Church Practices

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1. Are Catholic priests allowed to marry?

The short answer is no. The longstanding and fruitful discipline of the Latin or Roman Catholic Church is that celibate men are ordained as Priests and once a man is ordained as a Deacon or a Priest he cannot get married. In the case of Permanent Deacons a married man can be ordained as a deacon and in special circumstances a married man may be ordained as a Catholic priest. Among the special circumstances is the case of a married man who had been ordained as an Anglican or Lutheran minister when he becomes a Catholic, with special permission, may be ordained as a Catholic priest. Another special circumstance is the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross. The personal ordinate is for groups of Anglicans in Australia who desire full communion with the Catholic Church while retaining some Anglican liturgical traditions. On a case by case basis, with the judgement made at the Vatican, married Anglican ministers who are members of the group seeking to join the Catholic Church may seek to be ordained as Catholic priests.

In the Eastern Catholic Churches, such as the Maronite or Ukrainian Catholic Churches, a different discipline has been in force for many centuries. In Eastern Catholic Churches bishops are chosen solely from among celibates. Depending on local circumstance, married men can be ordained as deacons and priests.

Returning to the short answer, in ordinary circumstances a Catholic priest is not allowed to marry.

Pope Benedict XVI affirmed the dignity and fruitfulness of celibate priests in his Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist, Sacramentum Caritatis:

“The Synod Fathers wished to emphasize that the ministerial priesthood, through ordination, calls for complete configuration to Christ. While respecting the different practice and tradition of the Eastern Churches, there is a need to reaffirm the profound meaning of priestly celibacy, which is rightly considered a priceless treasure, and is also confirmed by the Eastern practice of choosing Bishops only from the ranks of the celibate. These Churches also greatly esteem the decision of many priests to embrace celibacy. This choice on the part of the priest expresses in a special way the dedication which conforms him to Christ and his exclusive offering of himself for the Kingdom of God.

“The fact that Christ himself, the eternal priest, lived his mission even to the sacrifice of the Cross in the state of virginity constitutes the sure point of reference for understanding the meaning of the tradition of the Latin Church. It is not sufficient to understand priestly celibacy in purely functional terms. Celibacy is really a special way of conforming oneself to Christ's own way of life. This choice has first and foremost a nuptial meaning; it is a profound identification with the heart of Christ the Bridegroom who gives his life for his Bride.

“In continuity with the great ecclesial tradition, with the Second Vatican Council and with my predecessors in the papacy, I reaffirm the beauty and the importance of a priestly life lived in celibacy as a sign expressing total and exclusive devotion to Christ, to the Church and to the Kingdom of God, and I therefore confirm that it remains obligatory in the Latin tradition. Priestly celibacy lived with maturity, joy and dedication is an immense blessing for the Church and for society itself.” (n24)

2. How are those affected by disability being included in the body of Christ?

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference gives special focus to the many gifts and blessings that people with disability and their families bring to the life of the Church, the body of Christ.

The Australian Catholic Disability Council advises the Bishops of Australia on strategies and projects that can be undertaken to promote the participation of people with disability in the life of the Australian Church. The Bishops of Australia believe and affirm that people with disability and their families enrich the Church in our appreciation of the presence of Jesus in our midst.

For further information and resources to promote the full participation of people with disability in the life of the Church contact:

Disability Projects Officer
Disability Projects Office
Bishops Commission for Pastoral Life
GPO Box 368 CANBERRA ACT 2601 ph (02) 6201 9868, fax (02) 6247 6083

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

3. What exactly are brothers and nuns?

Church’s laws on religious life are extremely complicated, not only because of the huge number of different religious institutes in existence, but also because they were founded at various times in the 2000-year history of the Church for widely differing reasons.

Nevertheless, it is still possible to make a few general statements about the different broad categories of both women and men religious. As a rule all religious make vows and live a fraternal life in common. Their houses must have been established with the approval of either the diocesan bishop or of the Pope himself.

We all know that the members of different religious institutes engage in a wide variety of ministries. Many brothers and sisters are teachers or are otherwise engaged in some form of active ministry. One might run into a sister or a brother not only praying in church, but also on the street, in the grocery store or at the petrol station. Brothers and Sisters live a communal life together in a convent or religious house but they can and must leave it regularly in order to perform their ordinary, daily duties.

The daily life of those women and men religious who embrace the contemplative life is very different. Certain religious institutes were founded so that their members may spend their entire lives removed from the world, engaged in prayer. Those men and women who make permanent vows in such institutes are voluntarily agreeing to spend the rest of their lives in a cloister, away from the outside world.  As a general rule these religious men and women spend all of their life within the confines of the monastery or abbey.

The Church makes legal distinctions between these two basic categories of men and women religious. Women religious who are actively engaged in some sort of apostolate are referred to as sisters and the men are called brothers.  Women who leave the world and willingly embrace the monastic life are nuns and the men who do the same are monks.  

Things can get a little confusing because either a sister or a nun is ordinarily addressed directly as “Sister X.” and a brother or a monk (who is not a priest) is ordinarily addressed as “Brother Y”. Thus people tend to think that the two terms are interchangeable—but they aren’t. While a cloistered nun is called “Sister,” and a cloistered monk is called "Brother" this does not mean that all sisters are nuns nor all brothers are monks.

While we have explored some fine distinctions of terminology, we must not forget that the men and women who have totally dedicated their lives to God in taking vows of poverty, chastity and obedience; serve the Church in special way; work for the salvation of the world; and strive for the perfection of charity in their own lives. Brothers, Sisters, Monks and Nuns are outstanding signs of the Church, and witnesses to Jesus Christ.


Some of the text for this answer was sourced from a Blog , Canon Law Made Easy by Cathy Caridi, J.C.L. http://canonlawmadeeasy.com/2009/03/19/whats-the-difference-between-sisters-and-nuns/

4. What is happening about Christian unity?

Catholics are first and foremost disciples of Jesus Christ, who proclaimed the Kingdom of God in word and deed. Through him, with him and in him, Catholics are called to be Church, the body of Christ, the community of disciples who continue his mission on earth until he comes again.

Catholics believe that Jesus is Lord, the Christ, the Saviour, the Son of God incarnate, who by his life, death, resurrection and sending of the Holy Spirit inaugurated the Kingdom of God. This central belief leads to acknowledgement of the Trinity, that the one and only God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Catholics are gathered from all races and nations, called to be the one people of God, members of Christ’s body, temples of the Holy Spirit and witnesses to the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.

The Catholic Church is a community of communities. The community of the family form the domestic church; the Catholic families and individuals in a neighbourhood together form the local parish; the Catholic parishes gathered around a bishop form a diocese or local church; the local churches, whether they be Eastern or Western together form the one Catholic Church. For all Catholics, communion with the local Church of Rome and its bishop, the pope, is central to their identity and faith - hence the popular name “Roman Catholic”, most often used to distinguish Western Catholics from other Christians who also profess to be ‘catholic’.

Catholics hold many beliefs and values in common with Orthodox and Protestant Christians—including scripture, the apostolic heritage, a common patrimony of teaching, some sacred rituals, and a commitment to serve society—but are often at variance over particular forms of ministry and governance. All Christians are called to work and pray for the complete visible unity that Christ desires for his Church.

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Bishops Commission for Ecumenism and Inter-religious Relations, The Catholic Church, 2011

5. What is the history of the use of candles in the Church?

The use of Candles in the Church comes, not from Jewish worship of the Old Testament, but from the Romans where they were used not only for necessary lighting but also for veneration of the gods, of the dead and of the emperor.

From the earliest Christian times, candles were used for evening prayer. They were also used in funeral processions and burned at the tombs of the dead, especially of the martyrs (from the 3rd century); and lighted before relics of the saints and sacred images (4th-5th centuries). From the same period, candles in great numbers were used to give splendour in churches and particularly around the high altar.

From the 7th century there is evidence of candles being used at Mass. They were borne in procession to the altar, carried for the chanting of the Gospel, and placed around the altar. Only in the 11th century did they make their appearance on the altar itself, a feature which became obligatory in the 17th century.

The Church requires that candles used for liturgical purposes be made of pure beeswax. Their symbolism, evocative of the light of Christ, is most in evidence at the Easter proclamation, when the Church is in darkness and the people's candles are lit from the Paschal candle, which is itself lit from the blessed Easter fire. There is an ancient custom of Church candles being blessed on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord - "Candlemas", which falls each year on February 2nd.

6. What Prayers do Catholics say?

Here are some common Prayers said by Catholics.

THE SIGN OF THE CROSS

The Sign of the Cross is an ancient, prayerful action, made with the right hand moving from forehead to breast and from left to right shoulder, while reciting the following words, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

The right hand is then joined to the left hand.

It is a Catholic custom to begin and end all prayers with the Sign of the Cross.

THE LORD'S PRAYER

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come, thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.

THE HAIL MARY

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners,
now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.

GLORY BE TO THE FATHER

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.
Amen.

GRACE BEFORE MEALS

Bless us, O Lord, and these your gifts,
which we are about to receive from your bounty.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

MARY MACKILLOP PRAYER

Holy God, source of all goodness
you show us in Mary MacKillop, a woman of faith
who lived by the power of the cross.
teach us to embrace what she pioneered:
new ways of living the gospel that respect and defend
the human dignity of all in our land.
we ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

PRAYER OF ST FRANCIS

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
for your mercy and for your truth's sake.
Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive;
in forgiving that we are forgiven;
and in dying that we are born to eternal life.

PRAYER FOR THE SICK

O Almighty, everlasting God,
eternal salvation of those who believe,
hear our prayers on behalf of your ailing servants
for whom we implore the aid of your mercy,
that with health restored to them,
they may offer thanksgiving to you.

HAIL HOLY QUEEN

Hail, holy Queen, mother of mercy.
Hail, our life, our sweetness, and our hope.
To you do we cry , poor banished children of Eve.
To you do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate, your eyes of mercy towards us,
and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary .

V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

THE APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in God the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell;
the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty,
from thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body
and life everlasting. Amen.

Here is a link to some additional Catholic Prayers.

7. What role do women have in the Church?

The Church teaches that men and women are equal in dignity. The call to holiness is universal but the paths and means of following this call are different. Women and men are called to be leaven in the world in their daily lives, whatever job, service or hobbies they have. This can be achieved through building holy marriages and raising families or for some people consecrated life. The role of women in the Church varies, some are mothers, others are consecrated sisters, some stay at home and others work – all these roles are for the life and service of the Church - much like men called to fatherhood, consecrated life or priesthood.

Pope John Paul II in particular made many statements defending the place of women in the community, especially advocating for the needs of women in society, noting “as far as personal rights are concerned, there is an urgent need to achieve real equality in every area: equal pay for equal work, protection for working mothers, fairness in career advancements, equality of spouses with regard to family rights and the recognition of everything that is part of the rights and duties of citizens in a democratic State.” (Letter to Women, 1995, n4)

He also affirmed women who are mothers, wives, daughters and sisters, women who work, women who are consecrated and indeed every woman “for the simple fact of being a woman!” (n2).

Despite the pope's statements, and his acknowledgement that the Church and society has not always defended women's interests, some women continue to feel that the Church has been slow to review her own structures and the actions of her own people in making this teaching a reality.

8. Why does the Church teach that we have to go to church on Sundays?

The Church has always been faithful to the Lord's command to 'Do this in memory of me', with Mass being celebrated on Sunday, the day of Jesus' resurrection and ‘the first day of the week'.

While Catholics are invited to also participate in Mass on other days, Sunday is the day set down for the whole Church since the first Christians for the celebration of the Eucharist.

In our pamphlet pdf Why go to Mass? Anna shares her story: “For the first time in my life I realized that I was part of, not just a blood family, but also a faith family…Faith in Jesus isn’t just a private affair. Faith always has something to do with others. It is an expression of a relationship; not just with a ‘spiritual’ Jesus, but a very ‘flesh and blood’ Jesus who walks and lives among his people today – people whom I knew and talked with and could see and touch.”

Your presence and participation at Mass is a source of life both to you and to the others whom you share with. The celebration of Sunday Mass in your parish would be the poorer if you were not there.

Of course there may be an occasion when it is not possible to attend Mass on Sunday (for example, if you were flying internationally and in transit). At this time it would be appropriate to attend Mass on Monday or Tuesday instead.

End FAQ

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