We attended a funeral Mass and during the homily the priest mentioned before the lady passed away of cancer he gave her an apostolic pardon and that she was assured of heaven. Who can receive an apostolic pardon and if anybody can why don’t we all receive them prior to our passing? Can a person simply ask for an apostolic blessing?
An Apostolic Pardon is a blessing with an indulgence that happens at the conclusion of the Anointing of the Sick if the recipient is in danger of death. The usual process is confession then anointing of the sick and it's concluded with the Apostolic Pardon. Confession forgives the eternal punishment for sin, the indulgence attached to the Apostolic Pardon takes care of the temporal punishment. This is done at the hour of death while the dying person invokes the Holy Name of Jesus, and, at least, makes a mental act of reservation to the will of God. Now here's the clincher - it does NOT guarantee the dying person will go straight to heaven, but clears the path, if one chooses to go to Jesus.

Could you explain about purgatory and the poor souls? Who goes there and why? When do they reach heaven?

Purgatory is a place or state of final purification for those who die and are in God's friendship, but are imperfectly purified. They are assured of heaven, but need that holiness necessary to enter into heaven (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1030). Purgatory is a temporary state. Once the last soul needing purification has been released, purgatory will cease to exist. Purgatory is also a place or state where any unremembered venial sins are forgiven. Jesus in Mt. 12:32 stated that unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit (final impenitence and unbelief) will not be forgiven "either in this age or in the age to come." Why "age to come?" If in heaven the person has already been forgiven. If in hell forgiveness is not forthcoming because the person does not want forgiveness. As for poor souls, I am reluctant to call them by that name since they are on their way to heaven. I like "holy souls" better. Remember we can help these souls by our prayers, alms-giving and penitential works and, the best prayer, the offering of a Mass or Masses for their souls. It's the best investment you will ever make since, one day, those souls may return the favor of helping you when in heaven.  

A blessing is a ritual in which the Church, through the proper minister and formula, dedicates persons, places or things to a sacred purpose or attaches to them a spiritual value. Once something is blessed, it can only be used only for a sacred purpose intended, and not in any profane way. Furthermore, they never lose their blessing if broken and repaired or lent or given away. Only when they are totally destroyed or sold. The chief blessings of the Church are for persons such as bride and groom, women before and after childbirth, congregation after Mass, places like churches, oratories, cemeteries and houses and things such as religious objects or objects for sacred worship. Even animals can be blessed on the day of St. Francis of Assisi (October 4). Once an object that is blessed can no longer be used, it must be destroyed, burned or buried.

Was Noah's Ark a story in the Bible or did it actually happen?    

Noah's Ark is in the Bible because it actually happened. The flood was probably a local one and only the animals of the region were saved. We do not have to believe that all living animals were represented nor that all the animals outside the Ark were killed. The flood truly happened and Noah's family were the sole survivors, but like the flood itself, humanity had not yet spread itself far and wide, but all that were there in that area were killed in the flood. That much must be literally accepted. However, the various secondary details surrounding the story do not have to be, and definitely not exaggerations of those secondary details. Remember God is capable of doing this and He said that He did it and this is from the God who cannot deceive nor be deceived.

I have a concern in regards to receiving communion in the hand versus on the tongue. I notice at times that there are crumbs from the host in my hand. I try to consume them, but I'm sure I miss some. Wouldn't it be better to go back to receiving the host on your tongue instead of possibly having some of the host fall from your hand to the floor?

I commend you for your wonderful reverence for the Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament. We need to remember that Communion in the hand was the normative for the first few centuries of the Church. In the sixth and seventh centuries Communion on the tongue became the universal practice as to give communicants a better understanding and devotion to the Real Presence. Communion on the tongue is still the universal practice of the Church, but some countries, like the U.S., have received a dispensation to receive either in the hand or on the tongue. Either way is allowed, but not required. As for the particles of the Blessed Sacrament still in your hand, it used to be the practice of the priest celebrating the Mass to hold his two fingers together that held the Host from the moment of the consecration to the ablution (cleansing hands after Communion). That practice was discontinued as a liturgical law, although some priests still practice it. The idea was that priests, if conscience of particles of the Blessed Sacrament on their fingers, would purify them properly. A practice that I, and a number of priests do is to rub those fingers together into the chalice or ciborium, even before the ablution. I would say if you notice particles of the Blessed Sacrament on your hands, consume them, but only if you notice them. Weigh a certainty against a doubt and do not torture yourself over unseen particles. I'm sure the Lord knows your devotion to Him in the Blessed Sacrament. If it still concerns you, maybe you should receive on the tongue to ease your conscience.

How does a Saint become or get the title Doctor of the Church?

There are three requirements for being recognized as a Doctor of the Church. First a life of holiness. If a proposed Doctor did not have a love for Christ and His Church and practiced heroic virtue throughout his or her life, a declaration as being a Doctor of the Church will never be forthcoming, no matter how brilliant the person's doctrine may seem. Walk the walk as well as talk the talk. As a result they are canonized saints. Interestingly enough Pope Benedict XVI, when making Hildegard of Bingen a Doctor of the Church first had to formally canonize her as a saint. Not that she was not recognized as possessing a life of holiness. She just was never formally canonized. Second their body of doctrine, whether in Scripture, theology or spirituality, must truly stand out and help others to be holy in every age. Finally, of course, the Church must formally declare the person a Doctor of the Church. It starts with the local bishops petitioning the Holy See, who will consult with other bishops around the world. This takes time. The pope also consults the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the College of Cardinals and theologians.There is no time limit. It could be a relatively short or long time. We currently stand at 35 Doctors of the Church, but I do not think we are done yet.

While praying the Our Father during Mass I notice some people hold hands with other family members, others keep their hands together (as in prayer), while still others hold their hands up like the priest. Isn't the priest the only one who should hold his hands up during this time or is any of these postures correct to use?

Liturgical law does not permit the laity to mimic the gestures of the priest/presider as he is saying the prayers proper to him. These are known as presidential prayers. The Lord's Prayer is not a presidential prayer. It used to be before the current Mass that the priest would say the Lord's Prayer alone and the people would chime in in the end the "deliver us from evil." To the best of my knowledge, neither the U.S. bishops nor the Holy See has said anything regarding this traditional gesture of prayer for the Lord's Prayer during the Mass. I also do not find it in the rubrics of the Sacramentary. I find it curious that many in the laity do not bow during the Creed when it mentions Jesus being born of the Virgin and became man, but I digress. As for holding hands, while certainly fine for spouses and individual families to do, no priest may force the practice among the congregation as a whole. Canon Law makes it quite clear that no one may add anything to the liturgy on his own initiative ( c.846.1).

When should a person receive the Anointing of the Sick? Is it only when they are near death? What about when they are having surgery?

The Anointing of the Sick (formerly known as Extreme Unction) can be administered by a priest only to those who are dangerously ill or elderly, if in a weakened condition. The person must be a baptized Catholic and reached the age of reason (7). A sick child could be anointed if sufficiently mature enough to be comforted by the sacrament. The person can be anointed again if the person falls into serious illness after convalescence or if a more serious crisis develops during the same illness. Notice what is not said - a person does NOT have to be in imminent danger of dying, although that is when most people call a priest for anointing. This is a change of pastoral practice before the Second Vatican Council. As for surgery, the ritual for anointing states that one can be anointed before surgery if the surgery is necessitated by a dangerous illness. So surgeries unrelated to a dangerous illness are excluded.

How do you answer someone of another religion when asked about why I stay Catholic with all the recent news about the priests scandals, and with it being as close to us as in Lincoln, NE Diocese.

First of all, if you are looking for someone to make excuses for all that has happened regarding the current abuses cases, you have come to the wrong priest. I do not have any, nor am I compelled to give any. Despite efforts to protect young people with changes to Church law regarding these sad cases, the efforts did not go far enough. I am sure now that structural changes will have to occur to give far-reaching protection for young people. So why stay with the Church?  The late Fr. Benedict Groeschel, in his book From Scandal to Hope, once wrote: " Not so long ago, the Catholic Church seemed to be very triumphant. I lived those days at the end of the Second Vatican Council. The Church seemed to be very powerful. I've lived to see the mystical body of Christ crucified, betrayed, attacked and abandoned by the frightened apostles. And we're all part of it. Don't ever exempt yourself. I reproach myself every day that unwittingly I went along and stupidly I got involved in things that ultimately did not serve the Church or Christ so well. Now is a time to move on wisely and well. We may be a leaner, cleaner and more attacked Church, but Christ will be with us. His word will be heard, His sacraments given and received with devotion and humility, and His holy doctrine and teaching will be embraced. All this can happen if we embrace His cross, which has come on the Church in such a strange and unexpected way. Now is the time to turn to God." (p.185) Now is an opportunity for prayer, repentance and conversion so that we can get back to what we are supposed to be doing and that is bringing the Good News of Jesus to all the world.

My best wise elderly friend in the world (now in heaven) was a very strict Lutheran. We always talked about religion and how she longed to be with Jesus. I would always ask her to pray for me when she passed and went to Heaven. Her same reply to me was "there is a gulf between heaven and earth and our prayers could never be heard." Do you think that those who are now in Heaven can see us down here on earth to the extent of knowing what we may be doing right or wrong or able to witness how we live our lives?

This is something of a sad question for me to answer because it implies that our deceased loved ones are totally shut off from us when nothing could be further from the truth. First off, if our deceased loved ones are in heaven, they are with God who is love (1 John 4:8-9) and that we will be like Him, for God will transform us by His love to be like Himself (Romans 8:29). If God loves and provides for us, the saints too in heaven will be filled with love and care for others. We can safely bet that they would be praying for whatever needs we have (A Daily Defense, Jimmy Akin, page 36). It is unlikely that they are omniscient (all-knowing), but you do not have to be to know some things. You can be sure that in heaven our intellectual abilities will be higher than they were on earth because of being transformed by God. Because of that transformation and union with God, God could make a saint aware of someone requesting his or her intercession (Akin, page 56). The Bible does not give us many images what life in heaven will be like, but we see that saints and angels are well aware of what is happening on earth (Rev. 6:9-11, 7:13-14, 11:15-18 among others). Saints and angels are aware of our prayer requests. Rev. 5:8 and 8:3-4 sees incense offered to God which is said to be "the prayers of all the saints."

A friend of mine has quite a few health issues. Most recent, dialysis for her kidneys. She has been asking the question what she has done so bad in her life to have all these health problems that she has, which there are quite a few. What can I offer to answer her or help her.   P.S. I'm a big fan of ask a priest on KVSS Radio. Sorry, I haven't utilized you as of yet. Keep up the good work at St. Anthony's.

Thanks for the compliment! The problem of suffering is always a tough one to answer because we, many times, just cannot find the answer. I can say that God permits suffering as a path to holiness, not as a get even bit of bad karma for the things you did, even when you are not aware that you did anything. I certainly do not say that we should suffer for its own sake. Try to get well, but, if you cannot alleviate it, you can do something very powerful and that is join your sufferings to the Suffering Christ for the salvation of souls. God permits this suffering for a greater good and the salvation of souls - your own and others - is the greatest good. Respond to those graces God desires to give you. If we rebel against God, reject those graces and give up thinking God has it in for us, holiness becomes more and more remote. I pray that your friend has courage, determination and the love of Jesus poured into her in these difficult times so that she feels the loving presence of God moving her closer and closer to the holiness He desires for her.

Of all the translations and versions of the Bible out there, which is the best for a Catholic to read? What about study Bibles?

Generally the most used Catholic versions today are the New American Bible and the Catholic Revised Standard Version. The translation most used in study groups would be the Catholic Revised Standard translation. That said which is best version to read? The one you read and pray with regularly.

What is a good response to say when a person not of the faith states that Catholics 'earn' their way into heaven by reconciliation and doing other things while non-Catholics accept Christ and are welcomed into heaven because of this'?

First of all the Catholic Church has never taught that one can "earn" their way into heaven, that, somehow, we can be justified by faith and works. When a person comes to know God through faith, he or she is initially justified and does not have to do a certain amount of good works to enter into heaven. However salvation can be lost through mortal sin, which requires full knowledge and consent.  If one commits mortal sin, he or she must repent and go to confession. If one does this, he or she can be restored to justification. No amount of good works can substitute for taking mortal sin away and regaining justification. That said, good works do have a role in Christian life. Ephesians 2:10 states that we are "created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." The letter to the Romans also state that good works flow from the love pours in to our hearts (5:5) at our first justification and that God will ultimately reward those good works (2:6-7). Furthermore St. Paul not only warned his Christian Corinthian audience of certain actions that could cost them the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10), he also told the Christian Philippians that they must "work out their own salvation in fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12). That doesn't sound like a man who feels he has salvation locked up by merely accepting Christ.

If 2 Catholics marry outside the church, and then years later, go and get their marriage blessed by a priest, which calendar date does their anniversary actually fall on? I would assume it would be the day it was blessed by the priest?


The Church has never formally declared that a couple who convalidates, "blesses,"  their civilly valid marriage has to start celebrating their anniversary on the convalidation date, but, in the eyes of the Church, their convalidated date is when the Church officially recognizes that the couple is married.

Could you explain to us which Holy Days are obliged and which ones aren't
and why? Thank you!

Canon (Church) law, with the prior approval of the Holy See, permits the
conference of bishops to suppress some of the holy days of obligation
(1246.2).  In 1991 the bishops of the U.S. decreed that if Jan.1, the
solemnity of the Mother of God, Nov.1, All Saints or Aug.15, the
Assumption, fell on a Saturday or a Monday, that the precept to attend
Mass was abrogated or abolished, even though the days are still
celebrated on their proper day. This was approved by the Holy See in
1992 and was effective Jan. 1, 1993. This was done because, due to the
demands of work or other life situations, making all ten holy days can
be difficult. I'm also sure there was also some "kill two birds with one
stone" approach involved as well. Notice that two solemnities are still
in effect for mandatory Mass attendance, Christmas and the Immaculate
Conception, the patroness of the United States. No matter what day of
the week they fall on, you must still attend Mass on those days. It's
been a practice of the Holy See to have all countries keep Christmas and
a solemnity of Mary (New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law p. 1444). As
for the Ascension, the decision was to be made by the bishops of the
Ecclesiastical province by a two-thirds affirmative vote as to keeping
Ascension on Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter or moving it to the
Seventh Sunday of Easter. This was approved by the Holy See in 1999. In
Nebraska we have kept Ascension on Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter.