Sunday, May 14, 2017

Image of the Church robed in Paschal light

Here is part of Pope Francis' prayer to Our Lady of Fatima. It would be good to meditate on the meaning of this powerful prayer that is trinitarian, filled with biblical imagery and focused on spiritual warfare : 

Hail, Mother of the Lord,

Virgin Mary, Queen of the Rosary of Fatima!

Blessed among all women,

you are the image of the Church robed in paschal light,

you are the honour of our people,

you are the victory over every assault of evil.

Prophecy of the merciful love of the Father,

Teacher of the Message of Good News of the Son,

Sign of the burning Fire of the Holy Spirit,

teach us, in this valley of joys and sorrows,

the eternal truths that the Father reveals to the little ones.

Show us the strength of your protective mantle.

In your Immaculate Heart,

be the refuge of sinners

and the way that leads to God.

In union with my brothers and sisters,

in faith, in hope and in love,

I entrust myself to you.

In union with my brothers and sisters, through you, I consecrate myself to God,

O Virgin of the Rosary of Fatima.

And at last, enveloped in the Light that comes from your hands,

I will give glory to the Lord for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Friday, May 12, 2017

At the feet of the Virgin Mother

This Saturday 13th May marks the 100th anniversary of Our Lady appearing at Fatima

The Pope has released a video message before he leaves for Portugal and left this beautiful message : 
It is as the universal pastor of the Church that I would like to come before the Madonna and to offer her a bouquet of the most beautiful “blossoms” that Jesus has entrusted to my care (cf. Jn 21:15-17). By this I mean all of our brothers and sisters throughout the world who have been redeemed by Christ’s blood, none excluded. That is why I need to have all of you join me there. I need to feel your closeness, whether physical or spiritual; the important thing is that it come from the heart. In this way, I can arrange my bouquet of flowers, my “golden rose”. With all of us forming “one heart and soul” (cf. Acts 4:32), I will then entrust you to Our Lady, asking her to whisper to each one of you: “My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the path that leads you to God” (Apparition of June, 1917).
 


Let us not forget that Jacinta and Francesco will be getting canonised while the pope is there as well


 

STS JACINTA AND FRANCESO - PRAY FOR US

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Sheperd and Guardian of our souls

 


Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. Often this is associated with saccharine piety and imagines of a feminine Jesus holding a baby lamb. However the readings of the day are filled with powerful imagery!

In conjunction with the readings, I went to confession with a great African priest. He reminded me that the Fathers of the Church used to say before they went to pray that they are going into "battle". It was a great reminder of spiritual warfare for me, and the readings reminded me that no matter how weighed down and disappointed I feel in my sins - that Christ has already won the battle for me. He is the Good Sheperd who laid down his life for me and is now the Guardian of my soul. 

Even more powerful is the part of the psalm where it says "you have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my foes". This can be interpreted as the Eucharist, the great Sacrificial Paschal banquet established by Christ as a reminder of his victory over death, that I am now one of his redeemed who is called treat with him and share in His Divine Life. 
 




Reading 2  1Peter 2:20-251 PT 2:20B-25

Beloved:
If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God.
For to this you have been called,
because Christ also suffered for you,
leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.
He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.

When he was insulted, he returned no insult;
when he suffered, he did not threaten;
instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.


Dealing with Spiritual Dryness

Sometimes in our journey of faith, we experience moments of spiritual dryness, lethargy - also known as acedia.

In rare cases, this is also known as the "Dark night of the soul" as coined by St John of the Cross. Many saints have experienced this, one of the more recent examples being St Mother Teresa. This is known as part of the purgative process of purification in the spiritual life. 

In my own case today however, I am suffering  with spiritual dryness caused by my own sins. Often when caught in habitual sins or feeling weighed down by our own weakness in sin we lose the strength or energy to fight and become lethargic. It's during these moments we need to pray the hardest and ask for the Holy Spirit. God is always with us but we don't often see or feel him, or other times we have shut him out through our sinfulness. So we need to turn back to the gaze of Jesus, call on the Father of Mercies and ask for the Comforter to be sent as our Consoler and Advocate. 

But first, something else has to be dealt with, namely, what is called aridity, dryness and desolation in meditation. The one who meditates before a text that is merely printed word and does not open out into any spiritual inner space and perhaps not even to a living presence. "The soul finds itself completely indolent, tepid and sad, as though separated from its Creator and Lord (spiritual exercises 317). Can we speak of a silence of the Word here? In a certain sense yes, since the Word does not seem to want to disclose itself of itself. This condition, as we are taught, can have several causes. It may be out own fault, "because we are tepid, indolent or negligent in our spiritual exercises". Or it may be willed by the Lord in order to see whether we will make the effort to penetrate into his depths even without his perceptible help. Finally, there may be exacted of is the existential experience that we cannot force entrance to these depths by our own efforts, for it "is wholly a gift and grace of God our Lord", and we "may not let our spirit become inflated with some kind of pride or vainglory", thinking we have raised ourselves up to this or that "degree of prayer" by our own power (spiritual exercises 322). We may and should knock, but we may not attribute magical power to our knocking, as though it necessarily demanded the response of an opening. The apparent silence of the Word is in each three aspects an intensive schooling. "Blessed are they who do not see and yet believe" - and believe in an unfelt "unspeakable, radiant joy" (charā anekalētō kai dedoxasmenē, 1 Peter 1:8), whose "radiance", however, rests with the Lord, while we now renounce it... 
Thus what is experienced in meditation as aridity, or even as a dark night, can at the same time in a hidden but true sense be the brightest radiance of love. But this love must hide itself in the nakedness of faith, the only thing that Jesus, deprived of everything exteriorly and interiorly, cannot lose. This definitively confirms the fact that every silence in Christian meditation is meaningful. In other words, where in an earthly sense we experience wordlessness, the sprees of the Word and meaning beyond expression open up 
- Christian Medition Hans urs Von Balthasar 

 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Mystery of Mercy

 


I have recently finished Pope Francis' interview that became a book "The name of God is Mercy". It has really helped me grown in my appreciation and respect for the Holy Father, and I regret myself allowing my opinion of him to be negatively influenced by blogs and uncharitable comments by certain traditionalists.

At the end of the book, the appendix is the Bull for the Holy Year of Mercy "Misericordiae Vultus". There are two beautiful quotes I would like to share with you for your own personal meditation on mercy and the Holy Trinity. 

We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy . It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace. Our salvation depends on it. Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate act and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forced despite our sinfulness 

 


From the heart of the Trinity, from the depths of the mystery of God, the great river of mercy wells up and overflows unceasingly. It is a spring that will never run dry, no matter how many people draw from it. Every time someone is in need, he or she can approach it, because the mercy of God never ends. The profundity of the mystery surrounding it is as inexhaustible as the riches which springs up from it. 

Wow what amazing words! Trinitarian mysticism at its best! I don't think Jan van Rosbroek could have said it any better himself! 

Let us pray to the Most Holy Trinity, One God, to wash us in the mystery of mercy, immerse us in divine love, and have mercy on us all so that we may shine the light of Jesus to the world, showing His glorious face - the face of mercy. 
Amen 

 

Some recent purchases

These arrived in the mail today, and I can say I am very happy indeed 🙏🏻😇
 
Michael Horton is a very good Reforned (Calvinist) theologian, I have read his other books on covenant theology and Christless Christianity (an attack on therapeutic deism which neglects the Glory of God) which I found very useful in my spiritual journey. 

John Piper is a Baptist pastor who is also a Calvinist, he is a very passionate preacher who has developed the concept of "Hedonistic Christianity" which basically means it is easier to reject sin if we take delight from following God's commandments instead of falling for the false promises of sin. 

I am sure many of you are already familiar with Cardinal Sarah and Scott Hahn - if you are not, then I highly highly recommend you check them out as soon as possible!! Wonderful authors. 

I have been waiting for ages to be able to afford the book by Ralph Martin. It analyses the spiritual life using the writings of some of the most influential spiritual writers of the Church who are also Doctors of the Church : St Augustine, St Bernard, St Catherine of Siena, St Teresa of Avila, St John of the Cross, St Frances de Sales and St Therese of Lisieux. 
What a wonderful compendium of spiritual writing!!  The book is divided into the traditional 3 paths of the spiritual life - purgative, illuminative, unitive/transforming union. 

Time to get into some deep spiritual reading. 

I buy all my books through bookdepository.com they have most books in stock, are cheap and have free delivery. I live in Australia so the free delivery makes this a much cheaper option for me than Amazon. Plus the books only take 2-3 business days to be dispatched and then 5-8 business days to arrive. 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Finally opening up to Pope Francis - Revolution of Tenderness

As you may have seen in one of my previous posts, I often struggle with Pope Francis. His style often leaves me cold and missing Pope Benedict. 

I have been buying his books recently to try and understand him more and to allow him to challenge my thoughts on him for spiritual growth. 

I just came across this video of him giving a talk to the TED conference and all I can say is ... WOW 
For the first time watching this I was proud he was my Pope and felt I wanted to get to know him more. I just had my own personal revolution of tenderness. 

I highly recommend you to watch the video yourself 

 

Ravens, Providence of God and the Saints









I cam across this article today, about Ravens and their relationship to the saints. It is a very interesting read that I highly recommend.

In pop culture, ravens are often associated with death or dark arts/supersition or witchcraft. However many people fail to realise how often they appear in the lives of saints and especially in the Bible.


For many new age people, the raven is often seen as a symbol of the Morrigan - an ancient Irish goddess of war and magic. However, in Christian literature going back to the prophet Elijah, ravens are associated with hermits, as well as a symbol of God's Providence as the above article outlines.

The author makes a great connection between the ravens as a symbol of God's Providence, and the need for Christian's to reclaim stewardship of Creation and integration with God's creation. In this sense, it could be read as a flow on from Pope Francis' Encyclical Laudato Si.

May we all have a greater awareness of God's goodness and Providence in creation, and learn to adore him through his creation.

Image result for prophet elijah

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Divine Mercy in my Soul

 

Today being the first Sunday after Easter is known as Divine Mercy Sunday as instituted by Pope St John Paul II. The aspects of this devotion are based on the diary of St Faustina Kowalska and visions she had of our Lordspeaking to her. Usually I am not a big fan of revelations and lots of devotions but this is one I have a connection to.  

 

The devotions are mainly about Jesus' Mercy, confession, praying for conversion of sinners, praying for the dying, as well as deeping your relationship with Jesus through trust in His love and mercy. 

. “Today the Lord said to me, ‘Daughter, when you go to confession, to this fountain of My mercy, the Blood and Water which came forth from My Heart always flows down upon your soul and ennobles it.  Every time you go to confession, immerse yourself entirely in My mercy, with great trust, so that I may pour the bounty of My grace upon your soul.  When you approach the confessional, know this, that I Myself am waiting there for you.  I am only hidden by the priest, but I Myself act in your soul.  Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy.  Tell souls that from this fount of mercy souls draw graces solely with the vessel of trust.  If their trust is great, there is no limit to My generosity.  The torrents of grace inundate humble souls.  The proud remain always in poverty and misery, because My grace turns away from them to humble souls.’” (No. 1602)

 

One of the thing I personally love about the Divine Mercy devotion is the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. It is a very simple prayer and has some similar elements of the Eastern Orthodox Jesus prayer. 

One insight I gained while praying it one day was that it emphasises the common priesthood of the faithful. In the letter of St Peter which I read when I was baptised "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." 1Peter 2:19 . All Christians participate in the priesthood of Christ, in the sense that we have direct access to God through Jesus, we can offer prayers and sacrifice on behalf of other people. This is the essence of priesthood. 

So when we pray the beginning of the Divine Mercy Chaplet "Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of your dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ in atonement for our sins, and those of the whole world" you can see that this is a priestly prayer. We are offering prayer and sacrifice to God through Jesus on behalf of the world. This prayer really helped me to understand how I can participate more deeply in the Sacrifice of the Mass. It is in a sense a Eucharistic prayer. It helped me to deepen my faith and prayer life that is authentically lay and not a clericalist imitation. 

Just as priests are chosen among the faithful ( the Church) to offer prayers and sacrifice, so are baptised Christians able to offer prayers and sacrifice on behalf of the non baptised to bring them God's Mercy. 

 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Homosexual but still a child of God

Here is a wonderful article by a Russian Orthodox Abbot on same sex attraction and keeping the faith 


 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Doctor of Silence

Although I have not read as much of his writings as I would like, I am a very big fan of St John of the Cross as a master and guide on the spiritual life. 

In some of my previous posts you may notice there is a theme of silence or solitude, this is due to my existentialist leanings. They are also very predominant themes in St John of the Cross as well

“Whenever anything disagreeable or displeasing happens to you, remember Christ crucified and be silent.”
St. John of the Cross

 

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Sacred Heart - Heart of the Trinity

The papal preacher Fr Raniero Cantalamessa had this reflection in his sermon on good Friday 


There exists now, within the Trinity and in the world, a human heart that beats not just metaphorically but physically. If Christ, in fact, has been raised from the dead, then his heart has also been raised from the dead; it is alive like the rest of his body, in a different dimension than before, a real dimension, even if it is mystical. If the Lamb is alive in heaven, “slain, but standing,” then his heart shares in that same state; it is a heart that is pierced but living—eternally pierced, precisely because he lives eternally.

There has been a phrase created to describe the depths of evil that can accumulate in the heart of humanity: “the heart of darkness.” After the sacrifice of Christ, more intense than the heart of darkness, a heart of light beats in the world. Christ, in fact, in ascending into heaven, did not abandon the earth, just as he did not abandon the Trinity in becoming incarnate.

 

 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Triumph of the King - Alleluia

Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,
exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,
let the trumpet of salvation
sound aloud our mighty King's triumph!

Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,
ablaze with light from her eternal King,
let all corners of the earth be glad,
knowing an end to gloom and darkness.

- Exsultet from the Easter Vigil 


 

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.21For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27For “Godc has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

1 Corinthians 15:20-28

The Lord, the mighty, the valiant in war - he has defeated Satan and death, bringing us all to eternal Life. The Lamb that was slain now reigns in heaven on the throne of Grace. 

He has risen as he said he would! Hallelujah! 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Silence of Holy Saturday

"This day is meant to be one of recollection in silence and prayer besides the sepulchre of the Lord" says Fr Gabriel of St Mary Magdalene OCD in his book Divine Intimacy 
 

This day of silence and prayer, can often be awkward. But why awkward you ask? We know that Jesus died for us and we are sorry that our sins caused his death, but we are also excitedly anticipating his resurrection which we will celebrate tonight. So we don't know whether to be sad, mournful, happy or excited. It is part of the mystery and paradox of Holy Saturday. 

While we pray at the sepulchre of Jesus, reflecting on his lifeless, bruised and tortured body. We also take refuge in his wounds, knowing that there is healing and safety there. 

Holy Saturday is the Jewish sabbath day, so even in his death he was fulfilling the Law. However we also know that Jesus says that He and the Father are always at work, and that he is the Lord of the Sabbath. In the deathly silence of Holy Saturday, Jesus has descended to Hell (the place of the dead according to the Creed) where he has gone to rescue Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and all the Prophets, holy men and woman who have been waiting for redemption in the realm of the dead. So to outward appearances the dead inactivity of God is ironically a continuation of redemption and salvation. 

How often in our lives do we think that God is quiet, ignoring us, or not present when in reality His power is working in the silence and darkness of our lives? 

 

To finish with one last quote from Divine Intimacy :
"May this Saturday, a day of transition between the agony of Friday and the glory of the Resurrection, be a day of prayer and recollection near the lifeless body of Jesus; let us open wide our heart and purify it in His Blood, so that renewed in love and purity, it can vie with the "new sepulchre" in offering the beloved Master a place of peace and rest"