Ask a Priest: On sponsors and sacrament of the sick

December 18, 2017

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Q. Do Baptism or Confirmation sponsors have to be Catholic?

A. Yes. For baptisms, one sponsor must be Catholic. Another devout Christian from a different denomination can serve as a “witness.” For confirmation, there is ordinarily only one sponsor, so that person should be a practicing Catholic who can be a support and model for the person being confirmed. A sponsor or a witness for a baptism should also be someone who can be a good influence on the person who is to be baptized.

Q. Can you explain Reading cycles?

A: The Scriptures proclaimed on Sundays in the Catholic Church (and also in many other Christian churches) are organized in a three-year cycle. After the Second Vatican Council, the Church expanded its one-year cycle to give the faithful a wider exposure to the Scriptures. The gospels for Year A are mostly taken from St. Matthew’s gospel; for Year B, mostly from St. Mark’s gospel; for Year C, mostly from St. Luke’s gospel. Portions of St. John’s gospel are found throughout all three years, but especially in Year B, because St. Mark’s gospel is shorter than the rest. The first reading, usually from the Old Testament, is chosen to match the theme of the gospel reading.

Q. Has there ever been a saint from Iowa?

A. Yes. Probably hundreds, maybe thousands, but none officially canonized by the Church.

Q. How has sacrament of the sick changed over the years?

A. The reform of the sacraments following Vatican II included a reform of what was once known as “extreme unction.” In those days a person could be anointed only once in their lifetime. Today, the Church refers to the sacrament as the Pastoral Care and Anointing of the Sick. Even after nearly 50 years, many people still refer to this sacrament incorrectly as the “last rites.” The anointing of the sick can be celebrated more than once in a person’s life. A person can be anointed if they are preparing for surgery, have a chronic condition, a serious illness, or advanced age. Many parishes offer the anointing of the sick at weekend Masses a few times during the year. People need not fear to be anointed. It doesn’t mean that death is immanent for them. Also, the Church makes clear that this sacrament is for those who are still alive. It’s not to be used for a corpse.