What is holy water? What is it used for?

by Fr. George Teodoro, S.J.  |  07/30/2023  |  Why do we do that?

Holy water is water that has been blessed by a priest or deacon. It is a sacramental – not to be confused with a sacrament. Sacramentals are items or objects that have been blessed for a specific purpose – for instance, the oils used for initiation and the sick, the ashes for Ash Wednesday, or the rings for a wedding. These items are not themselves sacraments, but have the purpose of helping to make the mysterious love of God present in a tangible way.


Why do we pray for the dead?

by Fr. George Teodoro, S.J.  |  07/23/2023  |  Why do we do that?

From the era of the first martyrs and the assemblies of believers gathering in catacombs, praying for the dead has been an essential part of the Christian tradition. As the Preface for the Funeral Rite from Roman Missal so beautifully expresses: “For your faithful, O Lord, life is changed, not ended.” And so just as we pray for the good of our loved ones on earth, we continue to pray for their souls after their bodily death. Each and every time we assemble for Mass, we include a prayer for the dead in both the Prayers of the Faithful as well as the Eucharistic Prayer.


Why do we pause at the end of the Our Father for the priest’s prayer, and follow it with “For the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory…”? Why don’t we say the last part when we are praying by ourselves?

by Fr. George Teodoro, S.J.  |  07/16/2023  |  Why do we do that?

The Lord’s Prayer comes to us from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. In the most ancient versions of these texts, the prayer ends with “deliver us from evil.” Within a couple of centuries, however, later versions of the Gospels, along with other ancient liturgical documents record the addition of the Doxology (“For the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory are yours, now and forever”). For almost 1900 years, then, there has been a debate about whether those additional words belong in the Our Father prayer.


Why do we name our children after saints? Do we have to?

by Fr. George Teodoro, S.J.  |  07/09/2023  |  Why do we do that?

It has long been a Jewish tradition to name a child after an ancestor – a parent, grandparent, or another elder in the family. It was hoped that the child would take on the qualities that the parents honored and admired in that person.


What is a pilgrimage? Why do people go on them?

by Fr. George Teodoro, S.J.  |  07/02/2023  |  Why do we do that?

A pilgrimage is a physical and spiritual journey to a place of significance to the faith. For generations, Christians have journeyed to the Holy Land to walk in the steps of Christ, or to Compostela in Spain to honor St. James, or Tepeyac in Mexico to pray with Our Lady of Guadalupe where she appeared to Juan Diego. As Benedict XVI put it: “To go on pilgrimage is not simply to visit a place to admire its treasures of nature, art, or history. To go on pilgrimage really means to step out of ourselves in order to encounter God where he has revealed himself, where his grace has shone with particular splendor and produced rich fruits of conversion and holiness among those who believe.”


Why do Catholic churches have statues and icons, when most protestant churches avoid them?

by Fr. George Teodoro, S.J.  |  06/25/2023  |  Why do we do that?

In the Ten Commandments, it says “You shall not make for yourself an idol” (Ex 20:2) and the battle against idolatry was one of the central issues in Hebrew history. In Jewish theology, God is beyond all human comprehension and can not and should not be confined or limited by worshiping an idol, in the way that the Egyptians worshiped a golden calf, or the Philistines or Babylonians worshiped images of clay. Therefore, the use of images is strictly forbidden in the Jewish faith, and likewise in the Muslim faith as well.


Why does priest where different colored vestments?

by Fr. George Teodoro, S.J.  |  06/18/2023  |  Why do we do that?

The use of liturgical colors to mark various occasions and seasons is almost as old as the Church itself. Most cultures find ways to mark different seasons and periods of life, and Christianity was no different. Based on artwork from the early centuries, we know that a wide variety of colors of vestments were used for various ceremonies – with a particular emphasis on white as a symbol of the resurrection and of the new life through baptism. For the first millennium of the Church, however, the use of liturgical color was based on local custom, rather than a standardized practice. It often had to do with what materials and what dyes were available in a given region.


Why does the priest break a piece of the consecrated host and add it to the chalice?

by Fr. George Teodoro, S.J.  |  06/11/2023  |  Why do we do that?

The Eucharistic Prayer ends with the Fraction Rite. At this time, many things happen all at once, and since we are singing the “Lamb of God,” it may be difficult to see all that is going on. The Fraction Rite is named for the breaking of the host into many parts so that it can be distributed to the people.


Why do we do “Catholic calisthenics?” That is, why do we stand, sit, or kneel for various parts of the Mass?

by Fr. George Teodoro, S.J.  |  06/04/2023  |  Why do we do that?

From ancient times, it has been recognized that our posture and affect the way we think and pray. Hindu mystics use the lotus position to enhance their meditations, while faithful Muslims prostrate themselves on prayer mats to signify their submission to God. In the Catholic tradition, we too use postures to both symbolize our relationship to God as well as reinforce our prayers as individuals and as a congregation.


What is a sequence? Why do some Masses have one and others don’t?

by Fr. George Teodoro, S.J.  |  05/28/2023  |  Why do we do that?

A sequence is a long hymn or sacred poem that is inserted after the second reading and before the Gospel Acclamation (Alleluia!). These hymns are intended to reinforce the sanctity of the particular solemnity or feast that is being celebrated that day. For instance, the Victimae Paschali Laudes sequence during Easter week retells the story of Mary Magdalene finding the empty tomb, while the Veni Sancte Spiritus of Pentecost calls down the Holy Spirit upon the congregation. These sequence poems date back to the Middle Ages, and were most often set to music which would reflect the joyful or somber mood of the occasion.


Why do we bow during the phrase “and by the Holy Spirit, was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became Man” as we recite the creed?

by Fr. George Teodoro, S.J.  |  05/21/2023  |  Why do we do that?

This phrase is the first place in the Creed where the Trinity is in action – no longer God the Father, or Jesus Christ by themselves, but the three Persons of God working in concert. God the Father, sends the Holy Spirit to accomplish the Incarnation of the Son – the great work of salvation that begins at the Annunciation and is completed by the Passion and Resurrection of Christ.


What is a responsorial psalm? Why do we have it after the first reading?

by Fr. George Teodoro, S.J.  |  05/14/2023  |  Why do we do that?

The book of Psalms holds a special place in the history and spirituality of Church. Unlike virtually every other book of the Bible, the psalms is expressly poetic and affective – it speaks to the heart, rather than the head. It expresses the emotions of praise and lament, longing and thanksgiving, complaint and trust, and really, the entire emotional range of the human condition. Originally meant to be sung and often set to music, psalms are often easier to memorize than other pieces of scripture, and resonate in our souls in a way that other parts of scripture do not.


Why does the Church insist on so much documentation – for baptisms, marriage, confirmation, etc?

by Fr. George Teodoro, S.J.  |  05/07/2023  |  Why do we do that?

In the early years of the Church, when Christianity was being persecuted, few official records were kept, because a list of the baptized could be used to hunt down and arrest believers. Beginning in the Middle Ages, however, there came a desire by both governments and Church officials to keep track of baptisms, marriage, and other sacraments. In that era, often one of the only literate persons in a town or village was the parish priest, and he became the de facto record keeper and legal arbiter for all sorts of transactions. Baptismal records not only showed the names of the faithful and their eligibility for future sacraments, but could be used to check for consanguinity (interrelatedness of engaged couples), eligibility for marriage, inheritance of property and titles, and eligibility for ordination. Long before there were census bureaus or departments of licensing, Church records allowed for the governance of both Catholic and secular affairs.