SOLT Christmas Novena: This year the usual novena of 9 Masses will be said by my colleague Fr Mark and I beginning on Christmas Day. If you would like to enrol somebody in the novena you can email me at email@example.com with your address, the number of cards requested and when known, the names to be included in the novena. Recommended donation is €3/£3 per card which will cover mailing. Proceeds benefit the training of SOLT seminarians and the SOLT sisters’ missions.
This was today’s homily.
I returned Tuesday from a wonderful priests’ retreat in Fatima. Blue skies and sunshine for the whole week without even a hint of rain. You might like to consider Fatima or Medjugorje next year for a fine weather and holy holiday.
During the retreat we heard many great presentations from top international speakers and today I’d like to share some of the highlights with you.
The Fatima Message can be summarised by the prayer that Our Lady asked to be said at the end of every decade of the Rosary: “O my Jesus forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell; lead all souls to heaven especially those in most need of your mercy.”
As a most perfect and devoted mother, Mary is intensely interested that all of her children reach heaven. Like any other mother, she wants the very best for her offspring. Yet she told the 3 shepherd children that many souls are lost. They fail to walk the narrow way that leads to eternal life as Jesus speaks about in the gospel. I would be a defective and poor pastor if I didn’t share this same concern.
To highlight this reality Our Lady of Fatima showed the children a graphic vision of hell in the July 13th apparition. Those of you who saw the Fatima DVD in the parish hall recently will remember this.
She said that most souls are lost because of sexual sins. This is a sober reminder that contrary to today’s values, God’s gift of sexuality is strictly limited to a valid marriage between husband and wife that is open to life.
What Our Lady said at Fatima about the salvation of souls is similar to today’s second reading. St Paul said “We should not go on sleeping as everybody else does, but stay wide awake and sober.” If we are asleep we are not aware of what is happening around us and where we are going. For example, if we fall asleep while driving we will soon crash. On the other hand if we are awake, we are alert to the world around us and we will be able to find our way to our destination – which for Christians is Our Father’s House.
A few months ago I devoted a homily to the existence of the devil, to him being a real person, given completely to evil and our mortal enemy. He is not a mythical cartoon character with a red suit, long tail and pitchfork! One of the most memorable talks was given by a leading US exorcist. He gave a powerful account of an exorcism carried out on a possessed man. It wasn’t as quite as dramatic as what we saw in the EXORCIST movie but still captivating enough to demand our full attention throughout.
We were also told about the many doors in our modern world that provide access to the devil. One of them is alternative medicine that is linked to Eastern religion. A very particular example is Reiki which should not be touched with a barge pole. For young people games linked to the occult should be avoided like the Ouija (weegie) Board; another similar game that I hadn’t heard of is called Charlie/Charlie where crossed pencil move on their own by occult power. Another trap is certain types of pop music. Mention was made of the pop star Beyonce who claims that a spirit possesses her when on stage. It is unlikely that this spirit is anything to do with the HOLY Spirit.
A major avenue for the devil is the modern pandemic of pornography which is highly addictive. Because of the internet and smart phones, the average age at which children have their first exposure to this is 11. This should be a matter of serious concern to parents as they seek to protect their children from this debasement . It going without saying that pornography is a grave sin that violates the 5th, 6th and 9th Commandments.
How can we help Our Lady to lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of God’s mercy? What was suggested at the retreat was the acronym C.A.R.E.
C = regular confession, perhaps monthly, preceded by a meaningful examination of conscience. Sin is the ultimate thing that separates us from God and one another.
A = (weekly) adoration of Jesus really present in the Blessed Sacrament. This is a true foretaste of our future life of heaven.
R = Rosary every day as Our Lady requested.
E = Eucharist. Attend Mass not just on Sundays and Holy Days but weekdays if possible. As Our Lord Jesus said in the Last Supper: Do this in memory of me.
If we live holy lives, then its effects will ripple out and affect others. Think about how you have been helped in your faith journey by the example of holy parents and grandparents.
In summary: Our Lady and St Paul want us to be spiritually awake and alert as we journey to Our Father’s House. As a speaker said: TIME FLIES AND ETERNITY IS FOREVER.