9th December – 2nd Sunday of Advent (C).

SOLT Christmas Novena: This year the usual novena of 9 Masses will be said beginning on Christmas Day. If you would like to enrol somebody in the novena you can email me at soltlondon@hotmail.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 my homily for today.

I am regularly asked about how a Kerryman shows up in Donegal. Depending on the time I have, I explain that I belong to a religious order based in Texas, USA. Since I was diagnosed with cancer in 2013 I’ve had to stay in Ireland because of health insurance and also being able to live with my sister when necessary. My superior knew Bishop Boyce and this led to me being placed here.

mother-teresaOnce Mother Teresa was similarly asked about where she was from and doing, etc. She said: “By birth I am an Albanian, by citizenship an Indian. I am a Catholic sister. By my mission I belong to the whole world, but my heart belongs to Jesus alone.”

I tell you that because it sums up the whole Christian journey – our hearts belonging to Jesus alone. For most of us this journey will extend beyond this life and through the final purification (Purgatory) when we will be rid of all our attachments to lesser things.

Advent is a special season in the year when we work on this great project. As I said last week, the word ‘Advent’ is from Latin and means ‘coming’ – the coming of Christ. It is easy to identify two great comings of Christ. The first was 2000 years ago when he descended from the Trinity and became a little unborn baby within Mary, being born 9 months later. The final coming will be at the end of time and will herald the Final Judgement of mankind.

But there is another coming that I didn’t really understand until a few years ago in spite of having spend 6 years in the seminary and being in ministry for a considerable time. Jesus comes annually  through GRACE each Advent/Christmas season to renew us spiritually, so that eventually our hearts will belong to him alone. But we have to COOPERATE with these yearly comings. God is very respectful of our freedom and never acts in our lives unless we consent.

So how do we individually cooperate with this annual coming of Christ, right here in this parish, this December of 2018? I want to consider 4 points taken from God’s Word for today.

FIRSTLY, a serious effort is required on our behalf. It is no trivial matter. In the gospel we heard John the Baptist announce at the time of Jesus’ first coming: “Prepare a way for the Lord… Every valley will be filled in… Every mountain will be laid low.” This speaks to us of some serious earth moving – knocking down mountains and filling in valleys. It is even bigger that the local Mountcharles roadworks.  Correspondingly, we have serious ‘earth moving’ to do within because we are all affected by the apathy and inertia of the world around us. The common mood is “I’m OK and you’re OK!” We are told that there is no need for any of us to change and grow spiritually.

SECONDLY: How do we overcome this spiritual apathy and inertia within and outside of us? In the gospel we heard John the Baptist proclaiming repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As the NIKE ad says: “Just do it!” We need to examine our lives in the light of the Holy Spirit using the sheet I mentioned last week – the one that takes us through the Ten Commandments according to modern living. Then we have to make it to Confession sometime before Christmas. Just do it!

THIRDLY: Preparing our hearts for Jesus isn’t just about avoiding wrong things prohibited by the Commandments. Christianity is all about a positive option, a life of self-giving love. In the second reading St Paul said the loved the Philippians as much as Jesus loved them. We all have people in our lives that we find it difficult to love and get on with. This week make a big effort to see in them the face of Jesus and that they are his beloved brothers and sisters. It will make a big difference in how we relate to them.

youcatFOURTHLY: We need to know our Faith better. People who are in the ‘know’ say that this is a major weakness of Irish Catholicism . We are great when it comes to devotions – going to Lough Derg, climbing Croagh Patrick, making pilgrimages, visiting holy wells and Mass rocks, etc. These are great things to do but do not compensate for knowing how to live a Christian life in a secular world. People have all sorts of degrees and yet their knowledge of the Faith is limited to what they had in 6th class in primary school. St Paul said in the second reading: “My prayer is that you never stop improving your knowledge and deepening your perception of [the gospel].” This is my prayer for you too.

The quote I read earlier from Mother Teresa was taken from the YOUCAT catechism I mentioned recently. This is the best explanation of the Catholic Faith we’ve seen in the last 2000 years. Treat yourselves to a great Christmas present this year – it only costs €10 and is available online and from Catholic bookshops.

In summary: Jesus comes again each Advent and Christmas to renew us and so that our hearts can belong to him alone. To cooperate with this coming we need to make a serious effort to be faithful to the Commandments, to love generously like Jesus and know our Faith better.

 

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8th December – The Immaculate Conception of Our Lady.

our lady queen of peaceToday’s homily was based on the video below that I received through WhatsApp. I actually illustrated the example used by Fr Masters by holding the Mass chalice in one hand and a bottle of Fanta orange in the other – without doing any pouring! If Jesus came into our world through the sinless and all-pure Mary, then we too must endeavour to imitate her holiness of life. We always need to remember that we also carry Jesus within by virtue of our baptism and living in the state of grace.

This is a challenge because our world glamorises sin and impurity. Today’s first reading describing  the Original Sin of our first parents unmasks the true face of evil. The Evil One – Satan – is depicted as a snake, the most ugly, fearsome and deceptive of all creatures. St John says that Satan is the father of ALL lies.

On the other hand we see in Mary’s countenance the beauty of purity and holiness. Many artists over the generations have tried to capture this. My favourite is the image of Our Lady Queen of Peace. This is a statue near the village of Medjugorje that the visionaries said was the best way they could allude to her heavenly beauty.

 

7th December – St Ambrose.

Sr. Mary Mediatrix of All Grace, SOLT shares a reflection for the first Sunday of Advent, reminding us that this is a time to slow down and reflect, to make a good confession and deepen our prayer life so that we may live in union with Our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

6th December – St Nicholas.

These were my few words for today’s Mass.

God Jesus holding aborted baby

JESUS HOLDING ABORTED BABY

I was saddened this morning to hear in the news that the abortion legislation was passed by the Dail (parliament) by 90 votes to 15 with 12 abstentions. This condemnation of the poor and innocent by the ruling powers is a modern day version of Pilate’s condemnation of Jesus. After Jesus, the next most innocent members of the human race must be the baby in the womb.

In such circumstances it is easy to feel disheartened and defeated. What can a fledgling pro-life movement do in the face of an overwhelming Culture of Death (St John Paul II) and general public apathy?

There is good news however in the first reading which can be paraphrased by ‘God hears the cry of the poor’ – a psalm verse beloved by Pope Francis. Listen to the first reading again:

Trust in the Lord for ever,
for the Lord is the everlasting Rock;
he has brought low those who lived high up
in the steep citadel [the rich and powerful]; he brings it down,
brings it down to the ground…
the feet of the lowly, the footsteps of the poor trample on it.

The shocking extent of the abortion legislation is portrayed in the following video. It was originally posted on Facebook but was blocked because it was seen as ‘offensive’ – sometimes the truth is exactly that! It is now on YouTube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwEyV-R2OpQ&feature=youtu.be&mc_cid=0acd4c493a&mc_eid=b9c6f19ead

 

5th December.

This was my few words for today.

Much of current conversation focuses on yesterday’s tragic road fatality, a young man who was due to be best-man at his brother’s wedding this Friday. Everybody can empathise with the plight of the family in such circumstances. Many of us have had (hopefully) lesser versions happen in our own lives.

All this is powerfully expressed in the HAIL HOLY QUEEN prayer which speaks about ‘mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.’ There is a certain level of tragedy that happens in our lives for which there is no earthly solution apart from time which will lessen our sense of grief and loss.

easter-resurrection-sunday-jesus-christThere is however A solution which only God can provide, in his Kingdom, beyond death and this valley of tears. This was achieved through Jesus’ Death and Resurrection and is the subject of today’s first reading:

A reading from the prophet Isaiah       25:6-10
The Lord invites us to his banquet and wipes away the tears from every cheek.

On this mountain [a high place where we encounter God],
the Lord of hosts will prepare for all peoples
a banquet of rich food, a banquet of fine wines
[a banquet where the deepest desires of our heart, for peace and joy, for relationship with loved ones, will be fulfilled]…
He will remove the mourning veil covering all peoples,
and the shroud enwrapping all nations,
he will destroy Death for ever.
The Lord of Hosts will wipe away
the tears from every cheek,
for the Lord has said so.
That day, it will be said:
See, this is our God in whom we hoped for salvation;
[salvation from the unfixable tragedies of this valley of tears]
the Lord is the one in whom we hoped.
We exult and we rejoice
that he has saved us.

The Word of the Lord

 

4th December.

I forgot to mention that I officiated at Auntie Hannah’s funeral in Birmingham last Friday. Here are some pictures from her Order of Service.

Hannah Nolan

Hannah worked as a bus conductress on the #8 for 7 years.

hannah wedding

Married Michael Nolan at home (Glengarrif) in 1957.

AdventWhat should a Christian Advent look like? Here is a bit I put in the newsletter this week.

ADVENT comes from Latin and means ‘to come’. It is a time of expectant waiting for the coming of the Saviour who will deliver us from sin and death. Advent is not a warm-up for the Christmas party time as we see in the secular world with its constant playing of tinny Christmas music from Halloween onwards. Coupled with this is a whole barrage of adverts telling us to buy, buy, buy! Advent is meant to be a journey of hope-filled waiting for Emmanuel, God-with-us. It is similar to the journey through Lent and Holy Week that leads to our celebration of Easter Sunday. A Christian celebration of Advent is helped by listening to appropriate Advent music: Christmas music can properly begin on Christmas Eve. Another aid to a Christian Advent would be to turn off the lights and devices at the end of the day and sit in silence with a candle for 5-10 minutes in the presence of God.

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If you’d like to look more into the meaning of Advent, this is taken from Jimmy Akins of the National Catholic Register.

  1. What Is the Purpose of Advent?

Advent is a season on the Church’s liturgical calendar–specifically, it is as season on the calendar of the Latin Church, which is the largest Church in communion with the pope.

Other Catholic Churches–as well as many non-Catholic churches–have their own celebration of Advent.

According to the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar:

Advent has a twofold character:

  • as a season to prepare for Christmas when Christ’s first coming to us is remembered;
  • as a season when that remembrance directs the mind and heart to await Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time.

Advent is thus a period for devout and joyful expectation [Norms 39].

We tend to think of Advent only as the season in which we prepare for Christmas, or the First Coming of Christ, but as the General Norms point out, it is important that we also remember it as a celebration in which we look forward to the Second Coming of Christ.

Properly speaking, Advent is a season that brings to mind the Two Comings of Christ.

 

  1. What Liturgical Colors Are Used in Advent?

Particular days and certain types of celebrations can have their own colors (e.g., red for martyrs, black or white at funerals), but the normal color for Advent is violet. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal provides:

The color violet or purple is used in Advent and Lent. It may also be worn in Offices and Masses for the Dead [346d].

In many places, there is a notable exception for the Third Sunday of Advent, known asGaudete Sunday:

The color rose may be used, where it is the practice, on Gaudete Sunday (Third Sunday of Advent) and on Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent) [GIRM 346f].

 

  1. Is Advent a Penitential Season?

We often think of Advent as a penitential season because the liturgical color for Advent is violet, like the color of Lent, which is a penitential season.

However, in reality, Advent is not a penitential season. Surprise!

According to the Code of Canon Law:

Can.  1250 The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.

Although local authorities can establish additional penitential days, this is a complete listing of the penitential days and times of the Latin Church as a whole, and Advent is not one of them.

 

  1. When Does Advent Begin and End?

According to the General Norms:

Advent begins with evening prayer I of the Sunday falling on or closest to 30 November and ends before evening prayer I of Christmas [Norms 40].

The Sunday on or closest to November 30 can range between November 27 and December 3, depending on the year.

In the case of a Sunday, Evening Prayer I is said on the evening of the preceding day (Saturday). According to the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours:

  1. Evening prayer, celebrated immediately before Mass, is joined to it in the same way as morning prayer. Evening prayer I ofsolemnities, Sundays, or feasts of the Lord falling on Sundaysmay not be celebrated until after Mass of the preceding day or Saturday.

This means that Advent begins on the evening of a Saturday falling between November 26 and December 2 (inclusive), and it ends on the evening of December 24th, which holds Evening Prayer I of Christmas (December 25th).

 

  1. What Is the Role of Sundays in Advent?

There are four Sundays of Advent. The General Norms state:

The Sundays of this season are named the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Sundays of Advent [Norms 41].

We have already mentioned that the Third Sunday of Advent has a special name–Gaudete Sunday.Gaudete is the Latin word for “Rejoice,” which is the first word of the introit of the Mass for this day.

The Church ascribes particular importance to these Sundays, and they take precedence over other liturgical celebrations. Thus the General Norms state:

Because of its special importance, the Sunday celebration gives way only to solemnities or feasts of the Lord. The Sundays of the seasons of Advent, Lent, and Easter, however, take precedence over all solemnities and feasts of the Lord. Solemnities occuring on these Sundays are observed on the Saturdays preceding [Norms 5].

You also cannot celebrate Funeral Masses on the Sundays of Advent:

Among the Masses for the Dead, the Funeral Mass holds first place. It may be celebrated on any day except for Solemnities that are Holydays of Obligation, Thursday of Holy Week, the Paschal Triduum, and the Sundays of Advent, Lent, and Easter, with due regard also for all the other requirements of the norm of the law [GIRM 380].

 

  1. What Happens on Weekdays in Advent?

It is especially recommended that homilies be given on the weekdays of Advent. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) states:

On Sundays and Holydays of Obligation there is to be a Homily at every Mass that is celebrated with the people attending and it may not be omitted without a grave reason. On other days it is recommended, especially on the weekdays of Advent, Lent and Easter Time, as well as on other festive days and occasions when the people come to church in greater numbers [GIRM 66].

The General Norms also point out a special role for the weekdays of the week preceding Christmas:

The weekdays from 17 December to 24 December inclusive serve to prepare more directly for the Lord’s birth [Norms 41].

This special role is illustrated, for example, by the Scripture readings used in the liturgy on these days.

 

  1. How Are Churches Decorated During Advent?

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal notes:

During Advent the floral decoration of the altar should be marked by a moderation suited to the character of this time of year, without expressing in anticipation the full joy of the Nativity of the Lord. During Lent it is forbidden for the altar to be decorated with flowers. Exceptions, however, are Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent), Solemnities, and Feasts [GIRM 305].

 

  1. How Is Music Performed During Advent?

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal notes:

In Advent the use of the organ and other musical instruments should be marked by a moderation suited to the character of this time of year, without expressing in anticipation the full joy of the Nativity of the Lord. In Lent the playing of the organ and musical instruments is allowed only in order to support the singing. Exceptions, however, are Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent), Solemnities, and Feasts [GIRM 313].

 

  1. Is the Gloria Said or Sung During Advent?

Neither. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal provides:

[The Gloria or “Glory to God in the highest”] is sung or said on Sundays outside Advent and Lent, and also on Solemnities and Feasts, and at particular celebrations of a more solemn character [GIRM 53].

 

  1. What Private Devotions Can We Use to Grow Closer to God During Advent?

There are a variety of private devotions that the Church has recognized for use during Advent. The most famous is the Advent Wreath.

You can read about these devotions in the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (starting at no. 96).

 

 

3rd December – St Francis Xavier.

francisxavierToday’s saint is Francis Xavier (*1506 +1552) a co-patron of the foreign missions. He is remarkable for his zeal for God and the salvation of souls. This is evident in the following excerpt from a letter he wrote to his superior St Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. This zeal for the salvation of souls is much diminished in our times because we have taken Jesus’ narrow gate that leads to salvation and turned it into a wide gate for our own ease and (false) peace of mind.

How can we imitate St Francis Xavier? Well we can pray for the work of the missions. Secondly we can look to the mission of our own families and pray for those who are lapsed and witness our personal faith to them as best we can – like having crucifixes and holy pictures around our home. Are there any children in the extended family that we can pray with and bring to Sunday Mass? Could we sacrifice some of our personal time and energy and join an apostolate like the Legion of Mary or Saint Vincent De Paul and be local missionaries?  Another means would be to give financially to a wonderful group Aid to the Church in Need which supports the Church’s mission especially in areas of persecution – like Asia and the Middle East.

We have visited the villages of the new converts who accepted the Christian religion a few years ago. No Portuguese live here, the country is so utterly barren and poor. The native Christians have no priests. They know only that they are Christians. There is nobody to say Mass for them; nobody to teach them the Creed, the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the Commandments of God’s Law.

  I have not stopped since the day I arrived. I conscientiously made the rounds of the villages. I bathed in the sacred waters all the children who had not yet been baptized. This means that I have purified a very large number of children so young that, as the saying goes, they could not tell their right hand from their left. The older children would not let me say my [Divine] Office or eat or sleep until I taught them one prayer or another. Then I began to understand: “The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

  I could not refuse so devout a request without failing in devotion myself. I taught them, first the confession of faith in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, then the Apostles’ Creed, the Our Father and Hail Mary. I noticed among them persons of great intelligence. If only someone could educate them in the Christian way of life, I have no doubt that they would make excellent Christians.

  Many, many people hereabouts are not becoming Christians for one reason only: there is nobody to make them Christians… I wish they [academics] would work as hard at [being missionaries] as they do at their books, and so settle their account with God for their learning and the talents entrusted to them.