Lenten Thoughts – 8 March – “‘Return to me,’ says the Lord. ‘To me.’”

Lenten Thoughts – 8 March – “‘Return to me,’ says the Lord. ‘To me.’”


Basilica of Santa Sabina
Ash Wednesday, 6 March 2019lent is the time to free ourselves - pope francis ash wed 6 march 2019 - 8 march 2019.jpg

“Blow the trumpet […] sanctify a fast” (Joel 2:15), says the prophet in the first reading. Lent opens with a piercing sound, that of a trumpet that does not please the ears but instead proclaims a fast.   It is a loud sound that seeks to slow down our life, which is so fast-paced, yet often directionless.   It is a summons to stop, to focus on what is essential, to fast from the unnecessary things that distract us.   It is a wake-up call for the soul.

This wake-up call is accompanied by the message that the Lord proclaims through the lips of the prophet, a short and heartfelt message:   “Return to me” (v 12).   To return. If we have to return, it means that we have wandered off.   Lent is the time to rediscover the direction of life.   Because in life’s journey, as in every journey, what really matters is not to lose sight of the goal.   If what interests us as we travel, however, is looking at the scenery or stopping to eat, we will not get far.   We should ask ourselves – On the journey of life, do I seek the way forward?   Or am I satisfied with living in the moment and thinking only of feeling good, solving some problems and having fun?   What is the path? Is it the search for health, which many today say comes first but which eventually passes?   Could it be possessions and wellbeing?   But we are not in the world for this. Return to me, says the Lord. To me.   The Lord is the goal of our journey in this world.   The direction must lead to Him.

Today we have been offered a sign that will help us find our direction – the head marked by ash.   It is a sign that causes us to consider what occupies our mind.   Our thoughts often focus on transient things, which come and go.   The small mark of ash, which we will receive, is a subtle yet real reminder that of the many things occupying our thoughts, that we chase after and worry about every day, nothing will remain.   No matter how hard we work, we will take no wealth with us from this life.   Earthly realities fade away like dust in the wind.   Possessions are temporary, power passes, success wanes.   The culture of appearance prevalent today, which persuades us to live for passing things, is a great deception.   It is like a blaze – once ended, only ash remains Lent is the time to free ourselves from the illusion of chasing after dust. Lent is for rediscovering that we are created for the inextinguishable flame, not for ashes that immediately disappear;  for God, not for the world;  for the eternity of heaven, not for earthly deceit, for the freedom of the children of God, not for slavery to things.   We should ask ourselves today – Where do I stand?   Do I live for fire or for ash?

On this Lenten journey, back to what is essential, the Gospel proposes three steps which the Lord invites us to undertake without hypocrisy and pretense – almsgiving, prayer, fasting.   What are they for?   Almsgiving, prayer and fasting bring us back to the three realities that do not fade away.   Prayer reunites us to God;  charity, to our neighbour; fasting, to ourselves.   God, my neighbour, my life – these are the realities that do not fade away and in which we must invest.   Lent, therefore, invites us to focus, first of all on the Almighty, in prayer, which frees us from that horizontal and mundane life where we find time for self but forget God.   It then invites us to focus on others, with the charity that frees us from the vanity of acquiring and of thinking that things are only good if they are good for me.   Finally, Lent invites us to look inside our heart, with fasting, which frees us from attachment to things and from the worldliness that numbs the heart.   Prayer, charity, fasting – three investments for a treasure that endures.

Jesus said: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mt 6:21).   Our heart always points in some direction, it is like a compass seeking its bearings.   We can also compare it to a magnet, it needs to attach itself to something.   But if it only attaches itself to earthly things, sooner or later it becomes a slave to them, things to be used become things we serve.   Outward appearance, money, career or hobby, if we live for them, they will become idols that enslave us, sirens that charm us and then cast us adrift.   Whereas if our heart is attached to what does not pass away, we rediscover ourselves and are set free.   Lent is a time of grace that liberates the heart from vanity.   It is a time of healing from addictions that seduce us.   It is a time to fix our gaze on what abides.lent is a time of grace - pope francis - friday after ash wed 8 march 2019.jpg

Where can we fix our gaze, then, throughout this Lenten journey?   Upon the Crucified One. Jesus on the cross is life’s compass, which directs us to heaven.   The poverty of the wood, the silence of the Lord, His loving self-emptying show us the necessity of a simpler life, free from anxiety about things.   From the cross, Jesus teaches us the great courage involved in renunciation. 

We will never move forward if we are heavily weighed down.  We need to free ourselves from the clutches of consumerism and the snares of selfishness, from always wanting more, from never being satisfied and from a heart closed to the needs of the poor.   Jesus on the wood of the cross burns with love and calls us to a life that is passionate for Him, which is not lost amid the ashes of the world, to a life that burns with charity and is not extinguished in mediocrity.

Is it difficult to live as He asks?   Yes but it leads us to our goal.   Lent shows us this. It begins with the ashes but eventually leads us to the fire of Easter night;  to the discovery that, in the tomb, the body of Jesus does not turn to ashes but rises gloriously.   This is true also for us, who are dust.   If we, with our weaknesses, return to the Lord, if we take the path of love, then we will embrace the life that never ends.   And we will be full of joy.


Friday after Ash Wednesday – 8 March “Then they will Fast”

Friday after Ash Wednesday – 8 March

“Come back to Me with all your Heart.”

Daily Meditation:
A Friday of Lent
and an introduction to “True Fasting.”
We are still in the first four days of Lent.
Today and tomorrow we read the 58th Chapter
of the book of the prophet Isaiah.
These powerful words have such a contemporary message.
True fasting will lead us to act justly and caring
for those who are most in need.

On every Friday of Lent we abstain from meat
as a sign of our common penance.
It represents our efforts to abstain from
– do without – so many other patterns
that get in the way of our happiness and wholeness.

“Then they will fast”

“Among the penitential practices that the Church suggests to us above all during this Lenten time is fasting.   It consists in a special sobriety in the food we eat, while ensuring care for the needs of our body.   This is a traditional form of penance, which has lost none of its significance and which we perhaps need to rediscover, above all in that part of the world and in the milieus where food not only abounds, but where we at times encounter illnesses due to overeating.

Obviously, penitential fasting is very different from therapeutic diets.   But as it is, we can see in it a therapy for the soul.   For when it is practised as a sign of conversion, it facilitates the interior effort to make oneself available to listening to God.   To fast is to reaffirm for oneself what Jesus replied to Satan, when the latter tempted him at the end of forty days of fasting in the desert:  “Not on bread alone is man to live but on every utterance that comes from the mouth of God.” (Mt 4:4)   Today, especially in our well-to-do societies, it is difficult for us to understand the meaning of this word of the gospel. Instead of pacifying our needs, the consumer society creates ever new ones, even engendering disproportionate activism… Among other meanings, penitential fasting has precisely the aim of helping us to recover interiority.

The effort towards moderation in food also extends to other things that are not necessary and it greatly aids the life of the spirit.   Sobriety, recollection and prayer go together. This principle can be appropriately applied to our use of the mass media.   They are unquestionably useful but they must not become the “masters” over our life.   In so many families, the television seems to replace rather than facilitate dialogue among the persons!   A certain “fasting” in this area can be salutary, either so as to give more time to reflection and prayer or to cultivate human relations.”

St John Paul (1920-2005)matthew 9 15 then they will fast - fri after ash wed 8 march 2019.jpg

Closing Prayer:
I know how much You love me.
It’s hard for me to feel it sometimes,
but I know Your love is always with me.

Help me to use Your love as a way
to persevere in my Lenten intentions.
I am weak but I know with Your help,
I can use these small sacrifices in my life to draw closer to You.

May the Lord bless us,
protect us from all evil
and bring us to everlasting life.

Posted in SAINT of the DAY

Thought for the Day – 8 March – The Staff and the Bread Basket: Symbols of the Life of St. John of God

Thought for the Day – 8 March – The Memorial of St John of God (1495-1550) “The Heart Commands.”

The Staff and the Bread Basket:   Symbols of the Life of St John of God

During the time of St John of God (the 16th century), when individuals would travel from town to town, many carried a pilgrim or traveller’s staff to make their journey easier. The staff had two hooks on it for carrying a basket or whatever it was the traveller needed.   When St John of God walked throughout the city asking for alms for his hospital, he also carried a pilgrim’s staff.   On the right hook, he hung a coin box with a cross and on the left of it, hung a basket with food, mostly bread, meat or fish.Staff-and-Bread-Basket-242x300

Instead of sending someone to run his errands, St John of God took it upon himself to buy the food, charcoal and other supplies that the people staying with him needed.   This gave his boarders and patients privacy and the opportunity to make clothes or perform other work.

Article 3 of the Order’s first Constitution in 1585 specifically commands that the Brothers carry a staff and bag similar to the one used by St John of God when collecting alms.   This requirement united them, as the first Brothers were identified by these objects.

In the Biography of St John of God by Francisco de Castro, the author relates a tale about St John’s basket.   St John of God was near the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, when he accidentally bumped into a gentleman.   His basket caught hold of the man’s cloak and put it in disarray.   Although St John apologised, the man was very angry and slapped him across the face.   After another bystander intervened and the man realised it was St John of God that he had slapped, he begged forgiveness, kissed St John’s feet and invited him to dine with him.   St John declined the invitation but the man later sent 50 gold escudos for the poor.

Later in his life when he was ill, St John used his basket as a pillow.   Today, his staff and begging basket are conserved at the Order’s archives in the Casa de los Pisa in Granada, Spain.

Even perhaps in a metaphorical manner, we too should carry such a Basket and Staff, using them as St John did, collecting and giving to all, of the immense love which God has bestowed on us.

St John of God, Pray for Us!st john of god pray for us 8 march 2019


Quote/s of the Day – 8 March – St John of God

Quote/s of the Day – 8 March – The Memorial of St John of God (1495-1550)

“The first (virtue) is faith,
believing all that
holy mother church
believes and holds,
keeping and putting
into practice
what she commands”the-first-virtue-is-faith-stjohnofgod-8march 2018.jpg

“Labour without stopping,
do all the good works you can,
while you still have the time.”labour without stopping - st john of god - 8 march 2019.jpg

“If we look forward to receiving God’s mercy,
we can never fail to do good,
so long as we have the strength.
For if we share with the poor,
out of love for God,
whatever He has given to us,
we shall receive according to His promise,
a hundredfold in eternal happiness.
What a fine profit, what a blessed reward!
With outstretched arms He begs us
to turn toward Him, to weep for our sins
and to become the servants of love,
first for ourselves, then for our neighbours.
Just as water extinguishes a fire,
so love wipes away sin.”with outstretched arms he begs us - st john of god - 8 march 2019.jpg

“Whether you like it or not,
you will grow apart from human beings.
However, Christ is faithful
and always with you.
Fot Christ provides all things.”whether-you-like-it-or-not-stjohnofgod- 8 march 2018

“The Heart Commands” – St John of Godthe heart commands - st john of god - 8 march 2019.jpg


One Minute Reflection – 8 March – Genuine Faith

One Minute Reflection – 8 March – Friday after Ash Wednesday, Gospel: Matthew 9:14-15 and the Memorial of St John of God (1495-1550)

“Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”…Matthew 9:15matthew 9 15 - can the wedding guests mourn.jpg

REFLECTION – “Genuine faith does not make a believer pretentious.   Dialogue with God is not a business bargain.   External observance of religion wins little favour with God, if it is combined with unfairness to the weak and indifference to the poor.   Openness to the indigent is the door to true religion.   The world itself changes for the better with the widening of human concern for the poor.   Good works multiply on the face of the earth and everyone sees the glory of God in action.
The Gospel presents Jesus as refusing to absolutise ritual fasting.   What He expects from His disciples, is that they remain faithful to the mission He is about to give them, even at great sacrifice.   It will make evidently greater demands of them than mere ritual fasting. They should be prepared.   Jesus is introducing a new set of values of immense worth, for which the old order of things must make way.”…Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil SDBgenuine faith does not make - fri after ash wed - 8 march 2019.jpg

PRAYER – Lord God, bestow a full measure of Your grace upon us, who seek to make our lenten journey fruitful.  Confirm us in Your service and help us to bear witness to You in the society in which we live by our lives, our fasting and prayer, our gift of self.   Listen kindly we pray, to the prayers of St John of God who so avidly followed in the footsteps of our Saviour, Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name, with the Holy Spirit, we pray, one God forever, march 2019.jpg

Posted in LENT 2019, PRAYERS of the SAINTS

Our Morning Offering – 8 March – Thy Grace – a Lenten Prayer

Our Morning Offering – 8 March – Friday after Ash Wednesday

Thy Grace – a Lenten Prayer
By Blessed John Henry Newman

O my God,
suffer me still,
bear with me in spite of my
and ingratitude!
I improve very slowly
but really, I am moving onto heaven,
or at least I wish to move.
Only give me Thy grace
meet me with Thy grace,
I will, through Thy grace, do what I can
and Thou shall perfect it for me.
Then shall I have happy days, in Thy Presence
and in the sight and adoration of
Thy five Sacred Wounds.
Amenthy-grace-a-lenten-prayer-bl-john-henry-newman-20-feb-2018.and 8 march 2019.jpg


Saint of the Day – 8 March – St John of God OH (1495-1550)

Saint of the Day – 8 March – St John of God OH (1495-1550)

“All things pass, only good works last”

Miracles of St John of God

During his lifetime, St John of God accomplished miracles both small and large.   Daily he went out into the streets of Granada, providing help for the poor, the sick and the mentally disturbed.   He would often give the cloak off his back to someone who had no cloak.   The home he rented was a place of refuge for  john of god.jpeg

According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary a miracle is defined as, “an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs,” and “an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing or accomplishment.”

St John’s daily activities of providing a place for unwanted people to feel loved and safe can be described as daily, small miracles for the people who needed help.   In the book Saints for Sinners by Alban Goodier, he writes about St John. “He could wash his patients and dress their sores;  he could kiss their feet and let them feel that somebody cared;  he could put them to bed and give them a sense of home.”st john of god 3.jpg

Keep in the mind, that the Granada of St John’s time was not the modern city it is today. Roads were unpaved and people walked everywhere.   Their feet were most likely the dirtiest parts of their bodies.   By kissing them, St John imitated Jesus’s actions toward His disciples and showed complete humility and compassion for these individuals.
St John lived out the commands of our Saviour to love one another and to love your neighbour as yourself.   Jesus says in Matthew 26:40, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Despite his earnest desire to serve Christ, St John faced oppression and had enemies who did not believe he was sincere in his service.   He would often care for his patients during the day and beg for alms at night.   Even though he faced hardships, his needs were always met and God always provided for his cause (another miracle).
Perhaps the grandest and best known of St John of God’s miracles was his rescuing of the patients from a fire in the hospital of Granada and yet escaping from the flames unscathed.   For this reason, he is the patron saint of firefighters.

Considered an impulsive man, one night, St John heard that the Royal Hospital of Granada was on fire.   When he rushed to the scene, he saw that people were just standing there watching the fire burn  . All the patients were inside the burning building. This non-action was unthinkable to St John and he rushed inside, leading all the patients to safety.
Once he knew that all the patients were safe, St John ran back into the building and started throwing items such as blankets and mattresses out the windows of the hospital. In his mission, St. John knew the importance of these goods for caring for the sick.   He wanted to salvage as much as possible.

By this point, the city had brought a canon to try to destroy and separate the burning part of the hospital from the non-burning portion, in its best efforts to contain the fire. However, St John could not accept this.   He ran up to the roof and started separating the two parts of the hospital with his axe.

Although he was successful, he fell through the burning roof.   Bystanders thought he had perished in the fire, until he appeared out of the smoke and ashes unharmed.
In an essay titled “St John of God, Founder of the Order of Charity,” written by Fr Francis Xavier Weninger in 1877, Weninger wrote, “The flame of Divine love which burned in his heart surpassed the intensity of the material fire.”st john of god - beautiful statue.jpg

In addition to performing great miracles, St John of God was also the recipient of divine intervention and spiritual favours.   Throughout his lifetime, he received assistance from heavenly beings including the Holy Mother and the Archangel Raphael.   His name of St John of God comes from a vision he had of the infant Jesus, who bestowed the name upon him.

Another time, St John experienced a heavenly vision when he found a dying beggar on the streets of Granada.   St John carried the man to the hospital and began washing the beggar’s feet.   While doing so, the man became transfigured with a shining light and brightness enveloped both himself and St John.   Later as St John was walking through the hospital alone, patients saw such a bright light surrounding him that they thought he was on fire.   He had a difficult time convincing the patients that all was well.

St John of God of was Canonised by Pope Alexander VIII on 16 October 1690, over 140 years after his death.   Today he remains the patron saint of hospitals, the sick, nurses, firefighters, alcoholics and booksellers.   His legacy and miracles live on through the Hospitaller Brothers and all of the good works they are accomplishing in our world today.   His Order looks after the Holy Father and the Vatican Household too.john of God - san-juan-de-dios-manuel-caro.jpg

The Museum of St John of God in Granada

Posted in SAINT of the DAY

Memorials of the Saints – 8 March

St John of God OH (1495-1550 – aged 55) (Optional Memorial)
About St John of God:

St Apollonius of Antinoë
St Arianus of Alexandria
St Beoadh of Ardcarne
St Duthus of Ross
St Felix of Burgundy
St Humphrey of Prüm
St Jon Helgi Ogmundarson
St Litifredus of Pavia
St Philemon of Antinoë
St Pontius of Carthage
St Provinus of Como
St Quintilis of Nicomedia
St Rhian
St Senan of Scattery
St Stephen of Obazine
St Theophylact of Nicomedia
St Theoticus of Alexandria
St Veremundus of Irache
Bl Vincent Kadlubek of Krakow

Martyrs of North Africa – 9 saints – A bishop and some of his flock who were martyred together in North Africa. The only details that have survived are nine of the names – Beata, Cyril, Felicitas, Felix, Herenia, Mamillus, Rogatus, Silvanus, Urban