Q: In your November 2008 column,
you responded to someone who
asked about the many young people who
have left the Catholic Church to attend
other, livelier religious services that foster
a more inviting community spirit and
greater parishioner involvement.
I was blessed to have parents strong in
their Catholic faith. Before her death in
1992, my wife and I raised seven children
as Catholics. Although I am still an active
Catholic, two of my children go to another
church because it has a more inviting program
for their children. One daughter who
is divorced and cannot be a full participant
in her parish sees that her youngest child
attends Catholic catechism classes regularly.
When I recently attended worship at a
Lutheran congregation, I learned they have
a traditional service at 8 a.m. and a more
contemporary service at 10:30 a.m.
Although the second service is designed for
younger people, people say that more and
more seniors are attending it.
I live close to a large state university
and know that the Catholic campus-ministry
program there has well-attended
Masses. Couldn’t Catholic parishes designate
Masses for different groups, inviting
young people to serve as lectors, eucharistic
ministers, choir members, ushers, etc.?
Perhaps this could be followed by discussions
of the day’s readings and other
current Catholic concerns. Maybe even
coffee and doughnuts!
Granted this would take lots of planning,
work and qualified leaders to
put together an effective program, but
wouldn’t this be time well spent? Such
work is paying off for other churches!
A: Yes, this can be done. In fact,
some Catholic parishes are already
doing this, with varying degrees
of formal planning and publicity. In
my observation, the earliest Sunday
morning Mass at many parishes, for
example, is probably the one most
likely to use more traditional music.
My only caution about aiming Masses
at particular age groups is that we need
to remember that Jesus suffered, died
and rose from the dead for the sake of
all of us. We need to guard against turning
worship into another consumer
“object” or “good” that we evaluate primarily
on the basis of who else is there
(age, race, economic status, etc.), what
kind of music is used at Mass, who is
preaching or similar criteria. The
Eucharist exists to praise God and to
support our faith journey as disciples.
Even though all Christians share a
common Baptism into Christ as priest,
prophet and king, a little more than 20
years after Jesus’ death, a problem arose
in Corinth. St. Paul had to reprimand
its Christians who were allowing economic
and social differences to dictate
how they celebrated the Eucharist. In
this case, they were highlighting who
was well-off and who was not (see 1
Corinthians 11:17-34). The Letter of
James also cautions against any economic
discrimination during worship
Masses at World Youth Day and similar
events show that young people can
proclaim readings at Mass, distribute
Holy Communion and support those
present through song and music. Yes,
Mass with the pope is special, but it is
the same Christ celebrated at all Masses.
Most parish priests whom I know
would welcome more active participation
of those present at every Mass.
Have you shared your concerns with
your local pastor?
Q: My father died in the hospital last
year. On the morning of his bypass
surgery, nurses told us that he had sustained a head injury from a fall in the
shower. Even so, they reassured us that he
would be fine for surgery. He never
regained consciousness after the operation
and was on a ventilator for three months.
Hospital staff members repeatedly told
us conflicting stories about his condition
and never actually explained what went
Our family buried our father with many
unanswered questions that continue to
eat at us each day. We feel that we were
never properly informed about the whole
event and we struggle with the what-ifs.
Some family members have mentioned
the possibility of initiating a wrongful-death
lawsuit against the doctors and hospital
involved. This may provide some
answers and, if they were negligent, some
Is it morally right to file a wrongful-death
lawsuit under these circumstances? Our
intention is not to capitalize on an unfortunate
situation but to hold the doctors
and hospital accountable for the unnecessary
suffering and loss of our father.
A: Please accept my condolences
on your father’s death. It sounds
as though you have every right to investigate
filing a wrongful-death lawsuit.
Your lawyer will advise you about
what is involved. You need, however, to
be ready to accept an acquittal of the
hospital, doctors and staff if that is
what the judge or jury decides.
A lawsuit will probably surface more
facts and resolve some doubts. It cannot,
however, guarantee greater peace
of mind for those who initiate the lawsuit,
no matter what the verdict is. You
and your family members will need to
work out that greater peace of mind
Q: Is there a Church policy when a
medical emergency occurs at Mass?
Twice I have been present when someone
collapsed during Mass and the 911
squad had to be called.
Should the priest have stopped Mass
and blessed or prayed over the person?
Should he have anointed the person who
had collapsed? Offered Holy Communion
to that person?
A: There is no official policy of
which I am aware. Celebrants
need to make a prudential judgment in
I was once reading the Gospel when
the emergency medical squad came to
take someone from the back of church.
About five or six rows of people were
aware of what had happened. I judged
that it was best to continue with the
Mass, which I did.
I was not present, but I know a friar
to whom something more drastic happened.
During Mass a man collapsed
and died at the front of church. The
friar-celebrant chose to lead the congregation
in the Rosary while waiting
for the emergency medical team to
arrive. They evaluated the situation
and took the man to the hospital.
This friar then continued the Mass.
His decision to lead the Rosary kept
people focused on prayer—with a new
urgency! He also avoided the possibility
that people might be coming up
for Holy Communion while the medical
team needed to do their work. The
Mass could not be continued until that
medical emergency was resolved.
Stopping to administer Holy Communion
or even to anoint a person
could possibly jeopardize his or her
medical condition. I think that celebrants
should err on the side of caution
under such rare circumstances.
To use a personal example of a non-medical
situation, I was once proclaiming
the eucharistic prayer when
the fire alarm went off. The ushers soon
signaled that this was a false alarm. I
judged that it was best to remain at
the altar and not evacuate the church.
No one chose to leave. I resumed
the Mass once the situation had been
Q: While I was recently walking my puppy, a woman came along while
jogging. Even though she had all the room in the world, she made
a nasty comment that I needed to control my dog. In fact, it was
on a leash. Her comment made me very angry. Because I felt that
she was being petty, I told her to grow up and go to hell. Did I commit
a mortal sin by doing this?
A: It does not sound as though the “full knowledge” and “full
consent” necessary for a mortal sin were present in this instance. Even
so, you may want to ask yourself, “Why did I allow myself to become so
angry in response to her comment? Why did I allow myself to become
‘hooked’ by her remark?”
Could you have calmly stated that you were already controlling your
puppy? Did you become so angry because it was a woman who made this
remark? Because it was someone who was exercising who said it? Could
there have been some other reason?
You can confess this sin, receive absolution, do your penance and try
to forget about the whole incident. If you do that, however, I suspect that
you might soon find yourself in another situation where your anger flares
up for reasons that are unclear. If that happens, you may be strongly
tempted to label this situation as simply the other person’s fault—without
asking why your anger is so frequently near the boiling point.
If you have a question for Father Pat, please submit it here.
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