“It is by the power of God’s grace that from this barren and desolate earth there have ever sprung up at all flowers of holiness and glory. And Mary is the Queen of them. She is the Queen of spiritual flowers; and therefore she is called the Rose, for the rose is fitly called of all flowers the most beautiful.
But moreover, she is the Mystical, or hidden Rose; for mystical means hidden. How is she now “hidden” from us more than are other saints? What means this singular appellation, which we apply to her specially? The answer to this question introduces us to a third reason for believing in the reunion of her sacred body to her soul, and its assumption into heaven soon after her death, instead of its lingering in the grave until the General Resurrection at the last day.
It is this:— if her body was not taken into heaven, where is it? how comes it that it is hidden from us? why do we not hear of her tomb as being here or there? why are not pilgrimages made to it? why are not relics producible of her, as of the saints in general? Is it not even a natural instinct which makes us reverent towards the places where our dead are buried? We bury our great men honourably. St. Peter speaks of the sepulchre of David as known in his day, though he had died many hundred years before. When our Lord’s body was taken down from the Cross, He was placed in an honourable tomb. Such too had been the honour already paid to St. John Baptist, his tomb being spoken of by St. Mark as generally known. Christians from the earliest times went from other countries to Jerusalem to see the holy places.
And, when the time of persecution was over, they paid still more attention to the bodies of the Saints, as of St. Stephen, St. Mark, St. Barnabas, St. Peter, St. Paul, and other Apostles and Martyrs. These were transported to great cities, and portions of them sent to this place or that.
Thus, from the first to this day it has been a great feature and characteristic of the Church to be most tender and reverent towards the bodies of the Saints. Now, if there was anyone who more than all would be preciously taken care of, it would be our Lady. Why then do we hear nothing of the Blessed Virgin’s body and its separate relics? Why is she thus the hidden Rose? Is it conceivable that they who had been so reverent and careful of the bodies of the Saints and Martyrs should neglect her—her who was the Queen of Martyrs and the Queen of Saints, who was the very Mother of our Lord? It is impossible. Why then is she thus the hidden Rose? Plainly because that sacred body is in heaven, not on earth.”
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Many have tried to reduce the Person of Christ the God-man to something comprehensible. To try and render Him fully understandable is to try and make Him other than what He is. We must accept that the constitution of His unique Person is ultimately a mystery.
The mystery of His two natures in one Person was revealed iconographically (so to speak) at His Transfiguration on the mountain.
Then at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 a definitive doctrinal formulation was pronounced:
“We confess that one and the same Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son, must be acknowledged in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation…He is not split or divided into two persons, but He is one and the same only-begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ…”
That doctrine has been treasured and expounded by the Church down the centuries. The doctrine of Christ’s two natures in one Person nourishes our spiritual lives, even as it surpasses our understanding. This doctrine helps us to accept with awe and wonder the fact that the Baby at Bethlehem knew that He had made the stars. The One who preached by the side of Lake Galilee knew that He had already existed for ever. The One Who willingly went to His death on Calvary knew that He was Israel’s Messiah, the Son of God.
To ponder the doctrine of Christ’s two natures will deepen the way we look at the crucifix, or an image of our blessed Lady. It should also illuminate the way we read the gospels. It should help us to understand that no human word or gesture of Christ’s recorded in the gospels was ever merely contingent. All the words and actions of His humanity were a revelation of His divine purposes.
In the Mass, in the tabernacle, and in the monstrance, we worship the Person of Christ in His two natures. Christ’s human and divine Presence in the Blessed Sacrament helps us to accept the sufferings which He sometimes asks us to endure, as our way of sharing in His Cross.
And whenever the weight of that Cross threatens to weaken our faith or undermine our hope, we have the Mass to sustain us. The beauty of Holy Mass should always orientate us to look forwards and upwards; forwards and upwards towards the divine splendour that will one day be revealed to us on the mountain, that Mountain which is Christ Himself.
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Ignatius was born in 1491, the eleventh and last child of a Basque noble, the doyen of the castle at Loyola in Guipuzcoa, Northern Spain. His early life was at court and in the army. In 1521 a canon ball fractured his shin and thigh. The broken bones in his leg were wrongly set, so it was decided to break them again. That bodged surgery left Ignatius limping for the rest of his life.
When convalescing he immersed himself in what we would now call books of military fiction. He found that war stories were exciting enough at the time of reading, but left him feeling empty afterwards. By contrast, books about Christ and the saints inspired thoughts and aspirations that remained in his mind and heart, and bore fruit.
After a pilgrimage to Montserrat, Ignatius spent eleven months at the town of Manresa a few miles from the abbey. Near Manresa there was a cave where he passed hour upon hour in solitary prayer. He began to mortify his body in ways that we might nowadays describe as extreme. He spent many hours weeping for past sins.
During those months of solitude and penance at Manresa, Ignatius had a number of visions and mystical experiences which formed the basis of his Spiritual Exercises, precisely structured meditations intended to ignite a definitive commitment to serving Christ the King. One of Ignatius’ particular insights was the value of the imagination in the contemplation of divine things. Using our imagination in prayer helps to purify and strengthen the will.
Wondering how best to serve the Church, his idea of a new religious Order gradually took shape. In 1540 Pope Paul III established The Society of Jesus. For the rest of his life Ignatius lived in Rome, directing the new Order. During the magnificent missionary expansion of The Society he was often ill. On 31st July 1556 he died suddenly and without receiving the last rites.
Part of Ignatius’ enduring legacy is his uncompromising affirmation that in the Christian life half measures are of no use. Ultimately, we are either with the King or we are against Him. After his conversion Ignatius’ whole life was lived for the greater glory of God and the Holy Name of Jesus. He was a contemplative-in-action. He worked for God’s greater glory with all the zeal and practicality of a tireless soldier.
The early sources indicate that Ignatius’ original focus, and the primary charism of his Society, was preaching and teaching the truth that salvation is through Jesus Christ, and Him alone. Their principal means of doing that was by conducting the founder’s Spiritual Exercises.
The subsequent shift of emphasis to ‘building a better world’ seems to be one of the many theological re-positionings that emerged in the 1960s.
Many claim that ‘building a better world’ is an authentic part of doing Christ’s work.
Secundum quid. It depends on what one means by ‘better’.
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Our faith in the salvation which the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ offers mankind also imposes on us a grave responsibility to tell others about it. If we really believe what we say we believe, then we should want to shout it from the rooftops. The desire to tell others the truth about Christ the Redeemer should motivate us every day, whatever our state in life, whatever our role in the Church.
As we pass through the crowds of people on the streets, we do well to remember that we are rubbing shoulders with a race of immortals; uniquely privileged creatures made in the image of God, immortal beings for whom Christ shed His Precious Blood. All human beings are created by God to fulfil a glorious destiny – to be crowned in heaven with an eternal diadem of unimaginable splendour. That salvation and its crowning are made possible only by the redemption Christ won for us on Calvary with the shedding of His Precious Blood. Of that Blood, one single drop would have been sufficient to ransom all possible worlds from all possible effects of all possible sins.
The majority of the people we see rushing around our cities are not on their way to or from Mass. This should increase our zeal for the salvation of souls. Those innumerable un-evangelized souls we encounter on the streets have so much to offer God’s people. But how will they come to believe in Christ’s Gospel if nobody ever tells them the plain truth of the matter? How will they come to understand their true destiny if nobody ever tells them the real Gospel facts of life? How will they come to love and worship the one true God if we who claim to know Him persist in our complicity of silence concerning all the erroneous ideas about Him that are peddled so widely in the name of ‘religion’.
Complicity with error will win us no crowns at the Judgement. It will not be sufficient to say “Lord, Lord, I spoke up against something we called extremism”. He expects far more from His apostles and disciples than that. We shall have to give Him an account of how often we spoke up for His Truth; how often we spoke up honestly, explicitly, and publicly, for the Truth revealed to us in Jesus of Nazareth, the Redeemer, the Saviour, the Messiah.
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In 1535 Bishop John Fisher and Chancellor Thomas More were put to death for their belief that the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded. They died because they believed that no secular or royal power on earth can replace the authority given by God to the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome, over all national and local Churches, over each and every single one of the faithful.
Down the ages, especially in the nineteenth and twentieth century, various dreamers and theoreticians have fantasized that the Catholic Church should accommodate itself to the secular world, by embracing and even marrying the spirit of the age. It has led many Christians into a dangerous complicity with the ideologies of current political correctness. The spiritual bankruptcy resulting from that delusion is all too evident today. One current example is the new lunacy being spouted in the crazy world of gender theory. Why are many Christians so slow to denounce this insult to our Maker?
For John Fisher and Thomas More, the clash between Church and State was not over the sort of political correctness we struggle with today. In their situation the persecution of the Church by King Henry VIII was a sharply defined and specific item of parliamentary legislation. They either had to submit to the new law, the new politics, or be branded as traitors. They chose to be traitors to the new politics, and thus they remained loyal to Christ. In the gospels our Lord clearly warned us of irreducible contradictions between this world and His Kingdom. This permanent inbuilt disjunction is an inconvenient truth which many 20th century pastors and theologians did their best to brush under the carpet.
Towards the end of the 20th century an English Catholic bishop (R.I.P) spoke with admirable enthusiasm about ‘the conversion of England’. He meant, the conversion of England to Catholicism. He was loudly criticized by a strident horde of the chatterati. The liberal establishment (secular and Christian) jumped up and down in protest. The buzz-word ‘divisive’ was bandied around with shrill indignation, and the bishop unjustly maligned.
St John Fisher and St Thomas More understood ‘divisive’ rather more accurately. They would also understand what many today have still not caught on to, or will not admit: that if Catholic Christianity is to survive in this country it will more and more mean swimming against the tide, in our attempt to preserve the faith and help others to find salvation. Look at what the closed minds of rigid and intolerant secularists are trying to do to our faith schools.
In spite of the debilitating religious and ideological legacy we have inherited from the ghastly 20th century, our perennial task is always the same: to assist God in helping all His sons and daughters to find truth and holiness in the one fold of the Redeemer, the Catholic Church. In every generation our job is to help that number to grow. Numbers matter. Souls matter. Salvation matters.
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 >