A model for men and women searching for the Mystery of God.

cardinalnewmanWhen we say the Creed, we need to realise that we are doing something extraordinary and counter cultural. In a world where so many people live atomised existences, we are doing something as a community. In an age that shies away from commitment, as we say the Creed we are committing ourselves to a set of convictions and to each other. The Creed is our symbol, the way we recognise each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s a sign of our common membership. It is our Catholic identity. (JerichoTree). It is to this identity that Newman endeavoured to cleave himself through his search for Truth in the Mystery of God.

“I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it.” ~ John Henry Newman

I went on a pilgrimage to Newman’s Littlemore College in Oxford, where I learned more about this inspirational man,and his fascinating journey into the arms of the Catholic Church.The influence of Blessed John Henry Newman, one of the outstanding voices of 19th century Roman Catholicism, has spread throughout the Christian world and is stronger than ever today. He lived and prayed for four years at The College in Littlemore where he was received into the Roman Catholic Church on 9th October 1845.Blessed John Henry Newman lived at “The College” at Littlemore from 1842-1846, making it a place of quiet prayer and study for himself and some friends.

Littlemore college

Littlemore college

“There it has been, that I have both been
taught my way and received an answer to my prayers.”

Newman, Letters and Diaries, XI 132/3

Newman’s oratory has again become a place of prayer and worship, with the Office, daily hours of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and regular masses. A substantial and specialized collection of Newman-related literature has been built up on the site of Newman’s own library, together with an exhibition of Newman memorabilia (prints, etchings, photographs, sculptures and original letters). Newman wrote in total, 20.000 letters!

In 1963 Pope Paul VI beatified Fr. Dominic Barberi, The Passionist ,who received John Henry Newman into the Catholic Church. On that occasion the Pope spoke about Blessed Dominic; but he also spoke about Newman. He said ‘, Newman’s journey of Faith was ,’the greatest, the most meaningful, the most conclusive, that human thought ever travelled during…the modern era.’

This quote from Blessed Barberi on Newman's request to become Catholic.

This quote from Blessed Barberi on Newman’s request to become Catholic.

A relic of Blessed Dominic Barberi at eh church I visited at Littlemore.

A relic of Blessed Dominic Barberi at the church I visited at Littlemore.

I had an opportunity to pray in front of the Crucifix Blessed Newman prayed in front of daily.

I had an opportunity to pray in front of the Crucifix Blessed Newman prayed in front of daily.

Newman's bedroom kept today as it was when he lived there.

Newman’s bedroom kept today as it was when he lived there.

Pilgrims can visit Newman’s room, in which many historic features have been preserved. The chapel, which is regularly used for prayer and Mass, is similar to how it would have been when Newman and his companions prayed there. I prayed in the same place where Newman spent so much of his time in search of the truth, and where he had the grace and happiness of being received into what he believed to be “the one true Fold of Christ” (Letters and Diaries XI, 5).

Newman's writing desk on which Blessed Barberi performed the mass after Newman's conversion. Newman never write on it again and kept it inverted after this .

Newman’s writing desk on which Blessed Barberi performed the mass after Newman’s conversion. Newman never wrote on it again and kept it inverted after this mass .

obedience

Newman’s writing desk in his bedroom.

The intellectual genius of Newman coupled with is humility struck me to the core. His dogged determination in search of the truth cost him dearly as far as his friends and family were concerned.  On his desk is a diary of his writings and included is a letter to his sister Jemima telling her of his decision to convert to Catholicism. He begins, ”My dear Jemima, I must tell you what will pain you greatly, but I will make it as short as you would wish me to do…”.  This letter he sent to her only after his conversion. The non-pre-existent relationship with his sister caused his much sadness.

In 1845 Newman wrote his ‘Development of Christian Doctrine’ and towards the end of this work it became clear to him that he must seek admission into the Roman Catholic Church. When Fr Dominic Barberi visited Littlemore, Newman and two of his companions were received into the Church on 9th October 1845.

In his Development of Christian Doctrine’, Newman spoke of how ‘to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.’ These memorable words are well known and often quoted, and it seems obvious that change was a particular characteristic of his life. The Roman Catholic Church in England was itself going though great change at the time of Newman’s conversion.

As a Catholic I worship God.

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Two years ago I attended a Baptist service celebrating the Dedication of a friend’s baby to God. A  substantial service which consisted of a significant praise and worship segment, prayer, preaching and finally the dedication of little Noah. I was moved by the intense prayer for the baby during this part of the service. Four members of the church community (who seemed to have standing in the community) prayed over the baby. This was followed by tea and then a luncheon.

It was at the luncheon that  my daughter and I got chatting with a couple who were seated at our table. We discussed the service amongst other things and the conversation inevitably led to us discussing which church we belonged to. As soon as we said that we attend St. Joseph’s, an uncomfortable (albeit short) silence ensued and the conversation petered out after that.

On coming across the above poster recently, my mind was taken back to this encounter and yes, I understand now what my Catholicity may have represented to that couple. Their reaction was a plainly visible physical recoiling as they realised that we are Catholic.

This brings me to the sermon at Mass last Sunday. The picture on the bottom right of the poster brought me here, because what I do at Mass is exactly this, listen to the Word of God, and  praise Him in thanksgiving through song and prayer and receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus. We were reminded that the Eucharist means ‘thanksgiving’. That we should  give thanks for everything we have, freely and willingly. We should go to church every week to ‘freely and willingly’ give heartfelt thanks to God, not because we feel that it’s our duty to go, but because we want to thank God  for all He has done for us through Jesus. We were gently reminded too, that often-times Catholics take for granted the Great Gift that  we have in the Eucharist because that is what we’re used to having at Mass. There shouldn’t be an ‘ought’ attached to this weekly Worship. We should respond in true thanks-giving each week. If there is an ‘ought’ attached to our attending Mass, we should stop and think about our motives.

‘What is our calling as Christians? To thanks God. When all our worldly goods are removed from us and we are faced with the essential nature of our lives, the most important ‘thing’ that we are left with is God. We need to thank God for Him, because He is everything. We are totally dependant of God’s divine mercy. He gave Himself to us, and as an act of worship, we give thanks to Him for this.’ 

This is why I go to church.

‘Blessed are you for Believing.’

As part of the Year of Faith, the theme of this year’s Marian Day is ‘Blessed are you for Believing.’ 

Pope Francis will consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on October 13th as part of Marian Day celebrations that will involve the statue of Our Lady of Fatima.
The statue is normally kept in the Shrine of Fatima in Portugal but will be in Rome this weekend for the consecration which is one of the highlights of the ongoing Year of Faith.
Our Lady of Fatima appeared to three shepherd children in the village of Fatima in Portugal in 1917. She warned of violent trials in the twentieth century if the world did not make reparation for sins. She urged prayer and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

The statue of Our Lady of Fatima.

The statue of Our Lady of Fatima.

The  shrine at Fatima  where Our Lady appeared to the visionaries.

The shrine at Fatima where Our Lady appeared to the visionaries.

med_2011012511_pastorinhos_09Lúcia dos Santos with fellow visionaries Jacinta and Francisco Marto.

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The Basilica at Fatima.

It is hoped that the Year of Faith, declared by Pope Benedict XVI, has helped us to deepen this great gift which we can easily take for granted. The apostles begged the Lord to increase their faith as they knew Faith’s paramount importance in their relationship with Jesus. Jesus assures them and us that it takes only a little Faith, the size of a mustard seed, to make the impossible possible. Without doubt we need Faith to help us face the hostile atmosphere we often find ourselves surrounded with – life without God, love, hope and purpose. Faith, Hope and Charity (Love) make all the difference in our dealings with many who have lost the reason to live. We need that Faith which the apostles prayed for, so that we may be strengthened to stand firm and be of help to those who have lost faith in God, man/woman and themselves. Rightly it has been said, “the righteous shall live by his faith.” (Hab. 2:4)

‘ Kolbe’s Gift.’ Valuable nuggets of Faith, shared centre-stage.

 

‘KOLBE’S GIFT’ is a play that is challenging and thought provoking. I booked thickets to see it way back in July, as I knew that the demand for tickets would be great.  I was not mistaken. The demand to see this production forced the provision of another showing .

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Blessed Maximillian is one of my favourite saints and the play forced me to look at his life from a different perspective:  How did his gift of life to Franciszek Gajownicek  (his fellow prisoner in the concentration camp at Auschwitz) impact on the survivor’s lfe? And more importantly:- How is his gift of life to Franciszek Gajownicek impacting on my life?

imageHere is a summary of his story at Auschwitz as written at Courage.net

To discourage escapes, the Auschwitz had a rule that if a man escaped, ten prisoners would be killed in response. In July 1941, the Nazis thought a man from Kolbe’s bunker had escaped. (After this incident, the “escaped” prisoner was found drowned in the camp latrine.)

“The fugitive has not been found!” the commandant Karl Fritsch screamed. “So ten of you will die in his place in the starvation bunker.”  Ten men were selected, including Franciszek Gajowniczek, who had been imprisoned for helping the Polish Resistance.  When he was selected, Franciszek could not help but cry out, “My wife! My poor children! What will they do?”

Suddenly and silently, Maximilian Kolbe stepped forward. Astounded, the Nazi commandant asked,“What does this Polish pig want?”  Maximilian took off his cap, and stood before the Commandant and requested, “I am a Catholic Priest from Poland; I would like to take this man’s place because he has a wife and children.”

The Commandant remained silent for a moment, then accepted the request. The Nazis had more use for a young worker than for an old Priest. So Franciszek Gajowniczek was returned to the ranks, and Maximilian took his place.

Soon after Kolbe was thrown with 9 other men into the starvation bunker and left to die.  One by one, the men died of hunger and thirst.  After two weeks, only four were left alive.  But since the cell was needed for new prisoners, the camp executioner came in and injected a lethal dose of carbolic acid into the left arm of each of the four remaining men. And soon it was all over…

So Father Maximilian Kolbe was executed on August 14, 1941, at the age of forty-seven, a martyr of charity.  His body was removed to the crematorium, and without dignity or ceremony, disposed of.

An excellent portrait of the people surrounding Blessed Kolbe’s life at the concentration camp was meticulously painted, line by line, details that would come together as a unified whole as the meaning of the gift of his life, for Franciszek Gajownicek’s played out in front of us. My heart went out to Franciszek and his wife as they struggled with the doubt and derision of acquaintances as he told the story of  Fr. Maximillian’s sacrifice over and over again.

Franciszek Gajowniczek

   

Franciszek Gajowniczek lived a full life, dying on March 13, 1995, in Poland at the age of 95… 53 years after Kolbe had saved him from execution.  Franciszek never forgot the priest. After his release from Auschwitz, Gajowniczek spent the next five decades paying homage to Father Kolbe. Every year on August 14 he went back to Auschwitz and honoured the man who died on his behalf.

The nuggets which I took away with me: 

  • Stand up for what you know to be true, proudly and without faltering.
  • Live out your Faith. Even unto death.
  • You are either a Christian with convictions, or you are an empty vessel, worth little. Truth will endure.
  • The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Faith.
  • You have nothing to fear if you believe in Jesus.
  • I too have a job to do. I will play a part in a story that I do not know is unfolding, however small.
  • God will use me.

The story of Blessed Maximillian Kolbe can be bought from CTS publications. It is based upon his writings and first-hand testimonies from people who knew him., many of whom the author Fr. James E. McCurry, has known and interviewed.

The release of this play this week is not coincidental. This story marries beautifully with the readings of today.

(Readings taken from Universalis– emphasis mine)

Second reading 2 Timothy 1:6-8,13-14 ©
I am reminding you to fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you. God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control. So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but with me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God.
Keep as your pattern the sound teaching you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. You have been trusted to look after something precious; guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

 

THIS IS WHO WE ARE :-

This message is such an important one.
In order for groups to grow and flourish; in order for the parish to feel like home from home; in order to meet Christ at church- we need to accept our responsibility as being that important part , which is church.

A ‘must-have’ read.

I purchased this book last year as a digital copy and then almost immediately purchased a hard copy because is is such a wonderful book to ‘have and to hold close’ (in your hands and in your heart!) This is a book I will be purchasing as gifts  for friends and family.

THE BETTER PART, buy Fr John Bartunek

image@http://live.regnumchristi.org/

image@http://live.regnumchristi.org/

is a’ Christ-centred resource for personal prayer.’ It is changing my relationship with Jesus and is helping me through the most difficult time of my Journey to Christ to date. My prayer life is becoming deeper and more meaningful. I feel prepared and eager for a meeting  with the Lord every day.

It’s the only book that has shared with me a 4 step structure to personal meditation, making my prayer life more intimate and meaningful for me.

Here are some titbits to whet your appetite:

  1. ‘ Jesus has made the appointment to meet  with you in prayer’ –  In other words it’s no accident that I am yearning to be closer to Jesus and that a deeply personal relationship is one that I want so much with Him, because he yearns for the same relationship with me. He is the one calling me to prayer.
  2. ‘ Among the most basic prayer commitments is one that can have more bearing on your life that any other, because is is more personalised: the daily meditation.’ – I do much spiritual reading to find out more about my Faith and my Lord and Saviour, I need to keep a daily meeting with my Lord for the sole purpose of getting to know Him better and to recommit myself to uncovering His will for my life. I realise that there is a difference between spiritual reading and meditation in that even the readings of the day can become spiritual reading, and not so much a meditative reading if I merely read them as part of a routine day in and day out. In order to get to know the Lord more intimately and to unwrap His will for my life, His messages for me alone, I need to excavate what’s in the Gospel with tenacity and purpose. This is done through meditation and prayer over the Gospels.
  3. ‘Prayer is similar to walking. To walk everyone has to follow the same principles of physics- friction, gravity, muscle propulsion, momentum. And yet, even though the principles are the same, everyone’s walk is a little bit different. When babies learn to walk, they start out clumsy and awkward, until they develop the rhythm and style proper to their body type, personality, and environment. Meditation follows a similar pattern: the same principles for all, activated uniquely by each. The Better Part can help you wherever you happen to be on the spectrum.’ 

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If any one of you have read this amazing book please comment on how you have found it deepening your relationship with Jesus. I intend to post more on this book as I read on.

the Story of Mary and MArtha: Mary is doing 'the better part', listening to the Lord's teaching.

In the Story of Mary and Martha: Mary is doing ‘the better part’, listening to the Lord’s teaching.

…new eyes to see.

Image@Jesuits in Britain Facebook

Image@Jesuits in Britain Facebook

It’s good and clean and fresh.

Papa Francesco's living quaters for World Youth Day in Brazil..

Papa Francisco’s living quarters for World Youth Day in Brazil..

Read more about Our Papa’s accommodation here.

WYD fever is upon the Catholic world…soon to commence in Brazil. Read about Papa’s itinerary here.

Offial WYD logo found @http://wydcentral.org/wyd-rio-2013-official-logo/

Official WYD logo found @http://wydcentral.org/wyd-rio-2013-official-logo/

Catholic England.

I came across this video clip on Catholicism Pure and Simple and thought it deserves to be shared in this space. I’m not a follower of Michael Voris, but this clip made me stop in my tracks and think about the implications of what he is saying about Catholicism in England and world-wide. Off the bat, I admit to being downhearted and filled with dismay at the sad picture he is painting about Catholicism generally. I proceed, sharing my thoughts and feelings about his  brush strokes.

Mr. Voris claims that there is a ‘philosophical and ideological war’ being waged between faithful Modernists and a growing  following that are proud to be known as Traditionalists on this English Isle.  He goes on to say that the contemporary Modernist, trendy Liberalist Christians  are dying away and that there is no sign of growth or vitality within modern day Catholicism here in England, other than a slow trickle of those  who are moving towards Traditional  Masses. I believe this trickle towards Traditionalism it’s a good sign.

He points to the article from the Economist to support his views

I quote from the Economist article Michael Voris refers to; 

…the congregation is young and international. Like evangelical Christianity, traditional Catholicism is attracting people who were not even born when the Second Vatican Council tried to rejuvenate the church. Traditionalist groups have members in 34 countries, including Hong Kong, South Africa and Belarus. Juventutem, a movement for young Catholics who like the old ways, boasts scores of activists in a dozen countries. Traditionalists use blogs, websites and social media to spread the word—and to highlight recalcitrant liberal dioceses and church administrators, who have long seen the Latinists as a self-indulgent, anachronistic and affected minority. In Colombia 500 people wanting a traditional mass had to use a community hall (they later found a church).

This ‘movement of young Catholics who like the old ways’ is to me  an encouraging sign , in that the youth are not easily swayed. They think for themselves and see right through farcical arguments. They recognise Authenticity for what it is:- Right and True. They wear their knowledge on their sleeves and are proud to share it.

Looking back over the last 12 years, my family and I have been blessed to be members of a strong and established parish, thanks to the dedication and foresight of our parish priest. He is a stickler for doing everything properly, which has led to undue criticism from those who feel  as though they are being spoken to in a ‘condescending manner’ after being reminded that:

  1. the at Mass it’s unacceptable to walk in after the Gospel has been read,
  2. or that it reflects poor manners to leave Mass straight after Communion,
  3. that when you enter the Church building you should do so in a quiet manner because it is a place set aside for prayer and worship,
  4. and that after Mass you should leave in silence out of consideration for those who are remaining behind  in prayer.

While my better half and I have grown to love and appreciate ‘Fr. Brown’s’ direct approach to how things are to be respected planned and executed, others have decided that his ‘nit-picking’ has driven them to leave the parish for ‘greener pastures.’  We’re proud of  our Pastor for being strong and unafraid of upholding  basic principles of behaviour expected in a Catholic church anywhere in the world.’ Fr. Brown’s ‘ tenacity and strength of character are the attributes that the thinking Catholic will be drawn to.

Portrait of G.K. Chesterton by Timothy Jones--see more of his art at http://timothyjones.typepad.com/timothy_jones_daily_paint/ This painting was used on the cover of "In Defense of Sanity", a collection of essays by G.K. Chesterton.

Portrait of G.K. Chesterton by Timothy Jones–see more of his art at http://timothyjones.typepad.com/timothy_jones_daily_paint/
This painting was used on the cover of “In Defense of Sanity”, a collection of essays by G.K. Chesterton.

I take offence at Voris’s claim to the lack of growth or vitality  within Catholicism here: he is obviously unaware of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal which is alive and well, boasting growing numbers  at annual  Catholic week-long conferences such as ‘New Dawn‘ and ‘Celebrate’the excellent work done by the Catholic theatre group TEN TENthe wonderful work of the SION community; the tireless work done by the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal during the annual  Spirit in the City faith Festival in the heart of London’s West end over 4 days and every other day of the year; the popularity of Youth 2000the growing numbers of youth from England attending World Youth Day celebrations (which includes both those from the Modern and Traditional ‘persuasions’); the birth of  a new Catholic radio station (Heart gives unto Heart) available 24/7; the 80 000 + Catholics who joined the Holy Father in Hyde Park alone not to mention the development of the Catholic Voices organisation developed especially before the Holy Father’s visit to improve the image of Catholicism in the press here in England.

Sure things are changing in Catholicism, but I think, for the better. Papa Francisco points clearly in a new and fresh direction.

Meditative singing….a formula of calming repetition…

During Adoration of the Eucharist yesterday we sang this beautiful song of praise and worship. The first time I’ve heard it, and one that I’ll be including in my prayers in future. Eucharistic-Jesus-Adoration

Meditative singing

Singing is one of the most essential elements of worship. Short songs, repeated again and again, give it a meditative character. Using just a few words they express a basic reality of faith, quickly grasped by the mind. As the words are sung over many times, this reality gradually penetrates the whole being. Meditative singing thus becomes a way of listening to God. It allows everyone to take part in a time of prayer together and to remain together in attentive waiting on God, without having to fix the length of time too exactly.

To open the gates of trust in God, nothing can replace the beauty of human voices united in song. This beauty can give us a glimpse of “heaven’s joy on earth,” as Eastern Christians put it. And an inner life begins to blossom within us.

These songs also sustain personal prayer. Through them, little by little, our being finds an inner unity in God. They can continue in the silence of our hearts when we are at work, speaking with others or resting. In this way prayer and daily life are united. They allow us to keep on praying even when we are unaware of it, in the silence of our hearts.

The “songs of Taizé” published in different languages are simple, but preparation is required to use them in prayer. This preparation should take place before the prayer itself, so that once it begins the atmosphere remains meditative.

During the prayer it is better if no one directs the music; in this way everyone can face the cross, the icons or the altar. (In a large congregation, however, it may be necessary for someone to direct, as discreetly as possible, a small group of instruments or singers who support the rest, always remembering that they are not giving a performance for the others.) The person who begins the songs is generally up front, together with those who will read the psalm, the reading and the intercessions, not facing the others but turned like them towards the altar or the icons. If a song is begun spontaneously, the pitch is generally too low. A tuning fork or pitch pipe can help, or a musical instrument give the first note or accompany the melody. Make sure the tempo does not slow down too much, as this tends to happen when the singing goes on for some time. As the number of participants increases, it becomes necessary to use a microphone, preferably hand-held, to begin and end the songs (they can be ended by singing “Amen” on the final note). The person who begins the singing can support the others by singing into a microphone, being careful not to drown out the other voices. A good sound-system is essential if the congregation is large; if necessary check it before the prayer and try it out with those who will be using the microphones.

Songs in many different languages are appropriate for large international gatherings. In a neighborhood prayer with people of all ages present, most of the songs should be in languages actually understood by some of the participants, or in Latin. If possible, give each person a song sheet or booklet. You can also include one or two well-known local songs or hymns.

Instruments: a guitar or keyboard instrument can support the harmonic structure of the songs. They are especially helpful in keeping the correct pitch and tempo. Guitars should be played in classical, not folk style. A microphone may be necessary for them to be heard. In addition to this basic accompaniment, there are parts for other instruments.   (Taize)

“Something very interesting at Taizé is that this formula of calming repetition has been taken up in the liturgy; that is, it is not used only in personal prayer, but also in prayer together or common prayer. Some young people, who know almost nothing of mystery, are introduced to it here, and they begin to learn how to pray.”

Olivier Clément

I have put visiting the TAIZE COMMUNITY on my bucket list.