Ask Father Shawn

Q&A with Father Shawn Landenwitch:

Several parishioners have expressed an interest in starting a Q & A type segment with Father about the Catholic Faith, and putting it in the bulletin. This would be a place where Father could answer questions like "Why do we cross our foreheads, lips, and heart before the Gospel?", or "What did Jesus mean when he talked about ?"'

 

Questions can be sent to office@saintmaryofthewoods.com with the subject line "Father Q&A" or write questions and put in the manila envelope on the bulletin board in the foyer.

Father Shawn Landenwitch

May 8th, 2022

Question: Why can't priests marry?

Answer: Jesus didn't marry; His mission was to give His life for the salvation of souls. A priest is called by God to imitate Jesus in dedicating his entire life to the same mission. If someone is married, their first priority is their family. A priest's first priority is to his people, and it wouldn't be right for a priest to be married and have to choose to put either his family or his parish second. Celibacy enables a priest to have an undivided heart.

While a priest doesn't have his own biological children, he does have a spiritual family. We call a priest "father" because he is truly a spiritual father. He gives life to his children through the sacraments, and he guides them as a spiritual father by his teaching and example.

A man is free to accept or reject a call from God to be a priest. A man who wants to marry can choose marriage; if a man chooses to be a priest, he must be prepared to embrace the life and mission that Jesus embraced.

God bless,

Father Shawn Landenwitch

April 24th, 2022

Question: How old was Jesus when He died?

Answer: Jesus was 33 years old when He died. He began His public ministry when He was 30, and His public ministry lasted for three years. The Gospels give us evidence to support this. In the Gospel of John, it mentions the annual feast of Passover three separate times. 

St. Thomas Aquinas argued that, in the Resurrection, the blessed will all receive their glorified bodies appearing as they would have at age 33 (regardless of whether the person had lived to be 33 or not in their earthly life). He saw 33 as the perfect age based on the age of Jesus when He died and rose. This is not official Church teaching, but an interesting point to meditate on. 

What the Church does teach is that the saints will receive their glorified bodies, radiant with light, and without any defect of aging, at the final resurrection. Glorified bodies will not be subject of aging because they will be made for eternity.

God bless,

Father Shawn Landenwitch

April 3rd, 2022

Question: Why do some make the Sign of the Cross in the Glory Be?

Answer: There is no rule specifying that someone should make the Sign of the Cross during the Glory Be. This would be a private devotion rather that something specified by the Church. Because the Trinity is being invoked, some people might find it meaningful to make the Sign of the Cross. Some Eastern Catholic Churches (who are in union with the Pope) and Orthodox Churches make the Sign of the Cross numerous times, including during the Glory Be.

 

Catholics can make the Sign of the Cross in cases of physical or spiritual danger, before and after prayers and meals, and any time we seek God's help. "Let the Sign of the Cross be continually made on the heart, on the mouth, on the forehead, at table, at the bath, in bed, coming in and going out, in joy and sadness, sitting, standing, speaking, walking — in short, in all our actions. Let us make it on our breasts and all our members, that we may be entirely covered with this invincible armor of Christians" (St. Gaudentius).

God bless,

Father Shawn Landenwitch

March 27th, 2022

Question: In Matthew 26:24, talking about Judas betraying Jesus, Jesus said it would be better if he had not been born. What does that mean?

Answer: Judas was present when Jesus said this statement. This was meant to be a last warning to him about the severe consequences for betraying Jesus, Jesus kept His identity secret to allow Him a chance to repent. Unfortunately, Judas did not heed the warning. One thing we can learn from this about Jesus is that He continues to reach out to sinners to try and bring about their repentance as long as there is still time. He doesn't give up on us, even when our hearts aren't right. Judas was not the only one to betray Jesus. Peter betrayed Him, too, but Peter later repented and turned back to Jesus.

 

We betray Jesus when we sin, and people often commit mortal sins that bring with them severe eternal consequences. It's important for us to recognize the true consequences of mortal sin and avoid it at all costs. If we do commit a mortal sin, we should follow the example of Peter in repenting by going to Confession as quickly as possible. Jesus doesn't want the sinner to die, but to return to Him and live. (see Ezekiel 33:11)

God bless,

Father Shawn Landenwitch

March 20th, 2022

Question: Why do people bow in church when Jesus' name is mentioned?

Answer: "At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, of those that are in Heaven, on earth, or under earth" (Phil 2:10). The name of Jesus has power - it gives us courage when spoken with faith and reverence. Demons flee from the Holy Name. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal instructs the priest to bow his head at the name of Jesus, Mary, or a saint on his/her feast day. Before the liturgical changes of Vatican II, it was specified that the head bow would be more profound for the name of Jesus. This gesture captures and teaches us the reverence that is due to His name.

St. Bernardine of Siena is known for promoting devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. He once said in a sermon, "When the human mind makes bold to speak of the Name of Jesus, and of its praise, it finds itself deficient; the tongue cleaves to the palate of the mouth and all speech dries up. Indeed, this Name is so great, so much more profound than the very oceans, that no human intellect is fully capable of expounding it."
 

God bless,

Father Shawn Landenwitch

February 27th, 2022

Question: Father, why do you always give Communion out on the same side of church?

Answer: There is nothing specified in the instructions for Mass about which side the priest should distribute from. That's up to the preference of each priest. Most priests, including Archbishop Schnurr, pick one place (usually the center aisle, on his right side) to distribute. This benefits those parishioners who prefer only to receive from a priest. If the priest is always in the same spot, they know where to sit.

 

The theological reason to receive from a priest acts "in the person of Christ" during Mass. When the priest distributes Communion, it reveals the reality that Jesus is feeding His people. The tradition of ordained deacons assisting with Communion is ancient, as well. We are fortunate to have a priest and a deacon for almost all of our weekend Masses.

 

Both sides are able to receive Communion from an ordinary minister of Holy Communion. Bishops, priests and deacons are ordinary ministers of Holy Communion. In extraordinary situations (real pastoral need), extraordinary ministers can be used. That determination is up to the pastor. Extraordinary ministers are instituted acolytes (seminarians are instituted acolytes in their second year of Theology), or if one isn't present, a trained lay person.
 

God bless,

Father Shawn Landenwitch

February 13th, 2022

Question: At the Last Supper, Jesus said: "which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins." Who's the many? Wasn't it for all of us?

Answer: The Church draws from 1 Corinthians 11:24-25 and the Gospels in forming the words of consecration. The phrase "for many" comes from Matthew 26:28, which in Latin says "pro multis." This echoes Isaiah 53:10-11, which is a prophecy that the suffering servant shall justify (or take away the sins) of many. 

 

This reveals to us that Jesus was not only pouring out His blood for the apostles in the Upper Room, or for us as individuals at Mass, but for a great multitude of people. This was not meant to exclude anyone. At the same time, not everyone will accept Christ's offer of redemption and salvation. While Jesus offers this gift to everyone, and while "many" accept the gift that Jesus offers, there are many who refuse the gift.

It's important for us, through prayer and good example, to help lead people to conversion who have rejected this gift or who do not know about it.
 

God bless,

Father Shawn Landenwitch

January 30th, 2022

Question: Why do priests wear a white collar?

Answer: The white collar, along with a black cassock or clerical shirt, is a distinctive and recognizable sign of clergy (bishops, priests, deacons, and sometimes seminarians). While the clothing of priests has developed over many centuries, priests wear distinctive dress so people can recognize their presence. Someone might need a priest to go to Confession, or people will often ask priests to pray for certain Intentions.

A priest is also a witness in the world to the presence of Jesus Christ. Sometimes people who have left the practice of the faith return because of a chance encounter with a priest. It's important to have symbols of Jesus Christ in our increasingly secular world. A priest, because he is consecrated to the service of the Lord, is a living witness to the presence of Jesus Christ.

 

For these reasons, Canon Law requires clerics to wear "suitable clerical clothing, according to the norms issued by the Episcopal Conference and according to legitimate local customs." (Canon 284) Priests are never "off-duty," so wearing proper attire helps the priest to live out his priestly calling. It is also a sign of strength to the faithful when they see their priest in uniform, even in places like a grocery store or restaurant.
 

God bless,

Father Shawn Landenwitch

January 23rd, 2022

Question: What is the meaning of the painting behind the tabernacle?

Answer: I have received tremendous positive feedback from the paintings produced by Michael and Ann Blanck; they add a great deal of beauty to the church. The painting behind the tabernacle also has theological significance. When describing the New Creation, the Book of Revelation talks about streams of life that nourish the city of God. Those streams of life came forth from the side of Christ on the cross. His sacrifice gives us life.

 

Our painting depicts those streams of life coming from Christ on the cross. The streams branch off into seven streams; those seven streams represent the seven Sacraments. The sheep represent the people of God, drinking from the streams of life. The streams of life from the cross are made present to us every time the Mass is offered. We have the privilege of being able to drink from those streams when we attend Mass and when we receive the Eucharist.

 

I encourage each of us, as we look at that image during Mass, to meditate on the graces that are poured forth to nourish our souls and to drink deeply. 

God bless,

Father Shawn Landenwitch

January 16th, 2022

Question: What is one to do during Eucharistic Adoration? I know we are supposed to pray; are there certain prayers?

Answer: Eucharistic Adoration provides us with an extended period of silence. While some may initially be uncomfortable or bored by this, it is critically important that we develop a love for the silence of prayer. God speaks to us in silence; if we can't be silent in the Lord's presence, we probably aren't listening to Him. We need to take time outside of Mass to pray in order to nurture an authentic prayer life. Eucharistic Adoration gives us great flexibility in our prayer. The Holy Spirit will shape everyone's prayer a little differently; we should invoke the Holy Spirit to guide our prayer.

Praying the Rosary during Adoration is powerful; I often feel I am able to meditate more deeply on the mysteries during Adoration. Reading and praying with a passage of Scripture, perhaps the Gospel of the day, is a good use of time. Some people may choose to devote each Holy Hour to a specific intention, and then offer prayers for that intention. Good spiritual reading can support our prayer. Don't feel that you have to fill every moment of Adoration. It's good to simply enjoy spending time with Our Lord in silence. Good friends don't need to speak to each other at every moment. God can often work silently in ways we do not perceive. Put your trust in Him!

God bless,

Father Shawn Landenwitch

January 2nd, 2022

Question: Why in the English Mass are there two to a set of Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, and in the Latin Mass there are three to a set?

Answer: "Kyrie eleison" is a Greek phrase, meaning "Lord, have mercy." This is part of the "Penitential Rite," when we call to mind our sins and our need for mercy as we begin our worship of Jesus Christ. "Eleos" was the Greek word for oil; oil was poured on wounds to heal and to soothe the pain. God's mercy is the healing love of God poured out on our spiritual wounds like oil. 

In the Traditional Latin Mass (the Mass before the post-Vatican II changes) "Kyrie eleison" was repeated three times, then "Christe eleison" three times, and "Kyrie eleison" three times. There were three invocations directed to each person of the Trinity (three towards the Father, three towards the Son, and three towards the Holy Spirit). The symbolism is Trinitarian, and the repetition helps to emphasize the significance of the invocation for those praying the Mass.

In the post-Vatican II revisions, there was a movement to simplify the Mass and eliminate some of the repetition. Now there is one invocation by the priest or the choir, after which the congregation repeats the phrase. The Trinitarian dimension is still there, but slightly obscured, with three groups of two instead of three groups of three.

God bless,

Father Shawn Landenwitch

December 19th, 2021

Question: Sometimes at Mass, all of the candles are lit on the altar and other times, there are only a few lit. Why is there a difference?

Answer: Candles are a symbol of the light of Jesus Christ shining in the darkness of our world. This is beautifully conveyed in the Easter Vigil Mass, which begins with the blessing of the Easter candle and a candlelight procession. We always keep a candle burning where the Eucharist is reserved in a tabernacle to point to the Presence of Jesus. At Mass, we are required to have a minimum of two candles lit by the altar. At Eucharistic Exposition, there must be at least six candles lit when the Eucharist is exposed on the altar. The concept of "progressive solemnity" is the idea that we should keep things as austere as possible during the penitential seasons of Lent and Advent. We would have a "normal" level of solemnity during Ordinary Time, and more candles, more decorations, and more elaborate music in seasons like Christmas and Easter. 

Now that we have a high altar and room for more candles, I've had to decide how many candles to light and when. I am planning that we will light all the candles during Christmas and Easter, as well as Holy Days and Sundays during Ordinary Time. We will only light the two by the altar and two by the tabernacle during Advent, Lent, and daily Masses.

God bless,

Father Shawn Landenwitch

December 12th, 2021

Question: How does the Church view cremation?

Answer: In the early Church, pagans would burn dead bodies as a sign that death was the end. Christians, because they believed in the Resurrection, would not burn bodies. They would bury the bodies as a sign of hope in the Resurrection, when our soul would be reunited with our bodies. For most of Church history, cremation was forbidden for this reason.

 

Currently, the Church has changed this discipline a little. Burial of the body is preferred. While not preferable, cremation is now permitted as long as it is not done as a denial of the Resurrection. If a person plans on being cremated, the Church prefers that a funeral Mass is done first with the body, and then have the cremation and burial of the remains.

Abuses have crept up with cremated remains. Human remains should be buried or put in a columbarium at a cemetery. They should not be kept in someone's home as a keepsake, or divided among family members, or made into jewelry, or scattered in a park. People's remains are not a possession that we can do with as we please; they should be put to rest properly in a sacred place.

God bless,

Father Shawn Landenwitch

December 5th, 2021

Question: Will we recognize our family members in heaven? If so, won't this make us love them more than others? Also, what about spouses of more than one marriage?

Answer: Yes, we will recognize our family members who are in Heaven. The glorified bodies of the saints will not have the effects of aging or disease, and they will be radiant with the light of Christ, but they will still be recognizable to us as the same person.

Our love for others will be perfected in Heaven because we will see each person and know them perfectly in their true dignity as children of God. No one will be a stranger in the communion of saints; we will love others even more than we love our family members in this life. At the same time, we will recognize the bonds of family members and friends from this world. We will also recognize the impact of prayers from various saints that had been praying for us during our earthly lives. All these relationships will lead us to give greater thanksgiving and glory to God, the source of all these blessings.

When Jesus is asked about a man who has married seven women, He responds, "For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven" (Mk 12:35). There will be a union of marriage in this life. In Heaven, the saints will recognize a special relationship with their spouse (or spouses) on earth, especially regarding how they assisted each other in growing in holiness. Marriage on earth is a sacrament that is meant to point us to its fulfillment in the marriage feast of Heaven between Jesus Christ and His Church. Those who embrace celibacy (priests, religious, virgins) live out a foretaste of this Heavenly union with Christ while still on earth.

 

God bless,

Father Shawn Landenwitch

November 14th, 2021

Question: Are we required to go to Confession every year and during the Easter time under pain of mortal sin, even if we have no mortal sin to confess?

Answer: The 4th Lateran Council in 1215 instituted what is called today the "Easter Duty." At the bare minimum, Catholics were required to receive Communion at least once during the year (during the Easter season) and to go to Confession at least once a year. The goal was to correct people at two extremes: those who never went to Communion and those who weren't going to Confession. There was no distinction between mortal and venial sins; Confession was required once a year.

The current Catechism and Code of Canon Law say that Catholics must confess serious sins at least  once each year. They cite the 4th Lateran Council, but change the requirement from confessing sins to confessing serious sins. The Code of Canon Law is the law in force today, which means Catholics are required to confess serious sins once each year.

 

Keep in mind that this law is the absolute minimum requirement. We should never strive for the minimum, because anyone who is striving for the minimum lacks true love of God. We should strive for great holiness, which is why the Church teaches us to go to Confession as soon as possible after committing a serious sin or monthly for venial sins.

 

God bless,

Father Shawn Landenwitch

October 24th, 2021

Question: Why do some people touch their chest with a fist during the consecration bells, or at 'through my fault...?"

Answer: Striking one's chest is an ancient sign of sorrow for sin and for repentance. There are a couple examples of this in Scripture. In Luke 18:13, Christ tells a parable about a tax collector who wouldn't even lift his eyes to Heaven, but struck his breast, saying, "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner." This practice has been a part of our Christian tradition from early times. St. Jerome, who died in 420, said that we strike our chest because the heart is the seat of all our desires. Evil thoughts come from our hearts and repentance comes from our hearts. Striking one's chest is a physical manifestation of the spiritual sorrow and repentance that we experience. 

The rubrics for the Mass instruct the faithful to strike their chest three times during the Confiteor, the prayer that can be said during the penitential rite ("l confess, to Almighty God..."). We strike our chest when we say, "through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault." Striking one's chest during the Consecration is not in the rubrics for Mass. That is a personal devotion of some expressing their humility or repentance before the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

God bless,

Father Shawn Landenwitch