Priest enjoys tackling tough questions - Catholic Courier

Priest enjoys tackling tough questions

Parishioners of All Saints Parish in Corning who have burning questions about their faith can turn to Father Mark Miller for answers.

Father Miller said that after he arrived in Corning in June 2000 as sacramental minister, the parish’s pastoral administrator, Sister Joan Cawley, suggested he start a question-and-answer column in the bulletin. He wrote his first column in September of that year, and his feature, “Question Box,” remains a weekly staple five years later.

“I get to put my education to good use,” remarked Father Miller, a diocesan priest for 36 years who studied church history at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

Questions for Father Miller are usually placed in the collection plates during Masses, submitted to the parish office or posed to him directly, he said. He tries to answer all the questions he receives, but if he gets more than one query for a particular week’s bulletin, he said he will answer one he feels would have the greatest impact on the parish or that pertains to a certain time of the church year, such as a question on Lenten fasting.

“I use as many of the people’s questions as I can,” said Father Miller, noting that if he runs out of questions from parishioners, he will write a bulletin column using a question of his own.

Oftentimes people raise points that aren’t answered during Mass or that arise out of a particular Mass, Father Miller said, noting that his column is a good way to address those queries.

“The value of this (column) is to answer questions that are bothering people. We don’t know what’s going on in people’s minds,” he said.
Some of the questions posed to him over the years have been challenging, he said, such as the time he was asked to address the subject of apologetics and when he was asked to demonstrate by reason that Jesus was the son of God and that he really died on the cross. Another good example of a sensitive issue appeared in the Aug. 14, 2005, column, in which he addressed why Catholics cannot receive Communion in a Protestant church.

“The problem is that intercommunion would give the impression that Catholics and Protestants are completely united in faith, whereas in fact there are some important differences between us,” wrote Father Miller, citing, for example, some Protestants’ lack of belief that bread and wine are actually changed into the body and blood of Christ.

Father Miller has also encountered some amusing questions, such as one regarding the stained-glass windows at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, one of All Saints’ worship sites. A parishioner wanted to know why the window depicts God with horns. According to Father Miller, the figure is actually Moses, and that in many artistic renderings Moses is depicted with horns due to a mistranslation of the Hebrew word qaran to the Latin Vulgate, or Latin Bible. The word means to either send out rays, or to display or grow horns.

Father Miller said he uses the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Code of Canon Law, as well as other reference works, to get detail on matters that he does not already have mentally stored. He added that he looks forward to fielding the wide range of questions that end up in his columns.

“I enjoy looking stuff up,” he said.

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