Quote/s of the Day – 26 December – Feast of St Stephen the ProtoMartyr and The Second Day in the Christmas Octave
“Love, indeed, is the source of all good things, it is an impregnable defence and the way that leads to heaven. He who walks in love can neither go astray, nor be afraid, love guides him, protects him and brings him to his journey’s end.”
St Fulgentius of Ruspe (460-533)
“He [St Stephen], followed the Lord in what may be, by nature, the most difficult and even, apparently, impossible for the human heart. He fulfilled the command to love one’s enemies, as did the Saviour Himself. The Child in the manger, who has come to fulfill His Father’s will, even to death on the Cross, sees before Him in spirit, all who will follow Him on this way. His heart goes out to the youth whom He will one day await with a palm as the first to reach the Father’s throne. His little hand points him out to us, as an example, as if to say, “See the gold that I expect of you.”
St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
[Edith Stein] (1891-1942)
“For believers, the day of death and even more so, the day of martyrdom, is not the end of everything but rather, the “passage” to immortal life, it is the day of the final birth, the “dies natalis.” Thus is understood, the link that exists between the “dies natalis” of Christ and the “dies natalis” of St Stephen. If Jesus had not been born on earth, men would not have been able to be born for heaven. Precisely because Christ was born, we are able to be “reborn.”
Thought for the Day – The Weekdays of Advent – 20 December
“God’s sign is His humility.
God’s sign is that He makes himself small.
He becomes a child.
He lets us touch him and He asks for our love.
How we would prefer a different sign,
an imposing, irresistible sign of God’s power and greatness!
But His sign summons us to faith and love
and thus it gives us hope – this is what God is like.
He has power, He is Goodness itself.
He invites us to become like Him.
Yes indeed, we become like God,
if we allow ourselves
to be shaped by this sign,
if we ourselves learn humility
and hence true greatness;
if we renounce violence
and use only the weapons
of truth and love.”
Thought for the Day – 3 December – Tuesday of the First week of Advent, Year A and The Memorial of St Francis Xavier SJ (1506-1552)
Woe to Me if I do not Preach the Gospel
Saint Francis Xavier (1506-1552) Priest and Missionary
An excerpt from Letters to Saint Ignatius
“We have visited the villages of the new converts who accepted the Christian religion a few years ago. No Portuguese live here—the country is so utterly barren and poor. The native Christians have no priests. They know only that they are Christians. There is nobody to say Mass for them, nobody to teach them the Creed, the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Commandments of God’s Law.
I have not stopped since the day I arrived. I conscientiously made the rounds of the villages. I bathed in the sacred waters all the children who had not yet been baptised. This means that I have purified a very large number of children so young that, as the saying goes, they could not tell their right hand from their left. The older children would not let me say my Office or eat or sleep until I taught them one prayer or another. Then I began to understand – the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.
I could not refuse so devout a request, without failing in devotion myself. I taught them, first the confession of faith in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, then the Apostles’ Creed, the Our Father and Hail Mary. I noticed among them persons of great intelligence. If only someone could educate them in the Christian way of life, I have no doubt, that they would make excellent Christians.
Many, many people hereabouts, are not becoming Christians for one reason only – there is nobody to make them Christians. Again and again, I have thought of going round the universities of Europe, especially Paris and everywhere crying out like a madman, riveting the attention of those with more learning than charity – “What a tragedy, how many souls are being shut out of heaven and falling into hell, thanks to you!”
I wish they would work as hard at this as they do at their books and so settle their account with God, for their learning and the talents entrusted to them.
This thought would certainly stir most of them to meditate on spiritual realities, to listen actively to what God is saying to them. They would forget their own desires, their human affairs and give themselves over entirely to God’s will and His choice. They would cry out with all their heart – Lord, I am here! What do you want me to do? Send me anywhere you like—even to India.”
How can we too fail!
It is Advent. All our answers remain fragmentary. The first thing we have to accept is, ever and again, the reality of an enduring Advent. If we do that, we shall begin to realise that the borderline between “before Christ” and “after Christ” does not run through historical time, in an outward sense and cannot be drawn on any map, it runs through our own hearts. Insofar, as we are living on a basis of selfishness, of egoism, then even today, we are “before Christ.” But in this time of Advent, let us ask the Lord to grant that we may live less and less “before Christ” and certainly not “after Christ” but truly “with Christ and in Christ” – with Him who is indeed Christ yesterday, today and forever.
Joseph Ratzinger (1964)
aka Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Advent Reflection – 3 December – Tuesday of the First week of Advent, Year A and the Memorial of St Francis Xavier SJ (1506-1552)- Readings: Isaiah 11:1-10, Psalm 72:1-2, 7-9, 12-13, Luke 10:21-24
“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse and a branch shall grow out of his roots.”
“In these passages, the meaning of Christmas shines through – God fulfils the promise by becoming man, not abandoning His people, He draws near to the point of stripping Himself of His divinity. In this way God shows His fidelity and inaugurates a new Kingdom, which gives a new hope to mankind. And what is this hope? Eternal life. ”
... Pope Francis – General audience 21 December 2016
Advent is a time to practice discipleship and the joy of sharing the message given to us! Today, share just a little of this joy of the Gospel and the hope of Christ, with those around you. Giving this gift is immense, as the Lord shared His Father in the Gospel of today, so we share Him. Spiritual love is tender, it is holy ground. There is simply no greater investment.
” …. Paul does not seek himself, he does not want to make a fan club for himself, he does not wish to go down in history as the head of a school of great knowledge, he is not self-seeking, rather, St Paul proclaims Christ and wants to gain people for the true and real God. Paul’s wish is to speak of and preach the One who entered his life and who is true life, who won him over on the road to Damascus. Therefore, talking about God means making room for the One who enables us to know Him, who reveals His face of love to us; it means emptying ourselves of our own ego, offering it to Christ, in the awareness that it is not we who can win over others for God but, that we must expect God to send them, we must entreat God for them. Talking about God, therefore, stems from listening, from our knowledge of God which is brought about through familiarity with Him, through the life of prayer and in accordance with the Commandments.” … Pope Benedict XVI (Excerpt – How to speak about God – The Year of Faith – 28 November 2012)
Lord, it is my hope that I may always be in “Your will
Sometimes I am selfish with my time and my own desires.
Today, help me sort out things in my life.
I need to make You the first priority in my life
and not the things that really do not matter.
Assist me in conducting myself in ways that are most pleasing to You.
Lord, it is my desire to live more for You this day
and share the joy of Your love with all I meet.
And today, we remember St Francis Xavier, the “second Paul”
During Advent, as we prepare for the birth of Christ at Christmas, we also celebrate one of the great feasts of the Catholic Church. The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (8 December-moved to 8 December in 2019) is not only a celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary but a foretaste of our own redemption.
In keeping the Blessed Virgin free from the stain of sin from the moment of her conception, God presents us with a glorious example of what mankind was meant to be. Mary is truly the second Eve, because, like Eve, she entered the world without sin. Unlike Eve, she remained sinless throughout her life—a life that she dedicated fully to the will of God. The Eastern Fathers of the Church referred to her as “without stain” (a phrase that appears frequently in the Eastern liturgies and hymns to Mary), in Latin, that phrase is immaculatus: “immaculate.”
The Immaculate Conception was not, as many people mistakenly believe, a precondition for Christ’s act of redemption but the result of it. Standing outside of time, God knew that Mary would humbly submit herself to His will and in His love for this perfect servant, He applied to her at the moment of her conception the redemption, won by Christ, that all Christians receive at their Baptism.
It is appropriate, then, that the Church has long declared the month in which the Blessed Virgin not only was conceived but gave birth to the Saviour of the world, as the Month of the Immaculate Conception.
The star of Mary Immaculate shines down on the path of Advent….
What person is more luminous than Mary?
Who can be for us, better than her, the star of hope,
the sunrise that proclaims the day of salvation?
Pope Benedict XVI
Holy light on earth’s horizon, Star of hope to those who fall, Light amid a world of shadows, Dawn of God’s design for all.
Mary, Virgin of Advent, may we always walk with you in the light of the Lord, Jesus, the fruit of your womb! Amen
Quote/s of the Day – 29 November – Friday of the Thirty Fourth week in Ordinary Time, Year C, Gospel: Luke 21:29–33
“The issue is now clear. It is between light and darkness and every one must choose his side.”
G K Chesterton (1874-1936)
(Chesterton’s last words)
“Each and everyone of us, at the end of the journey of life, will come, face to face with either one or the other of two faces… And one of them, either, the merciful face of Christ or the miserable face of Satan, will say, “Mine, mine.”
May we be Christ’s!”
Ven Fulton Sheen (1895-1979)
“Many who plan to seek God at the eleventh hour die at 10:30.”
Lord Jesus, May we Seek Your Face By Pope Benedict XVI
Lord Jesus, grant us restless hearts, hearts which seek Your Face. Keep us from the blindness of heart which sees only the surface of things. Give us the simplicity and purity which allows us to recognise Your Presence in the world. When we are not able to accomplish great things, grant us the courage which is born of humility and goodness. Impress Your Face on our hearts. May we encounter You along the way and show forth Your image to the world. Amen
One Minute Reflection – 29 November – Friday of the Thirty Fourth week in Ordinary Time, Year C, Gospel: Luke 21:29–33 and the Memorial of Blessed Bernardo Francisco de Hoyos SJ (1711-1735)
“But my words will not pass away….” …Luke 21:33
REFLECTION – “The Word of God makes us change our concept of realism. Indeed, the realist is the one who recognises in the Word of God, the foundation of all things. As you see these things happening, you know that the Kingdom of God is near (Lk 21:31). Now the word is not simply audible, not only does it have a voice, now the word has a face, one which we can see – that of Jesus of Nazareth.” …. Pope Benedict XVI
PRAYER – Lord God, open our hearts to Your grace and the Light of Your word. Let it go before us and be with us, open our eyes to see and our hearts to love, that we may always be intent upon doing Your will and following Your Word which has the Face of Your dearly beloved Son, Jesus our Saviour. Please hear the prayers of the beloved of Heart of Jesus, Blessed Bernardo de Hoyos on our behalf. We make our prayer through Jesus our Lord, with the Holy Spirit, God forever, amen.
Thought for the Day – 28 November – It’s time to Hope! Advent is nearly upon us
This year, as before, I will post daily Advent Reflections drawn from diverse Saints and Holy people – please join me in prayer and in awakening our souls to hope.
Memory Awakens Hope
By Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
(Pope Benedict XVI)
In one of his Christmas stories Charles Dickens tells of a man who lost his emotional memory, that is, he lost the whole chain of feelings and thoughts he had acquired in the encounter with human suffering. This extinction of the memory of love is presented to him as liberation from the burden of the past but it becomes clear, immediately, that the whole person has been changed, now, when he meets with suffering, no memories of kindness are stirred within him… Since his memory has dried up, the source of kindness within him has also disappeared. He has become cold and spreads coldness around him.
Goethe deals with the same ideas as Dickens, in his account of the first celebration of the feast of Saint Roch in Bingen, after the long interruption caused by the Napoleonic wars. He observes the people as they press, tightly packed, through the church past the image of the saint and he watches their faces – the faces of the children and the adults are shining, mirroring the joy of the festal day. But with the young people, Goethe reports, it was otherwise. They went past unmoved, indifferent, bored. And he gives an illuminating explanation – they were born in evil times, had nothing good to remember and consequently had nothing to hope for. In other words, it is only the person who has memories who can hope. The person who has never experienced goodness and kindness simply does not know what such things are.
Recently a counsellor who spends much of his time talking with people on the verge of despair, was speaking in similar terms about his own work, if his client succeeds in recalling a memory of some good experience, he may once again be able to believe in goodness and thus relearn hope, then there is a way out of despair. Memory and hope are inseparable. To poison the past does not give hope, it destroys its emotional foundations.
Sometimes Charles Dickens’ story strikes me as a vision of contemporary experience. This man who let himself be robbed of the heart’s memory by the delusion of a false liberation — do we not find him with us today, in a generation whose past has been poisoned by a particular program of liberation that has stifled hope? When we read of the pessimism with which our young people look toward the future, we ask ourselves, Why? Is it that, in the midst of material affluence, they have no memory of human goodness that would allow them to hope? By outlawing the emotions, by satirising joy, have we not trampled on the root of hope?
These reflections bring us straight to the significance of the Christian season of Advent. For Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to man. Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God Who became a Child. This is a healing memory, it brings hope. The purpose of the Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart’s memory so that it can discern the star of hope. All the feasts in the Church’s calendar are events of remembrance and hence events of hope. These events, of such great significance for mankind, which are preserved and opened up by faith’s calendar, are intended to become personal memories of our own life history, through the celebration of holy seasons by means of liturgy and custom. Our personal memories are nourished by mankind’s great memories, in turn, it is only by translating them into personal term,s that these great memories are kept alive. Man’s ability to believe always depends in part on faith having become dear on the path of life, on the humanity of God having manifested itself through the humanity of men. No doubt each of us could tell his own story here as to what the various memories of Christmas, Easter or other festivals mean in his life.
It is the beautiful task of Advent, to awaken in all of us, memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope.
“Those who run toward the Lord, will never lack space… One who is climbing never stops, he moves from beginning to beginning, according to beginnings, that never end.”
St Gregory of Nyssa (c 335–c 395)
Brother of St Basil the Great
Quote/s of the Day – 26 November – Tuesday of the Thirty Fourth week in Ordinary Time, Year C, Gospel: Luke 21:5–11
“Speaking of: False Prophets – The Culture of our Times”
“Take heed that you are not led astray, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’“
“If you believe what you like in the Gospels and reject what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel you believe but yourself.”
Saint Augustine (354-430)
“If you only follow the teachings of the Church that you like and reject what you don’t like, then it is not Christ and the Catholic faith that you claim to believe in but yourself. The creed that we profess does not begin by saying, “I believe in me…”
“A dead thing goes with the stream but only a living thing can go against it.”
G K Chesterton (1874-1936)
“Really great moral teachers never do introduce new moralities, it is quacks and cranks who do that.”
C S Lewis (1898-1963)
“We are no longer able to hear God. There are too many frequencies filling our ears.”
Pope Benedict VXI
“No age has been more prone to confuse the sin with the sinner, not by hating the sinner along with the sin but by loving the sin along with the sinner. We often use “compassion” as an equivalent for moral relativism.”
“We have laws against polluting our rivers but not against polluting our minds!”
Bishop Robert Barron
“I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, to swim against the tide, yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture.”
Quote/s of the Day – 25 November – Monday of the Thirty Fourth week in Ordinary Time, Year C, Gospel: Luke 21:1-4
Speaking of: Mercy
“What sort of people are we? When God gives, we want to receive, when He asks, we refuse to give? When a poor man is hungry, Christ is in need, as He said Himself: “I was hungry and you gave me no food” (v. 42). Take care not to despise the hardship of the poor, if you would hope, without fear, to have your sins forgiven… What He receives on earth, He returns in heaven!”
“I put you this question, dearly beloved – what is it you want, what is it you are looking for, when you come to church? What indeed if not mercy? Show mercy on earth and you will receive mercy in heaven. A poor man is begging from you and you are begging from God, he asks for a scrap, you ask for eternal life… And so when you come to church give whatever alms you can to the poor in accordance with your means.”
“So hold fast to the sweet and salutary bond of love, without which, the rich are poor and with which the poor are rich. What do the rich possess if not charity? (…) And since “God is love,” (1 Jn 4:8) as John the evangelist says, what can the poor lack, if they merit to possess God by means of charity? (…) So love, dearest brethren and hold fast to charity.
without which no-one
will ever see God.”
Saint Caesarius of Arles (470-543)
“When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.”
St Pope Gregory the Great (540-604)
Father & Doctor of the Church
“Father of the Fathers”
“The poor are our masters, let us love them and serve them, as we would serve Jesus Christ Himself. “
Blessed Vincenza Maria Poloni (1802-1855)
“Yours must be a work of love, of kindness, you must give your time, your talents, yourselves. The poor person is a unique person of God’s fashioning with an inalienable right to respect. You must not be content with tiding the poor over the poverty crisis, You must study their condition and the injustices which brought about such poverty, with the aim of a long term improvement.”
“It is our vocation to set people’s hearts ablaze, to do what the Son of God did, who came to light a fire on earth in order to set it ablaze with His love.”
“I would like to embrace the whole world in a network of charity.”
Blessed Frédéric Ozanam (1813–1853)
“Servant to the Poor”
and Founder of the St Vincent de Paul Society
“True friendship with Jesus is expressed in how one lives, in the goodness of one’s heart, in one’s humility, kindness and mercy, in one’s love for justice and truth, in one’s sincere commitment to peace and reconciliation. This, we might say, is the ‘identity card’ that qualifies us as true ‘friends,’ it is the ‘passport’ that will let us enter eternal life.”
Quote/s of the Day – 24 November – The Solemnity of Christ the King
“Christ, has dominion over all creatures, a dominion not seized by violence nor usurped but His, by essence and by nature.”
St Cyril of Alexandria (376-444)
Father & Doctor of the Church
“Christ’s kingdom is not just a figure of speech. Christ is alive, He lives as a man, with the same body He took when He became man, when He rose after His death, the glorified body which subsists in the person of the Word together with His human heart. Christ, true God and true man, lives and reigns. He is the Lord of the universe. Everything that lives is kept in existence only through Him.”
St Josemaria Escrivá (1902-1975)
“Jesus Christ You have heard Him spoken of, indeed the greater part of you are already His – you are Christians. So, to you Christians I repeat His name, to everyone I proclaim Him – Jesus Christ is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega. He is the king of the new world. He is the secret of history. He is the key to our destiny.”
St Pope Paul VI (1897-1978)
“You say that I am a king. For this I was born and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.”
“But what is the “truth” that Christ came into the world to witness to? The whole of His life reveals that God is love – so this is the truth to which He witnessed to the full, with the sacrifice of His own life on Calvary.”
Pope Benedict XVI
“When did Jesus reveal Himself as king? In the event of the Cross!”
Quote/s of the Day – 20 November – Wednesday of the Thirty Third week in Ordinary Time, Year C, Gospel: Luke 19:11–28 and the Memorial of Blessed Maria Fortunata Viti OSB (1827-1922)
“‘I tell you, that to everyone who has, will more be given but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
“The Love and the Power of God!”
Blessed Maria Fortunata Viti (1827-1922)
“Fear is the wrong attitude – the servant who is afraid of his master and fears his return, hides the coin inthe earth and it does not produce any fruit …. However, the parable places a greater emphasis on the good fruits brought by the disciples, who, happy with the gift they received, did not keep it hidden, with fear and jealousy but made it profitable by sharing it and partaking in it. Yes, what Christ has given us is multiplied in it’s giving!”
Saint of the Day – 19 November – Saint Matilda of Hackeborn (c 1241-1298) Benedictine Nun, Mystic, Teacher, Spiritual adviser, called “God’s nightingale” – also known as Saint Mechtilde of Hackeborn and of Helfta, sister of St Gertrude the Great – born in c 1241 at her family’s castle of Helfta near Eisleben, Saxony, Germany and died on 19 November 1298 at Helfta monastery of natural causes. Patronages – against blindness (one well-known miracle was healing the blindness of a nun).
Saint Matilda of Hackeborn’s life by Pope Benedict XVI
Catechesis given at his General Audience on 29 September 2010
Today I want to talk to you about St Matilda of Hackeborn, one of the great figures of the convent of Helfta, who lived in the 13th century. Her sister, St Gertrude the Great, tells of the special graces that God granted to St Matilda in the sixth book of Liber Specialis Gratiae (Book of Special Grace), which states : “What we have written is very little in comparison with what we have omitted. We are publishing these things solely for the glory of God and the usefulness of our neighbour, for it would seem wrong to us to keep quiet about the many graces that Matilda received from God, not so much for herself, in our opinion but for us and for those who will come after us” (Mechthild von Hackeborn, Liber specialis gratiae, vi, 1).
This work was written by St Gertrude and by another sister of Helfta and has a unique story. At the age of 50, Matilda went through a grave spiritual crisis, as well as physical suffering. In this condition, she confided to two of her sisters, who were friends, the special graces with which God had guided her since childhood. However, she did not know that they were writing it all down. When she found out she was deeply upset and distressed. However, the Lord reassured her, making her realise that all that had been written was for the glory of God and for the benefit of her neighbour (cf. ibid., II, 25; V, 20). This work, therefore, is the principal source to refer to, for information on the life and spirituality of our Saint.
With her, we are introduced into the family of Baron von Hackeborn, one of the noblest, richest and most powerful barons of Thuringia, related to the Emperor Frederick II, and we enter the convent of Helfta in the most glorious period of its history. The Baron had already given one daughter to the convent, Gertrude of Hackeborn (1231/1232 – 1291/1292). She was gifted with an outstanding personality. She was Abbess for 40 years, capable of giving the spirituality of the convent a particular hallmark and of bringing it to an extraordinary flourishing as the centre of mysticism and culture, a school for scientific and theological training. Gertrude offered the nuns an intellectual training of a high standard that enabled them to cultivate a spirituality founded on Sacred Scripture, on the Liturgy, on the Patristic tradition, on the Cistercian Rule and spirituality, with a particular love for St Bernard of Clairvaux and William of Saint-Thierry. She was a real teacher, exemplary in all things, in evangelical radicalism and in apostolic zeal. Matilda, from childhood, accepted and enjoyed the spiritual and cultural atmosphere created by her sister, later giving it her own personal hallmark.
Matilda was born in 1241 or 1242 in the Castle of Helfta. She was the Baron’s third daughter. When she was seven she went with her mother to visit her sister Gertrude in the convent of Rodersdorf. She was so enchanted by this environment that she ardently desired to belong to it. She entered as a schoolgirl and in 1258 became a nun at the convent, which in the meantime had moved to Helfta, to the property of the Hackeborns. She was distinguished by her humility, her fervour, her friendliness, the clarity and the innocence of her life and by the familiarity and intensity with which she lived her relationship with God, the Virgin and the Saints. She was endowed with lofty natural and spiritual qualities such as knowledge, intelligence, familiarity with the humanities and a marvellously sweet voice – everything suited her, to being a true treasure for the convent from every point of view (ibid, Proem.). Thus when “God’s nightingale”, as she was called, was still very young she became the principal of the convent’s school, choir mistress and novice mistress, offices that she fulfilled with talent and unflagging zeal, not only for the benefit of the nuns but for anyone who wanted to draw on her wisdom and goodness.
Illumined by the divine gift of mystic contemplation, Matilda wrote many prayers. She was a teacher of faithful doctrine and deep humility, a counsellor, comforter and guide in discernment. We read: “she distributed doctrine in an abundance never previously seen at the convent and alas, we are rather afraid that nothing like it will ever be seen again. The sisters would cluster round her to hear the word of God, as if she were a preacher. She was the refuge and consoler of all and, by a unique gift of God, was endowed with the grace of being able to reveal freely the secrets of the heart of each one. “Many people, not only in the convent but also outsiders, religious and lay people, who came from afar, testified that this holy virgin had freed them from their afflictions and that they had never known such comfort as they found near her. “Furthermore, she composed and taught so many prayers that if they were gathered together they would make a book larger than a Psalter” (ibid., VI, 1).
In 1261 a five year old girl came to the convent. Her name was Gertrude – She was entrusted to the care of Matilda, just 20 years of age, who taught her and guided her in the spiritual life until she not only made her into an excellent disciple but also her confidant. In 1271 or 1272, Matilda of Magdeburg also entered the convent. So it was that this place took in four great women two Gertrudes and two Matildas, the glory of German monasticism.
During her long life which she spent in the convent, Matilda was afflicted with continuous and intense bouts of suffering, to which she added the very harsh penances chosen for the conversion of sinners. In this manner she participated in the Lord’s Passion until the end of her life (cf. ibid., VI, 2). Prayer and contemplation were the life-giving humus of her existence – her revelations, her teachings, her service to her neighbour, her journey in faith and in love have their root and their context here. In the first book of the work, Liber Specialis Gratiae, the nuns wrote down Matilda’s confidences pronounced on the Feasts of the Lord, the Saints and, especially, of the Blessed Virgin. This Saint had a striking capacity for living the various elements of the Liturgy, even the simplest and bringing it into the daily life of the convent. Some of her images, expressions and applications are at times distant from our sensibility toda, but, if we were to consider monastic life and her task as mistress and choir mistress, we should grasp her rare ability as a teacher and educator who, starting from the Liturgy, helped her sisters to live intensely every moment of monastic life.
Matilda gave an emphasis in liturgical prayer to the canonical hours, to the celebrations of Holy Mass and, especially, to Holy Communion. Here she was often rapt in ecstasy in profound intimacy with the Lord in His most ardent and sweetest Heart, carrying on a marvellous conversation in which she asked for inner illumination, while interceding in a special way for her community and her sisters. At the centre, are the mysteries of Christ which the Virgin Mary constantly recommends to people, so that they may walk on the path of holiness: “If you want true holiness, be close to my Son, He is holiness itself that sanctifies all things” (ibid., I, 40). The whole world, the Church, benefactors and sinners were present in her intimacy with God. For her, Heaven and earth were united.
Her visions, her teachings, the events of her life are described in words reminiscent of liturgical and biblical language. In this way it is possible to comprehend her deep knowledge of Sacred Scripture, which was her daily bread. She had constant recourse to the Scriptures, making the most of the biblical texts read in the Liturgy and drawing from them symbols, terms, countryside, images and famous figures. She had a special love for the Gospel – “The words of the Gospel were a marvellous nourishment for her and in her heart stirred feelings of such sweetness that, because of her enthusiasm, she was often unable to finish reading it….” The way in which she read those words was so fervent that it inspired devotion in everyone. “Thus when she was singing in the choir, she was completely absorbed in God, uplifted by such ardour that she sometimes expressed her feelings in gestures….”“On other occasions, since she was rapt in ecstasy, she did not hear those who were calling or touching her and came back with difficulty to the reality of the things around her” (ibid., VI, 1). In one of her visions, Jesus Himself recommended the Gospel to her; opening the wound in His most gentle Heart, He said to her: “consider the immensity of My love: if you want to know it well, nowhere will you find it more clearly expressed than in the Gospel. No one has ever heard expressed stronger or more tender sentiments than these: “As my father has loved me, so I have loved you (Jn 15: 9)'” (ibid., I, 22).
Dear friends, personal and liturgical prayer, especially the Liturgy of the Hours and Holy Mass are at the root of St Matilda of Hackeborn’s spiritual experience. In letting herself be guided by Sacred Scripture and nourished by the Bread of the Eucharist, she followed a path of close union with the Lord, ever in full fidelity to the Church. This is also a strong invitation to us to intensify our friendship with the Lord, especially through daily prayer and attentive, faithful and active participation in Holy Mass. The Liturgy is a great school of spirituality.
Her disciple, Gertrude, gives a vivid pictures of St Matilda of Hackeborn’s last moments. They were very difficult but illumined by the presence of the Blessed Trinity, of the Lord, of the Virgin Mary and of all the Saints, even Gertrude’s sister by blood. When the time came in which the Lord chose to gather her to Him, she asked Him let her live longer in suffering for the salvation of souls and Jesus was pleased with this further sign of her love.
Matilda was 58 years old. The last leg of her journey was marked by eight years of serious illness. Her work and the fame of her holiness spread far and wide. When her time came, “the God of majesty… the one delight of the soul that loves Him… sang to her: Venite vos, benedicti Patris mei…. Venite, o voi che siete i benedetti dal Padre mio, venite a ricevere il regno – Come, you who are blessed by my Father, come and receive the kingdom… and He united her with His glory” (ibid., VI, 8).
May St Matilda of Hackeborn commend us to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to the Virgin Mary. She invites us to praise the Son with the Heart of the Mother and to praise Mary with the Heart of the Son: “I greet you, O most deeply venerated Virgin, in that sweetest of dews which from the Heart of the Blessed Trinity spread within you. I greet you in the glory and joy in which you now rejoice forever, you who were chosen in preference to all the creatures of the earth and of Heaven even before the world’s creation! Amen” (ibid., I, 45).
Saint of the Day – 18 November – Saint Odo of Cluny (c 880–942) Monk and Abbot, Reformer – born in c 880 at Le Mans, France and died on 18 November 942 in Tours, France of natural causes while travelling to Rome, Italy. Patronage – for rain. He was buried in the church of Saint Julian but most of his relics were burned by Huguenots during the French Revolution.
St Odo’s life by Pope Benedict XVI
Catechesis given at his General Audience
on Wednesday, 2 September 2009
“Today, I present to you, the luminous figure of St Odo, Abbot of Cluny. He fits into that period of medieval monasticism which saw the surprising success in Europe of the life and spirituality inspired by the Rule of St Benedict. In those centuries, there was a wonderful increase in the number of cloisters that sprang up and branched out over the continent, spreading the Christian spirit and sensibility far and wide. St Odo takes us back in particular to Cluny, one of the most illustrious and famous monasteries in the Middle Ages, that still today, reveals to us, through its majestic ruins, the signs of a past rendered glorious by intense dedication to ascesis, study and, in a special way, to divine worship, endowed with decorum and beauty.
Odo was the second Abbot of Cluny. He was born in about 880, on the boundary between the Maine and the Touraine regions of France. Odo’s father consecrated him to the holy Bishop St Martin of Tours, in whose beneficent shadow and memory he was to spend his entire life, which he ended close to St Martin’s tomb. His choice of religious consecration was preceded by the inner experience of a special moment of grace, of which he himself spoke to another monk, John the Italian, who later became his biographer. Odo was still an adolescent, about 16 years old, when one Christmas Eve he felt this prayer to the Virgin rise spontaneously to his lips: “My Lady, Mother of Mercy, who on this night gave birth to the Saviour, pray for me. May your glorious and unique experience of childbirth, O Most Devout Mother, be my refuge” (Vita sancti Odonis, 1, 9: PL 133, 747). The name “Mother of Mercy”, with which young Odo then invoked the Virgin, was to be the title by which he always subsequently liked to address Mary. He also called her “the one Hope of the world … thanks to whom the gates of Heaven were opened to us” (In veneratione S. Mariae Magdalenae: PL 133, 721). At that time, Odo chanced to come across the Rule of St Benedict and to comment on it, “bearing, while not yet a monk, the light yoke of monks” (ibid., I, 14, PL 133, 50). In one of his sermons, Odo was to celebrate Benedict as the “lamp that shines in the dark period of life” (De sancto Benedicto abbate: PL 133, 725) and, to describe him as “a teacher of spiritual discipline” (ibid., PL 133, 727). He was to point out, with affection, that Christian piety, “with the liveliest gentleness commemorates him” in the knowledge that God raised him “among the supreme and elect Fathers of Holy Church” (ibid., PL 133, 722).
Fascinated by the Benedictine ideal, Odo left Tours and entered the Benedictine Abbey of Baume as a monk; he later moved to Cluny, of which in 927 he became abbot. From that centre of spiritual life, he was able to exercise a vast influence over the monasteries on the continent. Various monasteries or coenobiums were able to benefit from his guidance and reform, including that of St Paul Outside-the-Walls. More than once, Odo visited Rome and he even went as far as Subiaco, Monte Cassino and Salerno. He actually fell ill in Rome in the summer of 942. Feeling that he was nearing his end, he was determined and made every effort, to return to St Martin in Tours, where he died, in the Octave of the Saint’s feast, on 18 November 942. His biographer, stressing the “virtue of patience” that Odo possessed, gives a long list of his other virtues that include contempt of the world, zeal for souls and the commitment to peace in the Churches. Abbot Odo’s great aspirations were – concord between kings and princes, the observance of the commandments, attention to the poor, the correction of youth and respect for the elderly (cf. Vita sancti Odonis, I, 17: PL 133, 49).
He loved the cell in which he dwelled, “removed from the eyes of all, eager to please God alone”(ibid., I, 14: PL 133, 49). However, he did not fail also to exercise, as a “superabundant source”, the ministry of the word and to set an example, “regretting the immense wretchedness of this world” (ibid., I, 17: PL 133, 51). In a single monk, his biographer comments, were combined the different virtues that exist, which are found to be few and far between in other monasteries: “Jesus, in his goodness, drawing on the various gardens of monks, in a small space created a paradise, in order to water the hearts of the faithful from its fountains” (ibid., I, 14: PL 133,49). In a passage from a sermon in honour of Mary of Magdala the Abbot of Cluny reveals to us how he conceived of monastic life: “Mary, who, seated at the Lord’s feet, listened attentively to his words, is the symbol of the sweetness of contemplative life; the more its savour is tasted, the more it induces the mind to be detached from visible things and the tumult of the world’s preoccupations” (In ven. S. Mariae Magd., PL 133, 717). Odo strengthened and developed this conception in his other writings. From them transpire his love for interiority, a vision of the world as a brittle, precarious reality from which to uproot oneself, a constant inclination to detachment from things felt to be sources of anxiety, an acute sensitivity to the presence of evil in the various types of people and a deep eschatological aspiration. This vision of the world may appear rather distant from our own; yet Odo’s conception of it, his perception of the fragility of the world, values an inner life that is open to the other, to the love of one’s neighbour and in this very way, transforms life and opens the world to God’s light.
The “devotion” to the Body and Blood of Christ which Odo in the face of a widespread neglect of them which he himself deeply deplored, always cultivated with conviction deserves special mention. Odo was in fact, firmly convinced of the Real Presence, under the Eucharistic species, of the Body and Blood of the Lord, by virtue of the conversion of the “substance” of the bread and the wine.
He wrote: “God, Creator of all things, took the bread, saying that this was His Body and that He would offer it for the world and He distributed the wine, calling it His Blood”; now, “it is a law of nature that the change should come about in accordance with the Creator’s command” and thus “nature immediately changes its usual condition – the bread instantly becomes flesh and the wine becomes blood”; at the Lord’s order, “the substance changes” (Odonis Abb. Cluniac. occupatio, ed. A. Swoboda, Leipzig 1900, p. 121). Unfortunately, our abbot notes, this “sacrosanct mystery of the Lord’s Body, in whom the whole salvation of the world consists”, (Collationes, XXVIII: PL 133, 572), is celebrated carelessly. “Priests”, he warns, “who approach the altar unworthily, stain the bread, that is, the Body of Christ” (ibid., PL 133, 572-573). Only those who are spiritually united to Christ may worthily participate in His Eucharistic Body – should the contrary be the case, to eat His Flesh and to drink His Blood would not be beneficial but rather a condemnation (cf. ibid., XXX, PL 133, 575). All this invites us to believe the truth of the Lord’s presence with new force and depth. The presence in our midst of the Creator, who gives Himself into our hands and transforms us as He transforms the bread and the wine, thus transforms the world.
St Odo was a true spiritual guide both for the monks and for the faithful of his time In the face of the “immensity of the vices widespread in society, the remedy he strongly advised was that of a radical change of life, based on humility, austerity, detachment from ephemeral things and adherence to those that are eternal” (cf. Collationes, XXX, PL 133, 613). In spite of the realism of his diagnosis on the situation of his time, Odo does not indulge in pessimism: “We do not say this”, he explains, “in order to plunge those who wish to convert into despair. Divine mercy is always available; it awaits the hour of our conversion”(ibid., PL 133, 563). And he exclaims: “O ineffable bowels of divine piety! God pursues wrongs and yet protects sinners” (ibid., PL 133, 592). Sustained by this conviction, the Abbot of Cluny used to like to pause to contemplate the mercy of Christ, the Saviour whom he describes evocatively as “a lover of men”: “amator hominum Christus” (ibid., LIII: PL 133, 637). He observes “Jesus took upon Himself, the scourging, that would have been our due, in order to save the creature he formed and loves” (cf. ibid., PL 133, 638).
Here, a trait of the holy abbot appears that at first sight is almost hidden beneath the rigour of his austerity as a reformer – his deep, heartfelt kindness. He was austere but above all he was good, a man of great goodness, a goodness that comes from contact with the divine goodness. Thus Odo, his peers tell us, spread around him his overflowing joy. His biographer testifies that he never heard “such mellifluous words” on human lips (ibid., I, 17: PL 133, 31). His biographer also records, that he was in the habit of asking the children he met along the way to sing and that he would then give them some small token and he adds: “Abbot Odo’s words were full of joy … his merriment instilled in our hearts deep joy” (ibid., II, 5: PL 133, 63). In this way, the energetic, yet at the same time lovable medieval abbot, enthusiastic about reform, with incisive action nourished in his monks, as well as in the lay faithful of his time, the resolution to progress swiftly on the path of Christian perfection.
Let us hope that his goodness, the joy that comes from faith, together with austerity and opposition to the world’s vices, may also move our hearts, so that we too may find the source of the joy that flows from God’s goodness. Amen”
Thank you Papa Eneritus!
A story holds, that once Odo was writing a glossary to the life of St Martin written by Postumianus and Gallus. The book, however, was left in a cellar which was flooded with water during a rainstorm at night. The place where the book lay, was covered by a torrent but, the next day, when the monks came down to the cellar, they found that only the margin of the book was soaked through but all of the writing was untouched. Odo then told the monks, ‘Why do you marvel oh brothers? Know you not, that the water feared to touch the life of the saint?’Then a monk replied, ‘But see, the book is old and moth-eaten and has so often been soaked that it is dirty and faint! Can our father then persuade us that the rain feared to touch a book which in the past has been soaked through? Nay, there is another reason.’ Odo then realised that they were suggesting it was preserved because he had written a glossary in it but he then quickly gave the glory to God and St Martin.
Quote/s of the Day – 9 November – Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran
“O God, who out of living and chosen stones, builds up an everlasting dwelling-place for Your Majesty – help Your people, who humbly pray to You and whatever material room Your Church may set apart for Your worship, let it bring also spiritual increase.”
Post Communion prayer
“Stability and permanence are, perhaps, the especial ideas which a church brings before the mind … It represents to us, it’s eternity. It is the witness of Him Who is the Beginning and the Ending, the First and the Last, it is the token and emblem of “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever.”
St John Henry Newman (1801-1890) Cardinal
“God’s desire to build a spiritual temple in the world, a community that worships him in spirit and truth (cf. John 4:23-24). But this observance also reminds us of the importance of the material buildings in which the community gathers to celebrate the praises of God. Every community, therefore, has the duty to take special care of its own sacred buildings, which are a precious religious and historical patrimony. For this we call upon the intercession of Mary Most Holy, that she help us to become, like her, the “house of God,” living temple of His love.”
One Minute Reflection – 8 November – Friday of the Thirty First week in Ordinary Time week in Ordinary Time, Year C, Gospel: Luke 16:1–8 and The Memorial of St Elizabeth of the Trinity O.Carm (1880-1906)
“The master commended the dishonest steward for his prudence”…Luke 16: 8
REFLECTION – “But what does Jesus wish to tell us with this parable? And with its surprising conclusion? The Evangelist follows the parable of the dishonest steward with a short series of sayings and recommendations on the relationship we must have with money and the goods of this earth. These short sentences are an invitation to a choice that presupposes a radical decision, a constant inner tension. Life is truly always a choice – between honesty and dishonesty, between fidelity and infidelity, between selfishness and altruism, between good and evil.
… As a result, it is necessary to make a fundamental decision between God and mammon, it is necessary to choose between the logic of profit as the ultimate criterion for our action and the logic of sharing and solidarity. If the logic of profit prevails, it widens the gap between the poor and the rich, as well as increasing the ruinous exploitation of the planet. On the other hand, when the logic of sharing and solidarity prevails, it is possible to correct the course and direct it to a fair development for the common good of all. Basically, it is a matter of choosing between selfishness and love, between justice and dishonesty and ultimately, between God and Satan. If loving Christ and one’s brethren is not to be considered as something incidental and superficial but, rather, the true and ultimate purpose of our whole existence, it will be necessary to know how to make basic choices, to be prepared to make radical renouncements, if necessary, even to the point of martyrdom. Today, as yesterday, Christian life demands the courage to go against the tide, to love like Jesus, who even went so far as to sacrifice Himself on the Cross.
We could then say, paraphrasing one of St Augustine’s thoughts, that through earthly riches we must procure for ourselves those true and eternal riches – indeed, if people exist who are prepared to resort to every type of dishonesty to assure themselves an always unpredictable material well-being, how much more concerned we Christians must be to provide for our eternal happiness with the goods of this earth (cf. Discourses, 359, 10). Now, the only way of bringing our personal talents and abilities and the riches we possess to fruition for eternity is to share them with our brethren, thereby showing that we are good stewards of what God entrusts to us . Jesus said: “He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much” (Lk 16: 10).
PRAYER – My Lord and my God, You have prayed that we may be in You and You in us. This is the guiding consolation of our life and the source of our prayer. Lead us to Yourself, guide us and teach us, that we may never stray from You and the way You set out. May we share and build the unity of Your people and the goods of the earth. Holy St Elizabeth of the Trinity, in your young life you followed the way of the Lord, the way of the Cross, doing all for God by the love of the Holy Spirit. Please pray for us, amen.
Quote/s of the Day – 30 October – Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time, Year , Gospel: Luke 13:22–30
Speaking of: Pride vs Humility
“The proud person is like a grain of wheat thrown into water – it swells, it gets big. Expose that grain to the fire – it dries up, it burns. The humble soul, is like a grain of wheat, thrown into the earth – it descends, it hides itself, it disappears, it dies but to revive in heaven.”
St Mary of Jesus Crucified (1846-1878)
“I sought to hear the voice of God And climbed the topmost steeple. But God declared “Go down again – I dwell among the people.”
St John Henry Newman (1801-1890)
“The humble man receives praise, the way a clean window takes the light of the sun. The truer and more intense the light is, the less you see of the glass.”
Thomas Merton OCSO (1915-1968)
“Strive to enter through the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be able…”…Luke 13:24.
“All, can enter eternal life but for everyone, the door is narrow. They are not privileged. The path to the eternal life is open to all but it is narrow because it’s demanding, asks for commitment, abnegation and the mortification of selfishness.”
“To pass through the narrow gate, means we must commit ourselves to being small, that is humble of heart like Jesus, like Mary, His and our mother.”
Pope Benedict XVI Angelus, 26 August 2007
“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Thought for the Day – 29 October – Tuesday of the Thirtieth week in Ordinary Time, Year C, Gospel: Luke 13:18-21
Again he said, …”To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened.” Luke 13:20
Excerpt – Part One
Year of Faith – How to speak about God?
Pope Benedict XVI Paul VI Audience Hall Wednesday, 28 November 2012
The important question we ask ourselves today is – how can we talk about God in our time? How can we communicate the Gospel so as to open roads to His saving truth in our contemporaries’ hearts — that are all too often closed — and minds — that are at times distracted by the many dazzling lights of society? Jesus, the Evangelists tell us, asked Himself about this as He proclaimed the kingdom of God – “With what can we compare the Kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it?” (Mk 4:30).
How can we talk about God today? The first answer is that we can talk about God because He has talked to us, so the first condition for speaking of God is listening to all that God Himself has said. God has spoken to us! God is therefore not a distant hypothesis concerning the world’s origin, He is not a mathematical intelligence far from us. God takes an interest in us, He loves us, He has entered personally into the reality of our history, He has communicated Himself, even to the point of taking flesh. Thus God is a reality of our life, He is so great that He has time for us too, He takes an interest in us. In Jesus of Nazareth we encounter the face of God, who came down from His heaven to immerse Himself in the human world, in our world, and to teach “the art of living”, the road to happiness, to set us free from sin and make us children of God (cf. Eph 1:5; Rom 8:14). Jesus came to save us and to show us the good life of the Gospel.
Talking about God means first of all expressing clearly what God we must bring to the men and women of our time, not an abstract God, a hypothesis but a real God, a God who exists, who has entered history and is present in history, the God of Jesus Christ as an answer to the fundamental question of the meaning of life and of how we should live. Consequently speaking of God demands familiarity with Jesus and His Gospel, it implies that we have a real, personal knowledge of God and a strong passion for His plan of salvation without succumbing to the temptation of success but following God’s own method. God’s method is that of humility — God makes Himself one of us — His method is brought about through the Incarnation in the simple house of Nazareth; through the Grotto of Bethlehem, through the Parable of the Mustard Seed.
We must not fear the humility of taking little steps but trust in the leaven that penetrates the dough and slowly causes it to rise (cf. Mt 13:33). In talking about God, in the work of evangelisation, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we must recover simplicity, we must return to the essence of the proclamation – the Good News of a God who is real and effective, a God who is concerned about us, a God-Love who makes Himself close to us in Jesus Christ, until the Cross and who, in the Resurrection, gives us hope and opens us to a life that has no end, eternal life, true life. – To be continued/…
Firmly I believe and truly St John Henry Newman (1801-1890)
Firmly I believe and truly God is three and God is On And I next acknowledge duly Manhood taken by the Son. And I trust and hope most fully In that Manhood crucified And each thought and deed unruly Do to death, as He has died. Simply to His grace and wholly Light and life and strength belong And I love, supremely, solely, Him the holy, Him the strong.
And I hold in veneration, For the love of Him alone, Holy Church, as His creation, And her teachings, as His own. And I take with joy whatever Now besets me, pain or fear And with a strong will I sever All the ties which bind me here. Adoration aye be given, With and through the angelic host, To the God of earth and heaven, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Quote/s of the Day – 28 October – Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles and Martyrs, Gospel: Luke 6:12-19
“Simon was worlds apart from Matthew, who, on the contrary, had an activity behind him as a tax collector that was frowned upon as entirely impure. This shows that Jesus called His disciples and collaborators, without exception, from the most varied social and religious backgrounds.
It was people who interested Him, not social classes or labels! And the best thing is that in the group of His followers, despite their differences, they all lived side by side, overcoming imaginable difficulties, indeed, what bound them together, was Jesus Himself, in whom they all found themselves united with one another.
This is clearly a lesson for us who are often inclined to accentuate differences and even contrasts, forgetting, that in Jesus Christ, we are given the strength to get the better of our continual conflicts.
Let us also bear in mind, that the group of the Twelve, is the prefiguration of the Church, where there must be room for all charisms, peoples and races, all human qualities that find their composition and unity in communion with Jesus.”
Pope Benedict XVI
Catechesis on Saints Simon and Jude General Audience Saint Peter’s Square Wednesday, 11 October 2006
“Woe to them! They followed the way of Cain … These are blemishes … as they carouse fearlessly and look after themselves. They are waterless clouds blown about by winds, fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead and uprooted. They are like wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shameless deeds, wandering stars, for whom the gloom of darkness has been reserved forever.”
Thought for the Day – 24 October – The Feast of the Holy Redeemer
St John Paul II from ‘Redemptor Hominis’ his first Enycyclical, ‘The Redeemer of Humankind.’ In it he dealt with the core of our faith, the Person of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the World.
10 . The human dimension of the mystery of the Redemption
We cannot live without love. We remain beings that are incomprehensible for ourselves, our lives are senseless, if love is not revealed to us, if we do not encounter love, if we do not experience it and make it our own, if we do not participate intimately in it. This, as has already been said, is why Christ the Redeemer “fully reveals man to himself”, ‘fully reveals us to ourselves’.
If we may use the expression, this is the human dimension of the mystery of the Redemption. In this dimension we find again the greatness, dignity and value that belong to our humanity.
In the mystery of the Redemption we become newly “expressed” and, in a way, are newly created. We are newly created! “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus”64.
If we wish to understand ourselves thoroughly-and not just in accordance with immediate, partial, often superficial and even illusory standards and measures of his being-we must with our unrest, uncertainty and even our weakness and sinfulness, with our life and death, draw near to Christ. We must, so to speak, enter into Him with all His own self, we must “appropriate” and assimilate the whole of the reality of the Incarnation and Redemption in order to find ourselves. If this profound process takes place within us, we then bear fruit not only of adoration of God but also of deep wonder at ourselves.
How precious must we be in the eyes of the Creator, if we “gained so great a Redeemer” and if God “gave his only Son “in order that we “should not perish but have eternal life”.
God does not leave us groping in the dark. He has shown Himself to us as a man. In His greatness, He has let Himself become small. ... Pope Benedict XVI
Pardon us, O Lord, Pardon us By William of Saint-Thierry OSB, O.Cist. (c 1075-1148) Abbot, Monk, Theologian, Mystic, Writer Friend of St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)
Pardon us, O Lord, pardon us.
We beg to shift the blame for our sins,
we make excuses.
But no-one can hide
from the Light of Your Truth,
which both enlightens those,
who turn to it and exposes those,
who turn away.
Even our blood and our bones
are visible to You,
who created us out of dust.
How foolish we are,
to think that we can rule our own lives,
satisfying our own desires,
without thought of You.
How stupid we are,
to imagine that we can keep our sins hidden.
But although we may deceive other people,
we cannot deceive You.
And since You see into our hearts,
we cannot deceive ourselves,
for Your Light reveals to us,
our own spiritual corruption.
Let us, therefore, fall down before You,
weeping with tears of shame.
May Your judgement,
give new shape to our souls.
May Your power, mould our hearts
to reflect Your love.
May Your grace, infuse our minds,
so that our thoughts reflect Your Will.
Thought for the Day – 13 October – Twenty Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C and today, John Henry Newman will be Canonised
Today, at 10.30 Roman time, John Henry Newman and 4 others will be Canonised by Pope Francis. They are:
– English Cardinal John Henry Newman, Founder of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri in England
– Italian Sister Giuseppina Vannini (born Giuditta Adelaide Agata), Founder of the Daughters of Saint Camillus
– Indian Sister Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan, Founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family
– Brazilian Sister Dulce Lopes Pontes (born Maria Rita) of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God
– Marguerite Bays of Switzerland, Virgin of the Third Order of Saint Francis of Assisi.
Excerpt from Pope Benedict XVI’s Beatification Homily
Birmingham, Sunday, 19 September 2010
Cardinal Newman’s motto, Cor ad cor loquitur, or “Heart speaks unto heart”, gives us an insight into his understanding of the Christian life as a call to holiness, experienced as the profound desire of the human heart to enter into intimate communion with the Heart of God. He reminds us that faithfulness to prayer gradually transforms us into the divine likeness. As he wrote in one of his many fine sermons, “a habit of prayer, the practice of turning to God and the unseen world in every season, in every place, in every emergency – prayer, I say, has what may be called a natural effect in spiritualising and elevating the soul. A man is no longer what he was before, gradually … he has imbibed a new set of ideas and become imbued with fresh principles” (Parochial and Plain Sermons, iv, 230-231). Today’s Gospel tells us that no-one can be the servant of two masters (cf. Lk 16:13) and Blessed John Henry’s teaching on prayer explains how the faithful Christian is definitively taken into the service of the one true Master, who alone has a claim to our unconditional devotion (cf. Mt 23:10). Newman helps us to understand what this means for our daily lives – he tells us that our divine Master has assigned a specific task to each one of us, a “definite service”, committed uniquely to every single person: “I have my mission”, he wrote, “I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do his work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place … if I do but keep his commandments and serve him in my calling”(Meditations and Devotions, 301-2).
The definite service to which Blessed John Henry was called involved applying his keen intellect and his prolific pen to many of the most pressing “subjects of the day”. His insights into the relationship between faith and reason, into the vital place of revealed religion in civilised societ, and into the need for a broadly-based and wide-ranging approach to education were not only of profound importance for Victorian England but continue today to inspire and enlighten many all over the world. I would like to pay particular tribute to his vision for education, which has done so much to shape the ethos that is the driving force behind Catholic schools and colleges today. Firmly opposed to any reductive or utilitarian approach, he sought to achieve an educational environment in which intellectual training, moral discipline and religious commitment would come together. The project to found a Catholic University in Ireland provided him with an opportunity to develop his ideas on the subject and the collection of discourses that he published as The Idea of a University, holds up an ideal from which all those engaged in academic formation can continue to learn. And indeed, what better goal could teachers of religion set themselves than Blessed John Henry’s famous appeal for an intelligent, well-instructed laity – “I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it” (The Present Position of Catholics in England, ix, 390). On this day when the author of those words is raised to the altars, I pray that, through his intercession and example, all who are engaged in the task of teaching and catechesis will be inspired to greater effort by the vision he so clearly sets before us.
While it is John Henry Newman’s intellectual legacy that has understandably received most attention in the vast literature devoted to his life and work, I prefer on this occasion to conclude with a brief reflection on his life as a priest, a pastor of souls. The warmth and humanity underlying his appreciation of the pastoral ministry is beautifully expressed in another of his famous sermons: “Had Angels been your priests, my brethren, they could not have condoled with you, sympathised with you, have had compassion on you, felt tenderly for you, and made allowances for you, as we can; they could not have been your patterns and guides, and have led you on from your old selves into a new life, as they can who come from the midst of you”(“Men, not Angels – the Priests of the Gospel”, Discourses to Mixed Congregations, 3). He lived out that profoundly human vision of priestly ministry in his devoted care for the people of Birmingham during the years that he spent at the Oratory he founded, visiting the sick and the poor, comforting the bereaved, caring for those in prison. No wonder that on his death so many thousands of people lined the local streets as his body was taken to its place of burial not half a mile from here. One hundred and twenty years later, great crowds have assembled once again to rejoice in the Church’s solemn recognition of the outstanding holiness of this much-loved father of souls. What better way to express the joy of this moment than by turning to our heavenly Father in heartfelt thanksgiving, praying in the words that Blessed John Henry Newman placed on the lips of the choirs of angels in heaven:
Praise to the Holiest in the height And in the depth be praise. In all his words most wonderful, Most sure in all his ways!
(The Dream of Gerontius)
One Minute Reflection – 7 October – Monday of the Twenty-seventh week in Ordinary Time, Year C, Gospel: Luke 10:25-37 and the Memorial of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary
Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” … Luke 10:37
REFLECTION – “Jesus carries us to the inn. Imagine you are in the arms of Jesus, being carried, half-dead in sin—some of your own making, some done to you—to a place of help. You can rest in His arms. In another surprise, the inn is the Church, the hospital for sinners. The innkeeper might be a priest, family member, or friend who helps you through a dark time in your life.
This is the rest of the story – the Good Samaritan is Jesus!
He always pursues us, even when we don’t ask for it—even in our sins. We must receive the Good Samaritan’s love and mercy first, or we have nothing to give away (1 Jn 4:19). And then our response to this love is repentance—going beyond the mind we have now/giving up the lies we believe about God or ourselves—and then going to confession. This is followed by The Ultimate Challenge – to be that good neighbour or the innkeeper in a world where everyone is wounded by something!
Be like Jesus—be a good spiritual neighbour in a dark and lonely world!
In a world which demands of Christians a renewed witness of love and fidelity to the Lord, may all of us feel the urgent need, to anticipate one another in charity, service and good works (cf. Heb 6:10).”…Pope Benedict (3 November 2011)
PRAYER – Almighty Father, may we learn to trust your Son who carries us! Grant us the grace, we pray, to lean on this great gift of faith which You bestow on us and to learn and understand the mystery of Your commandment of love, where love of You and love of neighbour become one. Teach us good Jesus Your ways of true charity and may Your holy and blessed Mother always be at our side, as we pray her Rosary, which grants us peace and strength. Through Christ our Lord, with the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever, amen.
One Minute Reflection – 4 October – Friday of the Twenty-sixth week in Ordinary Time, Year C Gospel: Luke 10:13-16 – The Memorial of St Francis of Assisi OFM (1181/2–1226)
“He who hears you, hears me and he who rejects you, rejects me and he who rejects me, rejects him who sent me.”…Luke 10:16
REFLECTION – “The truth is that St Francis really did have an extremely intimate relationship with Jesus and with the word of God, that he wanted to pursue sine glossa – just as it is, in all its radicality and truth. It is also true, that initially he did not intend to create an Order with the necessary canonical forms. Rather he simply wanted, through the word of God and the presence of the Lord, to renew the People of God, to call them back to listening to the word and to literal obedience to Christ.”…Pope Benedict XVI – Catechesis on St Francis – General Audience, 27 January 2010
“Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received—only what you have given – a full heart, enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage.”….St Francis of Assisi
PRAYER – Lord God, You made St Francis of Assisi, Christ-like in his poverty and humility, his gentleness and charity, his love and courage. Help us to walk in his ways that, with joy and love, we may follow Christ Your Son and be united with You. May the intercession of St Francis, be an assistance on our journey. Through Christ our Lord, with the Holy Spirit, one God forever, amen.
Thought for the Day – 3 October – Thursday of the Twenty Sixth week in Ordinary Time, Year C, Gospel: Luke 10:1-12 and the Memorial of Blessed Szilárd István Bogdánffy (1911-1953) Martyr
“Let us thank God for this heroic pastor of the Church who followed the Lamb to the very end! May his witness bring comfort to those, who even today, are persecuted for the sake of the Gospel.”
Pope Benedict XVI
We must always pray to the “Lord of the harvest”, namely, God the Father, that He send labourers into His field which is the world.
These imperatives show that the mission is based on prayer, that it is itinerant – it is not idle, it is itinerant, that it requires separation and poverty, that it brings peace and healing, signs of the closeness of the Kingdom of God, that it is not proselytism but proclamation and witness and that, it also requires frankness and the evangelical freedom, to leave, while highlighting the responsibility of having rejected the message of salvation but without condemnation and cursing.
If lived in these terms, the mission of the Church will be characterised by joy.
And how does this passage end? The 72 “returned with joy” (cf. v. 17). It is not an ephemeral joy, which flows from the success of the mission – on the contrary, it is a joy rooted in the promise that — as Jesus says – “your names are written in heaven” (v. 20).
Quote/s of the Day – 21 September – The Feast of St Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist- Today’s Gospel: Matthew 9:9–13
“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
“Our Lord chose Matthew, the tax collector, to encourage his fellows to join Him. He looked on sinners, called them and brought them to sit beside Him. What a wonderful sight! Angels stand trembling while publicans, seated, rejoice. The angels are struck with awe before the Lord’s greatness while sinners eat and drink with Him. The scribes choke with hatred and indignation, the publicans rejoice because of His mercy. The heavens saw the sight and were filled with wonder, hell saw it and was maddened. Satan saw it and was enraged, death saw it and withered, the scribes saw it and were much troubled.”
St Ephrem (306-373) Father & Doctor of the Church
Commentary on the Gospel, or Diatessaron, 5, 17 (SC 121, p.115 rev.)
“The good news of the Gospel consists precisely in this – offering God’s grace to the sinner!”
“The Gospel of Matthew written in Hebrew or Aramaic is no longer extant but in the Greek Gospel that we possess, we still continue to hear, in a certain way, the persuasive voice of the publican Matthew, who, having become an Apostle, continues to proclaim God’s saving mercy to us. And let us listen to St Matthew’s message, meditating upon it ever anew, also to learn to stand up and follow Jesus with determination.”
Thought for the Day – 17 September – Tuesday of the Twenty Fourth week in Ordinary Time, Year C and the Memorial of Saint Zygmunt Szcesny Felinski (1822-1895)
From a young age, the life of Zygmunt Szczęsny Feliński was marked by his striving after sanctity. Christ was for him “the Way, the Truth and the Life.” He wanted to achieve such a degree of unity with God so as to say after Saint Paul: I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me.
He was marked by unfaltering faith and utter trust in Providence. He always placed love of God and Church, devotion to his country and respect for all people in the first place. His great integrity, fortitude and justice were characteristic features of his spirituality. Apart from that, he was full of devotion and mercy marked by Franciscan cheerfulness, humility and straightforwardness – work and poverty. He was described as “the pride of the Polish episcopate”, “martyr”, “faithful son of the Church”.
Also nowadays, we can take the refreshing spirit and light from the treasury of his life. The Canonisation of the Shepherd-Exile encourages reflection on one’s own way of life, family and its revival, the building of the common house, the homeland, under God’s providential care and that of His Holy Mothe and ours.
During his Canonisation homily, on 11 October 2009, Pope Benedict said:
Archbishop of Warsaw, the Founder of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary, was a great witness of faith and pastoral charity in very troubled times for the nation and for the Church in Poland. He zealously concerned himself with the spiritual development of the faithful, he helped the poor and orphans. At the Ecclesiastical Academy in St Petersburg he saw to the sound formation of priests and as Archbishop of Warsaw he instilled in everyone the desire for inner renewal. Before the January 1863 Uprising against Russian annexation he put the people on guard against useless bloodshed. However, when the rebellion broke out and there were repressions he courageously defended the oppressed. On the Tsar of Russia’s orders he spent 20 years in exile at Jaroslaw on the Volga, without ever being able to return to his diocese. In every situation he retained his steadfast trust in Divine Providence and prayed: “O God, protect us not from the tribulations and worries of this world… only multiply love in our hearts and obtain that in deepest humility, we may keep our infinite trust in Your help and Your mercy”.
Today his gift of himself to God and to humankind, full of trust and love, becomes a luminous example for the whole Church.
Quote/s of the Day – 12 September – Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary
“This most holy, sweet and worthy name was eminently fitted to so holy, sweet and worthy a virgin. For Mary means a bitter sea, star of the sea, the illuminated or illuminatrix. Mary is interpreted Lady. Mary is a bitter sea to the demons, to men, she is the Star of the sea, to the Angels, she is illuminatrix and to all creatures she is Lady.”
St Bonaventure (1217-1274) Seraphic Doctor
“Mary means Star of the sea, for as mariners are guided to port by the ocean star, so Christians attain to glory, through Mary’s maternal intercession.”
St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)
“One cannot contemplate Mary without being attracted by Christ and one cannot look at Christ without immediately perceiving the presence of Mary.”
Pope Benedict XVI
Rare perfume is a rough and reeking place, A bell-like music breaking through the blare Of strident streets, a dear remembered face Appearing through the mind’s pondrous despair.
A foam of summer flowers fringing the drear Immobile desert sea, a cherished voice Calling in some long night of pain and fear To make the heavy, heaving heart rejoice. Such is the mystic wonder of her name That is a shudder down Hell’s shaken halls, And joy where angel-wings flit like white flames, Where height to echoing height its glory calls.
One Minute Reflection – 12 February – Thursday of the Twenty third week in Ordinary Time, Year C, Gospel: Luke 6:27–38 and the Memorial of the Most Holy Name of Mary
“Love your enemies” … Luke 6: 27
REFLECTION – “This Gospel passage is rightly considered the magna carta of Christian non-violence. It does not consist in succumbing to evil, as a false interpretation of “turning the other cheek” (cf. Lk 6: 29) claims but in responding to evil with good (cf. Rom 12: 17-21) and thereby breaking the chain of injustice.
One then understands that for Christians, non-violence is not merely tactical behaviour but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is so convinced of God’s love and power that he is not afraid to tackle evil, with the weapons of love and truth alone.
Love of one’s enemy constitutes the nucleus of the “Christian revolution”, a revolution not based on strategies of economic, political or media power – the revolution of love, a love that does not rely ultimately on human resources but is a gift of God which is obtained by trusting solely and unreservedly in His merciful goodness. Here is the newness of the Gospel which silently changes the world! Here is the heroism of the “lowly” who believe in God’s love and spread it, even at the cost of their lives.” … Pope Benedict XVI 18 February 2007
PRAYER – God of love and might, teach us Your ways! You sent us Your only-begotten Son out of love for sinful man. May we follow Him in all that we think, do and say. May His humble heart be our hearts, may His gentle way be our way. And may the sweet love of Mary His Mother and ours, aid us on our pilgrimage. With great affection and confidence, we honour the Holy Hearts and invoke the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, to be our constant source of pure assistance and succour. Blessed Virgin, Most Holy Mother, pray for us. We make our prayer through Christ, our Lord, with the Holy Spirit, one God for all eternity, amen.