The First & Last Resort

There’s never an excuse nor reason not to pray and I always think the string of feasts from Pentecost through to the Blessed Trinity, Corpus Christi and the Sacred Heart of Jesus are more than enough impetus to get down on one’s knees and adore, love, and hope in the Loving God.

Then there have been the horrendous events over recent weeks with barbarous terrorism at home and abroad and compounded with unspeakable and tragic loss of life like the fire of Grenfell Tower London. May their souls truly rest in peace.  Aside from how brutal the world can feel on a daily basis, the news does tempt one to feelings of despondency.

Yet again it’s another reason to pray even harder for when things seem to be so bad, so depressing [and headlines of affairs in the Church don’t help] then where else is there to go?

As President Abraham Lincoln once said:

“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”

It doesn’t get more emphatic than that when we ponder on the bleak nature of recent events.

And so tomorrow, the solemnity of Corpus Christi – the Body and Blood of the Lord [at least in Britain!] I am looking forward to falling to my knees outside our parish church as the recent First Communicants [among whom will be my son, Paul] lead the Blessed Sacrament procession strewing petals from their gardens in the way; for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs and it’s our privilege as their parents and adults to kneel before our Heavenly King to humble ourselves in the presence of children to say – “we do not have all the answers. We do not always understand why there is so much evil and hatred and wilful incompetence in the world and the Church, but we surrender ourselves to the Father in thanksgiving for His Son through His Spirit.”

When so many abandoned Christ after he declared “unless you eat of my flesh and drink of my blood, you cannot have life within you” it was St. Peter [the first pope] who throughout history [more than any other pope ever….ever!] spoke on our behalf saying: “Lord to whom shall we go?”

There is nowhere else we can realistically go, except to Him, to crawl [interiorly] on our knees before Him in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar saying; “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.”

Veni Sancte Spiritus!

I can think of no better way to “blog” about this weekend’s wonderful solemnity of Pentecost than inviting my readers to join with me in reciting the Litany of the Holy Spirit …May the Lord and Giver of Life pour afresh His grace in our souls.

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.

Father all-powerful, have mercy on us. Jesus, Eternal Son of the Father, Redeemer of the world, save us. Spirit of the Father and the Son, boundless life of both, sanctify us. Holy Trinity, hear us.

Holy Spirit, Who proceedest from the Father and the Son, enter our hearts. Holy Spirit, Who art equal to the Father and the Son, enter our hearts.

Promise of God the Father, have mercy on us.
Ray of heavenly light, have mercy on us.
Author of all good, [etc.]
Source of heavenly water Consuming fire
Ardent charity
Spiritual unction
Spirit of love and truth
Spirit of wisdom and understanding
Spirit of counsel and fortitude
Spirit of knowledge and piety
Spirit of the fear of the Lord
Spirit of grace and prayer
Spirit of peace and meekness
Spirit of modesty and innocence
Holy Spirit, the Comforter
Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier
Holy Spirit, Who governest the Church
Gift of God, the Most High
Spirit Who fillest the universe
Spirit of the adoption of the children of God

Holy Spirit, inspire us with horror of sin.
Holy Spirit, come and renew the face of the earth.
Holy Spirit, shed Thy light in our souls.
Holy Spirit, engrave Thy law in our hearts.
Holy Spirit, inflame us with the flame of Thy love.
Holy Spirit, open to us the treasures of Thy graces.
Holy Spirit, teach us to pray well.
Holy Spirit, enlighten us with Thy heavenly inspirations.
Holy Spirit, lead us in the way of salvation.
Holy Spirit, grant us the only necessary knowledge.
Holy Spirit, inspire in us the practice of good.
Holy Spirit, grant us the merits of all virtues.
Holy Spirit, make us persevere in justice.
Holy Spirit, be Thou our everlasting reward.

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Send us Thy Holy Spirit.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
pour down into our souls the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
grant us the Spirit of wisdom and piety.

V. Come, Holy Spirit! Fill the hearts of Thy faithful,
R. And enkindle in them the fire of Thy love.

Let us pray. Grant, O merciful Father, that Thy Divine Spirit may enlighten, inflame and purify us, that He may penetrate us with His heavenly dew and make us fruitful in good works, through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who with Thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, liveth and reigneth, one God, forever and ever.

R. Amen.

Sorrow like only a woman can know

Amidst all the endless commentary in the aftermath of the atrocity that happened in my home town of Manchester, England last Monday night and [sadly] and the appalling murder of the Coptic Christians on Friday on pilgrimage in Egypt; I could not help but wonder on [100 years after the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima and her universal message of conversion and penance to save the world] how her Immaculate Heart must be in pain and sorrow over the events of the last week. It put me in mind of that mournful but beautiful song of Mary Black and Eleanor McEvoy about the unique pain and sadness “only a woman’s heart can know” [see the clip above and words below for the lyrics]

Mary Our Mother [in these pain-filled days of barbaric fundamentalist Islamic led murder] knows pain of such intensity over the loss of life -more than any of the mothers, wives, grandmothers and friends connected with the victims- that in the end it will be her most perfected of human female hearts that will be a channel of inestimable, immeasurable grace for the souls of the dead and the grief of the living that is beyond our comprehension. So in these last remaining hours of May, the month dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God, I commend the victims and their families to her powerful intercession and as Ramadan begins when so many of the peaceful majority of Muslims seek to purify their hearts through extended fasting and prayer; may it be She, of Fatima [so cherished and honoured in the Quran] who brings the message of the Prince of Peace to the whole of humanity,  to somehow penetrate the hearts and minds of those, who even now are plotting with evil intent to commit further massacre and bloodshed.

http://hiddengem.catholicfaith.co.uk/pictures.html

My heart is low, my heart is so low
As only a woman’s heart can be
As only a woman’s, as only a woman’s
As only a woman’s heart can know
The tears that drip from my bewildered eyes
Taste of bittersweet romance
You’re still in my hopes, you’re still on my mind
And even though I manage on my own
My heart is low, my heart is so low
As only a woman’s heart can be
As only a woman’s, as only a woman’s
As only a woman’s heart can know
When restless eyes reveal my troubled soul
And memories flood my weary heart
I mourn for my dreams, I mourn for my wasted love
And while I know that I’ll survive all alone
My heart is low, my heart is so low
As only a woman’s heart can be
As only a woman’s, as only a woman’s
As only a woman’s heart can know
My heart is low, yes, my heart is so low
As only a woman’s heart can be
As only a woman’s, as only a woman’s
As only a woman’s heart can know
My heart is low, my heart is so low
As only a woman’s heart can be
As only a woman’s, as only a woman’s
As only a woman’s heart can know

Explain yourself….

Children have the remarkably annoying habit of interrogating us don’t they? They’re obsessed with the fundamental nature of things, why the world is the way it is, and how to logically connect it all together. The endless “why”? questions. It can be maddening at times. The way they can question the punishments we mete out, the routes we take when driving, and the food we eat; why the TV cannot be on, what’s wrong with staying up and not going to bed, and so on and so forth, you get the picture. I empathize with parents who resort to the tried-and-true “Because I said so” reply; I really do but it’s rarely an explanation that will satisfy and in the end it just becomes a sort of excuse for not putting greater effort in to helping them see the bigger picture or going through that struggle with them (like God’s patient wrestling with Jacob in Genesis 32: 22-32) so that they naturally arrive at the same place as you do, even if we or they might have to swallow some humble pie at the end of it.

Not only should I (try to) answer my children’s questions to help their cognitive development, I should even help them formulate better and harder questions! It isn’t like I don’t have questions of my own that I pester God with: How was the world created? How can we be happy? Why is there suffering? Why is so much evil in the Church permitted? These are tough questions, but I’m better off for having asked them and brought them to my prayers and worship and I do believe that God respects it when we ask such questions and even at times show Him our anger and frustration when life seems hard going. Even someone like the biblical figure Job, who gets an answer along the lines of, “You’ll understand when you grow up,” is listened to and engaged by God. God’s answer is never “because I said so.”

And that’s the challenge the authority in the Church faces now. Like a parent who knows they cannot brush off the inquisitive mind or challenging behaviour of a child by simply saying “because I say so,” neither can the Church simply say “because this is what we believe” or “as the Code of Canon Law says” etc. Not that these things, like tradition and discipline are not true, they obviously are.  But it’s a question of how we impart that truth so that, in time, the beauty and wisdom of Catholic truth wells up from within a person and is confirmed by the voice of God in other things, rather than just what might feel like a cold set of rules imposed from without. As I said last July ‘effective communication and dialogue’ can only come about if, as St John Paul II said, we don’t invent a new programme but simply declare the Person of Jesus Christ by whom and only in whom we can be saved. That doesn’t mean amending, adjusting, reformulating the image and message of Jesus to our own whims and caprices, but praying for, working at and humbling ourselves repeatedly towards a deep, deep serious conversion to Him. And the key to supercharge our conversion to Jesus is, chastity, cultivating a purity of mind, heart, and body that will bring all the other virtues and values to fuller expression and new life in our souls and with all whom we interact. As Pope Francis states in Amoris Laetitia:

“Chastity proves invaluable for the genuine growth of love between persons.” (Para. 206). That’s putting it mildly, for when we look at the impact and power of this virtue in the lives of the Saints, what the pope is saying, or rather how he says it, can come across as a bit of an understatement, but its essential truth is there. And if it’s true for individuals, it’s true for families. Why else would St. John Paul II have declared in Familiaris Consortio (the lens through which we must read Amoris Laetitia) that families can and must “release formidable energies.”  It is a moral and spiritual power that is not possible without chastity.

“M” is for Mary

Since starting my new job last November I find myself finding to do a lot more driving from home to work and back again and in between destinations for work all over the diocese of Portsmouth. Naturally until I get to know and remember routes to various places I need to rely on a very helpful SatNav device to show me the way. The other day [along with all the usual ‘icons’ and signs on the screen that indicate different things, like where the speed cameras and fuel stations are] i noticed that it also indicates where the next “McDonalds” restaurant is with its well known “M” logo in Red. Personally I can’t stand McDonalds, neither their food nor their outlets. I find them bland, dull and certianly the food is about as unnutritious as you can get. So when I saw the “M” on my SatNav screen I was reminded of the George Ritzer theory of the McDonaldisation of society   http://www.mcdonaldization.com/whatisit.shtml

For a moment I was mildly irritated that McDonalds marketing had found their way in to my quiet private space of my driving time where and when I often do my reflecting and praying.

But then I realised that this occasional “M” appearing on the screen of the device might be something I could use for my spiritual edification and the brief but sporadic intercession for others. So when I am not reciting the Holy Rosary whilst I am driving I have now decided that every time I see the McDonalds “M” on my satnav, I shall recite an an additional prayer or supplication to the Mother of God, for it is She who is our truest compass who can direct and re-direct us to Christ; it is She, the Immaculate one who gives us the most trustworthy and reliable coordinates for the “map” of life so we can navigate our course in day to day challenges and sorrows and joys with the hopeful confidence that we shall arrive at our eternal destination.

So next time you’re driving along and feel tempted to refuel the body with a ready-meal [junk] fast food; instead turn to “M” – Mary your mother asking her to fill your deeper hunger with the spirit of her son, who alone can satisfy our deepest needs and will feed us with an abundance of delight at His heavenly banquet.

Happy Feast of Our Lady of Fatima. Saint Jacinta pray for us. Saint Francisco pray for us.

Parent Power

Earlier this week the news of the Duke of Edinburgh deciding to step away from his public duties at the age of 96, made big headlines. One commentator said that on a personal level the Duke would really be baffled by all the fuss over it. After all he is 96! But more than that; there was one quote recalled about the Duke which really struck a chord with me. He has said that his role in public life was quite simple; “to support and help others be better at what they do best.” I rather like that phrase. It has a down to earth feel about it and in once sense sums up and describes what I have been trying to do with this weekly blog since October 2014 just prior to the first synod on the family; i.e, I have in some small way been trying to encourage, edify and boost the confidence and faith and spirituality of mainly parents but others too in understanding better but also fulfilling their God-given duties at being the primary educator and protector of their children.
This daily battle to keep one’s hearth and home together morally, spiritually and materially gets increasingly harder and [sad to say] unsupported [practically-speaking] by the bureaucratic church. There is hardly a week goes by when I don’t get an email or call or message from someone anxious about ‘gender theory’ and or “transgender” rights etc. It does appear to be a minefield. And apart from one or two quite helpful statements from the Pope about “ideological colonisation” of our children and denouncing experiemental educational programmes that treat children like “guinea pigs” there isn’t much practical guidance for parents on this in relation to their own children or what they might be exposed to in society and even at school. Thankfully there is a really excellent and well researched website [totally set up devised and managed by parents] that I highly recommend as the go to place on this burning issue. The website is    
https://www.transgendertrend.com/ The people behind the website have no religious affiliation whatsoever. They only deal in facts and want the facts to speak for themselves. Being factual is what most parents are best at when it comes to the overall well being of their children. This site will help them be better I hope. Their raison d’etre is clear 
  “
We wanted to create a site which balanced that view with some research and facts which challenge the prevailing acceptance of an ideology which is new, untested, and invariably based on personal belief systems.”

A Powerful Force…

Earlier this week the famous British children’s comic artist Leo Baxendale died (RIP) He was probably most famous for his characters like Dennis the Menace, Minnie the Minx, and the Bash Street Kids in the Beano comic. I wasn’t much of a comic reader when I was a child but I can appreciate their appeal to the young reader for harmless fun and mischief- at least they were when I was growing up in the 1970s.

There have been many tributes to this talented artist this week in the British news items, media and press and one of his fellow cartoonists quoted him thus:

‘Once the imagination of a child is set alight, it takes persistent dousing with cold water to put out the fire.’

I was struck by that comment. Not least because from a positive perspective a child’s imagination is a marvellous thing, and it can be a delight to see a child’s creativity come alive in the way they make up songs, dances, imaginary friends, spectacles and role play. It’s all part of childish fun and healthy development

And then I got to thinking about explicit sex education and Leo Baxendale’s observation. Just as the nation is about to vote for a new government, no matter who wins [and it’s most likely to be the Conservatives] the juggernaut to make so called “relationships education” compulsory from age 4 with all that that implies means that it will take “persistent dousing” of the “holy waters” of sanctifying grace and prayer for conscientious parents to de-tox their children when they arrive home from school. One day a future generation will bitterly condemn this generation for what they exposed the young imagination to ….and whom many have and will pay the price of lost innocence.

A word from our sponsor

So often when we hear that phrase we know it’s going to precede a marketing gimmick or plug for some kind or other organisation behind a particular event or related group. It got me thinking as I prepare myself spiritually and emotionally to “sponsor” a young cousin of mine [a young woman of 18] who will receive the sacrament of confirmation this weekend. Apart from feeling honoured to be asked by her to support her in this momentous soul-changing moment and event in her life, it causes me to pause and reflect on just how much a responsibility it is and will be ….

It also causes me to refresh my own sense of being sponsored by my patron saints, but also and most importantly by the Spirit of God Himself. I know the Spirit inspires me to pray for without Him I cannot pray but  I also know I don’t pray directly to Him enough for his sponsorship of me. So as I stand behind my cousin tomorrow with the reassuring hand of an older brother in the faith on her shoulder as she kneels before the Bishop to be “sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit” – I shall be asking for that same Spirit to teach and guide me in to continued dependence on the Father, so that I too may promote (sponsor) the well being of others in my daily life especially by my words.

A blessed Eastertide

 

Silence gives consent

This evening after first vespers of the fifth Sunday of Lent we enter the beautiful but solemn season of Passiontide. And since the great events of Holy Week are always challenging to enter interiorly [not least because of the increasing demands of everyday life and distractions] I heartily recommend reading [in sections over the next two weeks]
The Mental Sufferings of Our Lord in His Passion – Discourse 16 by Blessed John Henry Newman

here is a link to the complete text. Find time to read it in quiet, silence and peace. Immerse yourself in its richness of language and descriptors and increase the levels of silence in your daily life between now and Holy Saturday, where and when the Grand Silence of the Lord in the tomb is where he awaits our consent to join our sufferings to His

http://www.newmanreader.org/works/discourses/discourse16.html

 

Patient Realism

“Patient Realism” is the title of a section within chapter 7 of the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia -The Joy of Love ‘Towards a Better Education of Children.’  One line to define patient realism is ” changing a child’s behaviour involves a gradual process, but also that freedom needs to be channeled and stimulated, since by itself it does not ensure growth in maturity. ”
All parents go through constant self-doubt that they might not be getting this patient realism right. In fact, if we’re honest, most of us won’t..at least not all of the time. And then just occasionally something happens, or a child says or does something that restores your confidence in your parenting abilities. I thank God for just such a recent boost which came in the form and expression of a piece of work from my 7 year old son. He wrote:

A Recipe for A Happy Home

Ingredients:
Faith Courage
Love Peace
Happiness Caring

Method:
1. First, put a teaspoon of courage in to a bowl.
2. Secondly sprinkle 100g of love

3. After that carefully pour a teaspoon of faith in a cup.

4. Next gently place 87g of peace.

5. Now put 38g of caring in to the mixture

6. Finally make 51g of happiness icing to put on top of your happy home.

I was most edified by this simple piece of writing from my son, so much so that it made me feel touched by the mercy of God in my fatherhood.  A fitting end to the conclusion of the Year of Mercy…..to receive an expression of mercy through my child’s simple uncomplicated love and faith. May your own conclusion to this jubilee year be one of knowing the gentle peace of Christ.