June 29, 2020

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What to do after receiving ‘wake-up call’

Question:

I am a Christian, although not much of a religious person at heart. I have a wife and a 5-year-old daughter whom I love very much, but I have hurt them a lot — not physically, but through my complete arrogance. I have seldom considered their feelings and always just pushed ahead with my selfish wants.

Now, thanks to a wake-up call in my life, I have asked for forgiveness directly, and my wife has offered me the chance. But the feeling of guilt haunts me; I have a deep-seated sadness for what I have done to damage the relationships within my family. What should I do? (Las Vegas)

Answer:

The first thing you should do is thank God for the “wake-up call.” Then, in quick succession, thank God for your wife — for her willingness to forgive and to move forward in your marriage. But there is more: You surely could profit by speaking with a counselor.

The guilt and sadness you feel are understandable, but your marriage will be healthier and happier if you can give yourself a second chance. A counselor may well think it wise to include your wife in some parts of that counseling.

This leaves your daughter — who is old enough to have been hurt by your selfishness and may need, herself, some time to recover. A counselor may be able to suggest what you might say to your daughter by way of an apology and a pledge to do better.

Finally, I would recommend prayer — speaking with God in your own words, sharing with the Lord your wishes and your worries. You don’t have to be a “religious person” to know that each of us is weak and needs some help from above.

Question:

Can the cremation place bury my ashes in an urn in the ocean without my relatives and friends present? The people close to me plan on having a memorial Mass for me afterward, without my ashes. (San Francisco)

Answer:

Burial at sea is permitted by the Vatican’s 2016 guidelines, so long as the cremated remains are not scattered over the waters but buried in a dignified and well-protected container such as the urn you mentioned. There is no requirement that relatives and friends be present, but it would certainly be nice to have a religious context to your burial.

Do you suppose the “cremation place” could arrange for a chaplain to say some prayers at the ceremony? The Church’s Order of Christian Funerals has a beautiful prayer written just for such occasions.

It reads: “Lord God, by the power of your word you stilled the chaos of the primeval seas, you made the raging waters of the flood subside, and calmed the storm on the sea of Galilee. As we commit the body of our brother/sister N. to the deep, grant him/her peace and tranquility until that day when he/she and all who believe in you will be raised to the glory of new life promised in baptism.”

It’s very good that you are planning to have a memorial Mass celebrated later, but consider this:

You could have a funeral Mass offered in church within a few days of your death, in the presence of the urn containing your remains. The urn would be placed on a small table near the altar — perhaps with a picture of you and some flowers, and sometime later the urn would be buried at sea.

If it were my own future at stake, I would want to have a priest and congregation offering the Eucharist, the Church’s most powerful prayer, for me at the earliest opportunity!

Question:

Is it true that the Church changed the day of the Sabbath? I have always felt that the Sabbath occurred on Saturday, but I have learned that the early Church decided to celebrate the breaking of bread on Sunday because that was the day of Christ’s resurrection. (Nigeria)

Answer:

Technically, it is not true that the Christian Church changed the Sabbath day. The Sabbath is still on Saturday or, more properly, from sundown on Friday, marking the fact that God rested from creation on the seventh day.

In the very earliest days of Christianity, believers — who were mainly Jewish — observed the seventh-day Sabbath with prayer and rest; but very quickly, as Col 2:16 shows, Christians began to see this as no more obligatory than Jewish rules on food and drink. The followers of Jesus gathered instead to break the bread of the Eucharist on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7) — the day on which Jesus, completing a New Covenant, had made sacred by rising from the dead.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains the relationship between Sunday and the Sabbath: “Sunday is expressly distinguished from the sabbath which it follows chronologically every week; for Christians its ceremonial observance replaces that of the sabbath. In Christ’s Passover, Sunday fulfills the spiritual truth of the Jewish sabbath and announces man’s eternal rest in God” (No. 2175).

The catechism’s following section says that “the celebration of Sunday observes the moral commandment inscribed by nature in the human heart to render to God an outward, visible, public and regular worship” (No. 2176).

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