Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas 2010

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Tuesday, 2 November 2010

All Souls Day

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The commemoration of all the faithful departed is celebrated by the Church on November 2nd, or, if this be a Sunday or a solemnity, on November 3rd. The Office of the Dead must be recited by the clergy and all the Masses are to be of Requiem, except one of the current feast, where this is of obligation. The theological basis for the feast is the doctrine that the souls which, on departing from the body, are not perfectly cleansed from venial sins, or have not fully atoned for past transgressions, are debarred from the Beatific Vision, and that the faithful on earth can help them by prayers, almsdeeds and especially by the sacrifice of the Mass.

In the early days of Christianity the names of the departed brethren were entered in the diptychs. Later, in the sixth century, it was customary in Benedictine monasteries to hold a commemoration of the deceased members at Whitsuntide. In Spain there was such a day on Saturday before Sexagesima or before Pentecost, at the time of St Isidore (d. 636). In Germany there existed (according to the testimony of Widukind, Abbot of Corvey, c. 980) a time-honoured ceremony of praying to the dead on October 1st. This was accepted and sanctified by the Church. St. Odilo of Cluny (d. 1048) ordered the commemoration of all the faithful departed to be held annually in the monasteries of his congregation. Thence it spread among the other congregations of the Benedictines and among the Carthusians.

Of the dioceses, Liège was the first to adopt it under Bishop Notger (d. 1008). It is then found in the martyrology of St Protadius of Besançon (1053-66). Bishop Otricus (1120-25) introduced it into Milan for October 15th. In Spain, Portugal, and Latin America, priests on this day say three Masses. A similar concession for the entire world was asked of Pope Leo XIII. He would not grant the favour but ordered a special Requiem on Sunday, 30 September 1888.

In the Greek Rite this commemoration is held on the eve of Sexagesima Sunday, or on the eve of Pentecost. The Armenians celebrate the passover of the dead on the day after Easter.
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Monday, 1 November 2010

All Saints Day

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All Saints Day. Solemnity celebrated on the first day of November. It is instituted to honour all the saints, known and unknown, and, according to Urban IV, to supply any deficiencies in the faithful's celebration of saints' feasts during the year. In the early days the Christians were accustomed to solemnise the anniversary of a martyr's death for Christ at the place of martyrdom. In the fourth century, neighbouring dioceses began to interchange feasts, to transfer relics, to divide them, and to join in a common feast; as is shown by the invitation of St Basil of Caesarea (397) to the bishops of the province of Pontus. Frequently groups of martyrs suffered on the same day, which naturally led to a joint commemoration. In the persecution of Diocletian the number of martyrs became so great that a separate day could not be assigned to each. But the Church, feeling that every martyr should be venerated, appointed a common day for all. The first trace of this we find in Antioch on the Sunday after Pentecost. We also find mention of a common day in a sermon of St Ephrem the Syrian (373), and in the 74th homily of St John Chrysostom (407). At first only martyrs and St John the Baptist were honoured by a special day. Other saints were added gradually, and increased in number when a regular process of canonisation was established; still, as early as 411 there is in the Chaldean Calendar a "Commemoratio Confessorum" for the Friday after Easter. In the West Boniface IV, 13 May, 609, or 610, consecrated the Pantheon in Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs, ordering an anniversary. Gregory III (731-741) consecrated a chapel in the Basilica of St Peter to all the saints and fixed the anniversary for November 1st. A basilica of the Apostles already existed in Rome, and its dedication was annually remembered on May 1st. Gregory IV (827-844) extended the celebration on November 1st to the entire Church. The vigil seems to have been held as early as the feast itself. The octave was added by Sixtus IV (1471-84).
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Friday, 15 October 2010

St Teresa of Avila

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St Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) was a Carmelite nun and a Spanish mystic. She is also known as "St Teresa of Jesus" or the "Great St Teresa" to distinguish her from another Carmelite nun, St Therese of Lisieux (1873-1897) known as "The Little Flower." St Teresa of Avila is a very much-loved contemplative Catholic saint. She was Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada, a child of a noble family, born on 28 March 1515 at Avila in Castile. Her mother died when she was fifteen. This event upset her so much that her father sent her to an Augustinian convent in Avila. Her father brought her home after a year and a half when she became ill. After being exposed to monastic life she wished to become a nun, which her father forbade as long as he was living. At the age or twenty or twenty-one she secretly left home and entered the Incarnation of the Carmelite nuns in Avila, after which her father dropped his opposition. Much of St Teresa's life was plagued by illness. In 1538 it appears she suffered from malaria when her father took her from the convent and placed her under doctors care. Despite of this she remained ill and undertook experimental cures by a woman in the town of Becedas. These methods left her in a coma for three days and not able to walk for three years. It was during this time of illness and convalescence that she took to daily mental prayer, which led to her experiences with mystical prayer.

She credited her recovery to St Joseph. St Teresa never sought out the mystical experiences that she experienced, but resigned herself to God's will and considers the experiences a divine blessing. She spent long hours in meditation that she called the "prayer of quiet" and the "prayer of union." During such prayers she frequently went into a trance, and at times entered upon mystical flights in which she would feel as if her soul were lifted out of her body. She said ecstasy was like a "detachable death" and her soul became awake to God as never before when the faculties and senses are dead.


St Teresa being a contemplative is well known for her discussion on the grades of prayer through which the soul is focused upon the love of God passes before reaching the "central mansion" of the soul, where Christ lives. She distinguished sharply between the essence of mysticism, which is loving the contemplation of God infused by God's own love and grace, and the tangential phenomena that may accompany the contemplative life, such as visions, audible sensations, ecstasy, levitation, and stigmata. She, as others, believed that Satan could manipulate such phenomena to corrupt the gullible even when they come from God. St Teresa felt that the Devil could twist such things in order to cause the individual to be more concerned with these manifestations than with their true mission of loving God entirely. Although St Teresa warned against taking the powers of the Devil too seriously, and advised that his powers should be despised (tener en poco). She said Satan was constantly active against Christians, especially the contemplative, trying intensely to block them from their goal of achieving absolute union with God. Although the Devil was powerless against the defence that Christ builds up in a faithful soul, he will rush in at the person's weakness moments to suggest things that appear reasonable and good but invariably result in feelings of confusion, worthlessness and disgust. He put for ingeniously devised temptations: he encourages self-righteousness and false humility and discourages us from prayer; he causes us to feel guilty for having received God's grace and to labor under the impossible burden of trying to earn it; he makes us ill-tempered toward others; he creates illusions and distractions in the intellect; he inspires the doubt and fear that the understanding that we are granted in contemplation is an illusion. Sometimes we feel that we have lost control of our souls, as if demons are tossing us back and forth like balls. Sometimes we feel that we have made no progress, but even when the boat is becalmed, God is secretly stirring in the sails and moving us along.

In 1562, against opposition, she founded a convent in Avila with stricter rules that those that prevailed in Carmelite monasteries. She was determined to establish a small community that would follow the Carmelite contemplative life, especially unceasing prayer. In 1567 she was given permission to establish other convents, and eventually founded seventeen others. She dedicated herself to reforming the Carmelite order.

When St Teresa was fifty-three she met the twenty-six-year-old St John of the Cross, who was dedicated to reforming the male Carmelite monasteries. Following a period of turbulence within the Carmelites, from 1575 to 1580, the Discalced Reform was recognised as separate. As St Teresa was traveling about Spain founding her reformed Carmelite convents her pen was busy too. All of her books have become spiritual classics. Life, her first work and autobiography written in 1565, describes how she experienced a spiritual marriage with Christ as bridegroom to the soul; she had this experience on November 18, 1572. Following this experience she wrote The Way of Perfection (1573), about the life of prayer. This was followed by The Interior Castle (1577), her best-known work, in which she presents a spiritual doctrine using a castle to symbolise the interior life. This latter book was revealed to her on Trinity Sunday, 1577, in which she saw a crystal globe like a castle that contained seven rooms; the seventh, in the centre, held the King of Glory. One approached the centre, which represents the Union with God, by going through the other rooms of Humility, Practice of Prayer, Meditation, Quiet, Illumination, and Dark Night.

After founding her last convent at Burgos, in 1582, St Teresa returned in very poor health to Avila. The difficult journey proved to have been too much for her frail condition. She took to her deathbed upon her arrival at the convent and died three days later on October 4, 1582. The next day the Gregorian Calendar went into effect, thus dropping ten days and making her death on October 14th. Her feast day is October 15th. St Teresa was canonised in 1662 by Pope Gregory XV and was declared doctor of the Church, the first woman so honoured, in 1970 by Pope Paul VI.
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Monday, 4 October 2010

Peace Prayer (St Francis)

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Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is error, the truth;

Where there is doubt, the faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.



O Divine Master,

Grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled, as to console;

To be understood, as to understand;

To be loved as to love.



For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
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St Francis of Assisi

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Today is the feast of St Francis of Assisi (1182-1226). Francis was born into a wealthy family at Assisi, Italy, the son of a cloth merchant. Francis received little formal education and during his youth was mostly preoccupied with having fun. As a young man, he was popular, charming, enjoyed practical jokes and was usually the life of the party.

Because of his wealth, he generally picked up the tab and thus attracted a following of fun loving, rowdy young men and promiscuous women.

When armed conflict broke out between the men of Assisi and a neighboring city in 1202, Francis eagerly volunteered for the cavalry but wound up getting captured after the first big battle and spent a year in captivity.

Francis returned to Assisi hailed as a hero, but unknown to his friends he had undergone a transformation in his outlook during his captivity. Although he was once again the life of the party, he was now questioning his reason for existence.

After much contemplation, including vivid dreams and mystic visions, he turned away from the pursuit of all worldly pleasures, sold all of his property and donated the money to the Church. He then began a lifelong passion of caring for society's castoffs, the sick and poor, including lepers.

His wealthy father reacted to his son's odd new lifestyle by disinheriting him. Thus Francis lived in utter poverty and even went without shoes. But his humbleness, extraordinary kindness and love for humanity attracted the attention of other young men and they also chose to give up worldly pleasures and follow him to spread the gospel and serve the poor.

Eventually, as the brotherhood grew, its members traveled to other parts of Europe to preach, including France, Germany, Spain and England. A separate order for women was formed, now known as the Franciscan Nuns or Poor Clares.

Francis had much love for animals with special fondness for the birds. He liked to refer to animals as his brothers and sisters. Legend has it that wild animals had no fear of Francis and even came to him seeking refuge from harm.

In 1224, Francis went up onto a mountain and began a 40-day fast. During that time he is said to have had a miraculous vision and received the marks of the nails and spear exactly as they appeared on the body of Jesus during his crucifixion.

After his death in 1226, Francis was declared a saint by Pope Gregory IX. For several centuries thereafter, his Franciscan order experienced continuous growth and is still active today caring for the poor, educating youth, and performing many other good deeds.


On this day nineteen years ago I was episcopally consecrated in a Victorian church in Hertfordshire, England. I am pictured above receiving the kiss of peace from the assembled bishops on the feast of St Francis of Assisi 1991 after I had accepted the precious mitre. I have been close to St Francis since childhood, and he remains someone with whom I feel a particular affinity. He did not enter the priesthood and, despite claims that he was reluctantly diaconated, there is no evidence to support the contention that he was a deacon. He is, however, a shining example to us all.
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Saturday, 2 October 2010

Holy Guardian Angels

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Today is the feast of the Holy Guardian Angels. Paul V was the first Pope, in 1608, to authorise a feast day in honour of guardian angels. Pope Clement X changed the date to October 2nd and Leo XIII, in 1883, upgraded the date to a double major feast. There is a proper Office in the Roman Breviary and a proper Mass in the Roman Missal, which contains all the apposite extracts from Sacred Scripture bearing on the three-fold office of the angels, to praise God, to act as His messengers, and to watch over mortal men. "Let us praise the Lord whom the Angels praise, whom the Cherubim and Seraphim proclaim Holy, Holy, Holy" (second antiphon of Lauds). "Behold I will send my angel, who shall go before thee, and keep thee in thy journey, and bring thee into the place that I have prepared. Take notice of him, and hear his voice" (Exodus 23; capitulum ad Laudes). The Gospel of the Mass includes that pointed text from St Matthew 18: 10: "See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven." Although October 2nd has been fixed for this feast in the Roman calendar, it is kept, by papal privilege, in Germany and many other places on the first Sunday (computed ecclesiastically) of September, and is celebrated with special solemnity and generally with an octave (Nilles, II, 503). This feast, like many others, was local before it was placed in the Roman calendar. It was not one of the feasts retained in the Pian breviary, published in 1568; but among the earliest petitions from particular churches to be allowed, as a supplement to this breviary, the canonical celebration of local feasts, was a request from Cordova in 1579 for permission to have a feast in honour of the Guardian Angels. (Bäumer, Histoire du Breviaire, II, 233.) Bäumer, who makes this statement on the authority of original documents published by Dr. Schmid (in the Tübinger Quartalschrift, 1884), adds on the same authority that "Toledo sent to Rome a rich proprium and received the desired authorisation for all the Offices contained in it, Valencia also obtained the approbation in February, 1582, for special Offices of the Blood of Christ and the Guardian Angels."

My mother introduced me to St Teresa of Avila and, later on, to St Thérèse of Lisieux. Her death on the day following the feast of the latter was the most difficult moment of my life. Her last breath came at twenty minutes past five o’clock on the feast of the Holy Guardian Angels 1992. All I can remember is my father’s distant voice proclaiming: “She’s gone.” Two little words that were of themselves devastating ― yet I knew in my heart she had not gone at all, but had passed into the Lord’s safekeeping where she would be for eternity. Like her favourite saints, my mother remained as fragrant as flowers in death, resisting decomposition until the last; even when I replaced the lid on her coffin in the stone chapel for the very last time. She became the “first person I would anoint and on whose behalf I would recite the prayers for the newly dead, since receiving the mitre.” [The Grail Church, Holy Grail, 1995, page 102.] My mother’s funeral was also the first I would conduct in my episcopal office. It was held at Islington and St Pancras Cemetery on the feast day of St Teresa of Avila, one of the two saints my mother was most close to; the other being St Thérèse of Lisieux. I also conducted a funeral service in the same cemetery chapel some eight years later for my father.


"For he hath given his angels charge over thee; to keep thee in all thy ways.” - Psalm 90: 11

"No evil shall befall you, nor shall affliction come near your tent, for to His Angels God has given command about you, that they guard you in all your ways. Upon their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone" - Psalm 91: 10-12

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “From infancy to death human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession” (No. 336). St Basil asserted: “Beside each believer stands an angel protector and shepherd leading him to life. ”

The truth that each and every human soul has a Guardian Angel who protects us from spiritual and physical evil has also been shown throughout the Old Testament, and is made very clear in the New Testament.

It is written that the Lord Jesus is strengthened by an angel in the Garden of Gethsemane and that an angel delivered St Peter from prison in the Acts of the Apostles.

But Jesus makes the existence and function of guardian angels explicit when He says: "See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 18: 10).

In saying this, Jesus points out that all people, even little children, have a guardian angel and that the angels are in Heaven, always looking at the face of God throughout their mission on earth, which is to guide us and protect us throughout our pilgrimage to the house of our Father. As St Paul says: "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent to minister for them, who shall receive the inheritance of salvation?" (Hebrews 1: 14)

However, they guide us to Heaven only if we desire it. St Thomas Aquinas wrote that angels cannot act directly upon our will or intellect, although they can do so on our senses and imaginations – thus encouraging us to make the right decisions. In Heaven our guardian angels, though no longer needing to guide us to salvation, will continue to enlighten us.

It is important to pray to your guardian angel and become friends with your angel. Ask for your guardian angel's help when you're stuck in traffic, when you need a parking place, and when you need help with your computer or the Internet. Call upon them in times of temptation or weakness and they will assist, enlighten, and protect you.

The prayer to the guardian angels has been present in the Church since at least the beginning of the 12th century.

Guardian Angel Prayer:

Angel of God, my Guardian dear, to whom God's love commits me here, ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.

Guardian Angel Quotes:

"The servants of Christ are protected by invisible, rather than visible, beings. But if these guard you, they do so because they have been summoned by your prayer. "

~ St Ambrose

“Let us affectionately love His angels as counselors and defenders appointed by the Father and placed over us. They are faithful; they are prudent; they are powerful; Let us only follow them, let us remain close to them, and in the protection of the God of heaven let us abide.”

~ St Bernard of Clairvaux

"God's universal providence works through secondary causes . . . The world of pure spirits stretches between the Divine Nature and the world of human beings; because Divine Wisdom has ordained that the higher should look after the lower, Angels execute the Divine plan for human salvation: they are our Guardians, who free us when hindered and help to bring us home."

~ St Thomas Aquinas
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Friday, 1 October 2010

St Thérèse of Lisieux

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St Thérèse of Lisieux (2 January 1873 – 30 September 1897), or St Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, born Marie-Françoise-Thérèse Martin, was a French Carmelite nun. She is also known as "The Little Flower of Jesus."

St Thérèse loved the priesthood and consecrated herself for priests, calling herself "an apostle to apostles." She did not pray for priests for their sake only, but out of love for the souls they were to serve. She prayed for the priest in solidarity with Jesus in the Eucharist, with Mary, with the Church, and with the world, and offered her life for their apostolic ministry.
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She felt an early call to religious life, and, overcoming various obstacles, in 1888 at the early age of fifteen, became a nun and joined two of her older sisters in the enclosed Carmelite community of Lisieux, Normandy. After nine years as a Carmelite religious, having fulfilled various offices, such as sacristan and novice mistress, and having spent the last eighteen months in Carmel in a night of faith, she died of tuberculosis at the age of twenty-four. The impact of her posthumous publications, including her memoir The Story of a Soul, made her one of the greatest saints of the 20th century. Pope Pius XI called her the Star of his pontificate; she was beatified in 1923, and canonised in 1925. Thérèse was declared co-patron of the missions with Francis Xavier in 1927, and named co-patron of France with St. Joan of Arc in 1944. On 19 October 1997 Pope John Paul II declared her the thirty-third Doctor of the Church, the only Doctor of his long pontificate, the youngest of all Doctors of the Church, only the third woman Doctor.

Devotion to Saint Thérèse has developed around the world and she was my own mother's favourite saint. My mother died the day following the feast of St Thérèse. The depth and novelty of Thérèse's spirituality, of which she said "my way is all confidence and love," has inspired many believers. In the face of her littleness and nothingness, she trusted in God to be her sanctity. She wanted to go to Heaven by an entirely new little way. "I wanted to find an elevator that would raise me to Jesus." The elevator, she wrote, would be the arms of Jesus lifting her in all her littleness.

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Wednesday, 29 September 2010

St Michael the Archangel

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Original Prayer to St Michael the Archangel

“O Glorious Prince of the heavenly host, St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in the battle and in the terrible warfare that we are waging against the principalities and powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, against the evil spirits. Come to the aid of man, whom Almighty God created immortal, made in His own image and likeness, and redeemed at a great price from the tyranny of Satan.

“Fight this day the battle of the Lord, together with the holy angels, as already thou hast fought the leader of the proud angels, Lucifer, and his apostate host, who were powerless to resist thee, nor was there place for them any longer in Heaven. That cruel, ancient serpent, who is called the devil or Satan who seduces the whole world, was cast into the abyss with his angels. Behold, this primeval enemy and slayer of men has taken courage. Transformed into an angel of light, he wanders about with all the multitude of wicked spirits, invading the earth in order to blot out the name of God and of His Christ, to seize upon, slay and cast into eternal perdition souls destined for the crown of eternal glory. This wicked dragon pours out, as a most impure flood, the venom of his malice on men of depraved mind and corrupt heart, the spirit of lying, of impiety, of blasphemy, and the pestilent breath of impurity, and of every vice and iniquity.

“These most crafty enemies have filled and inebriated with gall and bitterness the Church, the spouse of the immaculate Lamb, and have laid impious hands on her most sacred possessions. In the Holy Place itself, where the See of Holy Peter and the Chair of Truth has been set up as the light of the world, they have raised the throne of their abominable impiety, with the iniquitous design that when the Pastor has been struck, the sheep may be.

“Arise then, O invincible Prince, bring help against the attacks of the lost spirits to the people of God, and give them the victory. They venerate thee as their protector and patron; in thee holy Church glories as her defense against the malicious power of hell; to thee has God entrusted the souls of men to be established in heavenly beatitude. Oh, pray to the God of peace that He may put Satan under our feet, so far conquered that he may no longer be able to hold men in captivity and harm the Church. Offer our prayers in the sight of the Most High, so that they may quickly find mercy in the sight of the Lord; and vanquishing the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, do thou again make him captive in the abyss, that he may no longer seduce the nations. Amen.

V. Behold the Cross of the Lord; be scattered ye hostile powers.

R. The Lion of the tribe of Judah has conquered the root of David.

V. Let Thy mercies be upon us, O Lord.

R. As we have hoped in Thee.

V. O Lord, hear my prayer.

R. And let my cry come unto Thee.

Let us pray.

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we call upon Thy holy Name, and as supplicants, we implore Thy clemency, that by the intercession of Mary, ever Virgin Immaculate and our Mother, and of the glorious St. Michael the Archangel, Thou wouldst deign to help us against Satan and all the other unclean spirits who wander about the world for the injury of the human race and the ruin of souls. Amen.”



Short Prayer to St Michael the Archangel

The more familiar short version of this prayer follows in English and Latin. The Holy Father ordered this prayer to be recited daily after Low Mass in all the churches throughout the Catholic world. This practice was virtually swept away in the 1960s by liturgical changes made in the wake of the Second Vatican Council.

"Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection against the malice and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen."

"Sancte Michael Archangele, defende nos in praelio. Contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium. Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur. Tuque princeps militiae caelestis, Satanam aliosque spiritus malignos, qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo divina virtute in infernum detrude. Amen."
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Tuesday, 21 September 2010

St Matthew the Evangelist

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Today is the feast of St Matthew, one of the twelve Apostles and the author of the first Gospel. He was the son of Alpheus and was called to be an Apostle while sitting in the tax collectors place at Capernaum. Before his conversion he was a publican, ie a tax collector by profession. He is to be identified with the Levi of Mark and Luke. His apostolic activity was at first restricted to the communities of Palestine. Nothing definite is known about his later life. St Matthew's Gospel was written to fill a sorely-felt want for his fellow countrymen, both believers and unbelievers. For the former, it served as a token of his regard and as an encouragement in the trial to come, especially the danger of falling back to Judaism; for the latter, it was designed to convince them that the Messiah had come in the person of Jesus, our Lord, in Whom all the promises of the Messianic Kingdom embracing all people had been fulfilled in a spiritual rather than in a carnal way: "My Kingdom is not of this world." Writing for his countrymen of Palestine, St Matthew composed his Gospel in his native Aramaic. Soon afterward, about the time of the persecution of Herod Agrippa I in 42 AD, he took his departure for other lands.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7rasq-FNBc
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Friday, 17 September 2010

St Hildegard of Bingen

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St Hildegard was born at Böckelheim on the Nahe, 1098, and died on the Rupertsberg near Bingen, 1179. Her feast is September 17th, which is also the day my father died ten years ago. This feast day, therefore, holds a particular poignancy for me. My father was a unique and remarkable man in many ways. By no means always easy, he was nevertheless gifted with musical and academic talents far beyond the norm. Eccentric throughout his life, he was the stuff of what made England the most wonderful place to live. That England of yestercentury has sadly all but disappeared, and with it many wonderful characters like my father.

To return the feast on which father died a decade ago, St Hildegard was the superior of a Benedictine convent, and already known as an important cultural and spiritual leader when she began to experience mystical visions. “As is always the case in the lives of true mystics,” Pope Benedict XVI has noted, “Hildegard wished to place herself under the authority of the wise, in order to discern the origin of her visions, which she was afraid could be the fruit of illusions and not from God.” She received encouragement from St Bernard of Clairvaux and later from Pope Eugene III, who urged her to speak and write about her visions. From that point forward her fame grew, and she became popularly known as “the Teutonic prophetess.”

Hildegard was greatly venerated in life and after death. Her biographer, Theodoric, calls her saint, and many miracles are said to have been wrought through her intercession. Gregory IX (1227-41) and Innocent IV (1243-54) ordered a process of information which was repeated by Clement V (1305-14) and John XXII (1316-34). No formal canonisation has ever taken place, however, but her name is in the Roman Martyrology and her feast is celebrated.
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Thursday, 16 September 2010

Papal State Visit to Great Britain

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Welcome His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to Great Britain.

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Monday, 30 August 2010

Prayer for the Sick

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O Lord Jesus Christ, who during your brief life on earth went about doing good to all men and women, be merciful to me in this my hour of special need.

Divine Healer, your tender heart was ever moved at the sight of pain and affliction. I beg of you, if it be your holy will, to help me regain my strength. Send forth healing to all who suffer, whether in mind or body. Grant to each of us that peace of mind which you alone can give. 

Father in heaven, I thank you for all the good things that you have bestowed upon me, especially for the precious gift of life. Thank you for having so loved the world that you sent us your Son, Jesus Christ, who died for our salvation.

Jesus, my saviour and friend, grant to all people the blessings of good health both in mind and body. Help us to do your will in all things. Give us strength to love and heal one another, ever remembering your words: "Whatever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto Me."
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Thursday, 1 July 2010

The Most Precious Blood

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Sanguis Christi, inebria me!

July 1st is the Solemnity of the "Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ." This feast, celebrated in Spain in the 16th century, was later introduced to Italy by Saint Gaspar del Bufalo and extended to the whole Church by Pius IX. The Feast of the the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ exists in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite as a Votive Mass. It commemorates all of the times Our Lord shed His most precious blood: the Circumcision, the Agony in the garden, the Scourging at the pillar, the Crowning with thorns, and in the Crucifixion. This feast was instituted only in 1849, but the devotion is as old as Christianity. The early Fathers say that the Church was born from the pierced side of Christ, and that the Sacraments were brought forth through His Blood. The special beauty of this feast is its focusing our attention directly on the Blood of Christ, a short cut to the heart of revelation. In these days we need to think of the Passion of Christ; we do not know how God is going to test us. Devotion to the Precious Blood is a fundamental, sane approach to God. It is hard and painful; it will help us to steel our own hearts against weakness. The Feast of Corpus Christi and the Feast of the Most Precious Blood were combined in 1970, becoming the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Until then, separate feasts existed for the Body of Christ, held on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, and the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, with a feast on July 1st. Some groups continue to use the earlier forms of the Roman Rite and the corresponding calendars, ie General Roman Calendar of 1962 and General Roman Calendar of 1954. 

May His Blood spring up within us as a saving water for eternal life.
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Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Salvation or Eternal Damnation?

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Penal substitution is a theory of the atonement within Christian theology, especially associated with the Reformed tradition. It argues that Christ, by His sacrificial choice, was punished (penalised) in the place of sinners (substitution), thus satisfying the demands of justice so God can justly forgive the sins. It is a specific understanding of substitutionary atonement, where the substitutionary nature of Jesus' death is understood in the sense of a substitutionary punishment. Early church fathers who have expressed this notion of penal substitution are Justin Martyr (100-165), Eusebius of Caesarea (275-339), and Augustine of Hippo (354-430).

Instead of salvation being conditional upon sin, Roman Catholicism has long attached the belief in Jesus Christ to the concept of salvation itself, and for non-Christians has asserted various "dispensations" ranging from "eternal damnation" to "salvation conditional upon conversion." Catholic controversies regarding universalists, such as Origen, are notable events in Church history, and have typically resulted in the proclamation of Catholicism being the "one true faith," along with dispensationalist concepts.

Catholics profess belief that Jesus Christ brought about redemption from sin and assert that salvation is possible only within the Roman Catholic Church. This doctrine remains, but is not always articulated with clarity. Modern teaching usually uses language similar to the following: Jesus was a divine sacrifice who brought about "redemption for all mankind."

Roman Catholics believe "Man stands in need of salvation from God," and "Divine help comes to him in Christ through the law that guides him and the grace that sustains him." It was for our salvation that "God loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins; the Father has sent His Son as the Saviour of the world, and He was revealed to take away sins." "By His death (Jesus, the Son of God) has conquered death, and so opened the possibility of salvation to all men."

Roman Catholicism teaching on justification is the principal cause of division from Protestantism, and holds a soul is justified "by reason of a perfect act of charity elicited by a well disposed sinner or by virtue of the Sacrament either of Baptism or of Penance." This condition can be appropriated by proxy, in recognition of the faith of a qualified sponsor, and is held to be effected by an actual change in the recipient's heart, that of the infused love of God, so that the justified are not only reputed to be righteous, "but we are truly called and are just, receiving justice within us."

A further teaching is that this justification can be increased by doing works enabled by the grace of God dispensed through Roman Catholic sacraments, and which grace includes that of the merits of saints. Such works of faith are also held to help merit eternal life. Regarding those who co-operated with such grace, the Council of Trent concludes that "nothing further is wanting to the justified, to prevent their being accounted to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life, and to have truly merited eternal life." Canon 32 similarly states, "If anyone says that the good works of the one justified are in such manner the gifts of God that they are not also the good merits of him justified; or that the one justified by the good works that he performs by the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit an increase of grace, eternal life, and in case he dies in grace, the attainment of eternal life itself and also an increase of glory, let him be anathema."

Jesus Christ has provided the Church with "the fullness of the means of salvation which [the Father] has willed: correct and complete confession of faith, full sacramental life, and ordained ministry in apostolic succession." Baptism is necessary for salvation, and is sufficient for those who die as children and those permanently deprived of their use of reason. The sacrament of Penance is necessary for salvation for those who have fallen after Baptism, just as Baptism is necessary for salvation for those who have not yet been reborn. But these are not the only sacraments of importance for salvation: "The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation." This holds especially for the Eucharist. "Every time this mystery is celebrated, the work of our redemption is carried on and we break the one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live for ever in Jesus Christ."

At the same time, however, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that through the graces Jesus Christ won for humanity by sacrificing Himself on the cross, salvation is possible even for those outside the visible boundaries of the Church. Christians and even non-Christians, if in life they respond positively to the grace and truth that God reveals to them through the mercy of Christ may be saved. This may include awareness of an obligation to become part of the Catholic Church. In such cases, "they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it, or to remain in it." Catholics believe that people, even those who are not explicitly Christian, have the moral law written in their hearts, according to Jeremiah 31: 33 (prophecy of new covenant): "I will write my law on their hearts." St Justin wrote that those who have not accepted Christ but follow the moral law of their hearts follow God, because it is God who has written the moral law in each person's heart. Though he may not explicitly recognise it, he has the spirit of Christ. St Thomas Aquinas, the premier theologian in the Catholic Church, explains this paradox as follows. If a person lives according to the natural law written on his heart, God will send him a means of knowing the truth by either natural or supernatural means; that is, he will send a missionary to teach him the faith or, if necessary, even an angel.

The Church expressly teaches that "it is necessary to hold for certain that they who labour in ignorance of the true religion, if this ignorance is invincible, will not be held guilty of this in the eyes of God," that "outside of the Church, nobody can hope for life or salvation unless he is excused through ignorance beyond his control," that "they who labour in invincible ignorance of our most holy religion and who, zealously keeping the natural law and its precepts engraved in the hearts of all by God, and being ready to obey God, live an honest and upright life, can, by the operating power of divine light and grace, attain eternal life."
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