Q: We have a frustrating,
no-win situation with a close, unmarried, financially comfortable relative. She attends
at least one, sometimes two Masses daily, and prays three or four rosaries daily. Yet
she has a heart of stone when it comes to giving to the Church and charities.
She is even extremely critical of her family or anyone doing kind deeds while she
makes demands on her own family. How can one profess such faith, show such public display
of faith, consider oneself so devout and be so self-righteous and not put all this
faith into practice�faith without any good deeds or almsgiving is dead!
If someone who is already in her old age and is very well fixed financially still saves
her money but uses other people, feeds off of them, demands free transportation from
them without ever reciprocating, is this a sin of greed? Please answer in the Wise Man
column of the next issue.
A: A few observations to begin
with: When letter-writers give no return address, it is impossible to answer them privately.
Further, it is impossible to answer in St. Anthony Messenger more than a fifth
of all the questions the Wise Man receives. When people ask for an answer in the next
issue, they simply have no understanding of how long it takes to answer questions and
get them into print in St. Anthony Messenger. Some questions require considerable
research. All letter-writers think their questions are important and want quick answers.
Yet from pen or typewriter to the printed page takes three months�at the earliest.
For the magazine, the Wise Man attempts to pick questions of interest to many readers,
and balance the kind of questions answered in a particular issue. When it comes to the
columns of St. Anthony Messenger, letter-writers have to wait their turn. Some
questions may never make the column, but receive private replies.
With that said, I feel uneasy writing about or lecturing people who have not written
themselves and have no way of stating their side of the case.
I can�t tell what motivates your relative. Is she just a plain miser and surly person
without feelings and gratitude to anyone for anything? Or is she an older person concerned
with conserving her resources in case she lives a long life and exhausts her savings
or in case she is stricken with grave health problems and incurs the huge costs of health
care? To get inside your relative�s mind might give you a more kindly opinion of her.
There is, however, a general obligation of doing charity. God�s command that we love
our neighbors requires that we contribute to the needs of the poor, the sick and homeless.
The closer the persons, or the greater the need, the stronger the obligation. And the
more a person possesses, the greater the duty to do charity.
As disciples of the Lord we also have an obligation to contribute to the works of evangelization
and proclaim the gospel to all peoples and nations.
On the part of the receiver stands the virtue of gratitude which inclines people to
acknowledge interiorly and exteriorly the gifts and kindness from others. And, where
it is possible, gratitude should urge us to make some kind of return for gifts received.
Even the poor and destitute are capable of gratitude�of saying thank-you and praying
for those who show them goodness.
If you feel your relative is taking advantage of you, you have to make some decisions
of your own. How much can you do for her, how much do you want to do for her, what is
reasonable and what is unreasonable? How much can she really do for herself? How much
does charity demand from you? To what lengths do you wish to go to preserve cordial relations?
And if you feel she is overly demanding and unreasonable in her requests, you need to
learn how to say no in kind and constructive ways. If she has a problem with the plumbing,
say, "My husband can�t come. He�ll be glad to recommend or call a plumber for you." Or
if she wants a ride somewhere, "My son can�t take you then. You might call a taxi
or a van service run for senior citizens."
If you can�t take her to dinner, you can suggest she send out for a pizza or put her
name on the list for Meals on Wheels. If you are unable to take her shopping, suggest
she order from a catalog.
It a Sin to Miss Sunday Mass?
Q: I�ve heard that it is
no longer a sin to miss Mass on Sunday. Is this true or not?
A: Plain and simple, the Church
has not abolished the law requiring Catholics to participate in the celebration of Mass
on Sundays and holy days of obligation.
Canon #1247 reads, "On Sunday and other holy days of obligation
the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass...."
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, "The Sunday Eucharist is
the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice." It goes on to say, "For
this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation,
unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed
by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin" (#2181).
Note, there is a precept to participate in Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation
and it binds gravely. At the same time there can be serious reasons that excuse a person
from observing the law.
Manuals of theology published before the present Code of Canon Law spoke of moderately
grave reasons that would excuse. Besides illness, distance from the church, police duty,
the need to shut down mills that run around the clock, the grave displeasure of a spouse
or parents, the demand of an employer, fire and flood emergencies, care of the ill and
being on a journey were listed as examples of such moderately grave reasons.
At least one of these manuals offered that, "One may miss Mass for the sake of
a pleasure trip once or twice if he has no other opportunity during the year or if it
is the last opportunity he will ever have for a certain excursion."
It is also pertinent to note that when the Church revised the rules concerning penance
and fast and abstinence, it introduced the concept of substantial observance. Explaining
Pope Paul VI�s Apostolic Constitution Paenitemini, and a reply concerning it from
the Sacred Congregation of the Council concerning substantial observance, a canon lawyer wrote: