Most sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly prostrate before Thine altar. We are Thine and Thine we wish to be; and to be more surely united with Thee, behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today to Thy most Sacred Heart.
Many indeed have never known Thee; many too, despising Thy precepts, have rejected Thee. Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them to Thy Sacred Heart.
Be Thou King, O Lord, not only of the faithful who have never forsaken Thee, but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned Thee, grant that they may quickly return to their Father’s house, lest they die of wretchedness and hunger.
Be Thou King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions, or whom discord keeps aloof, and call them back to the harbour of truth and unity of faith, so that soon there may be but one flock and one shepherd.
Grant, O Lord, to Thy Church, assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; give peace and order to all nations, and make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry: praise to the divine Heart that wrought our salvation: to It be glory and honour for ever and ever. Amen.
(composed by Pope Pius XI)
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The longest section of the Church’s liturgical year is the time from Trinity Sunday until Advent Sunday. On those green Sundays we celebrate the Mystery of Christ in its totality. That encompasses everything that we recalled from Advent until Pentecost: the hope of salvation, the coming of the Saviour, His hidden life, His public ministry, His saving Passion, His resurrection, His Kingship, His sending of the Holy Spirit. Week by week at Mass on the Sundays after Pentecost the Gospel presents us with various aspects of the content of general and public divine revelation.
That extended green season is enriched by numerous uplifting feastdays in the calendar: the Sacred Heart, the Precious Blood, the Assumption of our Lady, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the Holy Guardian Angels, and many more.
There is also the rich tapestry of saints’ days and the many commemorations of our blessed Lady. Her pervasive presence throughout the liturgical year is one of the loveliest aspects of the Church’s living tradition. That living tradition is to be treasured and handed on.
Precisely because the tradition is living, it must never be frozen, but must always be open to organic growth and authentic development. Our belovèd Cardinal, Blessed John Henry Newman, has taught us how to discern correctly the authentic development of Catholic doctrine. It may be that we shall need to apply (analogously) the same wise principles to the future development of Catholic liturgy, so as to ensure that any such development remains God-centred and coherent. When the liturgy collapses under the weight of rigid secularist ideology, it becomes ever more difficult for the Lord’s disciples to live in Christ.
To live in Christ means entering into the Mysteries of His incarnate life, thus preparing for what we hope will be our vision of His infinite being in heaven. We prepare for that vision by being immersed in His divine life as deeply as possible here and now: the life of faith, the life of grace, life in the Holy Spirit.
Our life of faith must always bear fruit in our cultivation of the virtues, and that includes practising the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
The corporal works of mercy are charitable acts of kindness by which we help our neighbours in their material and physical needs: to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to shelter the homeless, to clothe the naked, to visit the sick, to visit the imprisoned, to bury the dead.
Equally necessary are the spiritual works of mercy. These are charitable acts of compassion by which we support our neighbours in their spiritual needs: to instruct the ignorant, to advise the doubtful, to admonish sinners, to comfort the afflicted, to forgive offences, to bear wrongs patiently, to pray for the living and the dead.Read More >
Pentecost is the Feast of God the Holy Spirit.
In our devotion to the Holy Spirit we should be wary of equating His action with our own feelings. Such confusion is at the root of much of what is attributed to the Holy Spirit in certain types of prayer meetings.
We do not say that the Holy Spirit is necessarily absent from such gatherings. We do say that in such gatherings much of what is claimed to be direct inspiration, personal revelation, prophetic utterance, is often simply a manifestation of various human emotional responses.
Those human emotions are often triggered by a particularly secular style of music, and helped along by a warm and cosy atmosphere of support and affirmation. None of that necessarily precludes the working of the Holy Spirit of course, but neither does it guarantee His presence.
The varied gifts of the Holy Spirit are imparted for edification, for building-up the Church. That is clearly seen at Pentecost. The Third Person of the Godhead descended in majesty and power upon the Apostles, and they were caught up by the Spirit in an ecstasy that we can scarcely imagine, praising and proclaiming the mighty works of God in ecstatic words which far surpassed the power of human speech.
The Spirit of the living God was given to them ad robur, for strength; not for their own consolation, but in order to launch and empower the supra-national mission of the universal Church.
The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Catholic Church. That life-giving soul does not turn the Church inwards on herself. The Spirit stirs the Church to look outwards ad gentes, to the as yet unevangelized and unconverted multitudes of the non-Christian world.
The Spirit drives us further and further outwards from Jerusalem (so to speak) into what is often a faithless wilderness. In and through the Holy Spirit we play our small part in converting that desert into the Lord’s own vineyard. The work of the Spirit is a work of conversion and re-creation, bringing order out of chaos.
If ever there was a time of chaos in Christ’s Holy Church and in the world, it is now. Only God the Holy Spirit can bring order out of such chaos. Only the truth of Christ can heal the wounds inflicted by lies, heresy, and disingenuous barefaced denial.Read More >
Christ the King returns in triumph to the celestial glory, with our human nature conjoined to His divinity. Where He has gone we long to follow. We fix our hearts and minds on reaching that realm where we hope to be crowned, one day. We have to live in this material world always remembering that we were made for heaven.
If we forget that heaven is our home we risk becoming earthbound, as though the Lord had not ascended, as though life here below were still a closed circle. The gates of heaven are thrown wide open to receive Christ the King, and they remain wide open so that we His motley subjects may follow after Him.
Following Him involves keeping that upward path in view, always trying to look beyond the immediacy of this world by seeking those things which are above. This is the opposite of escapism. We are not running away from reality, but running towards it.
In the sacred liturgy we lift up our hearts to contemplate that which is above: the glory of the Lord. Through the sacred liturgy we make repeated visits to the foothills of heaven. Those visits sharpen our longing for what lies beyond the cloud, that cloud which both covered and revealed the Kingship of Christ at His Ascension.
The awe and reverence with which we celebrate Holy Mass help to deepen our understanding that the realm above is more real than the shadows and images of our temporary lodgings here below. Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament helps us to keep in mind that the material world we see around us is but a tiny segment of reality as it truly is, as God sees it.
On the mountain of the Ascension the angels said to the men of Galilee, “why stand ye gazing up into heaven?” One might reply, “we have to gaze a little, so as not to forget where He has gone, and where we are to follow”. If the angels were feeling talkative they would perhaps add, “yes, but as well as gazing, you also have work to do. Go and get on with it”.
What is our work? To evangelize, to make converts, to baptize, to catechize, to serve, to heal, to sanctify. We do this so that all mankind (yes, all mankind) may come to love and worship the one true God (yes, the one true God): Christ the King of all creation, risen, ascended, and glorified.
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Two illiterate peasant children, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, were with their cousin Lucia dos Santos when “a Lady-Shining-More- Brightly-Than-The-Sun” appeared to them six times between 13th May and 13th October 1917.
Francisco and Jacinta both died young of influenza, the so-called Spanish Flu. Francisco died when he was 10 years old (1919), Jacinta when she was 9 years old (1920).
Both were beatified at Fatima in the year 2000 by Pope St. John Paul II.
Both are to be canonized at Fatima on Saturday 13th May by Pope Francis.
Sister Lucia died in her discalced Carmelite convent at Coimbra on 13th February 2005 aged 97. The cause for her eventual beatification has been opened.
Like Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta were remarkable in ways perhaps not always understood or admired by the secular world. They were innocent, uneducated, of great simplicity of soul, modest, plain, and unassuming.
Although present at all the apparitions, the two younger children did not hear everything that the Lady said to Lucia. Nor did they themselves speak with her. Lucia saw her, heard her, and conversed with her. Francisco and Jacinta saw her.
The plain marble slabs on their tombs at Fatima simply record their names: Francisco Marto to whom our Lady appeared. Jacinta Marto to whom our Lady appeared.
At the last apparition on 13th October 1917 the Lady finally identified herself: “I am the lady of the rosary”.
That same day was also the occasion of the so-called ‘miracle of the sun’. Something resembling a shining metal disk spun and ‘danced’ across the sky while emitting rays of variously coloured light. The spectacular display lasted for eight minutes and was seen by a crowd of 70,000 people.
The bishop at the time clarified that the miracle, though real, was not an astronomical phenomenon, i.e. it was not the actual sun which danced. (If the sun had truly left its place in the firmament, this world and indeed the whole solar system would have been wrecked.)
Various other phenomena of high strangeness occurred at all the Fatima apparitions. They are certainly intriguing, but for us the message which the Lady gave to the children is of course far more important than the accompanying phenomena.
The prophetic message of Fatima includes the following primary motifs: the real possibility of eternal damnation; the need for prayer, penance, and reparation; the errors which Russia would spread throughout the world; devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary; daily recitation of the rosary to obtain peace in the world; the ongoing martyrdom of the Catholic Church.
The above is only a brief outline of the essence of Fatima. The full story is more detailed and complex.
The Lady’s prophecies have been authenticated by verifiable historical events, past and present.
The ongoing martyrdom of the Church (what was once known as the Third Secret) is even more evident now in this century than in the 20th century.
It is abundantly clear that Russia has not yet been converted. (N.B. Lucia repeated what she had been told about Russia spreading her errors throughout the world without knowing that the word ‘Russia’ was a country. Initially she assumed that “Russia must be a very wicked lady”.)
It is also painfully clear that we still await the promised eventual triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
I.H.Read More >
The encounter with Christ which was granted to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus was certainly one of high strangeness. It seems incredible that they did not at first recognize Him. If one of our nearest and dearest had died before our eyes, and then three days later ‘appeared’ to us, would we not recognize them? How changed would they have to be in order for us not to know who we were speaking with?
Their moment of recognition has an unmistakeable Eucharistic resonance. He took bread, gave thanks, broke it – and vanished. His subsequent invisibility did not cloud the clarity of their recognition. It seemed to increase their certainty that they had truly been in the actual living presence of the Master. Did not our hearts burn within us?
Their first reaction was missionary. They immediately hurried back to Jerusalem to tell others about their encounter. There they found that the other disciples had had a similar experience: a mysterious and personal presence which imparted the certainty that Jesus of Nazareth was truly risen from the grave, and the confidence and joy which that Presence bestowed.
That paradigmactic encounter and its inherent missionary impulse attain their fuller definition and coloration on the day of Pentecost. After the apostles had been assured of the reality of Christ’s resurrection (Easter day) and His Kingship (Ascension day) they are then sent out to be His missionaries throughout the world. They preach to the nations that Christ’s death on the Cross is the fulfilment of the Hebrew scriptures, that His resurrection is both the proof of His divine glory and is also the promise of our own future glory.
That future glory will be both physical and spiritual, or rather, it will transcend both those categories. The difference between physical and spiritual is a very limited distinction which really only obtains in this fallen world. In this world the sacraments are a pledge that the earthly distinction between the material and the spiritual is not final. The post-lapsarian divergence between the material and the spiritual is ultimately a false binary. It is a temporary lapse of reality back into incoherence, an incoherence which is not the Creator’s ultimate purpose, an incoherence which Christ’s bodily resurrection eternally reverses.
The risen Christ is neither constrained by the physical world, but neither is He a ghost. He exemplifies that wholeness of being which awaits us all beyond the grave, by God’s mercy. He is the revelation of that integrated wholeness which we can know only partially in this life, but which we hope to possess in its fullness, in the life of the world to come. A blessing I wish for us all.
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The resurrection of Christ was of a wholly different category of reality from the resuscitation of Lazarus. Lazarus was given a temporary reprieve. He would later die again and return to the tomb. By contrast, Christ rose from the dead to a new and glorified life, never to die again. He rose from the dead to life in the Spirit.
In the moment of Christ’s death He breathed forth, handed over, His Spirit: tradidit Spiritum (John 19:30). His resurrection was the initial public release of His gift of the Holy Spirit. That giving of the Holy Spirit was seen again on Easter day when the Lord granted to the Apostles His own power to absolve sins.
During the following Forty Days before the Ascension, the Lord Who is Spirit completed His general public revelation. Then at Pentecost the Holy Spirit was given definitively ad robur, for strengthening. The power of the resurrection was hurled outwards from Jerusalem, spreading Christ’s Gospel to the ends of the earth through the preaching of the Apostles.
The fuller elucidation of that preaching came years later in the inspired writing and editing of the New Testament. But the preaching came first, as it always should.
If and when we ever stopped preaching the explicit truth about Jesus Christ, then it would hardly be surprizing if the mighty rushing wind and the contagious flame of the God the Holy Spirit seemed to be in decline, sometimes to the point of seeming to have degenerated into an embarrassed and furtive whisper.
We hear a lot about the Church being called to serve the world and work with the world. Yes indeed we are. But sadly that serving and working have often involved more whispering than preaching. In recent decades the results of so much whispering have not been spectacularly successful as regards evangelization.
The best way to serve the world, and work with the world, is to preach loud and clear the full Gospel truth about Jesus Christ the Son of God. Jesus is Lord. He is risen from the dead and He is Lord.
The Apostles did not whisper. They proclaimed and they evangelized. They did not concentrate on preaching to the converted. They did the opposite. They concentrated on preaching to the unconverted. They made converts. They did their job.Read More >
“As the solemn days proceed, we shall be especially called on, my brethren, to consider His sufferings in the body, His seizure, His forced journeyings to and fro, His blows and wounds, His scourging, the crown of thorns, the nails, the Cross. They are all summed up in the Crucifix itself, as it meets our eyes; they are represented all at once on His sacred flesh, as it hangs up before us—and meditation is made easy by the spectacle. It is otherwise with the sufferings of His soul; they cannot be painted for us, nor can they even be duly investigated: they are beyond both sense and thought; and yet they anticipated His bodily sufferings. The agony, a pain of the soul, not of the body, was the first act of His tremendous sacrifice; “My soul is sorrowful even unto death,” He said; nay; if He suffered in the body, it really was in the soul, for the body did but convey the infliction on to that which was the true recipient and seat of the suffering.
Now apply this to the sufferings of our Lord;—do you recollect their offering Him wine mingled with myrrh, when He was on the point of being crucified? He would not drink of it; why? because such a portion would have stupefied His mind, and He was bent on bearing the pain in all its bitterness. You see from this, my brethren, the character of His sufferings; He would have fain escaped them, had that been His Father’s will; “If it be possible,” He said, “let this chalice pass from Me;” but since it was not possible, He says calmly and decidedly to the Apostle, who would have rescued Him from suffering, “The chalice which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?” If He was to suffer, He gave Himself to suffering; He did not come to suffer as little as He could; He did not turn away His face from the suffering; He confronted it, or, as I may say, He breasted it, that every particular portion of it might make its due impression on Him. And as men are superior to brute animals, and are affected by pain more than they, by reason of the mind within them, which gives a substance to pain, such as it cannot have in the instance of brutes; so, in like manner, our Lord felt pain of the body, with an advertence and a consciousness, and therefore with a keenness and intensity, and with a unity of perception, which none of us can possibly fathom or compass, because His soul was so absolutely in His power, so simply free from the influence of distractions, so fully directed upon the pain, so utterly surrendered, so simply subjected to the suffering. And thus He may truly be said to have suffered the whole of His passion in every moment of it.”
(From discourse 16: Mental Sufferings of Our Lord in His Passion)Read More >