of the 12 tribes of Israelites. The wall has 12 stone foundations and the names of the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb are inscribed on each foundation (Revelation 21). The Church and its members are the New Israel.

From a Mission in Nigeria: "We write to inform you of our change of address and to request that you still remember our works, whenever you have more holy objects, old books and other items of our religion to send us (for our library and distribution during our apostolic works)." Books and religious articles may be mailed directly to Agwe Akomaye, Bebua Ukatia Maria Apostolate, Capuchin Friars, Avenue 3-3 Junction, P.O. Box 13784, Onitsha, Ahambra State, Nigeria.

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