Just as a church building is an inanimate object without its parishioners, so Faith, a Gift of God, is not merely something we ‘do’ on Sundays and Holy Days. Faith is not just a set of facts to be learned from the Catechism or in lessons, but it is something which must be accepted and practised, i.e. ‘taken on board’ and have a definite effect on our day-to-day life if it is to live and grow in us and spread to those among whom we live. Faith, in a ‘compartment’ of the mind that means little or nothing to one is rather like a plant which, once in the soil, is then neglected and, in time, attacked by frost, insects and the sun, will either be stunted in growth or even shrivel and die, whereas plants which are watered, fertilised, pruned and carefully nurtured flourish, producing flowers, fruit, seeds and further growth round the garden. Cuttings can spread this bounty far and wide. Who knows how many ‘seeds of Faith’ God will plant and how many ‘cuttings’ He will transplant through our efforts?
In very early times the Christian message was, of course, spread by word of mouth and, of course, through example! Throughout the ages, until literacy became more widespread and before written and printed matter were more readily available and understandable, other ways were essential to teach and recall the Truths of the Faith. The Rosary, for example, was originally developed from the prayers of the Psalter (book of psalms), having 150 beads corresponding to the 150 psalms; in this way even the uneducated could, through prayers, counted on their beads, join in the Prayer of the Church, truly a demonstration of one’s equality before God which transcends all buildings and borders, and which does not depend on one’s academic qualifications!
A building - yet so much more!!
Following the Inaugural Mass for each year’s First Holy Communicants, they are given what one might call a ‘guided tour’ of the church, taking a closer and more detailed look around the building to which Parents and Guardians have lovingly and faithfully brought them to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation and, hopefully, when possible, also to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and weekday Masses in holiday time. Please God, over time, they (and we) will develop a greater understanding of, Love for, and familiarity with a place which is infinitely more than the materials of which it is constructed. The more we know and love Our Lord, the more effective we will be as Apostles, able to ‘…Go and Teach…’ How many, perhaps of no faith even, living and working with us, might be stimulated to find out about this great Love of our life?! Will they notice, ‘…how these Christians love one another’? If they happen to accompany us to a Catholic Church one day, will our demeanour while there demonstrate the depth of our Faith, the ‘Pearl beyond Price’?
In addition to this mini journey round the church building, children and parents will continue to ‘journey’ together towards that Great Day when the children receive Our Blessed Lord for the very first time; hopefully, the first of many Loving Holy Communions!
In our church, there are many visual aids to help us all (Adults as well as Children) to learn and understand more of the Truths which help bring us closer to God. Indeed the building itself is there to teach us! In fact, in the days before education was widely available and people were not able to read and write as can we, many aspects of the Faith were taught through and recalled by the symbolism all around us in church. These visual aids form a valuable resource in our vital and ongoing responsibility for personal formation in our own Faith and in forming our precious children (future Catholic adults, parents, priests, religious) in the Faith. Children learn much from what they see and hear us do (or not do). Their response to God’s Call (Vocation) may well be determined by the foundations we have laid in their early years. In addition to this, they will understand, appreciate and so make more use of the aids to Sanctity which, as news media clearly demonstrate daily, is actively opposed. Of course, however hard we try, in the end it is down to the children’s use of their free will but we can be certain that, as the Scriptures remind us God will repay our efforts in ways beyond our understanding.
Over the next few weeks we will be ‘thinking’ our way round our Parish Church, stopping along the way to consider the significance of what we see and how this can ‘point us’ in the right direction, helping to make clearer what we, please God, already know from our own upbringing in the Faith.
On the First Sunday of Advent 2017 AD ('Anno Domini' i.e. 'The Year of Our Lord') we began our Liturgical New Year. As 2017 drew to a close, we remembered the Holy Innocents, massacred by Herod in his quest to destroy Jesus, also renewing our prayers for the innocent Unborn still being slaughtered through Abortion. We honoured the Holy Family of Nazareth, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the perfect model for all families. At midnight, as 2018 began, we were privileged to be invited to begin this new Anno Domini with Our Lord at Mass, receiving Him in Holy Communion. Later that day we celebrated Mary, the Holy Mother of God, through whose loving, ‘…Be it done unto me…’, Christ could come into the world, enabling mankind to make a new beginning on the road to Heaven, previously closed by Original Sin. Last Sunday we celebrated the Epiphany (or manifestation) of Our Lord. Three Kings (or Magi) representing the Gentile, or non-Jewish peoples, knelt down to adore the King of kings lying in the manger, offering gifts signifying His Kingship, His Divinity and His Saving Death.
New Year is a traditional time to make Resolutions which, hopefully, will improve our lives, either correcting faults or, perhaps, increasing the good efforts we are already making to correspond with God’s Grace. As part of this renewal process we were recently offered what perhaps, for some of us, served as a wake-up call, i.e. ‘How long is it since I went to Confession, admitted that I was in the wrong and asked to be reconciled with God?’. To this end we were offered a whole day during which we had the privilege and joy of Adoring Our Saviour, exposed in the Monstrance on the Altar and, through His Priests, of receiving the sure knowledge that, having repented of and confessed our sins, we are forgiven. Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, like the Father of the Prodigal Son, Our Lord picks us up, telling us, through Father, ‘…your sins are forgiven you…Go and sin no more…’.
What form, for Catholics, might New-Year resolutions take if they are to rise above ‘run-of-the-mill’ ones (good as these may well be) and make a difference not only to our bodily but, more importantly, to our Spiritual Life? Regular Confession must surely be a priority on many lists! Are there opportunities to help not only ourselves and our Families but also others, of Faith or unbelieving, who, knowing that we are Catholics, look to us, consciously or not, for a lead?
Honouring the Holy Family highlights the fundamental Truth that our Families, core units of Society, living according to God’s Law, can and must be a force for change; resolutions provide many opportunities for the ongoing Religious formation of Parents and Children. In times when Marriage and the Family are under attack, our Witness is more crucial than ever!
A good starting point for decision-making is Prayer in the Home; do we encourage our Children to say morning and night Prayers and Grace before and after meals? If we are eating in a public venue will any of our fellow-diners be aware of our Faith as we say Grace Before Meals together? Do children have the best example of all, their Parents’ own prayers? How often do we pray as a Family, maybe saying the Rosary or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy each day? Do we discuss our wonderful Faith? One is never too young or too old to go ‘exploring’. Are resolutions needed here? How often do we take our children to Mass? Of course there are Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation but how often, hectic as life can be, have we considered going as a Family to Adoration and Mass on Saturday mornings during the year and also on weekdays during school holidays in addition to the days on which we are obliged to attend? Many of our children have the privilege of being Altar Servers and would, therefore, be given more opportunities to exercise this Ministry through serving at weekday Masses. How often do we and our Children go to Confession? Is it, for us, an indispensable part of our Catholic life? When out and about could we pay a visit to Our Lord in the Tabernacle when we happen to pass by a Catholic Church, just spending even a few minutes before the Blessed Sacrament? Practice will achieve far more than words! Could a spiritual 'extra' be the subject for a resolution?
What will you resolve to do this year?
From St. Bart's
Thoughts on the traditional teachings, devotions, seasons and matters of the Catholic Church