Q: If it's the Sabbath day, but my Mother asks me to help make a shed, do I say yes (to honor my mother & father), or no (to respect the Sabbath day)?
A: Make the shed, without fussing. When you honor your parents, you honor God and the Sabbath. Sometimes other work needs to be done. For example, working for "Habitat for Humanity," building houses for poor people, would be fine to do on the Sabbath. Helping neighbors dig out from a flood or hurricane would be fine. Even working to feed your family is fine. Almost anything necessary for another person's happiness is fine. God understands all.
Q: Many people have said that aliens are real and here on earth. But more important, they say that religion will end once they reveal themselves to the world.
A: There is absolutely no evidence that there is anyone on earth from another planet. But if there is, it makes no difference whatsoever, just as now it makes no difference if a person is from Europe or Africa or Asia. God created the entire universe, just as He created the entire world. If there are other people on other planets, then they are simply His children just as we are, no matter what they look like. Nothing changes. We would just all be from different places, as we are now.
There are not different religions--different gods--for different planets. There is only one God of all.
Q: Witches and sorcery are talked about in the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. So, how can witchcraft not be real? Doesn’t the devil really exist?
A: A “witch” is a person who believes that she is a witch. That does not say that these people really are witches, or that they really have any power. But the mere fact that they believe that they do makes them evil. They have (fruitlessly) put themselves at the beck and call of the devil. They have turned completely away from God. That turning away, that act of will--even though nothing can possibly come of it except their own damnation--is itself the sin. That is the evil.
There is only one God, and He does not share His power. Yes, many people would like to have supernatural power. Many people would like to be able to know the future—and some people earn a meager living by calling themselves mediums. But God does not give that power, or share any knowledge of the future. So people turn to someone who they think can give those things to them—the devil. Unfortunately, the devil is real, he does exist. But he has no power to offer to humans, and no control over us. He will say he does, but you have to remember one very important thing: the devil is the Prince of Lies. He does not speak the truth. He lies, he tricks—and that is all he can do. Anyone who believes that she can obtain power or knowledge by siding with the devil is deluding herself. It is all a lie, from the father of all lies.
Down through the ages, people have always tried to ally themselves with the devil. That is why the Bible and the Catechism of the Church must address this problem--this grave sin--explicitly. The Catechism merely says that the poor deluded souls who turn away from God in the false belief that they are acquiring some power from the devil are just throwing away their immortal souls.
Q: To worship God, do I have to go to church or can I do it at home alone?
A: You can (and should) worship Him anywhere and everywhere. We worship God by doing His will, which is helping others: feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless. That is the worship God wants, not mere words.
It is, however, nice to visit God in His house on Sunday. He does appreciate the effort.
Q: My adult daughter and I had a falling out and a lot of hurtful, hateful things have been said on both sides. I have written to her and apologized many times, but she won't forgive me. Do I just move on and be miserable?
A: No, you can’t give up. Never give up.
Go to your daughter in person. Break down and cry. Sit on the ground (unable to stand) and cry and tell her that you love her so incredibly much and you did not mean any of the hateful things you said, that anger made you blind and mean. Do not just apologize, that is not sufficient. After a while, tell her you won’t get up until she forgives you.
You can’t give up, so don’t. Sit there crying for a week if you have to.
Resolve to always treat your daughter like you unconditionally love her. Stop trying to change her, she is much too old to change. Accept her for exactly who she is, flaws and all. See her only as the adorable four-year old that you remember jumping onto your bed in the morning. Forget everything that she ever did that bothered you. Life is much too short to remember anything but the best.
Q: What is your best advice on how to have a happy marriage? [from a man]
A: Just remember, your wife is always, always, always right, even when she is wrong. You are always wrong, even when you are right. This is a game you will have to learn to play well all your life.
And tell her you love her every single day, and mean it. Bring her flowers and small silly gifts as often as you possibly can.
Then you will be happy.
Q: I’m reading a book that says WW3 will start soon, and it worries me. I don’t want to die.
A: No one wants to die. The salient point is this: When does not matter. You will die some time. It could be in five minutes, as you attempt to cross a street and are hit by a car. It could be next week. You could die anytime at all. It does not matter a bit. What matters is how you lead your life right now, so that when you do die you will spend eternity with God.
Get a grip on yourself. Prepare to meet God at any time, any day, but plan to do His will here on earth—by feeding and caring for your less fortunate brethren--for many long years. The time of your death is entirely up to Him, and should not be a source of worry or concern to you. You will meet Him when He wants to see you.
Q: Is it possible for an atheist to be a moral person?
A: Ask yourself this: how would this person define “moral”? The usual definition is a standard of behavior that comes from a source higher than ourselves and outside of ourselves. The atheist does not believe in anyone higher than or outside of themselves, because this is the definition of God. You cannot be “moral” just by doing whatever you yourself want to do. That defines hedonism, no matter what the resulting behavior is.
Q: Is the idea of having psychic and telekinetic abilities OK with the Church?
A: Yes, quite all right. Just as long as you know that if these abilities are legit, they are purely physical, and just another phenomenon of this world--like electricity--and have nothing to do with trying to usurp God’s powers. In other words, they would have nothing whatsoever to do with religion.
Q: If I saw Paris Hilton (I don't like her, but I'm working on what Christ teaches...), and she had a $10 million diamond necklace on (the result of sleeping with the guy who owns Graff Diamonds, and they were mined by workers who were treated very poorly), and if one of those diamonds were to pop out of its setting, would it be against God's Commandments if I put it in my pocket, rather than giving it back, even if I donated all the money to charity?
A: I'm afraid so. The end does not justify the means, no matter how much you load the question.
We must never do anything right now that is wrong, even if we think that it will lead to enormous good. We must not even steal from the devil to feed hungry children. That is hard. But it is just complete, absolute trust in God. It is trusting that He knows better than we do. He says not to steal from anyone, so we do not steal from anyone. Period. What happens after that is God's responsibility.
There are no exceptions to this. If there were, it would lead to endless rationalizations of our behavior.
Q: The bible is just a book, why should I believe it is the Word of God?
A: If you cannot bring yourself to believe that the Bible has God’s authority behind it, at least realize that it must have been written by some of the world’s great philosophers and moralists. What is there to disagree with? Lead your life according their principles of love and forgiveness, mercy and kindness and compassion-- and that will be good enough until God grants you the gift of faith.
Q: If God is all knowing, why did he put the tree in the Garden and then tell Adam and Eve not to eat from it? He knew that they were going to listen to the Serpent and not Him. Giving them the choice does not make sense, if he didn't want to be apart from us.
A: It has nothing to do with being apart from us, or about trees or pieces of fruit. Genesis is allegory, meant to instruct us in fundamental moral truths, and was written so that people with no education, thousands of years ago, could understand also.
The point is this: God is infinitely happy and infinitely good. Therefore He wanted to share His happiness with other beings like Himself. To do this He had to create true children. We can expect our children to share our happiness of literature and music and sunsets with us, but we cannot expect our cats and dogs, or our dolls and puppets, to do so--only our true children.
Creating true children of God—like Him, just as our children are like us-- is not as easy as it sounds. No one created God, and He obeys no one. However, His true children have to be created, and have to obey God (there can only be one Supreme Being). God has complete free will, so we do also. But this means we are free to disobey and reject Him.
Your question really is: why were we created when God knew that we would disobey and reject Him (we all do, every day, whenever we lie or cheat on taxes or have any sex outside proper church marriage, and so on)?
Because it was all part of His beautiful Grand Plan. He has it all covered. We must be given the free will choice to reject Him as part of becoming true children of God. OK, He knew we would (the allegory of the “tree of knowledge”). So since the beginning, He has had a way to redeem us all, and all it takes on our part is recognizing God’s authority over us—another necessary part of being a True Child. “In the beginning,” says the Gospel of St. John, “was the Word [Christ, our Redeemer!] and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. And the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
We can’t be expected to completely understand the very complicated process of just how God can create true children, like Him, to share His infinite happiness. But our inevitable rejection of His authority due to our inherent prideful nature as His children, and our subsequent redemption through accepting the sacrifice of Christ, are deemed to be essential by God.
Q: I am an 88 year old woman. I am very depressed. I am not sick enough to go to a nursing home, but I have to live with one of my children. Every time I open my mouth it seems like I'm wrong. I don't know what to do.
A: First of all, believe me when I tell you that you most definitely, positively, do not want to go to a nursing home. So you are very, very fortunate to be living with one of your children. Try to stay active and healthy, take walks outside regularly, and take good care of yourself. As soon as you are not able to tend to your personal needs, your children are going to be forced to put you in a nursing home.
You have to remember that there is always a huge generation gap. Our parents know nothing. They are old fashioned and dumb. All children think that. Don’t blame them. It is the way of the world.
But you are a lot smarter than they are, because you have lived longer. Use your intelligence. Keep your mouth shut, and you will never be wrong. When you talk, make it complimentary, or about things that they enjoy. Never be critical. That was your role many years ago. It is not your role any more. Accept your new role: that of kindly old grandmother who strictly minds her own business. But do pray for them. At this point, that is about all you can constructively do.
P.S. There are many communal homes for elderly folks that offer accommodations for both unassisted and assisted living. Some of them are super nice. The least expensive ones seem to be in the middle of the country, but they are all somewhat pricey. But don’t assume you can't afford them until you enquire. My stepfather thinks he is in heaven on earth (in Nebraska!) and it is all quite affordable.
Q: If the purpose of one's life has already been completed, what is the point of prolonging it?
A: Your life’s purpose can never be completed, because one of life’s primary purposes is to give help and comfort and good cheer to everyone on earth, especially those who are less fortunate than you are. That is a job that can be done even from a wheelchair in a nursing home.
God understands everything, but under no circumstances does He allow us to take our own lives.
You might think that death is an ending. It is not. It is a beginning. We are instantly face to face with Judgment. Think about that.
Q: What happened to all those who lived before Jesus did, when they died? How could there have been a heaven, before Christ?
A: If they were good people, we may be sure they are in heaven with God. Events on earth exist completely apart from the reality of heaven. Time is how we on earth measure the change in material things. Neither God nor heaven are material, physical things subject to change, and are therefore not bound by our concepts of time.
No matter when a person lived, whether before or after Christ, at death she will then exist in a heaven without earth-related time, where heaven (and Christ's sacrifice) simply is: then, now, and forever. We cannot use words like "before" or "after" or "until" when speaking of heaven. Christ's sacrifice is outside of our "time," and covers every person who has ever lived.
The risen Christ is God Himself, and so has always been. "In the beginning was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (Gospel of St. John, Chapter 1)
Q: But what about people who never heard of Christianity? Don't we need to believe in Christ to be saved?
A: Life is not an unfair lottery. God is fully aware that most people will live and die without ever hearing of Christ's sacrifice. He loves them all. Christ's sacrifice applies to all. If they are good people, infinitely powerful Almighty God will find a way to show them the Truth and give them a choice, an opportunity for faith. Trust Him. He is infinitely loving and fair. All good people of all faiths and all times are in heaven.
Q: Can a Christian believe in reincarnation?
A: No. Some folks who write to us fervently hope that they will get another shot at it all. But Christianity rejects reincarnation completely, for many good reasons. Besides, as seductive as it is to think that we always get more chances at life until we get it right, Christianity has that angle covered. We know that we can always make everything right at any time in our lives just by true penitence and asking God for forgiveness. That is even better. Then we get to spend eternity in infinite happiness.
Besides, even if you pinned your hopes on reincarnation, how could you know if this life were not your last shot at it? Given the present arms race, and which fanatics have weapons of global destruction, who can say how long this world will last? Maybe not until next year. This life might well be it for everyone. Better do your best.
Q: I pray and pray and pray but God never lets me win the lottery. I am 10 nearly 11.
A: We are so sorry, but no, God never helps anyone win the lottery.
Everyone is a child of God, and if He helps one person win, that means that the person who would have won is being cheated.
Q: I cannot believe the statement that God wants a personal relationship with each and every person in the world, since time began. To see the countless number of children who are born to die soon after, or be slaughtered, all around the world, makes it seem they just didn't matter.
A: Obviously, we all die. The older we get, the shorter life seems to us. It is said that when death is imminent, our entire life seems like a moment. Compared to eternity, that is exactly what it is.
All of your statements stem from putting undue importance on our eye blink of a life in this world. If this phase of our life is important, nothing makes sense. The death of children, being born into slavery or poverty, the countless disasters that beset mankind—all would be unimaginably tragic. There could be no Divine Presence. There could be no answers.
You are an eternal child of God. You will exist forever. We cannot truly comprehend that. We can only catch glimpses of eternity.
Soon enough, we will join with all the murdered infants, all the peasants who struggled briefly before succumbing to disease or hunger, all the victims of the Holocaust. This world will be as nothing, perhaps only as a dimly remembered past. We will all share in the infinite happiness that only God and His true children can experience. We cannot even imagine.
We must trust God. After all is said and done, we have no other choice.
Q: I suffer from severe hypochondria. Pray that I am healthy and that I stop worrying and get back to my once happy self again.
A: OK, but your hypochondria comes from being preoccupied with yourself and your own happiness and well-being. Now that is perfectly normal, you just seem to have an excess of it. True Christianity is your “cure.” Christ told us not to ever think of ourselves or our own happiness; leave that up to God. He can take care of us much better than we can. We, instead, are to take care of others.
You should devote your focus and your energies to helping others. Give to relieve hunger (especially in third-world counties), spread cheer wherever you go, volunteer at hospitals and senior centers and food kitchens, that kind of thing. Live to make as many of God’s children as happy and well as possible. Forget your own needs. Realize that there are six billion other people in this world all equally as important as you are.
Honestly, that is the answer. For you, for everyone. That is the Secret of Life, as told to us by God Himself. We recommend a careful reading of our entire website.
Q: I am so worried...my daughter moved to New York and joined a "church" there. She does not tell me the name. She says that only 144,000 people will be saved, and that she will be one of them. This can't be right, can it?
A: Of course not. She is now a member of the Watchtower Society, better known as the Jehovah's Witnesses. They use their own translation of their own version of the Bible to support their odd thinking. Members tend to be extremely fanatical. The cult-like atmosphere appeals to many people, who apparently take great joy in thinking that everyone but them will wind up in hell.
There are many histories of them available on the Internet. Read one.
Q: I have dreams all the time of someone who died, and in these dreams he is there but I can never see him, and it is like he has been away in some other town visiting. What do these dreams signify?
A: Dreams only signify that you think these thoughts in your subconscious. It is hard for you to cope with his death; it is still not quite real to you. Dreams have no religious meaning whatsoever.
Q: If God doesn't believe in divorce, then does everyone have just one true soul mate? I ask because I believe I have met my soul mate, but he has been married and divorced twice.
A: Each of us has many possible "soul mates." If there were only one, the odds of locating him would be miniscule, one in a billion or so. As matters are, almost any two people can find themselves alone on an island and fall in love and happily share their lives. That is how it must be. Love is not what you can get from a relationship; it is what you can give to it.
Marriage is not just a human convenience. It is a union blessed by God, and He takes it very seriously. Once we are married, we are married to that person till death do us part. This new friend of yours does not believe that, so I caution you to be extremely careful.
Besides, the way most of us think, a "soul mate" is just someone we think is exceptionally "cute." This is a prelude to disaster.
Q: Isn’t it a contradiction to speak so much of God whom we do not see, and not help our neighbor whom we do see? It doesn’t feel right to just say “I’ll pray for you” and let the poor of the world go on living miserably.
A: Exactly right. There is no such thing as passive praise of God. Actively doing His will--helping people--is the praise that is important (and difficult).
Mary and Joseph could have used a little less of the shepherds at Bethlehem praying on their knees, and a little more help cleaning the stable and washing diapers.
Q: I still do not believe there is a God.
A: You are betting everything on a prideful feeling that there is no Divine Justice in the universe. If you are right, you win nothing. If you are wrong, you lose everything. You are making a sucker bet.
Q: How can God allow some people to be rich and others to be so poor?
A: It would seem that God loves rich people more than poor people. But read the Gospels—Christ lived among the poor people, and said over and over that it was far easier for them to reach heaven than it was for a rich person. So who is really luckier? It is all a matter of believing God when He says that it is far better to inherit the kingdom of God than to own the entire world.
If you continue to think of wealth in earthly, material ways, then you are missing the entire point of Christ’s message. Every person has available to them the same vast treasure of God’s grace that leads to heaven.
Q: If I feel it would be good for every one around me to kill myself because I am useless and nothing of value to any one: might Jesus forgive me if I do?
A: He may not. Don’t risk it. The reason is that in so doing, you have turned away from God, so you cannot look back to Him for anything. God has commanded you not to take any life, your own included, and to spend every second of your life doing your best to help others. If this means working at McDonalds making minimum wage so that you can smile and make your co-workers happy, and donating some of the money you make to charities that feed starving people, then that is what you must do. You must accurately assess your talents, like intelligence or mechanical aptitude, and develop them fully so that you can best help your poor brethren in the world. Ten thousand children die each day from starvation. Unless you have seen someone all bloated up and in agony from starvation, you can’t know the horror, so don’t feel sorry for yourself. Thank God you are who you are. God has infinite mercy, but He also must exercise infinite justice.
Q: I would like to know the origin of Christmas. Isn’t it really an old pagan holiday?
A: The way we celebrate it today makes one think so.
Of course Christmas is celebrated by Christians as the birth of Christ. No one knows the exact day when He was born, but a close estimate can be made from the timing of the journey of the Holy Family back to Bethlehem for the Roman census, as described in the Gospels.
There is good reason why so many major holidays fall at about this time of the year. From time immemorial the Winter Solstice has been a major day of celebration. We now set this day, when the days stop getting shorter and start getting longer again (a major sense of relief to primitive societies!!) at about the 22nd of December. But thousands of years ago, measurements were not so accurate, and it was several days later before they were certain.
The Jewish holiday Chanukah also falls at just about this same time. If one has a relatively new religion, and one wishes people to convert, one does everything possible to make the new holidays coincide with the old holidays, whenever they were. And so both the Jews and the Christians overlaid their major holidays on the old pagan ones, not only the Winter Solstice but also the Spring Equinox (Easter and Passover). It is also wise to keep many of the old customs. Eases the transition quite a bit, you see. Therefore Christmas kept the older pagan traditions of Yule logs and decorated trees, to name a few.
But if you are a Christian, wake up Christmas morning and wish Christ a happy birthday. That is what it is all about. It is His birth into the world that makes it possible for God to atone for the sins of mankind, and take us all to heaven for eternal happiness.
Q: I am a gay. Is this wrong? I am also a Christian.
A: For anyone, having any sex outside of a proper marriage is certainly wrong. A simple and pure loving of another person (not carnal lust) of either sex is not wrong. And for anyone, once you are properly married, you are married forever. There can be separations, but no further marriages or sex for either partner.
That is Christianity. That is the religion we believe in. It is, admittedly, difficult. No one said life would be easy.
Q: I can’t stop thinking bad thoughts. Am I doomed?
A: God knows we are all sinners. He knows that we are constantly tempted by bad thoughts. That is what it is to be human. God judges us not by how many bad thoughts cross our minds, but by how much effort we make to get rid of them. If we try, He is happy. The only other thing that matters to God is how sorry we are when we cave in to temptation and do things—actually do them, not just think about them—that are against His will.
Those two things are what define goodness—trying to be good, and then being sorry when we fail. No one can do better than that, not even the greatest of saints. We must be grateful for God’s infinite mercy, that we can attain eternal happiness just by making a sincere effort to do His will. It is something that everyone can do.
But how to best try to cleanse our mind of evil thoughts? Picture God right there beside you, always (because you know, He really is right there beside you). Then talk to Him. Discuss everything with Him, out loud if no one else is near. Treat Him the same way you would treat your best friend. Be casual. (I often cheerily say “Hi, Pop!”) Be friendly. When God is your friend, you needn’t fear anything.
Q: What does “God” mean?
A: Who made the clothes you are wearing? If someone told you that the clothes just made themselves, you would think that was pretty silly.
Who make the house you are living in? If someone told you that the house just made itself, you would think that was pretty silly too.
But who made the universe, and this whole world? That is far more difficult than clothes or houses. God is who made the universe. God is the one and only entity that has always existed, because He is spiritual and not material. He is not like the universe He created at all. He is, by definition, the only entity that has always been. He created everything else. He is the one and only entity that did not ever need to be made. There was never a time when He was not.
Q: What is "life"?
A: Life is one of the aspects of God’s nature, which is reflected in the beings that He creates. Only God knows when life is begun, and when it ends.
Q: Why does God say no?
A: Because you are asking for things of this world: money, health, love. God’s top priority is getting you to heaven. He must know that what you are asking for will hurt your chances of reaching heaven with Him.
If you do His will—that is, help and care for your brethren, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless—God will give you absolutely everything that is best for your salvation.
Q: I have been told that FREE WILL is the order of the day, that God has granted us that; however, it also seems that if we do not do EXACTLY as told then we are in deep trouble.
A: Free will does not give us the right to behave any way we see fit, just the ability to. We have free will whether or not to obey our civil laws, too. We can choose to rob a bank or murder someone. But that does not mean there will be no negative consequences if we do! We have responsibilities to make the right choices, both to our elected governments and to God.
Q: I love my cat, will she go to heaven?
A: Yes, all living things share heaven. All life is an aspect of God’s nature.
But everything has it’s own innate capacity for happiness. On this earth, our cats cannot share our happiness of beautiful sunsets or great music or exciting football games. That is only for us, as humans. Cats cannot even dream of such happiness. They are limited to “creature comforts” like good food and soft beds. Those things will of course be provided for them in heaven.
In the same way, we cannot share in God’s kind of infinite happiness yet. We must pass this life and become his children in Paradise. Then we will know happiness that we have never dreamed of. Perhaps cats will also experience increased happiness; we cannot know, but it will not be the happiness of God, as we will have. But it will be terrific for them.
After all, Paradise is supposed to be for our happiness, and how could we be happy without all the wonderful animals that we know on earth? And of course we have the Bible’s word on it that the original Paradise, before we were thrown out, had a plethora of animals. So there you are.
Q: I am having a hard time deciding which church to join.
A: If you truly understand God’s love--and do pray that He helps you in this understanding—then be an example to others of the Truth no matter where you attend services in His glory. We give glory to God not really by singing or praying, but by the help we do and the compassion we show in our daily lives to those less fortunate than we are, and by the love we show to everyone on earth, in His name.
Q: Is it wrong to feel love for someone I am not married to but could have been if things had turned out differently?
A: Feelings of love for more than one person (sometimes many) is natural and not sinful. Doing anything to jeopardize your marriage is sinful.
We are all sinners, and fortunately, God loves us anyway. Not the sin, of course. He loves us for how much we try to avoid it, and how sorry we are when we sometimes fail to avoid it.
Trying to avoid it is extremely important. Leaving ourselves in situations in which we are at risk for sinning is called the “near occasion of sin,” and we must try our best to stay out of those situations just as hard as we try to avoid sinning. It is no good to say, “I will allow myself to see this person, but I will then try my best not to have an affair with him.” No, if you know there is any possibility of an affair, you must not see him at all.
Q: Is it a waste of time praying to Mary? Someone told me it was and I should only pray to Jesus, anything else is a waste. I don't know what to think.
A: Mary is not God, and so cannot do anything for us directly. But Almighty God hears all prayers, as He hears everything. Mary is very much the real, beloved mother of Jesus, and who would not do something for their dear mother if she asked? Even if she cannot help, God could not possibly be upset that we hold His Mom in such high respect.
But be careful in your expectations. The Church believes that God is infinitely good, and as such, already gives us everything that He knows is best for us. Everything. If he did not, if He held back and waited for us to come begging to Him in prayer in order to give us something that would be good for us, He would not be God. But what He considers good for us are those things that will lead to our salvation. And those are not necessarily any of the things like health or wealth that we think would be good for us.
Prayer is a mystery. God asks us to pray, yet we know He does not need our prayers. No, prayer is to strengthen our faith, and help lead us to heaven.
Please read our page on Prayer. And don't stop talking to Mary, she is a valuable ally. Be sure to always thank God for the good things He has given you, and always make your prayer "Please give me the grace to do Your will."
Q: My grandmother is very sick. She has told me she does not want to go into a nursing home. I told her I would not let that happen. What should I do now? I have faith she will recover.
A: We agree that nursing homes are to be avoided.
Elderly people frequently do not "recover" from illnesses. Prepare yourself for this. It is not a matter of faith; this is the way God has structured the world.
Best is to keep her in her own home. If that is impossible, next best is to take her into yours. I am sure she would be happy either way. But make every effort to keep her in her own home.
It would be best if someone else lived there with her full time. Is there a relative who would like free rent in return for helping keep an eye on her? Duties can be divided among the live-in person(s), the visiting nurse, and you.
Consider this: advertise in the local paper for a couple or young family to live with her in her house rent free, in exchange for helping care for her. You could sweeten the deal by extending their occupancy to a year or two beyond the end of your grandmother's life, if that should happen. There are many young families struggling with money and high rents who would welcome this opportunity. Of course, you would need references.
But this solution would be more than just convenient. The house would be alive again. There is nothing worse than to be elderly and be faced with an empty, silent house all day and all night long. It can drain the will to live. Your grandmother deserves to live in a house that is alive with activity and youth and love. Preferably in her own, but if not, in yours. Silence kills.
Q: If Jesus really did die on the cross, then it should be known as historic fact, and we should find it written in history books.
A: Christ was an ordinary person, and did not hold any office. Historians only find written accounts of major political and military figures from that period. Judea, where Christ was from, was a poor little backwater country of almost no importance to the Romans who conquered the entire area and were forced to administer it.
But there are few historical figures more fully authenticated by people writing histories than Christ. He had full accounts of his three-year public life fully chronicled by no less than four historians, at least two and probably three of which actually followed him around and lived with Him during all that time, the rest written from firsthand interviews from others who did.
But “recognized” historians quickly picked up on the monumental changes that Christ made in the world. If there were no Christ, where did all the Christians come from? All the historians of that time wrote extensively about the travails of the millions of early Christians, and how this new religion finally came into its own when the Emperor Constantine embraced it and made it official. Where there are Christians, there was Christ. They were not all fools; millions of Christians—including the twelve Apostles who died martyr deaths--did not sacrifice their lives for someone who did not exist.
Q: Did Jesus really descend into Hell when He died, before the Resurrection? How is that possible?
A: This must be properly understood within the definition of "hell." Hell is simply where God is not. It is a place for those who choose not to be with God. Christ chose to wait until Easter morning, His actual resurrection, to be reunited with the Father. Saying that He was in hell during this "time" can cause considerable confusion, but it simply means that He was not yet—in our time, for our understanding—reunited with the Father.
We can be sure He did not suffer, because suffering in hell is due to the absence of God, and although Christ was there as true Man, He was Himself also true God.
Q: According to one Christian group, if I believe in the Trinity I go to hell. According to another, if I don't believe in the Trinity I go to hell. So it seems that I am doomed no matter what. I now believe that God, as you said, would not leave the interpretation of His word to each person.
A: The people who insist there is one God are correct. The people who know there are three "persona" in that one God are also correct. They are both wrong if they think that God is going to use any kind of belief in His nature as an excuse to throw even one of His children into eternal torment.
The Church says that if you are a basically good person, and make an effort to do God's will, that you will be saved. God is officially (Church Doctrine) infinitely fair, infinitely loving, infinitely merciful and forgiving, and infinitely compassionate. He loves each and every one of us with infinite love. He is not trying to trick anyone into going to hell. He is doing His best to save us all, or He would not be God. Billions of beloved children of God have trod this earth never hearing about anything called a Trinity.
The Church of course is the Catholic Church, which traces its history in an unbroken line straight back to St. Peter. This is the absolutely necessary single institutional authority that does not ever go out of existence, and which is responsible for the interpretation of God's Word. As you say, the necessity of such an authority is readily seen by the number of different completely opposite interpretations that can and are given by everyone and his uncle.
The authority is from the Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter 16, verses 17-20. The exact words of Christ are: "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven."
Q: Do animals go to heaven? If not, does that mean that God discriminates against animals because we humans are smarter? Because I was under the impression that all God’s creatures were created equal.
A: Not all God's creatures were created equal, if you include mankind. Mankind is unique. We are true children of God. No other animal is. We are made in God's likeness and image; that is, we have an immortal soul, and possess free will and the ability to distinguish right from wrong. We can perform great acts of goodness, but the flip side is we can also be very cruel.
Other animals (and our bodies do share all of the same physical attributes as other animals) cannot be either good or cruel. They can only react instinctively. When a tiger kills and eats a human from a native village, it is not being cruel or bad. It is just being a tiger.
God created us as His true children because in His infinite goodness He could not keep all the happiness of heaven and His existence to Himself. Likewise, when we are happy, we like to share that happiness with others. We cannot share the happiness of our Super Bowls and our music and our literature with other animals, because they are not like us; they are not children of God.
Certainly all animals deserve our utmost respect. They all have a quality that comes only from God also, the quality of life. God made them, and they are good. We are to use them for our own survival when necessary, but only with the care to avoid cruelty to them as much as possible. They are here for our enjoyment and survival, but with that comes the responsibility to care properly for them.
There is a great debate about the extent of care we owe to each different kind of animal. Some people feel deeply only about large or "cute" animals like dogs and cats and horses. They would not hesitate to spray for ants or set traps for roaches. They will march to "save the whales," but will happily spend a pleasant weekend fishing. Others, like one religious sect in India, carry the logic of care to the other extreme and wear masks over their mouths 24/7 to avoid inhaling any microscopic insects and inadvertently killing them.
Will animals go to heaven? They will almost certainly be in heaven with us, because they are so much a part of our life and our happiness. But they will not enjoy the happiness of union with God, as we will, just as they cannot enjoy the pleasures of our human lives now.
Q: If God sees all things, and obviously knew Adam would fall and the consequences of that fall...all the evil in the world, even the fact that He would have to die a terrible death on the cross to save us...and all sin deeply hurts God...why did He still do it?
A: Why go to all the trouble and even pain? Because He is infinitely good, and realized that it would be selfish to keep all to Himself the happiness of heaven that He Himself enjoyed. We can also suppose that He knew all about the happiness that parents feel when they have children, and how much love they give them. We can assume that He did not want to be a grumpy old bachelor all His life, or how could He possibly be infinitely happy? So somehow begetting children must have always been on the agenda.
The creation of the rest of the universe was easy: that is something God could have done a million times without thinking. We are talking about creating His own true children. Children of God! How much are children like their parents? Look around in the animal kingdom. Children are just smaller, but otherwise awfully close. So what can children of Infinite Almighty God mean? We aren't quite sure yet, but pretty special. God was not created, and to create true children just seems to be a contradiction. We can be sure that the whole process has to be very involved. Free will, the essence of God's nature, is not anything that even God can (or at least should) control, or it is not free any more.
And we know how much God loves His children. He was willing to become one of us and suffer and die a horrible death as part of the great Plan. But even human parents have been known to give up their lives to save their children. That part of it is not really hard to understand.
The whole Plan is admittedly very complicated. We can assume that it had to be. We can also assume that the finite amount of suffering that good people have to endure in this world is not only necessary for them to rise above, in their own journey to become children of God, but will also allow others to act as children of God in trying to help them. All earthly pain will disappear into nothingness in the eternity of infinite happiness that awaits.
For more on this, see our page at What is the Meaning of Life?
Q: A professor from St. Thomas University explained the meaning of the Camel/Needle bible story. The definition of the “needle” was a small opening in an ancient city wall. Camels were NOT wanted in the city. In some cases it was permitted to have a camel enter the city and the “needle” was a 3 or 4 foot opening so a camel who was forced to its knees and by lowering its head could get through the wall with the help of its owner. Hence the meaning of the camel/needle story was that it would be very difficult to get to heaven but not impossible.
Have you heard of this interpretation?
A: I heard that somewhere. Our interpretation is that a person who is trying to reach heaven on his own, without asking for or receiving God’s grace, is attempting the impossible. With God’s help, all things are possible, even those that seem impossible to us--like a camel passing through the eye of a needle.
But the St. Thomas explanation puzzles us: why would the Bible use the phrase “eye of the needle”? If the “needle” was an opening in a wall, what would the “eye” be? How could there be a hole in an opening?
Also, since God is capable of helping everyone, we can hope and pray that we all can reach heaven. So we like our explanation better.
Q: I don’t think I know how to have fun. My life is a rut.
A: The basic rule is this: you can’t have fun all by yourself. Fun has to be shared with a friend. The more the merrier. Make new friends, of both genders. Be extremely outgoing everywhere you go.
Make a list of all the activities you can think of—movies, sporting events, bowling, hiking, boating—and try them all, with as many people you can invite along as possible. If you are shy, this will all take a lot of effort, but it will be well worth it.
Q: My wife believes that God has a plan for your life, including what decisions you will make and the moment you will die. I say He doesn't. Who is right?
A: You are correct. As God's true children, we must necessarily have absolute free will. Otherwise we are puppets. The decisions we make are ours alone, and influence what are lives will be. God does not force us to be good or to spend eternity with Him, or even to take care of ourselves.
What your wife is describing is called predestination. It is rightly rejected by the Church. We would no longer be children of God.
But she is right in a way. God does have a plan for us. It is for us to find Him, and submit to His authority, and obey His command to love and help one another, thereby enabling us to accept the gift of true faith in Him, and then spend eternity in complete happiness. That is His plan for us. But it is a plan that we have to carry out ourselves, of our own free will. If we pray to God of our own free will, and ask Him for help in this plan, He will give us as much help as we need to carry it out. This is not the same as God doing it for us.
Q: I read that one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit cannot ever be forgiven by God. After a while, my mind started thinking about how someone would do that, and terrible words went through my mind that I don't want to even write. Am I going to hell?
A: No. Do not worry a bit. Technically speaking, the Church believes that a person who has blasphemed against the Holy Spirit has shut himself off from God forever of his own free will, and so cannot and will not receive enough grace from God to repent of his sin, and that is the reason it will not be forgiven. The mere fact that a person repents means that he did not in fact blaspheme and he will be forgiven.
Q: How would you know you were in Purgatory? Is it possible we are in Purgatory now, and just don't know it?
A: No, this world and this life are not Purgatory. This world is the one Christ was born into to save us. He was not born into Purgatory. There is also plenty of suffering in this world. Nothing is known about Purgatory other than it is not a place of suffering, only of final cleansing. Those in Purgatory know that they will go to heaven. Interesting idea, though.
Q: Is it OK to pray for God to help us sell our house?
A: Yes. But prayer is a mystery.
God already knows what is best for us, and does not withhold anything because we do not pray, or give us more because we do. If He did that, His love for us would not be infinite. He would not be God.
Still, He asks us to pray. Yes, He wants us to pray for everyday things like money and house sales, as well as our salvation. We do not know why, other than it shows that we truly believe in Him, and that we truly place our trust in Him.
So pray for the house sale, that is fine. But the underlying prayer should always be "Thy will be done. You know best. I just hope in this case that what is best for my salvation can coincide with a prompt house sale! But you know best, and no matter what, I will continue to be a good person and follow your commands."
Q: I feel there is more to life than my going to work and back, every day… I am here to “be” somebody, but I’m not.
And all I’m asking for is a “pathway” to open up, a guide, some instructions. I want to be happy.
A: The secret of life is simple. Feed the hungry, shelter the homeless. Spread cheer wherever you go. Think about the welfare of others, not your own. You are here to "be" God's child, someone who will live for all eternity in infinite happiness.
The nice thing is, this will result in the greatest happiness for you, too, right here on earth—even though it certainly does not seem so. That is the great paradox of life, that so few understand. And as a bonus, you can look forward to an eternity of happiness with your Creator.
Do the best job you can, make as much money as you possibly can, live as simply and as cheaply as you can yourself, and use the money that you have left over to buy food for hungry people. You will have to find a good, honest charity kitchen that feeds people, and give them donations.
The secret of life is simple, but as you can see, it is not easy. That is why so few people are happy.
Q: I am so tired of all my low self-esteem and lack of self belief, the loneliness, the lack of courage and the hating of my body, not feeling like I'm worth anything. I really want to surrender it all to God, to know that he loves me. I want to feel the blanket of love and trust and faith and understanding, but is this even possible?
A: You feel deep down that you are not worthy of being loved unconditionally by anyone, much less by God. Many, many people feel just the same way. Most of us have deep rooted feelings of guilt and inadequacy. We know ourselves as no one else but God does, and we can't hide our weaknesses from Him the way we do from other people. We are all out in the open for Him, and we often wonder what He sees in us at all. No human can begin to comprehend what truly infinite love means. All human love is to a great extent selfish and conditional. Only God's love is not. You will always be His beloved child.
"But I want to see Him, I want to hear Him, I want to feel His arms around me."
Although we cannot see God, or hear Him, He has told us the way around this. Everything we do for people who are worse off than we are, we do directly for God. Christ said: "When you feed a hungry person, you feed Me. When you shelter a homeless person, you shelter Me. When you neglect anyone, even the least of your brethren, you neglect Me." To be closer to God, see Christ in everyone, even your worst enemies. Treat them just the way you would if instead of them being there, it was Christ Himself.
As you show, actually show your love for God and your faith in Christ in this way, He will show His love for you. The loving looks you will get, the heartfelt thanks--those will not just be from the people you are kind to, those will be directly from Christ God Himself. You can directly experience His thanks and His love just as He experiences yours.
Do not forget to pray. How nice it will be to be able to say to Him "I saw you on the street today, and you were so hungry, did you enjoy the meal I bought for you?"
And you do not have to just give Him things that money buys, either. Kind words, words of encouragement, words of cheer, can mean even more than food in this hard world. These will cost you nothing. You will see the smiles that they (Christ) will give you right away, too. When you do get to heaven, you will get a huge hug from Him in person.
Q: I was christened in the Church of England but find myself drawn to all you have said in your pages about God's overwhelming love for us. Does this mean I am more a Catholic in religion than a Christian, or are they the same? Should I change churches?
A: A Christian is a person who believes that Christ was our God and Savior, and therefore is willing to do as He commanded. Many people who call themselves Christians say that they believe that He was our Savior, but are unwilling to do as He commanded (the hard part), which first and foremost is to love our brethren as much as we love ourselves.
We are Catholic, but we do not feel that God places undue importance on what a person calls herself. What is important is to love God, and to know that He came to earth to redeem us, and that He wants us to be kind and loving, and feed the hungry, and shelter the homeless, and comfort the sorrowful. Christ said this again and again. It is this love of God, and our love and caring for our brethren, that makes a true Christian.
But of course you can change your religion from Church of England to Catholic. We invite you to do so. You will have great peace of mind. But do know that heaven has many good people who belonged to the Church of England, too.
Q: Christian missionaries have come to my poor village in India. They use poverty as a trump card, helping people in return for conversion. Is this what Christ wanted? I am a Hindu, and my religion tells us to help people without accepting anything in return.
A: Do not be too hard on the missionaries there. They are good people, and think that what they are doing to convert people is justified. But they should supply food and medicine to as many people as possible, devoting all of their time to this, and just let everyone know that they are Christians and they are doing this because they love them all as fellow children of God, and really not talk about Christianity unless someone asks. If they withhold any help until a person "converts," this is terribly, terribly wrong. And most un-Christ like. Yes, they should help them without asking anything in return. In this respect, your religion is exactly like true Christianity.
But as a true follower of the words of Christ yourself, you can forgive these overzealous missionaries, as you love and forgive everyone, and pray for them.
Q: As a Hindu, I am not saying that Christ is or is not God. But I believe that Christ, like the other saints, was sent by God to guide humans like me to the right path. Is that wrong?
A: Certainly not wrong. But it is incomplete. Christ was indeed special, and not just a saint. He was indeed both true God and true man. The most important thing about Christ is not that He taught us how to live. The most important thing, by far, is that He was able to atone for our sins by His suffering and death. If He did not do this, you and I and everyone else would have to go to hell, because every offense against an infinite God is itself infinite in nature, and there is nothing that we, as finite beings, could do to atone for it. This is the heart of Christianity. It is God's Plan to be able to forgive us of our sins, by He Himself doing infinite atonement, and doing it as true man at the same time, so He could do it on our behalf. It is a great Plan. There is more about it on our page Being a Christian.
Q: Knowing that there are many interpretations of the Bible bothers me greatly. How can I have confidence in reading His "written Word"?
A: The basis of Protestant Christianity is that every individual has the right to interpret the words of the Bible for himself and arrive at whatever meaning he wishes, from whatever translation of a translation that anyone wrote from the original Greek and Hebrew words that were themselves translations of the Aramaic language that Christ and His followers spoke.
Yet the Bible is the one and only written Word of God, unchanging and absolute in its one truth. How can this be?
It can't. God would not and does not allow it. There is one and only one correct interpretation of the Bible. Not yours, not mine. Christ foresaw these difficulties with language and left us one and only one institution, which would endure down through the ages, from His time to ours, to resolve all differences of opinion about what the language words of the Bible mean, and just what the true Word of God is. Of course, that is the Church which St. Peter was authorized by Christ to start, the Catholic Church.
For a full explanation and supporting text, see our page at The Bible
Q: Do you have a prayer group? I need as many people praying for me as possible.
A: Prayer is your own communion with God. It is your own acknowledgement that you are dependent upon Him, and your own expression of love for Him. We cannot do that for you. God is not withholding good things from you, waiting until you can convince some other people to pray for you. If He did that He would not be good, He would not be God.
Your entire life should be a prayer. And that prayer should be, "Thy will be done." We must try our hardest to follow God's commands in everything, and then bow to His will no matter what happens to us on earth. Give what you can to the poor, in God's name, and do not ask for anything except His grace.
We do certainly hope things improve for you. Yes, we will include you in our prayers.
Q: I often wonder if it really matters if there is a God. Should it be left up to everyone to decide for themselves?
A: Would you invite a number of people to your house, and then ask them to decide for themselves if there is a bomb in one of the closed rooms, and set to go off soon?
There is a reality. There is either a bomb in that room or there is not, and the opinions of your guests do not affect that reality. There is either a God who created this universe, or there is not. The opinions of ten people or ten billion people do not affect that reality.
How many guests would reason "I have no way of knowing if there is a bomb in that room or not, so it does not matter. I will stay here the rest of the day and if I find out, fine, and if I do not find out, fine."
Everyone I know would be out of that house in a flash.
Yes, it matters. The effects of a lifetime of rejecting God could be far, far worse than the effects of any bomb. But there are clues. If we see footprints in the sand, we know someone has been this way. This glorious universe and all the stars and everything on this earth are God's footprints.
Q: I read about horrible things going on in the world, where people in Africa and animals in factory farms live and die with enormous suffering. I feel guilty about how good my life is. I feel like my husband and I should sell our house, give away 90% of our income to charities that help with the suffering, and that we and our two sons should live in a 2 bedroom apartment. We'd still be so, so much better off than those in the world living in such misery. But I don't think I could ever get myself to do that, and my husband wouldn't agree to it either. We already give some to charity. How much is enough?
A: It is so hard to follow the commands of Christ. Yet you know you should, and you know that you will be unhappy until you do.
Fortunately, Christ does not expect you to give away 90% of what you have to feed the hungry. Would it be good if you could? Oh yes. We are talking sainthood here. That is what Christ advised the young man in the gospel do if he wanted to be perfect.
But extraordinary measures and perfect lives are not required to get into heaven. How much we give to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless is a private matter between you and God, but yes, it should hurt. If it does not, it is really not much of a statement of our love for God. It is like the rich Pharisees in the Bible who made a great show of giving money that they could easily afford, and Christ disdaining them, and pointing out instead the beggar woman who only had two small coins, and gave one of them to a fellow beggar who had none. She was assured of a high place in heaven, Christ said.
How much should you give? Try this. Give a rather large amount to a reputable, established charity that actually feeds people. See how you feel. If it actually made a difference to you, if you actually have to give up things that you want in order to do it, it is good. Use that as a gauge. If you still cannot feel any real pain of loss, it is not enough.
Reconsider giving to animal charities. As much as we all love animals, and are horrified at the treatment they get, they are not God's children. As long as there is one child of God in need, he or she gets priority. Note that Christ never mentions animals, just people.
You are on the right track. And do not forget, money is not the only thing that people need. Volunteer work delivering meals to seniors, or taking them shopping, costs nothing and is wonderful Christian charity. Just making everyone around us feel better, with a quick smile and a kind word, costs nothing either. There are many people in rest homes and hospitals who would love to have a cheery visitor.
The more you give and do, the better you will feel. And you still have time. At some point in the near future, you will have no more time at all.
Q: I would like views on the subject of divorce.
A: There is only one view that matters, that of Christ. He said four or five times that marriage is forever; that a person who remarries is committing adultery.
Divorce as a legal matter is fine--it is necessary in order to dispose of property and responsibilities in separations. But in the eyes of God, the parties are still married, and cannot remarry until one of them dies.
However, the Church recognizes that marriage is very important to human happiness, and that there are extraordinary circumstances that arise making a particular marriage impossible. The Church offers the procedure of annulment in these cases, and if this is granted, both parties may remarry.
We are well aware that at this particular time in history, marriage and the family responsibilities that accompany it are not respected in the world. We should include in our daily prayers the hope for change.
Q: Why do we find the same broad characteristics in various tribal religions? Many of them have the same traditions and beliefs, from Alaska to Africa.
A: There is only one God, one Supreme Being, one Truth of our existence. One only—think about the ramifications of that. Primitive tribes are every bit as much God's beloved children as anyone else. It is logical to assume that He would make Himself known to them on some level, at least enough to give them an equal chance at heaven.
Q: What can the Book of Revelation tell us about the end of the world?
A: There is an almost universal misunderstanding of Revelation, which wrongly assumes that it is a symbolic code predicting the exact persons and events that are leading to the end of the world. This misunderstanding has existed since the second century, and like prophets ever since, those who saw a predicted end were disappointed in their expectations.
Anyone who expects predictions misses the spiritual message of Revelation. It is a vision of the struggle between Good and Evil, not entirely unlike the old Star Wars movies.
For a full and interesting explanation of Revelation, and indeed all of the Bible, see the excellent and Church approved book "The Collegeville Bible Commentary, New Testament." It explains everything in detail.
Q: If you commit many mortal sins, enough to get you
into hell, and you convert into Christianity and get
baptized, then fall dead, what will happen?
A: Being baptized is not the whole story. If you are sincerely sorry for your sins, and truly vow not to commit another one, and ask God’s forgiveness, He will forgive you--and if you then die you will go to heaven.
A thousand baptisms cannot replace true penitence and a true vow to make your best effort not to sin again. And true penitence is available to everyone. Christ died for every single one of His children, not just the ones who are lucky enough to live in a time and place that has Christian churches. You cannot fool God. He not only knows everything, He is infinitely fair. That is not to diminish the role of proper baptism. It is a source of much grace, and you cannot refuse it if offered. Besides, true penitence--and not just a selfish wish to avoid the consequences of your past sins--is really a prerequisite to being properly baptized.
Many mortal sins are not necessary. One would suffice to keep you from heaven. But we may be sure that God takes His responsibility as a father very seriously. If a basically good person commits a mortal sin, God will not allow him to die without the chance to ask for forgiveness. But if a person has rejected God all his life, ah, that is a horse of a different color!
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