WHAT’S AND WHY’S (3) – Questions Old People Ask Priests

– Fr Leonard E. Dollentas

They are called ‘pious oldies’ – and they love praying and going to church every day. Though often seen as feeble, they form a gentle but formidable “dogmatic” force in the Church. Their commitment to the Church is exemplary. They are obsessed with the past, they live at a glacial pace and they fret on trifling things, but they have always been revered.

After the Mass, the old gentlemen would go straight home. The old ladies usually don’t want to miss the summit in front of the church or as they walk together like the shadows of the saints in the morning light. What they discuss together every day … is sealed in utmost secrecy. No one is allowed to know them … unless you ask. The questions in this article were asked by these old people. The questions express their unwavering love for the family, for the Church and for their priests. 

Father, I am always bothered by the scandals of priests. It has never been an issue during our time.

Every one of us is bothered by these scandals. The scandals showed us the human side of the church, that it is prone to sin and indignity. But, this is also the time when we realize how watchfully and vigorously the Holy Spirit is guiding the Church despite sin and disgrace. On June 19, 2019, Pope Francis said in the general audience at St Peter’s Square the Holy Spirit “makes the Church grow by helping it to go beyond human limits, sins and any scandal.” While most of those scandals are proven true, some others are mere accusations, with intent to destroy the image of the Church. Always remember that if there are priests involved in those scandals, a good number of priests are still faithful and committed to their ministry and service. It may not be prevalent in your time, but just the same pray for the priests and encourage them to be faithful to their vocation.

Father, what’s wrong with going to the casino when I just want to have some entertainment? I am at the sunset of my life, I worked hard for my family in the past, now is the time for me to relax before I die. 

I suppose by going to the casino you also engage in gambling. For your consolation, gambling is not in and of itself evil (Catechism no 2404). However, a person may only engage in gambling with temperance. This means, to keep one’s passions and emotions under the control of reason. Your time in the casino and the money you spend should be in the confines of moderation. As you enjoy in the casino, it must not prevent you from meeting your obligations to support yourself, your family, pay your bills and debts or fulfill other responsibilities. In gambling, the possibility of making “easy and quick money” can become an enticement towards being hooked or addicted to it. As you enjoy your time in the casino, keep your activity there within the confines of virtue by being careful and vigilant. Besides going to the casino try other forms of entertainment, mahjong, movies, strolling or even joining a dancing group and having fun with new friends.

I am wondering about telling not nice truths to others about a person who is telling lies about me. This person continues to hurt me by telling people about me so that I am shut out of groups. It is very hurtful and I have to inform others about her.

In short, you gossip and your enquiry is about gossiping. Pope Francis had spoken a number of times about the consequences of gossiping.  In his homily in the chapel Santa Marta in the Vatican, Pope Francis said, “When one prefers gossiping – gossiping about another, it’s like clobbering another.  This is normal, it happens to everyone, including me – it is a temptation of the evil one who does not want the Spirit to come and bring about peace and meekness in the Christian community.”  The Pope went on to say further, “The struggle against such harmful chatter is something that continually sows tensions in parishes, families, in neighborhoods, and among friends.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us of the importance of refraining from actions that destroy the reputation of others: “Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury” (no 2477). Gossiping involves the sin of detraction: “Revealing something about another that is true but harmful to that person’s reputation.” Gossiping can be a serious moral offense if it does great harm to another’s reputation by having his or her faults spread about when they otherwise would not be. In situations like yours, when other people talk about you whether, with true or false consequences, it is an opportunity for you to show you are a good Christian with your patience and understanding. It is always helpful to recall the golden rule of Jesus that says: “do unto others as you would have done unto you” (Luke 6:31). Pray for the grace that you may become a better person. When you live in virtue and have the conviction to be good to others, people have nothing bad to say about you. The sacrament of confession may help you reconcile with God, and as you receive God’s forgiveness, have the heart to forgive others. Avoid the company of others who influence you to backbite and to gossip and you will live peacefully.

Father, this may be a silly question, but do ghosts really exist? I always feel someone in my room, I suspect it’s my husband who died long ago.

The Church has no official and written teaching concerning the souls who appear or who may go back and be with the living after death, although there are numerous stories and common experiences of people attesting to this phenomenon. It is possible that some ghosts are the spirits of our loved ones, who are already in heaven, giving us hope to eternal life. If that “someone” in your room is not causing you harm, then don’t be bothered by it. Your husband might be seeking your prayers or maybe thanking you for your faithfulness to him. Souls who are in need of prayers, especially those in purgatory, do not seek to scare or intimidate us. So do not be fearful and do not call the Ghostbusters – call your local priest instead. Ask the local priest to bless your house, so you may always be assured of the power and protection of God. Remember always to pray and pray for your husband and all the others who died in your house.

Father, why do priests have to be moved and transferred? We old people have no other consolation in life but our priest. We have a priest in our parish we really like and we walk in one day and he’s gone?

Priests in the parishes ordinarily have a term of office, usually 6 years for parish priests and usually 3 years for parochial vicars. Priests’ assignments are on the discretion of the bishop and there are no guarantees that a priest will remain in a particular assignment forever.

The process of moving and transferring a priest to another parish or to another place is good for the priest. It helps a priest live his promise of obedience to his bishop. It also teaches him not to be too attached to certain persons and families in his parish. Transferring a priest to another parish helps parishioners not to get too attached to the priest, sometimes this devolves into a “cult of personality,” where the parishioners are putting priests up on a pedestal; and the priest becomes more popular and important than Jesus himself.  Transferring priests is also good for the people of God, all priests need to be rotated around so their different gifts and talents may affect most of the parishioners in the diocese. You will be used to it; after a time, you will discover that you like your new priest. Give your new priest your love and support and do not compare him with the previous one. He has his own gifts.

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