Nothing in the church’s liturgical books or canon law regulates the display of flags in churches.
After September 11, 2001 and the subsequent war on terrorism, the American flag became more visible than at perhaps any other time in U.S. history. From car antennas to window decals to lapel buttons to commercials, it seems the flag is now everywhere. But what about in Catholic churches?
Our status in the church shouldn't be relegated to a set of rules.
As the director of faith formation at a Catholic parish, I’m frequently asked questions about the logistics of the sacraments. Can I miss the confirmation service and still be confirmed? Do I need to prove I’ve gone to confession to receive the Eucharist? Can I doubt my faith and still partake in the sacraments? While these inquiries are easily answered (no, no, yes), I trip over my words every time I’m asked, “What does it mean to be a Catholic in good standing?”
The celebration of Pentecost began long before its appearance in Acts 2.
Heirloom wedding rings are powerful markers of personal heritage. Having one is a reminder of the family member with whom it originated (even if we never knew them) and the person(s) through whom it has passed. But for its original owner, it was not an heirloom at all but rather a symbol of their marriage covenant with a particular person. Only as that ring becomes an heirloom, passed on from person to person, does its meaning shift. No longer just a wedding ring, it increasingly becomes a symbol of ever widening family connections.
All people have both the right and moral responsibility when it comes to the things they own.
Catholic social teaching’s defense of private property traces all the way back to Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 Rerum Novarum (On Capital and Labor). Today, however, given anxieties over data, privacy, and digital rights, Leo’s concern for “land and chattels” seems quaint. Thankfully, Catholic social teaching in the 20th century has a growing understanding that what private property is is less important than what private property does. Used rightly, private property secures and improves the lives of its owners and society at large.
The gospels leave us desiring a host of details about Jesus’ early life.
How did you get to be who you are? It’s a question we ask of those who impress us. It’s also a question that fuels most criminal biopics. We want to know how exceptional souls get from there to there. Experience indicates that who we are now has something to do with where we’ve been.
Rarely is there only one way to do something.
Rarely is there only one way to do something. When it comes to exploring scripture, resist Bible fascists who insist their way is correct. Your best approach is influenced by a lot of factors, including context, time, and personality. Are you engaging this project alone or in a study group? Are you committed across a lifetime or compressing your effort into a single semester? Are you fierce about your goals, or do you tend to quit at the first obstacle?
No matter the particular names you choose, the core message of the Trinity remains unchanging.
One of the paradoxes of our Catholic faith is that its foundational element, belief in the Trinity, the flour to the bread of Catholicism, cannot be understood through human reason. The mysteriousness of the Trinity, however, hasn’t stopped the church from spending centuries examining and clarifying its doctrine. The core elements of the Trinity are described in no uncertain terms: God is only one, but exists in three distinct persons. The divine persons do not share one divinity but are each wholly and entirely God, existing in relationship with one another.
There weren’t always only seven sacraments.
One summer afternoon, driving past a cemetery, I saw six bikers talking, laughing, and drinking beer, their motorcycles parked nearby. My initial indignation was transformed upon noticing a solitary beer can on a headstone. The bikers had not simply pulled off the road for a quick drink on a hot day but were reconnecting with a now-deceased friend.
Godparents used to pay a much more prominent role in new Catholics’ faith formation.
Our culture subscribes to some notions of “godparent” that don’t exactly advance the pastoral plan of the church for this essential ministry. Even people who are unaffiliated or neutral in matters of religion often ask someone dear to them to be a godparent for a newborn. Sometimes it’s a way of affirming a longtime friend. It may also be a way of identifying who among the parents’ extended family might care for their child should calamity strike.
A well-ordered society includes institutions both large and small working together for the public good.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), a Catholic, has often been the target of criticism because he supports cutting federal programs that benefit the poor. When Ryan spoke at the Jesuit-run Georgetown University in 2012, a large group of faculty and staff wrote him an open letter charging that “your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Ryan has often countered that his policies are rooted in the concept of subsidiarity, a key element of Catholic social teaching.