Does one complete the Sunday Mass and holy day obligation by attending by watching via TV or computer? I am handicapped. I walk with a cane and have partial use of my right leg and arm due to a stroke. There is always the fear of falling. I cannot drive. The Masses have a Spiritual Communion Prayer, and my wife brings holy Communion to me on occasion.
- Mike in Troy
The Code of Canon Law states, “On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass” (canon 1247). The faithful are those who “are incorporated into Christ through baptism” (canon 204 §1). Consequently, baptized Catholics are required to attend Mass on every Sunday and every holy day of obligation.
This obligation to attend Mass “is satisfied by one who assists at Mass” — that is, by one who attends Mass — “wherever it is celebrated in a Catholic rite, either on the holy day itself or on the evening of the previous day” (canon 1248 §1). This is a grave obligation and purposefully failing to honor it is mortally sinful (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2181).
Because humans are a union of body and soul, the Lord Jesus established the sacraments as composed of both words and material things. While watching the Mass on television or via the internet may bring some comfort, it does not technically fulfill the obligation to attend Mass, which must be fulfilled in person.
While it is important to remember the gravity of this obligation, it is also important to keep in mind the fact that the Church does not oblige us to do what is physically or morally impossible, which is why the Catechism of the Catholic Church says the obligation binds “unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor” (no. 2181).
Consequently, those who legitimately cannot attend the Holy Mass — whether because of a lack of transportation, a serious illness, immobility, etc. — are excused by the Church from the obligation to attend Mass. If there is a question about whether an individual member of the faithful is excused, he or she should speak with his or her pastor who can best judge the particular situation.
Those who cannot attend Mass for a serious reason should make a Spiritual Communion and even request the Blessed Sacrament be brought to them. Therefore, it is good, Mike, that you are still watching the Mass on television and still receiving the Eucharist, and when you are unable to receive the Eucharist, you are making an Act of Spiritual Communion.
Father Daren Zehnle is pastor at St. Augustine in Ashland; parochial administrator of St. Alexius in Beardstown, St. Fidelis in Arenzville, and St. Luke in Virginia; and is the director for the Office of Divine Worship and the Catechumenate for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.
How do we navigate these tough topics as parents and grandparents? What should we be saying to our children?
Many young people are wanting straight answers to tough questions about love, dating, and relationships, but they struggle to find the answers. Parents and grandparents oftentimes don’t even know where to begin when it comes to talking to their children about dating and chastity. No matter the issue, living a life of virtue and holiness is challenging. It’s also becoming more difficult communicating a message of purity to young people with a culture that promotes promiscuity and living a life of “If it feels good, do it.”
Jason Evert, an international Catholic speaker and author, has a mission to tackle these subjects head-on, providing answers rooted in Catholic truth. Evert has a master’s degree in theology and degrees in counseling and theology. He and his wife run Chastity Project and its website, chastity.com, the podcast Lust is Boring, and lead an international alliance of young people who promote purity in more than 40 countries. Evert spoke at the SEEK23 Conference for college students in St. Louis in January and is giving two talks on Feb. 6 at St. Mary Parish in Alton starting at 6 p.m. (go to chastity.com/purified for tickets). Catholic Times Editor, Andrew Hansen, spoke with Evert last month.
Let’s start with contraception and the Church’s position against it. This is one teaching that not only does the culture disagree with the Church’s position, but so many Catholics as well. Explain why the Church teaches what she does, and how do we convince young people to not use contraception?
A lot of people want to know why the Church is against contraception. It’s not so much the Church is against something as the Church is for something, for God’s plan for human love. The Church’s teaching on sex is pretty simple: Love, marriage, sex, and babies go together and in that order, and when we start to flip those around and change them, civilization starts to crumble, and so God has joined together life and love, babies and bonding.
The Church is not saying that parents shouldn’t plan their families. But sometimes responsible parenthood means being open to more children. So, what contraception does in a certain sense is saying, “I want bonding with you, but I don’t want babies with you.” But, what if we did the opposite? “I want babies with you, but I don’t want bonding with you.” We’d obviously see there is a distortion there like, “I would like to make love to you, but I don’t want to look at you because I want to avoid any emotional entanglement that might ensue from this because I want to use you as an incubator for my offspring”… (We’d say), “OK, that guy is weird.” What contraception is doing is saying that I want the bonding, but I don’t want the lifegiving potential.
So, God has already created in a woman’s body seasons each month, the fertility and infertility. It’s not necessary to shut down the woman’s fertility with chemicals and barriers. What is needed is for us to understand the woman’s body. What Natural Family Planning taught me is that my wife’s body is perfect. She doesn’t need drugs, pills, or shots. She needs to be understood because if we can understand her fertility, then instead of suppressing it with chemicals to conform to our desires, we can conform our desires to the perfect way her body has already been created.
Society, especially young people, paint the Catholic Church as the church of “no” when it comes to sex, certain dating things, IVF, living together before marriage, and we just discussed contraception. How do we respond to that and teach young people that what the Church teaches is actually freeing?
God’s plan for human love is not a litany of prohibitions. How we can communicate this is to ask people, “What do you really want in a relationship? Do you want a love that is free or coerced?” “I want a love that is free.” “Do you want a love that is total or half-hearted?” “I want total love.” “Do you want a love that is faithful or one with hooking up and friends with benefits?” “I want a love that is faithful.” “Do you want a love that is life giving?” “Yeah, yeah.” “OK, so you want a love that is free, total, faithful, fruitful — those are the wedding vows.”
The total gift of the body should correspond to the total gift of the person. The total gift of the person is marriage, and your body should correspond with that. So, all the Church is trying to give you is what you want! So, what we are doing when we disagree with the Church is we’re disagreeing with the desires of our own heart.
You have said, “I think for young people, they are being told everything they are not supposed to do when it comes to dating and relationships, but nobody is talking to them about what they are supposed to do when it comes to dating.” What are they supposed to do?
What we have to teach is dating etiquette. What is the purpose of dating? It’s to find a spouse. It’s like getting on a freeway with only two exits: breakup and marriage. If that is the reality, what is the point of committing to anybody unless you can see this relationship potentially going the distance? So, having more intentionality with dating. I find that young people, they love to hear this stuff. What are the specifics? How do I ask her out? And all that stuff because it’s not enough to tell them what not to do. The reason they don’t know how to date is because when you look at the culture, we have this culture of single people who pretend like they’re dating, the dating people behave like they’re married, and the married people seem to think they are single. Everything is out of order, and it’s because the parents forgot how to date each other. So, they (children) never saw their own parents pursuing each other in love, going on weekly date nights.
This is why parents should put their marriage first, before their children?
Putting your marriage first is putting your kids first. As much as it gags them out to see Mom and Dad kiss, or hug, or be affectionate, they need to see it. It is so good for their mental health to see that, the safety and stability that creates in their hearts of knowing that Mom and Dad are a united front. They often say the best thing you can do for your kids is to love your spouse.
Parents don’t even know where to begin when it comes to talking to their kids about dating and chastity. What should they be saying?
One, get over your insecurities about talking to your kids about sexuality because if you do not speak up, the world will fill the void of your silence with a very contrary message. Obviously, it needs to be age appropriate. But there is going to stuff the world throws at your kids and you got to see that this is a teachable moment. I took my kids to an NBA basketball game and one of the cheerleaders was male, dressed up as a female doing all the female dance moves and my boys are like, “What’s going on there?” I’m like, “Well, I didn’t expect to have to address gender dysphoria on the way home from the basketball game, but let’s go there,” — and pastorally and lovingly explaining that situation.
So, see those teachable moments, dive into them, and give the kids formation even in subjects you didn’t want to cover yet. Be bold and age appropriate.
What is a grace of the sacrament of marriage that you never expected, or one you discovered many years into marriage?
One of the functions of marriage is the sanctification of the spouses and one of the ways God does that is He brings your faults to the surface, like oil and water. Before you’re married, you’re thinking, “I’m a pretty good catch. I’m patient, I’m forgiving.” Then, you get married, and you realize, “I’m a jerk. I’m unforgiving, impatient.” So, one of the surprises is the sanctification that comes through the sacrament because the children and the spouse, they’re like a sandpaper of sanctity constantly rubbing off those rough edges.
What’s one thing you want someone struggling with an addiction to pornography to hold onto in the midst of that struggle?
Whether it is male or female, because I am meeting more and more young women who are struggling with the same things too, realize this isn’t what you ultimately want. I heard of one guy who was addicted to all this stuff, and he finally confessed this to a Christian brother, and the Christian guy said to him, “Well, if what you want to do is look at pornography and all that stuff, then go ahead and do it.” And he said, “No, that’s not what I really want to do.” And his friend looked at him and said, “Exactly.” It was this watershed moment for him that maybe there is still something good in him that desires something noble, sacrificial, beautiful, and pure.
So, pornography is this counterfeit to the desires that we really long for. So, get accountability. Get some software on your computer, be able to find a good spiritual director, talk to some brothers and sisters about this stuff. Don’t try to go lone ranger to win this thing. On our website, chastity.com, we’ve got books for the guys and girls, resources, apps, software, router recommendations — all kinds of stuff. This is a battle you cannot afford to lose. Your whole vocation is at stake here. I know it’s difficult, but it’s more difficult envisioning your life 10 years from now still stuck in the same stuff. Trying to beat this thing on your own and winning it isn’t working. It’s because you aren’t supposed to beat this on your own. Find some accountability, and you’ll have the victory.
When it comes to transgenderism, as people of Catholic faith, how do we communicate with people who do think they are the opposite sex?
A lot of times we think, “What do we need to say? What is the silver bullet that can explain to them why puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and top surgery is not the answer for them.” What we need to do is listen to these individuals, meaning enter into their lives, go to the movies, have a beer, have a coffee, get to know these people and know their story because what we need to do is enter this conversation with a posture of reverent curiosity about this dysphoria. When did you start feeling this? Thank you sharing that with me. I’m sure that must have been really hard. What has that been like? Where is this coming from?
The reason I say we have to listen is because a boy came to me, and said he’s trans. We had a long conversation. It turns out he has two older sisters and two younger sisters who can do no wrong. They are loved, and everything he does for his mom and dad is not enough. He’s always the black sheep. I said to him, “Do you think if you were born a girl, you would be loved the way your sisters are loved?” He said, “I know I would have.” You can see that there is this unmet legitimate need that has found an outlet through this expression of gender dysphoria. Everyone has their own story. Our job is to make these individuals understand that the Church sees them, we realize they didn’t choose to feel this way, God loves them, He has a plan for them, and then we have to hold one hand to them, one holds onto reality, and not let go of either one. Walk with them. Accompany them. Not only with the love, but also with the truth.
What about speaking with people who do support transgenderism? How do we talk to them that this isn’t God’s plan?
A lot of times they are given this idea of false compassion like, “If you don’t accept these people, you’re rejecting them, and they’re going to commit suicide.” Well, look at the suicide rates of people who go through puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and surgeries. About 10 years after the surgery, their suicide rate is 19 times higher than the general population. If you isolate out the female to male transitioners, the suicide rate is 40 times higher than the general population. It’s because surgery is not the answer to these deeper mental health issues. We need to be affirming the person, not the dysphoria.
We just came out with a book called Male, Female, Other — A Catholic Guide to Understanding Gender. Whether they experience dysphoria, a kid who wants top surgery, or you’ve got a nephew with this, this book will help to explain where is this coming from. How do I give solid answers, but most importantly, how do I pastorally accompany these people with sensitivity giving them the truth that this is not the answer? This is not a left versus right issue. You look right now, there are 43,000 de-transitioners on the Reddit website screaming from the rooftops that “I did this, it was not the answer, hit the brakes.” Lawsuits are on the way, and I think things are going to change, but there is going to be a lot of damage done, unfortunately.
Answers taken from Andrew Hansen’s interview with Jason Evert on Dive Deep, the official podcast of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. To hear more from their conversation, including what gives Evert hope and inspiration about the future, go to dio.org/podcast or search Dive Deep on all the major podcast platforms.
The Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael's Abbey based in Orange, Calif., have announced six of the seven priests who will open and run the new Evermode Institute in Springfield. The Evermode Institute will be a center for Catholic spiritual and intellectual formation and these Norbertine Fathers will form a new community there.
Standing in front of the altar at St. Francis of Assisi Church are Father Godfrey Bushmaker, O. Praem.; Father Gregory Dick, O. Praem.; Father Stephen Boyle, O. Praem.; Father Augustine Puchner, O. Praem., Prior; Father Anselm Rodriguez, O. Praem.; and Father Ambrose Criste, O. Praem., Director of the Evermode Institute. A seventh priest is expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
Located on Springfield’s northeast side on the grounds adjacent to the convent of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis, the Evermode Institute includes St. Francis of Assisi Church, a large conference room, other large meeting rooms, and beautiful outdoor prayer trails, Stations of the Cross, and grottos.
“The Evermode Institute will be a place where we form and instruct in the faith all those good people in the Church whose responsibility it is to teach the faith,” Father Criste said. “So, Catholic school teachers, the catechists and religious education instructors in the parishes, eventually, hopefully, the permanent deacons, and trickling out to anybody like parents — people who are responsible to teach the faith. We want to help them to understand the faith better so they can impart the faith to those people in their sphere of influence. There will be some in-person teaching happening at the Evermode Institute, and then we’ll ramp up a robust online presence.”
When the Nobertine community opens the Evermode Institute this July, the public will be welcome to come to Mass at the stunning St. Francis of Assisi Church, go to confession, and participate in the prayer life of the Norbertines.
Can novenas be created by lay people or do they come from the magisterium?
Jake in Springfield
The word novena takes its origin from the Latin word novem, meaning “nine.” Consequently, a novena is a series of nine prayers prayed for a specific intention either individually or with a group of the faithful. While the origin of novenas is traditionally seen in the nine days between the Ascension of the Lord and Pentecost, a novena can be prayed over nine days, nine weeks, nine months, or presumably even over nine years (though such a novena might be hard to keep track of).
The Church does not have, so far as I am aware, any specific legislation governing novenas. Because a novena can be as simple as praying nine Our Fathers, it is possible for a layperson to create a novena for his or own purposes, provided, of course, that the prayers used or in the intention behind the novena are not contrary to the faith. Such a novena would be for private use.
If a layperson creates a novena and intends it to be for public use, such a novena should be presented to the local bishop for his consideration and approval. He may grant permission for its private use or for its public use, as he judges fit.
Father Daren Zehnle is pastor at St. Augustine in Ashland; parochial administrator of St. Alexius, Beardstown, St. Fidelis, Arenzville, and St. Luke, Virginia; and is the director for the Office of Divine Worship and the Catechumenate for the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.
Holy Spirit moves through nearly 19,000 people at SEEK23 in St. Louis
By ANDREW HANSEN
ST. LOUIS — It was a week filled with grace, joy, spiritual enlightenment, new friendships, and memories for the dozens of high school students, college students, adults, religious, and clergy from the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois who attended SEEK 23 in St. Louis Jan. 2-6. People from our diocese joined nearly 19,000 other Catholics from across the country for the conference, each of them encountering the Lord in deeper ways through daily Mass, confession, eucharistic adoration, hearing faith talks from Catholic leaders, and more.
“The seek conference was inconceivable at times to see so many different people come together to grow in their faith and to ultimately seek Him,” said Mak Keller, a student at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville (SIU-E) who grew up going to Mass at Mother of Perpetual Help Parish in Maryville. “With so many resources in one place for myself and other friends I’ve talked to, we were all able to cultivate our knowledge to help bring us closer to the Lord.”
“Being at SEEK was truly a gift from God that increased my faith and trust in His providence and the truth of the Catholic Church,” said Sam Lutastanski, a student at SIU-E who grew up going to Mass at St. Paul Parish in Highland. “Throughout the entire week, it was inspiring to experience such witness to God's love and devotion through the actions of so many college-aged men and women on fire with reverent love of the Lord.”
FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students kicked) hosted SEEK23. FOCUS is a Catholic apostolate whose mission is to share the hope and joy of the Gospel. FOCUS missionaries encounter people in friendship, inviting them into a personal relationship with Christ and accompanying them as they pursue lives of virtue and excellence. Through Bible studies, outreach events, mission trips and discipleship, missionaries inspire and build up others in the faith, sending them out to live out a lifelong Catholic mission wherever they are. In our diocese, the Newman Catholic Community at SIU-E has a FOCUS team.
“SEEK is something that I pray everyone gets the chance to attend one day,” said Sophia Clausius, a student at SIU-E, who grew going to Mass at St Anthony of Padua Parish in Effingham. “Between Mass, all the talks, adoration, and concerts, it’s inevitable to feel God’s presence. My personal favorite part of SEEK is adoration simply because every doubt I’ve ever had about God vanished. His love, His mercy, His truth all became so true and so clear.”
The Diocese of Springfield in Illinois had a large presence at the conference, most of it coming from college students at Newman Centers at SIU-E, Eastern Illinois University, and Millikin University. Several high schools and parishes also sent students. The diocesan curia hosted a booth, promoting the great things happening in our diocese while also engaging college students to consider becoming a teacher in a Catholic school in our diocese, a Totus Tuus teacher in the summer, or pursuing other career opportunities. Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, several priests, seminarians, and religious such as the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George in Alton also attended. On Jan. 5, those from the diocese were invited to a happy hour at a restaurant in downtown St. Louis for food and fellowship.
“Seeing 17,000 young men and women fall on their knees before Jesus during adoration and Mass was so moving, and I loved seeing the long lines for confessions,” said Maria Fitzgerald, a student SIU-E who grew up attending Mass at St. Boniface Parish in Edwardsville. “Seeing and participating in such intense fellowship encourages me to pursue a deeper holiness and increases my desire to share Jesus with others. The talks that I attended were challenging and engaging. I learned so much, and hearing speakers talk about topics that have been relevant in my life offered new perspectives that I'll continue to pray about for a long time!”
SEEK24 returns to St. Louis Jan. 1-5, 2024.
Having trouble hearing God’s voice?
St. Boniface Church in Edwardsville hosting a free workshop Jan. 28
By FATHER MICHAEL TRUMMER
Special to Catholic Times
We hear stories from the Bible and from other saint stories of God speaking. We also hear, “Prayer is a conversation, prayer is talking with God,” but how often is that your experience? Maybe you know how to tell God what is on your heart, but do you know how to hear what is on His heart, and what He says to you?
Jesus died on the cross not simply to get you into Heaven someday, but He came to draw you into communion and relationship with the Trinity, and such an important part of any relationship is communication, which involves talking and listening. You do not have to be a perfected saint or an extraordinary mystic to hear God’s voice. You can hear God’s voice because of what Jesus did, not because of what you do or have done. God has spoken to you your entire life. He still wants to speak to you. We just need to learn to recognize how He already speaks.
Come participate in a workshop on learning to hear God‘s voice. Come to access what Jesus has won for you and access to the voice and heart of God. You were made to hear His voice.
I am hosting a workshop along with Michael Nolan, from Shadow on the Water, on Saturday, Jan. 28 from 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. at St. Boniface Church in Edwardsville (110 N. Buchanan St.). The workshop is free and will begin in the basement of the church. You do not have to be a parishioner or even Catholic to attend. There will be a lunch break at noon. If possible, please bring a Bible and a journal.
Father Michael Trummer is parochial vicar at St. Boniface Church in Edwardsville and chaplain at Father McGivney Catholic High School in Glen Carbon.
Benedict appointed Paprocki bishop of Springfield in 2010
Springfield, IL – Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois issued the following statement in response to the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI:
“Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was an authentic example of faithfulness to God and Catholicism, living and preaching the Gospel message with truth and passion. Always writing and teaching, his warm smile, gentle demeanor, and pastoral approach to explaining and living out the Catholic faith inspired millions and brought people closer to Christ. His reverence toward the Eucharist, the Mass, and the sacraments are examples for us today on how we should all view and respect these treasures of the Catholic faith. His steadfast defense of our faith’s teachings and traditions and remaining faithful to them, despite the pressures of the secular world and from inside the Church, is the mark of a true leader.
“To this day, I am humbled Pope Benedict appointed me as the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. I had the honor of meeting with him several times. I will forever remember his friendliness and compassion. His theological genius and his ability to communicate our rich and oftentimes difficult theology to the people in a clear and understandable way was most impressive. The Catholic Church lost an incredible and humble man, but his legacy leaves a lasting impression on the faithful and our Church.”
On Monday, March 29, 2010, I was on my way to O’Hare International Airport when I received a message that Cardinal Francis George, then Archbishop of Chicago, had called me. He knew I was on my way to Rome and wanted to talk to me before I got on the plane. I was in the car with another priest, and I did not know if the cardinal wanted to talk to me privately, so I waited until I got to the airport to call him back.
As soon as the priest dropped me off at the airport, I went inside and called the cardinal. He said, “Good, I’m glad I got hold of you before you took off. Can you talk?”
I looked around and said, “Well, I’m in the terminal at O’Hare, but I can talk. What’s up?”
Cardinal George, who was always right to the point without a lot of small talk, said, “The Holy Father is appointing you to be Bishop of Springfield in Illinois.”
I had heard some rumors to that effect, but rumors are just that: rumors, so when you hear something officially, it still takes you somewhat by surprise.
After I told the cardinal that I was honored to accept the appointment, I said, “You know, I’m on my way to Rome, and I plan to attend the Pope’s General Audience on Wednesday. If I get the opportunity, should I say something to the Holy Father about this?”
Cardinal George replied, “Well, it’s still under pontifical secret, so you would want to make sure no one overhears you.”
Sure enough, at the Pope’s General Audience that Wednesday morning, I was seated on the stage next to three other bishops near Pope Benedict XVI. There was only a small group of bishops present that day because all diocesan bishops were required to be in their own dioceses for Holy Week. As an auxiliary bishop at the time, I had the opportunity to go to Rome since Cardinal George would be taking all of the Holy Week and Easter liturgies at Holy Name Cathedral. Of the other three bishops at the General Audience, two worked in the Roman Curia and one was retired. Since I was youngest in seniority, I was last in line to greet Pope Benedict after he finished his talk.
When I walked up to the Holy Father, there was no one else nearby, so I introduced myself and said that I had just received word that he had appointed me to be Bishop of Springfield in Illinois. I thanked him for the appointment and for his confidence in me, assuring him that I would do my best to try to be a good bishop. He just smiled and nodded. But I do have a great photo of that moment with Pope Benedict XVI!
Parents, teenagers, and young adults — this event is for you
National speaker to talk purity, theology of the body, dating, and relationships in Alton Feb. 6
By ANDREW HANSEN
With a culture that promotes promiscuity and living a life of “If it feels good, do it,” it’s getting harder to parent teenagers and young adults to live a life of purity and authentic respect. There are many questions parents and young people are facing each day that are confusing and go against our Catholic faith, but they are struggling with how to answer them or are feeling the pressure from culture to go with the culture’s side. Young people are wanting straight answers to tough questions about love, dating, and relationships.
National Catholic speaker, Jason Evert, will give two talks in Alton Feb. 6 that parents, teenagers, and young adults are invited to that answer many of these tough questions and that will empower people to live a life of virtue.
“We live in a culture of single people who pretend like they are dating, we have a culture of dating people who pretend like they are married, and we’re stuck with a culture of married people who seem to think they are single,” Evert said. “Everything is out of order. We live in a culture where more people hookup than hold hands. I think for young people, they are being told everything they are not supposed to do when it comes to dating and relationships, but nobody is talking to them about what they are supposed to do when it comes to dating. I think they are tired of the fear tactics and the shame and the guilt trips. What they really want to know is how to find and build authentic love. I think for the parents, a lot of them don’t even know where to begin when it comes to talking to their kids about dating and chastity.”
Evert’s talks, “Purified” and “Gender and the Theology of your Body,” take place starting at 6 p.m. at St. Mary Catholic Church in Alton (519 East 4th St.). The cost is $30 and tickets can be purchased in advance by going to chastity.com/purified. After Evert’s talks, the night will end with adoration and confession and all attendees will leave with resources that are geared toward the gender of the teen/young adult and one geared toward parents. For more information, call (618) 581-7055. The event is for teenagers and older.