Tag Archives: Year of Faith

Lent; Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows. (Mystery 6)

Jesus us taken from the cross and placed in the arms of His Mother.

Anyone who has lost a child will remember the pain, that deep soul wrenching pain that comes with the loss. Those of us who have watched, helpless, while a child of ours suffers terribly and the sense of them leaving us is a pain that is beyond description.

Mary had watched her Son be tortured to death. Now two brave men arrive with a signed permission from Pilate that they can receive the body of Jesus. Joseph of Arimathea was a relative of Jesus and Nicodemus was a friend of Joseph’s. Both these men had positions of status in the Temple and were (particularly as Pharisees) well aware of the Law.

In stepping into Pilate’s house that day before the Sabbath, which that year coincided with the Passover, they made themselves unclean. To make themselves so unclean they could not celebrate the Passover they went and took a bloody corpse down from a cross. They were so terribly ritually unclean now and yet that Precious Blood that they undoubtedly got over them did not make them unclean, but cleansed them.

St. Longinus, the Roman soldier pierces the side of Jesus so that blood and water flows out.

Jesus is laid in the arms of His Mother and she holds him as she had when he was a child.  The Pieta is a scene produced by many artists, the most famous I suppose is the sculpture by Michelangelo.

pieta1But I have to admit that it’s Mel Gibson’s scene in the Passion that I remember most vividly. You cannot look on that scene and not know that you are the one who brought it about – that He and she have suffered and drunk to the dregs the cup of suffering and all because of us.

Jesus is then wrapped in a shroud, traditionally a cloth belonging to St. Joseph of Arimathea, who is (again according to tradition) to be the first bringer of Christianity to Britain.

Jesus had said that even if a man should rise from the dead some people would refuse to believe. He told the Temple authorities they would only receive the sign of Jonah and He was in the belly of the earth for three days. But many people don’t ask “Why did He rise?” they ask “Why did He have to die like that?” Now, that’s a mystery, but I think part of the answer is that He wanted to show us just how utterly horrible sin really is. I think a lot of art has sanitized the Passion so much that we don’t get it any more.  

In seeing the horror and agony of the Passion, especially in seeing it from the point of view of a mother watching her son being whipped, beaten, forced to carry a heavy cross on a back already ripped and bleeding, having the nails hammered through him and then hung – and knowing that He became sin for us (1 Cor 5:21) we must see how dreadful sin is and we can never tire of  asking for forgiveness (and trying not to sin in the first place)

As Pope Francis has said, God never tires of offering forgiveness, it’s we who tire of asking for it. But we mustn’t. We must run the race to the end.

Throwing Stones and Casting out Snakes.

In 2 Peter 3:16 the good saint warns against misusing Scripture to our own destruction. If there are two bits of God’s Word that seem to get the most misuse it’s Christ’s words, “Jusdge not lest you be judged also,” (Matt 7:1) and the Gospel reading we had today about the woman caught in adultery.

I must admit I love the Gospel story of this woman and Jesus.

The Pharisees, who insist publically that they follow the Law and all the extra bits they have added to it and are therefore perfect before the LORD, bring a woman to Jesus, to entrap Him. They are not concerned that she has committed adultery, but rather are out to get Jesus.

As Father noted in his sermon this morning, it takes two people to commit adultery and yet they only brought one to Jesus. So the sin itself, if she was even guilty, was not the issue here.

They tell Jesus that they have caught her in the act and that the Law says she must be stoned. They are sort of correct although the Law (Deut 22:22) says both parties who have committed this horrible sin shall be stoned.

As it happens, however, Judea is under the authority of Rome and the Roman law takes all capital puncishment on itself denying the Jews any legal ability to give capital punishment. If Jesus says “Yes she should be stoned,” as per Jewish Law He would be arrested by the Romans. If He says “No, don’t stone her,” then he is nothing but a puppet of the Romans.

But Jesus is Jesus and silly traps won’t beat Him. We are never told what He writes in the dirt but He looks up and says, “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.”

So now the Pharisees who declare themselves without sin must either start stoning the girl and get arrested by the Romans or admit publically that they are not perfect. Ouch!

Once they have all melted away Jesus speaks to the woman, “Has anyone condemned you?” She says no one has and He answers her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go on your way…” And that is usually all we hear of this story, but in fact Jesus said “And sin no more.” That is the depth of the message. He asks all of us to stop sinning. We aren’t supposed to take a piece of Scripture, strip it down and use it as an excuse to sin to our hearts content because Jesus will say “Neither do I condemn you.” If we misuse the Word of God as a way to get away with sinning then believe me, He certainly will condemn us. In fact He won’t have to, because by our own actions we condemn ourselves.

The story of the woman caught in adultery who is not condemned always reminds me of the story of Susanna the wife of Joachim who is entrapped with a false allegation of adultery by the elders. It is the child Daniel who speaks out for her. (Daniel 13:1+)

Today is also the feast of St. Patrick who brought Christ to Ireland and is famous for having cast out all the poisonous snakes. We can only pray that by his prayers and the grace God gives to Ireland and the Irish that they  will renew His presence and bring us all closer to God. It was from Ireland that so much of the Gospel was spread over the world; I can only hope, as Britain falls that we can be lifted up again and that Ireland will play a part in that. I think there may be prophecies about that.

Pope Francis and the commission to rebuild God’s house.

In all the joy and excitement last night it was difficult to work out what had made our new Holy Father choose the name Francis. We have never had a Pope Francis so there wasn’t an obvious background to the name.  As he is a Jesuit many of us, even though I wondered about St. Francis of Assisi, assumed he was naming himself after one of the Jesuit Francis’s such as Francis Xavior or Borgia.

734476_552943108069381_394843154_nBut it’s been reported (though I can’t find where the Pope himself has confirmed this) that he has taken the name Francis in honour of St. Francis of Assisi.

HIS FIRST WORDS  were a simple greeting and a request for prayers for Pope emeritus Benedict XVI (who is still much loved; perhaps instead of Holy Father Emeritus we should call him Holy Grandfather).

Giotto_-_Legend_of_St_Francis_-_-06-_-_Dream_of_Innocent_III

Pope Francis does look like he fits into the calling God made of St. Francis of Assisi, “Francis,” said God, “Go and rebuild my house, or it is falling down.”

It wasn’t long after Francis set about obeying God’s command that Pope Innocent III had his famous dream in which he saw St. Francis holding up a church that would otherwise have fallen down.

There is a lot for Pope Francis to do. Perhaps this pope with one lung will be able to build on the hard work of Bl. Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI and repair the Church so she can breath with both lungs more freely. It’s not just about communion with the Orthodox churches, but help for our Eastern Rite brothers who are being savagely martyred every day in Islamic controlled countries.

In Francis we have another pope who lives simply. He had a small flat in Argentina and used the bus to get around. He has worked very hard for and with the poor under his care and I am sure he will continue to do this as Holy Father. He saw through so-called “liberation theology” and stuck with Christ and I bet he faced a lot of pressure to embrace LT even after it was exposed as purely political and often very violent.

I have a sense that this Holy Father who has embraced poverty will embrace the suffering of the Passion as St. Francis did.

It seems to me that God has quite an army; the Benedictines at the forefront with the Franciscans and Dominicans coming next and the Poor Clares, Carmelites and Jesuits. The Enclosed orders being the massive powerhouse of prayer.

Pope Francis will be installed on March 19th the feast of St. Joseph patron saint of fathers and workers.

Oramus.

Lent; Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows (mystery 5)

At the foot of the cross

Having walked with Jesus her beloved Son, to the place of crucifixion, Mary stays with Him even as he is stripped nailed and hoisted up onto the cross. If ever you are tempted to see this as “ordinary” try and imagine watching your own child, or someone you love very much being tortured right in front of you while you stand by powerless to intervene.

We love our super heroes who come swooping in, often at the last minute, and save the innocent or good guy from the bad guys But here the mystery of iniquity is played out before us and it is allowed to happen. Jesus doesn’t show His power here.

Mary is not left to suffer alone. Just as Jesus had Simon of Cyrene, so Mary has those with her who are there out of love. Her sisters (that is close kin) Mary the wife of Cleopas and Mary Salome the mother of James and John (widow of Zebedee) are there as is Mary Magdalene and Salome’s son John stands with them.

But even with these kind persons the pain, the twisting of the sword in her soul, must have been something that only God’s grace could have made bearable.

Watching another suffer, has got to be one the most difficult things any of us are called to do.

While she is there Jesus, taking note of her needs but also, as He suffers for us, taking note of our needs, gives her to John and through him, us to her. “Mother, behold your son; son behold your mother.” He doesn’t call John by name because in the word son is the sonship of all of us as Mary is made our mother and we can ask her to pray for us as we are her children.

It doesn’t matter whether you have a mother on earth or not, or whether she is a good mother or a bad one because you will always have a mother in heaven who wants the very best for you. Jesus said He wouldn’t leave us orphans; in His promise we have a Father and a mother.

MaryAtFootOfCross

As I have a soft spot for Mary Salome, I can’t help wondering what she thought at that moment. We are never told, but I don’t think she would have felt that John was being taken away from her and given to Our Blessed Mother. I think she would have realised that this moment was beyond a simple bit of Jewish law ensuring a widow without a son wasn’t left destitute – it was bringing all four Mary’s closer together in their relationship with the B. Mother and St. John.

A deeper mystery still is here in this moment of the crucifixion. Christ suffers and pours Himself out; every last drop of His Precious Blood given for us. But He doesn’t suffer alone. Our Blessed Mother, John, Mary of Cleopas, Mary Magdalene and Mary Salome suffer too. They suffer with Him and their suffering is united with His.

When we contemplate the sword of sorrow that pierced our Mother’s soul, we can follow her example in uniting our sufferings with Him, so that none of our suffering, of the crosses we accept to follow him, need be wasted. (cf Col 1:24)

Lent; Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows (mystery 4)

This needs no explanation.

We’ve been asked to pray for the conclave today at 5pm Rome time. That’s 4pm UK time (at the end of the hour of mercy) and 11 am EST for the USA.

 

Lent; The Chaplet of Seven Sorrows (mystery 3)

The Losing of the Christ Child in the Temple.

I think this mystery is incredibly profound. When we read of it in St. Luke’s Gospel I think we tend to concentrate on how Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the Temple; but in this meditation we are to consider how the sword pierced Mary (and I bet Joseph’s) soul as they discovered their loss.

The sense of loss, of fear without Him must have been horrendous. They had left the Holy City and it’s Temple behind and He wasn’t with them.

In order to find Him, they had to turn around and go back. They had to go where He was most likely to be, even if they didn’t understand why He was there and even though it would have been more convenient if He could meet them somewhere else. But when you really want Jesus back in your life, you will search for Him and be happy to go where He leads you and where you know you can find Him where they liked.

In the desert when Israel wouldn’t go up the mountain to find God, they ended up making a god at the bottom of the mountain.

Jesus commanded us (we need to stop taking what Jesus said plainly as merely suggestions) that we should FIRST seek the Kingdom of God.  This has been self-edited by too many of us who remember “ask and you shall receive” as though God is a magic slot machine – prayer in, whatever we ask for out.  This is a sure way of finding ourselves walking away from the Kingdom and losing sight of Him altogether.

Then we have to turn around – the word repent means to turn around – and seek the Kingdom again. Jerusalem has been a sign or type of the Kingdom of God from the Old Testament right the way through to John’s Revelation (the New Jerusalem descending from Heaven like a Bride).

God said, “I have not said to Jacob seek me in vain,” so if we seek Him we will find Him as Christ promised, “Seek and you shall find” but we have to seek Him where He is. There is nothing in Luke about Mary and Joseph searching throughout Jerusalem or the surrounding environs. They headed back to the Temple and there He was. If we try to get to know Jesus, properly, we will know where to find Him.

Mary and Joseph had a major advantage over the rest of us. They had one Jesus in their lives and they knew Him very well. These days we have to search among so many different Jesuses before we can truly find Him. (One red flag for me is when I see something with “the real Jesus” written over it. You can almost guarantee that it’s another golden calf Jesus). Beg God for discernment. Pray and be ready to accept Him, on His terms.

Manure around the Fig Tree.

It occured to me when listening to Jesus’ parable today at Mass (Luke 13; 1 – 9) that those people who see life as a set of events descibed as (sorry for the word) “Shit happens” may be experiencing the manure being dug around the fruitless figtree.

cursing-fig-tree-colorIt occurred to me that God had caused a lot of…manure… in my life and that I had   taken some time to realise that perhaps this wasn’t just “punishment” directly for sin, but because I needed to be, well, manured, to make me produce some good fruit.

We are supposed to make the most of the manure in our lives to produce some good fruit for God.

There’s another story of Jesus cursing a fig tree (shown in the Icon above). A tree that doesn’t produce fruit is eventually cursed so that it can’t. Sin makes us stupid. The less good we produce, the more of the curse we take on.

The fig tree in the parable is the faithless generation that saw Jesus and didn’t perceive him.  Jesus spent three years trying to teach them and get some good fruit from them, but they wouldn’t listen. In the following year He was crucified, died and Rose again, the Church was born – in Jerusalem and in that year Peter and John were arrested and imprisoned and St. Stephen was the first of many martyrs.

That faithless generation ended up like the Galileans and the men under the tower of Siloam as Jerusalem was destroyed and burned around them in 70 AD. This was the mini-Parousia a sign and prophecy of the Judgement of God. By this point the CHristians had left Jerusalem and the Church had her centre just outside Rome under the care of St. Linus.

So, next time you are thinking life is…manure. Just think, it could just be God trying to get some good fruit out of you. :P

Lent; Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows (mystery 2)

The Flight into Egypt.

The Gospels don’t give us an exact timeline of the infancy narratives, but you can kind of work out that after Jesus was born in Bethlehem,  He and His family stayed there for a while. He would have been circumcised there on the eighth day after birth and then Mary and Joseph took him the few miles north to Jerusalem for His presentation. Luke leaves out the rest saying when all was done they went back to Nazareth, but Matthew fills in the rest of all that was done.

The Magi came. Having read the signs properly, first, from the sky and very likely from the prophecy of Balaam which had been given to the pagans; they headed off to find the king of the Jews. Understandably they went to King  Herod in Jerusalem.

Herod didn’t want a Messiah, and to make sure there wasn’t one, he ordered all the boys under the age of two in Bethlehem to be killed. The slaughter of the innocents was the result.

But an angel came to Joseph and warned him, telling him to take his little family and flee into Egypt.

Leaving their lives behind, Mary and Joseph headed off into the desert, taking our precious hope of salvation with them. The sword in Mary’s heart was not just the loss of home and extended family, and having to become a refugee, but the realisation that already people hated her beloved Son. They hated Him enough to want Him dead.

For so many of us, our journey with Christ, with the Divine Child, is through the desert. It’s a long journey of spiritual dryness where the joy of the Temple seems far behind and we feel we are facing a life in Egypt where we don’t belong, and long for home. A desert prayer life is a lesson in faith. It doesn’t feel good and there are no (or few) consolations, but we do it anyway. It’s a big sign of contradiction to “feel good Christianity” that’s for sure.

There are two lovely golden legends about this journey. The first tells us that the soldiers chased after the Holy Family. Joseph quickly led them, and the donkey off the path and hid them in a cave. But the soldiers were searching everywhere.

As the little family huddled at the back of the cave, a spider came and quickly made her webs around the mouth of the cave and a soft wind sent dust over the webs.

When the soldiers arrived they said, “These webs have been here a long time undisturbed so they didn’t come this way.” They turned and went away.

The second story tells us that along the road, not far from Bethlehem robbers came to attack the family. One of them, a young one, was so taken with the baby he said he would not steal from them and he ensured they were allowed to go on safely.

This was St. Dismas who would continue in his life of crime and get arrested. He would then be crucified on Calvary that Friday before the Sabbath and he would in his own agony, repent, accept his punishment, rebuke his fellow criminal (one of the spiritual works of mercy) and declare his belief in Jesus and His innocence. So much good done while in such terrible agony!

I hope that the faith of Dismas helped mitigate, just a little, the intensity of the sword that pierced Our Blessed Mother’s soul that day. As you can see I have a big soft spot for St. Dismas who not only picked up his cross but accepted being crucified on it too.

Lent; Chaplet of Seven Sorrows. (mystery 1)

I thought I should do something lentern, quick before it’s Easter!

The Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows is part of my daily prayer. To be honest I chose to day this instead of the rosary when my concentration got too bad to manage a rosary. This is easier. Yes, I know, not exactly a great reason…

But for Lent it’s a lovely meditation.

The first mystery is the Prophecy of Simeon at the moment of Jesus’ presentation at the Temple when He was 40 days old.

Mary and Joseph, in accordance with Mosaic Law had taken Jesus to the Temple when he was 40 days old to redeem him with the set sacrifices. Mary will have entered the purification baths as her days of postpartum impurity ended.

In the Temple at that time were two holy people, Simeon and Anna the widow of the tribe of Ashur (and Israelite).

They had awaited the Messiah for so lon and now they saw Him and knew Him.

At that moment Simeon prayed the beautiful Dunc Dimittus, said each night at Compline:

“At last all powerful Master, you may let your servant  go in peace according to Your word; for my eyes have seen the salvation which you have promised to the nations. A light to bring the gentiles out of darkness to the glory of your people Israel.”

Then he turned to Mary and made this prophecy on her role in salvation history;

“This child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign of contradiction. And a sword shall pierce your own soul also, so that the thoughts of many will be laid bare.”

God doesn’t keep us in the dark, especially when He asks something of us. Mary kept many things in her heart over the years Jesus grew up. While she certainly didn’t know the whole of God’s plan for her Son or herself, she trusted and accepted that when she gave her “fiat” to the angel she was saying yes to everything God asked of her.

We are all called to say yes to God in some way or other and Jesus Himself says that we are to take up our cross daily to follow Him, so swords in the soul will come along as part of saying yes.

Do not be afraid.

The internet is both a blessing and a curse. It’s up to the user to choose which it will be. On the one hand there is so much genuinely and shiningly good to be accessed, and on the other there is the strange permission to lie and hate others for no particular reason,

And yet I think there is a reason there is so much more hatred spewed out over the net and it’s not as simple as the anonymity that being online can offer. It seems to me that hatred is almost always rooted in fear.

Jesus kept saying, “Do not be afraid.” 2000+ years later it was the refrain of Blessed Pope John Paul the Great. “Do not be afraid.”

Those of us with a dx of ME/cfs and Fibromyalgia face ignorance and nastiness from doctors all the time. Any co-morbid condition like POTS in its various flavours or other orthostatic intolerance (OI) face dismissal, rudeness and sheer maliciousness from medics so often it almost beggers belief. What is so astonishing is that this is not an isolated thing. It’s not even a one country thing. Patients from all over the world have face the same “group-think” of medics who obviously think they are within their rights to treat patients with the politically incorrect dx of ME/Cfs and it’s friends with utter contempt.

The mainstream media has jumped on the anti-the patient bandwagon (in fact it was the media who termed the phrase yuppie flu back in the ’80s ignoring the fact that the disease was across all walks of life and had horrible effects. Then even when a journalist tries to be a little more honest in his/her reporting, when it’s online, the comment boxes are full of strangely angry people denigrating a group of seriously ill people, they have never even met!

Jesus said the Truth would set us free and that’s certainly true – but lies can be very comforting, especially if you tend towards fear. I think those who are so willing to attack patients with ME do so because they fear the spread of the disease. It’s everywhere and is more often than not in huge clusters. Are people spewing hatred at people with ME because they fear it might reach them?

Wherever evil has held sway the sick and frail have been trampled under foot or just murdered.  A world view that sees people as no more than cogs in the money making machine will always turn vicious towards those who can’t take part in the machine.

Our culture has no problem with people working themselves to death to make money for a company, but looks askance at carers who spend their time working to elevate the suffering of others. It’ was no coincidence that under the full scale consumer-capitalism that Britain was thrust into in the 1980s that both ME was labelled as “yuppie flu” that stay at home carers were dismissed as weak and that nurses couldn’t get a living wage while our patients lost so much in benefit payments that many ended up homeless (and the prisons started to fill up rather suspiciously quickly)

In light of this political thought, blasted through the media at full volume it is will little surprise that I hear of the viciousness and death threats spewed all over the Holy Father as he steps down. He is a good, gentle, humble and deeply holy man so of course there are those who hate him.  He is in the utterly strange position of standing for Truth so he is adored on the one side and reviled on the other.

The hatred of the Holy Father is fascinating in some ways. Many of those who hate him insist that the old man is pointless and the Church has nothing to say, and yet it’s still him they attack and not any of the other religious leaders. The fact is that the Catholic Church stands alone as the last bastion against the culture of death. There are little boats sailing with us (as St. John Bosco saw in his prophetic dream) and they tend to be the Orthodox churches, although I believe some of them have caved on some issues around the sanctity and open to life nature of marriage. Orthodox Jews also stand firm against the culture, and of course there are individuals among the evangelicals and some muslims.

But the fact is the full on attack against the culture comes from that pointless old man they are all so afraid of.

For those of  us who are sick, the witness of both Blesssed Pope John Paul and Papa Benedict in their own sickness and weakness is a true inspiriation. In their witness we find we do have value as persons no matter what the culture tries to tell us.

Those of us who have lived through a few popes now have been in the  blessed position of seeing saints sitting on the Chair of Peter. Just as the first 500+ years of the Church was packed with saintly Popes, so it seems the last 400 years  of the Church has seen the same. Whether the next man is a saint or not, we are still facing the darkness and we are called by Christ to not be afraid.

The Entire Word.

It was St. Luke’s Gospel this morning, wherein Jesus fasts for forty days and is tempted by Satan.  In the very first response to Satan, Jesus reveals Himself. Satan says, “If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread.”

“Man does not live by bread alone,” Jesus quotes Deut 8;3.  If we didn’t know the tempter was Satan would we think Jesus would do wrong in making some bread for Himself and eating it?  It doesn’t seem wrong. And yet God doesn’t create for His own sake. He needs nothing. Everything He has made He has made from His agape love. We don’t have an English equivalent to agape (Greek) although the word “passion” comes close.  Unfortunately we have reduced the word passion to meaning intense feelings; but it really means to pour out for the sake of the other. Hence Christ’s Passion is His pouring out for us.

Christ’s bread miracles are both about feeding the people, not because He is in need. But even though he feeds the 5000 with bread and fish (not bread alone) He still insists we should live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. (Deut 8;3 Matt 4:4 Luke 4:4).

What is the Word? John tells us “In the beginning was the  Word,… and the Word was God” (John 1:1) In Greek it’s logos, a word of meaning. Greek has so much more in it’s language on this point.

The Lord Jesus Christ, the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity is the entire, meaningful Word that we are to live on.

Christ gave us the Church, His Bride, His Body (in which we are His body) and the Church from the apostles (he who hears you, hears Me. He who rejects you, rejects Me) gave us the entirety of public revelation through oral Tradition (1 Cor 11.2) and written Scripture (first canonised at the Council of Rome 382 AD under Pope St. Damasus I). All of this is completed, so that we can live on every word that comes from the mouth of God, in the Holy Eucharist, where we receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Word of God; Risen, and whole.

So while we receive the Word in the form of the Liturgy and bread (and wine) we are not being fed by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God. And let us remember that the Word was what brought about creation. What He says, is. When He says “This is My Body,” and “This is My Blood” He means it.

Are more Catholic women ditching contraception in favour of real marriage and health?

“For forty years this generation wearied me, And I said their hearts are wondering and they do not know My ways; and I swore in My anger that they would never see My place of rest.” (Ps 95:10-11)

As families are torn apart by selfishness, divorce, and loneliness more and more women and couples are turning away from the generation of contraception and genuinely seeking God’s will in their lives. If what I am seeing is anything to go by, it isn’t just Catholic couples who are turning their noses up at drugs and surgery that breaks a healthy part of the body, and has damaged marriage so badly, that perhaps even the prophets of the inevitable didn’t see it coming.

No Christian church/community believed that contraception was in any way allowed until after the Church of England Lambeth Conference in 1930 were contraception was deemed allowable to a married couple in very extreme circumstances.

The wise and Spirit led Pope Pius XI immediately responded with Casti Connubii (1930) which reiterated, strongly, the 2000 year teaching of Christ and His Church. But the damage from England spread out and soon other churches were allowing contraception and more horribly Christians began to favour killing the unborn children who were conceived despite the contraceptive use.

By the time Pope John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council the state of families was already a concern. But it had nowhere near reached the depths we face now.

When the Cassandraesque prophecies of Pope Paul VI were published in Humanae Vitae in 1968, he was ignored or vilified.  It is with sadness and in many cases bitterness and anger that many (especially women) of my generation have learned he was right.

Most people my age in the Western Church didn’t get much catechesis in school or family life. We grew up with a set of Jesuses from “He can’t wait to send you to hell” Jesus to hippy-stoned- do-whatever-feels-good-Jesus; and a plethora of Jesuses in between. We were given, at best, mixed messages about sex and marriage and left to fend for ourselves.  For many that lead to chemical contraception with all its side effects both physically, emotionally and spiritually as well as broken relationships and complications in marriage.

And from what I can gather it wasn’t just Catholics getting out the golden calf religion. Other Christians were doing just as badly, if not worse than us.

But the generation is done and the next generation are growing up and they don’t want the deal my generation got. They want the Truth – all of it. As the Church is improving in getting her message across more and more couples, and particular women, are asking for a better deal in marriage, more respect for their/our bodies and more love and generosity in accepting and parenting our children.

Jennifer Fulwiler has written a lovely observation on all this. Some of the comments show the change in thought and the massive obstacles in moving from  the “contraceptive mentality” to open to life and God’s will in our lives. There are those who find any of the forms of Natural Family Planning very difficult. One person even found the Marquette method hard.

Personally I have to admit to some irritation (and surprise) that the best way of learning NFP for me has been from secular sources. Fertility Friend.com which has a huge number of charts to be studied so you can learn to spot stuff on your own chart.  and the Toni Weschler book, Those are the resources I recommend when I’m helping someone chart.

We had some lessons from the Couple to Couple league as well which was a great help, especially as we were learning while I was breastfeeding!

A properly recorded NFP chart can tell you a whole lot about your health, or lack thereof. It will tell you when to catch that twinkle from God’s eye and when you can avoid doing so.

In a Christian marriage, child spacing should be done with prayer, not just with charts. The Church says we can avoid pregnancy for just reasons; which includes financial, emotional and physical health reasons. There is no church teaching that says a couple have to have as many children as possible no matter what. God isn’t nearly as stupid as some people want to think He is.

Having children is a massive responsibility and a joy; it should be a three way decision, God, husband and wife. Sometimes God gives a child even when you don’t think you’re ready, and sometimes He doesn’t give you one when you think you are ready and ask Him for one. Whatever He does He provides the grace required, you just have to accept and use it.

I think I’ll write a post on the health issues that charting can spot.

Lent Reading; trying to be inspired.

It’s Lent and so I thought I would put out a list of books for good Lentern reading.

I’m still working through the Dairies of St. Faustina which I converted to a mobi file for my Kindle using CALIBRE, which is a free and easy to use e-book converter and manager.

I found a text file of the Catechism and I’ve made that into a pdf using PRIMO PDF. I’ve been using Primo for a long time to make the free lesson packs Kalei has been putting up on That Resource Site. Do go and take a look at what she’s got on offer for Lentern resources.

If you want to read a book on your ereader then having Primo and Calibre is a great help. I’ve transferred books to Word then to pdf and Calibre with convert them to mobi.

So I am hoping to read a lot of the Catechism throughout Lent.

I am also reading the Life of Blessed Anna Maria Taigi . I love this woman, but the book is a true penance to read. I can’t stand purple passage and this book is awash with sentimentality, flouncy, purple and elaborate extrapolations. It’s so bad, it can be difficult to find the story of Anna Maria in there – but it is there.

If you are wondering why I would deliberately read a book as astonishingly badly written as this, well, I really find her inspiring and there are hardly any books in English out there about her. I have the one by TAN publishers (can’t remember the author just now) on order – but that’s a hard copy so I will only be able to read it when eyesight allows.

I love Anna Maria because she was so ordinary in her extraordinariness. She was married, had seven children and lived a tough life. She cared for her parents when they grew old and poor. Her mother, who was a little difficult apparently, lived with them and then her daughter Sophia moved back home with her six children when her husband died.

Obviously the “big” part of Anna Maria’s story was her gift of prophecy and the “sun” she saw in which God revealed to her the things He needed her to tell others.

Anyway, apart from the penance of reading a badly written book, I’m hoping her life will inspire me to better behaviour over being ill. She had many of the same symptoms as your average FMS/ME cum dysautonomia patient, including severe migraines, black outs, pain, absolute exhaustion and the rest. She handled all this as you’d expect a holy saint to handle it – that is, not like me! So I am hoping for inspiration. (stop laughing!)

When my poor husband says he can tell how much pain I’m in, even when I, in saint-mode do not mention it – because I’m irratible and snappy that’s an epic fail!

So, hopefully Bl. Anna Maria will help me out, without me requiring yet another holy 2×4 across the soul. (So I’m a slow learner).

I am still slowly working through Les Miserables which I love. Even so, dear old Vic likes to pontificate rather pompously and go off on long pontifical-tandems to the point where you almost feel like yelling “Get back to the story!” But when he’s in the story; it’s brilliant.

As a straight forward book I’m reading a The Emperor of North America the second book in the Young Chesterton Chronicales by John McNichol. I actually bought it along with The Tripods Attack for Ronan but as you can have it on more than one Kindle at a time I’m getting to read it too.

So I have something to read for all brain states from flurble to relatively sensible.

Choosing apparent loosers. God has a great sense of humour.

Today’s readings look at God choosing those He wishes to take His message to the people.  First  we learn how Isaiah (6:1 -8) beholds a vision of heaven and becomes acutely aware of his sin and shortcomings in comparison to the purity of God. The angel touches his lips with a burning coal from the altar of heaven and he is made clean and able to speak the message God sends him with.

Then we learn how Simon who will be named Peter (Cephas) on seeing the miracle of the massive catch of fish also tells the Lord that he is a sinful man. Jesus says “Do not be afraid. From now I will make you fishers of men.”

Finally we hear Paul’s words declaring that he is preaching the Gospel given by Christ to Peter and the apostles and he points out how unworthy he was to be called and chosen as he had persecuted Christ.

All three men are called, and answer that calling in humility. They don’t demand a right (that doesn’t exist) to be a prophet or a priest. In fact as all three were martyred, (Isaiah was sawn in half, Peter crucified upside down and Paul beheaded) I am quite sure they might have preferred the old life.

I always think how Paul had come so far in his priesthood for Christ. He had been educated by Gameliel one of the greates rabbi’s of the Jewish world. It was the cream of education. Then, when Jesus calls him, Paul finds himself under the authority of a fisherman. He never once complains about this. That’s true humility.

When God chooses these three He tells them what to say and they say it. When they spoke or wrote it was under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and so they gave us the Word of God, not their own ideas.  Both Peter and Paul are clear that no one should be listening to other “gospels” that come from those who put themselves forward as preachers and teachers.  Jesus had said to the twelve, “He who hears you, hears Me, and he who rejects you, rejects Me.” When Paul was made an apostle, (like Matthias who replaced Judas) then the words of Christ were applied to him.

I think it’s much harder to know where the Truth lies these days. We must pray for discernment and seek honestly the Kingdom, and remember God doesn’t leave us to seek Him in vain; but we must seek Him.

From hell there’s no coming back, so don’t go there.

gustave_dore_inferno32The question of who is in hell and who might be heading there comes up quite often. It seems that many people would prefer to believe either that all are saved, or that hell doesn’t exist. Jesus made a big deal of hell so I tend to think He may have had some genuine concerns about us ending up there. He certainly gave a lot of warnings to try and persuade us not to go there.

The undermining of the doctrine of hell seems to be a way to make the downward slope smoother and more attractive. Don’t go there!  God gives us free will. We are supposed to choose to do good. If we create hell on earth for those around us, either by action, words, silence or neglect, then we aren’t going to have heaven later. We do take it with us.

Dante described hell pretty thoroughly and while we know it was a poem and not a vision, its a pretty profound poem. The ninth circle of hell is frozen. It’s as far away from the burning fire of God’s love as you can get. So loveless and cold; such justice demanded and no mercy.

I wonder if so many Christians give short shrift to hell because they don’t see it. They are nice people with nice friends and a nice church. Perhaps they have never seen (or have managed to ignore) the depravity and abuse that many people have been subjected to. I suspect that like Dives they can step past Lazarus at the gate and fail to notice., or they put some coins in a charity box and think that’ll do.

Many of the saints have seen hell. I think sometimes Catholics put far too much emphasis on “private revelation is not binding on the faithful” and use it as an excuse not to see what God is saying to us. Private revelation doesn’t add to revealed truth but it’s a good reminder and I’m sure God wouldn’t bother if we didn’t need the reminders so often. The list of saints and blesseds who have reported their visions of hell is very very long indeed. None of them saw it empty. St Teresa of Avila was shown the place in hell Satan had ready for her. She learned he really does hate each one of us that much.

St Faustina was told that we are to seek His mercy. Those who refuse mercy to others and refuse to seek Christ’s mercy will be faced with Him as the just Judge. We need to pray for one another and take care of one another so we receive the mercy we need when the time comes.

It’s not easy to get to heaven, Jesus warns us that. He warns about it a lot so we should try and take note. He warned that being rich can be a real problem in getting to heaven; so we need to be generous with what we have and not horde. This doesn’t mean only giving away something we don’t need. It means giving away or sharing even what we might need if someone else needs it more.

The bottom line is that we are free children, not slaves or automatons. We get to choose whether we do things God’s way or our way. There are plenty of people making it very plain that they have no intention of spending eternity in the fire of God’s love. We can pray they change their minds but they choose where they spend eternity. We all do.

I can’t help wondering how many nice Christians are in hell through sheer apathy. They liked the idea of God and the social gathering on a Sunday but couldn’t be bothered to love Him or their neighbour if it meant doing more than being “nice”.

It’s too easy to think that if anyone is in hell it’s only the Hitler-Stalin-Judas types that have ended up there. “I haven’t murdered anyone,” they think, like the woman who had not been to Confession in 30 years and then said she hadn’t committed any sins.

Our Lady told the children of Fatima that far too many people end up in hell thanks to “sins of the flesh”. That is all those pelvic issues that people criticise the Church for caring about.

If we are truly honest with ourselves, how many of us can honestly say we haven’t done anything to mortally wound our souls, ever?

So hell is easy to get to. Be awake and don’t go there!

Discussion; Fr. Barron’s Youtube vid on universalism and Mon. Pope’s excellent response. I have to admit I would love to believe that all are saved in the end – but reality bites.

Woman Clothed with the Sun with the moon under her feet (Rev 12)

our_lady_of_guadalupe_4x6Dec 12th is the Feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. (Dec 9th would have been the feast of St Juan Diego but it fell on 2nd Advent Sun this year)

That God in His love and mercy has given us such a mother is wonderful all by itself, but that He allows her, sends her, to speak with us and leaves us a beautiful Icon should make us even more grateful.

While it is true that private revelation is not binding on the faithful, I think we should be cautious about using that as an excuse to ignore what God is giving us when He sends Our Blessed Mother and/or other saints to remind us of the Gospel message.

bent-crucifix-cc-odoyle81The tilma made of cactus ayate  fibre is still in great condition and the image remains clear despite some accidents; one with nitric acid and the time someone tried to blow it up. In fact despite being on open display for many years under candle flame and incense, before even a glass covering was made, the tilma image is in much better condition that the Mona Lisa and is only 12 years younger than Leonardo’s famous painting. The great crucifix that was bent right over by the explosion is now on display. The glass covering of the tilma remained in tact.

On Dec 12th 1531 Juan Diego was sent to the barren cold top of Tepayac Hill where he gathered an astonishing harvest of big castellan roses that had suddenly appeared there.

StarThe Icon shows a woman dressed as royalty, but with her head bowed as one in service. The black ribbon that hangs under her prayerful hands shows that she is pregnant. More than that, thanks to some study of the stars on her mantel we see she is carrying the constellations from that very date. She wears the crown of stars (Corona borealis) and under her hands (invisibly) is Leo showing that she carries the Lion of Judah and above that over her heart is virgo saying she is a virgin.

There were more scientific studies that show the eyes of the Icon have the reflections of a real eye showing the bishop and Juan Diego in her eyes. The minute and realistic distortions of the images in her eye show something so accurate that no artist could have done this.

At the time the Indians understood the image better than the Spanish did. They read graphics like words. The tilma is as packed with information about her. She wears the cross of the Christians and the robes of a princess. She is robed in the sun and stands on the moon, so she is greater than their gods, but she bows her head with the cross on her neck and therefore is accepting a God greater still.

Up until this point the missionaries in Mexico and surrounding areas were having a tough time converting the native peoples. Their work was hampered by the unChristian behaviour of many of the Spanish and Portuguese settlers who, feeling that Rome and her rules was far away, took slaves and spent more time chasing gold than seeking the kingdom.

But after the apparition and the miraculous image was left, millions of people learned about how much God loved them and how He had even given them a Mother and they were baptised.

It was this image that was taken into the battle of Lepanto and her prayers that gave victory on the Feast of the Holy Rosary 1571.

I love the way God sends His mother at times of crisis. He sends her and raises up some ordinary person like St. Juan Diego or the children of Fatima, Lourdes, La Salette and so on. Mary appears clothed in the sun at a point where in Europe the book of Revelation is under attack. God has a gentle sense of humour I think.

It’s great to have a wonderful mother.

The death of Judas Maccabees and the feast of Pope St. Leo the Great

Saturday was the feast of Pope St. Leo the Great.  He truly earned his title of “great” as he walked among the rubble of the dying Roman Empire and held tight to the Culture Christ had given His Church, and held back the tide of destruction from the Huns.

If you can get your hands on a copy of Louis de Wohl’s great historical novel Attila or the earlier version “Throne of the World” I recommend it. de Wohl knew his history very well indeed.

Attila was coming after Rome. He  was an ambitious cruel and soon gathered a reputation for his willingness to wholesale slaughter. Attila was no different from any other despotic leader. They all lack imagination it seems to me.  No wonder evil looks to banal. It has no colour.

Leo is most famous for his meeting with Attila in which he persuaded the Hun leader to leave Rome alone. Many people try to make out that Leo didn’t really “win” this concession and I am sure Leo would agree.  He had some powerful help. While famine and disease had left Rome very weak, and should have meant easy picking for the Huns, they also faced the prospect of fighting on empty stomachs.

Leo was well used to spiritual and political battle by the time he met Attila. He had stood his ground against many members of the Church who cut themselves off from her, running after various heresies such as Nestorianism, Pelagianism, Manichaeism  and more. With those who dared to call themselves followers of Christ, being only too willing to rush off after any old golden calf. In the light of this maybe Leo didn’t see Attila as such a big problem.

juxtaposed against the feast of this saint was the story of the last stand of Judas Maccabees. In Divine Office the continuing story of how a remnant of Israel stood against the tyranny of Syria and Persia.

Just as Leo faced a threat of tyranny while many of his fellow Christians prefered an easy life than the cross of Christ, so Judas faced the battle as many of his men gave up and refused to trust in God. Judas went out with his remnant and died a hero.

Judas and Leo stood up against a pagan aggressor who believed in the right of power over the weak; survival of the fittest. The Old Covenant Peoples faced a head on assault at the point when they seemed the weakest, having mostly apostasised already, but in the end we remember the Jews and the valiant courage of Judas Maccabaeus over whoever that Syrian leader was.  It isn’t a fairy tale ending. Our greatest heroes have often had to carry the cross and die on it.

But Jesus warned us very clearly, with the politically incorrect words,  “Do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Fear rather the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”

So many people say they are Christians but don’t believe a word Jesus said. They have their golden calf and that will do them fine.

God has always allowed people like Antiochus Epiphanes and Attila the Hun to rise up because we are so darned daft we keep inviting them. Be He is merciful and He always gives us Leo the Greats and Judas Maccabaeus’. Thank God for that.

And Jesus said “Do not be afriad.”

Why not use UNIVERSALIS for the Year of Faith

Y of Faith: the fight for freedom of religion and conscience.

Divine Office at the moment is going through the Book of Maccabees, telling the story of what happened to the Jews after the time of Alexander the Great. The Scripture’s aren’t too enthusiastic about Alexander, showing him as a rapacious war maker. His empire is divided on his death and the divisions lead to more war.

Then from this mess arose Antiochus Epiphanes (215 to 163 BC) , a man whose level of evil knew no bounds. He went after Jewish religious practices to begin with, chipping away at their rights to practice their faith in freedom.

Slowly he tightened the screws until he demanded all should worship him as a god-manifest (hence the name he took Epiphanes) and the Temple was desecrated, the “abomination of desolation” set up there. From the ashes of a pretty large apostacy, Judas Maccabeus and his brothers stand up for freedom of faith and trust in God.

I think anyone who has done more than five minutes studying Scriptural typology will know that Antiochus was a type of Antichrist.

The whole story of the two Scriptural books of Maccabees is a great lesson for us. It’s not just the way the Jews lived through the wholesale persecution; the apostacy of so many and the powerful strength and faith of the few. It is the story of horror and death that leads to the bright lights of Hanukkah.(8 to 16th December this year).

No one can forget the strength and courage, the enormous  grace of the mother who was forced to watch her seven sons tortured to death. Not one of them gave in to their pagan torturers, but faced death, encouraged and strengthened by their mother.

Jesus referred back to this story and the prophecies of Daniel when He told us what to look out for in the end times. Of course we’ve been living in the end times since the Resurrection. We are children of the Eighth Day. Nevertheless we know the Eighth Day will come to an end. (Will a ninth day dawn? I’ve never quite got to grips with that.)

At the mini Parousia we saw the first fulfilment of Christ’s prophecy of the end of the world. In 70AD the world of the Old Testament was destroyed and there has been no Temple, no sacrifice for the Jewish people since that terrible time.

Ends come and go. The people who love God get persecuted, hounded, murdered and generally given a hard time. We have a whole load of history to go with Scripture and Tradition. I think when the time comes for the generations, countries and cities to be judged even the Canaanites and Aztecs will get an easier ride than us over whether they knew the wholesale human slaughter they were into was not advisable. Remember their cultures are long gone.

The Church has stood for over 2000 years. She will be there when Christ comes to claim His Bride.

Reading for the Year of Faith: Kindle and hard copy.

Bible: Why not treat yourself to a good translation such as the RSV-CE, (Ignatius or Navarre.) or a Knox if you can get hold of one. Commit to doing just a little Bible study each day. Ignatius Press publish a whole lot of good Bibles commentaries and stuff

I’ve got the Dairies of St. Faustina and although I’ve read them before I’m going through them again. Her understanding of the signs of the times, of suffering and of service are wonderful: like little lights along the road.

I’m also reading St. John of the Cross The Dark Night of the Soul. For me at least, this takes long slow reading. It’s so packed that reading it in bleurgh times doesn’t cut it.

The End of the Present World And the Mysteries of the Future Life by Fr. Charles Arminjin now in English. This was a book that St. Therese the Little Flower recommended.

The Father’s Know Best by Jimmy Akin. Understanding what the early Fathers of the Church wrote and taught is a great insight into the development of doctrine, and how She handled persecution.

At a time when America is facing a wholesale onslaught  over religious freedom, which is an intrinsic human right,  I think it would be worth reading the stories of St. Edith Stein (Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) companions. (She’s one of our family saints so obviously I love her a lot.) If you have the brain power (which sadly I don’t) you could try reading her philosophical work, or get hold of some wonderful Alice von Hildebrand books and lectures. EWTN audio archives still hold the series she did about the life and work of her husband Deitrich. His escape from the Nazi’s and his writings are all amazing.

For children the Vision Books are great and for religious freedom and persecution the stories of St. Edmund Campion and St. Thomas More. Also the story of St Catherine Laboure and the Miraculous Medal given in the time when France was persecuting Catholics viciously.

How’s that for starters? Don’t spend the next year reading twaddle. Life’s too short for that. Fill up your heart, soul and mind with something worthwhile- even in fiction.

Year of Faith: All Souls and Purgatory

November is the month of Holy Souls and you can’t talk about the Holy Souls without talking about the purgation they are going through. So what about Purgatory?

St. Paul says those who still have attachment to sin shall be saved “as through fire.” (1 Cor 3:15). So having all the straw burned away will hurt.

God is a consuming fire, we are told, and only those who are pure can stand the heat. I love the way Dr. Scott Hahn describes it. God’s love is the consuming fire. It burns away our old sins so we are pure and can come before Him. The purer we are the most love -fire we can stand and the closer to God we can get.

In purgatory the fire of God’s love hurts because the souls still have som attachment to those old sins.

In hell the fire is much cooler but seems so much hotter because those who have chosen hell cannot abide love at all. They are consumed with hatred for God and for all life.

The history of Purgatory (from the Latin purgatorio, from which we get purge in English) goes back to the Old Testament.

The Jews had a couple of words to describe the afterlife. There was sheol, which in Greek is Hades, the place of the dead.

Then there was Gehenna, the place of fire, in Greek is the same word (gamma, two epsilons, two nu’s and alpha). That’s what we call Hell.

Then finally there was a place Jesus mentions called “The bosom of Abraham”. I think some scholars have considered this to be the “limbo of the fathers” a sort of paradise where the saints stayed until Holy Saturday. It is thought that maybe Enoch and Elijah are there awaiting their return to earth. They have never died as yet.

By the time Jesus came to preach salvation and the resurrection of the dead, the Jewish faith had taken a number of directions. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection any more.  God’s promise that He was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had been rejected by them. They had a “once you’re dead, you’re dead,” take on things.

The Pharisees had a much better and fuller understanding of the Old Covenant. Jesus never told them what they believed was wrong, He disagreed with their behaviour.  They were do busy adding details they had lost real sight of what God was saying to them.

When the Church emerged, it was like a butterfly from the Jewish caterpillar. Not a new religion, but a fulfilled one. So many Jewish converts say they haven’t left behind their Jewishness, they have completed it.

So when Paul talks about a place where the saved can burn off the dross of this life, he isn’t making a new statement, but devloping an old one. Sheol is a place to get rid of anything that cannot be brought before God. It’s not a second chance. Every single person there is saved and loves God. It’s the antechamber of heaven.

But is it a place or a state of being?

I suppose the Catholic answer to that would be it’s both. We are given plenty of opportunities this side of death to take part in a bit of purgation. The Scriptures and the teaching of the Church and the fathers has always been very clear, nothing unclean can come before God.

In private revelation most, (if not all) those who have been offered a glimpse or a long observation of those in purgatory have noted that the holy souls didn’t want to come before God with their attachment to venial sin still there. They joyfully take up the pains to prepare like a bride to come before the groom.

Every bit of suffering we have in this life can be offered to Christ as St. Paul encourages us. Get some purgatory done now folks.

There are a number of Christians today who have blocked out those uncomfortable passages in Scripture that demand certain things of us. They say “nothing can separate them from the love of God..” and they forget about all the physical and emotional suffering Paul lists and instead insert the word “sin”. (cf Rom 8) But in his first letter to the Corinthians (who caused Paul a lot of heart ache) Paul makes it clear that sin will separate us from Christ (1 Cor 6) So we had better use every ounce of grace God gives us to avoid that.  St. Paul warns us not to receive God’s grace in vain (I think that was aimed at the troublesome Corinthians too)  St. John warns particularly against mortal sin, that sin that can kill the life of the soul. (1 John 5:16-17).

Jesus, and His Body the Church constantly calls her people to repentance. We are supposed to be sorry for the sins we commit. If we are and we want forgiveness, it is flowing from Christ from His once and for all Sacrifice.

But mortal sins kill the life of the soul and need much stronger repentance. It is possible in the immense mercy of God for a truly repentant person to be saved from mortal sin even without Confession. But normally a mortal sin should be confessed and no one who is not in a state of grace should receive the Eucharist. St. Paul warns that such people are eating and drinking their own condemnation.

The Church doesn’t tell us who is in purgatory, nor in hell. She tells us some of the names of those living in heaven. We are not supposed to go to Purgatory. We are supposed to repent, get sorted with God and go to heaven.

Year of Faith: Thank Christ for Confession.

It’s too easy to take the Sacraments Christ gave us for granted.  God pours out a gratuitous amount of grace for us to use, and we often forget, or refuse it.

As I was sorting the washing t’other day I was listening to Catholic Answers phone in for non-Catholics. I think the non-Catholic phone ins are my favourite because there are some really thoughtful questions at times. But it’s the thoughtless ones that sometimes remind us of what we have.

A ex-Catholic phoned in with that strange kind of desperation to be right that is so often the hallmark of those who have run away from Christ and His Church. He insisted that the Bible contradicted Catholic teaching all over the place. Patrick, being more than fair, held the man over the break and gave him ample opportunity to ask about one issue in Scripture that the Church contradicts. When the break was over the poor man simply had nothing, so he took a scatter gun approach throwing out lots of Catholic practices, including Confession.

That’s the one Patrick and his guest Bishop Conley took up.  John 20: 21 to 23,  where the risen Christ hands on to the apostles the authority to forgive and retain sins.  There’s a great Biblical overview of the Sacrament here which not only shows the Biblical basis, from the very mouth of Christ, but also shows it was part of Church practice by the time the Didache was written (around 80 AD) and is therefore in the Didiache.

If there is one person who has and does understand the deepest complexities of human nature it is Christ – obviously. He is the number one psychologist. It has often been noted that as the practice of Confession has declined the pockets of therapists have filled.

The fact is when we have done something awful and we are suffering the consequences in both guilt and fallout, we need to speak out loud to someone. It is a sop to personal pride to say we can keep it between “me and Jesus”, and that’s before you even consider the fact that refusing to confess is disobeying Him anyway.

In the Sacrament of Confession God not only pours out His grace for us, but He enables us to hear the words “I absolve you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, our sins are forgiven you.”  That is such a wonderful moment.  So many people who have come back to the Church or have Confessed hideous sins such as abortion will speak of that moment when the weight is lifted and they leave Confession a free person.

On the other side of the psychological coin is the temptation to simply ignore our sins. So what if we said horrible things, it was a bad day. So what if we were too busy to bother visiting that sick person, they are too ill to notice. And as we quietly bin the corporal and spiritual works of mercy and get on with our busy busy lives, we slip into the horrible mind-set of “thank you Lord that I am not a horrible sinner like that person over there…” and the astonishingly common mantra “I’m a good person.”

Going to Confession takes humility and honesty. That’s why so many of us find it so very difficult to do. A good priest will often turn over a few extra stones with you so the forgotten and hidden things are exposed, cleansed and forgiven.

There is a beautiful story about Blessed Pope John Paul the Great. Someone had seen an old tramp as he travelled through Rome to the Vatican.  I can’t quite remember the details here but either this priest or someone recognised the tramp as having been a priest at one time.

On hearing about this the Holy Father asked that the man be found and invited to dine with him. This was done and the tramp was brought into the room where the Pope was going to eat with him.  The man and pope talked and it was true he had once been a priest but had fallen on hard times. The pope took his hands and said “Please will you hear my Confession Father?”

And so the first thing this priest who had become a tramp did to begin his road back to the priesthood was hear the pope’s confession.

For those of you blessed enough to have Confession readily available to you, thank God for that, and pray for us who can’t get there very often.

Year of Faith: St. Luke

It’s the feast of St. Luke today. He has the special place in the Church as the only gentile who has contributed books to the Bible. His Gospel and Acts of the Apostles are two parts of one story taking Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem, His death and Resurrection there; then from Jerusalem to Galilee and back again for His Ascension and from Jerusalem to the world as the Church is born and spread.

Luke is the one author who explains that Jesus sent out 70 (or 72) disciples in pairs to preach the Gospel, heal the sick and get some exorcisms done.  They all came back amazed at the authority Christ had given them.

St. Hippolytus writes that St. Luke was one of the 70 and we get the impression from his writing that the disciple he went about with was Cleopas. You may remember that Cleopas was the husband of Mary the mother of some of the brothers of the Lord; James, Joseph, Simon and Jude. Some texts say Alpheus was the father of James and no one has worked out, as yet, whether Alpheus was a first husband of Mary or whether it was another name of Cleopas.

So it seems that Luke and Cleopas went out together. This makes me think Luke was probably a circumcised gentile convert to Judaism, who then followed Jesus.

According to Hippolytus and I have a vague idea that other Church fathers noted this, many of the 70 left Jesus and stopped going about with Him after His clear Eucharist discourse (John 6).  This falling away when Jesus spoke on Himself as the Bread of Life that the people must eat to have eternal life.

The Jews had very strong laws over food and were understandably perturbed when Jesus started talking about eating Him. Worse still, for His listeners, was the strength of the language He used “chew” and “bare teeth down on”.

Remember, however, that only the day before Jesus had fed them, 5000 of them, with only seven items, five loaves and two fish. He had shown them that He feeds with seven things that are meat and bread. Then He asked them to accept Himself as the Bread of Life.

The Eucharist is a fulfilment of the way God fed Israel in the desert with meat (quails) bread – manna and water from the rock.

At the Last Supper Jesus consecrated the Bread and Wine of the Passover Liturgy into His Body and Blood to feed the world. Many scholars have noted that the Passover lamb, the centre of any Passover meal and liturgy, is never mentioned. While this had led to a question over whether the Last Supper was a Passover, there are those who note that the lamb was there in the Lamb of God giving Himself to the apostles so they could feed the world.

After His Resurrection Jesus walks with two disciples, Cleopas and an unnamed one, probably Luke himself, to the house in Emmaus. Once they reach the house the two disciples, still unaware of the identity of their travelling companion, invite him in.

He takes bread, blesses it and breaks it and then vanishes from their sight. Luke says they recognised Him in the breaking of the bread.

Were these two among those who had stopped going about with Jesus because they couldn’t handle His teaching on the Eucharist? Had they drifted back or even come back because of the Passion? We don’t know. But we do know that if there had been any doubts in their minds before Jesus became the bread in their hands for them, they were gone from that moment as they knew Him in the breaking of the bread.

Accepting the Eucharist on Christ’s terms is still  a challenge today.

Year of Faith: Free will and family habits

On the whole I understand free will, and I am getting to grips with concupiscence – sort of. I am still a bit fuzzy on why baptism forgives sins, returns lost grace but doesn’t heal the bentness of concupiscence.

But there are other things about free will that I sometimes wonder about.

There have been times (quite a few) when I’ve seen how someone has behaved or not behaved and I’ve thought, “Oh well, they can’t help it.” For others I wouldn’t be so quick to let them off the hook. It’s about expectations I suppose. That’s why it’s harder to see a professed Christian do something antithetical to His commandments. But then I wonder sometimes how “free” is free will?

Some families, for example, seem to have a particular kind of “flavour” to them. (Can’t think of another word, sorry).  People within that family culture have the same way of responding to things, sometimes there’s a great family, you know you could ask their help in anything, in fact you’d often not even need to ask, and you’d get it, from any one of them.

Then there are families where you know it’s not worth the effort of begging.

So I wonder, what part does free will play in family structure and individual culpability?

I know there’s the fact that to those who are given more, then more will be expected, but I still wonder whether free will is family based rather than individually based.

There’s even some notion in Scripture that free will is town/city and even country based.  “Woe to you Chorizim…” and all that. Then, both Scripture and private revelation show us angels sent to protect a whole nation. In Scripture it’s St. Michael for Israel and in private revelation we find the angel of Portugal at Fatima.

Going back to free will as an individual personal thing, there’s still a lot of factors that play into it. Is it easier to be a good person when life is easy? Or is it actually harder because you can be lulled into a false comfortableness?

Are Christians better people over all? We’re supposed to be. “They will know they are Christians by their love…” stuff like that. Are fallen Christians worse sinners than those who never knew Christ? Or does it just look worse because Christ is so good?

Talking with a friend recently, we had both noticed something about a group we had just taken part in, where it was gentle, relaxed and all the children mucked in together. There was a kind of “atmosphere” that made seem to make everyone, even new comers, feel welcome. There was a genuine caring in the group.

“Do you think it’s because everyone in the group is Christian?” my friend wondered.

We are all from different church communities, but we all have Christ at the centre of our lives (as much as possible …ok, that sounds like an excuse, and maybe it is…but…anyway, back to the question)

I know the Church teaches that Christ in His Mercy will take all sorts of mitigating factors into consideration when we meet Him in our particular judgement. But I also know we’ll have to account for the decisions we have made to do something we shouldn’t or not do something we should.

We are our brother’s keeper, but how responsible is each person for the horrors commited by his country?

How free is free will?

 

Year of Faith; obscure people of the Bible and Early Church Fathers.

I love the more obscure saints.

In this morning’s Divine Office (Office of Readings) St. Paul mentions his brother in faith Epaphroditus who has been very ill, close to death, but through the mercy of God had become well again.

Not much is known about St. Epaphroditus, but there are some facts to be gleaned. His name is a derivative of “lovely” from the goddess Aphrodite, which implies he was a gentile pagan convert to the faith. Paul calls him “Apostolos” which is the Greek for “sent out” and the title of all the first bishops of the Church. Bishop was the word for overseer, one who cared for a Church area. St. Hippolytus has Epaphroditus as one of the 70(or 72) disciples sent out and lists him as bishop of Andriace.

It’s interesting to see his name in the list along with St. Luke, as this shows many gentiles were already part of the embyonic Church before her birth at Pentecost. I assume that they were circumcised and maybe were part of those gentiles who had wanted to pray in the Court of Gentiles at the Temple, only to find their prayer life seriously hampered by the fullscale market that was there. Jesus came along and cleared the Court of the Gentiles, taking care of His beloved ones :)

There’s quite a bit on obscure saints in the list of 70/2…

St Therese of Lisieux

It is the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, who was recently made a Doctor of the Church.

It is also the first day of the Year of Faith, declared by Papa Beni.

I am a very recent convert-fan of St Therese. I am afraid I had avoided her for many years, thanks, largely to the dreadful saccharine saints book I had as a child.

My friend Amanda suggested she was not a sloppy, sentimental saint at all, and that I should give her seminal work The Story of a Soul a chance. I listened to this well read version HERE, and I was converted. She has a depth of solid common sense and profound spiritual awareness that is simply good for the soul.

So, if you are looking for something to read and/or listen to that will kick start the Year of Faith for you – this could be it.