Saints Peter and Paul Church, San Francisco

Ask the Fathers! about Theology

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This page answers questions about Theology, God's plan for us, and God (as best we can!). Other questions are sorted by subject matter at the pages below.

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Liturgy and Church Rules




On January 5, we received these questions:


I am 16 and I'm Lutheran and don't usally attend church but I went with my girlfriend to church and she is catholic so we went to her regular church that she attends and she didn't tell me anything about communion so I took communion at a catholic church what should I do or can I even do anything?


Fr. Bob Stein answers:


If you are not a Catholic and attending a service in a Catholic church it appropriate for you to approach the priest or minister and cross your arms across your chest. At that point they would know to give you a blessing. If you are not comfortable with that arrangement you could also remain in your pew while others go up for a blessing or communion.

The understanding of sacraments was one of reasons Martin Luther ceased being an Augustinian priest. With 500 years of debate behind us, I am sure you and your girlfriend will have plenty of material on the topic to talk about.

Fr. Bob Stein, SDB

Hello Fathers,

I lived in SF for many years and attended Mass at different parishes, mainly at yours, at St. Dominic Church and at St. Thomas Apostle. I am now in NYC, namely Northern Queens. I have not felt welcome in any parish here. Wherever I go, something seems to happen that tells me, “Don’t go back, out of self-respect.” Nastiness of a pagan flavor seems to pervade encounters with other parishioners at St. Michael Archangel, or wherever. The entire environment both inside and out of Church in general seems stiflingly pagan. Should I take this as a sign to leave NYC? I grew up on the Queens/Nassau border, at a time when there were many families around. I never felt such an antagonistic environment before. At present, I feel I should follow the example of Jesus, who did not run along after the Pharisees but instead practiced a true faith. I feel that the Church is not the Church here. Any thoughts?

Fr. Harold Danielson answers:

Dear John David,

Interesting critique of your experiences of the community of Faith you find in NYC!!

I have been mulling this over in my subconscious for a couple of weeks. So I am starting to write down some of my thoughts. What kind of Mass schedules do some of the surrounding parishes have? Do some have an evening daily Mass? When I was pastor in Edmonton, Alberta, we had daily Mass at 7:00 PM. Does your church have a server at daily Mass, especially the evening Mass? Introduce yourself to the pastor and volunteer to serve at the Mass. That will put you right in the middle of the single most important thing that the Church does in the world: the Eucharistic celebration.

Does your parish have a Holy Name Society? Join up. Is there a parish school of Religion? That is catechism for school children. There are a variety of names this may be called. Even if you are not a teacher, there is always a need of a teacher aide. My great uncle George, gave his time to the religious formation of students in his parish. Simply being around, sometimes telling Bible stories, showing the youngsters how important it is to learn our Faith, and especially to know and love Jesus.

Does any local parish sponsor a Bible study group? Or a prayer group of some kind, from praying the Rosary together, to glory and praise?

Pick up bulletin from the parishes or look up their websites to see what different groups there may be. In one parish in Edmonton, we started a missions committee. We designated a certain portion of the Sunday collection to support the Church’s world mission of evangelization. We sent donations to the Church Extension Society, the diocesan Propagation of the Faith, different Mission congregations. The correspondence was magnificent!

These are just a few possibilities but certainly starters. I think the first thing is to introduce yourself to one of the parish priests saying you came from San Francisco. Yes, we are one country, but there certainly a variety of cultural differences from East to West and North to South. Many things are simply different.

Blessings and peace!

Fr. Harold Danielson, SDB

On June 5, we received this question:


Hello Fathers,

I have lived in SF a long time and am a great admirer of the church itself (I am Jewish, so I am not a Catholic, but I am an admirer of Jesus' basic message of "love thy neighbor".)

I work as a hotel concierge down on the Wharf and we often send people to your church to worship.

I always point out to them that you possess (no pun intended) the ironic address of 666 Filbert St. Since that is considered the number of the beast, has the church ever considered petitioning the city to have your address changed? I find it odd that after all these years, it still maintains that address.

On a separate note, I would like to know if someone would be willing to sit down with me and discuss faith. As I mentioned, being a reform Jew, I do not have belief in God. I lived in Israel for six months in the early 90s in Jerusalem and was fascinated by the story of Christ, especially after visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

I personally have a hard time believing in a God whose existence cannot be proven. I struggle with the Catholic Church's opposition to homosexuals and their interest in marriage. I can't understand why the Church doesn't acknowledge the individuals' right to freedom and the pursuit of happiness; also put as "why are two gay peoples' love for each other less valid than two straight other people's?" Furthermore, defenders of religion slam gay marriage as "destroying the 'sanctity of marriage' " however when you look around the landscape of America and the world, you find incredibly high rates of divorce, adultery and murder among straight couples; yet gay couples have incredibly high rates of success in their marriages/partnerships.

Thank you,


Fr. Harold answers:

Dear Scott,

One would have to study well the Book of Revelation in the context of the whole Bible and the conditions of the first century of Christianity to give a thorough interpretation of what it meant then and what particulars we need to be aware of today.

I think it is wonderful to have the numbers 666 as our mailing address. They are simply numbers and have no reference at all to anything else. Leaving them on our door is a witness to that.

One of my theology professors in Italy long ago (!) gave a short logic explanation of God. “If there was a moment in which there was absolutely nothing (no matter, no cosmic dust, nothing), there would be nothing now. But there is something (so many things), therefore there had to always be something. This something has to have all the characteristics of what is today. We give it a name: God. We continue to learn about the magnificence, the power, the knowledge of this entity whose created world continues to expand even today. Thus our concept of infinity is continuing to expand by leaps and bounds every day.

There are many people I am sure who could enter into a lively discussion with anyone about this limited world and its source. I am not sure that I could be that one. I am a quite reserved person. Conversation is not my strong point. One could read and study to fill in the blanks. I am adding as a P.S. my list of Catholic bookstores in the Bay Area. To get an authentic idea of what we believe one would need to absorb some of our own witness, not just read criticism from the outside.

With best wishes,

Blessings and peace!

Fr. Harold Danielson, SDB
SS. Peter & Paul Church
666 Filbert St.
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 421-0809


Old St. Mary’s
614 Grant St.
San Francisco, CA 94108

Kaufer’s Religious Supplies
1455 Custer Ave.
[off 3rd St., south of C. Chavez]
San Francisco, CA 94121

West Coast Church Supplies
369 Grand Ave.
So. San Francisco, CA

Pauline Books & Media
935 Brewster St.
Redwood City, CA

Mc Coy Church Goods
1010 Howard Ave.
San Mateo, CA 94401

Ave Maria Community Book Center
1084 S. De Anza Blvd.
San Jose, CA 95129

Also some churches, such as

St. Mary’s Cathedral
1111 Gough St
San Francisco, CA 94109

SS Peter & Paul
666 Filbert St.
San Francisco, CA 94133

“Francesco Rocks” Porziuncula Gift Shop
At National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi
624 Vallejo St.
San Francisco, CA 94133

Christ Our Light Cathedral Shop
2121 Harrison St.
Oakland, CA 94612

Some Retreat Houses, such as

San Damiano Retreat
710 Highland Dr.
Danville, CA 94526

Jesuit Retreat Center
300 Manresa Way
Los Altos, CA 94022

Mercy Center
2300 Adeline Dr.
Burlingame, CA 94010

On May 9, we received this question:

Can anyone be a reader or read the prayers of the faithful or Eucharist minister at Sunday Liturgy or any Liturgy celebration?

e.g. Someone who is not in a good status with the church, like someone who divorced and re-married or live together and not married in the church yet can be a lector or serve at Mass?


Fr. Malloy answers:


Anyone who partakes more closely in the liturgy of the word or other liturgical ceremony should be a model Catholic

Every Catholic Eucharistic Minister should be in good standing with the Church and a faithful Catholic. How is it possible for one living in sin would be allowed to handle the Body of Christ?

Fr. John Malloy, SDB

On April 25, we received this question:

Hello Father,

I am a Roman Catholic from a small town in Mangalore Diocese in Karnataka State in South India. I want to get married to my longtime boyfriend who is presbyterian from Church of North India(CNI). Our parents have agreed to our marriage but they are not aware of process of marriage in this scenario. I have read few things over the internet about the canon law for mixed marriage. Would you be able to explain this in detail? Also our major concern is about kids in future. As in what denomination they will go to. The law states that we need to raise the Children in catholic faith but my boyfriend or his family might have different opinion. They might want the kids to become protestant(presbyterian). I think he has the equal right to decide about the faith of the children. Is it possible to give the child the baptism and let child decide when he/she comes of age. Other option is to have two kids and one would go to catholic and other to Protestant.

I love my boyfriend the most. He is the best human being I have ever met. We understand each other so well . He has always supported me. He is the one I would like to spend rest of my life with. He is the best gift God has give me so far in my life. I always think we are all Christians, why did we made so many groups? Why we can't united back into one group?

Please guide me father..

Thanks and Regards,


Fr. Malloy answers:


“Why did God make so many groups?”you ask.

Answer: God did not make the groups we did.

We wanted to do it our way rather than HIS way.

As Catholics, we believe that Christ died for us and left His apostles to carry on his message. As individuals or groups disagreed with what God left us, they changed the Message to suit their purpose.

All of the protestant churches are breakaways from the Pope, the only authorized interpreter of Christ’s message.

When Catholics wish to marry one not of their faith. they may do so. The partner cannot be forced to join the Church, but the Catholic must promise to raise the Children as Catholics. If this cannot be agreed upon, a Catholic marriage would not be allowed.

Fr. John Malloy, SDB

On April 15, we received this question:

In confession, I was truly sorry for all my mortal sins, but not for a venial sin.

To avoid quarrelling with my wife, I would frequently lie to her. And I knew with certainty I had no intention of stopping the lying if she started asking questions.

When I said the Act of Contrition “ That I am sorry for all my sins, and that I will not sin again” it reminded me that this statement was not true for me, and I had to decide quickly whether to correct my Act of Contrition, but I didn’t make the correction. I was probably being afraid of being denied absolution.”

Was my confession valid? What should I do?

Father John Malloy answers:

Your confession was valid, but remember a good confession requires that we seek forgiveness from all our sins.

While venial sins are not necessarily confessed for our eternal salvation, they should be included in our sorrow for our sins committed.

When we are faced with questions from one who has no right ask us we may withhold a correct answer. But if your wife as a right to a correct answer you do risk punishment, not in hell (because it is ordinarily a venial sin) but in purgatory.

Rev. John Malloy, SDB

Dear Fr. John:

What is "your" relationship with God? I become confused when asked this question. I know the Gospels say .."where two or more are gathered I will be with you..." But then I hear the Catholic Church teach -- yes, when two or three are gathered--they gather in a Church-that's where we find a "relationship" with God... Can you straighten me out.. What is your relationship with God?

Thank You,

Captain Dennis

Fr. Malloy answers:


Relationship with God does not depend on ”’CHURCH.”

We know that where two or three are gathered in God’s name , He is present. But we know that God is everywhere and I know that He is with me wherever I am , if I acknowledge his presence and accept His Law as a light for my way. He’s with me in Church, at the theatre, a sports venue, on vacation...

I understand His Law as Catholic, which requires me to keep not only the ten commandments, but also the six commandments of the Catholic Church if I want to remain his friend.

Any Christian who is sincere in his/her faith also can have a relationship with God. And so can members of various religious beliefs if they follow a conscience, seeking truth with willingness to do His will and acknowledging dependence on Him.

Fr. John Malloy, SDB

On January 23-25, we received these questions:

Dear Father,

I first have to say thank you, for reaching out to us online, it really makes me feel more connected with the Church, by moving along with technology.

I just recently became engaged to my fiance, my best friend. We have been dating for about five years and have only grown closer since. My fiance was not brought up with much of a religion. I was raised Catholic, but have not been the best Catholic over the past few years. My father became very sick a few years ago, and I guess instead of reaching for God, I pushed him away. I do however, believe, and would like to become a more involved member of the Church.

Since being less active in the Church, and moving on with my relationship with my fiance (Peter), I have a few concerns.

I would eventually like to be married in the Catholic Church and raise our children Catholic, but I am concerned for Peter. I know many practicing Catholics have said that unless you are baptized and a member of the Church, you cannot be saved. This terrifies me, for Peter. He is the most kind hearted, honest, and admirable person I have ever met, and I look to him for guidance a lot of the time. He has his differences with Catholicism, but I just cannot believe that he cannot be saved.

Could you please explain this more to me, or help me as to what I should do? I have tried to get him to understand my views and he did give an honest try in Church, but I do not think he will convert.

Thank you for your time,


Fr. Malloy answers:


No one can say that a person cannot be saved.

You do your best to be a good example of Catholic practice and pray that Peter be brought to the true faith. Conversion is a gift of God. Pray for that gift.

One who strives to know and love God and practices the Ten Commandments (as far as possible) will have baptism of desire.

Fr. John Malloy, SDB

Dear Father,

I have been baptized as a Catholic when I was a baby. As the years progressed, I have lived a life as a Catholic. However, under some circumstances, I was not able not able to partake in my fist communion as well as confirmation. Furthermore, my relationship with God growing up was not intact. My mother was a strong believer, but growing up as a teenager, I had so many question and was always very skeptical. I had times when I questioned God, and to me, religion was just "another subject." It wasn't till I was sixteen that my world changed. Through my mother's prayers and my own eagerness to know more about this glorious Being who loves me and who sent His Son for the good of mankind, I have changed. I am almost eighteen now, and I believe God saved me. I receive his Son, my Savior Jesus Christ, and I love Him. My relationship with Him is something I never expected I would have.

My Step-Father is a Mormon, and we have Mormon missionaries coming to our house often.They would talk about their unfailing faith in Jesus, and I would always commend them for that. They also want my mom and I to be baptized. I have no answer as of now because I have questions still consuming my mind. I believe that Jesus is "the way, the truth, and the life" and that "no one comes to the father but through him." In the case of Baptism, i feel as if i am born again to the light of Jesus and I want to cleanse my sins. i respect their religion, but my heart is not set to be baptized as a Mormon. They baptize children at the age of eight as well as adulthood because they say that you should be baptize at a time when you discern right from wrong and have accepted Jesus. I bring this up because I feel this deep need to be baptize from my sins and restore my soul in God's hands. I was baptized when i was a baby, but it cleansed me only of original sin. I sinned again as i grew older and i was so far away from him in spirit. i feel so tainted and corrupted. Is there anyway, for me as a Catholic to receive this restoration? Is it possible for me to be baptize again as a Catholic?



Fr. Malloy responds:


Your faith in God is strong, but it does need to be directed.

You cannot be baptized a second time. But you can be forgiven from your sins and have your soul cleansed by the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession).

Speak to the pastor of your local Catholic Church and ask to join the RCIC (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) This is a course which is open to Catholics and non Catholics who wish to know more about the Catholic faith. Following that you could receive first communion and confirmation.

The Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ. The Apostles spread it throughout the world. It was not founded on a man as was the Mormons.

Fr. John Malloy, SDB

On September 26, we received these questions:

Dear Fathers:

How am I supposed to keep faith and a belief in God when I keep losing jobs, one after the other, regardless of my gratitude and constant thankfulness to God? How am I supposed to trust in the Lord when I was born to a dysfunctional, impoverished family, when loneliness and set backs have been life? How do I continue on, knowing that every time I think everything is going to be all right, I lose another job, whether due to a lay-off, a firing, or because I am so severely mistreated that I am forced to quit. How am I supposed to find a job when my resume does not reflect stability due to this? How does God allow this to happen when I get on my knees, on my face, and thank Him in gratitude. I just got laid off AGAIN, and I was at a job where I was very happy. I thought I had finally, FINALLY found job happiness after years of bad luck and constant prayer for job happiness and security. I was at this job less than one year after searching for over a year. I have no love life, no job, no family. How am I supposed to keep on in faith? I am only human. Why? Why did this happen again? I didn't make mistakes at work. I was polite, conscientious,


Fr. John Malloy answers:


“More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.” That line has been in my thoughts for many years and I always found it helpful in troubled times.

Your story is difficult to respond to and I have thought for some time as to what I might suggest to you.

Who are your friends? How close are you to them? Can any be of help to sort out your problem?

“If I were polite, worked very hard and got along with everyone. Why my situation now?” you ask.

“I'm asking God and receiving nothing. Where is He?”

Why don’t you seek a spiritual advisor who can help you understand?

God is present in our most difficult moments. Our sufferings are nothing compared to what Christ suffered for us, so He certainly understands and will give us the strength to deal with it if we put our faith and trust in Him.

We can’t earn faith. It’s a free gift of God. Attending to our prayers and Mass and the Sacraments can open our eyes and deepen our trust in spite of present troubles and concerns which won’t last forever. Heaven is open to all and sometimes it takes disappoints to help us reach it.

There’s much more I could tell you, but let’s go back to the first sentence.

You are in my prayers and I will remember you in my masses.

Rev. John Malloy SDB

On August 28, we received this question:

Hello fathers,

I have a question about " karma" even though it is not recognized ... Do we believe that if i have done something bad to a person that it will come back to me in the same way ? It is a sort of love triangle situation , none of us were married at the time. I am extremely remorseful and feel as though i have paid for that sin after years of being remorseful ?

I am scared this will happen and come back to me. How can i be obsolved from this sin ?


Fr. Malloy answers:


QUESTION: Do we believe that if I have done something bad to a person that it will come back to me in the same way ?

ANSWER: No, we not believe that. But do believe that the we must make up for all our sins. For a Catholic it is through the sacrament of Reconciliation, purpose of amendment and restitution where required.

Our God is a forgiving God and frees us from our sins. He holds no grudge and it is never "tit for tat." Sincere sorrow is a basic requirement for all.

Rev. John Malloy, SDB

On August 22, we received this question:

Dear Father John:

This is the scrupulous one that has asked you so many questions in the past ,and I am grateful that you were so patient in replying to them. Am resubmitting the one that I had asked the last time and did not get your advice on. Hope you do not mind.

Have been a heavy drinker for most of my life but old age and disability have slowed that down except on special occasions. Presently on oxygen 24/7. I still have an average of 2 and one half glasses of wine in the evening while watching TV .

At what point is it considered is it considered a grievous matter and mortally sinful to have consumed too much alcohol ? If someone is slurring their speech or staggering a little getting up from a chair would that be in the grievous mortal area? Where does the grievous mortal sin area actually begin?

Fr. Malloy answers:


Mortal sin implies, grievous matter, sufficient reflection and full consent of the will.

It is serious sin to lose control of your actions causing serious harm because of too much alcohol.

It is a serious sin if, under the influence, one commits a serious act against any commandment.

It is not a mortal sin if someone is slurring their speech or staggering a little getting up from a chair.

You might reduce your consumption, for you own health, to prevent any staggering that would lead to a fall and injury.

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB

On July 28, we received these questions:

Greetings from Medford, Oregon!!

First, thank you for this opportunity to ask a serious question. Wouldn't you know this link is in my hometown of San Francisco!!!I have posed the following two questions on FaceBook. The response was disappointing because there were no serious comments.

Although I am not Catholic by denomination, there has always been a priest to answer my important questions. Unfortunately, the two Jesuit priests that I knew here in the Rogue Valley have both died. And, they always had wonderfully awful jokes to share. The community misses then very much.

So, below are my questions. Thank you in advance.

Best regards,


If a person asks God for forgiveness, does the penance(if they are Catholic), and is able/capable of remedying the damage that they caused but chooses not to, is there forgiveness? The person is, in fact, perpetuating the wrong again and again by choice.

perpetuating the wrong again and again by choice., then what?

Fr. John Malloy answers:


(1) In perpetuating the wrong again and again by choice, the guilty person would still be guilty. Forgiveness of sin depends on reparation when possible.

(2) Perpetuating the wrong again and again by choice perpetuates the sin.

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB

On August 15, we received these questions:


I have a question about a past confession. A couple years ago I hit a car while pulling into a parking lot, and the car happened to belong to someone I know. As I hit it lightly, it appeared to have caused no damage and I never told the person about it. I recently felt really bad about this, and mentioned it in confession. However, I did not mention that I knew the person. Because I didn't give the detail, does this change things? Am I still obligated to tell the person what happened? I am worried that this could be a serious sin of omission. Thanks in advance, Father.


Fr. John Malloy answers:


Knowing or not knowing the person doesn't change anything.

It wouldn't be a serious sin: (1) it's not a serious matter; (2) no one or thing was seriously damaged; (3) you had no desire to do the damage.

You did go to confession.

So forget it.

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB

On February 2, we received these questions:


Over the past few years, I have been introduced to the beauty of Latin in the liturgy and usually attend Mass in Latin. Many of my acquaintances argue that Latin is not only beautiful, but as the official language of the Church, is also more efficacious. Another party is arguing that to say that a Latin prayer or baptism, etc. is more powerful or efficacious than an English one would actually be heresy. Could you point me to some good reading to sort out these very different claims? Thank you,


Fr. John Malloy responds:


One language is not more efficacious than other. A Latin prayer does not make Mass or baptism more efficacious. Reverence and piety are needed.

Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, said: “The greatness of the Liturgy depends — we shall have to repeat this frequently—on its unspontaneity (Unbeliebigkeit)…. Only respect for the Liturgy’s fundamental unspontaneity and pre-existing identity can give us what we hope for: the feast in which the great reality comes to us that we ourselves do not manufacture but receive as a gift (Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 170). Since the Liturgy is a gift and not something of our own creation, it takes great humility to celebrate the Liturgy properly and reverently….

Observing the norms of the Liturgy helps to create a profound sense of the sacred in each of us at Mass. Celebrating Mass and observing liturgical norms also makes us visibly one with the entire Church to which we belong. “Priests who faithfully celebrate Mass according to the liturgical norms, and communities which conform to those norms, quietly but eloquently demonstrate their love for the Church” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 52).

Google Latin mass and you will have several hundred articles to muse over.

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB

On January 10, we received this question:

Dear Fathers,

I was talking to a friend last night. He has no computer. I told him I could get an answer for him. His father and him attend church every week. He noticed that him and his dad are the only ones in his church that clench a fist and hold it over their hearts during the Nicene creed. He doesn't know why its done this way or the purpose of it, it has just become a habit for him. He thinks its just being 'old school taught'. can you explain why this is/was done and the meaning of it? He says there are like 2 parts they do this in. Any help is greatly appreciated. God Bless and have a wonderful Blessed day!


Fr. John Malloy answers:


Ordinarily when, with either a fist or with the tips of the fingers held close together, we strike our chest over the heart , we express regret and sorrow.

In our Latin liturgy it is done at the Mass, formally: at each "through my fault" during the Confiteor; at the “Nobis Quoque Peccatoribus” (priest); three times during the” Lamb of God; “and three times during the “O Lord I am not worthy."

It is also done informally: at the "forgive us our trespasses" "in the "Our Father"; and any time to express penitence or remorse inside or outside of the Liturgy.

In the example you have given, I have never seen it done. I believe it may be sign of loyalty to the truths proclaimed, similar to holding the hand over the heart when the flag is being raised, or we are singing the National Anthem, to profess our loyalty to our country,(clenched fist: we are wiling to fight for it??)

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB

On November 17, we received this question:

Dear Father,

In Sunday's gospel what does Jesus mean when He says heaven will pass away? Thank you for your time.



Fr. John Malloy responds:


Heaven and-earth will pass away as they presently exist.

It’s easy enough to understand that the earth will pass away. But heaven?

God will, through Christ, create a new heaven. How is heaven new? This is a little more difficult to describe because Scripture does not tell us much about heaven. But some things we do know.

Heaven will be new because, although God’s people are now there, they are there without their bodies, which await the coming of Christ to be raised. Heaven will be more wonderful when the saints are there in soul and body.

Heaven will be new because all God’s people will be there. It will be new because it will take up into itself and be united with the glorified and redeemed earthly creation so that both parts of the creation are now one, forever and ever, world without end.

Fr. John Malloy, SDB

On September 28, we received these questions:


I am confused.!!! Most theologians consider the story of Adam and Eve a myth. The Bible says that death was introduced through the sins of our first parents, Adam and Eve. The teaching and theology on Original Sin was not introduced into Church teaching until St. Augustine made the proclamation in the third century which he based on the Adam and Eve story according to what I have read and heard in a class setting. How could Original Sin come through Adam and Eve when in fact they never existed according to most theologians? Another fact is that death and violence were in this world during the Dinosaur age. Apparently, there were no humans around during that era of life here on planet earth; at least as I understand it, no human bones have ever been discovered but many bones of reptiles and animals have been found during that time. Although we humans definitely do things that are wrong, I cannot understand the Church’s teaching on Original Sin being established as doctrine on a myth and on two people who never existed. I am going by what I have read which seems to be the consensus of both Catholic and Protestant theologians. As I said, I find this teaching very confusing with many unanswered and open-ended questions. I would appreciate your input and opinion on this subject. I do believe in God, but I cannot understand the theology and teaching on Original Sin deriving from a myth. Thank you very much for your anticipated response.



Fr. John Malloy answers:


If the Bible is really full of myths and fables, it would certainly be appropriate to read it as such. However, the simple fact is that the Bible certainly doesn’t fit that category.

The myths of the ancient world were never based on solid historical fact. They were stories invented to explain such recurring phenomena like the changing of the seasons or the motion of the stars. The events recorded in the Scripture, on the other hand, are firmly rooted in history

The Bible is not mythology and was never meant to be read as such.

Christian mythology is the body of traditional narratives associated with Christianity. Many Christians believe that these narratives are sacred and that they communicate profound truths.. In fact, the Apostle Paul urged Timothy to teach his congregation to disregard mythology (1 Tim. 1:4). He warned that a time was coming when people would “turn away their ears from the truth and turn aside to mythology” (2 Tim. 4)

For one thing, the biblical writers flatly denied teaching mythology. For example, Peter said, “We didn’t follow cleverly devised tales when we told you about the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His Majesty” (2 Pet. 1:16).

Adam by his fault transmitted to us not only death but also sin. Well, is this really true?

Here are quotes from St. Thomas and St. Augustine:

Original sin is the privation of sanctifying grace in consequence of the sin of Adam. (St. Thomas,)

And St. Augustine: "the deliberate sin of the first man is the cause of original sin".

But the doctrine is not based on these or any other doctors of the Church or theologians. Scripture is clear: through the disobedience of one man many [i.e., all men] were made sinners" (Romans 5:19) The one man was Adam who really lived and fathered us all.

“Death and violence were in this world during the Dinosaur age.”

That would not prove anything. God created all. Animals have their own temporal existence, while we are created to exist forever.

Fr. John Malloy

On July 7, we received these questions:

Dear Reverend Fathers:

Over the past few months, I've been seeing my Pastor for spiritual and emotional counseling. I have come to trust him immensely, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for him. My problem is that I have recently been having intimate feelings for him that I'm sure I shouldn't. That said, I think my feelings may actually be transference of feelings even though I can't figure out where they're coming from. I know I can get passed this, but I'd like your advice on how to proceed without causing harm to my relationship with my Pastor. How would you suggest I should approach this issue?

Do I tell my Pastor of my feelings, or would that make matters worse? Do I need to find another Pastor (I'd prefer this only if there are no other options)? If so, how do I avoid having the same issues take place again?

I'm somewhat embarrassed by this situation, but at the same time my Pastor has been invaluable to me with regard to his insight, knowledge, and support. I don't want to lose his spiritual guidance.

I sincerely appreciate any advice that you can offer.



PS: Does the Catholic Diocese support "The Matthew Kelly Foundation" … he is an inspirational speaker, and confesses to be a supporter of Catholicism.

Fr. John Malloy answers:


For your sake and that of your pastor, limit your spiritual counseling to the sacrament of reconciliation (confession).

As for emotional counseling, it would be wise to seek that support through some other priest or counselor.

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB

On June 30, we received this question:


In response to a statement that "Nowhere in the King James Bible does it say that birth control is wrong. The 'Holy See' was the original source of this ridculous idea that birth control of any kind is against God, and thus the 'Holy See' is basically responsible for all the muders of doctors who ignore common sense and common civility in order to promote any dogma proposed by their church.", I quoted Genesis 38:9-10 and then said "The clear intent of Onan was contraception and God killed him for it. No Christian church accepted contraception until the Lambeth Conference of 1930." A third person replied "...stating that the 'Holy See" is basically responsible for all the murders of doctors by those who ignore common sense and common civility in order to promote any dogma proposed by their churh" is a ridiculous statement akin to the belief that God literally killed someone for using contraception."

My question, Fathers, is do I misinterpret Scripture when I conclude that God literally killed Onan for "spilling his seed" in order to not impregnate his brother's wife?



Fr. John Malloy answers:


No, I don't think you misinterpret Scripture when you conclude that God literally killed Onan for "spilling his seed" in order to not impregnate his brother's wife?

Several early writers focused on the spilling seed, and the sexual act being used for non-recreational purposes; one opinion expressed in the Talmud argues that this was where the death penalty's imposition originated. This interpretation was held by several early Christian apologist, Jerome, for example, arguing:

“But I wonder why he the heretic Jovinianus set Judah and Tamar before us for an example, unless perchance even harlots give him pleasure; or Onan, who was slain because he grudged his brother seed. Does he imagine that we approve of any sexual intercourse except for the procreation of children?

The 'Holy See' is certainly not responsible for murder of doctors.who promote a dogma proposed by their Church." Birth control is not a dogma, it is an accepted moral teaching based on the commandments. It was not invented by popes and is rooted in moral law. Because of this the Church does not approve of any sexual intercourse except for procreation.

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB

On June 24, we received this question:

Dear Father,

My ex-husband and I eloped when I was 19. Neither one of us were ever baptized and got married at a chapel. We later held a ceremony with or friends and families.

At the time, my ex-husband was doing drugs, seeing other women and various other deviant activities. I was unaware to an extent. People tried to warn me but I just didn't believe me. Shortly afte our marriage, the behavior was hard to ignore. He forced me to have an abortion which I never wanted. I decided at that point to work hard at reforming our lives. 4 years later and 1 child later, he got clean and we became became Catholic.

He became abusive, started drugs again an had relations with prostitutes. I had to leave him.

I am now remarried and have another child. I didn't think I needed an annullment since my first marriage was never blessed. I just found out that my current priest thinks I do. Second, even if I don't need one, I am now living in an invalid marriage.

I am so confused and lost...What if I die before I get my annullment? I will go to hell. I am scared to even live right now because I just want to be right with God.


Fr. John Malloy answers:


As long as you are sorry for the past and want to be right with God you will not go to hell--which is a place for the unrepentant.

You write that you and your first husband became Catholic. Was your marriage blessed at that time? If not, you do not need an annulment; if yes, you would need to seek an annulment so that you can rectify your present union. That should be easy to obtain, but will take time.

If you do need to have your present marriage validated.and have difficulty on the local level, you can always phone the Bishop' office and ask to speak to the marriage tribunal. The determining authority is there.

Take courage, God is certainly on your side!

With prayers,

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB

On April 28, we received this question:


I'm a cradle Catholic, and I still can't fully grasp the element of death and dying. It's scary to think that there is nothing on the other side. Do you fear death and how do you know if there is an eternity of some sort?

Thank you for your time.



Fr. John Malloy responds:


You may not grasp the element of death and dying, but it is something that faces us each moment of our day. We know that each of us will have a final moment on this earth and how that moment comes about is in the hands of our Creator, who gave us life. It's a truth we have to face whether we like it or not.

Secret: faith in God who created the world and loves us and made ourselves for Him.

To arrive at that empirical faith is not difficult if we realize that we have all received the gift of faith at our baptism. That faith is nourished through prayer and sacrifice.

Hope is also a theological virtue. It's that hope and trust in God's love that will free us from our fears.

Believe in God and live that life He asks of us. When we make a mistake, make our peace with God and we will have nothing to fear when He calls us to himself.

John J. Malloy, SDB

On January 9, 2009, we received this question:


My name is Dmitri, I live and work in San Francisco, CA. I am currently researching issues regarding ProLife / ProChoice. Personally i am against abortions, but i do not understand why Catholic Church is so against it when the Bible clearly states:

"The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." (Genesis 2:7) i.e. life begins with the first breath, because it is impossible to breathe anything in the womb.

Could you explain this issue to me please?



Fr. Malloy responds:


The scripture passage you quoted referred to the creation of Adam, the first man, and not a baby in the womb of its mother. Adam and Eve were never in the womb of a mother.

Breath and life are not synonymous.

Science affirms that life does not depend or begin with the first breath. There are arguments as to when life is actualized in the womb, but no one denies that it certainly happens before birth. Babies in the womb are known to kick and move, and that takes life.

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB

On October 27, we received this question:

Dear Father,

Thank-You for taking the time to read this. I am sorry that I am not very good at all with computers and did not know how to use the regular "E_mail" for the Ask Father website.

About 12 years ago I had what I would call a "born again experience" after a very long, hard 15 year search for God. I felt led into the Catholic Church and so I went through the R.C.I.A at a nearby parish and had been a devout practising Catholic until about 2 1/2 years ago when I began attending a fundamentalist Baptist bible study. Since my conversion, I have always identified with other sincere Christians and have longed for that kind of friendship and fellowship which I have found so little of in the Catholic Church. So I finally broke down and went to this bible study a few years ago. I loved the bible study, but I was constantly under attack for being a Catholic. At that time, I didn't know much about fundamentalists and their anti-Catholicism. Anyway, despite all that, I was and still am drawn to their church because I learn so much about living my life for God. I love reading the bible and studying scripture and I love being with other Christians who want to live for God also. I am now just all confused about what is right and what church I should be going to. There is so much in the Catholic Church I have yet to make a real connection with even though I have studied and prayed about each one over the years. I have no relationship with Mary, I have not felt a connection with the Eucharist as the Body and Blood of our Lord, I go to confession as best I can, but do not really seem to get much from it nor understand mortal and venial sin and how to tell the difference between the two in my own life. A few months ago, I began attending the Baptist church regularly and learning about what they believe. My family (husband and two young children) did not attend with me. We went to our separate churches every Sunday for awhile. Finally I came back to the Catholic Church to be with my family, but also because I sensed that there is something to the "ritual" we have and the worship environment in the Catholic Church which is definately missing in the Baptist church. I missed it. I almost felt I needed it. But these are all feelings, and sad to admit, although I had no doctrinal reasons for leaving the Church when this all began, I am now experiencing some serious doubts and I'm really divided. I'm not sure who is right anymore. I feel like if I only "knew" I could get on with my Christian life.... but I feel so divided and stuck. I am back to attending Mass every Sunday, have had no more contact with the Baptist Church except for one phone call from them, and I have begun reading some of the Church Fathers to get some history. It's just hard, because it's not coming together fast enough! I'm worn out. I'm tired. And I'm still so confused. In the Baptist Church, I could let go and relax whenever I thought about God's love for me and how I need to do nothing to merit that. It helped me to feel joy and want to live for Him. But in the Catholic Church I so often feel burdened and overwhelmed with what I must do in order to live a good life. I don't know how to deal with that... I'm so often bogged down because of it. I have a hard time getting past it to move forward. At times, I just don't get the whole thing.

I do have one big question I would like to ask you about my conversion 12 years ago. In the Baptist church, my conversion makes perfect sense. They talk about having to be " born again" and at the time, I remember completely identifying with that phrase although I preferred calling it a "conversion" because I didn't want to scare people off when I told them about it. But I was baptized as an infant in the Catholic Church, (even though we never attended Mass when I was growing up and I never considered myself a Christian at all....I had no religion until 12 years ago) and I understand that the Church teaches when we are baptized we become part of God's family and the Holy Spirit comes to live in us. So, I wonder if my conversion was a result of the Holy Spirit living in me all along and guiding me through that 15 year period of searching? Is that the Catholic explaination for my conversion experience? The Baptists say I was born again and that is why I am drawn to "the truth"; ie; their church.

Thanks so much, Father for any advice/answers/comments!!! God bless you.

Fr. Harold Danielson answers:

Dear Anna,

What a wonderful description of your openness to the call of Jesus in your life! In the apse of our church of Sts. Peter & Paul, there is an image of Jesus holding an open book on which is written in Latin: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." This is what the Holy Spirit has been nudging you to for so many years, even from infancy.

Many of the Bible communities of faith read in the Gospel of John in chapter 3 about being "born again." Actually most Bible versions [really "translations"] use the phrase "born from above." Most accurately Jesus reminds us that the initiative and the action come from God, not from our own efforts.

I think that the distinction of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is exemplified in the saying of Jesus to the apostles on the day of His Resurrection: "Receive the Holy Spirit." Certainly the gift of the Spirit was given to the Apostles, yet Jesus told them at the Ascension to wait for the Advocate He would send from the Father. Thus the community of disciples [the original "Church"] stayed in prayer and ordinary living until the great effusion of the Spirit at Pentecost.

So God [Father, Son, and Spirit] is totally present in our lives by creation from the first moment of our existence; then being born from above in the Initiation Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist; the effusion of the Spirit may or may not be experienced in an exuberant fashion. Most often it is just in the ordinary, rather bland, perseverance in the journey with Jesus in our life.

For some centuries, Catholic Christians and other Christians just emphasized their differences. The attitude of the Catholic Church in these last decades is to work at being thankful of so many same beliefs and life values. Once we are united in the basics, then we can nitpick about the rest.

There are many wonderful Bible study programs, also Catholic ones. It is marvelous to simply read and study the Word of God by ourselves. This is the thought of the many Bible Societies in the world: For example, the Gideons who put a Bible in every hotel room in the country; the American Bible Society making inexpensive Bibles available to all; the various societies who send persons to tribal peoples to translate and put God's Word into their mother tongues; and so on.

Yes, it is also useful to be in a group to learn together. Maybe after this Synod of Bishops gathered in Rome in these last few weeks to reflect on the Word of God's Revelation in our daily life and certainly a follow-up exhortation of our Holy Father, Bishop of Rome, there will arise not only Bible learning programs, but people to join them. Since we Catholics have the teaching authority with the handed down Tradition along with the Liturgy and Sacraments, we have been somewhat less attentive, not in scholarship but in the ordinary application and study of the Bible in our lives. Many Catholic Biblical scholars are excellent, second to none, in that field. Now, as a people especially after the Synod, we must more particularly pay attention to the Bible itself and our personal acquaintance with it.

I realize I may not have specifically replied to each individual query or doubt you have expressed. What I have done is attempt to give you a context around your thoughts. I pray that it is helpful.

Blessings and peace!

Fr. Harold Danielson, SDB

On October 22, we received these questions:

Dear Father,

If all humans are descended from Adam and Eve, aren't we the result of incest, at least in the first generations? This has always been an issue of some concern for me. How does the Church respond to this question?


Fr. Harold Danielson answers:

In various cultures throughout history there have been practices of siblings forming marital unions. Human beings learned early on that inbreeding produced some less than perfect individuals, so they stopped doing that and making “laws” to that effect.

In the Bible the first chapters in Genesis are especially the common meditation and speculation imagining human words to describe God’s creation of the universe and particularly in that universe – human beings. Chapter 1 simply says “male and female he created them.” In Chapter 2 there are further descriptions according to the meditation of the sacred editors putting together God and creation in writing. The essential thing of the Bible is simply: everything comes from God.

It is wonderful that human knowledge keeps multiplying day by day! From the far reaches of the universe to the tiniest particles, all came about from the infinite God. We get a minute glimpse of that infinity at both ends of the spectrum. Isn’t it great that with the study of DNA the whole human race today traces back to one woman in east Central Africa eons ago? What immensity, what complexity exists in this material world! Try to imagine the infinite Lord.

Blessings and peace!

Fr. Harold Danielson, SDB

On June 6, we received this question:

Dear Father,

If ever, in the future, I do get into a conversation with friends/coworkers of the subject of same-sex marriage, abortion, embryonic-stem cell research and euthanasia...I really hope I come out (as I hear in sermons) to be as a compassionate christian in my words and actions. In your opinion, would the following be too harsh to include in my stating an argument when either explaining or defending our Catholic faith?..."You either stand with God, or against God."

Thank you and God Bless,


Fr. John Malloy answers:


Your opening statement is a given.

How do you proceed from there? The problem many people have is not understanding what is "against God."

Scripture and Tradition is the sure way to Truth. It helps to have a clear understanding of what Scripture reveals and how the infallible teaching of the Church interprets the Word.

One other principle that we must always keep in mind: Hate sin; love the sinner.

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB

On April 28, we received this question:

Dear Fathers

I would like clarification on the sin of omission in a particular case. For quite a while I was embarrassed about the sin of masturbation and did not confess to it in the confessional along with my other sins. After a while I "owned up" to the sin and confessed it and have never fallen to the temptation after frequent confession. That being said am I still in mortal sin because I did not confess that I omitted this sin in previous confessions?

Thank you,


Fr. John Malloy answers:


God forgives us as we acknowledge and confess our sins as you well know.

The gravity of the sin of masturbation depends on our will at the time of commission. I believe that it is often committed out of a bad habit formed, or a sudden physical urge that we respond to without much serious thought, which diminishes the seriousness of the sin.

That being said, I would suggest that you at your next confession, after you have declared your sins, you might add "for these sins and sins of my past life, especially of masturbation, which I was ashamed to confess, I ask pardon and forgiveness." (or something similar)

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB

On February 9, we received these questions:

Dear Fathers

Can you explain to me exactly what "The Communion of Saints" means? This is a wonderful web site.

Thank You


Fr. John Malloy answers:


The Communion of Saints is the spiritual union of all Christians, the living and the dead on Earth, in heaven, and in purgatory. They share a single "mystical body", with Christ as the head, in which each member contributes to the good of all and shares in the welfare of all.

You can even check Wikipedia for more details.

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB

On December 11, we received these questions:

Dear Fathers,

I hope this email finds you well and that you are experiencing the holiness of the new liturgical year. I am an 18 year old Catholic who is thinking about a vocation to the holy priesthood, specifically to the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP). Do you have any suggestions on what I can do to clearly discern God's will for me? Perhaps some background information may be needed. I attend a Mass offered by an FSSP priest and I have also started serving the Traditional Latin Mass as well. Various challenges throughout the past two years have brought me even closer to our Lord and brought me to an even deeper and more profound respect in his real presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament during adoration and again receiving his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Whenever I am at the altar, aiding the priest in the Most Holy Sacrifice I simply find peace where all of the worries of the world are gone. I continue to pray and ask our Lord to guide me on this discernment and also ask the intercession of our Blessed Mother, that she may lead me to her Divine Son and likewise her Divine Son may lead me closer to our Holy Mother. If I may ask another question, how does an only child such as myself approach his parents with this issue? Thank you very much for your input may God pour out his abundant blessings upon your parish community and upon your resident priests! Have a Holy Advent Season and a Merry Christmas!

Thank you!

Fr. Harold Danielson responds:

Dear Joseph,

St. John Bosco, founder of the Salesians, always recommended to his boys and early Salesians: "Do your daily duties well." That is the way we are truly following Jesus in our lives. It is certainly good to plan ahead and then do things to follow the plan, but keeping to the present moment is how we are aware of and carry out the little inspirations of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Specifically, now, you are 18 years old. Are you in college? Then study well, the best you can. Fulfill the general education units which will be transferable should you change colleges. And pray! See if it is possible to get to Mass during the week now and again. Maybe you can meditate on a few mysteries of the Rosary and pray some decades during the week also. Holy Communion often and Reconciliation frequently are signs of really being open to the Lord's invitation in your life.

Among our Salesians in this Western Province of the U.S., there are a couple of only sons who are Salesian priests. One is an only child of a woman all of whose sisters are religious Sisters. Another has one sister and she is a Sister of Notre Dame. Leaving one's parents for Jesus, is nothing new among the disciples. Remember James and John leaving their father at work to go with Jesus? You pray and begin doing things to prepare for seminary training, then tell you parents what you feel.

This reminds me of a story our Rector Major [Superior General] told us when he was here a few months ago. He told of a priest in Slovakia, who had felt the call to priesthood while it was still under Communist government. He had studied underground and been ordained. After the country was free of the Communists, his mother [having observed him all these years] told him: "Now you can enter the seminary." Then he could tell her he had been ordained several years before.

Following Jesus means letting go of self, taking the cross each day and going in His footsteps [Gospel of Luke].

Blessings and peace in this season of Advent!

Fr. Harold Danielson, SDB

Dear Fathers,

As Christmas approaches, I have been thinking about the true, deeper meaning of this day. Earlier this week, someone on the radio used the phrase, "season of good-will". Then I heard about the mall shooting in Nebraska where the young man killed innocent people shopping for their Christmas presents. Why is there so much hate and despair in the world? Is this season not a time of love and forgiveness?

I was raised Catholic, and of course, know that we celebrate the Lord's birth at Christmas time. Can you help me to a deeper understanding of what this Day and this Season really means or should mean to us? What exactly is the "spirit of Christmas?"

I look forward to hearing your views.



Fr. Harold answers:

Dear Gina,

It looks like the Holy Spirit is nudging you in your heart about the authentic spirit of Christmas. Keep following these little inspirations calling you to a deeper response to our Advent preparation for the reign of Jesus Our Savior in your soul. Be thankful for the phrases of "season of good will"; that is a recognition of the angels' message to shepherds announcing : "Glory to God in the highest and peace to all of good will!"

Whole books are written about the reality of the Incarnation ["God becoming a human being"] of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. A real lead in to this Presence in our world is contained in the Scripture readings, including the Psalms with their response, and the other prayers and antiphons at the celebration of Mass, not only the Sundays but the daily journey of the weekdays of Advent. I am sure you can find any number of them on the world wide web. For example: from St. Anthony Messenger; or: .


Blessings and peace in this Advent season!

Fr. Harold Danielson, SDB

On November 21, we received this question:

Dear Father,

I have a question about forgiveness for others who have hurt us, as it relates to the Catholic Church's teachings.

I was recently devastated by the loss of a beloved father figure in my life. He passed away on Good Friday of this year, and it has been extremely difficult to cope in the past six months. I was blessed by friends and family who showed their support during this very difficult time.

Unfortunately, there was a person during this time that deeply injured me. He was someone I thought I could trust and count on, someone I considered a close friend, a big brother, an extension of my family. The day of the tragedy, I reached out to him for support and comfort. He chose to (uncharacteristically) abandon a friend in need, and was extremely cold to me. He was the only one who reacted this way, and I cannot understand how anyone can do this to their friends when they are in need of love and warmth in the face of tragedy.

After several weeks, I realized how hurt I was by his behavior towards me. It had affected me so much that I was not sure what I was grieving over anymore. He had added insult to injury during one of the most devastating times of my life. I did not just lose a beloved father figure, I also saw clearly for the first time that I was deceived by someone who I had believed was my good friend. I wrote a letter to him expressing how I felt. I said my peace in the letter, not expecting any kind of response from him, and thought that I had achieved closure.

Last month, I had to work with him. I acted according to my conscience and treated him with respect as a colleague. I expected him to, at the very least, act professionally at work. He did not. Others at work even commented on his immature behavior to me.

I found his overall behavior unforgivable, and working with him again brought out a great deal of resentment in me. I know that I am not responsible for his unChristian behavior, and that we must each answer for our own conscience before God, but I am having a very difficult time forgiving someone who is not at all remorseful for hurting someone who he lied to and said he cared about. I have prayed for peace and an open heart to forgive him, but I do not understand why I should. Is it wrong for me to hold on to such feelings of resentment and anger towards him? Is it a sin that I wish he will be hurt in the same way that he has hurt me? What is the right thing for a God-loving Catholic to do?

Thank you.


Fr. Harold Danielson responds:

Dear Kristina,

As I read your letter, my heart went out to you for your great loss and for the let down by a friend. I shall hold you in my heart at the altar of the Eucharist.

There are two things mainly that I want to share with you. First, as you experience this serious break in friendship in the moment of your great need, and even later, think of Jesus Himself, as He is betrayed by one of His chosen and trusted friends; think of Him as all of these chosen 12 ran away in His moment of need; think of Him as the one whom He had appointed as leader denied him three times that very night. Then think of His mother Mary standing by His cross watching Him die, listening to him offer forgiveness to the executioners, promising paradise to one of his companions on the cross. Think not so much about her deep sorrow and union with Jesus in that most horrible situation; rather think about her "Yes" to God in each of those moments.

Second, one thing that we human beings find difficult to grasp and then to actually put into practice is this: Feelings or emotions arise by themselves and do not have any moral content; it is what we do with them that make them into virtue or into sinful failure. Your body itself reacts to the very presence of that other person. But, when your first action is thinking: "Thank you, Jesus. Praise Jesus! Lord, have mercy on me. Glory and honor to you, Father!", then you have changed the physical body reaction into a prayer. And you can smile and say, cheerfully, "Good morning!"

Consider these types of body signs, or any kind of thing [temptation, bewilderment, situations] in your life as simply Jesus knocking on the door [as in Revelation 3:20] and you opening that door of your heart so that He can enter and have supper with you.

You don't have to be "bosom buddies" with everyone. But Christian disciples are called to love their neighbors, and even their enemies, in imitation of Jesus.

Blessings and peace!

Fr. Harold Danielson, SDB

On November 8, we received these questions:

Dear Fathers,

I have recently been reading several books on Ignatian Spirituality (the Daily Examen and Spiritual Discernment). Ignatian Spirituality has been an excellent fit with my Faith Journey, and I have truly enjoyed learning more about it. I mentioned this to a Catholic friend and she told me that she preferred Franciscan Spirituality? What is the difference between Ignatian Spitituality and Franciscan Spirituality?

Thank you for your answer, and may God Bless you and your ministry.

Peace, John

Fr. Harold Danielson answers:

Dear John,

How does one distinguish between various Christian spiritualities all rooted in the Person of Jesus Christ? As many aspects that radiate from the human reality of that one Jesus, who is both God and man, there are derived Christian ways of walking with Jesus.

In just a word the Jesuit spirituality is more of an intellectual journey. St Ignatius used his powers of logic, one step at a time, to learn to know God, follow Jesus and be open to the Spirit.

St. Francis, instead, three hundred years earlier was more attached to nature, the created universe of God. His spirituality is rooted in the earth and other human beings more on the level of heart than mind.

I would have to go and study different other Saints to say more. You yourself can do that.

Blessings and peace!

Fr. Harold Danielson, SDB

On November 5, we received this question:

Dear Fathers,

I was wondering about the part of the Eucharistic Prayer 'waiting in joy-filled hope for the coming of our Lord". My family and I are trying to live in complete obedience to the teachings of our faith but when I think of my adult children and family members who have left the faith I find it difficult to be joy-filled. My waiting is actually filled with fear and trepidation. It's very depressing to think of Jesus' coming. I trust in his mercy for myself because I am a sinner, but I know this and want to do better. When I think of my family members who completely deny Him I'm devastated. Can you give me some insight into this?


Fr. John Malloy answers:


You offer a tough question and I am sure there are very many Christians who would like an answer.

I myself face that same problem with family members who have left the practice of the faith, married out of the Church and generally succumbed to the secularist mentality of the age in which we live.

There is the consolation, which you mention, of God's mercy. It's available, even for those who deny God, or pretend to deny him. For those who have been baptized there is often that spark of faith that becomes ignited anew in the face of death. I have seen this a few times in my ministry. How many miracles of conversion has God worked though the prayers of the faithful!

There is always the consolation of "more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of."

This is where we need to learn "abandonment." Put ourselves and our loved ones in God's hands, and abandon ourselves to His mercy and love.

I have loved the phrase I first heard from my good friend Cardinal Timothy Manning of Los Angeles: "God writes straight with crooked lines!"

Be consoled your prayers will not go unheeded. Meanwhile "Rejoice in the Lord. Again I say, rejoice!

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB

On August 19, we received this question:

I've been an active Catholic my whole life and have been recently attending mass daily. In college, I started to take my faith and the Church seriously, reading the bible, questioning beliefs, trying to understand our religion and really trying to find God through prayer. From college until now (late 20's), I've always turned to God and made him number one, after all nothing can truly satisfy like an intimate and personal relationship with God. I've learned that material possessions, and earthly relationships, while fun to have, will always leave you wanting more. My question is, I'm going through a particularly hard time right now personally, and I can usually rely on knowing that God is always with me and on proverbs 3.5-6 that things will always work things out. I look to how God tested Job and Abraham and I feel like this is a test for myself. However Job and Abraham had a very true, almost tangible relationship with God, where mine isn't so clear. I haven't had that 'road to Damascus moment'. I feel like I've been searching for God for a long time and I've never had a true epiphany like Job or Abraham or the many Christians who claim they have had one. How do you know when you've found God? What does it feel like to have a truly intimate relationship with him? Can you talk about your experience? How do I know when God's talking to me vs. when it's just my conscience?



Fr. John Itzaina responds:


From your email it would seem that although you've been a active Catholic all these years, you find it difficult in times of personal difficulty to experience God's supportive and saving presence in your life. You, along with the rest of us, never get that big bolt from heaven to reassure that God is actually there (here) helping us through the down and dirty things of this life. You know, Abraham and Sarah, Jeremiah and Isaiah, Elijah and Elisha experienced God first in uncertainty, struggle, loneliness, and despair. The fact is that very few of us realize we've been thrown to the ground and lectured to by a questioning God until after the fact.

Maybe the following quote from the Foreward of the 3rd edition of Believing in Jesus by Leonard Foley, O.F.M. It's taken from an article that Fr. Leonard was working on when he passed away. Fr. Jeremy Harrington, O.F.M. writes: "We catch a glimpse of Leonard's personal relationship with Jesus in an article he was working on a few weeks before his death. He speaks of Jesus emptying himself and coming to us with 'no threats, no show of power.' He has Jesus saying to the reader (and surely to himself): 'You have your cross. It's with you every day. Let me help you carry it. And above all, believe that I'm leading you to where I am. All your life is a period of preparation and testing, purification and grwoth. Some day your cross will be set aside and I will lead you through the veil of death to happiness that even I cannot describe to you.'"

Fr. John Itzaina, SDB

On August 4, we received this question:


i have this wierd thought and i thought mabey u might have an answer

the lord made his 6 days of miracle and in those days he made humans but he never made dinosours and scienctist have living proof that dinosours lived before mankind and satan was the first to go against god so mabey satan owned earth and the dinosours before the lord came and took over.

please help me im confussed thanks


Fr. John Malloy responds:


The Lord God made all things. That's what Scripture reports and that is what we Christians (and most those of other faiths) believe. Nothing was before Him and He always was.

Satan never owned the earth, because he, too, was a creature of God--an angel that rebelled and was cast into hell.

As for the statement that He "never made dinosaurs and scientists have living proof that dinosaurs lived before mankind:" that is not proven--it may be a theory but certainly it is not proven.

When God created man and woman is still a mystery to us. He directly created out souls, even if our human form evolved from the animal kingdom.

This theory of evolution is a question open to debate.

What is not open to debate is that God is almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and He created all things.

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB

On July 18 we received these questions:


As I begin to explore the Bible more, I come to notice many passages that are deeply influential in the way I act, believe and practice my faith. I've come across two individuals who seem to have differing opinions in regards to faith. Paul says that in order to have eternal life, all you need is faith, for if you perform good deeds, you will become boastful, however James declares that faith without works is dead. I would tend to agree with James, after all we are called to 'love thy neighbor' where if we see a poor man begging for food and all we give him is our love and no food, what good is it? However at the end of the day, when Jesus is on the cross, he tells the criminal 'you will be with me in paradise', offering salvation to the criminal who probably had no time to perform good deeds, but had faith alone. What are your thoughts on Paul's philosophy vs. James?



Fr. John Malloy answers:


Protestants have been strong in stating that faith alone is necessary for salvation. That interpretation has been condemned by the Church.

Your understanding of faith is right on. It's true that there are many passages in the New Testament that speak of faith and its necessity for salvation. Paul stresses the need of faith and at times seems to imply that only that is necessary.

Catholic teaching affirms the need of faith, hope and charity, the theological virtues.

And Paul has many passages that do not support the interpretation that faith alone is necessary for salvation.

Faith works through love: Galations 5:6 - For when we are in union with Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor the lack of it makes any difference at all; what matters is faith that works through love. And 1 Thessalonians 1:3 - For we remember before our God and Father how you put your faith into practice, how your love made you work so hard, and how your hope in our Lord Jesus Christ is firm.

Faith into practice demands more than faith alone. It needs works, deeds.

And again:1Timothy 4:12 - not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but be an example for the believers in your speech, your conduct, your love, faith, and purity.

Faith is in the list, but so is purity and conduct and love, all of which demand action and reaction to life situations, i.e good deeds.

Fr. John J. Malloy, SDB

On May 22, we received this question:

Hello and greetings from Finland!

I am a wife and a mother of two young daughters. I have been happily married to my husband (also a catholic, I'm so blessed) now for almost seven years. We regularly go to mass on sundays and holy days of obligation. We live our married life according to what the Church teaches.

I (we both) frequent the sacraments. I normally go to confess aproximately once in three weeks or so. I receive our Lord normally on sundays and whenever able (catholics are a small minority in Finland so we don't have many churches around) to go to mass. Now comes the question I never dare to speak with my confessor (but since I don't know you and you don't know me and we don't meet face-to-face...):

Is it really usual, that just "normal" catholics (like me) living normal lives have some sorts of spiritual experiences? Or am I just somehow deceiving myself? And if so, is it dangerous?

My "experience" is Jesus in the holy eucharist. It started a few years ago when I wasn't even catholic (I converted at the age of 19, my parents strongly opposed). When going to the sacrament chapel, I could somehow "feel" Him in the tabernacle. First I thought I was coming crazy. I dared not to speak about it to anybody. His presence was (and is!) really comforting to me. I pray a lot also for the conversion of sinners and to make reparation (unworthy and just normal sinner though I am).

Once in the mass (my then-fiance was serving the mass) I watched when the priest was cleaning the paten and the chalice. The strange feeling came that Jesus was still there. later on I asked Marko (my husband) was everything clean when mass was ended. he said no, there were some pieces of sacred host left on the paten afterwards and father ... consumed them just in the sacristy. I could not have known that. Then, sometimes when I go to receive holy communion, tears just start to flow. Then I know there is something wrong between me and God, I need to go to confession and make my life better. At other times, I smile, so much so that I hide my face to my hands so that nobody sees. To my children I say mom is praying and it's fine for them. They are just normal kids. We play a lot and laugh and argue and in short, have a completely normal family. Marko is the only person I have talked about this and other related things.(like "seeing" the Virgin Mary and talking to her) He always says I should speak to a priest but I feel very very embarrased. I live very normal life, just like everybody, I guess. I am not holier. (you can ask Marko!) I know there are a lot of "seers" around who claim this and that. I don't want to claim anything nor judge anybody. So are these things just ok or should I ask some medical help or something? Sometimes I' m worried it might come from the evil one -but it makes me much better and eager to pray more and be more patient and forgiving etc. I would be very glad and relieved if I knew other "normal catholics" are also having some sorts of spiritual experiences. I never ever would speak about these things with my catholic mom-friends.

Sorry to disturb you with this nonsense!

God bless!

Fr. Harold Danielson responds:

First off, please do not call what you have and are experiencing "nonsense".

I am convinced that experiences such as yours should be very common among the People of God - ordinary people who try to live their Christian life emanating from Sunday Eucharist into their daily existence. I think that if it does not occur, it simply means that many people are less tuned in to the Holy Spirit in their lives.

Most of the time nobody knows about it. It is rare in history that people have been asked by Our Lord Jesus or the Blessed Virgin to tell others about it or to do something public for all the People of God.

There is a fact in the life our Founder St. John Bosco when the Archbishop of Turin where he lived asked him to check out a lady who was publicly giving spiritual advice and seemed to be in communication with God. So Don Bosco [Don = "Father" in Italian] went to see this person. After the assistant let him in, Don Bosco began to treat the lady rather rudely and with strong expressions. The lady responded with dismay, and ordered him out immediately. So Don Bosco reported to the Archbishop: "She's no saint. Don't worry about it."

A person who is personally proud that the Lord has chosen him/her, has already lost the way. So now two things: You should search for a good Spiritual Director to share these things with. And only with his or her advice should you share anything to anyone else, except you husband who knows already. You may keep a journal of these experiences. It will only be for you. Should anyone want to publish anything after you have gone to heaven, then it will be up to the Church authorities to allow it or not.

In the opening prayer of today's Liturgy [Tuesday of 7th week of Easter] we pray: "God of power and mercy, send your Holy Spirit to live in our hearts and make us temples of his glory." This is your experience. Let your simple ordinary life be an act of love of God and neighbor while singing praise and glory to God.

Blessings to you and your family as we conclude this Easter Season with hearts open to the Holy Spirit this Sunday.

Fr. Harold Danielson, SDB

On May 9, 2007 we received this question:

Fathers... In today's Gospel (John 14:17) Jesus says If you loved me you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; For the Father is greater than I. Also ... The world must know that I love the Father and I do just as the Father has commanded me.

This is confusing to me. I believe in the Holy Trinity (don't understand it) but I believe. I believe there is one God in three Divine Persons. When Jesus speaks of the Father being greater than He it gives the impression of a separateness that does not square with the one God belief. How can one person of the same God be greater than the other?

A second question that has troubled me. We are told that there is nothing we can do to merit heaven. It is a gift bought and paid for by our Lord Jesus Christ through his death and resurrection. Does trying to live in grace and doing the things our Lord would have us do have no meaning? Yes, I do them because I love Jesus, but I also think the loving things I do for others has to count for something. Is simply believing in Jesus as our Savior all that is necessary to be saved as our Protestant Brothers believe?

Thank you


Fr. John Malloy responds:


You ask two tough questions.

Your first question regards the Trinity and the two natures of Jesus Christ: Son of God and Son of Man. Fully human and fully divine. We read in John Chapter 1 that God was made flesh. He dwelt among us. He was born of the Virgin Mary. Our faith tells us that this really happened. “For in him dwells the whole fullness of the deity bodily. (Col 2.9) Scripture relates that Jesus declared himself to be God. So we believe he was God. He was also a man. He grew in wisdom and understanding. He prayed to the Father…

How could that happen? How could one person be of two natures: human and divine? The story of Thomas is worth retelling: He was unbelieving until the Lord asked him to put his hand into the wound at is side. “My Lord and my God,” said Thomas. Jesus answered: “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” ((John 21.29)

If you accept that there is God who created all things. A God who is all mighty, all powerful, all creating, etc. etc. You know you are accepting a mystery which our frail human minds cannot fully understand. And we believe that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit and that too, is a mystery. One is not greater than the other, they are co-equal and that, too is a mystery. So don’t expect to understand a mystery, only accept that it is possible because God has revealed it to us through the Scriptures and through the person of Jesus Christ himself.

Your second question:

Yes, Jesus opened for us the gates of heaven. His dying for our sins made it possible for us to have eternal life in heaven. But just believing in Jesus as our Savior will not get us to heaven because "faith without works is dead." We must believe certainly, but we must also act in accord with the commandments we have from God. Our good deeds are treasures in heaven. We can increase or diminish that treasure by the way we act. So living in grace and doing things for our Lord has tremendous meaning.

Fr. John Malloy, SDB

On January 6, we received this question:

I have masturbated for 30 years. I had perverted impure thoughts while masturbating. I have been addicted to porn for about 26 years. I am very terrified of going to hell when I die. I have cried out to God but passages like hebrews 6, 4-6 terrify me. I am trying to get right with God.

Fr. Harold Danielson responds:

What agony you express in the short note to our question page.

The only attitude and action of God our Father regarding you right now - and always - is "You poor guy" and enfolding you in His arms, hoping you will let go and let Him enter into your heart and mind and soul.

We human beings, a mixture of matter and spirit; how that matter acts up in our lives and tries to bring everything else of our selves down! However, God our loving Creator always gives us the strength to get up and start over again, every single day.

You did not give your own faith heritage in your short note. But, since you wrote to a part of the web site of SS. Peter & Paul Catholic Church, I can presume that your own background is Catholic.

Thus, I shall point out two things: First a quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This book was produced by order of Pope John Paul II to bring together in an organic way the ordinary teachings of the Catholic Church in one volume. It has become a tremendous source book since publication in 1994. To end up in eternity totally separated from God (that is hell), one must be in the state of grave, serious, deadly [mortal] sin. Bishop Morrow, in his book My Catholic Faith first published in 1948, states unequivocally: "Mortal sin presupposes a hatred of God." [italics of Bishop Morrow] Now back to the Catechism , there is a specific paragraph which goes to the evaluation of any particular individual's state of serious sin. It is #2352.

I cite the whole paragraph because it is just one sentence:

"To form an equitable judgment about the subject's moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that can lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability."

So there are a lot of things that come together making what you do or think very little on the grand moral scale.

However, as a disciple of Jesus (God) we are each invited to "take up the cross every day and follow Me." This means daily personal decision and also partaking in the Sacraments of the gathered community of disciples [the Church]. This means Sunday Mass, frequent confession, daily prayer as the Holy Spirit inspires, and so on. It especially means, every day stopping for a moment to give everything of our life, all the good and beautiful, all the ugly and awful, into the care of our loving Father and begin again walking with the Lord. This is the most important daily task of the disciple.

If Jesus (Lord and God) tells us that we must forgive every time we are asked, try to imagine how much God Himself wants to forgive when asked. So that's our job, every day to begin again with God's Son, asking f

A help for this may be found in an offshoot movement inspired from Alcoholics Anonymous. It is Sexaholics Anonymous. There are meetings of people in a similar situation all over. Look them up on the website.

Many blessings for 2007!

Fr. Harold Danielson, SDB

On December 7, we received this question:

Dear Fathers,

Growing up, most of my family, immediate and extended, were practicing Catholics. These days, I am about the only one left. Most have become "Born Again" Christians. I love my family members and I do wish to dissuade them from their personal walks with Jesus.

This being said, in John 3:3, Jesus spoke to Nicodemus and told him "I am telling you the truth: no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again." Do you have an opinion on why certain Christian denominations place such emphasis on this statement from Jesus. How do Jesus' words factor into our faith as Catholics, and how should we respond to our family and friends who seem so focused on the significance of this passage.

I greatly appreciate your sage. Please keep me and my family in your prayers.

God Bless,


Fr. John Malloy responds:


The one true religion is based on the Bible and Tradition. The authentic interpreter of Sacred Scripture is the Holy Father and Bishops in union with him. Biblical passages are often open to various interpretations, as we have witnessed over the centuries in the various false religions which resulted from an interpretation divergent from the Catholic position.

To understand Jesus' meaning when he spoke of "born again" we must seek an authentic interpretation of the text. Jesus insisted on the necessity of spiritual birth for the kingdom of God, which is the possession only of the children of God. John is evidently thinking of Christian baptism and intends the Christian reader to do the same. Jesus had been speaking of rebirth and presence of the Spirit as "earthly things." If Nicodemous cannot understand this then he is in no position to receive the "heavenly things" that is, mysteries of the faith alone that can provide the basis of understanding. So he needs rebirth, acceptance of the "heavenlythings." These "things" are found in the one true Church.

"Born again" Christians, at least some of them, have missed a basic Christian tenet: Baptism opens the door to all the sacraments and to salvation, but it does not guarantee salvation. Faith without works is dead. (Jas. 2,17). We may well reaffirm our faith in Christ but good works still are required. Repentance is still necessary. Christ alone can bring salvation, but we ourselves can refuse the gift.

Fr. John Malloy, SDB

On November 21 we received this question:

Why did Jesus say "a prophet is never welcomed in his home town"? Was Jesus simply making an observation in the context of being rejected at Nazareth, or is there a greater meaning?

Thank you for your thoughts on my question.

God Bless you!


Fr. John Malloy answers:


I think that Jesus was simply "making an observation in the context of being rejected..." as you mentioned.

Some of Jesus' friends and family were not the least bit impressed with His ministry or His accomplishments. In fact, Scripture reveals that his own family thought he was "out of his mind" and "they set out to seize him." (Mark 3:21)

You and I have the same problem: when (if) we decide to live for God, people are not always going to understand or respect us for it.

One good Christian wrote: "Some time ago, I gained some media attention because of my work for the Lord. Some of my friends and family were not the least bit impressed. What bothered me most was knowing that if I had been in the public eye because of a sports-related achievement, or because I wrote romance novels, they would have been thrilled. But because I was being recognized for my service to God, they held no esteem for my accomplishments. That was a painful realization for me. Since then, I've decided to serve the Lord with all my heart, even if no one else cares."


Fr. John Malloy, SDB

On November 15, we received this question:

Hello Fr.,

Hope things are going well. I'm a devout born and raised Catholic, proud to be Catholic and love to worship God. My wife is Baptist and recently we agreed on attending each others services (one Sunday at my church, the next Sunday at her church (even though on Sunday's when I'm suppose to go to her service I go to mine as well)). When I went to their service it felt like a bible study session / Christian rock concert. Nothing to sacred about it, but insightful none the less. I thought it was interesting to go in depth and literally translate (through their interpretation) of what the scripture meant. My question is, what are the main differences between Catholicism and the Baptist discipline?



Fr. Harold Danielson responds:

Dear Michael,

Thank you for your letter. It is very valiant [and correct] also to go to Mass on the Sunday you attend the Baptist service. The main reason is our Catholic belief that it is the very Body [and Blood] of Jesus in the Eucharist, so that He himself draws us to communion in Him forming His Mystical Body in the world. That is the Church. The Church, you know, is the gathered community of those called [in Greek it means more than just "called" but personally selected to become the people of light for the world, salt of the earth and leaven for the society around us].

The Catholic Church believes that the single most important thing it does in the world is celebrate Eucharist, both parts: the table of the Word [Holy Scripture] and the table of the Body and Blood of Christ. It is the very center of our Christian life - everything leading to and flowing from Eucharist.

I am surely not an expert in the specific aspects of the Baptist Christian tradition. Certainly there is a very strong emphasis on the Holy Scripture. That is very good. I have only one advice in that regard. Be careful on insisting on the meaning of one specific word or sentence. For a word, there are many translations of the Bible available today. Any one of these may translate a word in different ways. So the attention has to be on the concept.

And for a concept or sentence - it must be interpreted with the whole New and Old Testament in the background. Sometimes we have a tendency to take an idea and give it Gospel authentic truth out of context with the rest of the Bible. We Catholics do this too, but non-Catholics only have the Bible itself for guidance, whereas we have the whole context of Tradition [the handing on of the Gospel or Good News of Jesus] along with the successors of the Apostles [Pope and Bishops] to guide and direct us.

After more than four centuries of Catholics and non-Catholics emphasizing differences and arguing about them, the Second Vatican Council directed that we begin rejoicing in the things that are the same. We can find out that we are brothers and sisters in the same family and why should we be quarreling all the time. So that is what we have been doing for the last 40 years. And what marvelous steps have been made!

So keep your eye on the Lord Jesus. With the strength of the Eucharist in you, love Jesus and see Him in your wife and in all the other people in your life.

Remember that when we really say "Yes" to Jesus, at a certain point He will invite you upon the cross with Him. That is a sign that beyond accepting your love He is asking you to share even more fully with Him.


Fr. Harold Danielson, SDB

On October 18 we received this question:

Dear Father,

I have been raised Catholic and went to Catholic grade and high schools. However, we were never taught about the Eastern Riite of the Catholic Church, which totally confuses me.

How can the Eastern Rite be part of the Catholic Church when they do not believe in the Immaculate Conception, Purgatory, or following the Pope? I was told that a Catholic may receive Holy Communion in the EasternRite. Could you please explain this to me.

Thank you.


Fr. Malloy responds:


The term Eastern Catholic Churches refers to autonomous particular Churches in communion with the Pope of Rome. These Churches follow different Eastern Christian liturgical traditions: Alexandrian, Antiochian, Armenian, Byzantine and Chaldean. Canonically, each Eastern Catholic Church is sui iuris or autonomous with respect to other Catholic Churches, whether Eastern or Latin, though all accept the spiritual authority of the Pope.They all believe in the Immaculate Conception, Purgatory, and obedience to the Pope, etc.

Roman Catholic can receive the Eucharist in any of these Eastern Catholic Churches, and vice versa. Some Orthodox Eastern Churches are not in union with the Holy Father. Inter-communion is not possible with them.

To learn more about these churches:

Fr. John Malloy, S.D.B.

On October 11 we received this question:


I was asked the question by a non-catholic, if Jesus if really present in the Eucharist every day why does He have to come again in the second coming, since He is already here in the Eucharist?


Father Malloy answers:


We believe that Jesus is truly present, under the appearances of bread and wine, after the consecration of the Eucharist. Many find it hard to believe that Jesus is present in the Eucharist. We believe becasue of our faith and because of the fact that Jesus himself told us what would happen. When some of his followers walked away in unbelief, He did not call tham back and say that he was only speaking of a memorial presence in the changing of the bread and wine into his body and blood. He was for real in the bread and wine. He also worked many miracles to prove his power

At the second coming He will be present in his human observavble condition, no longer under the appearance of bread and wine. Unbelievers will have another opportunity to accept or reject him.

Fr. John Malloy, SDB

On August 19, we received this question:


The other day I heard some horrible news. My brother's colleague didn't show up to work on Monday. The last my brother had seen of him was on Friday, they had put in a good weeks work and were ready for the weekend. They said they're good byes and went home.

Monday comes around and my brother's colleague doesn't show up for work. My brother calls him but no answer. This is very out of character and wonders whats wrong. Tuesday comes around and still no sign of him. So my brother, a little concerned, goes to his apartment. There he finds his roomate, terrified. It turns out that the colleague had taken his own life friday night.

Shocked and saddened, my brother calls me and tells me the news. And I become overcome with grief and I don't even know the guy. It's so sad, especially for the family he left behind. I have two questions, first, what'll become of his soul? And secondly, God knows when everyone will be born and when everyone will die, why do people die this way, when they take their own life?



Fr. Harold Danielson responds:

Dear Mike,

Yes, that was a horrible shock to you and your friends. It shows us that we simply do not know what is going on in another person's mind.

We start off with a profound sense of God's love for each and every single human being, known by God from the eternal now, expressed by St. Paul "before the world was created". From our human perspective as made up of matter and spirit, we are limited beings. So our response to that truly immense [infinitely immense] love of God for us is always tainted with weakness. We are not perfect, though by God's grace we keep working at it.

For something to be greatly sinful three things are required: that the thing itself is big, that one has complete knowledge of it and its consequences, and that one has the completely full will to do it notwithstanding.

For someone who takes his own life, neither the second or third parts are present. Thus one enters into the loving embrace of God our Father. And that is where we leave it as persons of faith.

The next thing, of course, is how to fill up the vast hole in us when this horrible thing is upon us, or any thing else too. The only answer for a Christian is Jesus Himself crucified and forsaken on the cross crying out to the Father: "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" Uniting ourselves to that agony of Jesus when we come upon any suffering [immense, ordinary or little] in our lives is the only faith filled response to anything we encounter. Uniting our experience to Jesus at that moment allows us to be totally present to other people in their suffering. Experiencing that suffering, sorrow, depression, fear, confusion … to the very depth in unity with another becomes the preparation for a new resurrection in our lives.

At this new resurrection we can experience, and then show forth, the authentic joy of God's presence in us and among us.

Many blessings! And heartfelt sympathy!

Fr. Harold Danielson, SDB

On August 11, we received this question:


When Jesus is on the cross, he cries out, "My God, my God, why have you foresaken me". Why does he cry this out if he knows that he came to save man kind from their sin and that he was going to die for their sins? He's Jesus, he had to of known is fate. This has always puzzled me.



Fr. Harold Danielson replies:

Dear Mike,

Thank you for your question. It shows you are thinking and wanting to grow in your discipleship of Jesus, to really be his friend. You are seeking Jesus on the way to fulfilling what I just read yesterday by Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (a Carmelite, canonized by John Paul II, maiden name Edith Stein):"Whoever belongs to Christ must go the whole way with him He must mature to adulthood: he must one day or other walk the way of the cross to Gethsemane and Golgotha."

Asking the question reminds me of James and John, asking Jesus to sit on his right and left in the Kingdom. Jesus responds with: "Can you drink the cup I am to drink? Are you ready to be baptized in the way I am to be baptized?" They answer enthusiastically "Oh, yes!" And Jesus assures them they will drink and be baptized with him. He is talking of his suffering.

Throughout the history of the Church in different times, eras, and circumstances, there have been Saints and movements that have sought to deepen awareness of the profound experience of the Passion and Cross of Jesus. Examples are St. John of the Cross, spiritual writer and Doctor of the Church in the 16th century, and St. Paul of the Cross, Founder of the Passionists.

lso today there is a worldwide Gospel spirituality one of whose points is particularly the aspect of Jesus forsaken on the cross crying out: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

It is described as the moment of most intense suffering of Jesus and at the same time the most intense love - for the Father and for us. St. Paul explains that Jesus "though sinless himself, became sin" for our salvation. Sin is separation from God. As a human being, Jesus did not know what that meant. He proclaimed in so many ways that the Father was always with him, that his food was to do the will of the Father, I always do what the Father asks, not my will but yours, etc. The last thing was the human experience of being without God, and he cries out 'My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" Afterwards he completes his offering: "Into your hands I commend my spirit."

Let me tell you something personal. In my last months of studies for the priesthood, I was very bewildered. I did not like my situation at all. I could not see myself loving things I did not like, doing things I felt incompetent about, various things. It was one of my professors, for whom I am so grateful, that told me that being a priest was simply being with Jesus on the Cross for the people. That was down to earth enough for me to grasp. And I went ahead notwithstanding all those other things.

Well, Divine Providence did not leave me hanging. In the very first months of my priesthood, actually beginning a few weeks before my ordination, God let me come in contact with a spiritual movement for which this aspect of Jesus crucified and forsaken is an essential point. I have grown with greater adherence to this spirituality now almost 40 years. In fact a number of my ordination class of 1966 are getting together next month in Rome to celebrate our priesthood in the Church and in the Salesians of St. John Bosco.

The movement I am speaking about is the Focolare Movement. It is now in most every country in the world. The word "Focolare" is an Italian word meaning "Family Fireside" which was given by the ordinary people to those few living together at the beginning because the people when leaving them would always say: "It was just like being like a family around the fireplace."

I looked up on the website and found this one page description on Jesus Forsaken:

The summit of love

"At three o'clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice,

'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'" (Mt.27,46)

It is the climax of His sufferings, it is His interior passion.

It is the tragedy of a God Who cries out:

"My God, my God why have you forsaken me?".

The infinite mystery of the abyssal suffering which Jesus experienced as a man.

It is the measure of His love for man. He wanted to take upon Himself the separation between God and man and men from each other. And He bridged the infinite gap of that separation.

All human sufferings are summarised in that particular suffering of Jesus.

Those who are in anguish, who are lonely or in a state of aridity, the disappointed, the failed, the weak: are they not all, in a way, similar to Him? Is He not the image of any painful division among the members of a family?

By loving him, Christians find the reason and the strength not to escape from suffering, from evil, from division, but to accept them, thus making a personal contribution of their own.

Jesus the Forsaken is the key to unity.

(from Chiara Lubich's writings)

So, Mike, there it is: a description of the act of love by which Jesus bridged the chasm between God and human beings caused by sin. Today's Gospel reading for the Feast of St. Lawrence states: "Where I am, there will my servant be." (John 12:26) There is the invitation of Jesus to each of us.

Let us pray that we can answer with James and John: "Yes, Jesus!"

Most sincerely,

Fr. Harold Danielson, SDB

P.S. The publishing house for the Focolare Movement is the New City Press. I'm sure you can find its website.

On August 7, we received this question:

Father, what position does the Church take on dangerous cults and why is it the Church seems so reluctant to comment on cults hiding under the guise of religion?

Take for instance the nutty cult of Scientology. People in this cult pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to climb “levels” that consist of nothing more than being spoon fed L. Ron Hubbard’s science fiction passed off to them as some sort of secret truth. In the upper levels of this madness, Scientologists learn that all of mankind's troubles trace back 75 million years to the evil galactic warlord Xenu. They’re taught that Xenu transported trillions of aliens to Earth, strapped them to Hawaiian volcanoes, blew them up with hydrogen bombs, and as their disembodied souls floated upward Xenu caught the souls in giant “soul catchers” in the sky, and then proceeded to confuse the souls into believing a false reality by showing them 36 hours of 3-D propaganda about the world’s major religions. And so now these souls cling on to mankind causing us all our grief and fears, and only through a very expensive technique called “auditing” using an electric device called an "e-meter" Scientology can remove these clustered spirits that cling to you and cause you all your grief. So Scientology teaches that Christianity is just a “false implant” carried by these disembodied spirits put there by Xenu.

I know all this sounds like bizarre and convoluted science fiction, but welcome to the bizarre and convoluted world that is the nutty and dangerous cult of Scientology. They’ve launched a war against psychiatry because L. Ron taught that Xenu had a secret an ever reincarnating police force that today is incarnated as the world’s psychiatrists. I kid you not! You can look all this up, it’s publicly available:

In your research you’ll also find that the roots of Scientology go back to Hubbard’s admiration and study of the Satanist Aleister Crowley. In fact the Scientology “cross” is a variant of the Satanic cross Crowley developed.

And here this cult, flush with cash from it’s movie star affiliations has a beautiful building on Columbus Ave., just a few blocks from Sts. Peter and Paul. It’s members can be seen in front, dressed in paramilitary navy uniforms (because Hubbard fathomed himself some great naval figure though his actual Navy records show quite the contrary), are out there all the time passing out literature and trying to ensnare folks who don’t know what they are.

Where is the Catholic outrage over this monstrous and Satanic organization operating just outside it’s doors? Thank you!


Fr. John Malloy responds:

Dear Glenn:

The Church is not reluctant to comment on cults or false religion of any shape or form.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church represents the true mind of the Church and there is a lengthy section commenting on the first commandment "You Shall Have No Other Gods Before Me."

There are hundreds of false religions and to comment on each one of them would be a Herculean task. However, the Vatican is always ready to give a response when a particular theory or belief contradicts Catholic truth.

I believe that most members who follow Scientology have little idea of the extent of their doctrine. On the surface it seems harmless enough. People without supernatural faith are ready to believe anything: "There are none so blind as those who will not see."

Our best offense is to pray, give a good example of our faith, and charitably offer help to all in need.

Rev. John Malloy, SDB

On July 29, we received this question:

Dear Fathers,

What ever happened to St. Christopher? Is he still recognized as a genuine Saint by the Church? I've heard that he is no longer considered a real Saint, yet millions of people still have St. Christopher medals, etc.


Fr. Harold Danielson responds:

Dear Joseph,

Since you are an internet user, I shall direct you to a magnificent article to answer you question on St. Christopher. On your internet search function, ask for

This is the on-line edition of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, VA's weekly newspaper. On the site you will find "Straight answers", one of which is on St. Christopher.

Of course, I found it first simply by writing St. Christopher, Christ-bearer. The first site that came up was a picture [poster store]. Then the second was the article I refer to above. (


Fr. Harold Danielson, SDB

On May 1 we received this question:

Dear Fathers:

I believe I have posed this question before but I can't find a posting and answer for it. Perhaps that is because others have danced around the question and you feel that it has been answered adequately in that way.

However, with your permission I will ask again. What exactly is meant by "No Salvation Outside the Church?" A friend has interpretated that in a strictly literal sense and therefore believes that Jews cannot go to heaven. That idea is riduculous to me because Jews lived a long time before Christ and many of them must have been able to be saved. And even Jews after Christ should be able to be saved if they follow the ten commandments, because it seems that for Jews born into that faith community the light to accept Christ would require exceptional grace. And of course many haave received it and come into the Church. I, believe, relying on the Catechism and even on the previously widely used "Baltimore Catechism" and Vatican ll documents, believe that the all Christian Churches are connected in some way to the Catholic Church. And of course we know that there are three ways to accomplish Baptism: A properly administered Baptism of water, Baptism of Blood, and Baptism of Desire. Baptism of Desire could include anyone who through no fault of his own, has not had the opportunity to learn about Christ but seeks to serve God as he understands God's will. As Vatican ll documents indicate, even Muslims could be included in "the Church" and attain salvation although it would be more difficult. Once a person knows about Christ and is convinced that the Catholic Church is the one true Church and goes elsewhere, that person would be subject to "No Salvation Outside the Church." Your clarification and input would be greatly appreciated.


Fr. John Malloy answers:

Dear Ila,

I suggest you look up The Catechism of the Catholic Church: #839 "The Church and Non-Christians" and #846 "Outside the Church is there no salvation."

You will find that you are pretty much in sync with the teaching of the Church.

The Catechism explains that the "Outside" phrase reformulated positively means that salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his body. This affirmation, the Catechism goes on to say (#847) is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church.

As # 848 explains: "Although in ways known to himself, God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men."

I remember the case of Fr. Leonard Feeney S.J., of the Boston area, who preached "No salvation outside the Church," and left the Church with his strict interpretation. He died in 1978, reconciled to the Church, after creating quite a controversy at the time.

The Vatican's Holy Office rejected his restrictive view by distinguishing between those who really belong to the Church and those who belong by desire. The desire would be explicit in those who were catechumens and implicit in those people of goodwill who would join the Church if they knew it to be the one, true Church of Christ.

We do believe that God “wills everyone to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth." 1 Timothy 2:4.

Fr. John Malloy

On February 6, 2006 we received this question:

Dear Fathers,

What is the "Immaculate Conception"? Was Mary really born free from sin?


Fr. John Malloy answers:

Dear Joseph,

When I was a young seminarian my future brother-in-law asked me about the Virgin birth. I remember feeling a bit embarrassed, but I believe I gave him an orthodox answer to a question that has come before me often in my teaching years. Jesus had a mother, Mary. Jesus had a father, the Holy Spirit. Joseph was his foster father.

Isn't that the Immaculate Conception? No. The Immaculate Conception refers to Mary's origin. An infallible declaration was made, a dogma of the Church, when Pius IX, in the Constitution Ineffabilis Deus of 8 December, 1854, pronounced and defined that the Blessed Virgin Mary "in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin."

"The Blessed Virgin Mary . . . The subject of this immunity from original sin in the person of Mary at the moment of the creation of her soul and its infusion into her body. . . .in the first instance of her conception . . . The term conception does not mean the active or generative conception by her parents. Her body was formed in the womb of the mother, and the father had the usual share in its formation. The question does not concern the immaculateness of the generative activity of her parents. Neither does it concern the passive conception absolutely and simply, which, according to the order of nature, precedes the infusion of the rational soul. The person is truly conceived when the soul is created and infused into the body. Mary was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin at the first moment of her animation, and sanctifying grace was given to her before sin could have taken effect in her soul."

There is no direct proof of this dogma from Scripture, though the Angel Gabriel's salutation "Hail, full of grace" serves as an illustration. From the earliest writings of the fathers of the Church Mary's purity was extolled, and no controversy arose over the Immaculate Conception on the European continent before the twelfth century. Disagreement over the doctrine rose from lack of understanding of "conception." Since the time of Alexander VII, long before the final definition, there was no doubt on the part of theologians that the privilege was amongst the truths revealed by God.

Fr. John J. Malloy, S.D.B.

On January 21, we recieved this question:

Dear Father,

I was born and raised Catholic here in S.F. By the time I was 10 years old I was convinced that I was a terrible sinner destined for hell. (Never did anything bad, except miss church once in awhile, then would go to confession and communion). Well by the time I was 16, I was miserable until I thought of the following: Just because someone believes something, that does not make it true. Therefore just because someone has faith that there is a God does not cause there to be one or visa versa. Since there is no absolute proof, what is one to think? All I know about god or God has been told to me by others who for the most part believe what they say. But that does not make it true or real. I guess that is why they call it faith? But just because you have faith, does that prove the existence of God? Well, no. Then how can one believe and accept God as reality if all we have is a belief that may or may not be true in the first place. Anyway, just wanted to get a clergy's opinion on this.

I thank you very much.

William, San Francisco

Fr. John Malloy Responds:

Dear William,

First of all: God loves us, as we are. He doesn't approve of our sins. He wants us to renounce evil, but He loves us, and does not reject us. Even if we should choose evil over good and land up in hell, it will be because of our choice not His.

Now to your basic question: "Does God exist?"

For me: every effect has a cause until you arrive at the First Cause that produced all the other effects: God.

For me everything in the world is coordinated so that seasons change, the tides rise and fall,builders design and complete projects... The Architect that designed all this we call God.

Some believe in the Big Bang theory. The world came into being as the result of a huge "explosion" from which all else evolved. But who produced the BIG BANG? It seems more rational to believe that a Supreme Being produced the BIG BANG (if that is how things started) than to claim it as the First Cause

Once we admit the existence of God, then the theological virtues: faith, hope and charity make sense. (Theological from "theos" or God, in Greek.)

Yes, just because one tells us something does not make it true. Our beliefs are based on authority and our own experience, or the experience of others. We have natural faith, for example, that when we turn a switch, a light will go on. We know it will work, but we don't understand how, until science explains. We have faith that there was George Washington who founded our country. We believe it because reputable authorities have said so. We have just as much authority to believe that Jesus Christ lived, and now have his teachings in the Bible.

Where is the authority for faith in God or supernatural faith? In Jesus Christ. Christians claim it is found in the Bible, the Word of God, and in the Church's teaching. It is also found in miracles. A miracle demands a force beyond nature. Is it not reasonable to call the force that can suspend nature the Supreme Being: God? Even science admits the miraculous but science itself cannot explain it.

When I die, if there is no God and hence no heaven or hell, I won't know the difference. I'll be nothing.

However, if the atheist dies, and there is a God, he will sure know the difference.

For me there is no doubt as to the road to take. And so it has been for many millions of Christians who gave their lives for God and still do so today.

Fr. John Malloy, S.D.B.

On December 19, we received this question:

Is heaven open only to righteous Catholics? In other words, where do good Jews or pagans go when they die?


Fr. Malloy answered:

Dear Joe,

One thing we do know God loves his creatures and wishes all of them to be saved. He did give them free will so they (Christians, Pagans, Muslims Jews, etc.) can all freely accept this gift of salvation if they so choose--or reject it.

We believe that our souls will live forever. At the time of separation from our earthly bodies we will end up accepting or rejecting God and so enter heaven or hell. Even those who may not know God can still follow the natural law which prompts them to what is right.

God sends no one to hell. Those who end there do so as their choice

However, we also believe that there is a temporary state called purgatory, a place where those who die not rejecting God, but still with sins not fully paid for, await until the debt is paid and heaven is open to them.

As for what was called limbo and believed to be a place for the unbaptized, theologians are now questioning that. It is not mentioned in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and perhaps it will be rejected altogether.

Fr. John Malloy

On November 12, 2005, a person asked:


How do I know god exists?



Fr. Malloy responds:


Dear Ronny,

Belief in a god or gods, it seems, arises naturally the world over. It seems that there is some element common to all human experience that causes us to look for something transcendent on which to build our lives, to ask the question Does God exist? and to affirm, at least in some sense, that he does.

The vast majority of human beings of all ages and cultures and civilizations believe in a Supreme Being. Our Christian belief in God is also based on what we believe to be the Word of God, the Bible. For me the compelling reason, beyond faith, is the principle of causality. Our human experinece assures us that a watch, for example, did not just happen to come into existence. it required a mind to design it and someone to build it. So for the universe.

Each of us can trace our family tree back many years, but eventually we have to come to the first parents. Who created them? They just happend by evolution? Who was responsible for the parts that evolution required? etc. etc..

There are many other "proofs" for the existence God, and there are many contradictions of those "proofs." Check the internet, if you wish.

But we believe that faith is a gift of God, freely given, and that is why the vast majority believe in God. Morality, as we know it in our civilization, is meaningless without a God. And together with that goes the freedom that God has given to humankind. Because we have free will, we are free to love Him or deny Him.

But that's another question, albeit connected with "Does God Exists?".

Fr. Malloy

On October 14, 2005, a person asked:


My name is Brian, and I am an 18 year old college student. I was born into a very strong Lutheran family, and was raised and indoctrinated in those beliefs since my birth. At about the age of 12 I began to question the beliefs I once held so dear. For six years I have battled with myself and others about the existence of God, Christian or otherwise. Now, I am near the end of my spiritual journey which I believe has led me back to Christianity, but this time to the Catholic Church. However, some questions still bother me very much; to the point that I cannot fully grasp the religion quite yet until the answers to these questions are fully met. I decided to contact your church, when, on a walk through San Francisco I saw your church and I felt a strong connection to it. I hope you don’t mind my asking you these questions. My largest question that has plagued me for about two years now is this: If Our God, the Christian God, was indeed all-loving and all-powerful, why would he allow huge portions of the Earth to be consumed by other religions? Iran for example is controlled under a theocracy of Islam. There Christianity has nearly no chance at survival. Just as I was pulled into the traditions of Lutheranism without being able to question it or know better, so too are these children of the Middle East. They don’t stand a chance, and know nothing else. Why would an all loving God condemn these people to an after life of hell? I am sorry for being so long-winded about this, but I hope you'll understand.


Fr. John Malloy responds:


Dear Brian,

Thanks for your inquiry and know that you are not alone in your questioning of God's plan for the universe. I hope I can offer you some light on this difficult question. It really comes down, I think, to the problem of evil in the world. But allow me first to "challenge" the second to the last sentence in this well written letter of yours: Why would an all-loving God condemn these people to an after life of hell?

God condemns no one to hell. Anyone who goes there chooses to deny God. Our faith teaches us that God wishes all to be saved. We believe that the natural law is available to all peoples who have the use of reason. The natural law guides every conscience to do good and avoid evil, even when that conscience may be distorted.

The search for truth is not a clear path for us because of the original sin that Adam and Eve incurred when they wanted to be like God. Confusion has followed ever since.

As Catholics, we believe that we have the deposit of faith contained in Scripture and Tradition, but many primitive and also very intelligent people have come to believe in God and the moral law even apart from a Christian religion. Many Muslims are certainly decent God-fearing people. They will not be condemned.

Here's quotation from a Christian Apologetics source:

"The curious as well as the critics of Christianity ask this question. If God is all-powerful and all loving, then why does He permit evil and suffering in the world? Various answers have been given but permanently settling the issue is impossible because so many of our answers raise further questions. Nevertheless, our lack of ability to answer the question perfectly does not mean that we cannot offer solutions."

First of all, it is possible that God has reasons for allowing evil to exist that we simply cannot understand. In this the Christian can have confidence in God knowing that His ways are above our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). As the Bible says, the just shall live by faith (Hab. 2:4).

Second, God may be letting evil run its course in order to prove that evil is evil and that suffering, which is the unfortunate product of evil, is further proof that anything contrary to God’s will is bad, harmful, painful, and leads to death.

Sin is rebellion against God and His created order. But God has not left us alone in this fallen world. He continued to enter this world, pointing us to Himself, to truth, to morality, purity, and love. He used the evil of the world (liars, perjurers, the envious, etc), to bring His Son to the cross so that we might have the opportunity of eternal life. In this, God has not stepped away from fallen creation, but has stepped into it by becoming Jesus. God works within the fallen world to affect change.

Think about this: If someone said that God should stop evil and suffering, then should God stop all evil and suffering? If God only stopped some of it, then we would still be asking the same question of why it exists. So, if we want God to stop evil and suffering, then He must stop all of it. We have no problem with this when it means stopping a catastrophe, or a murder, or a rape. But what about when someone thinks of something evil? Evil is evil whether it is acted out or not. Hatred and bigotry in someone’s heart is wrong. If it is wrong, and if God is to stop all evil, then He must stop that person from thinking his own thoughts. To do that, God must remove his freedom of thought. Furthermore, which person on the earth has not thought something evil? God would be required, then, to stop all people from exercising their free will. This is something God has chosen not to do. Therefore, we could say that one of the reasons that God permits evil and suffering is because of man’s free will.

So, Brian, there's some food for thought. I hope it is useful. Should you have any further questions feel free to ask. If you would care to drop by the rectory one day, I would be delighted to meet you.

Your friend in Christ,

Fr. John J. Malloy, S.D.B.

On September 23, 2005, a person asked:


My father was Catholic and my mother was Jewish. I was raised Catholic and my cousins went to church with me on Sundays. That's my background. Catholic with Jewish relatives.

My question: I was watching a television program in which a rabbi was explaining the ten commandments. He came upon "Honor thy mother and father" and stated that it relates to blood and therefore an adopted child was exempt from this commandment. I was appalled (as I have an adopted child). Please say something to put my heart at ease. Thank you.

J. Giacosa


Fr. Harold Danielson responds:


Dear J. Giacosa,

In follow up to your question, this is also a first for me: that a Commandment be interpreted in such a restrictive sense. My first reaction would be to question my own understanding of what was actually said in the explanation of the Commandment to honor your father and your mother.

I know in my own life as one in pastoral ministry [8 different parishes in several different cities and two countries], I have been misquoted a number of times. Perhaps there is another website like ours where you may "ask the Rabbi".

For the Catholic perspective on the Ten Commandments as a whole, and each in particular, the easiest and sure first reference is the Catechism of the Catholic Church published some years ago during the time of Pope John Paul II.

Any first bewilderment may be an invitation to "go look it up" in the Catechism and other sources.

I present a quick, short reflection on this.

The Fourth Commandment (or the Fifth in some other enumerations of the Decalogue) to honor father and mother pertains to the first very basic relationship among this group of homo sapiens, the human being. It is the basis of a peaceful, harmonious society.

The Commandments in general [and this in particular] are primarily directed to adults, not just minor children. Love, honor, respect, reverence for one's parents is a responsibility for a life time, particularly for those who experience weakness of body or mind.

Among many failings regarding the whole Decalogue, this one looms high in our generation. What awareness, repentance and reparation we are called to!

The relationship of adoptive parents to their children and of adopted children to their parents is certainly included in this Commandment from the Decalogue. Of course, for disciples of Jesus, His personal, new commandment for all of us "Love one another as I love you" comprehensively includes all relationships in our lives and, side by side with "Love God with your whole heart and soul and mind and strength", fulfills every aspect of "law" and life. This is an invitation of the Spirit to walk with Jesus to finally enter into the glory of heaven, the presence of the Father.


Fr. Harold Danielson, SDB


On September 15, 2005, a person asked:

In a disscussion which took place a few days ago, a fellow parishioner who I believe to be very loving and devout said that missing mass was not a sin.

This person is the leader of our daily rosary group, a teacher for our parishes RCIA program, a Eucharistic Minister, Lector and involved in several other ministries. Many people look up to this person and value a lot of what this person says.

In our discussion this person mentioned that missing mass was not a sin (not involving circumstances when there is no church near by or a person being sick and unable to attend, or some other valid reason), stating that this is what our Priest had said and which that person also believes. This person went on to say that religion is just between God and ourselves and that going to mass on Sundays was not in the Bible and not a calling of Chirst. That as long as a person "Keeps Holy the Sabbath Day", that we have fulfilled our obligation to God's law.

My concern is that others, especially our catecumen's will get the wrong impression and feel free to not attend mass on Sundays or Holy days of obligations. In fact, if that were the case, then why does this person attend mass daily? Just to feel good? I truly don't understand.

Can you please tell me what the Church teaches? And if possible reply to my e-mail vs the newsletter. Either way, I would truly appreciate and answer.

Thank you,



Fr. Steve Whelan Responds:


Dear Bernadette,

Thank you for your question. I will try not to be too long-haired or long-winded. This answer is not a research paper with lots of references.

To begin: There is a Church law which states that Catholics are to attend Mass on Sundays and Holydays of Obligation. This is to be understood in the ordinary common sense way. You already mention several excusing circumstances to the rule.

This all stems from the tradition found in the Bible which states at the end of creation God "rested" from all the work he had done (the seventh day or Sabbath or Saturday.) This came to be understood in the Christian tradition as Sunday, the first day of the week in commemoration of the Resurrection. In the Decalogue given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai it states that one is to keep holy the Sabbath or Lord's Day. Once again, tradition understood this to mean a weekly respite from work and an opportunity to worship God. Worship of God can and should be done by individuals on their own time, but since we are social beings, there is also a communitarian aspect to this worship. Hence, temple or synagogue worship, services, and rites.

In the Gospels we read that Jesus was often at synagogues and the temple as "he was in the habit of doing." Whether this means he went every Sabbath or not is not addressed. Whether he did or did not is not of interest in the Gospels. However, tradition again indicates that it was weekly. Remember the injunction of the Third Commandment.

The Church incorporated this injunction into a law of its own, as stated above. Therefore, to absent oneself from weekly Sunday worship (Mass) was and is considered a serious lapse on the part of each and every Catholic. From a spiritual and ascetical point of view, not to attend is to starve oneself spiritually, miss the weekly reading and instruction of Sacred Scripture, miss community prayer and worship, lose the opportunity of intimate weekly union with the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, lose also the community sense of sin and reconciliation. All this a true tragedy and a serious sin of omission.

The other issues raised in your question reduce religion to a relativistic, private affair which goes against our human nature. We really are "our brother's (and sister's) keepers." It is our weekly community worship of God, according to the Catholic tradition and ritual, which keeps us grounded in our relationship to God and to one another. Jesus did not die for only one individual but for all. He did not achieve redemption only for one (or a select few) but for all. Thank God for that. And we need to acknowledge that by our weekly, common attendance at Mass. We are all the better for it.

Sincerely in Christ's Love,

Fr. Stephen (Steve) B. Whelan, SDB
Pastoral Vicar

On September 6, 2005, a person asked about hurricane Katrina:


Dear Fathers,

I was baptized a Catholic, but I never was made to go to church or complete my confirmation. I am 31 years old now, and after a year of research into the Church and its history and theology, I was considering joining the RCIA program at your church.

However, my faith was shaken badly by the recent news out of New Orleans. I have spent a great deal of time in that city, and my best friend from college was raising a family there. He is one of the lucky ones in that he made it out with his family, but his life has been ruined. His home is gone, his job is gone, and he is stuck with no source of income trying to support a pregnant wife and 2 year old.

Assuming God is powerful enough to create the world, and conceive a child in the womb of a virgin, one of three things is possible regarding the catastrophe:

1. There is no God, and this was just a natural occurrence.

2. There is a God, and He knew about the impending disaster, but did nothing to prevent it, which would have been in His power.

3. There is a God and He created the hurricane on purpose, perhaps because of New Orleans' hedonism and ungodliness.

I presume you would have to answer #2, although #3 has a biblical precedent in the destruction of Sodom, of course. But how can it be that God, who according to the Christian message is a god of love, would stand by and allow so many lives to be taken or ruined? It was in His power to stop it, right?

What a terrible thing. Either the world has no God, in which case it makes no sense to me, it has a passive God who will do nothing to spare the lives of his children, or an angry God who deliberately destroys them! Tell me there is another answer.




Father Harold Danielson responds:


Dear Jeff,

My very first thought in reading the e-mail you sent was this:

What a wonderful capacity in us human beings, that when we are confronted with something beyond our immediate comprehension, touching us to the very core of our self, we approach it with everything our thought capacity has, as if it were the first time anyone has really delved into it. Then as we come up short, and are humble enough, we realize that this must have been approached before and so we ask someone else about it.

Thus I commend you for your thought, your analysis, your admitted bewilderment, and your search for wisdom and understanding.

Many thinkers throughout history have sought answers to these and similar situations or events. None has come up with a satisfactory response on the level of human consciousness, thought or reason.

After one has done all he can on this human dimension, the only thing left is to entrust it into the divine dimension, which is a response to the invitation of the Holy Spirit in the very depths of one's own being. This invitation we call "grace" [or "God's life in us"] through the gift of faith.

An example of this is in the account in Matthew's Gospel where Jesus asks the Apostles "Who do you think I am?" Simon the fisherman, speaks for all of them in answering "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Whereupon Jesus remarks how blessed he is because it was not human knowledge but God who revealed it to him -the gift of faith and acting on it.

At the same time, just a few verses later, Simon [now Peter, as Jesus had just changed his name] objects to Jesus about what he had foretold and Jesus responds "Get behind me, you Satan; you are thinking like a man, not like God."

The subject of that discourse was Jesus telling the Apostles what was about to happen when they went to Jerusalem - his arrest, condemnation, suffering, death, then rising from death. Even after the rebuke, none of the Apostles really understood - till after it had all happened.

The whole Book of Job in the Old Testament Scriptures is about the "why" of suffering of the innocent. It only gets resolved by God speaking in the last couple of Chapters (38 - 42), but it essentially concludes that God is so far infinitely beyond us that no creature can question him. So that still leaves us human rational beings in a quandary - until Jesus.

Jesus, by his word, his works, his example of life, showed he is God, the same JHWH (Hebrew name) LORD revealed first to Abraham, then later again to Moses and the People of Israel, but explains that in this one JHWH LORD, using human words, there is Father, Son and Spirit.

The Son or Word became human in the womb of his human mother Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the man Jesus who we believe is the Christ [Anointed One of God], Lord, Savior, Brother and Friend. This we know by that particular gift of faith.

And so when we see this Jesus praying to God his Father, we see the true humanity in his appeal to accomplish his mission in a different way "but not my will but yours be done" showing his divinity.

It is only in the context of the suffering of this God-Man, Jesus the Christ, his life poured out for love of God and us, then his rising from the dead, that all human suffering throughout the ages has a context. The human Jesus himself felt the totality of incomprehension, having proclaimed in his preaching: "I do everything the Father wants", "My food is to do the will of the One who sent me", I am never alone; the Father is always with me", yet at the moment of death after excruciating pain, he calls out "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" He experiences in his humanity what it means to be separated from God through sin [St. Paul says in his letters: Jesus became sin, though sinless himself]. Thus completely emptied [again, after first emptying himself from the godhead -St. Paul to the Ephesians], he now offers himself totally to the Father with the ultimate act of love "Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit" and in that moment bridges the chasm which sin had created between God and humanity.

That act of love brought all suffering and separation in the whole of human history together into himself to be transformed into the reality of God's presence.

Thus the response to all human catastrophes [those of nature and those brought on by ourselves in all varieties of ways from broken relationships even to war] is Jesus Himself crucified and forsaken on the cross.

I guess this is why when Jesus proposes "If you want to be my disciple, you must first deny yourself, take your cross every day and come in my steps", he is simply inviting us to do as he himself did: first, empty self [from God to man, as man to die], then lay down our life out of love for others. Thus we will be ready for the influx of life, love, joy, truth, beauty, unity of mind and heart, filling up all the deep yearning of the human soul.

I think this is what St. Augustine expressed in his autobiography [Confessions]: "Lord, you made us for your self, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you."

It is only in this context that, when awful things happen, from the things in ourselves and those around us to major disasters [not only through hurricane Katrina, or the tsunami last December], the best thing we can do is place everything into the care of our faithful and loving Father, and then go about doing everything we can to help people pick up their lives and go on, beginning with our prayer and extending to all manner of help.

Jeff, thank you for writing. Thank you for being touched so deeply that you reflected and asked for further reflection. Doing so you are already experiencing the Holy Spirit tugging at your heart and are beginning your first responses.

Jesus encourages us many times in the Gospels: "Do not be afraid." He invites James and John and you and me: "Are you willing to drink the cup with me and be baptized as I am to be baptized?" He stated elsewhere: "I'm telling you all this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete." James and John answered an energetic, enthusiastic "Yes" to that invitation of Jesus. I am trying to follow their example in my life. I pray that you may do the same.

May the Lord bless you and keep you. May He show his face to you and be gracious to you. May the Lord look upon you with kindness and give you peace. [Book of Numbers Chapter 6, vv 24-26]


Fr. Harold Danielson, SDB

On June 20, a person asked:

I was recently asked by someone what I thought about the Charismatic movement. I have know some Pentecostals and know how they worship, but I do not know, other than from reading about certain instances of the Catholic Charismatic movement.

I know that Pope John Paul II said it was authentic but I guess I have questions still.

I was told that there was no Tridentine Latin Mass in the Archdiocese by one of the representatives on their website. They said I could go over to Oakland if I wanted to attend one. I am a parishoner at Sts. Peter and Paul and I go to the Latin Mass when you have it and enjoy it and love this parish.

I guess I was just wondering why our Archdiocese has a Charismatic parish, but no Tridentine mass. I would think, if anything, it would be the other way around.

If you could help me with this topic I would greatly appreciate it, because everything I read about the Charismatic movement is either biased for it or biased against it, I can't seem to find any middle ground that really describes what it is.

And I never was given a real answer why there is no Tridentine Latin Mass, other than that I could drive to one in another diocese which I thought was a little strange for an answer.



To see Father Harold's answer to this question, click here.

On April 7, a questioner asked:


Dear Fathers,

I used to attend masses at Saints Peter and Paul Church back when Father David used to be the Pastor. I enjoyed his sermons a lot on Sundays.

Over the last few years and after reading the Bible very carefully, I have felt left out when I think about some of the teachings in the church.

I believe in the Nicene Creed and I have no problems with it. However, I feel that the church has been focusing too much on the Mother of God and not God himself. Please, do not get my argument in the wrong way and think that I am trying to insult the Virgin Mary. I believe that the Virgin Mary was a very rightous woman, and she was blessed by God to have the most wonderful gift of carrying and raising our Lord Jesus.

I have also come to the conclusion that prayers to saints or their images (and other works of art) is something that I would not do because I believe that God is a jealous God and I feel that I should direct my prayers to him.

Would I still be accepted as a member of the Catholic faith or would the Catholic church consider me as an outsider for thinking this way? If my thinking is too radical for the church, do you think I should try to serve the Lord by joining another denomination of the the Christian faith?

Thanks for your time,



Fr. Malloy responds:

You have raised several questions about the Catholic faith that are of concern to you. I believe it would be most helpful if you were to read some apologetic book, which would address you questions more fully. There are many available. I might suggest Scott Hahn's "Rome Sweet Home." We have it in our bookstore, or it can be purchased from the web, or you can borrow it from us.

But let me address one of your statements "… prayers to saints or images, is something I could not do, because I believe God is a jealous God…"

Is it excessive to give Mary, or any saint, more honor than to Jesus? You bet it is. And we don't. She and they have not saved us. They never died for us.

No faithful Christian honors Mary or any saint above her Son. We honor her and them because of her Son. We always honor Christ more. In fact, you'll never see a Catholic (or Orthodox, or Copt, etc.) who is deeply devoted to Mary, or a patron saint, who isn't much more deeply devoted to Christ.

The problem comes when you treat honor as a zero-sum thing. If we honor her, the thinking goes, we stop honoring Jesus. This is silly. If you're nice to my family members, I'm not offended. I love them, too, and it's a compliment to me if they're complimented. Contrariwise, if you love me, but disrespect my mother, I'm not going to like you better than if you had respected us both. God prohibits us from having other gods before Him; He doesn't forbid us to love those whom He loves. He commands us to. If we love Jesus, we ought to love His mother. Jesus, who is God, is not jealous of our love of others. The question that follows this isn't "why do Catholics honor her so much?" but "why do Protestants honor her so little?" And it's not only Protestants who shy away from her. But even there, did you see the recent TIME magazine cover story on Protestant devotion to Mary? Marian devotion has been a part of Christian worship since the earliest times. There isn't a single church more than 500 years old that doesn't revere her. We revere (not worship) Mary out of love for her Son. Everything in Marian devotion ultimately points to Jesus.

You can well claim that the Bible leaves no room for doubt that Mary should be paid no more homage or devotion than that extended to any other of God's chosen vessels. So why doesn't the Bible tell us to honor her? Why should it have to? She was probably still alive while Paul was writing his epistles. The apostles knew her, most of them personally. Jesus gave the responsibility to John to care for her as he was dying on the cross. "Behold your mother!" That plea was addressed to all of us.

What little there is in the Bible relating to Mary indicates that we should indeed honor her. How to honor her is up to you, so long as it's an extension of love for Christ.

Fr. John Malloy, S.D.B.

A past questioner asked:


Dear Fathers,

What happens to us after death? In particular, I am thinking of a four year old child, or an unbaptized person?



Fr. Malloy responds:


Dear Anne,

Your question raises a difficult theological question, which goes back to the early fathers and doctors of the church.

The simple truth is easy enough to understand and explain:

Death, then judgment followed by heaven, purgatory or hell. Heaven for the baptized whose sins are made up for in this life. Purgatory for those who sill need atonement for sins not quite “paid for.” Hell for those who have died in grave sin.

What about the death of the four year old? There is no doubt that children who are baptized and die before the age of reason, would go straight to heaven.

That leaves the question about the non-baptized. What happens to them? Scripture states that “Unless you are born again of water and the Holy Spirit, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

The question was argued for centuries by doctors and fathers of the Church including Sts. Augustine, Thomas and Bellarmine. . . One solution was Limbo, considered as a place of perfect natural happiness, but without the beatific vision of God. So Limbo would be a place for those who died without serious sin on their soul and also without baptism. However, there was never a dogmatic statement made by the magisterium of the church answering this question or defining Limbo.

Our Catechism of the Catholic Church avoids the question completely. Unless and until the Holy Father, with the bishops, makes a definitive declaration in this matter the question will still be moot: What happens to the unbaptized who die without serious sin?

Our church teaches that there are three types of baptism: water, desire and blood (martyrdom for the sake of Christ). My personal view has been this: We do not know exactly when the soul leaves the body, or what transpires as that happens. It seem to me that the Lord might give an opportunity for the soul to make a choice at that time and thus receive baptism of desire.

Fr. John

A past questioner asked:

Dear Fathers,

I was raised all my life in the Catholic Church and followed God's teachings. I have always been tought and believe that God loves everyone unconditionally, and I know there are many references in scripture which assert this. However, a recent discussion with a Protestant friend of mine has led me to a point of inquiry. He cited two references which seem to imply that God can hate. The first reference in Hosea 9:15 I believe does not show that God can hate because I believe (based on the context of chapter 9) that these are words that Hosea himself said of his own feelings rather than God's intentions. Is this correct?

The second passage my friend cited is Rom 9:13, which does seem to suggest that God has the capacity to hate, and hated Esau. Later I read where this was referenced in the Old Testament (Malachi 1:3) and I can not find any other explination for this passage. So my main question is how does the Catholic Church interpret this verse?

Thank you very much for your help and I think that this is a wonderful service you are providing to people.


Fr. Malloy responds:


Your question does pose a problem of interpretation.

One point you are well aware of: "The Bible is not self explanatory."

We believe that our faith must have two wings: Bible and Tradition. Tradition, you know, is the authentic teaching as proclaimed by the Holy Father and Bishops in communion with him.

So what might the Church have to say about God and hatred?

You have rightly observed that God loves everyone unconditionally, Also it is very clearly stated in Scripture "God is love." So it seems obvious that God can hate no one, in the sense that we commonly understand the word.

God is All Good, God is supreme, but God can do why can't he hate? (Neither can He make a square circle). If He can't hate why does Malachi (1:3) say: "but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals?"

We cannot attribute what we understand as virtues and vices to God, who is pure Spirit. Our understanding is in human terms; we cannot understand divinity. So for us to use the term "hatred" and apply it to God's nature is deny the very definition of God.

But God loved Jacob over Esau, we read. So there was a preference manifested.

It's a contradiction to say God loves evil, so we can reason that he must hate it. All evil is to be condemned. Those who are evil are also to be condemned, not because God doesn't love them, but because they do not love God.

We believe that God spreads His grace where He wills, and as He wills. Everyone has enough to be saved, but some are especially chosen (start from Mary and Joseph).

St. Paul elaborates thus (Romans 9):

13 Just as it is written, "JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED."

14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!


16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy."

St. Paul makes it clear that God can do whatsoever He wills, and it is beyond us to understand Him. We will not fully comprehend him even in heaven!

If He hates anything it is the evil, not the person who does evil.

A past questioner asked:

Dear Fathers,

Why is it that, in these days of much trouble, one never hears priest preach about such topics as sin, redemption, and salvation. Instead, most clergy simply concentrate on promoting such venues as social justice and charity. These things are important but surely they do not take precedence over the needs of our souls? Why is it that Catholic clergy seem to no longer care about the spiritual needs of man, and only his social concerns?

This question troubles me greatly. I am only in my twenties and did not live before the great changes that took place in the church during the 1960s. Yet I have researched and studied enough about Catholicism to know that their is a difference here. It seems as if the Church has completely dropped her spiritual side and is now purely social. Has this really occurred? If so, will things ever go back to the way they once were?

Thank you again for any answer that could be given to my question.




Fr. Malloy Responds:

Dear Robert,

This response to your query comes delayed, but I beg your indulgence. I was out of town for a couple of day and other obligations intervened, but thanks for the question.

I agree with you that a great emphasis has been given to social justice and charity in these recent years. But these are important issues. I often quote St. Augustine's: "Love and do what you want!" That takes a lot of explaining to cover the theological, moral, and social implications. But if one truly has charity he/she must be God-like for "God is Love!"

However, your point is not to be denied.

I was ordained before Vatican II and I feel that my homilies today are not that much different than they were then. In reference to homosexuality, abortion, etc, etc. . . I still teach that we must hate the sin, but love the sinner. I still speak of judgement, purgatory, heaven and hell, and the basics of our faith.

Certain views of Church have changed--for the better, and as a matter of clarification. Bishops and priests are called be less rigid in the exercise of authority. The Church is not the Holy Father, Bishops and Priests, but rather the Union of the faithful together with the Holy Father, Bishops and priests. The laity must be given its due place and it concerns addressed.

The difficulty comes in how to do this without jeopardizing Catholic truth or doctrine. One of the difficult problems for all of us is to form a right conscience, for we are saved individually, in accord with the right decisions we make in our moral choices.

You say: "It seems as if the Church has completely dropped her spiritual side." Some individual Christians and teachers may seem to ignore it, but one can hardly say the CHURCH has dropped her spiritual side. There are a plethora of books, articles and statements to the contrary, and there are many groups which have a profound and active spirituality. Primarily, of course, we have the Holy Father, our supreme teacher, whose messages are deeply spiritual.

"Will things ever go back to the way they once were?" No, they never will. The passage of time does not allow us to go back to the way things were. Even after our errors and sins, we can never go back to the way things were. But we can become better--even after sin-- when we learn from our mistakes and strengthen our will.

As a matter of fact, things were not all that great back then. Pope John XXIII realized it, and called the Council. But change is always difficult. Many complain that Vatican II has still not been fully implemented, but Vatican Councils have always taken long term in coming to full fruit.

I believe that a great spiritual renewal is already in progress in the Church. I share the optimism of the Holy Father. The "Gates of hell will not prevail against her." I predict that you are young enough to witness that renewal and be a part of it. Keep strong. It's your Church too.

There is always darkness before the dawn. May the darkness of evil not blind us to the glory of the Risen Lord, Savior of the world!

Fr. John

P.S. I believe most of the priests' homilies here at Sts. Peter and Paul do address the "old laws" though they might have different nuances than pre-Vatican II. JM


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