I'm a Christian, and I've committed at least one mortal sin. I didn't hurt anyone but myself, though, when I broke one of the Ten Commandments. I've asked God for forgiveness and prayed at length about this, knowing why I did it and that I was out of control and desperate for love and human connection. Is that enough, or am I doomed?
-- R., North Carolina, via email
You're not doomed, because God's love for you cannot be broken or annulled. Jesus' sacrifice and your repentance cover your sins. Repentance covers mine. Everything else is just not our business. Smile more. You are blessed.
Out of the blue, my 32-year-old daughter has absolutely no time for me. Evidently, she's disliked me as far back as her teenage years. I'm only invited to her house twice a year, on my grandsons' birthdays. I'm so devastated I'm literally frozen in inactivity. How can I get through something like this?
-- P., via email
Read this to your daughter: "Why are you torturing your loving mother? How would you like it if your sons never spoke to you when they are grown? Life is too short to hurt those we love."
As a Christian, I appreciate your objectivity and your openness to all religions. It's amazing how much we all have in common, yet the things that separate us seem to divide us to a greater degree than our commonness unites us. May God continue to bless your ministry for many more years. -- A., Bailey, N.C., via email
For all the years Father Tom Hartman and I worked together as the God Squad, we had one single and simple message: "We know enough about how we are different and not enough about how we are all the same."
Thank you for understanding the most important thing I know.
Our very precocious 5-year-old granddaughter is obsessed with death. She asks lots of questions about people dying and what happens to them. She asks her mother if she could die before her. I'm going to be 74, and she asks me if I'm going to die because I'm old, as her mother said people die when they're old. I told her that hopefully I'll live another 20 years, and we can have fun together for a long time. Do you have any advice on what to tell her about death?
-- S., via email
Tell your granddaughter that she's not going to die for a very long time and that she has nothing to worry about. Tell her that even after our bodies die, a part of us never dies. Our souls go to heaven to live with God, but we can still see all the good things that happen to the people we love, and in heaven we also get to see all the people we loved who died before us. Ask her why she's so interested in death. And remember, her questions are far more important than your answers.
In a recent column about a woman struggling with a violent, drunken husband, you did not recommend Al-Anon. I hope you did directly, or will.
-- J., via email
I should have. Twelve-step programs do holy, healing work. Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, Alateen, Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and others are all ports in the storms of addiction and fear.
Jim, a friend of mine and of my brother, has a very irritating quality. Jim is a born-again Christian, and my brother and I are both agnostics. All Jim talks about is the Bible -- and I mean that is all he talks about. He dislikes the U.S. Constitution because he says the Bible was here first, and that the Constitution is based on the Bible. Is this true? The Bible says not to chatter about the Bible with someone who has no interest in hearing about it. How can we tell Jim to stop doing just that?
-- Anonymous, via email
I suggest that you talk to Jim about the Mets.
What, in your opinion, was the reason the early church allowed religious art to show Adam and Eve with belly buttons?
-- D., Buffalo, N.Y. via email
Good point. Adam should have a "rib button," and Eve should have had no button at all.