US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Why are Advent candles pink and purple?

Catholics use three purple candles—the color typically associated with penance—and one pink, the color of rejoicing worn on the third Sunday of Advent.

By Kathleen Manning |
Article Your Faith
In a season filled with red Santa suits and green Christmas trees, the purple and pink candles of the Advent wreath can seem incongruous with many Catholic families’ usual Christmas decorations. The modern Advent wreath, created in 19th-century Germany by Johann Hinrich Wichern, featured red and white candles. While these colors may be more in keeping with traditional Christmas décor, they were most likely used because they were just what was available.
 

Do Catholics believe in evolution?

By John Switzer |
Article Your Faith
Imagine if we were able to see evolution as a sign of the unlimited potential of God’s creation, rather than a threat to our limited point of view. 
 
For the biblical literalist, the theory of evolution is problematic because it appears to contradict the stories found in the earliest chapters of Genesis. But is literalism the best approach to understanding scripture? The Catechism of the Catholic Church discourages literalism when it encourages believers to recognize the various literary genres found in the Bible.
 

Where do clerical collars come from?

By John Switzer |
Article Your Faith
Mark Twain once remarked that “clothes make the man” because “naked people have little or no influence on society.” Since clergy aren’t known for appearing nude in public, we should probably stick to the question of whether or not they should be distinguished by their dress. 
 

Why do Catholics and Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter on different days?

By Kathleen Manning |
Article Your Faith

Since the early Middle Ages, all Christians have used the same method for determining the date of Easter, though they arrive at a different result. Described authoritatively in The Reckoning of Time by eighth-century English scholar Bede, “The Sunday following the full moon which falls on or after the equinox will give the lawful Easter.” The equinox is observed on March 21. This straightforward method based upon an easily observable natural phenomenon survived the Schism of 1054, when the Catholic and Orthodox Churches split from each other.


Why does the pope wear white?

By John Switzer |
Article Your Faith

Pope Francis entered the papal conclave wearing the scarlet red of a cardinal and emerged in gleaming white. From where did this tradition arise? The old saying suggests that “good guys always wear white,” but have popes always done so?


Can Catholics be cremated?

Although the Catholic Church lifted its ban on cremation in 1963, it continued to teach that the deceased person’s body had to be present at the funeral.

By Kathleen Manning |
Article Your Faith

Since 1963 the church has taught that Catholics can be cremated, abolishing its longstanding prohibition of the practice. Cremation was fairly widespread in the ancient world, but early Christians rejected the practice. Theologically, they did not consider cremation to be compatible with the doctrine of bodily resurrection. Creating new rituals for death and burial was also a way for Christians to distinguish themselves from their pagan neighbors.


What is the preferential option for the poor?

In our contemporary political landscape, the option for the poor gets bandied about by people on all sides of the political spectrum.

By Kira Dault |
Article Your Faith

I have a friend who is a permanent deacon. He’s a former Marine, and though he is wonderfully kind, he can also turn on his military face and voice to let you know when he means business. One Sunday at Mass, he preached a homily about prayer, particularly about praying for the poor. He had on his game face that day, and at the end of his homily he leaned in close to the microphone and said in a terrifyingly stern whisper, “I know you are all busy. But you can give 30 minutes of your God-given breath to pray for the poor.”


What is the communion of saints?

References to the communion of saints in Catholic belief can be found as far back as the fourth century.

By Catherine O'Connell-Cahill |
Article Your Faith

Borrowing from the Letter to the Hebrews and from theologian and Sister of St. Joseph Elizabeth Johnson, we can imagine the communion of saints as a giant stadium of people, all of whom have run, or are running, a great race. As each of us takes our turn at the starting line, we are lifted up by the love and encouragement of all those who know well the challenges ahead of us and who have stayed to accompany us and cheer us on.


Where can Catholics be buried?

By Kathleen Manning |
Article Your Faith

Traditionally, Catholics believed that a person could reach heaven only if he or she was buried in a Catholic cemetery. But limited space meant few people could be buried in the ground and left there forever. Instead, most people were buried temporarily in the parish cemetery until their bodies decomposed. Their bones were then exhumed and placed among the bones of previous generations of believers in an ossuary—a receptacle or room where bones of the deceased are gathered.


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