Hungry for love



Last week at our monthly study group on Pope Francis’ encyclical Evangelii Gaudium we asked the question, What is the greatest need you see around you? One friend, who gets to talk with many people each day, responded that everyone is hungry for love.

It is common to find people in situations of loneliness or bearing heavy burdens and who are also not being treated with kindness by those around them. In these people the hunger for love is the strongest. 

There is love a plenty available for everyone, but most people don’t know where to find it.

How few there are who know the secret.

Those who kneel in Church and hear the wonderful words, ‘This is My Body, given for you’, ‘This is My Blood, poured out for you’, they know the secret.

No greater love there is than to lay down your life for someone else, and Jesus has done that for each of us. And He has gone further than that and provided us a way to receive that gift daily, and to be able to have an intimate relationship with Him.

That is where to go to receive the love we are all so desperately in need of, and the only love that truly satisfies – to Mass, to receive Holy Communion, and to sit in the loving presence of Jesus reserved in the consecrated hosts in the tabernacle.

Once a week on Sundays isn’t enough for our need for love OR for His need to lavish us with that love. Daily Mass and frequent visits to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament are. Each day we need that concrete reminder of His love.

Some dull their hunger for love with possessions or ambitious power, or with substance abuse or casual relationships, but they never satisfy and they leave a bitter taste and wounds that don’t heal.

Today in some parts of the world the feast of Corpus Christi is celebrated, for the rest of us we will celebrate it on Sunday. It is a day to give thanks for this magnificent awe inspiring gift of love. It is also a day to remind others of the greatness of this gift, and to invite others to take hold of it. 

All of us have at least one friend who doesn’t know about this source of love. It is time to invite them to investigate the claims of the Catholic Church. We believe that Jesus becomes truly present under the form of bread and wine when the priest prays the words of consecration. Now that’s a very big and extraordinary claim. If true, it changes absolutely everything. If it is not true, then you can ignore it. But you cannot sit on the fence about it, because this claim is too big to not be investigated thoroughly.

Where to start investigating? Read the appropriate sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Look up all the associated footnotes. Read what the early Christian writers of the first, second and third centuries had to say. Find out about the many Eucharistic miracles that have happened over the centuries, Lanciano, Orvietto-Bolsena, Cascia, Siena etc. Go to Mass, and experience it for yourself. Go and sit quietly in the Eucharistic presence of Jesus, and experience it for yourself. 

May the Holy Spirit guide your search, and guide your hunger to the only source of love that truly satisfies.

 

 

Start your novena in preparation for Christ the King today



Today, 15 Nov 2012, is the day to begin a novena in preparation for the Solemnity of Christ the King, which occurs this year on 25 Nov 2012. Part of the devotion to Jesus, King of All Nations is a prayer novena to which is attached some wonderful promises.

The promise goes like this:

“I promise you that every time you say these Novena prayers I will convert ten sinners, bring ten souls into the One True Faith, release ten souls from Purgatory, many of whom are the souls of priests, and be less severe in My judgment of your nation.”

These are promises that are inspire me to remember to pray them each year prior to the Solemnity of Christ the King and sometimes as novenas prior to other special feast days during the year, especially Christmas.

Consisting of three sets of prayers, and a concluding prayer, I find Rosary beads helpful in praying them: starting three decades out, I pray each set of the daily novena prayer on the 10 decade beads praying the introductory prayer and then the (Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be) three times.

The Novena consists of praying once a day over a period of nine days these prayers:

O Lord our God, You alone are the Most Holy King and Ruler of all nations. We pray to You, Lord, in the great expectation of receiving from You, O Divine King, mercy, peace, justice and all good things. (Our Father… Hail Mary… Glory Be…) x 3

Protect, O Lord our King, our families and the land of our birth. Guard us, we pray, Most Faithful One! Protect us from our enemies and from Your Just Judgment.    (Our Father… Hail Mary… Glory Be…) x 3

Forgive us, O Sovereign King, our sins against You. Jesus, You are King of Mercy. We have deserved Your Just Judgment. Have mercy on us, Lord, and forgive us. We trust in Your Great Mercy.   (Our Father… Hail Mary… Glory Be…) x 3

O most awe-inspiring King, we bow before You and pray; may Your Reign, Your Kingdom,  be recognized on earth! Amen.

Jesus said, “I desire that this Novena be prayed on the nine days preceding My Feast of Christ the King, but I encourage souls to pray this Novena at any time throughout the year. My promises will be granted whenever it is prayed.”

For more information about the devotion to Jesus, King of All Nations, visit the Resources page and scroll a long way down.

May the reign of Jesus, King of All Nations be recognized in all hearts. Amen.

Contemplating the Face of Christ



Currently, 18 Jul 2012, we are in Week 8 of the Year of Grace, an initiative of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. In the official prayer for this Year of Grace is an intriguing line, ‘Gracious God …. You invite us to contemplate the face of Jesus Christ Your Son, that we may experience a new wave of Grace, and that the light of Christ may burn more brightly in our lives.’ Each time we get to know someone better, we come to love them more, and this is especially so of our Saviour. Contemplating the Face of Christ helps us to get to know Him better.

Over the past 8 weeks the good Lord has given me opportunities to contemplate His Face in the Gospel of St Mark, in the pictures of Jesus that Christian artists produce, in the lives of the Saints, in the Rosary and in those who suffer.

In our parish study group, www.ofgraceandfaith.blogspot.com , we have been going through the Gospel of St Mark, chapter by chapter. It’s been surprisingly exciting pondering the life of Jesus in this way. I don’t think I’ve noticed before just how often the Gospel writer shows us various emotions flitting across the Face of Jesus.; He can be grieved Mark 3:5, He can be amazed Mark 6:6,  He can rebuke Mark 8:33, He can sigh deeply Mark 8:12, He seeks for those who touch Him Mark 5:31-32. When he doesn’t mention emotions directly, he gives is enough information to be able to work it out; His expression while feeding the crowd, the majesty with which He sent out His disciples, the smile that must have played about His lips when the Syrophoenician woman gave Him the perfect answer Mark 7:28.

Since I’m one of those whose imaginations doesn’t work in colour and is usually very light on detail, it has been a joy to see our artist’s depictions of Jesus each week because they help me enter into the Gospel in a whole new way. For instance, this week, I’ve never really focussed on the apostles only having on loaf of bread between them on the boat, Mark 8:14, but our artist has made it real for me. Earlier there has been the sternness on the Face of Jesus as He rids the demoniac of the legion of evil spirits, Mark 5:13, His prayerful entreaty to the Father for the leper, Mark 1:40-42, the expectancy of Jesus as the paralytic is lowered down on the stretcher, Mark 2:3-4, and the mild distress and bewilderment when after the vast crowds hanging on every word Jesus can’t make His home town take Him seriously Mark 6:30-6. As never before I am gaining an appreciation for the role of Christian art in helping us to know Jesus better, so as to love Him more.

As part of the study group one of the happy challenges has been to find Saints who have lived out a part of the Gospel story in an identifiable way. Until you actually go looking we live our lives unaware of how many Saints have raised the dead, cured the blind, exorcised demons, multiplied food, healed the deaf and even walked on water, let alone all of those Saints who have preached to large crowds and who have sought lonely places to be with God. Their lives remind us that Jesus meant what He said when He gave power to His companions to preach, to heal and to cast out devils. Mark 3:14-15, Mark 6:12-13. More than that, their lives remind us that Jesus can do those things again, in our time, and with us and those we know. ‘God can do it again’ and we should be expecting Him to. The Saints show us Jesus in their lives and in their actions.

Following a set of ‘not as inspiring as usual’ Rosary meditations for the last First Saturday prayers, the thought came that I should write a new set based on Mary looking at Jesus through each of the Mysteries. The window of time hasn’t yet opened up for that idea to come to fruition, but it will, and when it does you’ll find them at the study group site mentioned above. However, the preliminary ponderings have been really interesting, because for some reason when we pray the Rosary we tend to look at the whole tableau and not directly at the Face of Jesus. Images of the developing Jesus inside Mary’s womb serenely making a connection with Elizabeth and John the Baptist have never flitted inside by head before. Ditto with the face of Jesus happily suckling at Mary’s breast, and the spasms of pain contorting His Face when the crown of thorns begins its tortures. Why is that? All I know is that it is worthwhile pursuing because I am getting to know Jesus in a whole new way.

The last way of contemplating the Face of Christ is in those who suffer. Sometimes this happens up close, face to face, when we see the struggle with physical or emotional pain first-hand. Sometimes all it takes is a phone call from a friend going through an extremely challenging time. When ever anyone is hurting, for whatever reason, they give us a glimpse of Jesus during His Passion; and this is usually the only way that we truly come to appreciate what He has done in suffering to redeem us when we see eyes full of pain, venerable people moving slowly and painfully down the communion procession to receive Jesus in Holy Communion and those struggling for breath despite oxygen machines.

It is more than worthwhile seeking the Face of Christ, so why not try at least one of these ways for yourself?

An article by Mother Adela, of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary, which was written not long after the Jubille Year of 2000, is well worth reading if you would like to pursue Contemplating the Face of Christ further.

6 Oct 2012 : All good things come to those who wait. Just in time for what would normally be the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary – 7 Oct – (if it didn’t fall on a Sunday this year), the four sets of Rosary meditations have been completed. The links to the four blog-posts are given below, and a PDF version of all four is available at the Resources page. While the blog-posts contain pictures, the PDF doesn’t.

http://ofgraceandfaith.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/joyful-mysteries-contemplating-face-of.html

http://ofgraceandfaith.blogspot.com.au/2012/10/luminous-mysteries-contemplating-face.html

http://ofgraceandfaith.blogspot.com.au/2012/09/sorrowful-mysteries-contemplating-face.html

http://ofgraceandfaith.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/glorious-mysteries-contemplating-face.html

 

 

 

 

 

The prayer book of the Saints



The end is in sight. Psalm 144 and counting. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been reading the Book of Psalms sequentially, reading around two pages worth each night. Strange to say, it is the first time I have ever done it. Here’s what I have learned from this interesting spiritual exercise…

Going in I knew that the Psalms are the prayer book of Israel, and they are also the prayer book of the Church. Anyone who prays the full Liturgy of the Hours (Morning prayer, Evening Prayer, Night Prayer, the three sets of Prayer during the day, and the Office of Readings) will pray through most of every Psalm during a 4-week liturgical cycle. I say ‘most of’ because the blood-thirsty bits are routinely left out. 

The first overriding impression is that the majority of the Psalms contain pleas for God’s help against foes and enemies. Quite striking, it is. Logically, if the vast majority of Psalms contain cries for help, then at any one time the vast majority of Jews and Christians are going through difficulties; and not just ordinary difficulties but ‘people hate my guts and want to kill me’ type of difficulties. This should be profoundly disturbing, but it is actually rather consoling, because it indicates that going through a rough patch with work, relationships, health and other things is quite normal. 

Somewhere in the book of ‘The Life and Revelations of St Gertrude the Great’ it talks about praying all the psalms once through, together with some small additional prayers, as a penitential practice that is beneficial towards the holy souls in purgatory. 

At regular intervals, and in surprising places in the Psalms, there are lines that remind us of what Jesus suffered in His Passion. All of these lines were prophetic in the years that Israel waited for Jesus, and now they help us to enter into the inner life of Jesus during His Passion eg ‘In return for my friendship, they denounce me, though all I had done was pray for them ; they pay me back evil for kindness and hatred for friendship. ‘Give him a venal judge, find someone to frame the charge ; let him be tried and found guilty, let his prayer be construed as a crime!’ Psalm 108 (109) 4-7. These bits are the gold nugget rewards sprinkled among the Psalms, just waiting to be found and appreciated. 

In the works of private revelation about the public ministry of Jesus, we read quite frequently that Jesus and the Apostles prayed and sang the Psalms as they journeyed from place to place preaching. Also in the Gospels we read that Jesus left for the Mount of Olives ‘after Psalms had been sung’. (Matt 26:30) I’ve always wondered which Psalms they sang, and which ones were their favourites.

Perhaps it was like those of us who grew up using the ‘Living Parish Hymn Book’, some of the hymns were so familiar that we knew which one it was as soon as we saw the number on the hymn board, others were reserved for special seasons of the liturgical year and feast days, and there were always a few that we’d never heard sung and were unlikely to. Did they always go for the easy Psalms that could be sung in rounds, or were memory games because they were based on the alphabet? Did they ever do the long and complicated ones, like the lengthy Psalm 118 (119) ? or was that one reserved for Temple use when books could be used?

While I’ve been going through all the Psalms and getting acquainted with the ones we rarely use liturgically, I couldn’t help comparing the content of the Psalms to the hymns we sing regularly at Sunday Mass. The Psalms are always addressed to God, some of our hymns are more about us that about God. On reflection it seems to me that the better hymns have a high Psalm content or a good part of the content taken from other places in Scripture. 

As for the blood thirsty bits, they make sense if you substitute evil spirits as the entities that that you’d like to have smashed against a rock, Psalm 136(137) or see red hot embers poured upon. Psalm 139 (140)

The Church values the Psalms highly because they were the prayer book of Jesus, Mary, the Apostles and all of the holy people of the old Testament. That is why holy Mother Church gives us copious helpings every day: The Liturgy of the Word at Mass always contains segments from the Psalms, and the Liturgy of the Hours is the Church’s own prayer book containing Psalms at every Hour.

We need to value them more highly in our own prayer lives, because the Psalms truly are the prayer book of the Saints ; old testament, new testament and all the centuries between then and now. The Psalms, because they are inspired by God, teach us how to pray the way that God wants us to pray. We ignore them at our peril.

If you would like to learn more about the Liturgy of the Hours,  http://www.liturgy.co.nz/ofthehours/introduction.html gives a good simple introduction and http://www.ewtn.com/library/curia/cdwgilh.htm gives a much more involved one. Chapter I in the latter is profound and something every follower of Jesus should read and seek understanding about in prayer.

May all of the Saints who delighted in praying the Psalms, pray for us that we may discover the spiritual treasures they did.

God saves a people



On this day, 3 Jul 2012, when we honour St Thomas, Apostle of Jesus, Prince and foundation stone of the Church (Rev 21:14), it is good to reflect upon the place of the Church in our lives. St Thomas and all the other Apostles are at the throne of God right now interceding for the Church and for each member in it. As the feast days of the Apostles come around each year they remind us that the Christian life is not just ‘me and Jesus.’

Most Tuesdays, since we live on the ‘Pacific Rim’, my son and I sit down and watch an episode of The Journey Home from EWTN. This TV programme gives a testimony about how someone came into the Catholic Church. In recent weeks some of the guests have been talking about how the ‘just me and God’ relationship has the outcome of making the church community an optional extra. Almost everywhere you turn preachers are inviting people into a personal relationship with Jesus. Granted, seeing the life of someone with an active relationship with Jesus is the major reason why people think to themselves, ‘I want what he’s got, ‘I want what she’s got’, and this then becomes the gateway to become open to accepting the saving role of Jesus in their lives. As an evangelistic method, it works brilliantly. However this whole notion that only my personal relationship with Jesus matters isn’t how God sees it, and it isn’t how the Church through the centuries has seen it.

To be saved you have to belong to the People of God. He doesn’t save us as individuals but as a people. Our salvation rests upon the covenant with God, the ancient form of which is ‘I will be your God, and you shall be My people.’ Never in holy Scripture do you find ‘I will be your God, you shall be My person.’ That is why Baptism is so important, because it incorporates us into Jesus and into His Body, and gives us membership of the People of God.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches (169) : ‘Salvation comes from God alone; but because we receive the life of faith through the Church, she is our mother: ‘We believe the Church as the mother of our new birth, and not in the Church as if she were the author of our salvation.’ Because she is our mother, she is also our teacher in the faith.’

The Covenant that God offers His people is something more than marriage, although marriage tends to be the best analogy we have to work with. Eph 5:25 ‘Husbands should love their wives just as Christ loved the Church and sacrificed Himself for her to make her holy.’ Take hold of that notion ‘Christ loved the Church’ ; it is not Christ loved the Individual. And as those who are married will attest, when you get married you don’t only marry your spouse, in a very real sense you marry his or her whole family as well. It is not possible to make a true commitment to Jesus unless you make a commitment to His whole body, the Church, as well. Can you see how very far this is from ‘me and Jesus’?

The problem is that this ‘me and Jesus’ paradigm takes the Church completely out of the equation. It means that a person will go church hopping ( or church shopping) until they find one that will assist and support their relationship with Jesus. With a mind set like that a person is unlikely to see service to the other members as an essential part of the Christian life. You see, other people are supposed to help them improve their own private personal relationship with Jesus. You might get them to help tell other people about Jesus, but they will be unlikely to help put out the chairs, serve on a committee or help with fundraising. Someone infected with ‘me and Jesus’ is not going to be capable of making a long term commitment to a parish community or denomination, and it takes a mighty lot of work to get them to see beyond ‘me and Jesus’. 

If you love Jesus truly, you will love His Church. The welfare of the other members of the Body of Christ for whom He has shed His Precious Blood will be of major importance to you. When we stand up on Sundays and profess our faith together, we say ‘I believe’ not just personally but collectively. Now I’m not knocking the importance of working on a personal relationship with God, but it can’t only be that, we also have to work on our relationships within the Communion of Saints – on earth, in heaven and in purgatory.

As has been said many times before, Catholicism is a ‘both / and’ religion : faith and good works ; pray and work ; fully human and fully divine ; saved and hope to be saved ; virgin and mother; etc. I’m sure you could recall many more. It is our Protestant brothers and sisters who often have an ‘either / or’ outlook on matters. This ‘me and Jesus’ stuff comes from the ‘either / or’ side of the camp. For us the Communion of Saints is a reality so essential we remind ourselves of it in the Creed on a frequent and regular basis, it’s not an optional fellowship extra.

May the good Lord get us back on track, so that when people see us they will want not only a personal relationship with Jesus, but also a vibrant relationship with each member of His Body the Church.

St Thomas, and all holy Apostles, pray for us, and please keep praying for the needs and welfare of holy Mother Church. Amen.

One month into the Year of Grace



Today, 28 Jun 2012, we will do something a little different and reflect upon the first month of the Year of Grace, an initiative of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and approved by Rome for the Church in Australia. Yesterday (27 Jun) marked one calendar month since we celebrated the feast day of Pentecost (27 May) and the beginning of the Year of Grace. It is a little hard to believe that a whole month has gone by already.

As with most initiatives like this, it has had a very slow start. A bookmark with an inspiring prayer was distributed to Australian parishes, although some parishes seem to have received far fewer copies than the numbers of those who attend weekend Masses. Most Australian dioceses have set up extra webpages on their diocesan websites. Some contain little information as yet, others are rapidly providing all sorts of resources and links. The more interesting diocesan websites are for Brisbane, Sydney Archdiocese, Parramatta, and Perth.

I’ve been following the developments rather closely because I’ve been trying to find bloggers writing about the Year of Grace. Even though they exist, they are very hard to find because the search engines return the big diocesan websites first. If you plug in ‘Year of Grace blog’ and go through the first few pages, you’ll see what I mean. Most of the articles early on the search lists are months old. As yet none of the diocesan websites have any regular blogging going on about the Year of Grace.

If you have been browsing through the Resources page on Society of Saints, you may have noticed some PDFs for the ‘Of Grace and Faith’ study group our parish is running for the Year of Grace and for the Year of Faith (which starts later on in the year, in October). Being a part of the study group team for the last 5 weeks has certainly been an exciting way to take hold of some of the Graces flowing past us this year.

For the best part of 2012, we are contemplating the face of Christ in the Gospel of St Mark, which is the Gospel for the majority of Ordinary Time Sundays in 2012. I’ve learned more about Jesus in the last few weeks than I have done in years, and reading Scripture has become an adventure of Grace again. Once we’ve shared about the surprising things we’ve discovered about Jesus then we move into talking about how God’s Grace has been active in our lives – in the past and in the present. Listening to what God has done in the lives of these holy men and women I admire and recalling all that God has done in my life has really added a spring to my steps all week. To conclude, our resident artist shows us two pictures inspired by the Gospel chapter we have been discussing, and then three short stories are shared from the Lives of the Saints which show those Gospel passages in action. 

Summaries of these discussions are being posted each week at www.ofgraceandfaith.blogspot.com  and at the www.xt3.com group ‘Years of Grace and Faith’ (group id 2204). In addition a weekly series is being done about some largely forgotten Sources of Grace. So far posts have been on the Sign of the Cross, Visiting the Blessed Sacrament, the Promise of the Sacred Heart to those homes who have an image in a place of honour and Spiritual Communion. 

What you wouldn’t believe is just how difficult it is to find effective avenues to help people find these online summaries. The majority of people walk past a parish noticeboard without a sideways glance. A notice in the parish bulletin registered a minuscule interest. Placing a notice on the NoticeBoard page of Sydney’s Catholic Weekly produced similar minuscule interest. I freely admit that I often pass over that page without ever reading it myself. I’ve had to come around to thinking that the best way to tell anyone about something new online, is to do it online. How else will we ever manage to contact the people who rarely fill the pews on Sunday, but who are yet thirsting for an experience of God’s Grace? For me, the funniest thing at the moment is that non-Australian readers of www.ofgraceandfaith.blogspot.com are outnumbering Australian readers by about 2 to 1. God bless them all. It is a reminder that God’s Grace likes to flow wherever it is welcomed.

Funny stuff aside, I strongly suspect that the difficulties faced in getting the word out about any of the local, diocesan and national initiatives for the Year of Grace are not just of human origin. The levels of resistance and non co-operation are not just products of apathy but of a spiritual battle to prevent souls from receiving the overflowing abundance of Graces the Lord Jesus has for them in this Year. May I beg your prayers that these barriers of resistance and non co-operation go away?

Where ever you happen to live, please pray that the Year of Grace proves to be a time of profound spiritual renewal for Australia, and please start praying that the soon to begin Year of Faith will be taken seriously by as many individuals and communities as possible.

Our Lady, Help of Christians, pray for us.

All holy Apostles of Jesus, pray for us.

St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, pray for us. 

 

A Heart ignored and forgotten by many



Today, being the Friday after Corpus Christi, 15 Jun 2012, is the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is a day when miracles of love and miracles of mercy occur far more frequently. What great good it does us to be reminded of the immense, tender love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for each one of us!

While most of us can deal with the pains of the body in one way or another, it is the pains of the heart that really debilitate us. Dealing with a broken bone is far easier than coping with rejection from someone we had counted on as a friend. Keeping vigil at the bedside of a sick child is far easier than realising that no one has asked how you and the patient are doing. Visiting the dentist for a ‘scale and clean’ is far easier than hearing a spouse insult us and put us down. The One who really knows all about rejection, indifference and being insulted is Jesus. For a Heart that knows how to console someone with heart-pains, there is none better than His.

How amazing His love and mercy is! He willed that His side be pierced with a lance on the Cross so that every soul would see that His Heart is open to receive them. With what exquisite gentleness He brings healing to the painful wounds of our hearts, if we but let Him near. There is no better friend than Jesus, no better listener, Someone who really is available for us whenever we need Him at any moment of the day or night.

For each and every person Jesus has laid down His life on Calvary, to obtain love and mercy for us. Yet how many multitudes treat their loving Creator and Redeemer as irrelevant to their lives? By so many He is completely ignored and totally forgotten. Can you imagine the depth of sadness that this brings to His tender Heart? That’s why when Our Lady of Fatima told young Bl. Francisco that the Heart of Jesus was deeply offended by our sins, the young boy made it his mission to console the Hidden Jesus in the consecrated hosts of the tabernacle by prayer, keeping Him company and by making reparation for sin by offering up sacrifices. That’s what a good friend does when we are feeling hurt. They listen, they stay close and they do as many things as possible to try and cheer us up, to ease the pain caused by others. 

Most of us are reasonably good at asking the pardon of Jesus for our own sins, but we rarely think about the Heart pains we have given Him. Still rarer do we do any penance for ourselves or to win pardon for others. That’s why for the solemnity of the Sacred Heart, Pope Pius XI put together this rather sublime prayer which awakens us to both the gravity of sins in the world and to our need to console Him via reparation….  

Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Pius XI)

O sweet Jesus, Whose overflowing charity for men is requited by so much forgetfulness, negligence and contempt, behold us prostrate before Your altar, eager to repair by a special act of homage the cruel indifference and injuries, to which Your loving Heart is everywhere subject.

Mindful, alas! that we ourselves have had a share in such great indignities, which we now deplore from the depths of our hearts, we humbly ask Your pardon and declare our readiness to atone by voluntary expiation not only for our own offences, but also for the sins of those, who, straying far from the path of salvation, refuse in their obstinate infidelity to follow You, their Shepherd and Leader, or, renouncing the vows of their baptism, have cast off the sweet yoke of Your law.

We are now resolved to expiate each and every deplorable outrage committed against You ; we are determined to make amends for the manifold offences against Christian modesty in unbecoming dress and behaviour, for all the foul seductions laid to ensnare the feet of the innocent, for the frequent violation of Sundays and holidays, and the shocking blasphemies uttered against You and Your Saints. We wish also to make amends for the insults to which Your Vicar (the Pope) on earth and Your priests are subjected, for the profanation, by conscious neglect or terrible acts of sacrilege, of the very Sacrament of Your divine love ; and lastly, for the public crimes of nations who resist the rights and the teaching authority of the Church which You have founded.  

Would, O divine Jesus, we were able to wash away such abominations with our blood. We now offer, in reparation for these violations of Your divine honour, the satisfaction You once made to Your Eternal Father on the Cross and which You continue to renew daily on our altars ; we offer it in union with the acts of atonement of Your Virgin Mother and all the Saints and of the pious faithful on earth ; and we sincerely promise to make recompense, as far as we can with the help of Your grace, for all the neglect of Your great love and for the sins we and others have committed in the past. Henceforth we will live a life of unwavering faith, of purity of conduct, of perfect observance of the precepts of the Gospel and especially that of charity. We promise to the best of our power to prevent others from offending You and to bring as many as possible to follow You. 

O loving Jesus, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary our model in reparation, deign to receive the voluntary offering we make of this act of expiation ; and by the crowning gift of perseverance keep us faithful until death in our duty and the allegiance we owe to You, so that we may all one day come to that happy home, where You with the Father and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, world without end. Amen.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.

 

The value of asking ‘Why?’



Today, 20 May 2012, throughout Australia we are celebrating Ascension Sunday. In numerous other parts of the world they celebrated it a few days ago on Ascension Thursday. Have you ever wondered why this event in the life of Jesus was deemed so important that we mention it each time we pray the Creed? And why some countries where respect for Holy Days of obligation is weaker than others make sure a Feast Day like this is remembered by everyone who comes to church on Sundays?

These questions only raised themselves a few years back when, as part of the preparation of a small group of First Communicants, I was studying side by side the prayer immediately after the Consecration in all four Eucharistic prayers. In Eucharistic Prayers I, III and IV the Ascension is deliberately mentioned, but not in quickie No. II. It’s worth typing them out, so as to get the full impact.

I. Therefore, O Lord, as we celebrate the memorial of the blessed Passion, the Resurrection from the dead, and the glorious Ascension into Heaven of Christ, Your son, Our Lord, we, Your servants and Your holy people, offer to Your glorious majesty from the gifts that you have given us, this pure victim, this holy victim, this spotless victim, the holy Bread of eternal life and the Chalice of everlasting salvation.

III. Therefore, O Lord, as we celebrate the memorial of the saving Passion of Your Son, His wondrous Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven, and as we look forward to His second coming, we offer You in thanksgiving this holy and living sacrifice.

IV. Therefore, O Lord, as we now celebrate the memorial of our redemption, we remember Christ’s Death, and His descent to the realm of the dead, we proclaim His Resurrection and His Ascension to Your right hand, and, as we await His coming in glory, we offer You His Body and Blood, the sacrifice acceptable to You which brings salvation to the whole world.

How come, I asked myself, I was conscious that at this point in the Mass that we offer to God the life, death and resurrection of His Son, but had failed to listen to the Ascension? It’s in all three Eucharistic Prayers, so it has to be far more important than I realise and on a par with ‘life, death and resurrection’ and not an optional extra.

Resolved to understand the importance of the Ascension better, I studied how the Church Herself saw it by looking at the the Office of Readings; the prayers and antiphons for Morning and Evening Prayer; the Opening prayer and other Proper prayers for the Mass of the Ascension, and what the Catechism of the Catholic Church had to say (passages 659-667).

One of the Opening prayers speaks of the Ascension being ‘our glory and our hope’.

Pope St Leo the Great helped us to understand this when he wrote, ‘When the Lord departs for heaven, they (the Apostles and disciples) are not saddened but filled with joy. And did they not have great cause for joy? As the disciples looked on, man was ascending beyond the angelic orders, beyond archangelic heights. Having been united to God’s nature in His Son, man now shared the Son’s glory at the Father’s throne.’

St Augustine put it this way, ‘Christ descended from heaven out of mercy to us, and though He alone ascends, we also ascend, for we are one with Him through grace. We are not claiming for the Body the dingity of the Head, but we are assured that the Body is inseparable from the Head’ and ‘ Though He is there, He is also with us; though we are here, we are also with Him. He is with us though divine power and love; we have no divine power, but we can be with Him through love.’ 

The Catechism, referring to one of the Prefaces for the Ascension, paragraph 661 says, ‘Left to its own natural powers humanity does not have access to the ‘Father’s house’, to God’s life and happiness. Only Christ can open to man such access that we, his members, might have confidence that we too shall go where He, our Head and our Sources, has preceded us.’

The Reading for Evening Prayer 1 is from Ephesians 2:4-6 gives us a glimpse of the greatness of the promise that Jesus has given us in His Ascension. ‘God’s Mercy is so abundant, and his love for us is so great, that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience He brought us to life with Christ; it is by God’s grace that you have been saved. In our union with Christ Jesus He raised us up with Him to rule with Him in the heavenly world.’

So the Ascension truly is our glory, our hope and cause for great joy. I remain ever so thankful to God for raising the ‘Why?’ question in me, because the answers continue to blow my mind with God’s love, providence, generosity and mercy; and because I will never celebrate the Ascension in a ‘ho-hum’ way ever again.

Thank you, Jesus for remaining with us, as you promised, to the end of days through Your presence in the Blessed Sacrament and in Your priests.

Our Lady, and all the holy Apostles and early disciples who witnessed the wonder of the Ascension of Jesus, pray for us.

Approaching death with faith



In recent times I have begun reading ‘Heaven’s homecoming’, a collection of stories compiled by Fr Douglas McKay about the extraordinary people God brought him into contact with in a Catholic nursing home. Although I have only read three of the stories thus far, they have shown the depths of God’s tenderness in granting each one the ‘perfect end’ that they ardently desired.

The book is obtained easiest from Amazon Kindle, but there also seem to be printed page versions coming onto the market.  

To be able to assist the dying on their journey home is one of the greatest vocations ever. At no other time are souls in such urgent need of spiritual help than at the point of death. The Catholic nursing home in this book is run by the Little Sisters of the Poor founded by St Jeanne Jugan. The Little Company of Mary founded by Venerable Mary Potter has a similar ministry to the dying. Witnessing the conscious preparations for the Great Meeting undertaken by others helps us greatly prepare for our own.

The first story is about Angie. She viewed death as her long awaited meeting with her bridegroom Jesus. As such she looked forward to it, and Jesus responded to that desire by giving her presentiments of that Meeting. For her bridegroom she wanted to look her absolute best. The day before she had her hair done, and in happy expectation put on her best clothes and finery. Indeed her Bridegroom did come swiftly and she was ready. Presentiments of the time, place and manner of death are not unusual in the lives of the Saints – particularly for those with an intense longing for heaven.

The second story is about Betty. This precious soul had, over the years, been taught directly by Jesus through holy dreams. In one of those dreams He had shown her how beautiful the hands of a priest are, and she had never forgotten it. Her wish was, that when her time came, that a priest would be there to lay his consecrated hands on her head as she breathed her last. Indeed, the good Lord arranged this for her, and granted her a most gentle death.

The third story is about Sr Christine. This inspiring religious had the gift of holy boldness. With this gift the Lord used her to obtain funds and goods for the works of mercy her Order undertook. Underpinning this gift was her enormous faith in the power of persistent prayer to move God’s Heart. May the good Lord raise up many more like her, who are just as successful in getting priests to return to wearing clerical dress. When her time was close she sought from the priest the Sacrament of the Annointing of the Sick. Her desire was that she would be alone when the Lord Jesus came for her, and that desire was granted.

I look forward to reading the rest of the stories.

Preparing for death is something that most of us put off until it stares us squarely in the face. Our preparations can, and should, begin now, because when that Meeting happens perhaps it will come without warning or when we are not conscious of its approach. So here is a beautiful prayer from the treasury of the Church to start (or continue) your own preparations with…

Three Offerings of Thanksgiving to obtain a Good Death.

1. We offer to the Most Holy Trinity the merits of Jesus Christ, in thanksgiving for the Most Precious Blood which He shed in the Garden for us; and through those merits we beseech His Divine Majesty for pardon for our sins. Our Father… Hail Mary… Glory Be…

2. We offer to the Most Holy Trinity the merits of Jesus Christ, in thanksgiving for His most precious Death endured on the Cross for us ; and through these merits we beseech His Divine Majesty for the remission of the pains due to our sins. Our Father… Hail Mary… Glory Be…

3. We offer to the Most Holy Trinity the merits of Jesus Christ, in thanksgiving for His unspeakable charity, in descending from heaven to earth to take human flesh, and to suffer and die for us upon the Cross ; and by those merits we beseech His Divine Majesty to bring our souls to the glory of heaven after our death. Our Father… Hail Mary… Glory Be…

May the good Lord, when our time comes, grant us a quiet night and a perfect end. Jesus, I trust in You. 

St Jeane Jugan, pray for us.

Ven. Mary Potter, pray for us.

May the Mercy of God be praised!



Today, Divine Mercy Sunday 2012, all over the world men, women and children have responded to the appeal of the Mercifiul Heart of Jesus and have venerated His immense Mercy and implored this same Mercy to be poured out upon countless souls. Let us thank Him for the oceans of grace that have been granted to souls, and for all the answers that God is granting our prayers for His Mercy, today.

What happiness for those who were able to take part in celebrating God’s Mercy today! What sadness and loss for those were not given this opportunity or who chose not to take part! Who wouldn’t want to take the Lord Jesus up on His promise?……

‘My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable Mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender Mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My Mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender Mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will contemplate My Love and Mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy.’ Jesus to St Faustina, ‘Divine Mercy in my soul’, passage 699

Which priest would not want to resolve to spread the messages of Divine Mercy far and wide after reading what Jesus told St Faustina about Fr Sopocko who worked to spread the news about the Divine Mercy revelations?….

‘He is a priest after My own Heart; his efforts are pleasing to Me. You see, My daughter, that My Will must be done and that which I promised you, I shall do. Through him I spread comfort to suffering and careworn souls. Through him it pleased Me to proclaim the worship of My Mercy. And through this work of Mercy more souls will come close to Me than otherwise would have, even if he had kept giving absolution day and night for the rest of his life, because by doing so, he would have laboured only for as long as he lived; whereas, thanks to this work of Mercy, he will be labouring till the end of the world.‘ ibid. passage 1256.

‘Tell My priests that hardened sinners will repent on hearing their words when they speak about My unfathomable Mercy, about the compassion I have for them in My heart. To priests who proclaim and extol My Mercy, I will give wondrous power; I will anoint their words and touch the hearts of those to whom they will speak.’ ibid. passage 1521

Today the Easter octave is crowned with explosions of grace emanating from the Merciful Heart of Jesus. Today souls are invited to taste and see the fruits of the redemption that Jesus won for us. Today souls that were as corpses have been raised to glorious life through the wondrous Sacrament of Penance. Today graces of conversion have been poured out in abundance. Miracles of healing, and of the reconciling of spouses and other family relationships, have abounded. Let us give thanks to God. Let us praise Him for each and every miracle of Mercy granted today!

Our task now is to live in full response to the Mercy that we have received and venerated. 

…I demand frrom you deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to your neighbours always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse and absolve yourself from it. I am giving you three ways of exercising mercy towards your neighbour: the first—by deed, the second—by word, the third—by prayer. In these three degrees is contained the fullness of mercy, and it is an unquestionable proof of love for Me. By this means a soul glorifies and pays reverence to My mercy. Yes, the first Sunday after Easter is the Feast of Mercy, but there must also be acts of mercy, and I demand the worship of My mercy through the solemn celebration of the Feast and through the veneration of the image which is painted. By means of this image I shall grant many graces to souls. It is to be a reminder of the demands of My mercy, because even the strongest faith is of no avail without works.’ ibid. passage 742.

Thank you Lord Jesus for all that You have taught us through these grace filled days of the novena leading up to the Feast of Divine Mercy. Grant that we may make Your intentions our intentions. Your Mercy can transform our mediocrity into sanctity, and all of our mourning into dancing. Please do so.

Jesus, I trust in You.