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Prayer Doesn’t Bring
an Entitlement

 Prayers for Healing

 How Many Saints?

 Reserve the Eucharist?

Is Marriage Possible?

Why the Globe and Rings?

Prayers to Conceive

Prayers for Healing

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 cure?

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 death—even 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 Masses—Masses dedicated to prayers and petitions for the sick. In some cases the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is conferred during these Masses.

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 Lord’s Prayer—“thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Prayers aren’t magical formulas, as if you could say the right words often enough and get what you want.

Perhaps a person’s 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.

How Many Saints?

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 people’s 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 Butler’s Lives of the Saints, published between 1756 and 1759, had 1,486 entries. The 1956 revision contained 2,565.

Butler’s 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.

Could 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?

I’m fully aware of the Church’s 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, wouldn’t that be acceptable even without a bishop’s 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 bishop’s 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.

Is Marriage Possible?

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 conjoined.”

“Also, since ‘marriage’ in the Church presumes one that is ‘ratum’ and ‘consummatum’ [sacramentally valid and consummated—see Canon #1141], I don’t see how this would be possible in this case. Who (of the twins) would be spouse to whom, and whose ‘marriage’ is being consummated?”

Why 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 infant’s 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 infant’s fingers further tell us he is Lord of heaven and earth and he blesses all.

Prayers 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. Amen."

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."

The Wise Man welcomes your questions. If you have a question, please submit it here. Include your street address for personal replies enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, please. Some answer material must be mailed since it is not available in digital form. You can still send questions to: Wise Man, 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.
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