Good evening I hope this email finds you well.
Here are a series of different questions I hope padre can answer:
1. Can a catholic practice yoga as a physical exercise or for mental health reasons, as long as there are Boundaries to be observed, such as it’s spiritual aspect? I’ve read somewhere, though I forgot where, that says, doing the “poses” doesn’t mean that you are performing yoga in essence, but I would also love to know what is Father’s opinion on the matter.
2. One time, during Holy Communion, our priest ran out of sacred hosts because there were too many people at mass that time. So he took unconsecrated hosts and dipped them in the Holy Blood in his chalice for our Communion. I’m simply curious if it is a formal alternative and/or if he did the right thing?
3. It is said that, confession once a month is a good habit of going to confession. I’m curious, what do I do if I find myself not finding anything to confess, every month. I feel that once a month confession doesn’t work for me, at the same time I am prone to scrupulousity. I fear using monthly confession as an excuse to calm my nerves instead of fostering trust in God’s Mercy. I eagerly hope for your answer soon. Thank you in advance.
Answer from the priest
1. Yoga is an oriental discipline that aims at liberation from samsara, that is, from the need to be reborn to a new existence, marked by pain and transience.
It is a discipline consisting of eight stages, the third of which is the one you refer to consists in assuming ways of sitting that favor “meditation”: they must be “stable”, that is, immobile, “pleasant” and therefore easy to prolong, and “suitable” for concentration.
The best position is that of the “lotus flower”, which consists of placing the right foot on the left thigh and the left foot on the right thigh with the soles of the feet facing upwards, keeping the hands on the knees with the palms facing up or down, head, neck and torso straight and aligned, eyes closed or focused on a point, for example, on the tip of the nose. Any violent effort must be avoided: therefore, one must choose the position in which one can remain for a long time without excessive effort.
2. This discipline should not be done alone, but under the guidance of a guru, that is, an experienced teacher because it cannot be learned from books, but from experience and only an experienced guide can tell which yoga practices are suitable.
Many Westerners think that yoga simply consists of a series of physical exercises and body positions that give a sense of well-being, inner calm and harmony and help keep the body young and in perfect health.
But this is not so. The various stages are ordered to a very specific objective than that of creating the absolute mental vacuum.
In this respect it is quite the opposite of Christianity which communicates peace not by emptying the mind, but by filling it with the presence of God and heaven.
Furthermore, if yoga claims to bring man to perfection through the use of techniques, in the Christian experience, even in the dutiful cooperation with the grace of God for the necessary purification ,one feels passive towards the Heaven that pours into our hearts his presence and his fullness.
3. Some people distinguish between the yoga method and the goal.
They leave out the goal because it is the opposite of the Gospel but they just take the method.
But here too there are many dangers because it is easy to put all one’s attention into correctly practicing the various indications and to neglect the conversation with God.
In so doing, the techniques become like an end to be pursued and cease to be a mere means for a deeper prayer.
Then there is the danger of turning in on oneself, on one’s person, on one’s body and it is believed that the good execution of the exercises is equivalent to having grown up in the spirit of prayer.
The results of greater interior tranquility and deeper concentration and recollection are easily confused with the supernatural effects of sanctification that prayer produces in Christianity, which normally cannot be experienced.
We believe we are praying better because we control our thoughts and senses and therefore we are less distracted.
4. The quality of Christian prayer does not depend on concentration or even on the lack of distractions, but on faith and love.
It does not lose merit because it is subject to distractions.
In this regard, what St. Thomas teaches is interesting: “To achieve this effect (value, merit) attention is not required to absolutely accompany prayer throughout its duration.
As with all other meritorious deeds, the virtuality of the first intention is sufficient with which one begins prayer “(St. Thomas, Summa Theologica, II-II, 83, 13).
5. Therefore also in welcoming the technique alone, releasing it from the objective of samsara, a lot of caution is needed.
In particular we must not forget that the grace of God bestowed in the sacraments communicates a serenity and peace of a supernatural order, because they are infused by God into the soul.
Think of what happens in the Eucharist which St. Thomas writes: “By the power of this sacrament, the soul is refreshed by the fact that it is spiritually joyous and, in a certain way, intoxicated by the sweetness of divine goodness, according to what is said in the Song (5,1): Eat, friends, drink; get drunk with love”(Summa Theologica, III, 79, 1, ad 2).
And think also of what is communicated in the sacramental confession. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that “for those who receive the sacrament of Penance with contrite heart and religious disposition, reconciliation is usually followed by peace and serenity of conscience with strong spiritual consolation”. (CCC 1468).
6. Regarding the second question, it must be clearly stated that this procedure is not only unforeseen, but is prohibited.
The teaching in Redemptionis Sacramentum says: “The communicant should not be allowed to dip the host in the chalice himself, nor to receive the dipped host in his hand. As for the host to be dipped, it should be made of valid matter and be consecrated, completely excluding the use of non-consecrated bread or other matter” (No. 104).
The method used, in addition to the irreverence towards the Blood of the Lord, exposes the faithful to idolatry, since the consecrated matter is indistinguishable from the non-consecrated one.
It would have been more correct if the priest had proposed to take spiritual communion.
7. Regarding the frequency of confession, a distinction must be made between grave sin and venial sin.
In the first case, the monthly confession is the least that can be done because otherwise one remains deprived of communion with God and of his grace and also because any good works that have been done are not meritorious for eternal life.
Venial sins, on the other hand, can also be remitted outside the sacrament of reconciliation or penance, such as with prayer, with acts of charity, with almsgiving.
However, even in the confession of venial sins alone, it is communicated the sacramental grace that gives a very particular strength and freshness.
8. There is always a lot of matter to bring to confession even with venial sins alone. It is enough to think of what the Church invites us to do at the beginning of the Eucharistic celebration when it asks everyone to repent for the sins committed in thoughts, words, works and omissions.
If St. Ambrose, who was undoubtedly a great saint, repented because he could not keep his mind or language well guarded, what shouldn’t we say?
Therefore, it is not a question of calming anxiety because one does not even think about it, unless one is scrupulous.
Rather, it is a question of going to draw from a source of grace and also from a source of blessing, because the Father in every confession fills us with goods in the same way as the father welcomed the prodigal son.
There is always a big gain to make.
I wish you well, I remember you in prayer and I bless you.