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“…They called the church together and reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith…”(Acts 14:27).

With his Apostolic Letter of October 11, 2011,Porta Fidei. . . , Pope Benedict XVI declared that a “Year of Faith” will begin on October 11, 2012 and conclude on November 24, 2013. October 11, 2012, the first day of the Year of Faith, is the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. . . (Vatican II) and also the twentieth anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. During the Year of Faith, Catholics are asked to study and reflect on the documents of Vatican II and the catechism so that they may deepen their knowledge of the faith.

The upcoming Year of Faith is a “summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the One Savior of the world” (Porta Fidei 6). In other words, the Year of Faith is an opportunity for Catholics to experience a conversion – to turn back to Jesus and enter into a deeper relationship with him. The “door of faith” is opened at one’s baptism, but during this year Catholics are called to open it again, walk through it and rediscover and renew their relationship with Christ and his Church.

Image @catholicmessenger.net

 

What will you consider doing as a practising Catholic for the upcoming Year of Faith, that may make a difference for those on the outskirts of the Church in their understanding of the Faith, and their relationship with Jesus?

 

The magnificence of Pentecost.

 

Jean Restout

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

O Holy Spirit, Soul of my soul, I love You and adore You!

Teacher of all truth who searches the deep things of God:
In the face of my hostility to the truth,
You have the power to sting the conscience
With your healing power,
Open up today, again, the floodgates of holy tears,
Let compunction flow in this barren heart,
In this love parched world,
In the hearts of all who long for freedom from sin.

Lord and Giver of Life,
Time is short, the hour is late, and judgment certain:
I beg for the gift of repentance
That I and all those threatened
By the power of death,
Might never again forsake the pathway of life.
Help me scrutinize my whole way of life
In the light of the Gospel.
Help me die to myself that I might live
No longer my own life,
But the Life of Christ in me.

Sanctifying Gift of God,
You are constantly coming
Into the innermost depths of my being:
In ever new and more wondrous ways,
Inebriate me again in Your Love!

Breath of God who sweeps over Creation,
Your presence transforms the heart into paradise
And you constantly fill our inner poverty
With such inexhaustible riches.
Even more, You never cease
To allure us out of self-occupation
And into that sacred silence
Where the Word, who makes all things new, resounds:
As You enter ever deeper into my misery,
Lead me deeper and deeper into the heart of Divine Mercy.

Fire of Love,
Ignite holy affections in the deep places of my heart
that I might never be indifferent to the plight of my neighbor
Or fail to seek forgiveness from those I have wronged,
Or delay in offering forgiveness for those debts I can relieve.
Left to myself, I do not have the power
To forgive or forget an offense,
And in the effort to love as I have been loved,
I feel my weakness and inadequacy all the time.
But you constantly teach me compassion and intercession:
Help me submit my brokenness and sorrow to you.

You who covered the Son with transfiguring brightness,
Illumine our darkness with the radiance of Christ,
In the midst of crisis, help us overcome anxiety and insobriety,
In the midst of disaster, free us from all despondency and sinful anger,
That all those who suffer and are burdened might keep their eyes fixed
On the One who has triumphed over sin and death,
Who alone can lead us to the victory of good over evil.

You who overshadowed the Virgin Mary:
Pierce me with the love of the Father revealed by Christ Crucified,
Lift up my heart with the praise of the Only Begotten Son
In whom the Father is well-pleased,
Enflame me with the prayers of the Risen Lord in bold confidence
For the salvation of the world!

Most High and Glorious God,
I promise to be obedient, teachable, surrendered, and abandoned
In everything you permit to happen to me:
Only let me know your holy and true will.

Amen.

Written by – thoelogy teacher.

Irritated and disappointed!

Image @esphoneblog.com

This morning I attended a Holy Communion celebration at a different parish. I sat in a noisy church for fifteen minutes before Mass began (it sounded like a market square!), and throughout the Mass there was chatting and nattering in varying degrees. I am certain I wasn’t the only Angry Bird there.  I found it really difficult to pray and after a while I just gave up trying. The noisy din quieted marginally at the Consecration but returned with a vengeance afterwards. This is what went through my mind:

  1. What proportion of the families present actually attend Mass, not a huge number, of that I’m sure!
  2. Surely it’s a given that when you attend a place of worship, you are respectful, or at least cautious not to offend?
  3. What are those first Holy Communicants learning by adult example?
  4. Even if I had turned around to ask for silence, it would’ve made little difference as there were conversations going on  all around me.
  5. Little reverence. So sad. Our Lord was not the focus of this gathering…
  6. Not once was mention made of the need for quiet from the pulpit. WHY NOT!
  7. I was appalled at the congratulations being metered out by one family member to a first Communicant en-route to receive the Blood of Christ. Kisses and hugs no less. Total disrespect.
  8. It’s not acceptable  to allow this sort of behaviour at Mass. The priest here has failed dismally at Catechises, and should re-Catechise his flock.
  9. I am soooo grateful for my wonderful parish priest. His ways are frowned upon by some as out-dated and draconian, but our Masses are opportunities to meditate, pray, listen and respond to the Word of God. It’s a quiet place that offers an opportunity to receive Our Lord in the right frame of mind, prayerfully.
  10. I’m going to make sure my disappointment is recorded and sent to the parish priest.

Another opportunity to learn, but it’s painful..

Image @reasontostand.org

Relativism is the philosophical position that all points of view are equally valid, and that all truth is relative to the individual.  This means that all moral positions, all religious systems, all art forms, all political movements, etc., are truths that are relative to the individual.’ (Definition from http://carm.org)

For some time now I’ ve been exposed to someone on a daily basis who seems to sit on the fence pretty much all of the time. The boundaries move constantly. Nothing is set in stone, and everything is questioned. It’s exhausting being around this way of thinking. It’s draining.  I think that this situation is so overwhelming to me because I am a Christian with definitive and TRUE beliefs, providing me with boundaries, answers and something to hope for. My understanding of the world around me is governed by my Faith and the structure that it provides. So my convictions remain steadfast, and I aim to make the best decisions in the moment based on my knowledge of what  I understand the Lord expects of me. In this way I hope my acquaintances get to respect me as someone true to my word.

A Relativist outlook on life seems to be one where indecision reigns, partnered with quick ‘get-out-quick’ clauses releasing one from all responsibility, sporting little backbone while walking the tight-rope called, ‘I’m OK if you’re OK’ gingerly, in the hope that neutrality will win favour with all. Slowly but surely have I noticed the unravelling of hidden knots release a ball of string that never seems to end.

I have a problem: I am to be around this world view for a long time to come yet, and I ‘m not coping very well. I have bottled things inside to a near bursting point. By nature, I say it as it is, but equally, I’m a Vanguard for keeping the peace. I do not like ‘rocking the boat’. It’s in my genetic make-up and if it means keeping quiet, then I am the first one to back away. A close friend said that ,’Being a Christian does not mean you need to be a doormat’. That hit hard. I do not see myself as a doormat, I just know that I don’t have the confidence to speak up, because I may say something I will regret later. A catch 22 situation.

I have found myself in a similar situation before, and I have yet to learn how to deal with a bully at the moment an infringement upon my basic right to be respected as a fellow human being, takes place. This is crunch-time. I have to make an assertive stand, against put-downs and undermining behaviour, in the name of ‘acceptance ‘ and ‘fairness’  to others. As a way of getting things done in order not to ‘offend’ anyone concerned, with the sole purpose of remaining in ‘everyone’s favour’.

I know I have to be honest to my Faith every time, by challenging relativist notions, and drawing a line in the sand that cannot be crossed. I need to trust my Saviour in the Holy Spirit. I know the journey is going to be unpleasant, but it’s one I have to take.

Praying a Pentecost Novena?

I signed up for Novena’s and received a reminder about the start of A Novena to the Holy Spirit. I thought perhaps some of you would like to pray this Novena as well. Follow this link for the prayers.

I prayed the Divine Mercy Novena this year and gained much from doing it: reassurance, peace and time with the Lord. I wait with baited breath for the rewards of praying a Novena to the Holy Spirit!

Prayer for an Expectant Mother


Father of Life,

We thank you for the expectant mother who carries this growing hope in her life and into our world. Bless her and the living promise of this child and help her to manage the mix of joys, fears and anxieties she may have about the time ahead.

As she watches her body change, may she grow in your own loving kindness and compassion. Let her be inspired by Mary and Joseph who model a loving family life and give her the courage to guide her children in a faith-filled life.

Be with her in her gladness these days and deepen her faith, so that labor might be a time of strength and prayer. Guard the health of her baby and give her the peace of mind that may so often seem elusive in this time.

With your grace, she will be ready for the end of this expectant time and ready to take on the joys and challenges of parenthood.

May she praise you with Mary:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exalts in God my savior.”

A day full of promise, and many questions.

Image from @abbeyofthearts

‘Crossing the Threshold’, a resource day to help parishioners reach out to non-church going Catholics, took place in Pimlico parish hall on Saturday 28 April.’ Look here for photos from the day.

My attendance at this conference deepened my understanding of  the responsibility I have as a ‘worker in the Vineyard’. There are just so many jobs to do! The most important one, of course, is to love the Lord. In so doing, through my actions, interests and demeanour pique the interest of other’s in such a way that they too want to know more about why I make the choices I do.

I attended the day without any expectations and was just blown away by the depth and breadth of the topics covered. Once again , I was not disappointed by the day’s unfolding and I left feeling energised, motivated and under no illusion about the task ahead. Archbishop Richard Roth (the Chaplain to the Navy) was the keynote speaker. He introduced the underlying concern of the day: re-engaging ‘resting Catholics’ through parish activities in order to lead them back to the Lord.  His excellent talk included statistics on the number of Catholics in England and Wales (roughly 4-5000,000) who do not belong to a Christian community for one reason or another. This day was dedicated to calling these people into community and relationship with Jesus.

He then moved on to quote Tertullian who described the first Christian communities as those which lived distinctly from the rest of society. He spoke also about the early Christian communities living in support of one another, sharing everything they had with one another and the wider community, celebrating the Eucharist on a Sunday every week, praying and remaining faithful to the teachings of Christ.

He referred to the courtyard areas in the Jewish Temple grounds of old, in which Gentiles (the nations distinct from the Jewish people) would come and debate the questions of  faith at leisure daily. He suggested that the Church make available similar access for those that have been living apart from the Christian community, reaching out through dialogue and support and outreach work.

St Benedict’s Rule was mentioned: ‘To live as a model for our world in the market place.’ It was noted that God’s calls us into relationship with Him, and that we all sense His call and at some point return to that relationship with Him.

Of course I leave out much detail, but I’d say this was the gist of it.  We then moved on to celebrate the Eucharist and a packed lunch afterwards.

I was keen to get into the two sessions I ‘d marked as my preference and I was not disappointed. The first session was based on the outreach work undertaken by the SVP Society(http://www.svp.org.uk/) , which kick-started group discussions on the groups and outreach programs offered by the various churches represented there.

I list but a few: Winter Shelters, Toddler groups, Shared lunch Fridays, Soup and Bread days, City Safe for London, CAFOD groups, Social Justice groups, Keep Fit for the elderly etc. From the discussion it was detailed that lots of home visits are a good undertaking as outreach work and that any platform which offers time for discussion, inquiry and personal contact is an opportunity for making new friends and fresh starts.  There was emphasis on focussing on the youth and the contributions they could make to parish life and how important it is to make them feel welcomed and valued in a non-threatening way.

The second session I attended was called, ‘The challenge of the New Evangelisation: How to reach non-churchgoing Catholics.’ This was led by the very capable Michael Roche, head of ‘ALPHA in a Catholic Context’ in England and Wales.

I quote from the Alpha website:

The Alpha course is a parish tool for evangelisation that is being used by thousands of Catholic parishes in more than 65 countries around the world. A 15-session ten week practical introduction to the Christian faith, Alpha is designed primarily for non-churchgoers and new Christians. The course also serves as a refresher course for both practicing Catholics and for those who have lapsed in their faith. Each session includes a meal, a talk and small group discussion. (Read more here)

This session was focussed on the fact that many Catholics have been Sacramentalized but not Evangilized and how through the Alpha course (amongst others) can get the Faith juiced flowing once again.

The afternoon ended with a commissioning from the Bishop and priests sending us forth to share our knowledge gained from the afternoon.

So finally, the questions that arose for me are these: Which endeavour would I like to be part of or start? Is this something that the Lord really wants me to do? What is our parish already doing as far as outreach work is concerned? Will I tread on any sensitive toes that may already be running in certain long-standing  groups? How will our parish priest respond? Do I really have time? If I don’t make an effort to respond, who will?

Spy Wednesday

 

thirty-pieces-of-silver

In the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) we see that 30 pieces of silver was what a slave was sold for, which wasn’t a lot of money. Judas Iscariot betrayed Our Lord for the classic “30 pieces of silver” and Jesus knew it.

Holy Wednesday was known as Spy Wednesday in reference to the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Escariot. Judas went to the Sanhedrin who were plotting against Jesus and offered them his support in exchange for 30 pieces of silver. The events that lead Jesus to the cross are filled with intrigue, suspense and an impending sense of disaster, thus it was called Spy Wednesday. The events that lead Jesus to the cross are filled with intrigue, suspense and an impending sense of disaster.

The powers of good and evil, light and darkness, sin and salvation are poised to exhibit themselves at the place we call Golgotha. At the Last Supper, Jesus leaned to Judas and said “whatever you have to do, do it now!” (John 13:27) Judas ran out of the Last Supper ashamed, because he was filled with Satan, and later, turned Jesus over to the authorities with a kiss!! Judas in his interrogatory and somewhat cynical statement during the Last Supper of, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” provides the catalyst for the process of darkness to unravel.

spytues

Judas leaves the Last Supper

What is so significant about this, “Spy Wednesday” is that it theologically reflects the daily struggles we all endure in order to accept a relationship with the Lord. As preparations begin for the Church’s celebration of our New Passover, this Wednesday before the Triduum invites all of us to share in, “Holy Wednesday”, not to pursue darkness and evil, but progress on the path of Light and Life.  The Church in its wisdom sees this period of “Holy Wednesday” as a time for personal preparation.  Unlike Judas, our preparations should be motivated by the promise of new life in the Paschal Mystery and not a rejection of the “morsel” which Jesus offers to us in friendship and love.

 

 

A holy man.

Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa Preacher of the Pontifical Household Images from capuchinfranciscans.blogspot.com

I was fortunate to hear the preaching of  Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household (Image from capuchinfranciscans.blogspot.com), when he preached at the Holy Trinity Anglican church in Brompton, London.

I was invited to the church by a fellow Catholic who had heard the preaching of Fr. Cantalamessa at the same church years before.

I was absolutely bowled over by the humility of this wonderful priest. His manner of preaching is direct and so full of love for God. He is obviously a servant of the Lord , going about his business of bringing others to the feet of Jesus.

If you are able to hear this man preach the Word of God, make every effort to be there to listen!

What are the consequences of the ‘I don’t want to offend’ mindset?

On my Journey, I have encountered the Holy Spirit in different situations either prodding me gently to go ahead when I’m feeling insecure; as a wonderful embrace of Peace after receiving Holy Communion or the sacrament of Reconciliation; as a Friend I can rely on when I really can’t find words and am at a loss when it’s really important, and crucially also,  as Someone who nudges  me to speak up when I find it difficult to stand my ground as a Catholic Christian. I experienced these nudging’s a number of times and did not take heed of them, retreating to my solitary place of silence where  I didn’t rock the boat because it became too uncomfortable. I would then go away from the situation, agitated, frustrated with myself and with a sense of sadness and not just a little guilt for not challenging ignorance or even worse, a direct attack on Catholic morals and values.

However, the Lord is patient when waiting for me to learn a lesson! After many missed opportunities and uncomfortable times of introspection, it gradually dawned on me that if I didn’t say anything I would be living a lie, to myself , the people in my life and most importantly, to my Lord. The path to this realisation was signposted in neon lights with:- hand-picked mentors from the Lord, who continue to provide me with the tools to unpick my insecurities; courses, reading,  groups, including a wonderful parish,  invitations  that illuminate and continues to improve my  knowledge of  the Faith;  by the courage,  faith and love for Jesus ever-present in our priest, Fr. Peter; and of course, the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation. I could add to the list, but will leave it there and perhaps return to this topic at a later date.

Herewith a thought for the road. I quote from the http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/2011/11/hain-the-consequences-of-the-i-dont-want-to-offend-mindset/ which hosts a piece written by Randy Hain:

”The saddest and most glaring point about the “I don’t want to offend” mindset is that we rarely think about how we are offending Christ.  We get bogged down in minor personal concerns and our own fears when we should be thinking about His sacrifice for us on the Cross.  We should routinely fall to our knees in gratitude and recognize that nothing we will ever face can compare to what He did for us.   We will be supported through our fears, difficulties and struggles if we will go to Him in prayer and ask for help.  His sacrifice then and His ongoing love and support, He will always sustain us in difficult situations if we will only be humble, acknowledge Him, embrace Him and love Him.”

The punchline for me:- ”The saddest and most glaring point about the “I don’t want to offend” mindset is that we rarely think about how we are offending Christ.” Keeping quiet, avoiding the subject, directing the conversation elsewhere, pretending not to hear…are behaviours that lead us to offending Christ in our quest for ‘peace’.

I have learned from my lessons that it takes prayer, courage and continued searching for true knowledge about the Faith to stand up and be counted as a vanguard in God‘s army.