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‘…Then, in a rare gesture and sign of respect, the bishops removed their mitres.’

Pope Benedict – still teaching!

At his last public Mass as Pope, Benedict XVI showed both his generous humanity and his commitment to liturgical integrity. From theAssociated Press:

Smiling and clearly moved, Benedict responded, “Grazie. Now let us return to prayer” — his words bringing to an end several minutes of thundering applause. Then, in a rare gesture and sign of respect, the bishops removed their mitres.

The Pope is no fan of applause at Mass, because it reveals a focus on man rather than the God who is to be worshipped at Mass. Nevertheless, he acknowledged the need of the faithful assembled to make a gesture of gratitude and affection, given the short notice leading up to what has become his last public Mass. Still, when he judged the time ripe, he called them all back to God.

Thus the bishops’ gesture is all the more striking: a profound sign of respect that did not disturb the theocentric ambience of worship. Clever bishops.

And then, his teaching…

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Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin the liturgical time of Lent, forty days that prepare us for the celebration of Holy Easter, it is a time of particular commitment in our spiritual journey. The number forty occurs several times in the Bible. In particular, it recalls the forty years that the Israelites wandered in the wilderness: a long period of formation to become the people of God, but also a long period in which the temptation to be unfaithful to the covenant with the Lord was always present. Forty were also the days of the Prophet Elijah’s journey to reach the Mount of God, Horeb; as well as the time that Jesus spent in the desert before beginning his public life and where he was tempted by the devil. In this Catechesis I would like to dwell on this moment of earthly life of the Son of God, which we will read of in the Gospel this Sunday.

First of all, the desert, where Jesus withdrew to, is the place of silence, of poverty, where man is deprived of material support and is placed in front of the fundamental questions of life, where he is pushed to towards the essentials in life and for this very reason it becomes easier for him to find God. But the desert is also a place of death, because where there is no water there is no life, and it is a place of solitude where man feels temptation more intensely. Jesus goes into the desert, and there is tempted to leave the path indicated by God the Father to follow other easier and worldly paths (cf. Lk 4:1-13). So he takes on our temptations and carries our misery, to conquer evil and open up the path to God, the path of conversion.

In reflecting on the temptations Jesus is subjected to in the desert we are invited, each one of us, to respond to one fundamental question: what is truly important in our lives? In the first temptation the devil offers to change a stone into bread to sate Jesus’ hunger. Jesus replies that the man also lives by bread but not by bread alone: ​​without a response to the hunger for truth, hunger for God, man can not be saved (cf. vv. 3-4). In the second, the devil offers Jesus the path of power: he leads him up on high and gives him dominion over the world, but this is not the path of God: Jesus clearly understands that it is not earthly power that saves the world, but the power of the Cross, humility, love (cf. vv. 5-8). In the third, the devil suggests Jesus throw himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple of Jerusalem and be saved by God through his angels, that is, to do something sensational to test God, but the answer is that God is not an object on which to impose our conditions: He is the Lord of all (cf. vv. 9-12). What is the core of the three temptations that Jesus is subjected to? It is the proposal to exploit God, to use Him for his own interests, for his own glory and success. So, in essence, to put himself in the place of God, removing Him from his own existence and making him seem superfluous. Everyone should then ask: what is the role God in my life? Is He the Lord or am I?

Overcoming the temptation to place God in submission to oneself and one’s own interests or to put Him in a corner and converting oneself to the proper order of priorities, giving God the first place, is a journey that every Christian must undergo. “Conversion”, an invitation that we will hear many times in Lent, means following Jesus in so that his Gospel is a real life guide, it means allowing God transform us, no longer thinking that we are the only protagonists of our existence, recognizing that we are creatures who depend on God, His love, and that only by “losing” our life in Him can we truly have it. This means making our choices in the light of the Word of God. Today we can no longer be Christians as a simple consequence of the fact that we live in a society that has Christian roots: even those born to a Christian family and formed in the faith must, each and every day, renew the choice to be a Christian, to give God first place, before the temptations continuously suggested by a secularized culture, before the criticism of many of our contemporaries.

The tests which modern society subjects Christians to, in fact, are many, and affect the personal and social life. It is not easy to be faithful to Christian marriage, practice mercy in everyday life, leave space for prayer and inner silence, it is not easy to publicly oppose choices that many take for granted, such as abortion in the event of an unwanted pregnancy, euthanasia in case of serious illness, or the selection of embryos to prevent hereditary diseases. The temptation to set aside one’s faith is always present and conversion becomes a response to God which must be confirmed several times throughout one’s life.

The major conversions like that of St. Paul on the road to Damascus, or St. Augustine, are an example and stimulus, but also in our time when the sense of the sacred is eclipsed, God’s grace is at work and works wonders in life of many people. The Lord never gets tired of knocking at the door of man in social and cultural contexts that seem engulfed by secularization, as was the case for the Russian Orthodox Pavel Florensky. After acompletely agnostic education, to the point he felt an outright hostility towards religious teachings taught in school, the scientist Florensky came to exclaim: “No, you can not live without God”, and to change his life completely, so much so he became a monk.

I also think the figure of Etty Hillesum, a young Dutch woman of Jewish origin who died in Auschwitz. Initially far from God, she found Him looking deep inside herself and wrote: “There is a well very deep inside of me. And God is in that well. Sometimes I can reach Him, more often He is covered by stone and sand: then God is buried. We must dig Him up again “(Diary, 97). In her scattered and restless life, she finds God in the middle of the great tragedy of the twentieth century, the Shoah. This young fragile and dissatisfied woman, transfigured by faith, becomes a woman full of love and inner peace, able to say: “I live in constant intimacy with God.”

The ability to oppose the ideological blandishments of her time to choose the search for truth and open herself up to the discovery of faith is evidenced by another woman of our time, the American Dorothy Day. In her autobiography, she confesses openly to having given in to the temptation that everything could be solved with politics, adhering to the Marxist proposal: “I wanted to be with the protesters, go to jail, write, influence others and leave my dreams to the world. How much ambition and how much searching for myself in all this!”. The journey towards faith in such a secularized environment was particularly difficult, but Grace acts nonetheless, as she points out: “It is certain that I felt the need to go to church more often, to kneel, to bow my head in prayer. A blind instinct, one might say, because I was not conscious of praying. But I went, I slipped into the atmosphere of prayer … “. God guided her to a conscious adherence to the Church, in a lifetime spent dedicated to the underprivileged.

In our time there are no few conversions understood as the return of those who, after a Christian education, perhaps a superficial one, moved away from the faith for years and then rediscovered Christ and his Gospel. In the Book of Revelation we read: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me”(3, 20). Our inner person must prepare to be visited by God, and for this reason we should allow ourselves be invaded by illusions, by appearances, by material things.

In this time of Lent, in the Year of the faith, we renew our commitment to the process of conversion, to overcoming the tendency to close in on ourselves and instead, to making room for God, looking at our daily reality with His eyes. The alternative between being wrapped up in our egoism and being open to the love of God and others, we could say corresponds to the alternatives to the temptations of Jesus: the alternative, that is, between human power and love of the Cross, between a redemption seen only in material well-being and redemption as the work of God, to whom we give primacy in our lives. Conversion means not closing in on ourselves in the pursuit of success, prestige, position, but making sure that each and every day, in the small things, truth, faith in God and love become most important.

Text via Vatican Radio translation.

 

Bravo!…a Bishop and three priests.

The Salmon’s Badge of Honour goes to Fr. Peter Edwards…

Fr Peter Edwards

Fr Peter Edwards

…for being a wonderful teacher and leader in Faith, for remaining faithful to the teaching of the Magistarium. Thank you for your gentle but forthright  homily on the Feast of the Holy Family;  for presenting the Truth of the Catholic Faith regarding to the dignity of each and every one of us in Jesus, and for reminding all that we are all come to be Royalty through our Saviour. Thank you for reminding us about the importance of the family.  Thank you for having the courage of your convictions to ‘go against the grain’ regardless of the ever-present criticism or dissent. The Salmon stands with you proudly!

Salmon Badge of Honour

Salmon Badge of Honour

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Having posted the Super-Slogan yesterday, imagine my delight when opening heroic posts defending the dignity of  marriage and family with sincerity, passion and conviction. Fr. Ray ‘s post,‘ LET’S FORGET THE NICENESS, LET’S BE CATHOLIC,’  resounded with me as I feel strongly that Catholics on these shores need to stand together in solidarity to share the TRUTH of our Faith, for the sake of society as we know it.

Fr. Ray Blake

Fr. Ray Blake

I quote Fr. Ray’s excellent suggestions that could be put forward in a Catholic Pro-family Manifesto:-

Rather than being embarrassed by it we should dare to talk about what the Church understands by being “human”, which involves human sexuality.It is radical, we should accept that it is counter-cultural, it overthrows the politics of left and right by simply saying the family is the most important element in society not wealth creation or even self determination and self-fulfilment.

We could start by trying to get people to discuss marriage, how about large banners on every Catholic building saying something like “Marriage = Man + Woman: discuss” We could spend money on a poster campaign. We should have done it ages ago but what about every diocese in the country producing study material on Humanae Vitae and Evangelium Vitae

Is it too late to organise symposia in amongst orthodox Christian academics on Marriage?In the capital at the very least we should be organising public meetings to talk about marriage, and demonstrations to show what we mean by marriage.

 In the institutions we still control, our schools most especially, we should be promoting the family. The state, for the last century or two, has been promoting the view that we are here primarily to serve the economy, and that we have value and status in our production of wealth ultimately in our family relationships but as Catholics we should be educating people to understand we have value in our relationships with one another. Just as the state promotes Sports or Performing Arts Academies we Catholics should be making every school or  college an Academy for the Family.

With epidemic marital breakdown we need to teach people how to be married, especially boys, for too long Catholics have done so very little to really educate our young for either eternal or marital life. We should recognise most women have abortions because of economic reasons, that controlling the size of families through contraception for most people is an economic decision.

We need to promote an authentic feminism (and masculinism) that is based on relationships, we need to promote the real rights of women to be parents, simply to be able to have children without the constant anxiety to find childcare and to be able to afford it.We need to promote affordable family housing. 

We need promote Sunday, the Lord’s Day, a day of re-creation, as a day for building family. Every Catholic social justice organisation should be deeply involved in promoting an economic model that sees the family, rather than the creation of personal wealth, as priority.

In a further post Fr. Ray draws our attention to the efforts of the newly appointed Archbishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth’s Pastoral letter, (published here) which was read out on the feast of the Holy Family:

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Bishop Philip Egan, of Portsmouth.

JESUS CHRIST, THE PERFECT HUMAN

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In this second Pastoral Letter, I want to discuss something that many people find very challenging and controversial. But let me first, on this feast of the Holy Family, wish you the continuing joys of Christmas. Since becoming your bishop a few weeks ago, I have been visiting our priests. I thank God for all the wonderful priests we have and for their inspiring love and service of Jesus and his Church. I thank God too for the many beautiful churches in our diocese and not least for you, the People of God, for your perseverance in faith and Christian discipleship in these difficult times. As we enter the New Year 2013, I urge you, in the words of today’s Second Reading, often to “think of the love that the Father has lavished upon us by letting us be called God’s children.”[i]
The context of this Pastoral Letter is two-fold. First, the Year of Faith, in which I want to explore the articles of the Creed. Today, let us consider the second article: “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God.”[ii] Jesus Christ is Divine. He is God the Son. He is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, or to use that daringly non-Scriptural term, “consubstantial with the Father”. This is an important doctrine to teach today. For many would acknowledge Jesus to be a great religious leader, a Prophet and teacher, a good and holy man. But in fact He is infinitely greater: He is God the Word. When Jesus speaks, it is God speaking. This changes everything. In this Year of Faith, it would be good to review our prayer and catechesis to ensure it reflects the fullness of this truth. We should also study afresh the Creed and its origins[iii] so we can understand better the Church’s teaching and why Jesus Christ is the only Way to salvation.
The second context of this Letter is today’s feast of the Holy Family, which presents us with the humanity of Christ: that he became incarnate “for us and for our salvation”. Or to paraphrase St. Leo, “He came down from heaven that we might go up to heaven”[iv]. In taking on human nature, Jesus also took on a human history and a human culture. He was brought up in Nazareth in the home of Mary and Joseph[v]. Mary, His mother, taught him his prayers and the religious traditions of his people. Joseph, as a father, gave him a trade and initiated him into the society of the day. We recall all of this in the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, which it would be good to recite every day during the Christmas season. You might also consider reading the new book by Pope Benedict: “Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives”[vi].
So the Creed affirms that Jesus Christ is truly divine, God from God; but it also states that He is the New Adam, the Perfect Human.[vii] To say this today is highly controversial. If in the fourth century it was the doctrine about how Jesus could be divine yet human, today the hot-button issue is what it means to be human. Indeed, most of the big debates in our society revolve around two matters: sex and authority.What is the truth about human sexuality? And who can tell me how to live my life?

In 1968, at the height of the Sixties, Pope Paul VI wrote an Encyclical Letter that then and now many Catholics find difficult. He repeated the traditional teaching of the Church, based on the natural law and confirmed by revelation, that sexual intercourse is an integral act for love and for life, and that these two aspects of sexuality – love and life – cannot be divorced[viii]Humanae Vitae was a prophetic document. Pope Paul spoke of catastrophic consequences for society and culture if these two ends of marriage were split. 45 years on, we can see what he meant in such things as the reduction of sex to a leisure activity, the trafficking of people for prostitution and pornography, broken family relationships, and the explosion of addictive behaviours leading to despair, shame and guilt[ix].

As Catholics, we believe in the natural way of life. We believe that the purpose of sexual intercourse is to express the love between a man and a woman, a love which, within the permanent commitment of marriage, is open to being fruitful to life.[x] This is the way to lasting happiness and fulfilment, even if to become chaste – that is, to develop a mature and fully integrated sexuality, as a single person or a married couple – involves a life-long struggle and “apprenticeship in self-mastery”[xi]. To help us, Jesus calls us to be his disciples, and offers us the healing balm and the strength we need, above all in confession and Holy Communion.

Jesus Christ is the way to personal happiness and authentic humanism. Sadly, the teaching of Humanae Vitae about sexual morality and family values has become something of an ‘elephant in the room’ that no-one seems to mention. In this Year of Faith then, I would like to invite everyone to discover again the Church’s wonderful vision of love and life, as expounded in the Catechism.

I would also like to ask all families, whatever their form or circumstances, to think about developing a deeper and richer Catholic ethos in the home, so as to give a clearer witness to contemporary culture. For instance, why not spend an evening together as a family, occasionally switch off the computer, make the Sign of the Cross on entering the house, adopt a communal work of justice and charity, or keep special the fast-days and feast-days? I am sure you will think of many other ways of preserving our Catholic distinctiveness.

In this Mass of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, let us thank God for our own families, and pray for them. Let us pray for those who struggle to live a chaste life in imitation of Christ. Let us pray for families who are struggling or who have suffered tragedy and pain. And let us pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on our land. Like Mary and Joseph who found Jesus in the Temple, may the people of England find their way to salvation and happiness in Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, ever present and active in his Church. Indeed, in this Year of Faith, may the Spirit lead us all to the living waters that stream from the Heart of Jesus, burning with love for us.

In Corde Iesu,

+ Philip

Bishop of Portsmouth

[i] I John 3: 1. This is the second reading given in the alternative set of readings for optional use in Year C.
[ii] Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, The Roman Missal 562
[iii] see Catechism of the Catholic Church. Second Edition (Rome, Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2000) 422-455; Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (London, CTS 2006) 81f and YOUCAT Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church (London, CTS 2010) 71f
[iv] Cf. St. Leo Sermo 6 In Nativitate Domini 2-3, 5 (PL 54, 213-216). This constitutes the Second Reading in the Office of Readings for 31stDecember.
[v] Luke 2: 51-52
[vi] Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives (New York, Image 2012)
[vii]Gaudium et Spes 22
[viii] For a concise summary of the Church’s teaching, see Catechism2331-2400
[ix] See Paul VI Humanae Vitae (London, CTS 1968) 19-30
[x] John Paul II Gratissimam Sane (Letter to Fanilies) 7-8, available online at http://www.vatican.va (December 2012)
[xi] Catechism 2339
Over at the Hermenutic of Continuity , Fr. Tim Finnigan’s post in which he outlines the hot-off-the-press Briefing paper which is intended to support the various statements made by our Bishops and to assist the people in our parishes to understand the Church’s teaching on marriage and family, in the face of much misinformation. It is a helpful brief explanation which is suitable for distribution in parishes.
Fr Tim Finnigan

Fr Tim Finnigan

The paper has been published by the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy.  Do take time to read through the introduction to the confraternity. Most encouraging.

BRIEFING PAPER ON ‘SAME-SEX MARRIAGE’ (emphasis mine)

01/01/2013

What are the reasons for this paper?

The Government proposes legislation to allow for same-sex marriage. The Catholic Church, with many others, strongly and unequivocally opposes such plans both for religious reasons (based on Scripture and Tradition) and because they are against the natural law which applies to everyone regardless of their faith commitment. Marriage, as the lifelong union of one man and one woman ordered for the procreation and upbringing of children, is rooted in human nature itself. Put simply, no government has the authority to change that. Any attempt to do so is harmful to society and constitutes a threat to freedom of conscience and the Church’s ability to function within civil society.

Why does it matter that marriage is between a man and a woman?

Marriage is as old as humanity itself. Men and women are complementary, equal in dignity but different. The very reason for this sexual distinction is to bring new life into the world. Since the beginning of humanity, marriage has been viewed as the proper environment for this, providing children with the context of permanent, committed love in which they can best flourish. Studies consistently highlight the importance of a stable family, of a mother and a father, for the best results for raising the next generation. But marriage concerns more than parents and children. It is the basis of a stable society and of civilisation itself and, therefore, requires legal recognition and protection.

But the Prime Minister says marriage is so important that everyone who wishes should be allowed to marry.  Shouldn’t we be supporting him?

The basis of the Prime Minister’s argument seems to be that, if two adults in a committed loving relationship wish to enter marriage, then they should be allowed to do so, regardless of the fact they are of the same gender. With respect, the Prime Minister is misrepresenting the nature of marriage. It is not, nor ever has been, about just any loving, committed relationship. We might have a loving committed relationship with our parents or our best friends, but marriage with them would be neither possible nor appropriate. Only the natural complementarity between a man and a woman can lead to marriage. Only this loving union, by definition, is open to bringing forth and nurturing children. Even in old age and infertility a husband and wife still preserve, like no other relationship, the elements of complementarity. That is why marriage is only possible between a man and a woman.

So isn’t the Church just discriminating against gay people?

Absolutely, not. The Church holds that every human being is created equal by God and is to be respected accordingly. The Church strongly opposes unjust discrimination against people with homosexual inclinations. In fact, the proposed legislation is not directly linked to the issue of same- sex attraction. The issue is about the meaning of marriage. Being pro-equality does not mean that everything is the same, nor that distinctions between things are unjustified. To say that everyone is equal is not the equivalent of saying they are the same. To say that a man cannot be a mother, and a woman cannot be a father is not against equality. To state this is simply to recognise an obvious fact of nature. It is in no way discriminatory. The same is true of marriage. Marriage is intrinsically linked to the procreation of children and makes no sense apart from this.

OK so same-sex marriage isn’t possible according to Christian belief, but the Prime Minster has given you assurances that you won’t have to marry same-sex couples in church if you don’t want to. Why can’t you accept they can marry elsewhere?

This is not merely a matter of religious belief and practice. It regards the future of society as a whole. It is called a matter of natural law which is something common to all regardless of personal religious belief. Tampering with such a fundamental natural institution as marriage is fraught with danger. Society ceases to flourish when it fails to cherish the family and the authentic understanding of marriage which makes the family possible. The experience of other countries where same-sex marriage has been introduced clearly indicates that the proposed change is only the beginning of a process of social engineering with tragic consequences. In Canada, since same-sex marriage was legalised, the courts have ruled that a child can legally have three parents. In the Netherlands also three-way relationships are now given a measure of legal recognition. Do we really want the UK to go down this route with all the consequent harm to children? Furthermore, with good cause, we have no confidence in the assurances offered by the Prime Minister. We recall how Catholic adoption agencies were closed because they refused to participate in a state permission for same-sex couples adopting children. If exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage is defined by equality law as discriminatory, toleration of such exclusion will not last long. Any attempted safeguard would be vulnerable to a future government, to a British court giving precedence to equality considerations and to the European Court of Human Rights.

Isn’t this a matter primarily for priests and other professionals in the Church?

Sadly, not. There is a real possibility that the Catholic Church will not be allowed for much longer to perform state recognised marriage registration in church because of its opposition to same-sex marriage. But leading human rights lawyer Aidan O’Neill QC has given his legal opinion that NHS Chaplains, teachers and foster parents could all be vulnerable. The rights of parents over their children’s education is also at threat. Mr O’Neill’s legal opinion is that any school, including a faith school, could legally dismiss a teacher for refusing to use educational material promoting same-sex marriage. Catholics must be aware of this threat to schools and teachers, and resist it with every means at their disposal. Similarly, if an institution is deemed discriminatory, can its charitable status be maintained? Legal cases would inevitably follow the passing of such legislation as in Canada.

So what are you encouraging us to do?

The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy is united in defending marriage and joins wholeheartedly the campaign of the Catholic Archbishops. We urge everyone who cares about upholding the meaning of marriage in civil law to make their views known to their MPs clearly, calmly and forcefully, and without impugning the motives of others. We urge all parties to ensure their Members have a free vote. It is not too late to stop this Bill. The Church calls on every Catholic, in conscience, to a clear and emphatic opposition to such proposals, and a refusal of any formal co-operation should such laws be passed. All this must be conducted in a spirit of charity. The Church defends the absolute dignity of every human being in the same way that she defends marriage and the family, that is, in proclaiming the truth with love. In this Christmas season, under the patronage of the Holy Family, let us all pray and work to ensure that the centrality of marriage and freedom of conscience which we have so long enjoyed continue to be defended by the laws of our country.

1st January 2013

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Our Lady, Mary, the Mother of God.

Mary (1)

Called in the Gospels ‘the Mother of Jesus’, Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her Son, as “the mother of my Lord.” In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly “Mother of God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 495)

The mother of the Messiah has been called many things in the last 2000 years – the Virgin Mary, Our Lady, the Blessed Mother, the  Mother of God, ‘Theotokos’ meaning God-bearer or mother of God. The latter name being used by the early Church Fathers.

In 431, the Council of Ephesus met, under Cyril’s leadership, and solemnly proclaimed that Mary is indeed rightly to be honoured as the Theotokos, the Mother of God.  It proclaimed that from the moment of His conception, God truly became man.  Of course Mary is a creature and could never be the origin of the eternal Trinity, God without beginning or end.  But the second person of the blessed Trinity chose to truly become man.  He did not just come and borrow a human body and drive it around for a while, ascend back to heaven, and discard it like an old car.  No, at the moment of His conception in the womb of Mary, an amazing thing happened.  God the Son united Himself with a human nature forever.

Mother of God icon.

Mother of God icon
Photo by: Klášter Pražského Jezulátka

The Council of Ephesus, once confirmed by the Pope, became the third ecumenical council of the Catholic Church, and its teaching in this matter is dogma, truth revealed by God which all are bound to accept.

So why does the Roman liturgy celebrate the Octave of Christmas as the Feast of Mary the Mother of God?  Because this paradoxical phrase strikes at the very heart of Christmas.  The songs we sing and the cards we write extol the babe of Bethlehem as Emmanuel, God-with-us.  He is so with us that after Gabriel’s visit to the Virgin of Nazareth, the Divine Word can never again be divided from our humanity.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is the perfect woman — hand-picked and created by God to be His mother. She is the ‘highly favoured one’. She knows the fullness of God’s love and passes this beautiful blessing onto to us. For, she is not only God’s mother, but our mother, too. She is the gentle, concerned mother who watches over us day and night, and cares for our every need. Every pain, every worry, every joy we feel she wants us to share it all with her. The love that God manifests toward her, she shares abundantly with us. The Holy Spirit dwells within her heart, and she is a conduit of love, grace, and tender mercy for us. She also serves as a wonderful model of love to emulate.

Just as Christmas honours Jesus as the Prince of Peace, the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God honours Mary as the Queen of Peace. Like the holy Infant, we are forever safe within her arms.

Mary is worth honouring and emulating because she is the ideal example of perfect obedience to God. Knowing that she could be stoned to death for carrying a baby conceived out of wedlock, she still said ‘yes’ to God: ‘Let it be done to me according to your word’ (Luke 1:38). When she said ‘yes’ to God she demonstrated perfect courage, perfect obedience and perfect faith.

Mary is a pillar of strength. She stands, not faints, at the base of the cross as her son’s life is taken from her. Mary understands human suffering. Her own life was full of suffering: a problem pregnancy, a difficult delivery in a faraway land. Mary bore her suffering with strength, dignity and perfect faith.

Support marriage as the heart of the family.

Archbishop Vincent Nicholls

Archbishop Vincent Nichols

Catholics will be urged to speak up for marriage as the heart of the family in a Pastoral Letter from the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster to his diocese. The Pastoral Letter will be read out during Masses at the 214 Catholic churches in the Diocese of Westminster over 29 – 30 December 2012, the Feast of the Holy Family.

In the letter the Archbishop says: “Indeed this is a time in which to speak up for marriage, between a husband and wife, as the heart of the family.”

“This vision of the family is rooted in the faithful love of a man and a woman, publicly expressed and accepted in marriage, responsible for the birth of the next generation and out of love working for the care and upbringing of their children. This is the vocation of marriage and parenthood, rooted in a natural bond, blessed by God and a sure sacrament in the life of the Church.

 

The full text of the letter follows: Quoted from ICN

My brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ

Today’s Feast is a moment in which to rejoice again in the vitality and importance of the family. Indeed this is a time in which to speak up for marriage, between a husband and wife, as the heart of the family.

Of course there are many different circumstances to family life. Events reshape the family lives of many people. We are right to express our admiration for those who work so hard to maintain family stability in difficulty and isolation. Support and loving care for them can make all the difference.

But none of this takes away the importance of having a clear vision of marriage and family, based on human nature itself. This vision of the family is rooted in the faithful love of a man and a woman, publicly expressed and accepted in marriage, responsible for the birth of the next generation and out of love working for the care and upbringing of their children. This is the vocation of marriage and parenthood, rooted in a natural bond, blessed by God and a sure sacrament in the life of the Church.

The first reading of our Mass today, from the Book of Ecclesiasticus, bears witness to the ancient roots of this vision. Written in the second century before Christ, it emphasises the sense of right and wrong that lies at the heart of marriage and family life. It speaks of the honour that is to exist between all the members of a family and across the generations. Along with honour, the author speaks of rights, respect, obedience, support and kindness which are needed if family life is to be stable and fruitful. It values the wisdom of the elderly and recognises the sacrifices necessary to love and care for them as they become frail and live with suffering. Its references to ‘The Lord’ who seeks our obedience shows that these values are not of our choosing. Rather they have an objective character, coming to us from God, or, in other words, written into our very nature and there for us to heed.

The Gospel we have heard recognises that family life will be full of testing times. Indeed for the Holy Family these three days were full of awful anxiety. Only through her thoughtful pondering did Mary come to understand God’s purposes which were not at all the same as her initial expectations. Just as the Holy Spirit had brought about the conception of Jesus within her, so too that same Holy Spirit had to lead Mary to understand and follow God’s ways. The journey by which we come to understand the purpose of God in our human nature and in our lives is also frequently difficult. There is often a journey to make from what I might think is God’s plan for me, to what God really wants. And on this journey the Church and her teaching is a sure guide, not least in the patterns of our relationships.

As we turn to the lovely reading from the First Letter of St John, we learn again that the love at the heart of family life has its origins in God. As we strive to live a life of love we are indeed ‘already children of God’. And what is more, a great promise is given to us too. As this God-given love comes to its fulfilment, ‘we shall become like him because we shall see him as he really is’. This is the promise of heaven that steadies us on our journey on earth. Of course we have to ‘fear the Lord and walk in his ways’, as the Psalmist said. But when we try to do so as best we can, then ‘we need not be afraid in God’s presence’. Rather we can look forward, with a blessed hope, to the coming of our Saviour, both at the hour of our death and at the moment of final judgement.

Today I ask for every family the blessing of God that you may be steadfast in your love and loyalty for each other, overcoming life’s difficulties with a firm and trusting faith and great perseverance. I pray too for our country that we will maintain the importance of marriage between a man and a woman as the heart of family life and, while always retaining proper and due respect for all, resist the proposed redefining of marriage with all its likely consequences particularly in schools and in how children are taught about the true nature of marriage.

At this time, we look to our Members of Parliament to defend, not change, the bond of man and woman in marriage as the essential element of the vision of the family. I urge everyone who cares about upholding the meaning of marriage in civil law to make their views known to their Members of Parliament, clearly, calmly and forcefully. Please do so as soon as possible.

I ask you to keep me in your prayers on this day, that as a diocese we may be a family that is loving and supportive of one another in our life in the Lord. Amen
Yours devotedly
+Vincent Nichols
Archbishop of Westminster

An Advent Hymn: Blessed be that Maid Marie

Lyrics: Blessed be that Maid Marie

Blessed be that Maid Marie;
Born He was of her body;
Very God ere time began,
Born in time the Son of man.

Eya! Ihesus hodie
Natus est de Virgine.

In a manger of an ass
Jesus lay and lulled was;
Born to die upon the Tree
Pro peccante homine.

Eya! Ihesus hodie
Natus est de Virgine.

Sweet and blissful was the song
Changed of the Angel throng,
“Peace on earth,” Alleluya.
In excelsis gloria.

Eya! Ihesus hodie
Natus est de Virgine.

Fare three Kings from far-off land,
Incense, gold and myrrh in hand;
In Bethlehem the Babe they see,
Stelle ducti lumine.

Eya! Ihesus hodie
Natus est de Virgine.

Make we merry on this fest,
In quo Christus natus est;
On this Child I pray you call,
To assoil and save us all.

Eya! Ihesus hodie
Natus est de Virgine.

…the mother of giants.

I’ve been wrestling with the challenges propositioned  by the virtue of Humility for some time now.  This journey of discovery has proved to be a rocky road with its fair share of pot-holes, hard knocks and falls which results in bruised feelings, denial and finally much introspection.

Today I attended a retreat day which was facilitated by Maryvale.  I ‘m busy working towards a certificate in Catechesis and part of the course demands that we students attend a retreat day. What bliss! To say that I’m happy to be working my way through this course would be an understatement. The course materials, course facilitators and amazing guest priests speakers stretch my thinking, and plant little seeds of knowledge that encourages my Faith to grow little by little and then grow some more. Today’s experience has been no exception to the rule. What never ceases to amaze me is the visiting priest:- his gifts are so unique, so well-developed and authentic that I cannot fail to be inspired by the depth and breadth of his knowledge and not least of all, his love for Christ.  Today I met a philosopher… I’ve always wanted to meet a philosopher!…who happens to edit the Catholic magazine, ‘Faith‘. Someone who debates and discusses faith and reason with the likes of Peter Atkins on one hand, and on the other cares for the spiritual well-being of the dying and the infirm  at two Catholic hospices in London. He is also someone who will spend his Saturday sharing his wisdom, experience and Faith to the likes of a mere mortal such as I!!!

The humility of these priests is tangible and exemplary. Many of these men have doctorates and have written thesis or have conquered many years of study and yet, I continue to be struck dumb by their ‘ordinariness’. Their focus is on the Lord and His work. That is their job. Their love. And I in turn love and respect them for their dedication in caring for a sinner such as I.

Today I was enticed to think more deeply about what it means to  ‘submitting intellect and will to God,’ to, ‘submit freely to the Word…amidst the gales and deluges this life on earth throws in our path’. And then I made the connection: to submit totally to God in everything , everything, is to understand the cornerstone  of the mother of the giant of all virtues-

H U M I L I T Y! If I can freely submit my intellect and will to the Word, to God, I’ll be journeying on a well-lit road that leads to love, and freedom from the trappings of the world we live in. How apt I thought, that I’ll celebrate the  feast of Christ the King tomorrow with a new understanding of this mega-virtue called humility.

Intellect without Will is dead. The Word needs to be put into action. Holiness involves the Intellect and Will. I seek holiness.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,even death on a cross.  Philippians 2: v3-5

Christ is King.

The Feast of Christ the King was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 as an antidote to secularism, a way of life which leaves God out of man’s thinking and living and organizes his life as if God did not exist. The feast is intended to proclaim in a striking and effective manner Christ’s royalty over individuals, families, society, governments, and nations. Pius took as his motto ‘Christ’s peace in Christ’s kingdom’, interpreting it as meaning that the church and Christianity should be active in, and not insulated from, society. 
On 11 December 1925, Pope Pius XI promulgated his encyclical letter Quas primas, on the Kingship of Christ. The encyclical dealt with what the Pope described correctly as “the chief cause of the difficulties under which mankind was labouring.” He explained that the manifold evils in the world are due to the fact that the majority of men have thrust Jesus Christ and His holy law out of their lives; that Our Lord and His holy law have no place either in private life or in politics; and, as long as individuals and states refuse to submit to the rule of our Saviour, there will be no hope of lasting peace among nations. Men must look for the peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ—Pax Christi in Regno Christi.

Christ the King!

Pope Pius XI: 1876-1958

Why did the Holy Father want to commemorate, by a special feast, a doctrine so uncontroversial? Why was the moment ripe for that particular lesson?

When he was crowned Pope, he insisted on giving his blessing to the world from the balcony of St. Peter’s, a thing no Pope had done since the loss of its temporal power. Even so early, he had made up his mind that the Papacy must come out of its retirement, and make itself felt as a moral force in the world. And he introduced this feast of the Kingship of Christ with the same ideal in view. He saw that the minds of men, of young men especially, all over Europe, would be caught by a wave of conflicting loyalties which would drown the voice of conscience and produce everywhere unscrupulous wars between nations.

The institution of this feast was not a gesture of clericalism against anti-clericalism, still less a gesture of authoritarianism against democracy. It was a gesture of Christian truth against a world which was on the point of going mad with political propaganda; it was to say to the world that the claim of the divine law upon the human conscience comes before anything else.

 

 

Significant 7

This one’s for 8kidsandabusiness, as I received a super award from her 10 days ago. So, today I am fulfilling the rules on acceptance of this accolade! The great tenet of this award is the fact that I have had to consider which 7 Bible passages are my favourite. This has left me the opportunity  to reconsider the Word of God and left me with much  food for thought myself. Thanks for this opportunity 8kidsandabusiness!

Citizen Tom created the Food For Thought Award.  Here is his explanation:“What’s The Food for Thought Award? How can we combine The Super Sweet Blogger Award with The Thought Provoking Blog Award? Well, when a Christian blog offers visitors wisdom from the Word of God, isn’t that blog providing its visitors food for thought? Ah ha! Thus was born a new award.”  

Here are the rules:

  1. Post the award on your blog.
  2. Thank the one who nominated you and link back to their blog.
  3. Share seven of your favourite Bible passages. For extra points (Perhaps our Father in heaven will award them.), explain why each of these seven passages is a favourite.
  4. Nominate seven other bloggers you admire and enjoy! Why seven? In the Bible, seven symbolizes completeness.
  5. Inform each person that you have nominated them.

My seven favourite Bible passages: I have used the website Biblia to find the passages. I love this site as you have numerous translations to choose from . I am using the Revised Standard Edition. 

  1. Psalm 139:  This was the first passage I read that revealed God the Father to me. HE knew me before anyone else. Anyone else! It makes me feel cherished. This Psalm made me tingle from head to toe. A message just for me, at the right time of my life.

13 For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.

 

2. Proverbs 3: v5-6: That God is the One , True and Only Way to fulfilment in life frees me from many stresses. It has helped me to come to terms with my human frailty.

5  Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

6  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

 

 

3. Psalm 51:10,11,12:  For meperfect prayer before Confession

10  Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

11  Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

12  Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

 

4. John 6:35: My hunger to be close to the Lord is satisfied in this, The Bread of Life. I receive Him in the form of bread as often as possible and every time I do I feel His peace and I think about when next I will be so close to Him.

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst”.

5. Psalm 34:8  I love this quote because of the truth in it. Related to the quote above.

8  Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

 

6. Matthew 5:44: In Confession, my parish priest told me to pray for the person who was making my life a misery. I  looked up the bible quote and it’s one that I keep close to my heart. It took many attempts to pray for someone who made me so unhappy, I simply couldn’t get passed my feelings of anger and frustration, but I pray easily now because this prayer has changed my view of the persecutor.

44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.

6.  1Peter 5:8,9  My discernment of temptation  is heightened in these two verses and through my experiences in life. My parish priest says, ‘If the devil leaves you alone, you know you’re in trouble!!’.

8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil  prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 

7. Matthew 6:9 One of my favourite, most complete prayers ever:

9  Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name.

10  Your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

11  Give us this day our daily bread,

12  and forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13  And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

 

 

 

Mull over,question, comment and share.

We need prophetic witnesses. We need people who in their way of life challenge the prevailing false ideologies bearing upon the production, distribution, and use of material goods. We need lived prophecy.

We therefore need pilgrim witnesses. We need joyous, loving men and women to show in their lives that one can live a sparing-sharing lifestyle and still be happy and fulfilled. We need to induce conversion into the masses first by example, then by word—really, by both simultaneously. (my highlight)

—Fr. Thomas Dubay

From his book “Happy Are You Poor”. Find this book on our site here:http://goo.gl/FjB1k

I explain below why I chose to include this quote:

The past two weeks has been privy my to early morning rises and late-night home comings. I’ve been on auto-pilot moving mechanically from one responsibility to the next and it’s been catching up with me. When life gets a little too hectic, I indulge in buying some of my favourite magazines. I thought I’d put the kettle on and enjoy a little frivolous down time enjoying a strong cup of tea and a glossy magazine filled with entertaining tidbits of nothing overly important or taxing. Nothing that strains the brain too much. The fact that 95%the magazine was filled with  articles about Christmas did make me sit up and think once again, ‘Yes , Christmas is being sold consumers earlier each year’, as I purchased the magazine two weeks before the end of October! And so , the secular tidal wave rolls over once again.

Just recently the 250 000 lights along Regent street have been switched on, luring shoppers into London in order to spend, spend, spend. Loads of people go to London to see the Christmas decorations; the sparkly lights and to experience the tradition of Christmas in one of the world’s most exciting cities on the planet.

While sipping my strong brew, I spluttered and coughed as I turned the pages to be greeted by a feature in the called,’In the mood for love?’ (this was decorated with a picture of mistletoe!)I was more than a little disappointed that a generally (I thought) ‘clean-cut’ women’s magazine which boasts world class recipes, great ideas to get rid of stains etc,  and recommends which home gadgets we busy women cannot be without in order to in order run our homes, had an article such as this one, sully its reputation.  At first glance the article could be looked at as inoffensive and pretty mild by today’s standards, but on closer inspection I was introduced to women sharing their light-hearted experiences regarding foreplay, as if this topic is just what everyone should know about, would be  interested in, and would be willing to share themselves. I was disappointed that at my ‘favourite’ magazine  has fallen prey to feeling the need to satisfy the trained masses in their need for  a now expected, type of voyeurism. This habit being perpetuated by a never-ending stream of talent and game-shows filling most channels on t.v. And so , the secular tidal wave rolls over once again. 

I have come to an age when I ‘ve realised I have to make choices about things that matter to me: I made one such decision recently. Two acquaintances are to marry in the near future, so a ‘Hen-Night’ as been arranged to celebrate these wonderful events. These celebrations will take place in a club and the evening will include making cocktails, a meal and dancing. I have two main objections to this:

  1. You have to dress the part: and my wardrobe is sadly lacking in the area of clubbing attire!
  2. One of the betrothed has been married before and the other has lived with her fiancée for two years already!! What a farce……I would not really be celebrating, I would most certainly be lying to myself if I pretended to be having a good time. If I did attend I’d feel like a fraud. So, no, I won’t be attending.

I quite like the idea of becoming a ‘pilgrim witness’ who induces conversion into the masses first by example, then by word.

On a more upbeat note, I received this pleasant and unexpected surprise from 8Kids And a Business– last week (I did say I ‘ve been busy) ‘The Food for Thought award’! I consider this award to be seriously prestigious in the Catholic blogosphere, as we’re blogging to share the GOOD NEWS about Jesus and His message of Love and Hope, and if  1catholicsalmon is providing food for thought for readers, I’m a happy camper.

 

I will adhere to the prerequisites on acceptance of the reward later in this week. Thanks once again 8Kidsandabusiness!

 

 

Blogathon!

I include an illustration of what my desk usually/can/sometimes looks like, to emphasize that I am certainly not one to wing-it. I have taken a while to respond to the BILTRIX nudging from afar. I needed time to digest this notion of a blogAthon, being careful to include all the necessary components meticulously.

Last week 1catholicsalmon was tagged by the Catholic blogging champion BILTRIX  (THANK YOU!),  and was thereby convinced to take part in this blogaThon: All in the interest of spreading the Faith! How could I refuse to participate?

I am attempting to carry on this honour by participating in said ‘blogAthon.’ The rules (which are not obligatory, by any stretch of the imagination…in other words, please don’t feel obligated to do this if you have been tagged here) are as follows:

1. Each person tagged must post 11 things about themselves.
2. They must also answer the 11 questions the “tagger” has set for them.
3. They must create 11 more questions to ask bloggers they have decided to tag.
4. They must then choose 11 bloggers and tag them in their post.
5. These “lucky” bloggers must then be told.
6. No tag backs.

So here goes:

11 things about myself:

  1. For the first few days on holiday I usually sleep.
  2. My first thought every day is to make it to Mass.
  3. I make conscious Christian choices during the day.
  4. I treasure the Sacrament of Confession. I have learned much through it.
  5. I wear a crucifix as a statement of my faith  and also to show my devotion to the Lord.
  6. I am aware of my responsibilities as a ‘wearer of the Cross’.
  7. I try to hear the Lord through all my dealings with others throughout the day.
  8. I have a brand new daily Missal. Everything’s in there. Everything!
  9. I have downloaded loads of Catholic books onto my Kindle.
  10. Spending an afternoon browsing around the St. Paul’s bookshop in London is my idea of a great afternoon.
  11. I am keen  to ponder the fruits of this year of Faith in a few years time.

Here are the questions for Me to answer:

  1. Have you ever read a dialogue by Plato? I have read some quotes and touched on Greek history at Uni.
  2. Do you know any foreign languages? YES!- Afrikaans and  Portuguese
  3. How good are you at math? Better than I was 5 years ago.
  4. Are you a convert? No, I’m a cradle-Catholic, and I’m still discovering the beauty and depth of the Faith.
  5. Would you like to renew your baptismal promises? Yes
  6. Do you reject Satan? Yes!
  7. And all his works? Yes!
  8. And all his empty promises? Yes!
  9. Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth? Yes!
  10. Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father? Yes!
  11. Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting? Yes!

If your name is mentioned below, that means I TAGGED you (that means YOU’RE IT, get it?).

AND THE 6  BLOGGERS I TAG ARE:

  1. Conversion Diary : A Catholic convert share’s her life.
  2. Gracie’s Quest : Good Christian reading here.
  3. Catholic1 : Just one in a billion!
  4. Daniel Undum : Author of a new book called, ‘The offensive Catholic’. 
  5. My Hope Box : Friendly Catholic blogging, including good Catechesis.
  6. Transformed in Christ : A Catechist from London.

Now… If your name is one of the names listed above, you got TAGGED, and you may be asking yourself Why did I get tagged? So that you can tag someone else. C’mon! Spread the faith!

Here are the 11 questions the tagged bloggers are to answer about themselves:

  1. What’s the first memory about Church?
  2. Are you invited to speak to your priest as you would speak to a friend?. (Do you know him well enough to feel relaxed in his company?)
  3. Have you ever imagined something funny happening up on the Altar during Mass?
  4. Which character trait makes your parish priest human?
  5. What stays with you after Mass and into the week?
  6. Please recommend a good Christian movie:
  7. Which do you prefer: Gregorian Chant or singing from the hymn book?
  8. Have you experienced a pilgrimage?
  9. Which is your favoured character in the Bible?
  10. Has Confession changed the way you think about your actions?
  11. Which is your chosen Mass time on Sunday: 9:30 am, 11:30 am  or 5:30pm, or do you attend the 6:00 on Saturday evenings?