Herda-Father-Jerry“Ask Fr. Jerry,” Fr. Jerry Herda

Q: I’ve been a fan of Fr. John Corapi for a few years. The few times I’ve tuned into EWTN, I would sometimes see him, and, frankly, he’s helped my faith a lot. What should we make of his situation?

Editor’s note: In July, Catholic News Service reported that Fr. Corapi’s order, the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, found he was involved in cohabitation, alcohol and drug abuse and violation of his promise of poverty.

A: We must always continue to pray for Fr. Corapi and for all priests who have had accusations brought against them. Only God knows the full truth of the situation.

Let’s take a look at what is truly at the heart of your question. To begin, we must make a distinction that we do for everyone who delivers a message. That is to make the distinction between looking at the message vs. looking at the messenger. They often go hand in hand because we give great credence or credibility to the message being delivered by someone we trust. But, as in this particular case, the message of Jesus Christ does not change, even if our perception of the messenger changes.

The message that Fr. Corapi delivered for so long was a very good message, very inspirational and helping Catholics to grow in their faith. That message of Jesus Christ was, and continues to be, important to hear.

Every Sunday at Mass, the priest or deacon delivers a homily, a message of hope to carry us through the week. Some of us preachers do a good job of delivering the message, others of us preachers do an average or poor job of delivering that message, but the Gospel message never changes.

We also make the distinction between the message and the messenger because we realize that in the case of preachers, and in this particular case with Fr. Corapi, we are dealing with human beings. The messenger is not an angel sent by God, but rather a fallible, imperfect human being, who, like all human beings, sins and makes mistakes.

Fr. Corapi sins, I sin, you sin, we as human beings sin. The sin does not lessen the message of Jesus Christ; on the contrary it strengthens the message and reminds us that we should all be living by the Word of God and the message of Jesus Christ. 

Continue to pray for Fr. Corapi; continue to pray for your local priests. Pray that we might be able to deliver the message of Jesus Christ that will inspire others, despite our sinfulness, and that others might be open to hearing that message of Jesus Christ to help transform their lives and then transform our world. 

Q: I feel a little disconnected during Mass because of the new translation of the Roman Missal. What can I do?

A: Anytime we face changes in our lives we feel a little disconnected; that is natural. A few weeks ago my 3-year-old nephew was spending his first night in his new house. The family had just moved in and when it came time to go to bed my nephew said to his dad, “I want to go home.”

He was feeling disconnected. For all of his life, three short years, he lived in an apartment that he called home, now all of sudden he was being asked to sleep in a different place. Change was hard for the little guy.

For all of us in the Catholic Church, we have been saying the same words at Mass for a long time. For many of us, they are the only words we have ever said at Mass, so it feels a little discombobulating to suddenly have to start saying new responses. But there are a number of things we can do to help with the transition.

First, we need to be patient. We need to give it time and we will eventually get used to the new responses. It didn’t take my 3-year-old nephew very long to get used to his new house and he now loves it. We will adjust to the new Mass; it may take a while so be patient. When you fall into your old habits and respond incorrectly, just tell yourself that you will do better next time.

Second, one of the things that can be very helpful is to become educated as to what the changes mean and why they were done.

There are plenty of materials available to help you come to a better understanding of why the changes were made. So read up and learn all that you can. A simple example is the new response to the invitation to communion. The priest says, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”

The people now respond, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

This response may sound awkward, but it is actually a beautiful quote from Scripture, Matthew 8:8, when the Centurion had asked Jesus to heal his servant. Jesus offers to come to his house, but the Centurion says to Jesus, “I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; but only say the word and my servant shall be healed.”

So in our response at Mass, we are now quoting directly from Scripture and saying the same thing as the Centurion, that we are not worthy to have Jesus come into our homes, our lives, our body.

It is with that humility that we are then able to come forward and receive the Body and Blood of Christ.

Finally, one thing I have noticed with the new translation is that people are hesitant to respond to the parts of the Mass that did not change. For some reason people are uncertain and don’t want to make a mistake. My suggestion is respond whole heartily for the responses you do know. Part of what makes for good liturgy is full participation. So sing loud, respond strong, fully participate. When you do that, you make the prayer better for everyone.

(Fr. Herda, ordained in 1990, is pastor of St. Monica Parish, Whitefish Bay, and St. Eugene Parish, Fox Point. If you have a question you’ve always wanted to ask a priest, email it to ruscht@archmil.org and place “Ask Fr. Jerry” in the subject line.)