What Would Becoming Catholic Add?
Q: My husband and I have been married for 13 years. He was raised Protestant; I am Catholic. Before we married, we decided that our children would be raised Catholic.
We are fulfilling this promise. My husband believes all that Catholics teach. He believes in his heart that Jesus is present in the Eucharist. There is one problem: My husband resists the idea of becoming Catholic, of converting to this faith. When I ask, “Why?” he replies, “I don’t need a piece of paper to prove my relationship with Jesus.”
How can I help him to become whole in the Catholic faith without detouring the good that he is instilling in our children? They have a terrific bond with him and are highly influenced by his actions. I know the Holy Spirit is working on him, and I would like somehow to help without causing my husband to dismiss the idea.
A: Your husband is, of course, correct in saying that a piece of paper won’t prove his relationship with Jesus—no matter to which Church your husband belongs. Lives open to the Good News and the effects of grace reflect a person’s relationship with Jesus.
But isn’t the more important consideration, “Where is that relationship with Jesus being fed? Where is it being nourished, challenged and deepened?”
No one’s relationship with Jesus today can be totally self-made. Our knowledge about him comes most directly from people who were not themselves eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life. We regard the Scriptures as unique forms of God’s revelation because a faith community tells us that they are.
We do not believe alone, in complete isolation from other believers. If that relationship is being fed primarily in the Catholic Church, wouldn’t it make sense to become a full member?
You did not mention your husband’s family. His reluctance to become a Catholic may be a way of avoiding difficulties with his parents or other family members.
In fact, many Catholic parishes find that the majority of adults in their RCIA program are spouses of Catholics. RCIA members often want to worship as a family.
What your husband loves most about you is probably very much connected to your religious faith. Although he might not put it in those terms, that may be the case. Perhaps it is time for him to consider joining.
In all of this, God’s grace and responding to it are primary. If your husband remains opposed to the idea of becoming Catholic, it’s best not to force the issue.
Was That Woman Mary Magdalene?
Q: In the Gospel of John 8:1-11, is the adulterous woman Mary Magdalene? Some people say yes and others say no. I’m confused.
A: That is not Mary Magdalene. She is also not the “sinful woman” in Luke 7:36-50 or the woman who anointed Jesus a few days before his crucifixion (Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9).
Much is known for certain about Mary Magdalene: She helped finance Jesus and his disciples (Luke 8:2), had seven demons cast out of her (Mark 16:9 and Luke 8:2), and was present at the foot of the cross (named in three Gospels and implied in Luke 23:49). She is the only person all four Gospels agree saw the empty tomb on Easter morning and saw the risen Jesus before any of the apostles did (Mark 16:9 and John 20:14-18). How ironic that she is remembered for something no Gospel says she did!
She is probably associated with Luke’s “sinful woman” story for two reasons: She is mentioned in the next story (8:1-3) and some Christians wanted a personal name for this penitent woman.
Based on the internal evidence from John 8:1-11, many reputable Scripture scholars think that this story was not written by the author of that Gospel. It might have been inserted there by someone who considered the story too important to risk losing.
Regardless of who wrote it, this story is as much a part of God’s revelation as any other story in the Gospel of John.
Why No Speaking in Tongues?
Q: If the Sacrament of Confirmation is a sign of receiving the Holy Spirit, why don’t we Catholics speak in tongues after receiving it? Why are such manifestations of the Spirit seen only among charismatics at prayer?
A: Speaking in tongues (glossolalia) is best understood by starting with First Corinthians 12:1—14:40. There Paul explains that every gift of the Spirit is to benefit the entire Body of Christ.
Any gift can be misused by damaging that body, especially by causing factions (for and against someone or a small group of people). Apparently, that had already happened in Corinth before Paul wrote First Corinthians.
Paul teaches that the Spirit’s greatest gift is charity (13:13). All other gifts are subordinate to it. See Galatians 5:22 where Paul describes nine “fruits” of the Spirit.
The vast majority of confirmed Catholics will never speak in tongues—as Paul uses that term. Why? That’s a good question to ask God when you get to heaven.
Most Catholics and other Christians have cooperated with God’s grace in less dramatic but no less effective ways than speaking in tongues. What is primary is using the Spirit’s gifts to build up the Body of Christ.
Can Someone with a Tattoo Be a Communion Distributor?
Q: I was told that getting a tattoo was a sin against God. I am Catholic and would like to become a eucharistic minister. On the wrist of my right arm, I have an inch and a half tattoo of a hummingbird and a little flower. Does that mean that I cannot be a eucharistic minister?
A: In Leviticus 19:28, God tells the Hebrew people not to tattoo themselves. Because many pagans used these as religious symbols, Scripture scholars tell us this prohibition was meant to help the Hebrews separate themselves from pagan society.
I am not aware of any general rule in the Catholic Church prohibiting someone with a tattoo from becoming a eucharistic minister.
Many tattoos convey messages contrary to Jesus’ Good News; others do not. What you described sounds pretty harmless in its meaning.
If you had a satanic symbol tattooed in a very visible place, I would recommend removing it or, if that is not possible, figuring out how to cover it up before seeking to become a eucharistic minister. That is not your case.
I am not recommending that anyone get a tattoo; I am simply answering the question you posed.
What Do Those Words Mean?
Q: I do not understand the part during Mass where we say, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed” [emphasis added].
What is the “word” that we are waiting for? What exactly are we asking for here? Or how do I know when I am worthy?
A: Just before Holy Communion, the celebrant raises the host and proclaims to the congregation: “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.” The people respond with the prayer that you cited.
That response is adapted from the centurion’s prayer in Matthew 8:8. The centurion asked Jesus to cure his servant at home. When Jesus said he would come to the centurion’s home, the man responded that he was not worthy to have Jesus visit his house. Besides, if Jesus would stay there and “only say the word,” then the servant would be healed.
Jesus did; the servant was cured. Jesus praised the great faith of this gentile centurion.
By substituting the word “I” for “servant,” the Church has adapted this prayer into a preparation for receiving Holy Communion.
How do you know when you are worthy to receive the Eucharist? Strictly speaking, no one is ever worthy. Jesus’ healing makes us less unworthy. In this prayer before Holy Communion, worthy means that the person has confessed any mortal sins and is properly disposed to receive this sacrament.
“Only say the word” is a way of acknowledging that all healing and grace ultimately come from God.