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Will you listen to the call to come Home?

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If you don’t already know – next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the first of 40 days spent by Christians who make choices and changes to their lives that spring-cleans their souls: they may rethink their  role in their parish; pray,fast and give alms and make interior adjustments to turn their hearts firmly towards the Lord. 

If you are a resting Catholic, perhaps this is a good opportunity to consider joining the parish closest to you, and introduce yourself to the priest there. Make the decision to join an RCIA class to get reunited with truth of our Faith.Just go to Mass and be part of the wonderful ritual of listening, looking and learning. Search for the Lord in the Liturgy and reunite yourself to Him in prayer. Even better, make arrangements to attend Reconciliation before going to Mass, and experience the forgiveness, mercy and love of God though this beautiful Sacrament.

Shine!

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St Ethelbert – the first Christian monarch in England:- 25th February 2014

One of the many roles of a monarch has always been to defend the faith of the country in question. In some cases, that simply means upholding the traditions of the past, while in other countries the monarch is literally the head of the church. The Queen of the United Kingdom, Elizabeth II, still holds this position over the Church of England, though most of her powers are delegated to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.
Still, there have been moments in history that are so important to the future of that country that the monarch not only defies the faith he or she is supposed to uphold, but downright changes the faith. These linchpin monarchs are often remembered fondly after their deaths, though at the time they are often criticized and earn many enemies. One of them, is King Ethelbert of Kent.

St. Ethelbert, King of Kent 

Here are King Ethelbert of Kent and Queen Bertha, with Augustine:

Here are King Ethelbert of Kent (far right) and Queen Bertha, with Augustine in the middle. Stained glass window in Canterbury Cathedral.

King Ethelbert

King Ethelbert


The most powerful Anglo-Saxon king was Ethelbert who ruled Kent and a large area north to the Humber. St. Augustine (who had arrived on the English shores) sent interpreters saying that they came from Rome bearing good news which assured all who received it of eternal joy in heaven.

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St. Augustine preaching to Aethelberht I, 19th-century coloured wood engraving.
Credit: Photos.com/Thinkstock

The king told them to stay on the island and gave orders that they should be provided with all necessities. Apparently this included beer brewed from the royal barley as beer was considered one of the necessities of life. The king had already heard of the Christian faith; his wife and queen was Bertha, daughter of the Christian king of Paris and she continued to practice her faith after marrying Ethelbert.
Six days later after their arrival, King Ethelbert came to the island and summoned Augustine and his companions.

They approached the king carrying a silver cross and the likeness of the Lord painted on a board, like an icon. First they sang a litany of salvation and then they preached the Gospel to the king and his court. Ethelbert seemed to be impressed although he was not converted then and there and he offered hospitality to the missionaries and gave them permission to preach among his people. He also gave them a dwelling in his chief city, Canterbury. There they lived a life of prayer and preaching, living simply and caring for the poor. A number of people were converted and baptised. The Church of St. Martin in Canterbury had been built-in Roman times and was still used by Queen Berta for prayer. The monks gathered there for prayer, Mass, preaching and baptisms.
Eventually, King Ethelbert himself came to believe and was baptised. From then on, large numbers were converted to Christ. The king insisted that no one should be forced to accept Christianity; he knew that true service of Christ must be accepted freely.

The hope for results

image@merton.org

image@merton.org

After a long time of soul-searching and questioning of my role in the Lord’s vineyard, I shared my frustration at not ever feeling as though I do any good because of the secular world we live in today. As always, I received and answer to my calling out a little while afterwards. This time, my questioning was answered through the deep Christian insight and thought woven into the fabric of Thomas Merton’s writing.

‘ Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps, results opposite to what you expect.

As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the  work itself. And there too a great deal has to be gone through, as gradually you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. The range tends to narrow down but it gets much more real. In the  end it is the reality of personal relationships which saves everything.

The big results are not in your hands or mine, but they suddenly happen and we can share in them; but there is no point in building our lives on this personal satisfaction which may be denied us and when after all is not that important.

All the good that you will do will come, not from you, but from the fact that you have allowed yourself, in the obedience of faith, to be used by God’s love.Think of this more and gradually you will be free from the need to prove yourself, and you can be more open to the power that will work through you without you knowing it.

The real hope than is not in something we can do, but in God, who is making something good out of it, in ways we cannot see.’ 

From:-  Thomas Merton’s ‘Struggle with peacemaking’.

I don’t see the road ahead of me…

Below is Thomas Merton’s infamous prayer . It speaks of surrendering to God, in every way. I am so moved every time I read these words. I am inspired  both by Merton’s honesty and humility (and how much I connect with his words), as well as the graciousness of God that Merton points to. As a worker in God’s vineyard, I think this prayer is good to keep close at hand. This prayer expresses the peace that comes from knowing and trusting in God’s presence in a life with so many unknowns and irresolvable conflicts.

This prayer acknowledges that, despite our human tendency to think we know what life is about and how we can manage it, we really have no clue.

“The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” (Prov 16:9)

picture @googleimages

picture @googleimages

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.   

I do not see the road ahead of me.

I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself,

and the fact that I think that I am following your will

does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.

And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.

I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road

though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always

though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.

I will not fear, for you are ever with me,

and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

From ‘Through the year with Thomas Merton’.

 

 

COMMITMENT-Staying loyal to what you said you were going to do.

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Taking inspiration from St. Joseph’s, New Malden’s web page, I agree with the importance of our Witness as Christians and our commitment as Baptised, involved lay faithful. It’s all about commitment , being committed to our journey as disciples of the Lord and remaining committed to the tenets of the Faith.

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In the first few centuries of the Church’s existence, evangelisation was crucial to its survival. Living in a pagan culture Christians had to live their Faith in a very intentional way. To admit one was a Christian,was to risk persecution, so Church members had to be passionate about their commitment. Then, in the fourth century, Emperor Constantine made Christianity the religion of the Holy Roman Empire. Suddenly, being a Christian became not just accepted, but fashionable.

Today, our experience as Christians is not far from those who lived so long ago in a pagan world. Today, being Christian means you ‘re a bit ‘otherwise’ to put it politely.Today we need to be living our Faith in a very intentional way. Today we have to know the reasons for believing and wanting to be Christian if we are to stand a remote chance of survival amongst secular free-thinkers.This is most especially true if we profess to be Catholic Christians.

It wasn’t until the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s that Pope Paul VI began to call for a “new evangelisation” — and not just by clergy and religious, but by all Catholics. Blessed John Paul II said that to evangelize, you have to be evangelised; that evangelisation is an encounter with the ‘living Spirit;’ that sharing faith has got to become normal, a natural part of life.

 If someone says they like to connect with nature and the spiritual by walking along the beach, most Catholics today would probably say, “Good for you,” but would not go a step further and share how their own faith helps them connect with God. People are reluctant to push their beliefs on other people. We have to be convinced there’s something worth sharing. Many ‘catholics’ don’t really know their Faith at all, and other than just admitting to being ‘catholic’do not attend Mass or receive the Sacraments.

They have not sought to understand the reasons that lay behind our dedicated attendance at Mass every week;our observance of prayer and fasting on Fridays; our need to  receive Holy Communion or to receive absolution through regular attendance at Reconciliation. If you find yourself to be one of these ‘catholics’, I urge you to find out more about the reasons why we do what we do as Catholic Christians. The answers will open up a new way of thinking about Jesus and His love for you. Enquire about courses at your parish. Attend an RCIA group and learn about your gift of the Faith with new converts. JUST ASK.

The process of becoming a disciple involves three components: proclamation, conversion, and service and mission. I believe that resistance by Catholics to evangelise is  because the front-end piece of evangelisation deals with conversion: making Jesus Lord of our life. It calls for a radical change if we’re going to embrace this mission. Catholics do tend to be good at teaching prayers to children, making sure they’re educated in the faith and — simply living their lives, so that others may see them as good people and be attracted to what beliefs lead to that lifestyle.However, when it comes to sharing their faith and inviting others to participate in it, Catholics don’t fare as well.

So, in what ways can we show our commitment to sharing the Good News as Catholics? A few suggestions:-

  1. Mention that you have attended Mass over the week-end over sandwiches at lunchtime on Monday, and go further, sharing something about the readings or the Gospel that opened up a new insight to the Scriptures for you.
  2. Share anecdotes about your parish priest and his dedication to his flock. How does he show you  the love of Jesus through his words and actions?
  3. Invite ‘resting catholics’ to an early morning Mass, or just any Mass.
  4. Invite them to come along and visit a group at your parish.
  5. Share the news about the acts of social care and justice that your parish supports: eg’ St. Joseph’s parish supports the local food bank and our parishioners donated one tonne of food last month alone.’ This might open up new avenues of discussion leading back to our Faith, to understand why we’re helping the poor, what moral values and social teachings lead the Church to be a voice for the voiceless.
  6. Take an extra parish newsletter to share with someone and leave it with them.
  7. Share good Catholic literature written by Blessed John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedicte XVI, Scott Hahn. There is an abundance of choice.
  8. If you are a God-parent, make time to remain in your God-child’s life for the long haul, not just on the day of their Baptism. Find new ways of doing this.
  9. Create a family shrine at home with the crucifixes, pictures, and statues received at Baptisms and Confirmations. These speak volumes about your Faith and how you live it without having to say a word.
  10. Start a book club that reads Catholic literature and encourage members to bring a friend.

For inspiration and spiritual uplifting, pop into St. Joseph’s for Mass, or take a look at its vibrant and informative website.

St. Joseph’s New Malden, has embarked on a  Year of Renewal in 2014 which  builds on the recently ended Year of Faith, and is proposed as a Parish Year of Faith in Action  leading into a Year of Re-Dedication (2014-15) and a Year of Mission (2015-16) I’m looking forward to the next three years with anticipation. Want to join me on this promising new journey?

Image@worksbyfath.org

Image@worksbyfath.org

UN Attacks Catholic Teaching Under the Pretext of Protecting Children | Crisis Magazine

Exactly.

In their continuing quest to marginalize the influence of the Catholic Church on the culture war issues of abortion and same-sex marriage, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child is attempting to resurrect yet again the moral panic surrounding exaggerated claims of clerical sexual abuse.

. . . but, more important than these structural reasons, there are powerful cultural reasons that have combined to encourage the promotion of a panic over pedophile priests. This is the real reason that the United Nations Committee continues to try to fan the flames of the moral panic over the pedophile priest. For more than four decades, progressives have been engaged in a battle with the Catholic hierarchy over issues including abortion, sexual morality and homosexuality. The re-manufactured image of the pedophile priest and his craven bishop who has covered up his despicable deeds points to the need for a “new…

View original post 46 more words

Candles at the end of Christmas

“Candlemas Day” by Marianne Stokes (1855–1927) Austrian Painter

“Candlemas Day” by Marianne Stokes (1855–1927) Austrian Painter

A painter born Marianne Preindlsberger at Graz in the Austrian province of Styria.  She settled in England after her marriage to the landscape painter Adrian Scott Stokes (1854–1935) whom she had met in Pont-Aven and was considered one of the leading artists in Victorian England.

I am moved by the serenity of the young woman in the painting and feel a stirring affinity with her as Catholic Christian, as this image reaches out to me from across the centuries. Praying in the stillness of early morning perhaps, by the light of a candle. I too light a candle , read the Bible and say the Rosary at prayer. A Christian doing what Christians have done for 2000 years. 

Candlemas is a Christian festival celebrated on 2 February.  It marks the end of Epiphany, the Purification of the Virgin Mary and the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, when Jesus was recognised by Simeon as the one for whom he has been waiting. (Luke 2:25-40)  

The feast celebrates the day on which the infant Jesus was taken by Mary His Mother and St. Joseph to the Temple in Jerusalem where thanks would be offered to God, according to the correct and ancient Jewish custom. When Simeon , ”an upright and devout man”, well advanced in years saw them he knew that this was the Child who was the Messiah for which Israel and the world had been waiting. He took the child in his arms and praised God and  declared that this child would be a light to all the world, a light that would enlighten pagans and give honour to the people of Israel from whom he had sprung.

To commemorate what Simeon said , there are special candle services in church – sometimes with a procession into the church beforehand. These candles are blessed, and we can take them home with us where they can be lit again for a family candlelight supper. 

…after Candlemas the days start getting longer, and we don’t need artificial light in the evenings.Spring is on the way and we should start enjoying it.

Quoted from ‘A book of Feasts and Seasons’, by Joanna Bogle (available at Amazon)

Image@http://www.freeimageslive.co.uk/

Image@http://www.freeimageslive.co.uk/

Saturday 8th February: – A day with Mary

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See  here for details for what promises to be a day of Blessings and spiritual growth through Our Lady.

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Mary of the Gael: a remarkable woman of her times.

St Bridget of Ireland

St Brigid of Kildare

Her parents were baptized by St. Patrick, with whom she developed a close friendship. According to legend, her father was Dubhthach, an Irish chieftain of Lienster, and her mother, Brocca, was a slave at his court.

Even as a young girl she clearly showed an interest in the religious life and took the veil in her youth from St. Macaille at Croghan and probably was professed by St. Mel of Armagh, who is believed to have conferred abbatial authority on her.

She settled at the foot of Croghan Hill for a time and about the year 468, followed Mel to Meath. About the year 470 she founded a double monastery at Kildare and was Abbess of the convent, the first in Ireland. The foundation developed into a centre of learning and spirituality, and around it grew up the Cathedral city of Kildare.The cathedral continued to serve the people of Kildare down the centuries, though after the Reformation it gradually fell into disrepair and by 1641 it was totally ruined following the Confederate Wars. It was fully restored in the 19th century. In recent years undergone some further restoration.

Image@http://archiseek.com/2010/1223-st-brigids-cathedral-kildare-co-kildare/#.UuzH_D1_t8E

Cathedral of Kildare image@ http://archiseek.com/2010/1223-st-brigids-cathedral-kildare-co-kildare/#.UuzH_D1_t8E

The foundation developed into a centre of learning and spirituality, and around it grew up the Cathedral  city of Kildare. She founded a school of art at Kildare and its illuminated manuscripts became famous, notably the Book of Kildare, which was praised as one of the finest of all illuminated Irish manuscripts before its disappearance three centuries ago.The Book of Kildare is also known by the name of The Four Gospels of St. Brigid.It contains the Four Gospels according to St. Jerome, and almost every page is illustrated by drawings illuminated with a variety of brilliant colours.

 

Brigid was one of the most remarkable women of her times, and despite the numerous legendary, extravagant, and even fantastic miracles attributed to her, there is no doubt that her extraordinary spirituality, boundless charity, and compassion for those in distress were real.

She died at Kildare on February 1.She is buried at Downpatrick with St. Columba and St. Patrick, with whom she is the patron of Ireland. Her name is sometimes Bridget and Bride. Her feast day is February 1.