The Dreaded Epistle

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On the 17th Sunday of ordinary time, we listened to a very famous passage in romans. This passage was Romans 8:28-30. Most lectionaries use the Revised Standard Version but I use the New RSV for my individual lectio. The passage is this.

28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.30 and those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

This passage is key in the protestant reformation for the doctrine of Sola Fide. This is along with Romans 3:28, where Martin Luther added his own words to the German translation. This was changed from the God inspired passage so that it read that we are saved through Faith alone and not works of the law.

The one thing about the doctrine is that it sounds nice. Once saved, always saved! But of course it is not true. For salvation is a gift freely given to us, his children. If we are good when we were kids we were given treats and gifts so it will encourage good behaviour. And if we were bad then we would have them privileges taken away. That is the same with our salvation. The reason we have this is because of the inheritance we get through birth and that is God’s gift of Free Will. This free will is what causes us to sin and stumble. This makes God turn away from us. Through full repentance are made right standing with God again. This is called being in a state of Grace. For this is what God wants, ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’ (Matthew 5:48)

So to have faith is awesome, but it is only the start. You must allow Jesus into your heart and life. That is not all you have to do. Jesus does great things and we’ve got to allow him to transform our lives with the advocate, the Holy Spirit. He does this through prayer and the sacraments. Each sacrament is God’s design to conform humanity to Himself. Baptism we are adopted into His eternal family. Confession cleanses us from sin and shows God our repentance. Communion creates the only physical connection between God and man in the Eucharist. Holy Orders and Matrimony consecrates lives to God’s will in the vocation He has prescribed for us. In Extreme Unction we are prepared for eternal life. Confirmation is a sacrament that Protestants would mostly agree with and that is where we confirm Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. From that day on the Holy Spirit remains with us and does God’s work through us.

The one thing that the Catholic Church teaches that other protestant churches don’t is that once baptised you are immediately adopted into God’s family. So we are all children of God. This is very different in some churches of other denominations and can be held by very immature Christians. I’ve heard some protestant preachers be very anti-Catholic. One time I was at a praise and worship meeting being held by the Christian Union of Aberystwyth. The guy was speaking on who is our neighbour. He then went on to say that we should not associate ourselves with Catholics, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, because they preach the wrong gospel. I knew he was on about gospel values and doctrine, but still I was a bit astounded by his remark. So afterwards I went up to him and explained that I am Catholic and I was made quite uneasy by his talk. He didn’t apologise, so I then asked him if he could show me in his bible what it says in John 1:1. You know in the beginning was the word… and I then showed him mine and they read exactly the same. I then said look at any verse in the bible and it is almost similar because of wording. He understood what I meant because of different translations. I then went and asked him what he thought the message of John 1:1 was. He explained and I replied with exactly the same answer to his astonishment. I then explained to him that if you go and ask everyone in this room what they think one passage means there will be loads of different explanations, whereas if you come to the Catholic Church, anywhere in the world, you will get the same response all the time. It is not only given by what the current pope says but what Jesus taught the first pope when he established the Church.

Back to the epistle, to explain the passage one must learn what some of the words mean. Specially Justified and Glorified. Justified or justification is explained as ‘the most excellent work of God’s love. It is the merciful and freely given act of God which takes away our sins and makes us just and holy in our whole being.’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church Compendium 422). To be justified was once explained to me like this. When we sin, God turns his back on us. Jesus, out of his divine mercy, says to the Father to look at His hands and feet and side. I’ve paid the debt for his sin, even though he has no means to pay back. Through this plea, God forgives our sins and we become justified. ‘Justification is the beginning of the free response of man that is faith in Christ and of cooperation with the grace of the Holy Spirit.’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church Compendium 422). Glorified means that you are numbered among the communion of Saints. For there is much rejoicing about each one of us when we turn to God in repentance. Jesus tells this numerous times in Luke’s Gospel. (Luke 15:7, 10, 32) An example of glorification can be found in Matthew 17, Mark 9 and Luke 9. This is the transfiguration. This was originally called the feast of the glorification of Jesus. Here it shows Jesus change into his triumphant glorious self and also shows God’s glory. In the gospel Moses and Elijah appear next to Jesus, representing the law and prophets. This shows us that through Jesus comes the fullness of the laws of God and fulfils all prophecy. That is what Jesus does in us when we are glorified; Jesus helps us fulfil prophecy of God’s predestined plan for us and also helps us keep the works of God’s law.

The main message of this epistle is that we are all called to holiness. To quote St. Catherine of Sienna, ‘If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze.’ If we allow Jesus into our lives to glorify us, for us to follow in Jesus’ example. For us to ask God for his graces so that we can all merit the gift of salvation. This is not done on our own but on what God wills us to do.

 

We are all a little bit Charasmatic?

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Just to throw it out there, Traditionalists are all charismatic. Anyone who professes their Christian faith and receive the sacrament of Confirmation are Charismatic. The reason we have faith is Charismatic.

Don’t worry, I’m not saying that everyone does the “Stereotypical” Charismatic things, such as; Modern worship and raise their hands in praise during hymns, are in the minority and are wrong. But the way in which I say that everyone is Charismatic, is that we all receive God’s grace and Gifts of His Holy Spirit.

Through the Sacrament of Confirmation, God gives us special gifts to help us in life and they remain with us always. These seven are; Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and Fear of the Lord. These gifts are given to us, when the Bishop anoints us and places his hands on us. This can be found in the bible a few times, in both Old and New Testaments. ‘Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.’ (Acts 8:17), ‘Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on hands by the council leaders.’ (1Timothy 4:14) & ‘When you bring the Levites before the Lord, the Israelites shall lay their hands on the Levites.’ (Numbers 8:10).

With these gifts, God allows us to produce fruit, twelve Fruits in fact. Charity, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Generosity, Gentleness, Faithfulness, Modesty, Self-control and Chastity. These fruits don’t  come all at once, like an apple on a tree, it takes time to sprout and grow in understanding and fulness. It is through these Graces that we come to Faith in Jesus and in God.

I would say that traditionalists one of the most charismatic people I know. They really want to worship in one style that is full of prayers asking for more charisms of the Holy Spirit. They then speak in Tongues, Joking in Latin. But even if you don’t understand Latin, go along to one extraordinary form mass, and the Holy Spirit will guide you through it. But in the other corner, even though Gregorian Chant is absolutely beautiful to listen to, hearing a whole congregation singing with passion a modern hymn. Modern hymns such as How Great Thou Art, Cornerstone, Thine be the Glory and Shine Jesus Shine. There is place for everyone to worship in what ever way you want to God, for He is worthy of our Praise.

To any atheists or Agnostics reading, the best way to explain the difference in what i just stated was like if you went to a music festival, in one tent you can have the latest band playing great, rocking songs, which you dance to and raise your hands in appreciation to the band playing, Then you go to another tent where its a quiet folk band which you sit down and listen to and appreciate it with just simple applause at the end. That is the same difference in Worship in Christian Churches.

The Letter of Saint Jude

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To get to sleep, I usually listen to Catholic apologists or evangelists. This is helpful to keep my mind on God as I sleep. Occasionally I listen to the Bible via my Bible app on my phone. Just playing book roulette I landed on the letter of Jude. This is what I thought whilst listening.

The salutation is similar to most of the books in the New Testament. It states that Jude is a servant, or in the footnotes a slave, of Jesus Christ. Looking at the context of that phrase most people would affiliate themselves with the serving part. But if you look into it deeper, we are all slaves for Christ. We all do his work and what he wants on earth. And he has paid the price for us in the crucifixion. We are all indebted to Christ but we can not pay him back with earthly means, so our works on earth show to God that we are trying to be like our master and which will give us the grace of eternal life. So when you next read the word ‘slave of Christ’, do not think of it as a bad thing. But a good thing in that we are doing God’s will.

The next part of the letter explains the reason why Jude is writing to the people who are beloved in God the Father. ‘I find it necessary to write and appeal to you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.’ (Jude 3). I would show this message to protestants who slander against the Catholic Church for saying that Tradition is not needed. Jude is plainly pointing out that Tradition is very much apart of our belief. It is apart of the three legged stool of the Catholic Church. With Tradition is Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium. Jude warns us to not listen those who disperse the people of God. These people who he mentions, go against the papacy. For when Christ instituted the papacy He said ‘whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ (Matthew 16:19) This means that whoever the pope says is heretical in teaching is eternally heretical. For heaven is eternal and so the proclamation shall last as long. We must follow what the early Christian followed and that faith is found exclusively in the Catholic Church. Jude states this again a few lines later, ‘Yet in the same way these dreamers also defile the flesh, reject authority and slander the glorious ones.’ (Jude 8) He puts these people in the same category as those of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. As the Council of Trent puts it, Anathema Sit! 

Jude’s plea is for people to stop listening to false teachings. He tells the story of St. Michael the Archangel and his battle with the devil over Moses. ‘But when the Archangel Michael contended with the devil and disputed about the body of Moses, he did not dare to bring a condemnation of slander against him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’ But these people who slander whatever the do not understand, and they are destroyed by those things that, like irrational animals, they know by instinct.’ (Jude 9-10). Jude is showing here that people who find their own messages on salvation from their own interpretations of the Bible need to check with the Catholic Churches teachings for them to be true. For that is the reason why there are so many different protestant denominations today. Different people find different views on salvation in their reading of the Bible and preach, wrongly, on them. ‘For they go the way of Cain’ (Jude 11) and into heresy. That is why we need the Churches authority so that through it, God has already rebuked most claims on different versions on salvation and continues to do so today. 

Jude then looks to the end times and heeds warnings from the Apostles. He tells us to keep our eyes focused on the teachings of the Church. ‘Keep yourselves in the love of God; Look forward to the mercy of Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.’ (Jude 21). We must live by the teaching of the Catholic Church, ‘But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most Holy faith.’ (Jude 20). Jude finishes his letter with benediction, praying for us that we may remain in God’s grace, without blemish and that we will be with God for ‘all time and now and for ever. Amen.’ (Jude 25). 

The letter of Jude is small and precise. It shows how we must live like the Apostles and follow Christ’s teachings, which have been passed down from the Apostles. 

 

Is The Mass Biblical

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Firstly, I would like to state that there is nothing wrong with the Liturgy. The Paul VI missal has been used since the early 1970’s. This was following the Second Vatican Council. The previous Missals were all promulgated from the Council of Trent, only 400 years earlier. Hence why the extraordinary form is commonly know as the Tridentine Mass. With the Novus Ordo missal being commonly used now throughout the world it has become the norm for worship in the Catholic Church. The lesser celebrated mass, the Extraordinary form, was almost never celebrated until the Muto Proprio of Pope Benedict XVI, Summorum Pontificum in 2007. The Pope declared to the world that what was once held scared, still is.

The differences in the masses are very few, but they are treated as if they are so far apart. In the Ordinary form, there is less stress on uniformity but there is still the highest reverence given to the sacrament.The previous Missal before the Paul VI were very clear in their rubrics on hand movement, tone of voice, the right time to bless the host and chalice. The sign of the Cross is made 52 times during the extraordinary form. There is a rubrics for the new mass and they are printed in the missal. The one main difference between both forms is the language used. It states in the Dogmatic Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium ‘However, in the mass, the administration of the sacraments and other parts of the liturgy, the use of the vernacular can not infrequently be very useful to the people. Therefore it would be well to grant it some considerable place, above all in the readings and addresses to the congregation…’

Both Masses are structured in the same way. In the Youcat, The youth Catechism of the Catholic Church, it explains the order of the new mass very simply and carefully so that anyone can understand it.

‘Holy Mass begins with the gathering of the faithful and the entrance of the priest and others who serve in the Sanctuary (Altar Servers, Lectors, Cantors, and so on). After the greeting comes the penitential right, which concludes with the Kyrie. On Sundays (Outside Advent and Lent) and feast days, the Gloria is sung or recited. The prayer of the day introduces one or two readings from the Old and New Testament, followed by the responsorial psalm. Before the Gospel is read, there is an Alleluia or acclamation. After the Proclamation of the Gospel on Sundays and feast days, the priest or deacon gives a homily. Then, again on Sundays and feast days, the congregation professes its common faith in the creed, followed by intercessions. The Second part of Holy Mass begins with the preparation of the gifts, which concludes with the offertory prayers. The high point of the Eucharistic celebration is the Eucharist prayers, which is introduced by the preface and the Sanctus. Now the gifts are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. The Eucharistic Prayer concludes, finally in the doxology, which makes the transition to the Lord’s prayer. Then Comes the prayer for peace and the Angus Dei, the breaking of bread, and the administration of the Holy Gifts to the Faithful, which is often only done under the form of the Body of Christ. Holy Mass ends with meditation, thanksgiving, a concluding prayer and a blessing by the priest.’

(Youcat P127)

The Old Mass is similar, but there is Prayers at the foot of the Altar at the beginning of mass. There is a lot more silence, no intercessions and a Last Gospel at the very end.

The thing is though, these types of liturgy have only been around since the late 1500’s. The Mass before that was very much different again. Saying that they are different is the same in saying the Forms that we have today are different. The mass was even more simpler than what we experience today. The Mass was so simple that it had just the priest and a minister saying the mass and the rest just praying, which is similar to the Latin Mass. But the Responses and Reading’s where said aloud and everyone understood the language so they could memorize the response. This is similar to today’s Mass. It was in the 4th Century that certain traditions started to come into action, such as the Lavabo (Washing of hands). St. Thomas Aquinas states  “We are not accustomed to handle any precious things save with clean hands; so it seems indecent that one should approach so great a sacrament with hands soiled.”

The thing is that all Christians, prior to the protestant reformation in the 1500’s, celebrated the Eucharistic Sacrament. It shows from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians; ‘For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread, and giving thanks, broke, and said: Take ye, and eat: This is My Body, which shall be delivered for you: this do for the commemoration of Me .In like manner also the chalice, after He had supped, saying: This chalice is the new testament in My Blood: this do ye, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of Me. For as often as you shall eat this Bread, and drink the Chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord, until He come.Therefore whosoever shall eat this Bread, or drink the Chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the Body and of the Blood of the Lord.’ [1 Cor: 11: 23-27].

 

It was a good thing I’m Catholic.

I was talking to a group of people one night in a pub, when obviously the topic of religion comes up. There are only two topics that frequently arise in the public houses of Britain and they are either Politics and Religion. Sport is often talked about but not with the same passion as they two aforementioned topics.

I was talking with a load of history lecturers, about many things with my Christian faith. Most of them were quite accepting, being the having faith is more of a personal ordeal rather than a public display. But then up comes the militant atheist and asks, so can you show me in the bible where it says about marriage just for man and woman. I showed him the first chapters of Genesis, mainly Genesis 1:28 “be fruitful and multiply”.

I wasn’t trying to convert or to put down the man, but he was trying to prove me wrong. He then said, show me in the first bible? I said in what language, he states Aramaic. I then states that it wasn’t the case. Most of the new testament writers either wrote in Hebrew or more commonly Greek. He still wasn’t going to give in, so I stopped him and said, “look, that would work against many protestant christians saying where is that in the bible. But I’m Catholic, the bible is not the only source of God’s word. The Bible is the inspired word of God, but through the Sacred Tradition of the Church, what we have passed down through the ages is also God’s word. The Bible does contain a lot of laws and teachings on how we should live and behave but we also add the Tradition of the church in leading us in what we believe and live our lives.” He stopped talking. I had played Catholic Trump card.

Before he left he then said, so can you find me a bible that was written around the time of Jesus? I said no. He added exactly because they were held and only discussed later and compiled and then spread. I agreed, Yes at the council of Nicea. But I added, but the Torah is defiantly older than what you are asking and we (Christians) believe that Christ came not to abolish the laws of moses. (Matthew 5:17) so the bible will continue from the first time God spoke to the world.

I didn’t expect to be put into that situation, there were other denominational christians present. But I am happy that the Holy Spirit gave me the charisms to calmly give information about the church and to give me the knowledge of my own faith to confidently profess it. It is what the priest say at the end of the mass, “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord!”

Testimony

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I have been brought up in the Christian faith. I have been to mass every Sunday of my memory when I was younger. The one thing I remember was my old parish priest, Canon Francis O’Donnell, when it was time for communion, I would receive a blessing, but every time he gave me a blessing, he kept on saying to me, ‘are you my friend’. Of course I would always say yes. This question made me look forward to come to mass from a young age. And it’s that compassion from the priest made me feel warm and a sense of belonging to the family of God.

Through school, I was bullied because of my faith. Most people thought that I would become a priest then, and made fun of it. The worst times was when on a school trip some guys took my statue of St. Francis of Assisi, and also to keep on mocking the fact that I was an Altar server. But because of the fact I was an altar server, my faith grew. The patron saint of the altar servers is St. Stephen, the first proto martyr. And whilst his oppressors was stoning him, he prayed, “Father, forgive them, they know not of what they are doing.” It was this prayer that I prayed every time I was bullied. Often in my head, but sometimes I went into the school’s chapel and prayed it there, in the comfort of God’s house.

The reason I became an altar server is because I was called by God to be one. And I am still one to this day. When I was in preparation for Holy Communion, I became more observant of the mass. And I saw the men on the sanctuary helping the priest aid in the sacrifice of the mass. It was then that I had a deep yearning inside me to want to do that for the rest of my life. To be there and help people.

Then when I came to university. I went to mass on the first weekend, but then I didn’t go until the end of the first term. The reason was, is that I did need a break. Sounds silly to say, but it was needed to rekindle my faith. I didn’t tell people I was Christian, I just told people who I was. I did keep a crucifix above my bed and wanted to go back to mass, but because I had built up this way of life, it seemed to me that God didn’t feature in that plan at that moment.  And my first year went really well. I had loads of friends, and was popular. The second year then went downhill, financially and works wise. But right at the beginning of the year was when I met the Catholic society. The main ethos of Cathsoc is to bring all students into a closer and personal relationship with Jesus. We act as a sort of family for students who are leaving home for the first time and to be a home away from home. The way that our faith is, we have to go through trials like Jesus did, and he told us that to follow him we have to take up our crosses and follow on his path.They were a bunch of people who I got along with and they became the closest people to me. I spent most of that year alone, but thanks to the advice from friends, I got through it.  If it wasn’t for my faith I would not be here today.

How I met our Mother

Wolketsweiler_Lourdes-GrotteI have always been a christian. I have been raised with christian values and learned the teachings of Jesus when I went to church on Sunday with my family. The only thing to made me feel more of a christian was that I was praying to Our Lady. It was only until I came to university that I realized that the other Christian churches don’t pray for her intercession. So for 18 years of my life I did not understand that I was special in comparison to my protestant friends. The specialty is because I have a heavenly mother who loves me and looks after me.

My home parish is called Our Lady of the Angels in Cwmbran and that was the name of my primary school as well. It was there that I first started learning about Mary and how important she is to us. She was the other teacher at school in how to follow the example of Jesus. Every school girl wants to play her in the nativity and as they grow older they want to imitate her in praying and behaviour, saying yes to God’s will.

The first time I properly felt that Mary was praying for me was when I went to Lourdes with HCPT. I was young and on pilgrimage for the first time. Right at the beginning I felt her protection because I was scared of flying. I was really nervous but the guy who I was flying with was an ex pilot and he talked me through everything. I am lucky he was looking after me, for I felt really safe and it is thanks to Our Lady for putting me in this position. If she didn’t appear to Bernadette at Lourdes then I wouldn’t have gone there. Its all in God’s plan. I am also scared of heights. I hate tall buildings because I feel as if they will fall on me. Silly but its in my mind. Quite often, churches, specially cathedrals, are quite tall and huge. So I am often afraid to go to mass in a certain place. Whilst in Lourdes, we visited the parish church where Bernadette was baptised. It isn’t an extraordinarily large building, but tall enough to make me frightened. I stayed in the lower parts of the church and lit a candle in front of a statue of the madonna. I prayed quite hard that I can get over this fear. Instantly I felt calmer and was able to walk around the church and felt safe. I thank Our Lady for this. I was prayed over because of this fear, and the priest said for me to say the Fatima prayer whenever I feel scared. Taught by Our Lady it goes; O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, specially those most in need of thine mercy. Amen. It is through this prayer that I feel really calm and righteousness.

Learning the rosary has helped me understand how Mary works in our lives. She is always pointing to her Son and wanting us to learn His ways. In the rosary we meditate on the mysteries of the faith and pray that we imitate what the contain and obtain what they promise. The rosary is a very powerful weapon, for it helps us concentrate on what Jesus wants us to be. He wants us to be in prayer always and to try to live a sinless life. Mary is a perfect model for this because of her Immaculate Conception and the way she treasured all she experienced and learned in her immaculate heart. Our Lady told the visionaries of Medugorje, “I give you the weapon against your Goliath. Here are your little stones: Prayer with the heart (Rosary), The Eucharist, The Holy Bible, Fasting and Monthly confession.” Everything she asks is directed to Christ and not her. The main message that She gave was about the love of God. “If you knew how much I love you, you’d cry of Joy!”

The Angelus is a great prayer to recite. It is a great occasion to say it with the Pope every Wednesday in the Vatican. It is a wholly biblical prayer. “The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary; And she conceived by the Holy Spirit.”, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; Be it done to me according to they will.” and “The word was made Flesh; And dwelt among us.” Following each of these statements we say the Marian pray the Hail Mary, which again is biblical, “Hail Mary, Full of grace, the Lord is with you, Blessed are thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us sinners now, until the hour of our death. Amen!” Another prayer which we say is the Salve Regina, or Hail Holy Queen. “Hail Holy Queen, Mother of mercy, be 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 vale of tears. Turn then most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary. Pray For us O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen!” The reason why we pray to Mary is to ask for her intercession. She is an advocate and is always here to aid us. She was instituted as the mother of the church whilst Jesus was on the Cross and she loves us all because of her sorrow she experienced with her son.

To make this all clear. We Do Not Worship Mary! That is reserved for God alone. We Do Not Pray To Mary Instead of God! we pray to her for her intercession to Jesus who is the only mediator between God the Father and Man.

So how did I meet our heavenly Mother, it was all just a matter of time. I was always destined to meet her and she was always destined to help protect and nurture me. I pray that Mary will pray for everyone who reads the post and that it touches their lives and starts a spring of living water which Jesus provides. I pray that those who do not appreciate the intercession of Our Lady may be made understanding of all the graces they receive from it. I pray for all those who already know of the great power of Mary’s prayers may grow to love her more and never cease to pray and grow in faith.

Our Lady of Lourdes; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Fatima; Pray for us.
Our Lady of Sorrows; Pray for us.
Our Lady, Queen of Peace; Pray for us.
Our Lady, Queen of Heaven; Pray for us.
Our Lady of the Angels; Pray for us.
Our Lady, Mother of the Church; Pray for us.
Our Lady, Our Mother; Pray for us.

  • Immaculate Heart of Mary, Pray for us Sinners now until the Hour of our Death! Amen!
  • Apologetic in Analogies

    APOLOGETICS

    We are all story tellers. We all explain theories and ideas in different ways as well. The Bible is a story itself in that it tells the tales of; the people of Israel, the travels of Paul, the acts of the apostles and most importantly the teachings of Jesus and the words of God. But its the way we tell these stories that get a reaction. Its like someone tells you a story about a man who’s wife who is murdered and then loses his only son on his first day at school and tries to find him anyway way he can. He is aided with a psychotic woman and finally find him in the end. Now if I were to tell you that, that was the basic plot to “Finding Nemo”, most people would agree that it wouldn’t be suitable to show kids. There is a famous phrase which I have recently learnt; “A text without a context is a pretext!” People should not think badly or prejudge what it is the text is saying without knowing what context it has for the reader. A classic case of this in the Bible is in James 2: 18-24. Here he is talking about how works affect salvation.The works he is talking about is what the gentiles must do to follow Christ. For the gentiles they were not circumcised and knew very little about Jewish customs. But the way we know what people were back then was by their works and keeping to traditions. This is where the term “an observant Jew” comes from. For when people say that it is Faith Alone that saves, this verse does not say anything otherwise, but it states that through faith you have to perform works.

    One of the misunderstanding about Catholicism is that around Confession. When we sin, it is like getting our clothes dirty. The more we sin, the more dirtier we become. Jesus comes and washes us, makes us clean. It doesn’t finish there, for we are still wet and can catch a cold or worse. The way we dry is by the spiritual tumble dryer, saying our penance. We are clean then and dry. Though we can get dirty, if we only just ask we can be washed and dried for free, again and again and again. He never tires of this we just tire of asking. We can receive this free gift in confession and in the Holy Mass. The priest is in “Persona Christi” which means that he is acting on behalf of Jesus, asking him for intercession and absolution.

    The best psalm to remember in this case is 46. It states that God is our refuge, a place to go when worried or afraid. Do not be afraid when things seem to go wrong, for God is with us. Have faith in God. Nothing shall harm us. If God is with us what can stand against us. numerous times in the bible it shows times of when God is with people and Jesus says he will be with us forever. If you look at train tracks, they are parallel. Think of it that on one track is sorrow, and the other is joy. You look into the horizon and they connect and join together. They don’t actually meet in reality but for what we see they join up. This is what happens as we go through life, we can be on either track. But in the end we can see them both join and become one. This is what Jesus promises in that everything good and sad will all reach its destination. Just remember the poem Footprints.  “And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

    That story shows how we are all give what we need and want. God gives it to us on a platter it is up to us to reach out and grab it.  We all feel lost sometimes but if we turn to God he provides the answers.

    There was a man who felt as though he had no luck in the world. He felt as if everything was against him. For example he is in line to get the last ticket for the cinema, he would miss out. It was all mundane things that he felt didn’t go his way. One day he got really fed up with this, so he thought, “I’m going to go to the end of the earth to talk to God about this.” So off he set on his travels. He was walking through a woods and he came across this really skinny looking wolf. He had not much energy and was tired of not eating anything but vegetation. The man stopped and asked the wolf how he was. The wolf replied, “I am tired of no one coming through the woods, all the animals have left and all I have to eat is leaves and mushrooms.” The man then said to the wolf, “Well I am on my way to speak to God about how much bad luck I am having perhaps I could ask him about your situation.”. The wolf was pleased with this news and let him carry on. Next he came to a little house just outside the woods. in this house was a very beautiful woman who was left the house by her father when he died. But the house is so far away from anywhere she hardly sees anyone. The man stopped at the house for a breather and got talking with the woman and explained his story. She the said, ” I wonder if you could ask God if there was any way I could be less lonely.”. The man agreed and carried on with his quest. He next came across a withered old looking tree. The man stopped for shade and began talking with the tree. The tree was thirsty and could not produce any leaves to survive. It asked the man whether he could ask God why is he in this state. The man again agreed and went on his way. Finally he reached the edge of the world. He saw God on a cloud not so far away. He called upon Him and started to ask him all the things he wanted to know. God said to the man, “look you have all the luck in the world, but you are not grabbing what is right in your face. Next time you are presented with a good thing take it.” Having all the information he needed he started walking back cheerfully thinking to himself about how lucky he is. He firstly came across the tree and he said “Hey Tree I have all the luck in the world I just don’t take my chances.”. The tree said, “that’s great but what about me?” the man explained that there was an old treasure chest right underneath the tree blocking its roots from reaching the nutrients. The chest is full of Gold and jewels. The tree then asked the man to dig up this chest so that it could survive and the man take the gold. But the man said, “No, I’ve got no time for that, I need to go home and find my luck.”. So he left the tree and walked on home. Next he came across the woman. He said, “I have all the luck in the world I just don’t take them even if they are right in front of my nose.” The woman asked for her answer, the man said, “All you need to do is to ask the next man who comes past to marry you. You’ll find your company and live happily.” The woman then said to the man. ” Well then, Will you marry me?”. The man said, “sorry but no. I’ve got to go find my good luck.” He then came across the wolf, who was almost at his end, and said “Hey wolf, I have all the Good luck I need.”. Then the wolf then asked, “What did God say about me?”. The man replied, “He said that the next man you see, you are to eat him. For you don’t get to eat often this will sustain you.” So then without hesitation, the wolf Gobbled up the man.

    Happy are those who have not seen but yet believe. There was a man who had studied for all his adult life. He ha studied psychology, theology and drama. He was trying out an experiment with people. He would carry a small bird in his hand, only showing its beak. He would ask whether they thought the bird was alive or dead. If they said the bird was dead then he’d open his hand and show it was alive. If they said alive then he’ squeeze his hand and kill the bird then reveal it. He had asked everyone he knew. Then finally he asked a priest the question. The priest responded “that is not the question you should be asking, for you have the control here. It can be alive in your heart if you believe it. We must always ask ourselves in our hearts, do we believe that Christ is risen.

    How do catholics celebrate easter

    TriduumImage

    Holy week is just around the corner. We’re almost through our Lenten observances and we are close to what is the greatest celebration of the year. Easter is when we remember joyfully, the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. It is here that Jesus conquers death and brings us into a new covenant with God. “Let the Church with gladness, hymns of triumph sing; for her Lord now liveth, death hath lost its sting.” (Thine be the Glory, Hymn.)

    The first four days of Holy week
    This week starts as it ends, with Jesus triumphantly entering into Jerusalem. This scene is portrayed in every church; we all stand outside, with palm branches, and hear the gospel before entering back into the church to continue with the liturgy. We do this in memory of what the people did for Jesus in Matthew, chapter 21.
    21 When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” 4 This took place to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,
    5 “Tell the daughter of Zion,
    Look, your king is coming to you,
    humble, and mounted on a donkey,
    and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
    6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
    “Hosanna to the Son of David!
    Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
    Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
    (N.R.S.V)

    We then enter Holy week singing praise to Christ. But this is not the way that we go throughout the whole of the week. On Palm Sunday, we hear for the first time, the passion of Jesus in the gospel. Monday and Tuesday of this week are generally normal, just having mass on these days and still preparing for the coming feast of Easter. On Wednesday, usually, there is a Chrism mass in the diocesan cathedral to bless the oils of Chrism which the priests will use for the sacraments for the coming year.

    Maundy Thursday

    This is the day when we celebrate the Lords supper, which was the night that the sacrament of the Eucharist was instituted. This mass is different from any mass of the year. Firstly when the bells are rung in the Gloria, they are not rung until Easter vigil. This is the first time the Gloria is sung during the whole season of lent. This is the last time an organ is used too, unless it is to support singing.
    After the homily which the priest or deacon gives, certain members of the laity come forward to have their feet washed. This is to go along with what Jesus did to his Apostles. This can be found in John 13: 1-7. After this the priest returns to his feet, puts back on his chasuble and the mass carries on again.

    For three reasons, the celebration of the Eucharist is important on this evening. Firstly it is the sacrament of the Eucharist, Christ is made present in the host and we are not worthy to let him under the roof of our mouths. Secondly, it is on the night that Jesus instituted this very sacrament that we are celebrating it. Thirdly, because this sacrament cannot happen until the Easter vigil, three days away.
    After communion, the Blessed Sacrament is taken from the Altar in a procession to a separate Altar for reposition. When the priest arrives, we all adore the Blessed Sacrament and sing the Tantem Ergo. People are invited to stay and pray and adore the Blessed Sacrament. This is to go in with what Jesus asked his disciples in the garden of gethsemane, Matthew 26: 36-46. The Altar is stripped and the church is made bare.

    Good Friday

    The first thing to remember is that only the sacraments of the Anointing of the Sick and Penance are celebrated on Good Friday and Holy Saturday (Missale Romanum, “Rubrics for Good Friday” (GF, no.1.). This means that it is not a mass that people got to on Friday but a service. And this service is very different from any other services of word and communion that take place around the world when a priest is not available.

    The service begins with a solemn procession by the priest and assisting severs to the bare sanctuary. On arrival, everyone kneels and the priest then prostrates himself before the sanctuary in prayer. He then gets up and says the opening prayers. We then hear the two readings and followed by the passion of Jesus. After this, there is a brief homily.
    Then the priest goes to collect a wooden cross. He processes it and shows it to the congregation to adore. Stopping three times he says, “The wood of the cross, on which hung the saviour of the world.” To which we all reply, “come let us worship.” The priest then hands the cross over to a server for himself to venerate the cross. He then invites the congregation to do likewise. The cross is the placed by the altar. Whilst this is going on, the Altar is dressed so that the Blessed Sacrament can be placed upon it.

    There is then a small procession by the priest to collect the Blessed Sacrament and brings it back to the Altar. Communion is then shared with the people. If there is any of the Blessed Sacrament left, then it is taken back to where it was previously kept, unless if the Easter vigil in not celebrated in the same church then it can be placed in the tabernacle.
    There is a final blessing given by the priest. There is another procession out by the priest with servers, before they leave, they genuflect to the cross. The rubrics states that everyone must leave in silence.

    Easter Vigil

    This is the most important part of the year. This is the night when Christ rose from the dead and brought us to salvation. We mark this by having a massive mass to which there are four parts. The first part is the service of light.

    We start the mass outside the church after sundown. The church is in Darkness. There is a fire burning and people gather round this fire. The priest then blesses the fire and lights the paschal candle, a really big candle that is decorated to show the year. The reason behind the candle is that it represents Christ as the light of the world. The candle is blessed and processed into the church. The priest then chants “Light of Christ” and the congregation then responds, “Thanks be to God.” This is done three times. The light is then passed around everyone. Then the Easter proclamation is sung. The Exsultet is a great hymn of joy singing praise of Christ conquering death and how this Holy night will be celebrated with happiness and peace.

    Next we go onto the service of the word. This is where we hear seven readings from the Old Testament. The readings are; Genesis 1:1-2:2 the story of creation, Genesis 22: 1-18 where God tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, Exodus 14: 15-15:1 when the Israelites cross the Red sea, Isiah 54: 5-14 God promises a new covenant, Isiah 55: 1-11 the Lord invites us to turn to Him, Baruch 3:9-15,32-4:4 shows that all wisdom comes from God and Ezekiel 36:16-28 says that the Lord will be honoured.

    Following these readings comes the Gloria, whilst during the singing of this hymn of praise; the bells once again ring out with Joy. This is followed by the epistle reading of Roman 6:3-11, “Don’t you know that all who share in Christ Jesus by being baptized also share in his death?” (N.R.S.V) and this is the followed by the gospel. There is a Homily as well.

    This leads onto the third part of the mass, the service of baptism. This is where people, usually adults, are received into the church and are baptized. The water is blessed and used in the baptism. The congregation is then invited to renew their baptismal vows. The litany of saints is also said or sung, to which the response is “Pray for us”.
    Then the mass will carry on as usual with the final part, the celebration of the Eucharist. This is the first time that the Eucharistic prayer is said after Maundy Thursday. The mass concludes normally with the dismissal, but added at the end is “Go in the peace of Christ, Alleluia, Alleluia. “To which the response is, “thanks be to God, Alleluia, Alleluia. “

    What happens next?

    That is the end of the Triduum, and so we all go out and rejoice in the risen lord. I have a tradition of having a massive Chinese takeaway feast with some of the senior servers in my home parish. In the parish, they have cheese and wine after the mass. But the main thing is to go away happy because Jesus Christ has risen from the dead to save us from death and bring us to new life. The thing to remember as well is that there is mass the next morning. So not too much celebration.

    The mystery of Easter only comes round once a year and so it is a big celebration. It is not Holy days of Obligation, but it is celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.

    Look out for the times for these services in your parish. Invite non-Catholic and non-Christian friends to come along. I’m sure they’ll enjoy this great feast.

    Liam James Williams
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    Why Serve at the Altar of God?

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    I have been an Altar Server for 14 years. I started soon after I received my first Holy Communion and I am still severing today. I have grown up in the understanding and reverence for serving the Holy Mass. I serve in two Parishes at present, serve in two Cathedrals occasionally and I have also had the honour of serving in Lourdes. I am able to serve the Novus Ordo Missal as well as serving in the Extraordinary form. I was also Master of Ceremonies in my local Parish which has enforced my love for serving our Lord at the Altar.
    The best feeling I believe is when the server is kneeling at the foot of the Altar during the Eucharistic Prayer, swaying the thurible with the beautiful fragrance fill the majestic church. When the priest elevates the blessed sacrament and the sacrifice on Calvary is made present, I am filled with awe. Blessing the sacrament with the incense and saying the words, My Lord and My God, I feel unworthy to be where I am in the church. But I shouldn’t. I am extremely privileged to be here, kneeling before the Lamb of God, worshipping and praising our Lord God.
    To be an Altar Server is an experience that I am privilege to be a part of. The role of the Server is to assists the priest and congregation in saying the prayer of the Holy Mass. They should be unnoticeable and always in prayer. They should not be moving around and should do everything with reverence and care. When processing the book of the gospel, whilst being an Acolyte, this must be done prayerfully and reverently, this is due to the fact we are leading the word of God to a place it will be preached and the good news shared. At the offertory, where the prayers of the people are brought to the sanctuary in the form of the gifts of bread and wine, to be placed upon the Altar, the server must hold the gifts with the utmost respect.
    Why be an Altar Server? First of all, you’re close to consecrated host, the most holiest thing in existence. Secondly, you are always praying. Thirdly you will have St. Stephen as an example and he will pray for you. Fourthly, you will be loved by everyone, you get tea and biscuits after mass and people recognize you either in the church or out in the town or daily lives. Finally, you are being a witness to Christ. You are doing what He asked us to do, to serve one another.
    Lord Jesus, thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve you during in the Holy Mass. Through your sacred presence, my heart is filled with joy and peace, may your spirit always guide me, so I may grow in your love. By the grace of the Heavenly Father, and in your Holy name Jesus Christ. Amen.