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Dwelling on the Word of God: Our Lady of Guadalupe, Protectress of the Unborn (Thursday 12th December 2013)

Posted on December 12, 2013 at 7:59 AM Comments comments (4)
 
Today’s Gospel (Luke 1:26-38):
(please note this is the Gospel spoken during Mass in the Americas today, in honour of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is a different Gospel passage from the one for the UK today)
 
‘The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.’
 
 
Today we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  And how fitting we should have this Gospel passage!  Our Lady of Guadalupe is, after all, Protectress of the Unborn. 
 
Each and every child conceived today is - like Jesus in the passage above - a miracle of God.  We are all created by God, for God.  Therefore, every child deserves the respect of all mankind.  How many little miracles do not see the light of day in our world?  Today we must pray, and pray hard, for an end to abortion.  Our Lady of Guadalupe is the key to undoing the evil of abortion and we must direct our prayers through her, to God. 
 
Today, in a spare moment, please say at least one Hail Mary through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe for an end to abortion.  We have already seen numerous abortion clinics close across the United States in the last year or so and we have witnessed an unprecedented show of support for life through the European ‘One of Us’ campaign which amassed 1.8 million signatures across the continent.  We also have the recent rejection of the Estrela Report in the European Parliament, providing further evidence that life is winning! 
 
But we must not rest.  There are still millions of innocent little miracles dying each and every day throughout the world for no good reason.  Please, please, say that Hail Mary today.  The miracle of life is so precious.  It’s a gift we are all blessed to have received.  Why then should we deny it to others….?
 

Pope Francis Suggests Praying the Rosary is the Best Medicine

Posted on November 18, 2013 at 11:51 AM Comments comments (12)
 
During his Sunday Angelus Pope Francis offered some medicine to the 80,000 strong crowd gathered in St Peter’s Square.  Holding up a small medicine box upon which an anatomical drawing of a human heart could be seen, the Pope said: “I want to recommend some medicine for all of you.  It’s spiritual medicine.”
 
He then confirmed that the medicine box didn’t contain any pills but that it actually contained a set of rosary beads and said, “Don’t forget to take it.  It’s good for your heart, for your soul, for your whole life.”
 
Around 20,000 of the little medicine boxes containing a rosary, prayer card and medical instruction sheet were then handed out to the faithful.  The information sheet confirmed that ‘no negative side affects have been reported’ and recommends daily use of the rosary beads, though it also states that repetitive use is permitted.
 
So if you haven’t already done so, remember to take your medicine today! 
 

Learning the Catholic Faith: Difficulties with Praying

Posted on November 11, 2013 at 5:24 PM Comments comments (0)
 
What if prayer doesn't help?
 
Prayer does not seek superficial success but rather the will of God and intimacy with Him.
God's apparent silence is itself an invitation to take a step farther in total devotion, boundless faith, endless expectation.  Anyone who prays must allow God the complete freedom to speak whenever He wants, to grant whatever He wants, and to give Himself however He wants.
 
Often we say: I have prayed, but it did not help at all.  Maybe we are not praying intensely enough.  The saintly Cure of Ars once asked a brother priest who was complaining about his lack of success, "You have prayed,  you have sighed....but have you fasted too?  Have you kept vigil?"
It could also be that we are asking God for the wrong things.  St Teresa of Avila once said, "Do not pray for lighter burdens; pray for a stronger back."
(From Youth Catechism question 507)
 
 
What if I don't feel anything when praying?
 
Distractions during prayer, the feeling of interior emptiness and dryness, indeed, even an aversion to prayer are experienced by everyone who prays.  Then to persevere faithfully is itself already a prayer.
 
Even St Therese of Lisieux for a long time could not sense God's love at all.  Shortly before her death she was visited one night by her sister Celine.  She noticed that Therese's hands were clasped together.  "What are you doing?  You should try to sleep", Celine said.
"I cannot.  I am suffering too much.  But I am praying", Therese replied.
"And what do you say to Jesus?" asked Celine.
Therese replied, "I do not say anything to him.  I love him."
(From Youth Catechism question 508)

Dwelling on the Word of God: Prayer (Monday 28th October 2013)

Posted on October 28, 2013 at 8:36 AM Comments comments (4)
Even Jesus has to pray
 
Taken from today’s Gospel (Luke 6:12-16):
 
Jesus went into the hills to pray; and he spent the whole night in prayer to God.
 
 
Prayer.  It’s an interesting thought isn’t it?  How often do we actually pray?  How do we pray?  Where do we pray? 
 
There are a lot of materials out there giving us different methods of prayer and putting forward suggestions on how we should pray.  Jesus himself gave us the ‘Our Father’ as a means of prayer to God.  We have the Rosary, Novenas, specific prayers to the Saints, prayers at Mass, prayers for reconciliation/confession, prayers before the Eucharist.  There is so much to take in!  But can we simplify prayer?  Can we make it a little easier to include prayer in our busy lives without belittling its importance?
 
Perhaps our starting point should be that God must ALWAYS come first.  If we are putting God first then we are making each and every single decision with Him in mind.  It means we aren’t doing anything without thinking of Him first.  It means that when we wake up in the morning we are thinking of Him and perhaps saying ‘thank you’ to Him for giving us the grace to wake up and for giving us another day to glorify Him and to love Him; for giving us a further opportunity to love the people He has blessed us with.
Putting God first is prayer in itself.  It is fundamental prayer.  It is prayer without which no other prayer can be valid.
 
From this we can then build up our prayer life and nurture it with devotions such as the Rosary and Novenas, and Eucharistic prayers before the Blesses Sacrament.  We can perhaps make reading the Bible a more regular habit or maybe pick up the Catechism of the Catholic Church every now and then and leaf through its pages. 
 
Prayer is a wonderful thing and it can bring us great joy and peace, and of course comfort.  Our prayers are always answered.  It may not appear obvious at first; in fact, it may never become obvious because we maybe don’t receive what we have asked for in prayer.  Stop and think why that may be.  It might be because God doesn’t want us to have it.  It may be that God is saying we haven’t earned that something yet.  It may be that what you are asking for is not part of the Divine Plan for your life.  Just trust in Him and know that He has heard your prayer.  Trust in His plan for you, not your plan for you.  Trust in His plan because His plan is the right plan.  He created you remember.  If it wasn’t for Him you wouldn’t have life.  Always remember that and always remember that He is the boss!      
 
Perhaps we can start a more fruitful prayer life from this very moment by focusing on God and making Him the centre of our lives.  We can then build our prayer life from there, making each individual prayer another rung on the ladder to the Heavenly Kingdom that awaits us.    
 

Glasgow Shines Brightly as the Pro-Life Movement Takes Centre Stage

Posted on October 25, 2013 at 8:10 AM Comments comments (4)
Our Lady's statue is carried through Glasgow
 
Last night the centre of Glasgow witnessed the joy and splendour of life, wrapped up in a beautiful Rosary, dignified procession, and passionate celebration of the Mass.
 
It was pro-life night and the people of Glasgow took to the streets to spread the Good News of life.  Around 300 people were present in George Square and it was evident that numbers were slightly up on last year which was encouraging. 
 
The Rosary, led by Father John Keenan of the University of Glasgow and St Patrick’s, Anderston, was a beautiful show of devotion and honour to Our Blessed Mother whose statue, held ably aloft by two young volunteers, looked lovingly over the crowd as it prayed.  Candles lit the faces of pro-life people from around the country, as they held their Rosary beads firmly in their hands.  There were babies, schoolchildren, priests, nuns, people with disabilities, people with special needs, the elderly, and, of course, the youth element which seems to be growing at a pace in Scotland these days.  I mention all of these groups individually not to differentiate them from the normal because that is not the case.  I mention them to highlight the various characters who make up the pro-life movement, many of whom may not be here had their parents not been pro-life.  Thank God for that grace that they are given the opportunity to live, an opportunity we have ALL experienced.  We are all alive today because we were not aborted.  Yet many are not afforded such an opportunity in today’s culture of death. 
 
Father Keenan leads the Rosary 
 
As we were told prior to the Rosary, 200,000 babies have been aborted in the last year since the last such event in 2012.  In one day 500 babies are aborted in the UK.  Do we really take in these figures?  I mean, do we REALLY take them in?  Some people argue that this is justified in the name of women’s rights.  Yet these people disregard the single most natural, amazing and precious gift a woman can have and give....another life!   
 
Either side of the Rosary there was beautiful singing of hymns and during the Rosary the Fatima ‘Ave’ was belted out with real passion and fervour.  The group then proceeded to walk gently and reverently to the Cathedral on Clyde Street, blazing a trail of fire behind Our Lady’s statue at one point spanning the full length of Glassford Street.  It was a beautiful time, an opportunity to reflect on what we were really doing here.  Praying for an end to abortion.  Praying for all affected by this sad and barbaric attack on defenceless children and vulnerable women.  Praying for the fathers, many of whom don’t have a say.  Praying for the grandparents, aunts, and uncles, for cousins and close family friends.  Praying for the medics, the doctors and midwives who carry out abortions on a daily basis.  Praying for those who are pro-abortion for them to be enlightened to the beauty and splendour of new life, and to trust in God’s providence.  Praying for our governors that they may be similarly enlightened.  And, of course, praying for the pro-life movement, that it will continue to stand for life and never tire of fervently praying for the innocents.
 
The pro-life movement blaze a trail through Glasgow 
 
At the Cathedral, the gathered faithful were treated to a beautiful Mass, interspersed with beautiful music and singing from the St Ninian’s choir, and a roof-raising homily by Father Keenan.  It was around 15-20 minutes long and I have to admit that I hung on to EVERY word.  The Reading and Gospel of the day didn’t perhaps, at first glance, appear to be a fit for the occasion.  But God never lets us down and Father Keenan made sure we were left in no doubt that these readings were perfect for the pro-life cause.
 
In his letter to the Romans St Paul talks about putting ‘your bodies at the service of vice and immorality’ and how we must instead ‘put them at the service of righteousness for sanctification.’  In George Square a small group of pro-abortion protesters continually chanted about “my body, my choice”.  There were a few other expletives in among these chants but the general theme was one of ‘my body, my choice’.  As Father Keenan suggested, it is always “me, me, me”.
So what is our view on the other side of the fence?  What is the pro-life stance?  Father Keenan pointed us in the direction of Mary suggesting that Mary holds the key to what we must do.  When confronted by the Angel Gabriel and told that she would conceive a child, the Son of God, Mary said, “Let it be done to me according to your word”.  Mary did not selfishly state that it was her body and reject the child she was suddenly to bear!  Mary accepted God’s Will and God’s Divine Plan.  It was an act of complete faith.  It was true love.  It was Mary saying “My body, for you”.  Not ‘my body, my choice’ but ‘my body, for you’!
 
And this is the Christian message.  We don’t live for ourselves.  We live for God and for others!  Everyone else comes before us.  That is the way we must live and that is why we are pro-life.  God’s Will grants mothers the grace to bear His children.  We must have the faith of Mary and bear these children, and present them back to God, by raising them to glorify Him and to put Him and others first.  What an amazing world we would live in if everybody did this!!  What love!! 
 
Father Keenan then turned to the Gospel and spoke about how Jesus wished the earthly fire were “blazing already”!  The witness last night, out on the busy streets of Glasgow, was the fire.  That public witness is the blaze Jesus is speaking of.  Witnessing to the faith on the streets!  As Father Keenan suggested, “many people are pro-life on the brain” but they don’t do anything about it.  That isn’t good enough!  Jesus wants us to get out there to witness for these little ones!  What good is keeping the pro-life cause to ourselves?  It is no good!  Nothing will change if we keep it to ourselves. 
 
Father Keenan challenged everyone present in the Cathedral to bring another person with them next year.  That way our numbers will double.  That is the challenge to the pro-life people of Scotland, particularly those in the Glasgow area.  The recent census in 2011 confirmed that there are around 841,000 Catholic people in Scotland (an increase on the 2001 census), with the vast majority of them in the Glasgow, Lanarkshire and Inverclyde areas!!  Is 300 people representative of this huge number?  I think not.  It’s hugely disappointing.  So the challenge is being thrown down right here, right now.  The same event will be taking place at the same time next year and we want to AT LEAST double our numbers.  This isn’t just about Catholic people marching through the streets of our city.  This is about life.  It is about affording little babies the same opportunity we are all so blessed to have received, the opportunity to live.     
 
 
 

Dwelling on the Word of God: Desiring a Sign (Monday 14th October 2013)

Posted on October 14, 2013 at 7:31 AM Comments comments (4)
 
From today’s Gospel (Luke 11:29-32)
 
‘The crowds got even bigger and Jesus addressed them, ‘This is a wicked generation; it is asking for a sign. The only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah.’’
 
 
Why is our generation so desperate for a sign?  You see, our generation is no different from the one Jesus refers to in this Gospel passage.  Why is it that something which directly touches our senses will bring us closer to having complete faith in God? 
 
True, a positive sign of God’s existence would help our faith.  But do we need it?  Don’t we have enough already?  Let me suggest some of the evidence we already have to date. 
 
We have the lives of the prophets, as described in the Old Testament in great detail.  We even have the very beginning of time described in quite amazing detail through Genesis, including God’s very first commandment to mankind....go forth and multiply.  We have the life of Jesus Christ and his disciples through the New Testament.  We also have written evidence from non-Christian/non-religious scholars and writers who wrote about the life of Christ thus ensuring he is not some manifestation of Christianity.
 
St Bartholomew was skinned alive for refusing to denounce Jesus 
 
Further, we have the lives of the disciples, who were martyred for their faith.  They died for Jesus.  They had the choice not to die, to live; but they were so certain of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection that they simply could not deny it!  This included St Bartholomew who was skinned alive for refusing to denounce Christ as the Son of God. 
 
We have the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament which provides evidence of life after death when Christ appeared to the Apostles over a period of 40 days.
 
We also have the succession of Peter, evidenced today by Pope Francis.  This line of papal succession not only goes all the way back to Peter, but to Christ himself.  It is unbroken for over 2,000 years.
 
What about the apparitions, particularly those of Our Blessed Mother Mary at Fatima, Lourdes and Guadalupe?  At Fatima, three little children gave up their entire lives to serve God after Our Lady appeared to them in 1917.  She foretold that two of them would die very soon and that the other would live on for some time longer.  A prediction that would, of course, become truth.  Three children giving up their entire lives to say the Rosary every day, to give away their lunch to the poor every day, to pray endlessly for the poor souls in purgatory after Our Lady showed them a vision of hell.  There is of course more.  Our Lady, on 13th October 1917, during her last apparition to the children, showed the thousands who had gathered there, a miracle of the sun.  The sun moved round and round in a circular motion and danced, finally hurtling towards earth at the end of the miracle.  However, before it struck the earth, it stopped and was returned to its normal position.  Thousands witnessed this miracle.  And thousands also witnessed the fact that the ground beneath them which was soggy after prolonged rain had suddenly become completely dry after the miracle.
 
  Our Lady appearing to three little children at Fatima
 
Of course, the miracle at Fatima was not only witnessed in one small area; rather, it was witnessed over an area of some 600sq miles.  It is also interesting to note that, should this be a hoax of grand proportions by either all of these witnesses or the Church, why didn’t the people say they saw Our Lady like the children did?  That is, after all, what they had hoped to see. 
 
Further at Fatima, we have the incredible evidence that Jacinta Marto (the youngest of the Fatima children), when her body was exhumed to move it to different locations some 15 and then 30 years after her death, her body was found to be incorrupt.  It hadn’t decayed like a body should.  This, of course, has happened to many saints over the years, including St Anthony and St Catherine.
 
All of this evidence, along with the countless billions of believers through the years, is our sign.  This is not to mention the numerous Eucharistic miracles, and numerous healings and intercessions. 
 
At the end of the day, we have more than enough signs to satiate our need.  This is why Jesus appears to be frustrated at the crowd asking for a sign!  Perhaps it was especially frustrating back then when they had the Son of Man right there in front of them performing miracle after miracle, yet they still wanted more!
 
The bottom line is this; we do not NEED a sign.  We have enough.  The evidence is stacking up with each and every passing day and each and every prayer and Mass.  If we are struggling with our faith and feel we need a sign, why not read about some of the evidence considered in this text?  Why not look deeply at the miracle of Fatima or the Acts of the Apostles?  Look at the lives of the martyrs who sacrificed their lives because they trusted so much in Jesus and knew He would save them.  Or go into your local Catholic Church and contemplate the Tabernacle, wherein rests Christ himself. 
 
It is still the Year of Faith, still the New Evangelisation.  Let’s learn about our Faith and see the evidence before us, and let’s dispense with the notion that we need a sign to believe.                 
 
 
 

Learning the Catholic Faith: The Rosary

Posted on October 10, 2013 at 8:47 AM Comments comments (5)
Our Lady of Fatima
 
The word ‘Rosary’ comes from Latin and means ‘garland of roses’.  The Rosary is a devotion in honour of our Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary and contemplates the life of Christ through the eyes of Mary.  It is a most beautiful devotion and I can attest to it delivering many graces to those who pray it. 
 
It is understood St Dominic gave us the Rosary as we now know it, after being moved by a vision of Our Lady; and he and Blessed Alan de la Roche revealed fifteen promises by Our Lady for those who pray the Rosary.  They are as follows:
 
  1. Whoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the Rosary, shall receive signal graces.
  2. I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all who shall recite the Rosary.
  3. The Rosary shall be a powerful armor against hell, it will destroy vice, decrease sin, and defeat heresies.
  4. It will cause virtue and good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will withdraw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire of eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.
  5. The soul which recommends itself to Me by the recitation of the Rosary, shall not perish.
  6. Whoever shall recite the Rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its sacred mysteries, shall never be conquered by misfortune. God will not chastise him in His justice, he shall not perish by an unprovided death; if he be just he shall remain in the grace of God, and become worthy of eternal life.
  7. Whoever shall have a true devotion for the Rosary shall not die without the Sacraments of the Church.
  8. Those who are faithful in reciting the Rosary shall have during their life and at their death the light of God and the plenitude of His graces; at the moment of death they shall participate in the merits of the saints in paradise.
  9. I shall deliver from purgatory, those who have been devoted to the Rosary.
  10. The faithful children of the Rosary shall merit a high degree of glory in Heaven.
  11. You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the Rosary.
  12. All those who propagate the holy Rosary shall be aided by Me in their necessities.
  13. I have obtained from My Divine Son, that all the advocates of the Rosary shall have for intercessors, the entire celestial court during their life and at the hour of death.
  14. All who recite the Rosary are My sons, and brothers of my only son Jesus Christ.
  15. Devotion to my Rosary is a great sign of predestination.
 
 
These promises were further emphasised to the world when Our Lady appeared to three shepherd children in Fatima in the early twentieth century and told them to pray the Rosary often for poor sinners and poor souls and for peace in the world. 
 
So now, let’s say it!!
 
Picture: rosaryprayerguide.com
 
Saying the Rosary:
 
Section 1
 
1.  Take your Rosary beads and use the Crucifix to bless yourself ‘In the name of the Father….’
 
2.  Then, still on the Crucifix, say the Apostles Creed.
 
 
Section 2 – These prayers are for the Holy Father’s prayer intentions 
 
1.  On the very first bead (closest to the Crucifix), say an Our Father
 
2.  Then on the next three beads say a Hail Mary on each bead
 
3.  On the next bead say a Glory Be. 
 
 
Section 3 – This is the main part of the Rosary.  Select the appropriate set of Mysteries (below) and then proceed as follows:
 
1.  On the first bead of each decade say an ‘Our Father’; then say a ‘Hail Mary’ on each of the following ten beads; then say one ‘Glory Be’; and finally, say the Fatima prayer.
 
2.  You then continue in this manner until you have said 5 decades, covering each mystery of the relevant set of Mysteries.
 
3.  Finish your Rosary by saying the Hail Holy Queen (Salve Regina), the Final Prayer (both set out below) and making a sign of the Cross with your Crucifix.
 
4.  You have said your Rosary!!  Just wait for the graces to flow!!
 
Here are the prayers if you aren't sure of them....
 
The Apostles Creed: I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried, He descended into hell; the third day He arose again from the dead; He ascended into Heaven, sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.
 
The Our Father: Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.   Amen.
 
The Hail Mary: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
 
The Glory Be (Doxology): Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.  As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.
 
The Fatima Prayer: O my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy.
 
Hail Holy Queen (Salve Regina): Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, hail our life our sweetness and our hope.  To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this veil of tears.  Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.  O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!
V: Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God
R: That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
 
Final Prayer: O God, by the life, death and resurrection of Your only begotten Son, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal salvation; grant, we beseech thee that by meditating on these mysteries of the most Holy rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may both imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
 
 
Mysteries
 
In saying your Rosary, contemplate these mysteries for each decade (selecting the appropriate set of mysteries for the day on which you say your Rosary):
 
The Joyful Mysteries (Monday, Saturday): The Annunciation, The Visitation, The Nativity, The Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple, The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple.
 
The Sorrowful Mysteries (Tuesday, Friday): The Agony in the Garden, The Scourging at the Pillar, The Crowning of Thorns, The Carrying of the Cross, The Crucifixion.
 
The Glorious Mysteries (Sunday, Wednesday): The Resurrection, The Ascension, The Descent of the Holy Spirit, The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, The Crowning of the Blessed Virgin Mary as Queen of Heaven.
 
The Luminous Mysteries (Thursday): The Baptism in the Jordan, The Wedding Feast at Cana, The Proclamation of the Kingdom of God and Repentance for Sin, The Transfiguration, The Institution of the Holy Eucharist.