Abusing prescription drugs/Hail Mary during Mass
Q. I have a question that has been troubling me for years. First of all, I am a practicing Catholic. I attend Mass every Sunday and sometimes on weekdays. Once a week, I go to an adoration chapel and spend an hour before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
But I am a drug addict and have been for 30 years. Right now, I am abusing only my prescribed medications, but in the past I have used cocaine, methamphetamines, heroin, marijuana, LSD -- you name it, I've done it. My question is this: Is it a mortal sin for me to abuse my prescription medications? (I really need to know.) (Rice Lake, Wisconsin)
A. It could very well be that your abuse of prescription drugs constitutes a mortal sin, so the safest thing to do -- both medically and morally -- is to stop. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches in No. 2288: "Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them."
The gravity of your sin depends very much on the degree of damage you are doing to yourself. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence says that "taking prescription drugs not prescribed for you by a doctor, or in a way that hasn't been recommended by a doctor, can be more dangerous than you think. In fact, it can be fatal."
Mortal sin, as defined by the catechism, in No. 1857, requires three conditions: grave matter, full knowledge and deliberate consent. So there is some degree of subjectivity and I cannot safely say, from this distance, whether all three are present in your case.
You need to see a priest-confessor and a drug counselor. Drug addiction is treatable -- either behaviorally or pharmacologically, or through a combination of both. Since (admirably) you have been able to overcome your earlier addictions, there is no reason to believe that you cannot do it now -- especially since prayer is such a strong factor in your life.
Q. We have some really fine young priests being ordained in our archdiocese, and they are now in our parishes. Some of them have us praying the Hail Mary at the end of the (Sunday and daily) Mass intentions and the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel at the end of weekday Mass. I thought that this was not permitted under the current liturgical rubrics, or has something changed? (Washington, D.C.)
A. In the liturgical documents of the church, you would look in vain for any absolute and specific prohibition of the two practices you mention. However, the spirit of the liturgy would seem to argue against their inclusion within the Mass.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal says that after each of the petitions is announced in the prayer of the faithful, the congregation supports the petition by reciting together an "invocation." "Lord, hear our prayer" strikes me as an "invocation" while the recitation of the complete Hail Mary does not.
Evidently in England, drawing on a medieval practice, some parishes were reciting the Hail Mary after the final petition. In 2012, Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton wrote to his clergy asking them to discontinue that practice. He said that some years before, the Vatican had written to the bishops of England and Wales advising that such devotional prayer during the petitions should be (in Bishop Conry's words) "gradually and gently discouraged."
The Prayer to St. Michael ("Defend us in battle ...") was written by Pope Leo XIII in 1886. Although it is no longer recited at the end of Mass, in 1994, St. John Paul II encouraged Catholics to use the prayer privately.