Prayer Doesnt Bring
I have been to seven healing Masses in the past few years and have shown
no improvement. Where did these Masses begin and is there solid evidence that they can
Certainly the tradition or practice of prayer for healing is rooted in the
gospel and is as old as the Church.
The Gospels contain numerous stories of Jesus responding to the prayers of the sick or
petitions offered on their behalf. And Mark tells us how the disciples drove out
many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them (6:13).
Further, the Letter of James bids us, Is anyone among you sick? He should summon
the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint [him] with oil in
the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will
raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven (5:14-15).
Through all these centuries Christians have prayed for the sick. Ministers of the Church
have visited and prayed for and with the sick.
Does God answer prayers for healing? You can tour the shrines of the world like Lourdes
and Padua and find testimonials of healing in answer to prayers.
In the renewal of Vatican II emphasis was again placed on the healing aspects of the Sacrament
of the Anointing of the Sick. Instead of calling the sacrament Extreme Unction, viewing
it as a prayer for those on the verge of death, the ritual speaks of the anointing of the
sick and the pastoral care of the sick.
But let us note that even those who receive or received miraculous healings eventually
succumb to sickness and deatheven those who were healed by Jesus. There is a provisional
aspect to every cure.
The charismatic movement in these later years has also emphasized prayers for healing
and healing services among many Christians, among them many Catholics. It is in that context
we can understand healing MassesMasses dedicated to prayers and petitions for the
sick. In some cases the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is conferred during these
As you note from your own experience, not all those who attend such Masses or pray for
healing are physically cured or made whole. But then, not everyone who goes on pilgrimage
to Lourdes is miraculously cured. Miracle cures are by their nature exceptional. But note
that those who fail to obtain physical cures at Lourdes often speak of a kind of spiritual
healing, a new peace and acceptance. Surely there is a grace in the prayers and support
of those who gather to pray with and for the sick.
The 17th Volume (Supplement) of the New Catholic Encyclopedia, in speaking of Christian
healing, comments, Ministers and theologians of Christian healing continue to debate
the reasons some persons are healed, some are only improved and some do not respond at
all to prayers for healing (McNutt, 1974, ch. 18).
We do know that in the Gospels Christ responded to, and often demanded, the faith of people
asking for healing.
We also know that we cannot view prayer as granting us an entitlement of some kind. Any
properly ordered prayer contains, at least implicitly, the petition of the Lords
Prayerthy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Prayers arent
magical formulas, as if you could say the right words often enough and get what you want.
Perhaps a persons eternal welfare is better being served by enduring sickness. Sickness
has its own graces, after all. It teaches us to become truly dependent on God. It helps
detach us from material things, prepares us to find our hope in God. It is in sickness
that we learn humility and in the goodness of those who serve us begin to appreciate the
love and compassion of Christ.
Sickness also can make us stop and rethink our goals. It is in the experience of sickness
that many have found God and set their feet on the way to holiness.
Can you tell me how many saints there are?
That is a difficult question to answer. In the first eight or nine centuries there was
no formal process of canonization. People were recognized as saints because of a kind of
popular acclamation. People were believed to be saints because they had been martyred for
the faith or they had lived very holy lives. Often their graves became places of pilgrimage
and prayer. We have no idea of how many peoples holiness was not recognized. That
is one reason why we have the Feast of All Saints.
Sometimes the recognition of holiness was particular to an area or community. Sometimes
the reputation for sanctity spread beyond national borders.
It was not until 993 that the first official canonization took place. It was then that
Pope John XV declared Bishop Ulrich of Augsburg a saint.
The original edition of Butlers Lives of the Saints, published between 1756
and 1759, had 1,486 entries. The 1956 revision contained 2,565.
Butlers Lives is now undergoing another revision. Since not all the new volumes
have yet been published, I cannot tell you how many biographies or saints will be listed.
In any case I doubt that anyone will claim it is a complete and exhaustive listing of
all the saints or people who are claimed to have been saints.
There is also under way a revision of the Roman Martyrology by the Congregation for Divine
Worship. The Martyrology is an official listing of saints feasts.
I Reserve the Eucharist in My Home?
There has been much talk about the merits and virtues of eucharistic adoration. Is
it allowed to retain a eucharistic host for home worship? If not, why?
Im fully aware of the Churchs general prohibition of such a practice and the
good intended of preventing desecration and irreverence.
But on a pastoral and individualistic level, if the purpose is to worship and give glory
to God and there is certainty that the host would be honored and cherished, wouldnt
that be acceptable even without a bishops permission?
By canon law the Blessed Sacrament must be reserved in cathedral and parish churches,
and in churches or oratories attached to the houses of religious institutes.
The Eucharist may be reserved in a bishops chapel and, with permission of
the local ordinary (usually a bishop), in other churches, oratories and chapels.
The law in all cases requires that the sacrament be kept in a church, chapel or oratory.
And there are other requirements about a fixed and solid tabernacle.
The law also requires that someone be responsible for the custody and care of the Blessed
Sacrament, and that a priest celebrate Mass at the place of reservation with some frequency.
That is to make sure the hosts do not age and become stale or moldy.
Notice, the law does not permit reservation of the sacrament in private homes. The purpose
of reserving the Eucharist is to have the Blessed Sacrament available as viaticum for those
near death, Communion outside of Mass and adoration of the Lord present in the Eucharist.
Reservation in private homes does not very well fit those purposes, and it is difficult
to guarantee the Sacrament will be treated with proper respect.
When would there be such a need? Perhaps a deacon lives miles from the church and must
bring Communion to sick Catholics in outlying districts. In such cases the bishop could
permit private reservation with a statement of particular requirements.
I read in Life
magazine some months ago about girl Siamese twins who had two heads and are joined at
the chest. The parents did not want to kill one girl or the other, so they left them joined.
Organs below the waist are common to both.
My question: Would the Church allow them to marry? Would the Church insist on one husband
or two since the women are two persons with one body? Could a dispensation of some sort
be given under these unusual circumstances?
I submitted your question about conjoined twins and marriage to a moral theologian who
taught theology in a major seminary and is also an author.
He responded, I see no possibility of marriage in any sense that the Catholic Church
would recognize. The simple fact is that marriage is a covenant of love between one
man and one woman, which is obviously impossible here so long as the twins are
Also, since marriage in the Church presumes one that is ratum and consummatum [sacramentally
valid and consummatedsee Canon #1141], I dont see how this would be possible
in this case. Who (of the twins) would be spouse to whom, and whose marriage is
the Globe and Rings?
What do the world and the two raised fingers with gold rings on the statue of the Infant
of Prague mean?
Replicas of the statue of the Infant of Prague are frequently dressed in royal robes.
In the infants left hand there is a globe with a cross on it. That symbolizes Christ
is ruler and redeemer of the whole world. He has redeemed it by the cross. The right hand
of the infant is raised in blessing.
According to Signs and Symbols in Christian Life, by George Ferguson (Oxford University
Press), two rings linked or placed one above the other symbolize earth and sky. I would
presume the two rings on the infants fingers further tell us he is Lord of heaven
and earth and he blesses all.
to Conceive a Child
In your November 1996 issue you had an item about St. Mary Frances of Naples as an
intercessor for those who have been sterile. Can you supply a prayer for my granddaughters
who remain childless and want to become parents?
I found no prayers for those who want to conceive. So I wrote two of my own which I offer
to you and yours for their use if they wish.
Prayer to Conceive a Child: "St. Mary Frances of Naples, in life and in death you
have pleaded the cause of the childless and infertile. Through your prayers and intercession
many thought to be sterile have conceived children and become parents. I (my spouse and
I) now ask you to look upon me (us) as we ask your prayers and intercession that we may
conceive and bring to birth a child who will serve and glorify God always and everywhere.
Prayer for a Child: "Lord, despite the barrenness
of Elizabeth and the advanced years of Zechariah, you answered their prayers for a child
in a marvelous way. You favored them with the conception and the birth of John the Baptist.
I (we) pray that you give me (us) the grace of conceiving and bringing to birth a child
who will honor and serve you and your people all the days of his or her life. Amen."
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