Q: What can I do to influence my 31-year-old daughter regarding the existence
and wonder of our Lord? She is a
teacher, a wonderful daughter, and cares
about the environment and the community.
She considers herself a spiritual person
and believes in good works, cause/effect,
good/bad karma and its influence on us as
individuals. She appears to have a high regard
for the “higher power” philosophy.
She is easy to talk to but difficult to persuade.
A: What you are already doing in
keeping your lines of communication
open is probably your best
response to her. It sounds as though she
prefers a rather impersonal “higher
power” to the very personal God revealed
in the Bible.
You and I believe in a God who created
the world out of love, a God who
sent the Second Person of the Trinity to
become a genuine human being while
The term “higher power” is a key
term in Alcoholics Anonymous because
it is more acceptable to atheists or people
who prefer an aloof God. Perhaps
your daughter knows someone with
an A.A. connection whose life has been
positively impacted by that belief.
The “higher power” expression also
sounds like the God favored by Enlightenment
deism, popular among some
thinkers at the time the Declaration of
Independence was written. The June
2005 “Ask a Franciscan” column had an
entry about deism. The question and
my response can be accessed here.
Deism is better than not believing in
God at all, but it tremendously shortchanges
the God revealed in the Bible.
Perhaps your daughter favors a “higher
power” because the biblical God strikes
her as too demanding, possibly interfering
with her freedom. Many Enlightenment
thinkers felt smothered by the
biblical God and preferred a more aloof
God, feeling that such a belief gave
them greater human freedom.
Pope Benedict XVI’s recent encyclical,
God Is Love, addresses some of these
Enlightenment objections, arguing that
if human rights are not grounded in
God’s truth, which is independent of us,
those rights are quite fragile and can
easily be ignored by individuals and
Our mental images of God are linked
to how we see ourselves and others.
That makes change harder than many
people realize. In time, we all become
like the God whom we worship.
It is unlikely that she always held
these beliefs about a “higher power.”
Asking why she trusts them so much
might start a good conversation.
Will a vague God of “good karma” be
enough for her in the long run? The
God presented in the Bible and still at
work in our world is much more than
Your patient answers to her objections
about accepting the God that you
believe in will probably be your best
hope of sharing your belief in a much
more personal God than she now accepts.
How Are Patron Saints Chosen?
Q: How are patron saints chosen for
various professions or activities? I
have heard, for example, that St. Isidore of
Seville is the patron saint of the Internet.
Can there be only one patron saint for
a particular group? Are these designations
permanent or do they rotate? Are there
patron saints waiting to be recognized as
A: Sometimes there are officially
designated patrons like St.
Thomas More for Catholic political
leaders or St. Thérèse of Lisieux and St.
Francis Xavier for the missions. More
commonly, however, patron saints arise
from “popular piety” when people link
this saint to certain occupations (sailors),
groups of people (expectant mothers)
or social concerns (ecology).
There are also patron saints as intercessors
against particular illnesses or
in life crises (for example, Peregrine
Laziosi for those suffering from cancer
or the Apostle Jude for “impossible
cases”). Anthony of Padua’s help has
long been sought by people who have
misplaced objects. Many
countries have patron saints (George for England, Andrew for Greece and
The Catholic Church has not yet officially
designated anyone as the patron
of the Internet, though St. Isidore of
Seville (560?-636) has been proposed
because he attempted to gather all
knowledge at his time into an encyclopedia.
There are other candidates for
this designation; at the moment, they
are all unofficial “patrons in waiting.”
Our Sunday Visitor’s Encyclopedia of
Saints, edited by Matthew, Margaret
and Stephen Bunson, has eight pages of
patron saints for various groups of people
or life situations. Entire books are
devoted to this topic.
Most of these linkages have not come
from some official Church designation
but arise from ordinary followers of
Jesus making these connections. St.
Christopher’s popularity as the patron
of travelers did not evaporate when his
feast was removed from the Church’s
worldwide liturgical calendar.
Parents can choose a patron saint for
their newborn child. In fact, nowadays
a child does not have to receive a saint’s
name at Baptism; the 1983 Code of
Canon Law says only that the name
given in Baptism must not be “foreign
to Christian sentiment” (Canon 855).
There can be more than one patron
saint for a particular group or activity.
In 1966, Pope Paul VI proclaimed St.
Benedict of Nursia as patron of Europe.
In 1985, Pope John Paul II added Sts.
Cyril and Methodius as patrons and
14 years later also recognized Sts. Teresa
Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein),
Catherine of Siena and Bridget of Sweden
as patrons of Europe.
Choosing patron saints affirms that
holiness is possible for any group of
people or workers in almost any profession.
Saints do not intervene to protect
people from an angry God or fill in
some gap for an overburdened God.
Divine providence extends to everyone,
including a call to repent.
Because the Good News of Jesus has
taken root in various centuries and cultures,
linkages of saints and particular
activities may vary. In every case, saints
always encourage us to be as open to
God’s grace as they were.
Q: I am getting conflicting answers on
how often a person can receive the
Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
One priest said four times in a calendar
year was the limit. I know of a parish where
this sacrament is made available in the
fall and in the spring at Sunday Mass.
A: According to the 1972 Instruction
for the Rite of Anointing of the
Sick, “Those who are seriously ill need
the special help of God’s grace in this
time of anxiety, lest they be broken in
spirit and, under the pressure of temptation,
perhaps weakened in their faith”
Later it says: “Great care and concern
should be taken to see that those of
the faithful whose health is seriously
impaired by sickness or old age receive
this sacrament. A prudent or reasonably
sure judgment, without scruple, is sufficient
for deciding on the seriousness
of an illness; if necessary, a doctor may
be consulted” (#8).
This sacrament can be repeated if
the person has a relapse of the same illness
(#9), if the person is about to
undergo surgery for a serious illness
(#10) or if elderly people “have become
notably weakened even though no serious
illness is present” (#11).
The Church encourages us not to
wait until someone is close to death
before administering this sacrament.
On the other hand, it probably would
not be appropriate to anoint an individual
preparing to have a medical
test. The benefit of the doubt should
ordinarily be given to someone requesting
this sacrament, assuming
that person has been properly prepared
What Does This Psalm Mean?
Q: Psalm 26 seems like a very nice prayer (“Grant me justice, Lord!
I have walked without blame. In the Lord I have trusted; I have not
faltered”), but I do not understand where this Psalm comes from
or what it means.
A: The New American Bible’s footnote for Psalm 26 reads: “Like
a priest washing before approaching the altar (Exodus 30:17-21), the psalmist seeks God’s protection upon entering the
temple. [Verses] 1-3, matched by 11-12, remind God of past integrity while
asking for purification; [verses] 4-5, matched by 9-10, pray for inclusion
among the just; [verses] 6-8, the center of the poem, express the joy in
God at the heart of all ritual.”
The speaker might be a priest serving in Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.
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