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Louis Rinaldi wrote:

Hi, guys —

Hopefully these aren't dumb questions, but I am Catholic and have always wondered a few things:

  1. Why do we call priests father when Matthew 23:9 says never call anyone father?
  2. Why is it okay to pray to the Saints and Mary when the Bible says there is only one God.
    (1 Timothy 2:5)

    When I pray to them I just feel a little confused/unsure because of the conflicting messages.

  3. Why can't Catholics eat meat on Fridays during Lent?

I tried looking up the answers in other places but I could tell that everything I read was written by someone who wasn't Catholic.

I hope you have time to answer these questions.

Thank you.


  { Can you answer some basic questions from a Catholic that I have always pondered about? }

Eric replied:


Matthew 23:8 says not to call anyone teacher.

Protestants seem to conveniently overlook that. The title Doctor simply means teacher (from Latin), but you don't see them vigorously opposing calling physicians (or, for that matter, their own pastors with Ph.D.'s) Doctor. They also don't protest when it comes to identifying the man of the family. The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible says, call no man your father: Jesus uses hyperbole to post a warning that no one should pridefully desire honorific titles. His words are not meant literally. The New Testament writers elsewhere use father for natural fathers (Hebrews 12:7-11) and spiritual fathers in the Church (1 Corinthians 4:15; Philemon 10). The spiritual fatherhood of New Covenant priests is an extension of its application to Old Covenant priests (Judges 17:10; 18:19). To this I would add Acts 7:2, Acts 22:1, Romans 4:17, 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12. For further information, check out

There being one God has nothing to do with praying to the saints, because we do not worship and adore the saints; we hold God to be the only one of supreme worth (worship comes from idea of worth-ship and originally expressed someone's worthiness; to this day judges in England are called your worship using the earlier sense.) Part of it is language confusion. The word used by the Church in Latin for "pray" is "orare" which simply means to ask.

Protestants have distorted the term so that it tends to have overtones of worship, which it doesn't.

  • Have you ever heard the expression, "I prithee, please do thus-and-such"?

This is a contraction for I pray thee and has the same sense as the Latin.) So prayer does not equal worship or adoration; it simply denotes asking, in the Catholic sense.

  • Why do we believe they can hear our prayers?

Well, for one thing, the saints surround us (Hebrews 12:1), and carrying our petitions to the throne room of God (Revelation 5:8). This is more explicit in the Second book of Maccabees, 15:12-14, where a dead man, Onias, and Jeremiah are portrayed as praying for the people. We also get hints of this in Jeremiah 15:1. We ask the saints to pray for us because we want them to be our prayer partners. "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:16). Just as it is not wrong to ask someone on earth to intercede for us (1 Timothy 2:1, it is not wrong to ask someone in heaven to do the same. See:

As for not eating meat on Fridays during Lent, it's a holdover, believe it or not, from Jewish custom.

The first century document The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (8:1) said that the Jews fasted on Mondays and Thursdays (you can see this in Luke 18:12); Christians are to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. Eventually this was mitigated in the West to Fridays (the Eastern Christians still follow the Wednesday and Friday practice, and add dairy, eggs, and fish to the abstinence), then in the 1960s it was mitigated in the United States under pain of sin to Lent alone (and Ash Wednesday), provided one does an alternative penance on Fridays (outside of Lent). Year-round Friday abstinence is still in force throughout the year in universal law (Code of Canon Law, Canon 1251).

  • Why do we do it?

Jesus said when the bridegroom (i.e. Jesus) goes away, the disciples will fast (Mark 2:20). Moreover, He did not say if you fast, but when you fast (Matthew 6:18). Designating a day is a way to communally and corporately observe it in solidarity with one another. It also helps weave it into the fabric of the culture; to this day some restaurants have Friday fish specials, for example. It is easier to stick with it when everyone around you is participating and no one is tempting you to break it.

  • But why fast of all things?

Two reasons, at a minimum:

  1. One, as a form of penance (or an expression of sorrow for sins and the earnestness of our repentance, we can see this in Daniel 9:3 and many other places in the Old Testament)
  2. And two, as a way of mastering our bodies so to gain self-control and avoid sin (See 1 Corinthians 9:27).

So abstaining from meat some seven days or so a year is pretty minor compared to the 100 or so days a year (actually, it's more like half the year, but I digress) of abstaining from meat, dairy, and eggs that the West used to do (and the East still does). It's important to emphasize that not eating meat on Fridays is not a divine law that applies universally in all times and places, but an ecclesiastical law. It's wrong to violate it because it is, in general, wrong to break an ecclesiastical law, not because there is anything intrinsically sinful about it.

Thus, when the Church mitigated abstinence in the mid-60s you had people who cried "gotcha!" when they asked what happened to all the people who went to Hell before the 1960s for eating meat on a non-Lenten Friday, as if it was somehow retroactively non-sinful now for disobeying ecclesiastical law in the past. You went to Hell for disobeying the Church, not for eating meat on Friday per se.

Hope this helps!

Write back if you have any further questions.


Louis replied:


Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions.

I just have one follow up, to my second question about praying to the Saints.

I have always believed that when we die, we go to Heaven (hopefully), but when reading the Bible sometimes is seems that no one that dies goes to Heaven or Hell until the last day when Jesus judges the living and the dead.

  • Do we Catholics have a stance on this?


Eric replied:


Yes, we do; we are judged immediately and either go directly to Hell, or to Heaven, either immediately or after being purged of our remaining imperfections (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).

See Sirach 11:26 or 28 and Luke 16:22.

Also see the Apostolic Constitution Benedictus Deus (Pope Benedict XII), the Council of Lyons, and the Council of Florence.


Mike replied:

Dear Louis,

You said:
Hopefully these aren't dumb questions, but I am Catholic and have always wondered a few things.

The only dumb question is the one that is not asked or one that falls into our Questions we won't answer so if you are sincere in your question, go right ahead and ask us.

Mike Humphrey Web Admin.

Please report any and all typos or grammatical errors.
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