In the know with Father Joe

Are there sins my pastor can't forgive?

Dear Father Joe: I read that, as part of the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis is allowing priests to absolve people of the sin of having an abortion or helping someone get one. Why can only bishops absolve some sins and what happens to all those people who were only absolved by a priest?

Thanks for this question! There has been a lot of talk about different things that our Holy Father has said and or done and this is one that really got messed up in translation.

Are Catholic superstitions OK?

Dear Father Joe: Is it OK to pray for Notre Dame to win their football games? After all, they have “Touchdown Jesus.”

You can feel free to pray for whomever you’d like, but we know that God’s favorite team is the Michigan State University Spartans! Seriously, though, it’s fine to pray that your favorite team plays well and safely. You just need to understand that God’s desired outcomes for those players’ lives might not have anything to do with whether or not they win the game that day.

A vocabulary lesson for Mass

GREETINGS IN CHRIST! This article is going to be a little different. The last few years, I’ve received a lot of questions about some of the words or phrases we use in the newest translations at Mass. This article is going to serve as a bit of a “vocabulary lesson” to help us understand better what we pray. So, let’s dive in!

Dear Father Joe: Why do we talk so much about charity at Mass?

Do I have to believe everything the Pope says about the environment?

Q: Dear Father Joe: The pope’s new encyclical on the environment contains assertions I don’t believe, specifically that we humans have anything to do with climate change. What’s this encyclical all about?

A: There’s a lot of discussion around the pope’s new encyclical, which is always a good thing. There are numerous excellent (and some not so excellent) summaries of Laudato Sì’ out there and, in an article of this length, there really is no way for me to do any summary justice.

That’s my disclaimer. 

Social justice in this world

Dear Fr. Joe: What exactly are the principles of social justice?

The first principle of Catholic social teaching is the life and dignity of the human person. We hit this pretty hard last issue, so I hesitate to go into it too heavily, yet, at the same time, can you really say too much about human dignity?

In the Know with Father Joe

Dear Father Joe: My Father was sick and recently died. I was touched by how the people in his parish came by during his illness and now I want to do that at my own parish. How do I get involved?

God bless you for your question! Beyond answering it directly, I want to point out that, in this situation, you are allowing God to do something beautiful: heal your pain by helping others. Let’s dive right in!

What is RCIA?

Dear Fr. Joe: What is RCIA?  I see and hear a lot about it at Church but I don’t understand what is going on.

Thank you for your question! RCIA is an important part of our Catholic life and it’s good to know as much as we can about it.  So, let’s dive right in!

The initials RCIA stand for Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. It is a process by which a person can enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. 

I don't think people at mass should dress 'like that'

Dear Fr. Joe: I’m appalled by some of the clothing I see at church on Sunday – everything from jeans to shorts to sleeveless tops. What is appropriate dress for Mass?

Thank you for this question! This is an issue that pops up fairly often and it’s good for us to pause and consider things like this.

I’d like to make something clear right off the bat: I’m not going to give you a dress code for Mass. I’m not doing it for a lot of reasons, the most important of which being the simple rule, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Dear Father Joe: So many good people I know have suffered horribly in the last month and I’m really struggling to hold on to my faith. Why do good people suffer? How do I keep my faith in these times?

I’m sorry that things are so hard for you and your loved ones right now. As a priest, it’s not uncommon for me to experience first-hand the great suffering that many people, good and bad, go through. Struggling with our faith at times like these is not something we should shy away from.


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