Fr. Justin Swanton
The origins of Benediction and the status of Catholic prophecy, the Catholic attitude towards astrology and the importance in present times of spiritual reading make up a real potpourri of questions for this month. Feel free to send a few yourself!
Q. What is the origin of Benediction?
Please explain the origin of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. In which century was the present form used?
A. Benediction finds its roots in the Feast of Corpus Christi, the liturgy of which was composed by St. Thomas Aquinas and which was instituted in 1264. Originally, the Blessed Sacrament was not carried in procession (Pope Urban IV does not mention it in his Bull of the Institution), but early in the 14th century there is mention of it, and by the beginning of the 15th century it was customary. Initially, the Sacrament was carried veiled over or enclosed in a sort of rich shrine, but in the latter half of the 14th century there is mention of monstrances, which were then shaped like towers. By the end of the 15th century, the modern form of monstrance was in use.
Keeping the Blessed
Sacrament exposed on the altar after such processions became popular.
In Germany the continual exposition of the Blessed Sacrament came into
vogue, although this was never officially permitted It had also been customary
since the 13th century to keep the Blessed Sacrament exposed
during the singing of the Divine Office, and in England and France the
Blessed Sacrament was sometimes exposed on the altar during evening services
in honour of the Blessed Virgin. It was natural to combine the blessing
the processional expositions with the static form the these latter expositions,
though the definitive form was fixed only later. The oldest form of Benediction,
the Forty Hours' Adoration, was introduced shortly after 150, and was
indulgenced by Pope Paul III in 1539. In 1731 Pope Clement XII issued
a code of regulations for the Forty Hours', known as the Clementine Instruction,
and upon which the ritual for the modern form of Benediction is based,
with the incensing of the Blessed Sacrament at the words Genitari Gehitoque,
the use of the humeral veil, the giving of the blessing with the monstrance,
Q. Apart from the Apocalypse, are there any Catholic prophecies that one may believe?
There is actually a paperback called "Catholic Prophecy"--is it authentic? I recently saw a documentary called "Armageddon" in which St. Malachy was quoted as having accurately predicted centuries ago the types of Popes still to reign, in a long line. He apparently even prophesied that there would be only two more Popes after this one!
A. It is important, in answering the question, to understand the purpose of God in revealing future events, as He did for example in the Apocalypse. The intention is more to show what really matters in human events rather than to give a detailed chronology of those events. It is easy for us, in the welter of worldly happenings, concerns, issue, etc., to lose sight of the supernatural perspective and no longer see what this earthly drama is really all about: the battle between good and evil over the souls of men.
Prophecies, by giving a glimpse of the future events and their importance from Gods point of view, help us to get our priorities right.
should not be taken as a history lesson of the future. They are often
Hence, whereas there are trustworthy Catholic prophecies, one has to be wary about attempts to interpret them, as there is no guarantee that those interpretations will be correct. In particular, I would advise readers of Catholic Prophecy, by Yves Dupont, to take it with more than a grain of salt. He devotes a chapter to the prophecies of Nostradamus, omitting to mention that this seer had been put on the Index where he remained until the Index itself was scrapped after Vatican II. Nostradamus is not a Catholic seer, and his prophecies are highly suspect.
In what concerns
St. Malachy, I personally think it possible that his list applies only
to notable popes,
Q. Is there any truth at all in the basis of astrology?
Catholics are not allowed to believe in or take note of modern astrology, under pain of sin. But could there be any truth in the fact that one's temperament is perhaps influenced even in a small way by the date of one's birth in relation to the universe, albeit that one has free will? Or is astrology total rubbish?
A. Catholics have always been forbidden to take astrology seriously in the sense that the position of the stars and planets was used as a means to attempt to predict the future. In what concerns star signs, there is no evidence that the time of year when one is born will influence the kind of character one will have. To be stereotyped as having a particular personality-?Leo, or Cancer or whatever-?can induce a kind of fatalism on the one hand, and pride on the other: star sign books sell because they flatter the reader with the out?of?the?ordinary qualities that his star sign possesses. Catholics are advised not to take it seriously.
Q. Is it true that without engaging in regular spiritual reading, it is impossible to save one's soul?
I seem to recall one of the saints saying that spiritual reading on a regular basis was absolutely vital to one's salvation (although, of course, there are people who are illiterate and others who cannot see to read). Most Catholics I have known over the years do almost no spiritual reading at all. If spiritual reading is essential for salvation, why do most of our priests not a emphasise this regularly, perhaps in their sermons?
A. This one does! Spiritual reading is not an indispensable means of salvation; it is possible to save one's soul without it, however, in the times in which we live we are in especial need of all the means available to preserve our Faith and persevere in the practice of it, and this makes spiritual reading increasingly necessary.
Thanks to modern
technology, we receive far more information-?printed, auditory, visual??than
in previous times. The vast majority of that information concerns things
that have little or nothing to do with the Faith. If one makes no effort
to counterbalance this constant worldly input with some spiritual input,
one then risks losing sight of the great truths. There is such a thing
as bliss in ignorance, but failing that, we at least need to keep the
reality of the spiritual world fresh in our minds by spiritual reading.
Half and hour, or even just a quarter of an hour each day, can make all
the difference between someone who still has a Catholic outlook, and someone
for whom the Faith is just a collection of empty formulae. Someone in
the latter category can be sure of nothing, least of all of perseverance.