Blessed John Henry Newman wrote some beautiful Hymns and Prayers, one of which begins, “Firmly I believe, and truly, God is Three and God is One….”, very appropriate to herald today’s Celebration of the Three Persons in One God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (Turn to number 962 in our hymn book.) Read more of Newman’s writings here.
If you are looking to better understand this Truth, for your own knowledge or to explain it to others, then one of the clearest explanations of the Three-in-Oneness of God is to be found in Frank Sheed’s book, Theology for Beginners, chapter 5, The Three Persons. This can be further simplified in order to explain it to our children; they also have a right to the Truth, and we have a duty to do our best to teach them. It is vital to remember, though, that to simplify does not mean to water down or to omit truth.
For those who would postpone such teaching until children are ‘old enough’ (and who of us will ever be ‘old enough’ to fully understand this particular Doctrine?!), they would do well to heed the words of a renowned educational psychologist, Jerome Bruner, who said that “…anything can be taught to any one, at any age, as long as it is properly thought out first…”. Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (whose Mother died when Thérèse was four years old) once asked her mother (Saint Zélie Martin) about our capacity for God and was shown two very different sized containers, each filled to the brim with water; as Zélie explained to her daughter, just as each vessel was completely filled, God fills us with His Grace according to our created capacity and our openness to it. Any preparation required to teach our precious young people will be very beneficial to teachers as well as their pupils.
Take heart in that if you find yourself pondering and puzzling over this Doctrine, so did the great Theologians! Only God can fully understand Himself! For a more detailed exposition of the subject we have, of course, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Section 2, the Profession of the Christian Faith) intended by the Teaching Authority (or Magisterium) of the Church as the ‘yardstick’ against which all publications claiming to be Catholic, including your children’s R.E. materials, must be assessed.
In this day and age, this Doctrine may be a stumbling block to be overcome in a journey of Faith. It takes Prayer and perseverance to break down barriers; we cannot allow our human limitations to be transferred to God. We have to make a ‘leap of faith’ over the barrier! Our loving Belief in and Witness to this fundamental and deep Truth will effectively help to overcome any doubts and objections which can be raised. Our lives must be permeated by this belief which we express, among other ways, in making the Sign of the Cross and in reciting the Creed every Sunday and Solemnity.
There is a very beautiful hymn, thought to have been written in the 9th Century AD, by Rabanus Maurus, which is very appropriate to this Solemnity and which, fortunately, has not been excluded from modern Catholic hymn books. In it we pray, “Come Holy Ghost, Creator, Come…….take possession of our Souls and make them all thine own”.
Today, we open our Mass, proclaiming, in the Entrance Antiphon (Wisdom 1:7) that ‘The Spirit of the Lord has filled the whole world…’. Today we celebrate what is sometimes called the Birthday of the Church, when, enlightened and emboldened by the Holy Spirit, the previously timid, fearful and, perhaps, uncertain Apostles, the first Bishops of the Catholic Church, energetically emerged from their hiding place. Strengthened by the Gifts of the Spirit, the same Gifts given to each of us at our Confirmation, to be received by the Candidates today, through Bishop Pat, they gave, quite literally, their all. They received the following seven gifts and attributes:
Wisdom, which helps us choose God’s way of living, understanding the often challenging teachings of the Church, having compassion and tolerance for the weak, whilst also being ever ready to ‘grasp the nettle’, to be unpopular – in other words, ‘un-politically correct’ - pointing out error, even if we aren’t thanked for it!
Understanding helps us to see the deep meaning of the truths of our Faith, and to hold onto them.
Right Judgement (Counsel) helps us make choices to live as a faithful follower of Jesus, to see the danger of certain ‘alternative’ ways of living.
Courage (Fortitude) helps us stand up for our faith in Christ, avoiding anything which, while the worldly-wise might approve, will separate us from God. Such courage may even separate us from friends who cannot or will not see why we believe and live as we do.
Knowledge, again, helps us choose the path that will lead to God. It encourages us to avoid whatever will keep us from Him.
Reverence (Piety) helps us worship and serve God, and inspires us to joyfully want to serve Him and others.
Wonder and Awe bring us to see how utterly great God is, and to love Him so much that we do not want to offend Him by anything we say or do. This Gift is also known as Fear of The Lord, which, if explained correctly, emphasises love and devotion which move us to obey God. Indeed, far from fearing so Loving a Father, we fear the sins which can separate us from Him.
How childlike are we in our following of God? Let us pray anew for a renewal of these Gifts in our souls and in those of all our young people who are growing up in an increasingly godless world. Let us pray especially for all our Confirmation Candidates receiving this great Sacrament today. May these young men and women be continually inspired to be instruments of the call to, ‘Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth’, as they, the Church of the future, set out to fulfil the awesome responsibility they have assumed through this Sacrament!
Last week, on Ascension Thursday, 10th May, the fortieth day of Eastertide, in the Entrance Antiphon (Acts 1:11), we pronounced the words of the Angel to the Apostles who, following their beloved Master’s departure from their sight into Heaven, remained for a while gazing (surely sadly and longingly) into the empty sky. The Angel assures them that, one day, Jesus will return when He comes, of course, to Judge us all at the end of time.
This year, as the Solemnity fell on the exact day, i.e. Thursday, that day was, of course, a Holy Day of Obligation, binding on the Faithful, as are all Sundays, giving us the very clear message that the Eucharist has an indispensable and central role in our lives.
The First Reading (Acts 1:1-11) narrated that familiar scene in which Our Lord took leave, so to speak, of His Apostles.
In the Second Reading (Ephesians 1:17-23) Saint Paul prayed (as must we!) for the necessary Graces to aid us in understanding and living by the Teachings of Our Lord who, alone, can give us Eternal Happiness. We must recognise that those who consider themselves ‘worldly-wise’ among us will, at times, not accept Jesus as ‘…the ruler of everything…’, as is evidenced by the continual challenges to Catholic Moral Teaching around the world. We may be challenged, sometimes shunned, because we practise and profess the ‘unpalatable’! In the Gospel (Mark 16:15-20) we heard the Apostles (now ourselves!) being told to, ‘…Go out into the whole world, proclaim the Good News to all creation…’. We are assured that we, and those we evangelise (and who embrace the Faith) ‘…will be saved…’.
In France and Germany, among other countries, the importance of this day was emphasised by its being a Public Holiday, echoing the deep Catholic Faith of former times. In the days when England proudly proclaimed herself the Dowry of Mary, Holy days were, very often, the only days off in addition to Sunday, especially, probably, for the Poor. From this extra day of rest, of course, comes our word, holiday. Hopefully the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord was a joyful day in our Families, encouraging not only us and our children but, also, through us, those of other faiths (or none) that we may encounter, to see beyond the limits of this world.
Our Blessed Mother, when she appeared to the three little shepherds in Fátima, introduced herself as,
“…the Lady of the Rosary…". She spoke of the need for us to amend our lives and to seek pardon for our sins, which, daily, offend Our Lord. She urged the daily recitation of the Rosary, a powerful weapon against the evils of Satan and, therefore, a bountiful source of Grace for those who love her Son and constantly call on Him for aid. Ever concerned for our spiritual wellbeing, and conscious of our tendency to forget even essentials, Holy Mother Church sets aside two months during which this great Prayer is ‘put in the spotlight’ so to speak, both this month of May and later, October.
The prayers of the Rosary might be compared to the incidental music of a good Family film which serves to heighten awareness of emotions and actions of characters in different scenes. Almost in the background, these prayers serve to aid those praying in focussing upon the most notable scenes from the Lives of Mary and Jesus in particular. Parents are warmly encouraged to teach their children this invaluable Prayer from a very early age. As our youngsters grow in stature and intelligence, their insights into the Mysteries will deepen. Our Blessed Lady will be their constant companion throughout a lifetime in which their Faith will be strongly challenged. It is a prayer which will stand them in good stead from infancy (obviously on a more basic level) to old age, when they will, please God, draw on the fruits of a lifetime’s Rosaries. How about searching this treasure trove together?! If not the internet, then our own Catholic Truth Society is the place to go!
Throughout the centuries, this Prayer has developed and been presented in several forms. For example, the Luminous Mysteries, originally developed by Malta’s Saint Ġorġ Preca, were introduced by Saint Pope John Paul II through his Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae. Other forms have focussed on particular episodes in the lives of Christ and His Mother. One example is the Seven Dolours Rosary in which one concentrates specifically on the seven sorrows of our Lady: - Simeon’s prophecy that Mary would suffer witnessing her Son’s Passion and Death (Lk. 2:34, 35); Herod’s massacre of the Holy Innocents, which led to the flight of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph into Egypt (Mt. 2:13, 14); The finding of the 12 year old child Jesus in the temple (Lk. 2:43-45); Jesus meets Mary as he carries His Cross to Calvary (4th Station of the Cross); Jesus’ Body being taken down from the Cross (13th Station); the burial of Jesus in the Tomb (14th Station). There is so much out there!
From St. Bart's
Thoughts on the traditional teachings, devotions, seasons and matters of the Catholic Church