|Stripping of the Altars? Why does the altar at church look different on Holy Thursday? Find out here.|
|On Holy Thursday, Mass certainly looks different. Often, the church’s statues and icons are covered, and at the end of Mass, the priest leaves the tabernacle empty. This traditional practice is known as the Stripping of the Altars. During this event, the priest also recites Psalm 22, which begins with the same words of Jesus on the cross: “O God, my God…why hast Thou forsaken me?”|
Psalm 22 was written before the time of Jesus, but prophesies the events on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. In his book Holy Thursday: The Night That Changed the World, Francois Mauriac writes a devotional connecting Psalm 22 and the Stripping of the Altars.
While the Son of God always knew what would happen to Him, none of the scribes at His passion seemed to draw the connection between this prophecy and what was happening right in front of them. The scribes, chief priests, and rulers ridiculed Jesus, calling to mind the image in Psalm 22:8: “All who see me mock me; they curl their lips and jeer; they shake their heads at me.”
However, Francois Mauriac reminds us about the hope that Jesus’s death and resurrection give us, which is also stated in Psalm 22:And this [twenty-second] Psalm, which begins with a cry of doubt and distress, ends with the promise of a triumph that the Crucified alone was to achieve. “All the ends of the earth shall remember and shall be converted to the Lord; and all the kindred of the Gentiles shall adore in His sight. For the Kingdom is the Lord’s and He shall have dominion over the nations.”
After the Stripping of the Altars, the church looks eerie and sad throughout Holy Thursday and Good Friday. We feel solemn, especially as we reflect on Psalm 22:1-2 during the Mass. At the same time, we rest knowing that on Sunday the church will be redecorated in celebration of Christ’s rising from the grave, just as promised at the end of Psalm 22 and throughout salvation history.
Tips For An Examination of Conscience
How can I make a good examination of conscience?
A regular examination of conscience is essential to growing in our faith and strengthening our relationship with Christ.
In their book The How-To Book of Catholic Devotions: Everything You Need to Know but No One Ever Taught You, Mike Aquilina and Regis J. Flaherty explain the importance of making an examination of conscience regularly. They discuss how there are many types of examination of conscience, including one said before the sacrament of Reconciliation, and an examination of conscience said every day.
St. Paul emphasized the importance of regular daily examination of conscience, especially 1 Corinthians. St. Ignatius Loyola crafted two types of examination of conscience to be said each day: the general examination and the particular examination. When you do a general examination, you review your day and reflect on what went right and what went wrong. In a particular examination, you can focus on one specific fault of that day and brainstorm how to avoid it in the future.
You can make these examinations of consciences in the morning or evening, or both.
Before Confession, we follow an examination of conscience in preparation to confess our recent sins and seek repentance. Before you make your confession, ask the Holy Spirit to help you feel sorry for your sins. You then spend some time reflecting on the sins you have committed since you last went to Confession. A good way to identify your sins is to follow a guide with questions to ask yourself about sins you may have committed, then writing your sins down before you enter the confessional. The Daily Roman Missal provides an in-depth list of questions to ask yourself before confession.
For further guidance on making an examination of conscience either before confession or on a daily basis, check out Mike Aquilina’s and Regis J. Flaherty’s The How-To Book of Catholic Devotions, sold here.
During Holy Week, we remember in a special way the last few days of Jesus’ life and ministry on Earth. On Palm Sunday, we recall His triumphant entrance into Jerusalem as a beloved prophet. On Holy Thursday, we remember the Last Supper. And on Good Friday, we remember the crucifixion.
But what about the other days? What did Jesus do in the beginning of the most important week of His life?
We know from scripture that on Monday of Holy Week Jesus drove the money lenders out of the temple. On Wednesday, as Jesus continued causing quite a stir in the city teaching the truth, Judas saw an opportunity to make some money and secretly went to the corrupt Pharisees with an offer to help them arrest Jesus in return for 30 pieces of silver (anywhere between $90 and $3,000 in today’s money). Because of Judas, the Wednesday of Holy Week is often called “Spy Wednesday”.
But on Tuesday of Holy Week, also known as “Fig Tuesday”, we remember the time Jesus cursed a fig tree…yes that’s right, He cursed a fig tree, but for a good reason. Jesus and His disciples were heading back into Jerusalem in the morning, and Jesus was hungry. He noticed a fig tree on the side of the road, but when the group approached it, there was nothing on it but leaves. Jesus said to the tree, “May no fruit ever come from you again.” The disciples watched in wonder as the tree withered immediately. As we all would in that situation, the disciples pressed Jesus for an explanation.
Jesus answered, “Amen, I say to you, if you have faith and do not waver, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done. Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.” In this passage, Jesus reminds us to have such a strong faith that even the impossible seems possible. No doubt, Jesus was preparing His disciples for what was to come in the next few days. He knew that their faith was about to be challenged and they were going to have to start their mission of building the Church.
Today, let’s remember to have faith in the love and mercy of God as we continue through the last few days on our journey to Easter.
If God is all-loving and good, then why does He allow evil? Read more here.
Suffering and doubt often draw people away from their faith. It is so easy to think, “How could a merciful and loving God allow this to happen?”
If you have ever doubted God during hard seasons, you are not alone. From Job in the Old Testament to St. Thomas Aquinas, Christians throughout history have grappled with the problems of evil and suffering with a supposedly good God. Thankfully, early Church Fathers have shown us how to keep our faith in the midst of darkness.
In his book What To Say and How to Say It: Discuss Your Catholic Faith with Clarity and Confidence, bestselling author Brandon Vogt outlines “The Threefold Problem of Evil,” which consists of “The Logical Problem of Evil,” “The Evidential Problem of Evil,” and “The Emotional Problem of Evil.”
According to Vogt, the Logical Problem of Evil essentially asks, “Is there a logical contradiction between an all-good, all-powerful God and the existence of evil?” He explains that perhaps God is permitting evil and, by doing so, bringing about greater goods through suffering. Vogt explains:
But what kind of goods?… One answer is free will. It’s one of the most extraordinary gifts we’ve been given, the powerful to freely choose how to act. We know that free will means we can choose good or evil, and when faced with such a choice, we often choose poorly. Of course, God could simply prevent us from ever choosing evil, but think about what that would mean. If we could never really choose evil, then our freedom is not real freedom. True freedom requires saying yes or no, choosing good or evil, without constraint.
Evil is the absence of good, and it is the result of God’s gift of free will. God loves us enough that He allows us to choose to do good, rather than force us to do so. As a result, some will choose evil. Jesus Christ reminds us in the Beatitudes that those who choose God will have great rewards in eternal life.
Will those who have left the Church go to Hell? It depends. Read more here.
While separation from the Catholic Church is an obstacle for those seeking Heaven, that does not necessarily mean that every person who denies the Catholic Church will go to Hell.
In his book What Catholics Really Believe: 52 Answers To Common Misconceptions About the Catholic Faith, Karl Keating answers this tough question.
He begins by citing Pope Pius XII’s 1943 encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi, translated to On the Mystical Body of Christ. This encyclical explains three aspects identifying a Catholic: valid baptism, participation in communion with the Church, and profession of the Faith.
Once someone is baptized, they are sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit, and original sin is washed away from their soul permanently. A person cannot be “unbaptized.” However, no one is forced to remain in the Catholic Church. Those who willingly disassociate themselves with the Church are no longer members.
Christians reject or leave the Catholic Church for many reasons—some have good intentions, some don’t. Sometimes people leave the Church and join a different Christian denomination for what they believe are good reasons. In other words, these Christians are more misguided than unfaithful. God alone can judge, for He alone knows their intentions—we are simply called to evangelize to these souls lovingly and truthfully.
Karl Keating explains how leaving the Church in good faith can affect one’s justification:
“[These Christians] remain related to the Church spiritually, even though they cease to be legal members of it. They still may achieve justification and salvation, but these are harder to achieve the further one distances oneself from the complete truth, found only in the Catholic Church, and the ordinary sources of grace, the sacraments. Leaving the Church, even with the best of intentions, is a great blunder because, all things being equal, the move diminishes one’s chances for heaven.”
However, if one leaves the Church in bad faith—knowing that Catholicism was founded by Jesus Christ and holds the ultimate truth—that person has knowingly abandoned the truth and would not enter Heaven.
At the end of the day, however, we as human beings cannot judge the interior state of someone’s soul. The best thing we can do is pray for their salvation.
There are no snakes in Ireland – did St. Patrick actually drive them out?
It is true that there are no snakes in Ireland. Legend tells us that St. Patrick drove them away during his missionary journey around the fifth century. For this reason, many images depict St. Patrick crushing a snake with his foot.
But did St. Patrick really drive the snakes out of Ireland? While we know about his impact on the spread of Catholicism in Ireland, we don’t know many of the details of his life. St. Patrick is also a major symbol of Irish culture, so there are a lot of legends about his life.
St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland is almost certainly one of those legends. Yes, Ireland is snake-free, but most experts believe they never made it to Ireland in the first place. But St. Patrick did drive the metaphorical snakes of evil and paganism out of Ireland, converting an entire people to Catholicism. That is why the legend persists and why, while probably not literally accurate, it is spiritually true.
Before St. Patrick, pagan practices were rampant in Ireland. St. Patrick helped incorporate the Christian message into Irish culture to help the Irish people understand the Christian God and abandon their pagan practices.
So while St. Patrick likely did not physically drive snakes out of Ireland, we can say with certainty that he did have a major role in driving the Devil out of Ireland by converting the Irish to Christianity.
This Saint Patrick’s Day, in the midst of all the festivities, we should honor St. Patrick’s legacy by helping spread the Word of God to those who are unreached.
//The Catholic Company//