27 February 2010


Lent Su Wk 2 Yr C

Recently I stumbled across an interesting perspective on St Luke’s account of the Transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain and it is simply this: what time of day did it occur? Was it, as I have long suspected, daytime or was it, in fact, night-time? To some extent the evidence is not compelling and I don’t propose, here, to go into all the details, but it does serve as a gentle reminder that we do well to ponder and contemplate the Word of God. To paraphrase: The Word of God is for Life, not just for Christmas.

Such contemplation is, of course, prayer. During this season of Lent (it’s obviously not Christmas now) we are asked not only to fast and to give alms (which we are hopefully all about to do for the CAFOD Family Fast Day) but we are also asked to pray. This might be simply popping into church to light a candle every now and then during the weeks before Easter. It might be following the Walk With Me booklet and its excellent daily prayer reflection. It might just be saying ‘thank you’ to God from time to time. To some extent, it just matters that you ensure you raise your heart and mind to God.

Jesus teaches us to pray, not only by the greatest of all prayers, the Our Father, but also and importantly through his example. Notice again, whether it be night of daytime, at the start of the Transfiguration Jesus is found to be taking his three faithful disciples, Peter and John and James, up the mountain to pray and it is as he prayed that he is changed. Prayer, without doubt, will change our lives too. If only we believe it. Prayer is so central to who we are and what we are about. “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing” is how Martin Luther King put it. Prayer takes us away from ourselves and puts us into the realm of the other. In a world which incessantly tells us that we are the most important person in our lives, prayer reminds us that this is simply not true.

Think, for a moment, about listening to the news: when you heard of the awful tragedy of 9/11; Darfur in 2004; the tsunami of the same year and, just recently, the earthquakes in Haiti and now Chile. Was it yourself you thought about? Or was it for the victims of the tragedy? Did you not reach out, spiritually at least, and ask God to be present in the mess of life? Such is the power of the simple expression: “I’ll pray for you” that you can find yourself dismissed from work, ostracised by the people you know and left wondering why you bother and yet bother we must.

Ghandi once said: “Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one's weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” This is often our prayer in the face of adversity. We do not know how to pray and yet we turn with confidence to our merciful Father who consoles us with the truth of his Son. God just wants us to pray in whatever way we can.

As a priest I daily meet people who ask for my prayers. People do believe in the power of prayer, they are living examples of the efficacy of prayer. I know prayer works, and yet I struggle. I struggle to make time for prayer, I struggle to know how to pray and I even struggle to know what to pray about first and so my prayer, this day, is simply this: Lord, help me to pray. Help me, whether it be night or day, to look upon your face and see the wonder of your glory. Lord, just help me to pray.

Are you called to be a priest?

This video, coming from the Congregation for the Clergy, is most inspiring. Give them a watch, or direct someone you know who may be called to the priesthood to check them out. I suspect many young men will find this video not only inspiring, but perhaps even compelling.

HM Television, who have produced the video, are saying:

HM Television, together with the Holy Sees Congregation for the Clergy, presents Alter Christus, a fast-paced film on the many aspects of the priesthood in the life of the Church. Centered on the life of St. John Vianney, the topics covered range from the Priestly Identity to the Sacraments, from Celibacy to the Mission.

My own comment is simply this - perhaps there is an over emphasis on the priest as Alter Christus and perhaps more should be made of the priest in persona Christi but it's a minor-ish point given the quality and reach of the video. It's excellent on the supernatural aspects of priesthood.

26 February 2010

Stations of the Cross with Mary and with children

Whilst I'm sure that many of us are engaged in making the 'way of the cross' or doing the Stations over the weeks of Lent, I have been particularly struck by two aspects.

Firstly, we have begun to bring the children of our schools over to Church to do the stations. This has necessitated finding child-friendly stations in our current climate. Though I recall, as a child, doing the stations on a Friday afternoon and they were the Alphonsus Liguori set, here. For this reason, we have spent the first week of Lent just concentrating on learning the opening versicle for each station. We plan to build up the children's confidence and knowledge over the weeks of Lent.

Secondly, we have used a couple of meditative sets of Stations based on praying with Mary, or walking the way with Mary. Personally, these have been very powerful, spiritually at least, and often quite dramatic. I can highly recommend the Praying the Stations with Mary the Mother of Jesus, written by Richard Furey and published by Twenty-Third Publications. You can get them in most good Catholic bookstores, but on amazon (.co.uk at least) I can only find them in Spanish, here. St Paul's didn't seem to carry them, but I'm sure if you look around their website you may find them - if not there's plenty to grab your attention for Lent, here.

Whichever Stations you're using, or not as the case may be, I pray that your Lenten observance continues to be nourishing you as we journey with Jesus towards Jerusalem.

24 February 2010

Art in Lent

You recall I said about The Crescat... blog running a series of Art works through the season of Lent? Go take a look at today's, here. I think you'll know why I'm a happy bunny.

Codex Sinaiticus

Currently I'm down in London, visiting the British Library, where I hope to see the Codex Sinaiticus. It has it's own website - www.codexsinaiticus.org/en - where you can find out all about it this important early work. The website reports:

Codex Sinaiticus is one of the most important books in the world. Handwritten well over 1600 years ago, the manuscript contains the Christian Bible in Greek, including the oldest complete copy of the New Testament. Its heavily corrected text is of outstanding importance for the history of the Bible and the manuscript – the oldest substantial book to survive Antiquity – is of supreme importance for the history of the book.

Sr Teresa, who is a nun of the Sisters of Charity of St Paul the Apostle, the Selly Park sisters, taught us Greek whilst at seminary. She often raved about coming here and so, today, I'm making the pilgrimage in her honour. Please do pray for her and for all the sisters in Birmingham, indeed across the world, who work tirelessly under the patronage of the Apostle to the Gentiles.

23 February 2010

English Catholic Heroines

If you are looking for a good, relatively quick, read then you could do no worse than pick up a copy of English Catholic Heroines, edited by Joanna Bogle and published by Gracewing. Follow the link here to buy direct from the publisher which includes a 10% discount. Gracewing say:

In this book a group of distinguished authors with varying interests champion the achievements of twenty-three seminal figures in the history of the English Church, from the seventh century to the present day, who through their Catholic witness have made a contribution to the spiritual, intellectual, ethical and physical welfare of the nation which can be fairly described as "heroic". Includes chapters on: St.Hilda and St.Etheldreda, Julian of Norwich, St.Margaret Clitherow, M Elizabeth Hayes, and Elinor Brent-Dyer.

The book accompanies the English Catholic Heroes edition, edited by John Jolliffe, which was also riveting stuff. The books present each of the heroes (or heroines as the case may be) in bite size chunks, very accessible and surprisingly addictive. Being more a dipper than a reader the books cater for those with busy schedules.

Of particular note, and my first dip this time around, was the chapter by Dr Judith Champ who has written on Margaret Hallahan. Margaret, it turns out, was a most determined and yet seemingly gentle woman who worked hard with William Bernard Ullathorne (later Bishop of Birmingham) at St Osburg’s parish in Coventry. Being the first tertiary Dominican in England she was, undoubtedly, a trail-blazer.

Now it happens that I was chatting with Dr Champ at my alma mater today and it was this conversation that put me in mind to write this post. If you happen to be passing a good Catholic bookstore, or want to get it on line, I highly recommend the book and don’t imagine you will be disappointed.

22 February 2010

L’ Osservatore Romano

Having just taken out a subscription to the semi-official Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, this article from Jeffrey Miller's blog The Curt Jester caused me to pause for thought. Rock's not really my thing, but it is interesting to consider what the Vatican's official top-ten for hits from the 80s might be. Now you're talking. Any takers to compile one? It's an excellent front cover, pictured, and now I just cannot wait for it to arrive on the doorstep.

21 February 2010

Opening Prayer

Lent Su Wk 1 Yr C

Through our observance of Lent, help us to understand the meaning of your Son’s death and resurrection, and teach us to reflect it in our lives. This is the opening prayer to our Mass. This is what the Church is asking us to pray for. This is why we are here!

What do we mean by observance of Lent? The dictionary says it is “The act or practice of observing or complying with a law, custom, command, or rule.” In other words, it is what we do, not simply what we think. We enter into Lent in how we act. So our prayer presumes that we are acting at this time and we ask Our Lord to aid us now through our actions, whatever they are.

We pray that through our actions the Lord will aid us in our understanding and very specifically in our understanding of Jesus’ death and resurrection. This point is crucial. We seek to deepen our awareness, and ultimately, our appreciation of not simply the events that unfolded 2,000 thousand years ago but what it meant then and, for us today, what it means now. We seek to see our place within the economy of salvation. Though we are little less than Gods, our understanding is centred in Time and Space. This is why literally walking the way of the cross is so helpful at this time of year. We can relive and know better the Son’s death and resurrection through our actions, through our observance.

We all of us have tough choices to make. We all of us feel a certain resonance with Christ in the desert. We all us are tempted. Our model of virtue is, not surprisingly, Jesus. Oscar Wilde famously wrote, in Lady Windermere’s Fan, “I can resist anything but temptation.” A good drama, I’ll give you, but as a sound-bite for life, what utter drivel. Of course we can resist temptation! The inspiring English poet, Robert Browning, wrote: Why comes temptation, but for man to meet and master and crouch beneath his foot, and so be pedestaled in triumph? Jesus, resisting temptation in the desert, still had to endure the cross and so be raised from the dead. We may resist temptation, yet still we face a difficult path but, nonetheless, would you rather be like Jesus, or would you prefer Oscar Wilde as your role model?

But we digress. Our prayer, our opening prayer, asks that the Lord teach us to reflect in our lives the Son’s death and resurrection and its meaning. So we pray the Lord to place upon our lives the framework of the cross. As the deacon said “A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke” we made the sign of the cross on our forehead, on our lips and on our heart. Perhaps we even thought: Lord, be on my mind, on my lips and in my heart. The cross is so central to whom we are and it is through the cross that our lives have meaning; it is how we reflect the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection. As we genuflect before each of the station we say together: Because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world.

We’re now four days into our annual time in the desert or 10% for those who like statistics. With 36 to go it may seem like there’s plenty of time but really there isn’t. Ask the Lord to help you through your observance, don’t be surprised when you get a taste of the cross and listen carefully as he reveals himself in all His mystery!

20 February 2010

Pope's impressive words.

Zenit, as ever, are carrying Pope Benedict's address to the Roman seminarians on their website. If you have just a few minutes, they are worth pondering and to save the link, I'm posting them below. It is lent, so go on, have a ponder...

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 19, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered Feb. 12 upon visiting the Roman Major Seminary on the feast of Our Lady of Trust.

* * *

Your Eminence,
Your Excellencies,
Dear Friends,

Every year it is a great joy to me to be with the seminarians of the Diocese of Rome, young men who are preparing themselves to respond to the Lord's call to be labourers in his vineyard and priests of his mystery. This is the joy of seeing that the Church lives, that the Church's future is also present in our region and, precisely, also in Rome.

In this Year for Priests let us be particularly attentive to the Lord's words about our service. The Gospel Passage that has just been read speaks indirectly but profoundly of our sacrament, of our call to be in the Lord's vineyard, to be servants of his mystery.

In this brief passage we find certain key words that give an idea of the proclamation that the Lord wishes to make with this text. "Abide": in this short passage we find the word "abide" ten times. We then find the new commandment: "Love one another as I have loved you" , "No longer do I call you servants... but friends", "bear fruit"; and lastly, "Ask, and it will be given you... that your joy may be full".

Let us pray to the Lord that he may help us enter into the meaning of his words, that these words may penetrate our hearts, thus becoming in us the way and life, with us and through us.

The first words are: "Abide in me... in my love". Abiding in the Lord is fundamental as the first topic of this passage. Abide: where? In love, in the love of Christ, in being loved and in loving the Lord. The whole of chapter 15 explains where we are to abide, because the first eight verses explain and present the Parable of the Vine: "I am the vine, you are the branches". The vine is an Old Testament image that we find in both the Prophets and the Psalms and it has a double meaning: It is a parable for the People of God which is his vineyard. He planted a vine in this world, he tended this vine, he tended his vineyard, he protected his vineyard and what was his intention? It was of course to produce fruit, to harvest the precious gift of grapes, of good wine.

And thus the second meaning appears: Wine is a symbol, the expression of the joy of love. The Lord created his people to find the answer to his love. This image of the vine, of the vineyard thus has a spousal meaning, it is an expression of the fact that God seeks his creature's love, through his Chosen People he wants to enter into a relationship of love, a spousal relationship with the world.

Then, however, history proved to be a history of infidelity: Instead of precious grapes, only small "inedible fruits" are produced. The response of this great love is not forthcoming, this unity, this unconditional union between man and God in the communion of love does not come about, man withdraws into himself, he wants to keep himself to himself, he wants to have God for himself, he wants the world for himself. Consequently the vineyard is devastated, the boar from the forest and all the enemies arrive and the vineyard becomes a wilderness.

But God does not give up. God finds a new way of reaching a free, irrevocable love, the fruit of this love, the true grape: God becomes man, and thus he himself becomes the root of the vine, he himself becomes the vine and so the vine becomes indestructible. This people of God cannot be destroyed for God himself has entered it, he has put down roots in this land. The new People of God is truly founded in God himself who becomes man and thus calls us to be the new vine in him and to abide in him, to dwell in him.

Let us also bear in mind that in chapter 6 of John's Gospel we find the Discourse of the Bread that becomes the great Discourse on the Eucharistic mystery. In this chapter 15 we have the Discourse on the Vine: the Lord does not speak explicitly of the Eucharist. Naturally, however, behind the mystery of the wine is the reality that he has made himself fruit and wine for us, that his Blood is the fruit of the love born from the earth for ever and, in the Eucharist, this Blood becomes our blood, we are renewed, we receive a new identity because Christ's Blood becomes our blood. Thus we are related to God in the Son and, in the Eucharist, this great reality of life in which we are branches joined to the Son and thereby in union with eternal love becomes our reality.

"Abide": Abide in this great mystery, abide in this new gift of the Lord that has made us a people in itself, in his Body and with his Blood. It seems to me that we must meditate deeply on this mystery, that is, that God makes himself Body, one with us; Blood, one with us; that we may abide abide in this mystery in communion with God himself, in this great history of love that is the history of true happiness. In meditating on this gift God made himself one of us and at the same time he made us all one, a single vine we must also begin to pray so that this mystery may penetrate our minds and hearts ever more deeply and that we may be ever more capable of living the greatness of the mystery and thus begin to put this imperative: "abide" into practice.

If we continue to read this Gospel passage attentively, we also find a second imperative: "abide", and "observe my commandments".

"Observe" only comes second. "Abide" comes first, at the ontological level, namely that we are united with him, he has given himself to us beforehand and has already given us his love, the fruit. It is not we who must produce the abundant fruit; Christianity is not moralism, it is not we who must do all that God expects of the world but we must first of all enter this ontological mystery: God gives himself. His being, his loving, precedes our action and, in the context of his Body, in the context of being in him, being identified with him and ennobled with his Blood, we too can act with Christ.

Ethics are a consequence of being: first the Lord gives us new life, this is the great gift. Being precedes action and from this being action then follows, as an organic reality, for we can also be what we are in our activity. Let us thus thank the Lord for he has removed us from pure moralism; we cannot obey a prescribed law but must only act in accordance with our new identity. Therefore it is no longer obedience, an external thing, but rather the fulfilment of the gift of new life.

I say it once again: Let us thank the Lord because he goes before us, he gives us what we must give, and we must then be, in the truth and by virtue of our new being, protagonists of his reality. Abiding and observing: Observing is the sign of abiding and abiding is the gift that he gives us but which must be renewed every day of our lives.

Next comes this new commandment: "Love one another as I have loved you". There is no greater love than this, "that a man lay down his life for his friends". What does this mean? Here too it is not a question of moralism. Some might say: "It is not a new commandment; the commandment to love one's neighbour as oneself already exists in the Old Testament".

Others say: "This love should be even more radicalized; this love of others must imitate Christ who gave himself for us; it must be a heroic love, to the point of the gift of self".

In this case, however, Christianity would be a heroic moralism. It is true that we must reach the point of this radicalism of love which Christ showed to us and gave for us, but here too the true newness is not what we do, the true newness is what he did: The Lord gave us himself, and the Lord gave us the true newness of being members of his Body, of being branches of the vine that he is. Therefore, the newness is the gift, the great gift, and from the gift, from the newness of the gift, also follows, as I have said, the new action.

St. Thomas Aquinas says this very succinctly when he writes: "The New Law is the grace of the Holy Spirit" (Summa Theologiae, i-iiae, q.106 a. 1). The New Law is not another commandment more difficult than the others: The New Law is a gift, the New Law is the presence of the Holy Spirit imparted to us in the sacrament of Baptism, in Confirmation, and given to us every day in the Most Blessed Eucharist. The Fathers distinguished here between "sacramentum" and "exemplum". "Sacramentum" is the gift of the new being, and this gift also becomes an example for our action, but "sacramentum" precedes it and we live by the sacrament. Here we see the centrality of the sacrament which is the centrality of the gift.

Let us proceed in our reflection. The Lord says: "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you".

No longer servants who obey orders, but friends who know, who are united in the same will, in the same love. Hence the newness is that God has made himself known, that God has shown himself, that God is no longer the unknown God, sought but not found or only perceived from afar. God has shown himself: In the Face of Christ we see God, God has made himself "known", and has thereby made us his friends.

Let us think how, in humanity's history, in all the archaic religions, it is known that there is a God. This knowledge is deeply rooted in the human heart, the knowledge that God is one, that deities are not "the" God. Yet this God remains very distant, he does not seem to make himself known, he does not make himself loved, he is not a friend, but is remote. Religions, therefore, were not very concerned with this God, concrete life was concerned with the spirits that we meet every day and with which we must reckon daily. God remained distant.

Then we see the great philosophical movement: Let us think of Plato and Aristotle who began to understand that this God is the agathon, goodness itself, that he is the eros that moves the world; yet this remains a human thought, it is an idea of God that comes close to the truth but it is an idea of ours and God remains the hidden God.

A Regensburg professor recently wrote to me, a professor of physics who had read my Discourse to the University very late. He wrote to tell me that he could not agree, or not fully, with my logic. He said:

"Of course, the idea is convincing that the rational structure of the world demands a creative reason that made this rationality which is not explained by itself". And he continued: "But if a demiurge can exist", this is how he put it, "a demiurge seems to me certain by what you say, I do not see that there is a God who is good, just and merciful. I can see that there is a reason that precedes the rationality of the cosmos, but I cannot see the rest".

Thus God remains hidden to him. It is a reason that precedes our reasoning, our rationality, the rationality of being, but eternal love does not exist, the great mercy that gives us life does not exist.

And here, in Christ, God showed himself in his total truth, he showed that he is reason and love, that eternal reason is love and thus creates. Unfortunately, today too, many people live far from Christ, they do not know his face and thus the eternal temptation of dualism, which is also hidden in this professor's letter, is constantly renewed, in other words perhaps there is not only one good principle but also a bad principle, a principle of evil; perhaps the world is divided and there are two equally strong realities and the Good God is only part of the reality. Today, even in theology, including Catholic theology, this thesis is being disseminated: That God is not almighty. Thus an apology is sought for God who would not, therefore, be responsible for the great store of evil we encounter in the world. But what a feeble apology! A God who is not almighty! Evil is not in his hands! And how could we possibly entrust ourselves to this God? How could we be certain of his love if this love ended where the power of evil began?

However, God is no longer unknown: In the Face of the Crucified Christ we see God and we see true omnipotence, not the myth of omnipotence. For us human beings, almightiness, power, is always identified with the capacity to destroy, to do evil. Nevertheless the true concept of omnipotence that appears in Christ is precisely the opposite: In him true omnipotence is loving to the point that God can suffer: Here his true omnipotence is revealed, which can even go as far as a love that suffers for us. And thus we see that he is the true God and the true God, who is love, is power: the power of love. And we can trust ourselves to his almighty love and live in this, with this almighty love.

I think we should always meditate anew on this reality, that we should thank God because he has shown himself, because we know his Face, we know him face to face; no longer like Moses who could only see the back of the Lord.

This too is a beautiful idea of which St. Gregory of Nyssa said: "Seeing only his back, means that we must always follow Christ". But at the same time God showed us his Countenance with Christ, his Face. The curtain of the temple was torn. It opened, the mystery of God is visible. The first commandment that excludes images of God because they might only diminish his reality is changed, renewed, taking another form. Today we can see God's Face in Christ the man, we can have an image of Christ and thus see who God is.

I think that those who have understood this, who have been touched by this mystery, that God has revealed himself, that the curtain of the temple has been torn asunder, that he has shown his Face, find a source of permanent joy. We can only say "thank you. Yes, now we know who you are, who God is and how to respond to him".

And I think that this joy of knowing God who has shown himself, to the depths of his being, also embraces the joy of communicating this: those who have understood this, who live touched by this reality, must do as the first disciples did when they went to their friends and brethren saying: "We have found the one of whom the Prophets spoke. He is present now".

Mission is not an external appendix to the faith but rather the dynamism of faith itself. Those who have seen, who have encountered Jesus, must go to their friends and tell them: "We have found him, he is Jesus, the One who was Crucified for us".

Then, continuing, the text says: "I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide". With this we return to the beginning, to the image, to the Parable of the Vine: it is created to bear fruit. And what is the fruit? As we have said, the fruit is love. In the Old Testament, with the Torah as the first stage of God's revelation of himself, the fruit was understood as justice, that is, living in accordance with the Word of God, living in accordance with God's will, hence, living well.

This continues but at the same time is transcended: True justice does not consist in obedience to a few norms, rather it is love, creative love that finds in itself the riches and abundance of good.

Abundance is one of the key words of the New Testament. God himself always gives in abundance. In order to create man, he creates this abundance of an immense cosmos; to redeem man he gives himself, in the Eucharist he gives himself.

And anyone who is united with Christ, who is a branch of the Vine and who abides by this law does not ask: "Can I still do this or not?", "Should I do this or not?". Rather, he lives in the enthusiasm of love that does not ask: "Is this still necessary or is it forbidden?", but simply, in the creativity of love, wants to live with Christ and for Christ and give his whole self to him, thus entering into the joy of bearing fruit.

Let us also bear in mind that the Lord says: "I chose you and appointed you that you should go": This is the dynamism that dwells in Christ's love; to go, in other words not to remain alone for me, to see my perfection, to guarantee eternal beatification for me, but rather to forget myself, to go as Christ went, to go as God went from the immensity of his majesty to our poverty, to find fruit, to help us, to give us the possibility of bearing the true fruit of love. The fuller we are of this joy in having discovered God's Face, the more real will the enthusiasm of love in us be and it will bear fruit.

And finally, we come to the last words in this passage: "Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you": a brief catechesis on prayer that never ceases to surprise us. Twice in this chapter 15 the Lord says: "Ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you", and he says it once more in chapter 16.

And we want to say: "But no, Lord it is not true". There are so many good and deeply-felt prayers of mothers who pray for a dying child which are not heard, so many prayers that something good will happen and the Lord does not grant it. What does this promise mean? In chapter 16 the Lord offers us the key to understanding it: He tells us what he gives us, what all this is, chara, joy. If someone has found joy he has found all things and sees all things in the light of divine love. Like St. Francis, who wrote the great poem on creation in a bleak situation, yet even there, close to the suffering Lord, he rediscovered the beauty of being, the goodness of God and composed this great poem.

It is also useful to remember at the same time some verses of Luke's Gospel, in which the Lord, in a parable, speaks of prayer, saying, "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" .

The Holy Spirit, in the Gospel according to Luke, is joy, in John's Gospel he is the same reality: joy is the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is joy or, in other words from God we do not ask something small or great, from God we invoke the divine gift, God himself; this is the great gift that God gives us: God himself.

In this regard we must learn to pray, to pray for the great reality, for the divine reality, so that God may give us himself, may give us his Spirit and thus we may respond to the demands of life and help others in their suffering. Of course he teaches us the "Our Father". We can pray for many things. In all our needs we can pray: "Help me!". This is very human and God is human, as we have seen; therefore it is right to pray God also for the small things of our daily lives.

However, at the same time, prayer is a journey, I would say flight of stairs: We must learn more and more what it is that we can pray for and what we cannot pray for because it is an expression of our selfishness.

I cannot pray for things that are harmful for others, I cannot pray for things that help my egoism, my pride. Thus prayer, in God's eyes, becomes a process of purification of our thoughts, of our desires.

As the Lord says in the Parable of the Vine: We must be pruned, purified, every day; living with Christ, in Christ, abiding in Christ, is a process of purification and it is only in this process of slow purification, of liberation from ourselves and from the desire to have only ourselves, that the true journey of life lies and the path of joy unfolds.

As I have already said, all the Lord's words have a sacramental background. The fundamental background for the Parable of the Vine is Baptism: We are implanted in Christ; and the Eucharist: We are one loaf, one body, one blood, one life with Christ. Thus this process of purification also has a sacramental background: The sacrament of Penance, of Reconciliation, in which we accept this divine pedagogy which day by day, throughout our life, purifies us and increasingly makes us true members of his Body. In this way we can learn that God responds to our prayers, that he often responds with his goodness also to small prayers, but often too he corrects them, transforms them and guides them so that we may at last and really be branches of his Son, of the true vine, members of his Body.

Let us thank God for the greatness of his love, let us pray that he may help us to grow in his love and truly to abide in his love.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

19 February 2010

Tomorrow we celebrate: Blessed Jacinta and Francisco Marto

It was good to read, today, a reminder that tomorrow we celebrate two of the three children of Fatima. Thanks to ICN for this. They write:

Visionaries. Between 13 May and 13 October 1917, three children, Jacinta, Francisco and Lucia, Portuguese shepherds from Aljustrel, saw apparitions of Our Lady at Cova da Iria, near Fatima, a city 110 miles north of Lisbon.

At that time, Europe was involved in an extremely bloody war. Portugal itself was in political turmoil, having overthrown its monarchy in 1910; the government disbanded religious organizations soon after.

During the first appearance, Mary asked the children to return to that spot on the thirteenth of each month for the next six months. She also asked them to learn to read and write and to pray the rosary "to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war." They were to pray for sinners and for the conversion of Russia, which had recently overthrown Czar Nicholas II and was soon to fall under communism. Up to 90,000 people gathered for Mary's final apparition on October 13, 1917.

Less than two years later, in 1919, Francisco died of influenza in his family home. He was 11. He was buried in the parish cemetery and then re-buried in the Fatima basilica in 1952. Jacinta died the next year of influenza in Lisbon. She was just 10. During her illness she offering her suffering for the conversion of sinners, peace in the world and the Holy Father. She was re-buried in the Fatima basilica in 1951.

Their cousin, Lucia dos Santos, became a Carmelite nun and was still living when Jacinta and Francisco were beatified in 2000. She died on 13 February 2005. This year, on the third anniversary of her death, at a special Mass in the cathedral of Coimbra, Portugal, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins CMF, president of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, announced that an exception was being made so that the usual five-year wait could be waived and the diocesan stage of the cause for her beatification would begin.

The shrine of Our Lady of Fatima is visited by up to 20 million people a year and is particularly dedicated to prayers for peace and reconciliation.

This coming autumn our parish will be making a pilgrimage to Fatima. Please do remember us in your prayers.

Oscott and its life.

Just yesterday my email contained a great link to a new video about life in seminary. Oscott, or at least some of her students and staff, star in a short video put together by the Birmingham Vocations Team. It is accessible on the Year for Priests website, here. My limited technology knowledge prevented me form pasting it here on the blog, but you can click on to the actual website easily enough.

Don't forget the informative blog, eastangliaseminarians, who have this to say about the new video:


Click on the link above for a short video produced by the Birmingham vocations office about life in Oscott. It's been quite well put together I think, and provides parts of conversations with several seminarians, as well as film clips of liturgy and community activities which take place on a day to day basis. (Look out for the Fishers of Men hat-tip after the words, 'We live in a world that is very noisy...')

Now, mention of the blog leads me to remember the students of the Diocese of East Anglia, and I ask you to join with me in prayer for both the Bishop of East Anglia and his students for the priesthood: Michael, Luke, Padraig, Henry, Simon and Ben.

18 February 2010

Lenten Art

With grateful thanks to Fr Longenecker for pointing us in the direction of the blog, The Crescat..., which will feature a daily work of art for our Lenten observances. Please, go and take a look, though I am using Hans Memling's; Christ Giving His Blessing. Enjoy, I know I will.

16 February 2010

The Installation

St Chad's New Archbishop 8th December 2009 from AstonVision on Vimeo.

Thanks, Jackie, loved watching this!

Here's a great way to give alms.

Victor S E Moubarak writes a great blog over on Time for Reflections. Currently he's donating £1 for every comment made in the combox. Why don't you go and comment right now? You can press this link here.

Victor writes regularly all about Fr Ignatius, a wonderful work of fiction, and his daily encounters with the people of God. Personally speaking, I find Fr Ignatius a warm and attractive character full of pathos. He's a daily uplifting voice in my life! You can also follow Fr Ignatius in Victor's book, Visions, which I'm currently reading.


It is not often that I am left speechless through shock but what other reaction could a priest have to this video? Sometimes, even when we know that something like this happens, it's nevertheless shocking to see it actually occur. Just dumbfounded!

I'm not sure if it's 'thanks', as such, which I want to give to Fr John Boyle and Kate for this video, but it's their discovery, not mine.

15 February 2010

The Best Kept Secret

Last week we met as a deanery to discuss the parish response to the issues surrounding Justice and Peace. We were led in this discussion with the following presentation. It is offered here for your own personal reflection. It is a wonderful reflection on Matthew's Gospel. As my colleague says: Our eternal destiny will hinge on our lives being cloaked in the deeds of human kindness.

Justice and Peace is central to our preaching of the Gospel.

The core of Christ’s teaching is in the Beatitudes. (Mt 5:1-12)

There can be few more challenging passages in the scriptures to measure out attitudes and actions against than the Beatitudes.

This teaching can only be understood when we try to start living according to Jesus. Otherwise it appears quite illogical.

Jesus told us how to put this teaching into practice, as we hear in the Gospel for the Feast of Christ the King. (Mt 25:31-36)

“Then the King will say to those on his right hand, ‘Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome: naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.’”

Mathew gives a pictorial impression of the last judgement. The picture painted in a few words gives a powerful image of Christ assuming the mantle of leadership as a true shepherd and acclaimed as Lord of all creation. ‘When the Son of man comes in his glory escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat of glory.’ The thought of the ‘day of the Lord’, when we come face to face with Christ to give an account of our lives is daunting and awesome. In the moment of judgement everyone will be held responsible for the conduct of their lives and every act will carry the burden of consequence. There will be no pretence or escaping the scrutiny of the Almighty who looks at nothing but the human heart. The human conscience will stand naked before Christ and there will be a full revelation of the truth. The yardstick for judgement will not be the knowledge we have gained, the fame won, the wealth acquired or the quality of our lives, but our performance or neglect of what is called, ‘the corporal works of mercy.’

Everything will depend on how we have treated the poor and downtrodden. Our eternal destiny will hinge on our lives being cloaked in the deeds of human kindness. This Gospel encourages us to reflect on how we are in our relationship with one another or have fallen short in serving Christ in the least important members of our community, our world.

We meet Christ in the beggar stretching out his hands for alms, in the refugee who is made to feel unwelcome in our streets, in those afflicted by aids or in the victims of war and civil strife.

In Matthew’s picture of the last judgement we hear expressions of wonder, surprise, shock and amazement at the unexpectedness of the judgement, ‘Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you etc?’

The church offers a way of joining together the love of God and love of neighbour.

Over the last hundred years or so, the Church has often focussed on what is sometimes called ‘Its Best Kept Secret’ ‘Catholic Social Teaching.’

The Church has always had social teaching and the most fundamental source is the Bible.

In the Old Testament we have Sabbatical Year and Jubilee Year. During the seventh year all land had to be left untilled and unplanted, and debts from close neighbours that had been unpaid during the previous six years were to be cancelled. The laws can be divided into three different concerns. Environmental concerns that overuse of the land would make it unusable. Debt concerns, the poor needed to be allowed to start over and not languish in poverty. Land ownership concerns. Every 50 years a Jubilee was declared. The laws of the Jubilee were similar to those of the Sabbatical Year, but also contained additional provisions, (1) compulsory restoration of ancestral land, (2) the freeing of all slaves etc.

In the early Church there was also the tradition of the Church Fathers in such areas as ownership of property, the just war and the charging of interest. In its modern form, however, Catholic Social Teaching first emerged at the end of the nineteenth century as a response to the injustice of the Industrial Revolution and the threat of Communism.

The document on Catholic Social Teaching covers:

What is Catholic Social Teaching?

Key principles of Catholic Social Teaching.

Key documents and Themes

In 1996 our bishops produced ‘THE COMMON GOOD’ in preparation for a General Election. Strongly critical of dominant market values it also serves as a readable introduction to Catholic Social Teaching and its application to some of the issues facing our society.

Its influence reached beyond these isles, it has been quoted in documents coming out of Brussels, the United Nations and even Washington.

The CCC draws attention to the great gulf between rich and poor countries. It lists factors which keep poor countries poor; perverse structures which prevent advancement, lending debts which strangle a week economy; commercial relationships which harm a country, particularly related to armaments sales.

The CCC insists that rich nations have an obligation to provide resources, by direct aid and even more by reforming international institutions to enable them to help poor countries, especially with agriculture, since the very poor are peasants, subsistent farmers.

The CCC calls for a revival of the sense of God, which it describes as the basis of the complete development of human society. This will most of all ensure that material goods are put at the service of human beings, diminish exploitation, and make people open to the love of God.

The CCC states that the main responsibility within the Church for working on these issues of justice lies not with the clergy, but rather with the lay people of the Church, working in different ways according to their individual gifts.

The Church focuses on the need for living the Gospel so as to be prepared for the Second Coming of Christ whenever it happens.

The vocation of all Christians is to love God and love our neighbour.

The Social Teaching of the Church are clear signposts for the way forward. Showing us what it takes to live as a Christian and a Catholic in our changing and challenging world.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols in his address to Benedict XVI at the conclusion of the “ad Limina” visit,


We would like to take the moment to thank you in particular for your inspiring teaching in the Encyclical Letters you have issued for the whole Church. The most recent of these, "Caritas in Veritate," has been well received in our countries and is making a significant contribution to the debate about and examination of those circumstances and conditions which lead to the recent financial crises and the world wide hardship it has caused. Your insistence on the central place of the human person, and of integral human development, is a powerful reminder that the most important truths have to shape economic and social programmes if they are to be of genuine service to the common good. First among these are, of course, the respect for life from its beginnings and the crucial role of marriage and family for the well-being not only of children but also for the good of society.

We thank you for the leadership you have given, even in recent months, on the questions of our care for the environments of our world: both the natural environment and, crucially, the human ecology necessary for our proper development. These matters are of deep concern to many in our countries, including many young people, who have accepted the invitation, in large numbers, to look closely at ways in which they can live more simply, so that others may simply live.

The Pope Takes up Justice as Theme for Lent which you can read here.


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