13th October – Our Lady of Fatima

FatimaPictureToday is the memorial of Our Lady of the Fatima, specifically the 100th anniversary of the final apparition of Our Lady to the three shepherd children Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco in 1917. Below is a homily extract of Pope Benedict XVI when he visited the shrine in 2010 and talked about the relevance of the apparition. Try to give it a ‘quality’ and prayerful reading.

Dearly beloved brothers and sisters, I have come as a pilgrim to Fatima, to this “home” from which Mary chose to speak to us in modern times. I have come to Fatima to rejoice in Mary’s presence and maternal protection. I have come to Fatima, because today the pilgrim Church, willed by her Son as the instrument of evangelization and the sacrament of salvation, converges upon this place. I have come to Fatima to pray, in union with Mary and so many pilgrims, for our human family, afflicted as it is by various ills and sufferings. Finally, I have come to Fatima with the same sentiments as those of Blessed Francisco and Jacinta, and the Servant of God Lúcia, in order to entrust to Our Lady the intimate confession that “I love” Jesus.

In seven years you will return here to celebrate the centenary of the first visit made by the Lady “come from heaven”, the Teacher who introduced the little seers to a deep knowledge of the Love of the Blessed Trinity and led them to savour God himself as the most beautiful reality of human existence. This experience of grace made them fall in love with God in Jesus, so much so that Jacinta could cry out: “How much I delight in telling Jesus that I love him! When I tell him this often, I feel as if I have a fire in my breast, yet it does not burn me”. And Francisco could say: “What I liked most of all was seeing Our Lord in that light which Our Mother put into our hearts. I love God so much!” (Memoirs of Sister Lúcia, I, 42 and 126).

Brothers and sisters, in listening to these innocent and profound mystical confidences of the shepherd children, one might look at them with a touch of envy for what they were able to see, or with the disappointed resignation of someone who was not so fortunate, yet still demands to see. To such persons, the Pope says, as does Jesus: “Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?” (Mk 12:24). The Scriptures invite us to believe: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (Jn 20:29), but God, who is more deeply present to me than I am to myself (cf. Saint Augustine, Confessions, III, 6, 11) – has the power to come to us, particularly through our inner senses, so that the soul can receive the gentle touch of a reality which is beyond the senses and which enables us to reach what is not accessible or visible to the senses. For this to happen, we must cultivate an interior watchfulness of the heart which, for most of the time, we do not possess on account of the powerful pressure exerted by outside realities and the images and concerns which fill our soul. Yes! God can come to us, and show himself to the eyes of our heart.

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12th October.

This is the gospel of the day and the Bishops’ website commentary.

holy spirit 8GOSPEL

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke     11:5-13
Ask, and it will be given to you.

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him in the middle of the night to say, “My friend, lend me three loaves,  because a friend of mine on his travels has just arrived at my house and I have nothing to offer him;” and the man answers from inside the house, “Do not bother me. The door is bolted now, and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up to give it you. ” I tell you, if the man does not get up and give it him for friendship’s sake, persistence will be enough to make him get up and give his friend all he wants.

So I say to you: Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him. What father among you would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or hand him a snake instead of a fish? Or hand him a scorpion if he asked for an egg? If you then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

The Gospel of the Lord.
Gospel Reflection        Thursday,      Twenty Seventh Week in Ordinary Time        Luke 11:5-13

In the Middle Eastern culture of Jesus’ time hospitality was a sacred duty; indeed, it still is in that part of the world today. It is inconceivable that someone in desperate need who knocks on the door of a friend would be refused hospitality, even if it was in the middle of the night. Jesus is saying, ‘if that is how hospitable you are, think of how hospitable God is’. If you are prepared to get up in the middle of the night when a friend knocks on your door, then you should never be slow to knock on God’s door because God is an even more wonderful friend to you. Jesus encourages us in that gospel reading, to knock on God’s door, to seek out God, to petition God. It is a ringing endorsement of the prayer of petition. What are we to ask God for? To put that question another way, ‘What does God want to give us?’ At the end of that gospel reading Jesus declares that what God wants to give us is the Holy Spirit. ‘How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him’. God wants to give us what we most need, and what we most need is the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who empowers us to take the path God wants us to take, the path that leads to fullness of life for ourselves and for others, here and now and in eternity. Jesus insists that if we keep on asking God for that gift of the Spirit we won’t find God wanting.

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The Gospel reflection comes from WEEKDAY REFLECTIONSTo know the love of Christ 2016/2017 by Martin Hogan published by  The Messenger c/f www.messenger.ie
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11th October.

Yesterday evening I attended a large meeting in Derry City on Consecration to Our Lady. The main speaker was Fr Michael Gaitley who wrote the acclaimed work 33 DAYS TO MORNING GLORY which brings together the Marian spiritualities of St Louis de Montford, St John Paul II, St Maximilian Kolbe, and St Teresa of Calcutta. A million free copies are being given out in Ireland so that as many as possible will do the 33 day consecration from Nov 5 – Dec 8th. This is the best response to all the challenges that the Church faces in our present times. St Louis de Montford said that this a QUICK, SURE and EASY way to be a saint. St John Paul II said that it was “decisive turning point” in his life. If you want to do the consecration and don’t have the book, it can be got on AMAZON or in any Catholic book store. It is nothing more that taking Mary as our mother as Jesus bid the beloved disciple on Good Friday:  “25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home [of his heart].” (John 19).

A point in Fr Gaitley’s talk resonated with yesterday’s blog. He said that as a result of Original Sin, we tend to have a negative view of God’s goodness. If you remember, Satan put doubt into our first parents about God’s motives towards them. One wonderful image to dispel this inclination is to reflect on Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son.

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10th October.

The first truth affirmed by our Christian Creed is that God is Father, almighty. We will never get to the end of this great mystery in this life. Much of our growth as Christians depends on our capacity to relate to God as Father.

The following article by Fr Ron Rolheiser discusses a proper respect and ‘fear’ of God. I think it hits a good balance overall. We do need to keep in mind that Our Lady showed a graphic image of Hell to the Fatima children and asked us to pray for those endangered souls at the end of each decade of the Rosary. Jesus doesn’t ‘beat around the bush’ either in his parables of Dives & Lazarus and the Last Judgement. Yet we must always remember that we select Hell as our final destination by choosing evil over good.

Try to give the article a quality reading.

HEALTHY AND UNHEALTHY FEAR OF GOD

praise fathergodAs a theologian, priest, and preacher, I often get asked: “Why isn’t the church preaching more fear of God anymore? Why aren’t we preaching more about the dangers of going to hell? Why aren’t we preaching more about God’s anger and hellfire?”

It’s not hard to answer that. We aren’t preaching a lot about fear because to do so, unless we are extremely careful in our message, is simply wrong. Admittedly fear can cause people to change their behavior, but so can intimidation and brainwashing. Just because something is effective doesn’t mean it is right. Fear of God may only be preached within a context of love.

Scripture itself seemingly gives us a mixed message: On the one hand, it tells us that “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”, even as it tells us that virtually every time God appears in human history, the first words from God are always: “Don’t be afraid!” That phase, coming from the mouth of God or from the mouth of God’s messenger, appears more than 300 times in scripture. The first words we will hear every time God appears in our lives are: “Don’t be afraid!” So we must be careful when we preach fear of God. Fear of punishment is not the real message we hear when God enters our lives.

Then how is fear of God the beginning of wisdom? In our relationship with God, just as in our relationships with each other, there are both healthy and unhealthy fears.  What’s a healthy fear?

Healthy fear is love’s fear: When we love someone our love will contain a number of healthy fears, a number of areas within which we will be healthily cautious and reticent:  We will fear being disrespectful, fear despoiling the gift, fear being selfish, fear being irreverent. All healthy love contains the fear of not letting the other person be fully free. Reverence, awe, and respect are a form of fear. But that kind of fear is not to be confused with being frightened, intimidated, or dreading some kind of punishment. Metaphorically, love’s fear is the fear that God challenges Moses with before the burning bush: Take off your shoes because the ground you are standing on is holy ground!

How are we to understand fear of God as the beginning of wisdomWe are wise and on the right path when we stand before the mystery of God (and of love) with our shoes off, namely, in reverence, in awe, in respect, in unknowing, without undue pride, humble before an infinity that dwarfs us, and open to let that great mystery shape us for its own eternal purposes. But that is far different, almost the antithesis, of the fear we experience when we are frightened of someone or something that threatens us because the person or thing is perceived as being mercilessly exacting or as being arbitrary and punitive.

There is too a healthy fear of God that’s felt in our fear of violating what’s good, true, and beautiful in this world. Some religions call this a fear before the “law of karma”.  Jesus, for his part, invites us to this kind of holy fear when he warns us that the measure we measure out is the measure that will be given back to us. There’s a moral structure inherent in the universe, within life, and within each of us. Everything has a moral contour that needs to be respected. It’s healthy to be afraid of violating any goodness, truth, or beauty.

We need to preach this kind of healthy fear rather than that God needs to be feared because of the punishment he might eventually deal out in some legalistic and exacting fashion.  Whenever we preach this kind of fear, of a God who deals out hellfire, we are almost always also preaching a God who isn’t very intelligent, compassionate, understanding, or forgiving. A God who is to be feared for his punitive threats is a God with whom we will never find a warm intimacy. Threat has no place within love, except if it is a holy fear of doing something that will disrespect and despoil. To preach hellfire can be effective as a tactic to help change behavior, but it is wrong in terms of the Gospel.

Fear is a gift. It is also one of the deepest, life-preserving instincts within you. Without fear, you won’t live very long. But fear is a complex, multi-faced phenomenon.  Some fears help you stay alive, while others deform and imprison you. There are things in life that you need to fear. A playground bully or the arbitrary tyrant can kill you, even if they are all wrong.  Lots of things can kill you, and they merit fear.

But God is not one of those things. God is neither a playground bully nor an arbitrary tyrant. God is love and a perpetual invitation to intimacy. There is a lot to be feared in this, but nothing of which to be afraid.

 

9th October – St Denis & Companions.

St Denis martyrAs might be expected for a saint of such an early period, practically no hard facts about Saint Denis (+256 ?) survive. According to St Gregory of Tours, writing some 300 years later, Denis came to Gaul from Rome in the middle of the third century. He arrived at what is now the Ile de la Cité in Paris, where he built a church, arranged the regular celebration of Mass, and preached the Gospel. Together with two members of his clergy he was martyred near the city.

In the Office of Readings, St Ambrose speaks about various types of martyrdoms. The word ‘martyr’ means ‘witness’. In the ordinary sense, a ‘red’ martyr refers to one who dies for Christ and the gospel. But we can be a ‘white’ martyr who witnesses to Christ by the effort to live faithfully to the Lord Jesus and his Commandments in our everyday life.

As there are many kinds of persecution, so there are many kinds of martyrdom. Every day you are a witness to Christ. You were tempted by the spirit of fornication, but feared the coming judgement of Christ and did not want your purity of mind and body to be defiled: you are a martyr for Christ. You are tempted by the spirit of avarice to seize the property of a child and violate the rights of a defenceless widow [or whatever equivalents there may be in our times], but remembered God’s law and saw your duty to give help, not act unjustly: you are a witness to Christ. Christ wants witnesses like this to stand ready, as Scripture says: Do justice for the orphan and defend the widow. You were tempted by the spirit of pride but saw the poor and the needy and looked with loving compassion on them, and loved humility rather than arrogance: you are a witness to Christ. What is more, your witness was not in word only but also in deed.

Who can give greater witness than one who acknowledges that the Lord Jesus has come in the flesh and keeps the commandments of the Gospel? One who hears but does not act, denies Christ. [We have to talk the talk and then walk the walk.] Even if he acknowledges him by his words, he denies him by his deeds. How many will say to Christ: Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy and cast out devils and work many miracles, all in your name? On that day he will say to them: Depart from me, all you evildoers. The true witness is one who bears witness to the commandments of the Lord Jesus and supports that witness by deeds. [As St James says: Faith without good works is dead.]

 

8th October – 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

SOLT Christmas Novena: This year the usual novena of 9 Masses will be said by myself and my colleague Fr Mark 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. The card layout is given at the end of this page.

This was my homily for the parable of the landowner of the vineyard and the ungrateful / devious tenants.

landowner tenants vineyard

It is really easy to live in the world with blinkered vision and never take in the bigger picture. With this blinkered vision all that matters is what benefits I’ll get out of the upcoming budget. Perhaps I’m concerned about BREXIT and a possible hard border with the North of Ireland or whether Ireland will qualify for the World Cup; or maybe I’m all engrossed with a story line from my favourite soap opera.

But if you think about it, these issues wont matter much in 5 years time and much less in 20, 50 and 100 years time.

In 100 years time and forever after only one thing will matter supremely: whether we spend eternity with God or without God. If we get to spend eternity with God, we will be happy and fulfilled beyond our wildest imaginings. If we exclude ourselves from the presence of God for all eternity, then we will be sad and unfulfilled beyond our wildest imaginings.

How to inherit eternal life with God is the subject of today’s gospel. The tenants reject the landowner and refuse to share with him the fruits of the vineyard.

This poses a question to you and me: Do I exclude God from my life as if he didn’t exist? Or do I include God in my life by spending time daily with him in prayer, by honouring his Holy Name, by keeping the Sabbath day holy, especially by attending Holy Mass? We also include God in our lives by acts of charity to family, neighbours and the wider world, seeing everybody else as a brother and sister in Christ.

In Our Lady, we have a very special advocate in putting God at the centre of our lives. She will help us to say YES to God in all things as she did to the Archangel Gabriel: “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me according to thy word.” The last words spoken by Mary in the Gospel is at Cana when she says “Do whatever he [Jesus] tells you.” In this way Jesus will truly be Lord of our lives.

Next Friday is the 100th anniversary of her appearance to the three shepherd children at Fatima. On each of the six appearances she said: “Pray the Rosary daily for peace.” This is a very concrete and important request from our heavenly mother. She doesn’t ask us to pray the Rosary every week, month, year, funeral or visit to granny. It is about having the personal discipline to say it every day, every 24 hours!

Another great gift of Our Lady of Fatima is the First Five Saturdays. She promised to give all the graces necessary for salvation – this is indeed a wonderful promise! – to those who on 5 consecutive First Saturdays go to confession within 8 days, receive Holy Communion, pray the Rosary and spend another 15 minutes mediating on one or more of the mysteries of the Rosary. This is done with the intention of making reparation to her Immaculate Heart. Further information is provided in the newsletter [see below].

In Summary: In the Big Picture of our lives only one thing matters and that is reaching eternal life with God after we leave this world. To do this we need to say YES to God in our lives. The daily Rosary and the First Five Saturdays are powerful gifts of Our Lady to attain salvation.

News-bulletin article on the First Five Saturdays.

Five First Saturdays: This was a great promise of Our Lady of Fatima. She said “I promise to assist at the hour of death with all the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months, go to Confession, receive Holy Communion, recite the Rosary and keep me company for 15 minutes while mediating on the mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me.”

Confession can occur within 8 days of the first Saturday. We should receive Holy Communion at a proper Saturday Mass – like the 10am in Dungloe – rather than a Saturday vigil Mass for Sunday. If however this is the only Mass available then we should try to attend a Sunday Mass as well. The 15 minutes of mediation in addition to the Rosary can be on any number of the 20 mysteries or perhaps the Stations of the Cross which cover the 4th and 5th Sorrowful Mysteries. The reparation involved is for 5 offenses against the Immaculate Heart of Mary: Her Immaculate Conception; Her perpetual virginity; The Divine and Spiritual maternity of Mary; The rejection and dishonouring of her images; Not implanting in children’s hearts the knowledge and love of Our Blessed Mother.

 

SOLT Christmas Novena Card.

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7th October – Our Lady of the Rosary.

Yesterday I had another routine chemotherapy clinic in Letterkenny and everything was FINE! Today is the 3rd anniversary of my arrival in Donegal and taking up the parish of Lettermacaward and Doochary. It has been a great privilege!

379_rosary1Today’s gospel for Our Lady of the Rosary is the well-known Annunciation of Gabriel. Here is the commentary from the Bishops’ website.

Gospel Reflection    Saturday,      Our Lady of the Rosary       Luke 1:26-38

Today we celebrate the memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary. The Catechism of the Church refers to the rosary as ‘the epitome of the whole gospel’. The Rosary invites us to reflect on the great mysteries of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Luke in his gospel presents Mary as a reflective person. In the second chapter of his gospel, in response to the words of the shepherds, Luke says of her that she ‘treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart’. Again, in response to the words her twelve year old child spoke in the temple, Luke says of Mary that she ‘treasured all these things in her heart’. Luke presents Mary as a contemplative person, reflecting deeply on all that was happening in her life. To that extent, she embodies the attitude of mind and heart that we are invited to bring to the praying of the Rosary. In praying that prayer, we too treasure and ponder upon the key moments in the journey of Jesus in this world and from this world to the Father. Mary not only pondered on what God was doing in the words and deeds of her Son, but she gave herself over to what God was doing in her own life, as shown by her response to the visit of Gabriel in today’s gospel reading, ‘Let it be to me according to your word’. As we ponder on the great mysteries of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we too will hear the call to give ourselves over more fully to God’s purpose for our lives as Mary did. Mary teaches us that our contemplating the word of the gospel is to find expression in the doing of that word, in allowing God’s word to shape us.

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The Gospel reflection comes from WEEKDAY REFLECTIONSTo know the love of Christ 2016/2017 by Martin Hogan published by  The Messenger c/f www.messenger.ie
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