Father Joe’s Mailbag

Q: Dear Father Joe: If Lucifer was an angel in heaven, how was he able to sin?

A. Practice. No, seriously, we have free will. When we see God face to face, our free will is set — we are finished making choices. The angels had that moment, that choice. And so Lucifer was free to sin, and when he did so and tried to elevate himself above God, he essentially “set” his free will. I do know that the free will of non-fallen angels is different from ours, but they never use it badly.

Q. Dear Father Joe: I was taught that when the priest raises the body and blood of Christ at the consecration, we should make the sign of the cross. But most people do not and do nothing at all. What is proper reverence at those moments?

A. As long as it is not distracting to others, you do whatever you feel called to do. If it brings you closer to the Lord, then it’s a good thing. Some people make the sign of the cross, as you were taught; some people say a specific prayer; and some people try to do nothing at all except look in adoration.

If it’s not distracting to your neighbor, like, say, juggling, then it’s fine. Seriously, you should do whatever works for you — and that may be different every time. Try to really be in that moment — body, mind, and soul.

Q. Dear Father Joe: What is the significance of the placement of the creed during Mass? Why is it in the Mass and why is it after the readings and before the eucharistic prayer?

A. The creed is a really important part of the Mass. It is placed where it is because we are about to enter into Communion, from the Latin communio, which means “one heart, one mind.” The creed is a statement that we are all on the same page, so to speak — that we are one in heart and mind as we are about to receive the source of that unity in holy Communion.

It’s sort of like the prelude at the beginning of a song that hints at what is coming up. The creed does that as well, and the consecration echoes the creed beautifully. It starts with the big picture and becomes more and more specific, until we get to the moment when Christ is truly with us.

Q. Dear Father Joe: Why do we pray for the sick? Nothing will change.

A. We pray because God tells us to pray. We pray because God wants to hear from us. We pray because we have free will, and God will not intervene in our lives without our permission. Does our prayer change God’s action? It may or may not — God tells us to ask. He tells us, “Ask and it will be given to you … knock and the door will be opened to you.” And what He is going to give us is the Holy Spirit — from whom we may get what we long for or the strength to endure until God gets what He longs for — for us.

We definitely should pray. The whole idea that God knows the future is important because it gives us an idea of how God answers our prayers. We live on a planet of billions of people where options are always changing, but God is one step ahead of us.

Prayer can lead to one or two changes. We will change ourselves for sure. Or our circumstances may change. But we can be sure that while God may not give us what we want, He will give us what we need.

Q. Dear Father Joe: How can we protect our children against the influencers of the world when even the faithful are not faithful?

A. God is faithful; we are not. I think we get into trouble if we move ourselves into the category of the good guy because then we stop evaluating ourselves and stop thinking about how we should change. Because none of us are there.

Guarding our kids means we need to be as holy as we can get because holiness is attractive, and sometimes we forget that. But we should not be too sure of our own holiness because we can always grow closer to God.

You need to speak the truth, and speak the truth in love, to your children. And remember, your children are free. They will make their own decisions. You may do everything “right,” and your kids still end up not going to church. At some point, you just need to put them in God’s hands.