Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Talk #2 to the Legion of Mary


Mulier ecce filius tuus – ecce mater tua

These words: Woman behold your Son – Behold your Mother, are very familiar to all members of the legion for it forms part of the standard of the Army of Souls who stand under that Heavenly Queen’s authority and protection. In this 2nd talk I’d like to speak somewhat about Our Blessed Lady as our Mother. And that not as some vaguely spiritual notion but really and truly our mother at the level of grace as much as our own mothers have given life to us in the flesh. And it is that spiritual motherhood which she exercises over us that far outweighs anything that our physical mothers have done or ever will do for us.

St. Therese has famously said: “She is for me both Mother and Queen, but more Mother than Queen”. It is important that we remember that although we have been enlisted in that Heavenly Army to fight the good fight, as St. Paul puts it, and although we are indeed foot-soldiers of our Heavenly Queen, we are first and foremost her children and she is our Mother. Christ is uniquely her Son by way of the human nature he took from her and, in him, we are her children by way of the grace he gave to us. He is her Son by way of the flesh – we by way of the Spirit, by the waters of Baptism when we became members of his Mystical Body.

Mary is our Mother, the most wonderful of Mothers – for if she was good enough for the Divine Son of the Almighty Father – then how much more is she good enough for us, who are not Divine but who are his children in Christ Jesus. We are sons and daughters of God in the Only Son of God. We are, as I have said, by grace what Christ is by nature. In other words he is naturally and eternally the Only Begotten Son of God, while we are supernaturally the adopted children of God. And Mary, being the Mother of the Son of God, is also the Mother of all God’s children.

Now what would your Mother think if you said to her – I love you as if you were my Mother. It would seem strange and yet that is how many people think when they try to express their devotion to Our Blessed Lady. But she, our Heavenly Mother, loves us immensely more than our earthly mother ever could and while our earthly mother gave birth to us at the natural level and saw to our upbringing and nurturing – our Heavenly Mother has brought us forth to supernatural life and sees that we grow to the full maturity of Christ as sons and daughter of the Heavenly Father. Just as Christ was formed in his humanity in her womb and grew under her authority at Nazareth – so we are placed under her maternal authority. Because our Head, Jesus Christ is formed in her and through her cooperation with God’s plans; so we, his members – whether we accept it our not - are formed in her and through her cooperation. What kind of unnatural birth would it be for a child to have two mothers, one for its head and another for its members. So we, if we are real members of Christ, if we are really his brothers and sisters, must come forth from the same mother – Mary our Queen.

God entrusted Mary with his most precious Son, there was nothing greater that he could have given her. Jesus Christ chose to be utterly dependent upon her – and he prepared her for that mission himself. If she was found worthy of having the Son of God placed under her authority then we can be sure that if we place ourselves under her – entrusting and consecrating our lives as sons and daughters of God to her Maternal Heart then we will surely arrive at that fullness of grace and holiness, that state of perfection that will allow us to enter heaven.

Sanctifying Grace which unites and keeps us united to Christ as God’s children comes to us through the humanity of Jesus Christ – true God and true man – he is the channel of grace. But that Divine Humanity was taken from Mary, was formed with her consent and cooperation – and so we can say that Mary is really the giver of graces – Mediatrix of all graces, because it was through her that every grace has come to us, since Jesus Christ the source of all grace has come to us through her. The Giver of all graces comes through Mary, and so no grace, no gift, is ever given except through Mary including the grace of Baptism and the gift of Eternal Life. It is not her grace, not her eternal life, but it is hers to give. In giving the world a Saviour through Mary, God gave the World Salvation through Mary. In giving birth to Christ she has become the Mother who gives birth to all of God’s children. Is it any wonder then that the great St. Augustine should write: “About Mary, never enough can be said.”

We cannot doubt that the love, honour, devotion and dedication we show to Our Lady is very pleasing to Christ and is a most perfect imitation of his dispositions towards her. As Bl. Columba Marmion puts it: “If we wish to love Christ, if we wish him to be all in all to us, we ought to have a really special love for his Mother.” And this very special love for Mary our Mother is more fully and perfectly demanded of her legion; as the handbook states: “One of the dearest duties of the Legion shall be to show whole-hearted devotion to the Mother of God.” Whole hearted – is a far cry from half-hearted. Whole-hearted devotion is what Christ showed her and we would do well to imitate him in this to the best of our abilities – always remembering that Jesus spent 33 years on this earth. 30 of those years he gave to Mary and only 3 to the rest of the world.

Mary is truly our mother to whom we should submit ourselves, our plans and our salvation – for she has been divinely commissioned to form Christ in all his brothers and sisters. St. Augustine made the point that since God, Jesus Christ, came to us through the womb of Mary, so every Christian must go to God by being formed in that same womb. One day, St. Gertrude, while singing the Divine Office of the Church came across a reference to Christ as the ‘first-born Son of the Virgin Mary’ and she thought to herself – that can’t be right – surely it should be only-Son. Our Lady then appeared to her and said: “No – it is not at all ‘only Son’ that best describes him but first-born Son, for after Jesus, my very dear Son – or more exactly, in him and through him – I have become mother of all of you in the womb of my charity, and you have become my children, the brothers and sisters of Jesus. “

On Calvary, on that great day of our Redemption, Jesus Christ put in place the last piece of the plan of Redemption, when just before he expired on the Cross he gave something wonderful to the beloved disciple; who is not named precisely so that he stands for every disciple who is beloved of the Lord and who loves him in return. And what is that something – the Cure of Ars explains: “Jesus Christ, after having given us all he could give, that is to say, the merits of his toils, his sufferings, and his bitter death; after having given us his Adorable Body and Blood to be the food of our souls, willed also to give us the most precious thing he had left – his Holy Mother.” The disciple took her to himself, the Gospel tells us, and so Scripture clearly tells us two things about the Blessed Virgin: firstly that she is one of the great gifts the Saviour has made to us – part of his plan of salvation for us - and, secondly, that we would do well to receive that gift.

Some, in their eagerness to exalt and worship Christ, fear that paying too much attention to Our Lady might in some way take away something that is due to Jesus Christ. That she might stand in the way as an obstacle to him, or else obscure his glory. And indeed so great a figure is the Blessed Virgin and so great is the honour which the entire Church lavishes upon her, that it is no wonder that many uninformed brothers and sisters in Christ of the Protestant persuasion accuse us, wrongly of course, of worshipping Mary. As the great young Carmelite Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity put it: “Our Lady is so transparent, so luminous that one would mistake her for the light, yet she is but the mirror of the Sun of Justice.”

Mary’s greatness is completely subordinate to and dependant upon her Son – Jesus Christ, and any attention we give to her is also subordinate to the worship which Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit alone should receive. She will not obstruct or obscure Christ’s glory – rather she reflects it and glorifies him more perfectly than any other creature. To those who are timid or reserved in their devotion to the Blessed Virgin I offer the encouraging words of St. Therese: "Do not be afraid to love the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her enough. And Jesus will be very happy, because the Blessed Virgin is His Mother." How could you ever outdo the Lord Jesus in his honouring of his Mother – all the honours ever given or ever to be given her by men and women on earth or the saints and angels in heaven could not even begin to approach those bestowed on her by her Divine Son.

And what are those honours?
Out of love for Her Jesus has heaped privilege after privilege, grace upon grace, honour upon honour – greater privileges, graces and honours than upon any other creature. He exempted her from the laws that the rest of humanity must be subject to. He made her, and her alone, Immaculate in her conception and free from the least stain or tendency to sin – more full of grace than any saint or angel ever could be. Blessed Columba Marmion puts it well when he says: “If God, for her, overturned so many laws that he himself has established, it is because she was to be the Mother of his Son. Christ loved his Mother. Never has God so loved one who is simply a creature; never son loved his Mother as Christ Jesus does. He has loved men so much… that he died for them and could not have given them more proof of his love than that… But never forget this truth: that Christ died above all for his Mother, to pay for her privileges. The unique graces that Mary has received are the first fruits of the Passion of Jesus… (Mary), says Marmion, is the greatest glory of Christ, because it is she who has received the most from him.”

For any of you who have seen the film – the Passion of the Christ – you will know the scene I want to draw your attention to. Christ is being mercilessly scourged and he is at the end of his human strength it seems. At that moment he looks across the courtyard and sees his Mother standing there mournfully supporting him and as they exchange that gaze he seems to be filled with new strength and rises to his feet to ready himself for more scourges, more cruel blows. And every time I see that scene I think of the strength that the thought of the holiness, purity, dedication and love of the Blessed Mother must have brought to Christ, as he was suffering for her great privileges, suffering to redeem her by an altogether unique means as the dogma of the Immaculate Conception states – she being redeemed by being preserved from sin, while we are redeemed by being rescued from out of it. And as he gazes on her Immaculate soul how he must have burned with a desire to accomplish his sacrifice on the cross so that other souls might in some small way approach the greatness of soul which he had formed in his own Mother. There is a great mystery in the relationship between Jesus and Mary and it shows the centrality of the person of Mary in God’s eternal plan – for it is for her above all that Christ shed his precious blood, but it is from her that he received the blood which he would shed for her and for the redemption of the whole human race. As Pope Leo XIII puts it: “One must remember, too, that Christ's blood shed for our sake, and those members in which He offers to His Father the wounds He received as the price of our freedom, are no other than the flesh and blood of the Virgin. The flesh of Jesus is the Flesh of Mary.”

The Church is the mystical Body of Christ – his members who are animated by the one and same Holy Spirit – and we need only look at how the Church has and continues to venerate Mary her Mother and Queen to know that Jesus desires to continue to love, honour, cherish and reverence the Immaculate Virgin Mary through his members – collectively in the Church and indeed in each and every individual member. What the Church does is really done by Christ, and so what the Church does for Mary is really done for her by Christ. But the Church, because she is made up of weak and sinful members like you and me, can only do imperfectly for Mary what Christ has done perfectly.

St. Paul famously wrote: “With Christ I hang upon the Cross and it is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me”. And so it is Christ who urges the Christian, urges you and I to love Mary our Mother, in imitation of his loving relationship with her, and indeed, following St. Paul’s logic, it is Christ in me that loves her – and the more perfectly I love her then the more perfectly I am imitating the Lord Jesus and being formed in his image and likeness. And that is the road to heaven; for only in so far as the Heavenly Father sees Christ Jesus formed in us are we found worthy of eternal life – and how much progress we will make in that undertaking if we have in our hearts the ardent love Christ had and has in his most Sacred Heart for his beautiful Mother.

Speak often and tenderly of your great love for Our Lady – make no apologies for it. Other more high minded people who fancy that they know a thing or two about the things of God will see your simple childlike devotion to Mary as something childish and beneath them – but they will live to regret not paying homage to our Heavenly Mother, for they will never allow into their hearts that ardent surge of love which rises in the heart of Jesus when he thinks of his Mother. And their souls will be sorely impoverished by their coldness towards her. Speak freely of Our Blessed Lady to others – promote devotion to her, especially in the hearts of children – speak often the praises of Mary and when you pass from this life may you experience what Archbishop Fulton Sheen always wished for himself after death: as you meet your Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ may his first words to you be: “I have heard my Mother speak of you.”

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Talk to the Legion of Mary #1

Below is the first of 3 talks I gave to the members of the Legion of Mary in this area. The First talk is on Prayer, the second on Devotion to Our Blessed Mother and the Third was on Spiritual Warfare. They are quite long, but hopefully some of you readers will get something from them.

St. Alphonsus Ligouri doesn’t hesitate to say: “Those who pray are certainly saved; those who do not pray are certainly damned”. And it all goes back to the fact that we cannot possibly follow God’s direction for our lives if we don’t take sufficient time to hear what his plan for us is.

The well known passage of scripture which tells of the constant struggle between the active and contemplative sides of life and how easily we can let one (usually the active) get out of sync with the other is the story of Martha and Mary who receive Jesus as a visitor to their home. Martha is delighted to be able to serve the Lord, for without her effort, her guest will go hungry. She is intent on meeting his needs and in so doing she becomes a model of service of Christ and has no doubt inspired countless saints who do not have the Lord before them, but eagerly serve his brothers and sisters who come to them in any need. Martha does nothing wrong and yet her reproach of her sister Mary, shows that she hasn’t quite understood the bigger picture. Martha and Mary, two sisters who share the same home, two attitudes under the same roof, two different ways of serving the Lord, but it is Mary who has chosen the better part.

Many of us are more like Martha than Mary, practical, efficient, self-sacrificing. But there is a danger in all that of falling into the famous trap: Too busy working in the service of the Lord to worry about the Lord we are serving. We all need the Martha tendency to be tempered by a little bit of Mary’s attitude. All our activity – if it is to be truly fruitful, truly of lasting service to the Lord and for his greater glory, must be rooted in prayer, must flow from prayer, must be inspired by the Lord whom we encounter in prayer and must at the end of the day be submitted to him once again in prayer. As one of the Psalms tells us: If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its labourers build.

It might seem that we are about to condemn Martha for her lack of prayerfulness. But that’s not what that gospel passage is saying. Yes, it praises Mary’s choice to remain at the feet of Christ, to be served by him, to hear his words, to be fed by him. But there is no condemnation of Martha in her busy serving of Christ. Under the same roof Christ is both served and serves. He is fed by Martha, but he feeds Mary with his presence, with his words. And both He and Mary take greater delight in their encounter. Mary has chosen the better part – it will not be taken away from her. But that doesn’t mean that Martha has done something terribly wrong. She seeks to please the Lord by serving him, Mary by spending time in his presence. Both are pleasing to the Lord. But Mary has chosen the better part. As Archbishop Fulton sheen pointed out: “We always make the fatal mistake of thinking that it is what we do that matters, when really what matters is what we let God do to us. God sent the angel to the Virgin Mary, not to ask her to do something, but to let something be done.” Mary has chosen the better part over Martha because Mary allows Christ to do what he came to do, what he loved to do most – to serve and not to be served.

So we need to always have a balance. Prayer that doesn’t overflow into concern for others, for God’s kingdom, for the salvation of souls – hardly seems authentic. But service of others cannot reach its full potential unless we have submitted our plans and efforts to the Lord for his guidance and most especially for his blessing. The kingdom is built not by human hands but by human hearts that have been inflamed by the grace and love of Christ and have been called to cooperate within the limits of the life and opportunities which God has set before them. That inflaming of the heart can only take place in the furnace of the Sacred Heart of Jesus; by a meeting of our heart with his, which comes about in our prayer. We need to encounter the Lord there, in our hearts, often. Take a blazing coal from the fire and it will soon fade and die. Take the most active soul away from his prayers and his activity ceases to be what God intends it to be and indeed runs the risk of ceasing to be altogether.

Prayer is not to be a substitute for action, much less an excuse for inaction; but prayer must be the foundation of our actions. Jesus preached, worked miracles, healed and accomplished salvation in 3 years, but he prayed for 30 years before that, and indeed his ministry was constantly interspersed with prayer – the Gospel tells us that he passed whole nights in prayer. Jesus is the supreme model for us on how to pray and, after him, we have a beautiful model of prayer in Our Blessed Lady – and who but her faithful legion should strive most to imitate her in this great activity of the human soul – conversing lovingly with one by whom we know ourselves to be loved – as St. Teresa of Avila defined prayer.

However, in considering the primacy of prayer over action it is well to remember that it isn’t a case of either/or, but, both prayer and action being essential in our lives – and especially in lives dedicated to service of Our Lady’s cause in the Legion of Mary. The Legion handbook makes it quite clear that legionaries shouldn’t consider that the auxiliary members are the prayer power behind their apostolic activities. No, the active legionary is to appreciate the power of those prayers, but he or she is to be even more so immersed in prayer than the inactive auxiliary who prays. Because the legionary who neglects prayer and relies on the fact that others are praying while he or she is acting, will soon find his or her activity fruitless and burdensome. Only when we pray can we be sure that the activity we carry out – even if it be unfruitful, will be pleasing to God and will be of some unknown benefit to the kingdom of God. As Pope Paul VI put it: “only your personal and profound union with Christ will assure the fruitfulness of your apostolate, whatever it may be.” And that personal and profound union with Christ is only possible for those who cultivate a strong prayer life.

“Souls are won on our knees” say St. Charles Borromeo – and could it be otherwise – to convert, heal, sanctify and save a soul is a supernatural task, and no amount of purely natural activity or means will contribute to that task in any way. Blessed Columba Marmion once wrote: “All the human activity in the world, if it is not made fruitful by grace and Divine Blessing, is powerless to convert or sanctify a single soul.” Our prayer supernaturalises our work – fills it with Divine Power. The more you pray the more your work will be of benefit to souls. The more you pray the more graces are bestowed on our world and the full power of the Holy Spirit can be unleashed on the hearts and minds of millions. A lot of prayer – a lot of power, a little prayer – a little power, no prayer – no power. We must base our hope for success in the vineyard on the Infinite Power of God, to whom we pray, rather than on our own talent, efforts or powers of persuasion. “Millions of favours, says Archbishop Fulton Sheen, are hanging from heaven on silken cords; prayer is the sword that will cut them loose.” Again Blessed Columba gives a warning to priests that could well be suited to all those who are given a special share in the work of the salvation of souls – a work that is certainly part and parcel of the Legion’s reason for existence: “Believe me, he says, whatever may be your talents, your knowledge, and your enthusiasm when you begin your ministry, unless you are men of prayer, you will do nothing worth while… The Saints who accomplished great things for love of God delighted certainly in devotedness and in action, but they were also men of prayer,… they all spent hours conversing with God. Let us be, therefore, mediators conscious of our mission, men of prayer who, by virtue of our constant communion with the Lord, sanctify the souls of which we have charge, while at the same time sanctifying ourselves.”

Nothing does more good to souls than our prayers for them and nothing does our own soul more good than its daily encounters with God. And nowhere do we see this more than in the example of our Heavenly Mother and Queen. While the Apostles who had come to know Jesus over the 3 years of his public ministry went in the pursuit of souls throughout the known world; she who knew him best – his Blessed Mother who had spent 30 years in intimate communion with him – remained in silent, hidden, but heartfelt prayer and how poor would have been the fruits of the Apostles labours had she not done so. How fruitless indeed would the labours of the entire Church to this day have been if she did not continue to pray from her high place in heaven. Prayer is not the only thing that needs to be done for the soul, but it is certainly the most important. St. John Chrysostom taught: “Nothing is equal to prayer; for what is impossible it makes possible, what is difficult, easy.”

The Holy Rosary
First among the many forms of prayer, outside of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacraments of course, must be The Holy Rosary and Eucharistic Adoration. And I’d like to speak a little about these two essential devotions of our faith. I say essential because they, unlike other devotional practices which are highly commendable and to be encouraged, are two non-negotiables – all the more so for those who are enlisted in Our Blessed Lady’s legion.

About the Rosary Pope John Paul II has stated in his letter on the Holy Rosary, that it releases a great power into our lives and into our world: “Against the background of the words Ave Maria, he tells us, the principal events of the life of Jesus Christ pass before the eyes of the soul… and they put us in living communion with Jesus through – we might say – the heart of his Mother. (RVM, #2) and he goes on to say that: “Mary constantly sets before the faithful the “mysteries” of her Son, with the desire that the contemplation of those mysteries will release all their saving power. (RVM #11). The Holy Father is teaching that in some way as we meditate on the various stages of the life of Jesus and Mary we are tapping into the power with which those two lives are infused and causing that Divine Power – grace – to be released upon the situation we are praying for, the people we bring to our Rosary, the world that is so much in need of Divine Intervention. As we pray the 5th Sorrowful Mystery, for example, we can bring the souls of all those who are dying at that moment to the Heart of Mary as she stands supporting her Son Jesus in his final agony. And as power went out from Jesus in the Gospel to the woman who touched the hem of his garment, how much more will power go out from him to those who touch the heart of his Mother. And the Rosary, according to the teaching of Pope St. Pius X, “is the prayer that touches most the heart of the Mother of God.”

In the 2nd talk, this afternoon, I will speak about love and devotion to Our Blessed Lady, but for now I want to present to you the teaching of St. Jose Maria Escriva on how to develop that love for Mary through the reflective and not superficial praying of the Rosary: “Do you want to love Our Lady? He asks – Well, then get to know her. How? – by praying her rosary well. But in the rosary we always say the same things! But don’t people in love always say the same things to each other? Might it not be that you find the Rosary monotonous because, instead of pronouncing the words like a man, you mumble noises while your mind is very far from God? Pause for a few seconds – 3 or 4 – in silent meditation to consider each mystery of the rosary before you recite the Our Father and the Hail Mary’s of that decade. I am sure, says St. Josemaria, that this practice will increase your recollection and the fruits of your prayer.” Indeed Frank Duff, founder of the Legion of Mary, himself warns against rattling through the Rosary, calling such prayer – disrespectful of Our Blessed Mother. A constant danger in those of us who pray the Rosary is that we might recite it rather than genuinely pray it. Yes grace will be released in that recital, but how much more divine power is left untapped because we have failed to really enter the heart of Mary in our prayers. “The Rosary, says Pope Benedict XVI, when it is prayed in an authentic way, not mechanical and superficial but profoundly, it brings, in fact, peace and reconciliation. It contains within itself the healing power of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, invoked with faith and love at the centre of each "Hail Mary".”

Eucharistic Adoration
And now a word on Eucharistic Adoration and its greatness as a form of devotion. Indeed if it be combined with the meditative prayer of the Holy Rosary, then how great indeed it is for forming our souls in the image of Jesus Christ. The Legion of Mary Handbook states that “every avenue of legionary action must be availed of to awaken knowledge and love of the Blessed Sacrament and to dissipate the sin and indifference which keep men from it.” These are fine sentiments and indeed the handbook, which is the roadmap which guides the legion in its advance, clearly states that the “main object of legion activity is to establish the reign of the Eucharist in all hearts”.

However, in order to extend that Eucharistic Reign of Christ in souls we must first let him triumph and reign over our own soul – the Eucharist must become the centre of our own devotional life – since the Eucharist is Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ is the Divine Sun around which orbits all of creation and towards which every soul is attracted as a moth to a flame. The Handbook states that, “the Legions battle for souls must begin in the heart of the individual legionary.” And the extending of the Eucharistic Reign of the Lord Jesus must begin in each individual legion soul too.

But in order for that reign of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament to begin we have to be utterly convinced of Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist – and, even though we can learn much from the Catechism and from the great spiritual teachings of our Catholic past, that conviction happens only when we are found often before the Eucharistic Lord in loving conversation – gazing at the sacramental veil trying to catch a glimpse of Christ who is hidden behind that veil. For Jesus Christ sits on his Throne in Heaven surrounded by the myriads of Angels and Saints who scarcely dare to gaze upon his majesty – so bright is the glory which surrounds him, the Father and the Holy Spirit. But that same Jesus is present on our altars, in our Tabernacles and he is no less glorious, no less powerful, no less merciful, loving and good, no less God than he is reigning gloriously in Heaven. For our sake and our salvation he became man, for our sake too, he remains with us under the veil of the Eucharist – not surrounded by a blinding light of glory, for we would not then dare approach, but there amid a few meagre candles, not being praised by countless angels but receiving gladly the simple praise of the flowers, which all to quickly wither in the vases before him, not being acclaimed by the saints in glory, but offered the poor prayers and adoration of us sinners. Indeed Jesus in our tabernacles is surrounded by the light of glory, by the angels and saints, but they, like he, have been made invisible to our senses and can only be apprehended by the eyes of faith.

And it is your task, dear members of the Mary’s Legion, as it is my task as a priest, to make the people we come into contact with more aware, more respectful, more loving toward Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. And the best way we can do that is by our example, by showing that we have an awareness of Our Lord’s presence in the way we genuflect (if our knees haven’t yet given out), by showing that we respect his presence by the way we respect the holiness of the Church in which he is to be found, in our dress, in our decorum, in our attitude. It used to be that people dressed up for Sunday Mass, because it was something so utterly special and unique, now more and more our people dress down. They would never present themselves before our madam President in the way they present themselves before Almighty God.

And the supreme witness we can give to the love which is Christ’s due in the Eucharist is to spend time with him - to receive him with loving reverence and to spend some time, even a short time, in thanksgiving after Mass for the great gift Christ has made of himself to us in the Eucharist, and then to commit to some time in his presence each week – to fill up the emptiness he must feel at the indifference and coldness of so many hearts, even Catholic hearts, to his wondrous gift of himself in the Eucharist. Later today we will spend time in prayer before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament – maybe we could have 2 intentions for that Holy hour: firstly that our faith and love of the Eucharistic Jesus might be increased and, secondly, that the Lord might be consoled for so much indifference he receives in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar – that our poor prayers and presence to him, might be able to make reparation for the solitude which surrounds him in so many churches throughout our land and throughout our world.

Lazy Servants

From the Imitation of Christ:

Many listen more willingly to the world than to God, and are readier to follow the desires of their flesh than God’s good pleasure. The world promises temporal things which are really of small value and it is served with great eagerness; I, the Lord promise most excellent and everlasting things and yet men’s hearts remain sluggish. Who is there that serves and obeys me in all things with that great care with which the world and its lords are served? The shame of it – for an unchangeable good, for an inestimable reward, for the highest honour and never-ending glory, they are loath to undergo even a little fatigue and difficulty. Blush then lazy servant.”

At times, we are exact to the smallest detail when we wish to impress someone, or to obtain some favour, but when it comes to the Lord we can tend to be a bit lax in our attitude. There are those who will go through their CV with a fine tooth comb for possible mistakes before submitting it for the job and then they will put on their best suit and best foot forward and present themselves as best they can for the interview panel so as to increase their chances of getting that job. But they can come to Mass and stand before the Lord of the Universe – their only hope of salvation - and be utterly unprepared in body and more importantly in soul.

Love Life!

You have been trusted to look after something precious; guard it with the Help of the Holy Spirit.

St. Paul is speaking these words to St. Timothy – a young man who he had appointed as a bishop. And Paul is urging Timothy to recognise the great gift he received in being ordained a priest of Jesus Christ and how he is to make every effort to proclaim the truth in season and out. The something precious he has been entrusted to look after was the flock of the Church which he had to look after spiritually.

Now not all of us will be bishops or priests, but everyone of us is entrusted with something precious to look after, or rather with quite a number of things. For me as a priest I am to see to the spiritual welfare of the people of my parish, I am to urge them to be open to the Lord’s leading in their lives, something done more effectively by my example, which is so often less than perfect, than by my preaching, I am to help them to be faithful to their responsibilities as Catholics and I am to warn them against anything that would endanger their eternal salvation.

Many are parents – and so to them have been entrusted the little sons and daughters of God who depend completely on them for the natural things in life, but also that they will lead them to and teach them about the supernatural things in life – about God, Jesus Christ, his Mother and all the other bits and pieces that make up our faith. And that is a great mission given to them by God.

Each of us is entrusted with something special in our lives and we should strive to guard it well. What I am entrusted with is not for you, what your neighbour has to do – not what you have to do. But there is one thing that we have all been entrusted with and which we are commissioned by almighty God to guard well, guard securely and guard with our lives. That thing is life itself – firstly our own and then the lives of others, whether they be next door to us, in a test-tube somewhere, in the womb, or on their death bed – every human being, because he or she is alive has an inalienable dignity that is not given by the law of any country, but given by almighty God himself. It is the job of governments to recognise and protect that right to life and its dignity, but not to legislate about it as though one person’s life is worth more than another’s. That human life is precious and from God is a given, though in many places life is not respected nearly enough. In its early stages as embryos human lives are manipulated in various laboratories. Many people, Catholics included, do not know or choose to ignore the fact that IVF and Embryonic Stem Cell Research are wrong, and strictly forbidden by the Church.

In life’s later stages, when the burden of years begins to take its final toll – we often hear people say things which seem to judge the value of life by its usefulness, rather than by the fact that it is from God and, therefore that it is for him to decide how and when it should cease. How often have I heard at wakes or funerals – sure wasn’t it better for him, better for her – he or she had no quality of life – as if the quality of life should always determine its inherent value. And indeed I have heard that said about the person in their presence at their sickbed – and how cruel that is for those people who are being basically told that they would be better off if they died as soon as possible. The sick need to feel valued, cherished and loved, not that they are a burden, an inconvenience or worthless.

The mentality that places the quality of a person’s life over the inherent value and dignity of their life is, I’m afraid, alive and well in the western world. And if that mentality were to take deep enough root then we will have here, as some countries already do, euthanasia on demand. And that will undoubtedly quickly move from a situation where a person can choose to die, to a situation where a person feels compelled to die because he or she feels themselves to be a burden that their family or wider society could do without. It’s a slippery slope. Quality of life should never trump its inherent value and dignity. Be careful when you hear people use that term – quality of life – what thinking lies behind it? As Catholics we should proclaim the greatness of life at all its stages – even its final stages – always remembering that it was precisely at the weakest, most pain-filled and horrific moments of his life that Jesus Christ brought to fulfillment the great mission of salvation. Who knows what great mission is being worked out at the supernatural level by those in their final days and hours.

Every heartbeat is precious, whether it be the first stirrings of the foetal heart in the womb, the pumping of a strong heart of a young athlete, or the last gasps of an exhausted heart in a hospital bed – equally precious in God’s eyes and equally to be cherished. As Catholics we are called to cherish life in all its stages and to see those stages as the unfolding of God’s plan for the human person. And no law should ever be accepted that seeks to diminish the value of a single human life. The person dying of cancer, perhaps bedridden and in need of constant care – that person’s life is of no less value in God’s eyes than that of a young man or woman in their prime who hasn’t a care in the world. No less value in God’s eyes, then in our eyes too they must be equally cherished, guarded, and loved.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I'm Back

After a long break from blogging (due to circumstances beyond my control) I am back online. The summer has been hectic to say the least - but so full of graces and grace-filled encounters with the Lord through the people I have ministered to (some of whom I accompanied into the next life with prayer and the Sacraments of the Church).

Then the Bishop called me in and told me that he wanted me to move to a new parish. And the past month or so I've been busy packing up and then unpacking my stuff. All that packing made me realise that I haven't really taken the Lord's admonition - 'Carry no purse or haversack' seriously enough. It's amazing how much 'stuff' one acumulates. I've been in the parish here now for just over two weeks and so far so good. I'm responsible for roughly 1000 souls here and it's a nice community with friendly 'natives'.

Of course I have begun what you might call 'liturgical renovations' by making small changes in the way things are done and trying to elevate the liturgy to a more solemn level - careful not to usher in a liturgical revolution all at once, though. Step by step - as they say.

I'm also teaching a few classes each week in a Secondary School (High School for those readers who are American/Canadian)and enjoy the challenge of the teens who ask what they consider intelligent and original questions! They pride themselves on being open-minded and free thinkers - and I'm amazed at how pre-conditioned they are and how much of their thought processes have been formed (deformed) by the media and popular culture. They don't actually think for themselves - they actually think what they have been conditioned to think. Their minds are, unfortunately neither open nor free.

Hopefully I will get more time now to make a few more entries in my blog. If you're a regular or have just happened upon this post - please say a prayer for me as I begin to shepherd a new flock in pastures new.

In the Hearts of Jesus and Mary,

Fr. B

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Confirmation Irish Style - A living faith is optional

I agree 100% with THIS PRIEST regarding the reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation as it currently is administered throughout Ireland.

I pray that the renewal that is on its way in Ireland allows us to look again at the way we administer the sacraments in a very changed Ireland.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

First Holy Communion Season - a.k.a. Silly Season

All over Ireland during the month of May in parish after parish it is First Holy Communion time. And what a time it is. I have to be honest and say that I dread it each year. Each year I spend hours upon hours with the children of the school I am chaplain to in an effort to instill in them a love for and an awareness of Jesus in the Eucharist and the great thing that is the Mass.

Unfortunately the Sunday Mass practice rate among these young children is less 10% and there are a number of them who have rarely (if ever) been at Sunday Mass. So I often feel like I am speaking to them in a completely foreign language, sinc ehte subject matter is so very foriegn to them. But we as a Church in Ireland dare not say: "Okay your parents obviously don't consider the faith important enough to introduce you to the most basic elements of our faith - so we'll leave off First Holy Communion until later." No - it's very much a free for all.

I know some might quote me the Lord saying: "Let the little children come to me." And that is something I dwell quite alot on - but I'm more and more convinced that the Church in Ireland is more than willing to demean her Sacraments to make it convenient as possible for people to partake without even the bare minimum of commitment. That seems to be a pattern right across the board - how can we facilitate you Sir/Madam - Rule: Let's not get caught up in Rules - your wish is my command. I often get the impression from some of my brother priests - a minority I think/hope - that it's more about backsides on seats than about drawing people to sainthood.
Every year quite a number non-Catholic Christian parents ask our parish if their child can be baptised (again!!) as Catholic (only for the day you understand) so that they can make their First Communion with their classmates. I fear in some parishes some priests might be saying yes!

In my few experiences of First Holy Communion day in the parish I have seen too much of the outward trappings of the day and very little of the real meaning of this great day in the lives of the children. It seems to be about the money, the hair, the clothes, the performance (readings, prayers, songs, poems, the photos (so much about the photos), the celebration afterwards; and so very little about that awesome encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist. It is indeed wonderful to find a child (and family) that have their priorities right - who take their child to Mass every Sunday (before and after First Holy Communion)and who make the day centre around the celebration of Mass. Those families are rare enough it seems.

And it is sad to say that it is at First Holy Communion in the Parish that I encounter the most disrespect and downright obsenity at Mass. The Church is treated like it was a bingo hall, and some people - and I mean ladies - are dressed in ways that are less than lady like. I was severly tempted to say to one lady at our recent First Communion Mass that she was in the wrong building - that the local swimming pool was at the other side of town.

At the end of this rant (I seem to be doing alot of that lately) I have to say that the children are like sponges when it comes to the things of God since for many of them their parents have utterly failed to introduce them to Jesus Christ in any meaningful way. They are so open to the Gospel and to the things of God. And none of them have made a decision against going to Mass. It just doesn't appear on the horizon of priorities in many families. As one young child in the First Communion Class said to me: I asked my parents to bring me to Mass - but they said no! It might sound harsh, but one wonders how their judgment will go - since they take their vocation as parents so lightly and are doing precisely what the Lord warned should not happen - that the little ones be kept from him.
Lord - come soon! Maranatha!
But wait!!!!
The Archbishop of Dublin makes a good point - one that he will hopefully follow through on:

"We need a more demanding catechesis, within a parish framework, for those who wish to come forward for admission to the sacraments. Admission to the sacraments is not something which is automatically acquired when one reaches a certain class in school. "

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The New Missal Translation is on the way!!!

News out today that the new missal translation for the english-speaking world has received the required 'recognitio' from Rome. Soon (hopefully not much more than a year) we will have a truly accurate, faithful and more obviously scriptural text with which to praise and worship the Lord at Mass in thevernacular of the Ordinary Form.

The Holy Father noted in his address to the Vox Clara commission - (an advisory body which has overseen the new translation - Bishop Philip Boyce being the Irish Episcopal Representative on it) that:

"I welcome the news that the English translation of the Roman Missal will soon be ready for publication, so that the texts you have worked so hard to prepare may be proclaimed in the liturgy that is celebrated across the anglophone world. Through these sacred texts and the actions that accompany them, Christ will be made present and active in the midst of his people."

He further noted: "A new task will then present itself, one which falls outside the direct competence of Vox Clara, but which in one way or another will involve all of you – the task of preparing for the reception of the new translation by clergy and lay faithful. Many will find it hard to adjust to unfamiliar texts after nearly forty years of continuous use of the previous translation. The change will need to be introduced with due sensitivity, and the opportunity for catechesis that it presents will need to be firmly grasped. I pray that in this way any risk of confusion or bewilderment will be averted, and the change will serve instead as a springboard for a renewal and a deepening of Eucharistic devotion all over the English-speaking world."

The entire address can be found HERE.
I have to say that I am delighted with this news and can't wait to use this new text in the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice. The translation may not be to everyone's liking, but surely it will be better than the banal and uninspiring translation we currently use.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus

I've recently taken a greater interest in the Devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus. It is after all part of the name of my favourite saint - St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. This WEBSITE seems to have alot of information about it and might be worth a visit.

St. Peter Julian Eymard on Mercy

I have no idea where the following comes from so I hope I am not breaking some copyright somewhere. This text came my way and I thought I'd share it. It is attributed to St. Peter Julian Eymard:

The love which God feels for us is more merciful than benevolent because, sinners by nature, we have above all need of mercy. Besides it is His mercy which He reveals more than all His other attributes, on this earth, during our lifetime. This world is its empire; time, its kingdom.

Mercy has left the Heavens. It has come down to earth to envelop and cover man. It is his atmosphere and his environment, the air which he breathes, the light which illumines him. We live on mercy.

It rescues the sinner from that justice which should punish every sin; it arrests it, holds it up until death itself. It follows man, accompanies him everywhere he goes, never leaves him, not even after his death, for it follows him into purgatory. Purgatory is nothing but the last effort of the mercy of God toward the sinner, and there is written above the door of that flaming prison: “The Mercy of God!”

The mercy of God for man is infinite. We can never exhaust it, never smother it under our ingratitude, cannot tire it nor dishearten it. It pardons always; it pardons everyone. Even face to face with patent crime, it still says: “Father forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.

Our Sins will never be as great as the mercy of God.
The sinner despairs of course; that is the aftermath of the pleasure of his sin, and this despair is even surer than the first. Adam and Eve, who feel and doubt the possibility of finding mercy, Cain, who rejects it and cries out, “My iniquity is greater than that I may deserve pardon, are types of sinners after they have committed their crimes. We give ourselves up to despair after our infidelity, and for the most part those sinners who put off being converted are held back by their despondency: “I cannot be forgiven; I have offended God too much”—the day when they will weep, they will be converted.

And the pious souls, why do they fall? From despair also. They are discouraged by a few failures; they have not succeeded; things have not gone as they expected. Then the devil fills them with doubt—his most successful manner of entering into a soul and destroying it. Never let this feeling dominate you. Would it be possible for you to doubt God’s mercy! No, never! If you fall, raise yourself up again by humble trust and repentance. Self-abasement which is content to remain in its abjection is the same as pride humiliated and in defiance. Sincere humility flies to God on wings of faith.

Instead of descending into hell to find out what place you might occupy there, it is better to make an act of faith in the mercy of God. Take hold of God through His weakness, His tenderness, and His Heart: a man taken by his weakness will give all he has and more besides. Therefore, point out to God that His glory lies in showing mercy to you, that His mercy cannot be put to better use than in exercising it on you, that you will become mercy’s victory and greatest work. Gain God’s benevolence by way of His Heart.

But observe the mercy of God. How different it is from man’s. When men forgive they humiliate, and the fear of the humiliation prevents a child from asking pardon. The good Lord forgives with kindness; His pardon is a grace which confers honor, purifies, sanctifies, and embellishes. It is the same act which forgives us and sanctifies us. On the instant, our garb of innocence, our white robe is returned to us. We have humbled ourselves only for the purpose of being raised up immediately by forgiveness.

Man tires of forgiving. He is more severe in case of a relapse and demands various conditions, while God seems to become more merciful the oftener He pardons. Great sinners who return to Him are His dearest friends. He came for those who were ill, rather than those who are well. As long as there is humility and confidence in our confession, we are always sure of being well received.

He forgives irrevocably and forever. “He casts our sins behind His back” says Holy Scripture, He plunges them into the sea, and the scarlet of our crimes becomes the snowy white of innocence in the bath of His mercy. They will never reappear to accuse us, and, personally I like the opinion of a great many of theologians, according to which they will not even be mentioned in the last judgment, because our Lord says: I will pardon their wrong-doing; I will not remember their sins any more.” (Heb 8:12)

Men make us pay for pardon with a punishment or at least with loss of position or of our civil rights: Jesus Christ gives us back our honour and re-establishes us in all our rights as they were before the sin. Thus He redeemed St. Peter and confirmed him in the function of supreme shepherd after his fall.

He ennobles in pardoning: of Magdalene the sinner He makes a heroine of supernatural love and He lauds her publicly with the most beautiful praise that God can bestow: “She has greatly loved.”

He takes sinners and makes them princes of His Mercy and of His love, as He did with Saint Paul and so many others.

And we should despair after that? You must know then that it is a necessity for Our Lord to pardon. His heart is oppressed by the possibility of having to condemn us; He weeps over us; and when He pardons us He is relieved and delighted by His mercy. And if Our Lord could still suffer, it would be by seeing us despair of His mercy and not implore His pardon.

But it is for us, priests and religious, that the mercy of God is most in evidence. For our sins we should be deprived of our dignities. That is what the world does with its magistrates and public officers, but then there would be no more priests to pardon other sinners.

Our Lord is more generous toward us, His mercies are more abundant, His pardon more full of goodness. That is because we have more need of pardon than the others. This should make us more merciful toward sinners. Being transgressors ourselves, pardoned so often, and having still need of pardon for the future, how could it be possible not to pardon others?

I'm Still Alive!

Hi all regular readers (if there are any regular readers that is). I know you were probably beginning to think I had died or something - it has been so long since I last blogged. Truth is things have been quite busy here in the parish since Easter and I don't get much time to make new entries these days. So here I am blogging about not blogging.

I've been getting a little stressed out lately and so I'd appreciate some prayers. (Don't worry it's not a vocational crisis or anything). Just busy in the vineyard and under a little pressure. It is so easy to get caught up with the work of the Lord and neglect the Lord of the work - and that is a constant temptation! One that I and many priests I know succomb to too easily.

Also physically I've been feeling under the weather somewhat for the past while and being a 'MAN' I keep putting off going to the doctor. Isn't that a surprise - a man who refuses to go to the Doctor!

Will sign off for now and hit the pillow.

Yours in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary,
Fr. B

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Divine Mercy Sunday

Today we celebrate the Feast of Divine Mercy and so I thought the following quotations from the Diary of St. Faustina might be helpful:

"Today, in the course of a long conversation, the Lord said to me, How very much I desire the salvation of souls! My dearest secretary, write that I want to pour out My divine life into human souls and sanctify them, if only they were willing to accept My grace. The greatest sinners would achieve great sanctity, if only they would trust in My mercy. The very inner depths of My being are filled to overflowing with mercy, and it is being poured out upon all I have created. My delight is to act in a human soul and to fill it with My mercy and to justify it. My kingdom on earth is My life in the human soul." (Diary, 1784)

"Let the greatest sinners place their trust in My mercy. They have the right before others to trust in the abyss of My mercy. My daughter, write about My mercy towards tormented souls. Souls that make an appeal to My mercy delight Me. To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask. I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion, but on the contrary, I justify him in My unfathomable and inscrutable mercy. Write: before I come as a just Judge, I first open wide the door of My mercy. He who refuses to pass through the door of My mercy must pass through the door of My justice." (Diary, 1146)

"Tell souls where they are to look for solace; that is, in the Tribunal of Mercy [the Sacrament of Reconciliation]. There the greatest miracles take place [and] are incessantly repeated. To avail oneself of this miracle, it is not necessary to go on a great pilgrimage or to carry out some external ceremony; it suffices to come with faith to the feet of My representative and to reveal to him one's misery, and the miracle of Divine Mercy will be fully demonstrated. Were a soul like a decaying corpse so that from a human standpoint, there would be no [hope of] restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full. Oh, how miserable are those who do not take advantage of the miracle of God's mercy! You will call out in vain, but it will be too late." (Diary, 1448)

O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Paedophilia not just a problem with Celibate Catholic Priests

To my great astonishment the (in my opinion) virulently anti-Catholic Irish Times today carried a story that doesn't have the words Catholic Church and Paedophilia in the same sentence. In fact, this particular sex abuse scandal has nothing to do with the Catholic Church at all.

While the abuse scandals in the Catholic Church deserve our utmost condemnation, it has seemed lately in the media that it is a phenomenon that is exclusively a Catholic Clergy problem - one which the media often link (erroneously) to the fact that the Priest is Celibate.

This ARTICLE tells the story of abuses in an elite (Protestant) School which, to quote the article, "were ignored by teachers, police and the local authorities".

As I said, the abuse within the Catholic Church is deplorable and the stories of other institutions where abuse was carried out and/or covered up doesn't in any way exonerate those who failed to protect vulnerable children in the Church. But it is good for once to see the media reporting this terrible crime as it happens in other places and by people who are not celibate, not bound to the 'institutional Church' and all the baggage that is supposed to come with that.

For once the media (or at least the Irish Times) seems to have looked beyond the Church and begun to report paedophilia for what it really is - not solely a scourge in the Catholic Church, but one that affects every level of society.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

He is Risen - and so are we!

On that fateful Friday evening a small group of his loyal friends and family had lovingly prepared the Body of the Lord for burial. They had scarcely time to mourn over him, the Sabbath rest was beginning and the work of burial had to be done quickly. They placed his lifeless body in the tomb and rolled a large stone in place over the opening, sealing the Lord of Life inside – he was dead now and with him so much of the joy and beauty of life had died too. It doesn’t get more final than that. That tombstone, like every tombstone seemed to be so final.

But this tombstone was different in one important way, because it would not long serve to mark the spot were death had its ultimate victory. Our tombstones mark the final resting place of the mortal remains of our loved ones and indeed of ourselves in our turn. His tombstone, rolled away on Easter Morning, bears witness to Christ’s great and final victory over death. His open and empty tomb is the first of many open graves, for he rose from the dead to prove that he had the power to keep his promise: that those who believe in him would not be held in death, would not be defeated forever, but that their tombs would open and that their bodies would rise too on the last day to new and glorious life.

This great feast day is the greatest feast day we have in our faith, and it is our feast day, the day when Christ’s promise to each of us, and to each and every one we love and have mourned for, is placed before us. He promises life to us – because he is the victorious Lord of life whom death could not hold and death will not hold those who belong to him. And that is our great hope for our loved ones and indeed for ourselves.

Unlike the tombstones we place over the graves of our loved ones – Jesus’ tombstone had nothing written on it. His grave was the beginning of something new, a page of history not yet written. Until that day – death was final, death was the end of all life, all hopes, all dreams and all mankind. But now we inscribe the gravestones of our dead with signs of life eternal. With the Cross as the tree of eternal life, with prayers that the departed soul may rest in peace, and with sentiments that long for the Resurrection of the Dead on the last day. Indeed the prayer of blessing at the burial speaks well of how the Christ has changed the very meaning of death and the grave:

Lord Jesus Christ, by your own 3 days in the tomb you hallowed the graves of all who believe in you and so made the grave a sign of Hope that promises Resurrection even as it claims our mortal bodies.

Grant that our brothers and sisters may sleep here in peace until you awaken them to glory, for you are the Resurrection and the life.

Because of his Resurrection and his promise to let us share the same destiny – death is not disaster to the eyes of the believer. Yes it can be hard, yes it can leave us in great distress, but it cannot break the back of those who believe, because it is precisely the belief in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ that is the backbone of our faith. He is Risen Alleluia – and all our hope is that we will rise with him too – for without that – how difficult this life would be. As the Hymn of the Easter Exsultet – sung at the Easter Vigil puts it: What good would life have been to us if Christ had not come as our Redeemer?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Easter Sequence - Victimae Paschali Laudes

One of my favourite hymns.

The Text and Translation:

laudes immolent Christiani.
Agnus redemit oves:
Christus innocens Patri
reconciliavit peccatores.

Mors et vita duello
conflixere mirando:
dux vitae mortuus,
regnat vivus.

Dic nobis Maria,
Quid vidisti in via?
Sepulcrum Christi viventis,
et gloriam vidi resurgentis:

Angelicos testes,
sudarium et vestes.

Surrexit Christus spes mea:
praecedet suos in Galilaeam.

Scimus Christum surrexisse
a mortuis vere:
Tu nobis, victor Rex miserere.
Amen. Alleluia.

CHRISTIANS, to the Paschal Victim
offer sacrifice and praise.
The sheep are ransomed by the Lamb;
and Christ, the undefiled,
hath sinners
to his Father reconciled.

Death with life contended:
combat strangely ended!
Life's own Champion, slain,
yet lives to reign.

Tell us, Mary:
say what thou didst see upon the way.
The tomb the Living did enclose;
I saw Christ's glory as He rose!

The angels there attesting;
shroud with grave-clothes resting.

Christ, my hope, has risen:
He goes before you into Galilee.

That Christ is truly risen
from the dead we know.
Victorious King, Thy mercy show!
Amen. Alleluia.

Spiritual Nourishment for Holy Saturday

The following is taken from an ancient homily and it describes Christ's descent to the Underworld after death and the liberation he proclaims to Adam and all the Just:

What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.

Truly he goes to seek out our first parent like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam's son.

The Lord goes in to them holding his victorious weapon, his cross. When Adam, the first created man, sees him, he strikes his breast in terror and calls out to all: 'My Lord be with you all.' And Christ in reply says to Adam: ‘And with your spirit.’ And grasping his hand he raises him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.

‘I am your God, who for your sake became your son, who for you and your descendants now speak and command with authority those in prison: Come forth, and those in darkness: Have light, and those who sleep: Rise.

‘I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person.

‘For you, I your God became your son; for you, I the Master took on your form; that of slave; for you, I who am above the heavens came on earth and under the earth; for you, man, I became as a man without help, free among the dead; for you, who left a garden, I was handed over to Jews from a garden and crucified in a garden.

‘Look at the spittle on my face, which I received because of you, in order to restore you to that first divine inbreathing at creation. See the blows on my cheeks, which I accepted in order to refashion your distorted form to my own image.

'See the scourging of my back, which I accepted in order to disperse the load of your sins which was laid upon your back. See my hands nailed to the tree for a good purpose, for you, who stretched out your hand to the tree for an evil one.

`I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side, for you, who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side healed the pain of your side; my sleep will release you from your sleep in Hades; my sword has checked the sword which was turned against you.

‘But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God.

"The cherubim throne has been prepared, the bearers are ready and waiting, the bridal chamber is in order, the food is provided, the everlasting houses and rooms are in readiness; the treasures of good things have been opened; the kingdom of heaven has been prepared before the ages."

Friday, April 2, 2010


My Lord Jesus, I humbly beg of thee by the merits of thy Most Precious Blood, by thy painful Passion and cruel Death and the love of thy Sacred Heart, assist me and mine in all our present necessities.

I thank thee O Lord Jesus that thou did suffer in thy bitter Passion and die a cruel death on the Cross for my sins.

Crucified Lord Jesus, have mercy on the souls in Purgatory.

We beseech thee, help us thy servants whom thou has redeemed by thy Most Precious Blood.

We adore thee O Christ and praise thee, because by thy Holy Cross thou hast redeemed the world.

O God be merciful to me, a sinner.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, strengthened in thine Agony by an Angel, strengthen us in our agony.

O Jesus, King of Love, I trust in thy merciful goodness.

Most merciful Jesus, Lover of souls; I pray you by the Agony of your Most Sacred Heart and by the Sorrows of our Immaculate Mother, to wash in your Most Precious Blood, the sinners of the world who are now in their agony and who will die this day.

Heart of Jesus, once in Agony, have pity on the dying.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

O Redemptor... Chrism Mass

On Holy Thursday at the Chrism Mass during the procession of the oils it is customary to have the Hymn O Redemptor. This is the only one i could find on youtube - so ignore the motorcycle that passes noisily outside during the recitation.

Pange Lingua

In honour of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ - Truly Present in the August and Wondrous Sacrament of the Altar: A truly beautiful Hymn and a truly beautiful Video.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Prayer for the Holy Father

In these days when many attacks are being made upon the Holy Father, we should pray for Pope Benedict XVI that the Lord will pour out his blessing upon him abundantly and that he will sustain him from the attacks upon his person and upon the Catholic Church in general.

The text of the prayer in english reads:

Let us pray for Benedict our Pope.
May the Lord preserve him, and give him life, and make him blessed upon the earth, and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies. Amen

St. Francis de Sales & Confessions

As the Holy Season of Lent draws to an end I thought it might be helpful to link to some words of wisdom on the Sacrament of Confession by St. Francis de Sales in his Introduction to the Devout Life.

HERE and HERE you will find what he has to say about confessing sins.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Addressing the present state of the Church

Below is an extract from a message reputedly given by Our Lady to a saintly nun in Quito, Ecuador in the 17th Century - Venerable Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres. It makes sober reading and certainly given the recent revelations of corrupt and sinful clergy in many parts of the world it seems to be spot on.

I offer it for your consideration and as an encouragement to more prayer, fasting and penance for the many sins of the clergy and religious which are particularly offensive to God since they are consecrated and set apart in a profound way by virtue of their ordination or profession - not that holiness is the sole preserve of the clergy and religious. I often think how diificult it will be for those of us who are priests to enter heaven.

"The Church will find itself attacked by waves of a secret sect ... corrupted priests will scandalize the Church ... Moreover, in these unhappy times there will be unbridled luxury which, acting thus to snare the rest into sin, will conquer innumerable frivolous souls who will lose themselves. Innocence will almost no longer be found in children, nor modesty in women, and, in this supreme moment of need of the Church, those whom it behooves to speak will fall silent."

“As for the Sacrament of Matrimony, which symbolizes the union of Christ with His Church, it will be attacked and deeply profaned. Freemasonry, which will then be in power, will enact iniquitous laws with the aim of doing away with this Sacrament, making it easy for everyone to live in sin and encouraging the procreation of illegitimate children born without the blessing of the Church. The Catholic spirit will rapidly decay; the precious light of Faith will gradually be extinguished until there will be an almost total and general corruption of customs. Added to this will be the effects of secular education, which will be one reason for the dearth of priestly and religious vocations. “The Sacrament of Holy Orders will be ridiculed, oppressed, and despised, for in this Sacrament, the Church of God and even God Himself is scorned and despised since He is represented in His priests."

"The Devil will try to persecute the ministers of the Lord in every possible way; he will labor with cruel and subtle astuteness to deviate them from the spirit of their vocation and will corrupt many of them. These depraved priests, who will scandalize the Christian people, will make the hatred of bad Catholics and the enemies of the Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church fall upon all priests. "This apparent triumph of Satan will bring enormous sufferings to the good Pastors of the Church, the many good priests, and the Supreme Pastor and Vicar of Christ on Earth, who, a prisoner in the Vatican, will shed secret and bitter tears in the presence of his God and Lord, beseeching light, sanctity, and perfection for all the clergy of the world, of whom he is King and Father."

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Power of Christ's Precious Blood

Below is the text of today's Office of Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours. It is a commentary by St. John Fisher on the Penitential Psalms:

Christ Jesus is our bishop, his most precious body is our sacrifice, which he offered upon a cross for the redemption of all the world. The blood shed for our redemption was not the blood of goats or calves as in the old law; it was the very blood most innocent of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

The temple wherein our bishop did sacrifice was not made by man’s hand but only by the power of God, he shed his precious blood for our redemption in the face of all the world, which is the temple made only by the hand of God. This temple has two divers parts, one is the earth whereon we live, the other is not yet known to us mortal creatures.

First he did sacrifice in the earth when he suffered his passion. After, in a new clothing or garment, the vesture of immortality, and with his own precious blood he entered into sanctum sanctorum [the Holy of Holies] that is to say into heaven when he showed his most precious blood before the Throne of his Father which he shed for all sinners 7 times.

By this Holy Sacrifice Almighty God must needs have pity and execute his mercy to all true penitents and this sacrifice shall continue not only year by year as the manner was of the Jews, but also it is daily offered for our comfort, and every hour and moment for our most strong succour, wherefore Saint Paul says: Having obtained eternal redemption.

By it we are redeemed forever. Every contrite and true penitent person not willing to fall again but with a full purpose to continue in virtuous living is a partaker of this Holy Sacrifice. As saint John shows in his first epistle: My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin; but if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Email the Pope

Fr. Tim over at The Hermeneutic of Continuity makes the wonderful suggestion that we email the Holy Father to offer our support (and thanks) for all he has done and continues to do. His email address is As his Pastoral Letter to Ireland has received some mixed reactions, (something the media seem to latch onto if it is in any way negative reaction), maybe it would be good for Irish Catholics to write to him and thank him for this wonderful pastoral intervention in our time of crisis.

All you who read this blog - please continue to pray for the Church in Ireland - as we attempt to steer a course through these troubled waters that surround us.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Benedict XVI - Prayer for the Church in Ireland

I wish to conclude this Letter with a special Prayer for the Church in Ireland, which I send to you with the care of a father for his children and with the affection of a fellow Christian, scandalized and hurt by what has occurred in our beloved Church. As you make use of this prayer in your families, parishes and communities, may the Blessed Virgin Mary protect and guide each of you to a closer union with her Son, crucified and risen.

God of our fathers,
renew us in the faith which is our life and salvation, the hope which promises forgiveness and interior renewal, the charity which purifies and opens our hearts to love you, and in you, each of our brothers and sisters.

Lord Jesus Christ,
may the Church in Ireland renew her age-old commitment to the education of our young people in the way of truth and goodness, holiness and generous service to society.

Holy Spirit, Comforter, Advocate and Guide,
inspire a new springtime of holiness and apostolic zeal for the Church in Ireland.

May our sorrow and our tears, our sincere effort to redress past wrongs, and our firm purpose of amendment bear an abundant harvest of grace for the deepening of the faith in our families, parishes, schools and communities, for the spiritual progress of Irish society, and the growth of charity, justice, joy and peace within the whole human family.

To you, Triune God,
confident in the loving protection of Mary, Queen of Ireland, our Mother, and of Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid and all the saints, do we entrust ourselves, our children, and the needs of the Church in Ireland.

Pope Benedict's Letter to the Irish

Below are some significant excerpts from the Holy Father's Letter to the Church in Ireland. The Letter deserves to be read in full and can be read HERE.

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Church in Ireland, it is with great concern that I write to you as Pastor of the Universal Church. Like yourselves, I have been deeply disturbed by the information which has come to light regarding the abuse of children and vulnerable young people by members of the Church in Ireland, particularly by priests and religious. I can only share in the dismay and the sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced on learning of these sinful and criminal acts and the way Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them.

It is true, as many in your country have pointed out, that the problem of child abuse is peculiar neither to Ireland nor to the Church. Nevertheless, the task you now face is to address the problem of abuse that has occurred within the Irish Catholic community, and to do so with courage and determination. No one imagines that this painful situation will be resolved swiftly. Real progress has been made, yet much more remains to be done. Perseverance and prayer are needed, with great trust in the healing power of God’s grace.

At the same time, I must also express my conviction that, in order to recover from this grievous wound, the Church in Ireland must first acknowledge before the Lord and before others the serious sins committed against defenceless children. Such an acknowledgement, accompanied by sincere sorrow for the damage caused to these victims and their families, must lead to a concerted effort to ensure the protection of children from similar crimes in the future.

To the victims of abuse and their families
You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated. Many of you found that, when you were courageous enough to speak of what happened to you, no one would listen. Those of you who were abused in residential institutions must have felt that there was no escape from your sufferings. It is understandable that you find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the Church. In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel. At the same time, I ask you not to lose hope. It is in the communion of the Church that we encounter the person of Jesus Christ, who was himself a victim of injustice and sin. Like you, he still bears the wounds of his own unjust suffering. He understands the depths of your pain and its enduring effect upon your lives and your relationships, including your relationship with the Church.

I know some of you find it difficult even to enter the doors of a church after all that has occurred. Yet Christ’s own wounds, transformed by his redemptive sufferings, are the very means by which the power of evil is broken and we are reborn to life and hope. I believe deeply in the healing power of his self-sacrificing love – even in the darkest and most hopeless situations – to bring liberation and the promise of a new beginning.

Speaking to you as a pastor concerned for the good of all God’s children, I humbly ask you to consider what I have said. I pray that, by drawing nearer to Christ and by participating in the life of his Church – a Church purified by penance and renewed in pastoral charity – you will come to rediscover Christ’s infinite love for each one of you. I am confident that in this way you will be able to find reconciliation, deep inner healing and peace.

To priests and religious who have abused children
You betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents, and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals. You have forfeited the esteem of the people of Ireland and brought shame and dishonour upon your confreres. Those of you who are priests violated the sanctity of the sacrament of Holy Orders in which Christ makes himself present in us and in our actions. Together with the immense harm done to victims, great damage has been done to the Church and to the public perception of the priesthood and religious life.

I urge you to examine your conscience, take responsibility for the sins you have committed, and humbly express your sorrow. Sincere repentance opens the door to God’s forgiveness and the grace of true amendment. By offering prayers and penances for those you have wronged, you should seek to atone personally for your actions. Christ’s redeeming sacrifice has the power to forgive even the gravest of sins, and to bring forth good from even the most terrible evil. At the same time, God’s justice summons us to give an account of our actions and to conceal nothing. Openly acknowledge your guilt, submit yourselves to the demands of justice, but do not despair of God’s mercy.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Solemnity of St. Joseph

Happy Feast of St. Joseph. As regular readers will know I have a strong devotion to St. Joseph and so in his honour I duly present:

And here one St. Joseph speaks of THEE St. Joseph:

St. Joseph, loving foster Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and Most Chaste Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary - pray pray for us now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Dangers of Fortune Telling & Other Occult Practices

In the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 16, St. Luke recalls the following incident involving a fortune-teller: “It happened one day that as we were going to prayer, we were met by a slave girl who was a soothsayer (literally in Greek: who had a python-spirit, so called from the serpent python of the ancient Delphic Oracle) and made a lot of money for her masters by foretelling the future. This girl started following Paul and the rest of us and shouting, ‘Here are the servants of the Most High God; they have come to tell you how to be saved!’ She did this day after day until Paul was exasperated and turned round and said to the spirit, ‘I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to leave that woman.’ The spirit went out of her then and there.”

As can be seen from this short passage, the abilities which this girl had were authentic, but they were not a gift from God. Her ability to ‘see’ was given her by the evil spirit which possessed her. This is not to say that all those who dabble in telling fortunes are possessed, but that their ‘art’ is steeped in and founded on occult practices; practices which both the Old and the New Testament condemn in very strong terms.

Let there not be found among you… a fortune-teller, soothsayer, charmer, diviner, or caster of spells, nor one who consults ghosts and spirits or seeks oracles from the dead. Anyone who does such things is an abomination to the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 18: 10-12)

As for cowards and traitors to the faith, the depraved and murderers, the fornicators and sorcerers, the idol-worshippers and deceivers of every sort – their lot is the fiery pool of burning sulphur – the second death” (Revelation 21:8).
These last words are Jesus’ words and their strength and harshness should alert us to the great dangers that are inherent in all occult practices. If these practices are condemned so forcibly then it can only be in proportionate response to the spiritual danger they pose to us. Our Father does not desire the death of the sinner but that he or she repents. These practices, however, open us up to the darkness of hidden things (the real meaning of occult) and can extinguish the light of life and faith within us.

So what practices of the occult fall under the banner of fortune-telling? There are many around these days, ranging from the most simplistic to the more obviously occult practices. At the more usual end of things, and something which is unfortunately practiced by well-intentioned Christians, is the consulting of horoscopes which hold that our fate or destiny is dictated by the stars and the movement of the planets. How could the Father who knows every hair on your head and who looks after even the birds (see Matthew 6) leave something as important as our life here on earth in the hands of the stars and at the mercy of the movement of the planets?
As St. Thomas Aquinas states: “Those who believe that Heavenly Bodies (planets and stars) influence the human will, and who choose certain season for their actions, make gods and rulers out of the heavenly bodies and cast horoscopes.”

Another more developed and increasingly popular method of fortune-telling is the use of tarot-cards. This practice uses various occult symbols on a pack of cards and seeks to reveal the future through the permutations of the dealt cards. An even more sinister type of fortune-telling involves the use of a psychic, medium or channeller who seeks to consult a spirit or departed soul to predict the future. It is this sort of practice that is recounted in the above passage from the Acts of the Apostles and a similar account is recalled in 1Samuel 28, when Saul consults a witch about the outcome of a battle he had to engage in. She conjured up the dead prophet Samuel, but it didn’t go well for Saul after that; he and his sons were to die the next day.

So the practice of fortune-telling ranges from what “seems” to be harmless fun to the more serious magical consultations of forces and spirits that are not of God. Some Catholics justify the consulting of the daily horoscope in the newspaper as harmless fun and not to be taken too seriously, but innocence and naivety and a lack of desire to do anything occultic is hardly a defence against our mortal enemy who prowls around “like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1Peter 5:8). We must never do anything that would compromise the stand we take with and for Christ as Christians. We are advised by St. Paul: “Do not give the devil his opportunity” (Ephesians 4:27); “Avoid what is evil, stick to what is good” (Romans 12:10).

And what exactly is this compromise? It is twofold in nature. Firstly, any occult practice is opposed to the action of the Holy Spirit and seeks to obtain some power, knowledge, or gain that God has not desired us to have. Once again let us hear St. Thomas Aquinas: “Those who engage in sorcery and incantations treat the demons as if they were gods, since they seek to obtain from the demons that which God alone can give, namely knowledge of what is hidden and the truth about future events.”

A Christian who dabbles in occult practices cannot dwell in the light of God and the darkness of these satanic practices at the same time as “God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. If we say that we share in God’s life while we are living in darkness, we are lying.” (1John 1:4-6). Jesus himself warns us that we cannot be slave to two masters (see Matthew 6:24).

The second type of compromise we make by getting involved in the occult through the practice of or consulting of fortune-telling involves an undermining of the faith we profess to have. If we believe in the absolute sovereignty of God as our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier then how can we doubt his goodness and providence on our behalf? It is normal enough for us to be curious about the future; to wonder what our life will be like in 5 or 10 years time. (If only we had the same concern about our eternal future). But to be a Christian is to be called to a radical trust in the Providence of God. We call God Father not just as some sort of nice title or as some symbolic title. We call him Father because that is what he is. It is from him that all fatherhood takes its being (See Ephesians 3:14) and he is the best of all Fathers. Jesus repeatedly calls us to trust in the loving care of our Father for us. He encourages us to “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33) and not to worry about the future because the Father will take care of all that.

St. Paul reminds us that, “God makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his decree.” (Romans 8:28) As Christians, it is our belief that our whole lives are in God’s hands and therefore we have nothing to fear of the future because God can and does use all things and all circumstances – even the seemingly bad or hopeless ones – to bring about good in our lives and in our world. We can fear about the future and be paralysed by it. Going to a fortune-teller is, for many, an attempt to get control of their future and their destiny; to escape the fear of the unknown. But at any moment we may have no more future to look forward to. Upon our death, all the worry about tomorrow, and what will happen then, will seem very foolish because all we really have is today – this very moment.

Our Faith tells us that neither satan nor the stars, or any other created being is in charge of our destiny. Jesus Christ is the “Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last” (Revelations 1:18). Only he controls the lives of all peoples. He decides, he plans and he gives you your future. St. Paul recognised this when he told us, “For all things give thanks; this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (1Thessalonians 5:18). For us Christians, an excessive anxiety or curiosity about the future contradicts our faith that Jesus Christ has, and indeed is, the power that directs human history. To try to discover our future says something very powerful about the faith we have in Jesus Christ. It undermines the fact that we address Jesus as ‘Lord’, because we imply that his Lordship does not extend to all things – our personal destiny in particular.

In every circumstance we must remember that the Risen Lord Jesus Christ has won the victory that has freed us from the tyranny of satan, superstition, fear and oppression. Why are we so willing to take up that burden again by dabbling in the occult? We must be more willing to abandon ourselves to the will of the Father – in imitation of Jesus who followed that will right to Calvary. To those who fear for the future and fear the circumstances that they presently find themselves in, listen to the words of Jesus: “In the world you will have hardship, but courage! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).

The last word is given to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which has the following to say about an unhealthy obsession with knowing the future: “A sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all curiosity about it… All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to ‘unveil’ the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honour, respect and loving fear that we owe to God alone.” (CCC 2115-2116)

If you have ever availed of the services of any kind of Fortune-teller then please do not delay in turning that sin over to the Lord of all mercies in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.