During the month of June, we are meditating particularly upon the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Source of His Love for us, which calls for our wholehearted Love in return. During July, we will be invited to meditate especially upon His Precious Blood which, in Love, He shed to the very last drop for us on the Cross, so undoing the devastating consequence of Original Sin which had closed to us the Road to Heaven. How appropriate that during June our young First Communicants have been and are to be wrapped in His Loving Embrace as they receive His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity into themselves, body and soul, for the very first time!
This Sunday our second group will, for the very first time, invite the Author of Love to come and dwell in them. They will be followed by the third group on Saturday next. As the month of the Precious Blood of Jesus begins, on Sunday, 1st July, all our new First Communicants will, together, prepare to ‘Go Forth’, living and growing as vital and active members of the Church, sustained by the Bread of Life Himself!
Not so long ago, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, reminded us that we are all called to Evangelise, i.e. to spread, through word and deed, the Liberating Truth of the Gospel far and wide and also, indeed, not so far away, within our own Family Circles and among our Friends. If our Precious Children are to grow into their role as Evangelisers, they must be able to count on the supportive example and help of their Parents, their First teachers in the Faith. Read Pope Francis’ words on this subject here. The crucial role of Practising Catholic Parents in their Children’s growth in and practice of the Faith cannot be overstated!
Each and every one of us needs to strive to grow in love of this wonderful Sacrament, receiving Our Lord as often as possible. From this Sacrament will our youngsters, the Church of the Future, draw encouragement as they, Apostles all, face an increasingly (it would seem) Godless world!
Please God their loving responses to this awesome Gift will include a firm determination to receive Our Lord as often as they can, certainly on Sundays and Holy Days and also, as they grow older and more able to make such choices, encouraged by their Parents’ example, at weekday Mass during school holidays. If God Incarnate sacrificed His Life for His creatures, the occasional ‘extra’ Mass is not too much to ask of them!
Last week, we celebrated the Three Divine persons in the One God, i.e. the Most Holy Trinity. Today we celebrate the Sacrament to which all the other Sacraments point the way, Holy Communion itself. Each time we receive Communion, we take to ourselves that same Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity which Christ first gave to His Apostles at the Last Supper and which, as our Risen Lord, He longs, every day, to give to us. This is not to be regarded as a reward for being good, but to strengthen us in our resolve to be good Catholics.
One of the descriptions of the Mass is ‘...a public act of worship…’ Another public proof of our adherence to the Fullness of the Faith is how we ‘…love one another…’. Many of us will recall, from our own childhood, that a prominent part of the celebration of Corpus Christi was a public procession around the neighbourhood of our church. Father, accompanied by the Parish First Communicants, their Families and other Parishioners, carried the Blessed Sacrament in the Monstrance, taking Our Lord out to those of all Faiths and none. This very ‘high-profile’ demonstration of our love for and devotion to the Bread of Life is taking place, after a gap of many years, in our Parish today.
The Corpus Christi Procession at St. Michael's Convent in 1982*
Thanks to the present English translation of the text of the Mass, we can acknowledge, just before receiving Communion, our total unworthiness to have God come into our body and soul. We repeat the words of the Roman Centurion, declaring, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the Word and my soul shall be healed.” We not only admit to our fallen human nature, but we proclaim our firm belief that Christ can, in His Goodness, providing that we are truly sorry, drive out the sins which distance (and, sometimes) completely separate us from Him.
It is because Jesus, God the Son, actually comes to each of us personally that the Church insists upon our being in the State of Grace, i.e. free from Mortal Sin, requiring us to confess any such sins of which we are aware before approaching the Altar. She requires us, also, under normal circumstances, to fast for one hour (water and medicines are the only exceptions) before receiving Communion. Hopefully, realising the importance of the Food of our Souls, this is no big deal. Decades ago, the fast lasted from Midnight on Saturday; it was then reduced to three hours by Pope Pius XII in 1957, then to the present one hour by Pope Paul VI in 1964.
You might like to read the stories of Saint Tarcisius and Little Li, two children who gave their lives as Martyrs for love of the Holy Eucharist. They will inspire you and your children! Why not see how many more Saints of the Eucharist you can discover! If ever one goes unwillingly to Mass and Communion, one will do well to recall that in various parts of the world, our Brothers and Sisters are still risking their lives for this Privilege. Our Procession today will be a clear sign of our gratitude for the freedom we enjoy to practise our Faith in this country, and a sign of Solidarity with our persecuted Brothers and Sisters. Have a Holy and Happy Solemnity!
*The picture within the article above depicts the Corpus Christi Procession at St. Michael's Convent in 1982.
This annual event brought together clergy and parishioners from St. Bartholomew's Norbury, English Martyrs Streatham, St. Michael's Pollards Hill and St. Matthew's West Norwood - the convent, at the top of Streatham Common, was originally a mansion called Park Hill. Built in 1829 it was the home of Henry Tate from c.1880. It became a nursing home run by nuns of the the Congregation of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God in 1923. The nuns left the building in 1996 when the property was put onto the market. It was sold in 2002 and the site was developed as Henry Tate Mews. The Grade II* listed building (including the chapel) was sympathetically converted into apartments.
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!
We often remark at how quickly time passes. On 8th January the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord marked the end of the Christmas season and, already, on Ash Wednesday, 14th February we will begin the Penitential season of Lent. And not so long after Easter, we shall be looking towards Advent 2018! Our Blessed Lord was very precise in His use of language. Looking beyond our comparatively brief lifespan on earth, towards Eternity, He underlined the urgent need for constant preparation, speaking of the unexpectedness of our coming before God’s Judgement Seat, death coming, perhaps, “...like a thief in the night…(1 Thess. 5.2)…you know not the day nor the hour…(Mt. 25:13)…tonight thy soul is required of thee…(Lk. 12:20)”.
The Liturgy of Ash Wednesday recalls sobering facts. As we are marked on our foreheads with a Cross of ash (prepared by burning last year’s palms) the priest or other person applying the ashes may say either, “Repent and believe in the Gospel…” (Mk. 1:15) or the more sobering, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Gen. 3:19). The second formula may cause one to feel ‘uncomfortable’ but is, obviously, so very necessary in this world which, sadly, often lauds wealth, celebrity and power as criteria for a fulfilled life, whilst ignoring their power to distance or even separate us from God. A loving earthly parent will, although positively encouraging their children to be careful crossing the road, also point out the unpleasant, even fatal consequences of carelessness in doing so. Similarly God, out of Love for us, wishes us to recall that much of what is regarded as ‘gain’ in this world has the power to deny us eternal happiness. Unlike the world, which can be very unforgiving, Christ, knowing our fallen nature, gives us through His Church this period of the year dedicated especially to deeper examination of conscience and to trying to see ourselves as God sees us. Of course, this 40 day period should, quite definitely, not be our sole spiritual ‘MOT’ for the year.
The Good Shepherd ever calls us to Himself. Whatever our sins, He will welcome us back if we repent and return. He has given us the beautiful Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) as the normal means of making this return from Mortal and what are deemed ‘lesser’ sins. Through this wonderful Sacrament, available daily, if needed, in addition to the scheduled times, a Soul, dead in sin, may be restored to the Life of Grace. We must, however not fall into the error of thinking that Confession is reserved solely for Grave sin. Even one who has faithfully persevered in God’s Grace throughout life has need of the strengthening Grace of this Sacrament to maintain their Godward orientation.
It may take great courage and humility to go to Confession, overcoming Human Respect (i.e. ‘What will people think of me when they see me go into the Reconciliation Room?’). Sadly we can ‘transfer’ our own sometimes unforgiving nature to Christ. Yet the Scriptures are full of accounts of Jesus forgiving people, for example the woman taken in adultery and the penitent thief on Calvary. His many visible healings point towards His ability, as God Incarnate, to heal our invisible spiritual ills, i.e. sins. We never hear Him turn penitents away. Of course, to be forgiven, sorrow and determination not to sin again must go together. How often do we hear Christ saying, “Go and sin no more” (Jn. 8:11)?
Why not, especially if it does not come easily, resolve to make a good Lenten Confession, as the first of many regular Confessions in the coming year, rather like having one’s car regularly serviced, rather than waiting for a major, more costly or dangerous defect to occur. The priest can answer any questions, however ‘silly’ we might regard them; nothing will shock him; as an Alter Christus, he is only too glad to continue Christ’s work of Reconciliation. Look out for details of our Lenten day of Penitence.
There is plenty of faithful Catholic literature on the subject. One publication, “Confession, A little Book for the Reluctant” by Monsignor Louis Gaston de Ségur, published by TAN, answers many of the fears that many, sadly, have of this Sacrament. Booklets about Reconciliation are available from our Repository. If you try this link you will find a wealth of helpful materials published by the CTS. Please God, the following line from Saint Alphonsus’ Stations of the Cross, will be our motive for repentance: “It is thy love, more than the fear of Hell, which causes me to weep for my sins.” (from the 8th Station: The Women of Jerusalem Mourn for Our Lord).
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?
In the Entrance Antiphon today we are reminded that the Lord is ‘…Saviour of all people…’ who, unlike even the best intentioned earthly friend, will be ‘…always there…’ and, very significantly, is unlimited in His ability to help us through life. We are expected, of course, to actively seek and use these opportunities to attain Salvation!
Isaiah (55:6-9), very wisely, urges us to seize every opportunity offered us by our Creator while we live on Earth, and ‘Seek the Lord while He is still to be found’. Until we draw our final breath we can, should we sin, repent and be assured of God’s Forgiveness; not that we should gamble our eternity on living apart from God and ‘getting in at the last moment’. God, who is so superior to His creatures, nevertheless leaves the final choice with us! As the Responsorial Psalm (From Ps. 144), recalls to mind, God ‘…is close to all who call Him….” How aware are we of our constant need to examine our conscience and make sure that we are not living in ways that take us further away from God?
Saint Paul (Phil. 1:20-24, 27), while looking with longing towards his entry into Heaven, acknowledges that, while he lives on earth, he has a vital role (as does each one of us) to play in the Salvation of Mankind. Paul’s ‘rule of thumb’ for the here and now, which will stand us in good stead when we die, is to keep from anything in our everyday life which will set us off in an opposing direction to God. Our Saviour, knowing our weaknesses, has left us the Sacrament of Reconciliation, through which we can, as long as life lasts, keep close to or even return to God. God, who clearly sees our exact knowledge of good and evil and our intentions, cannot lose any soul which, in all honesty, has striven to be faithful to Him.
On Good Friday, we recalled Our Lord’s being nailed to the Cross, hanging there for three hours then being laid, dead, in Mary’s arms; He was buried in the Tomb, in the eyes of many, gone for good! As we are hearing at the moment in the Gospels, in particular, Christ definitively proved that He is, indeed, God; He Rose from the dead, having atoned to the Father for the sin of Adam and Eve. As we recite, weekly, in the Creed, He soon confirmed the precarious Faith of the Apostles by sending the Holy Spirit; gone was the fear of reprisals for proclaiming the Truth. We are already hearing, not only of the bold proclamations of the Truth, but of the resistance to that truth, in the forms of beatings, imprisonment and death. Did the Church curl up and die? Not a bit of it! Energised by the Grace of God and by His Presence in Holy Communion, the Church has gone from strength to strength as, indeed, Christ promised it would. He promised, before ascending into Heaven, that He would be with us, “...until the end of time…”. Saint Paul, another of the fruits of the conquest of Good over evil, recalls us to this fact: If we live, faithfully, God’s Way, nothing can keep us from attaining Heaven.
Our Brothers and Sisters, in certain places in the world, are still suffering attacks, privation and death for living out the Faith which, in the ‘free’ world, so many treat so casually. Please God we will not fail our young people, the precious Church of the future. May they grow up in families where the Faith is an integral and growing part of life; may it never be allowed to come to be regarded like so many of the fashions and interests which they may well discard as they grow older.
Actions, as the Apostles demonstrated, speak louder than words. Enriched by regular reception of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, may our lives, ever more, be the examples which stimulate the growth of the Church!
Following the Solemnity of The Most Holy Trinity we celebrate Holy Communion itself, the precious treasure which Christ first gave (His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity) to His Apostles at the Last Supper and which He longs, every day, to give to us, not as a reward for being good but as help to that end.
Thanks to the present English translation of the text of the Mass we can clearly ponder, just before Communion, the fact that, in ourselves, we are totally unworthy to have God come into our body and soul; echoing the words of the Centurion, we declare, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the Word and my soul shall be healed”. In this profound prayer we not only admit our fallen human nature but we proclaim our firm belief that Christ can, in His Goodness, if we are truly sorry, drive out sin.
It is because Jesus, God the Son, actually comes to each of us personally that the Church insists upon our being in the State of Grace, i.e. free from Mortal Sin; she requires us, also, under normal circumstances, to fast for one hour (water and medicines excepted) before receiving Communion. Hopefully, realising the importance of the Food of our Souls compared to earthly food, this is no big deal; we might also remember that, decades ago, the fast was 24 hours. This was then reduced to three hours, now one.
Should we feel that our desire for Holy Communion is not as strong as it ought to be then two child-martyrs, Saint Tarcisius and a Chinese girl, Little Li, who both gave their lives for the Holy Eucharist in times of persecution, will help us to re-kindle our love for the closest union with our God before He embraces us in Heaven. Read the stories of Saint Tarcisius and Little Li on the internet. Remember, too, that in various parts of the world, our Brothers and Sisters are still risking their lives for the Privilege of going to Communion. Wonderful stories, here, to inspire you and your children! Happy Feastday!
Some Catholics, sadly, seem to believe that the Fathers at the Second Vatican Council changed swathes of Church Teaching, even concerning central Teachings of the Church. Myths have grown up surrounding Vatican II. You may even have seen unsettling changes/modifications brought in and, having questioned them, been told that you must accept them as being in 'the spirit of Vatican II', whatever that may mean. The Council was Pastoral and not called to change the unchangeable (i.e. the Teaching that Christ commanded the Apostles to pass on in its entirety) but to remind us of the universal Vocation to Holiness; we are all, without exception, Pope, Bishops, Priests, Religious and Laity, called to 'do our bit'. Saint Josemaria Escrivá, Founder of Opus Dei, had already anticipated this call, clearly teaching that every Catholic, however 'insignificant' the world might consider them or their occupation, is called to live a holy life, whether in a 'high-profile' job such as a Cardinal, for instance or a somewhat less-regarded occupation such as a road-sweeper; the Grace of God, first sanctifying us in Baptism and ever there for the asking, enables us to attain this holiness.
Parents are crucial to this way of living. Through their love for God and, so, for one another, sustained by the Graces of the Sacrament of Matrimony, they form, through example, their children; they prepare, in this way, future Parents, Priests, Religious and Singles (just as much a Vocation) to be open to God's Call, to 'carry the torch' of Faith.
There is really no excuse for pleading ignorance of our role in the grand scheme of things. We are all, thank God, educated and literate. The Council Documents themselves are still readily available as are later documents, such as Veritatis Splendor' (the Splendour of Truth), from Saint Pope John Paul II; he wrote this to the world's Bishops in 1993, concerned that,"....certain fundamental truths of Catholic doctrine....risk(ed) being distorted or denied...". These and other documents make excellent discussion material. Generally these are freely available to read on-line. Try dipping into this huge library. Some real eye-openers here - a kind of Catholic 'Highway Code'!
From St. Bart's
Thoughts on the traditional teachings, devotions, seasons and matters of the Catholic Church