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Constance Keating wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am 13-years-old and I live in the USA. I am writing a research paper but before you before you discount this e-mail, I want you to know that the assignment requires me to interview people of various faiths.

I am currently somewhat of a reformed Protestant. Here are my questions:

  • How did the Pope come to be?
  • Why is St. Mary St. Mary, if you will?
  • Do you pray to her or any of the other saints? If so, why?
  • What exactly is a Rosary, and how did it come to be?
  • What is the difference between a priest, a cardinal, etc.?
  • What happens after Confession?
  • How does a priest determine penance?

Thanks so much!


  { Because my project requires me to interview people of various faiths, can I interview a Catholic? }

Mike replied:

Hi, Constance —


Before I address your questions, you may be interested in these similar postings.
They may help your assignment:

Note: Clicking on (top) at the end of each answer below brings you back here.

You said:

How did the Pope come to be?

The Pope became Pope because it was Jesus' choice to place a prime minister-like person to:

  • be an icon of teaching unity for what the Christian faith is.
    (This way any Christian on the face of the earth would be able to know, for sure, what is Christian and what is not.)
  • protect against bad ideas and un-Christian behavior as being accepted as Christian
  • protect against any abuses in the worship life of the Church.
  • protect against any abuses against the sacramental life of the Church.
    (What is a sacrament?: A sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ that gives grace; his priests pass on the sacramental life of the Church through their priesthood. Jesus instituted seven sacraments.)

You can read about this in the Bible in Matthew's Gospel: Matthew 16:13-19; which was foretold in Isaiah 22:15-25.

When a Pope dies, the cardinals of the Church gather and, guided by the Holy Spirit, choose who they think would be best for the next Pope.

It is important to note, the difference between:

  • the pope's inability to officially teach anything heretical on issues of faith and moral and at the same time . . .
  • the pope's ability to sin and scandalize the faith due to his own human frailties. ( top )

Why is St. Mary St. Mary, if you will?

Saint means holy or set apart. Mary was created holy because God, the Father, wanted her to bear in her womb, Jesus, His Son: who is True God, and at the same time, True Man.

In the same way the Ark of the Convent had to be totally holy to contain the Ten Commandments (representing God's Law); so too, Mary had to be Holy to bear and carry the Savior of mankind, Jesus. ( top )

Do you pray to her or any of the other saints? If so, why?

Yes, we do pray to her and the saints for the same reason, you would ask a friend next door for help and assistance.  We pray to God, Mary, and the saints. There isn't a family fight in Heaven over who will get the prayer because our petitions for help are a family affair.

I think this posting will help answer any other questions on this issue:

What exactly is a Rosary, and how did it come to be?

This MS-Word document explains everything:

  • In My Own Words — What is the Rosary? [MS-Word] [PDF]
    ( top )

What is the difference between a priest, a cardinal, etc.?

Within hierarchy of the Church, men are chosen to serve the Church.
This way of governing was Jesus'  Choice. They include:

  • the deacon
  • the priest
  • the pastor
  • the bishop
  • the cardinal, and
  • the Pope

What they all have in common, is they have received the sacrament of Holy Orders.

Everyone, but the deacon, can celebrate the Mass and administer all the sacraments of the Church; the deacon can administer some of the sacraments.

Starting with the priest, the differences in titles are based on the larger scope of responsibility (due to a larger number of <faithful|people>) they have to serve with some titles given on an honorary basis.

  • the priest is responsible for the duties the pastor of the local parish gives him.
  • the pastor is responsible for his local parish; he is an extension of the bishop.
  • the bishop is responsible for parishes in his local geographical area, called a diocese. (e.g. all the parishes in the San Antonia, Texas area).
  • the cardinals are senior bishops with their own diocese, called an archdiocese, who also have the responsibility for choosing the next Pope. ( top )

What happens after Confession?

I think we first have to ask:

What is Confession?

A possible confusion: the word Penance is used two different ways in the Church:

  1. Penance: is one of the seven sacraments, also called Confession or Reconciliation
  2. penance: are the acts of satisfaction or penance to be performed by the penitent in order to repair the harm caused by sin and to re-establish habits befitting a disciple of Christ.

The Catechism tells us:

XI. The Celebration of the Sacrament of Penance.

1480 Like all the sacraments, Penance is a liturgical action. The elements of the celebration are ordinarily these:

  • a greeting and blessing from the priest
  • reading the word of God to illuminate the conscience and elicit contrition, and an exhortation to repentance
  • the Confession, which acknowledges sins and makes them known to the priest
  • the imposition and acceptance of a penance; the priest's absolution;
  • a prayer of thanksgiving and praise, and
  • dismissal with the blessing of the priest.

A Catholic goes to Confession if they have some sin(s) on their conscience that (he/she) knows has to be forgiven. We can personally ask God for his forgiveness as well, but because sin is social in nature and has an effect on others in the Church, we go to Confession; and always when we have committed a mortal sin. The priest is bound to keep anything said by the penitent in secret under pain of excommunication from the Church.

Through the sacrament of Confession, sin on our soul is removed through the special words of the priest: I absolve you. If you don't hear those exact words at any Confession, go to another priest for Confession and notify your local bishop about this.

So to your question:

  • What happens after Confession?

Our soul is pure again and we are obliged to perform the penance (#2) the priest gave us. ( top )

How does a priest determine penance?

The Catechism states:

VII. The Acts of the Penitent

1460 The penance the confessor imposes must take into account the penitent's personal situation and must seek his spiritual good. It must correspond as far as possible with the gravity and nature of the sins committed. It can consist of prayer, an offering, works of mercy, service of neighbor, voluntary self-denial, sacrifices, and above all the patient acceptance of the cross we must bear. Such penances help configure us to Christ, who alone expiated our sins once for all. They allow us to become co-heirs with the risen Christ, "provided we suffer with him."
(Romans 8:17; 3:25, 1 John 2:1-2, Council of Trent (1551): DS 1690)

The satisfaction that we make for our sins, however, is not so much ours as though it were not done through Jesus Christ. We who can do nothing ourselves, as if just by ourselves, can do all things with the cooperation of "him who strengthens" us. Thus man has nothing of which to boast, but all our boasting is in Christ . . . in whom we make satisfaction by bringing forth "fruits that befit repentance." These fruits have their efficacy from him, by him they are offered to the Father, and through him they are accepted by the Father.

(Council of Trent (1551): DS 1691; cf. Philippians 4:13; 1 Corinthians 1:31; 2 Corinthians 10:17; Galatians 6:14; Luke 3:8)

Usually penance consists of saying a few Our Father's, Hail Mary's, saying a Rosary, saying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy or doing some work of charity. ( top )

Hope this helps,


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