What are you doing with your life?
Do you give yourself time to ask and ponder that question, for it is a question that one day we must answer. So instead of putting off the moment let us begin to acquire the habit of self reflection so that we deepen our awareness of ourselves and our relationship to the Lord.
All the time we have is NOW. The mental effects and impressions of the past give to our present perceptions a distorted reality for the memory is always playing tricks with us.
Especially when past sins carry with them an emotional attachment. This is how the devil seeks to drag us down into despair. Being aware of this, the true soldier of Christ arms himself in the present moment, especially by keeping a watch over his senses. To avoid anything unhealthy that may pollute the mind and open up an attachment which is a form of demonic oppression.
At the start of each day offer yourself to God and at its end commend your soul into His safe keeping. Tomorrow may be your last day upon this earth and so try to live as if it were.
Be free from Mortal sin by going to Confession immediately. Be clear as to the purpose and reason of whatever you are doing otherwise your energy will not have a positive effect.
Your mind will be clouded and you will not see the way clearly by the light of Christ.
Lord Jesus help me and guide me
To see your love for me.
Keep me strong to do your will,
And protect me from the evil one.
Let me give myself to you in freedom
Trusting in your faithfulness.
Help me to give you everything
So that your glory will shine
Through my weakness
Keeping me safe
In your most Sacred Heart.
The parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-23 provided the Fathers of the Church, and provide us with a Lenten reflection to help us deepen our Faith.
A journey that begins with an honest acknowledgement of sin and ends in reconciliation. In the parable we see three points on the journey: Conversion, Contrition and Reconciliation. God our Father opens his arms to urge us forward despite our frequent turning aside. St John Chrysostom says, "The younger son set out into a distant country, not locally departing from God, who is everywhere, but in his heart. For the sinner flees from God that he may stand afar off". St Augustine sees the distant country into which the sinners departs as forgetfulness of God in turning aside from his loving Father each person, as St Ambrose says, "severs himself from Christ" and "is an exile from his country and a citizen of this world. Fitly then does he waste his patrimony who departs from the Church". Every time our conscience is reawakened a new conversion begins. We come to our senses or as the parable puts it, "he came to himself" (V17). St Augustine says, "he brought back his mind to the inward recesses of his conscience".
From this awakening comes true contrition. As the son in the parable says, "I will go to my father and say, "Father I have sinned against heaven and before you" (V18). In this renewed declaration all pretence and dishonesty is done away. It is only when this happens that a true meeting between father and son can take place. Each time a sinner returns to God as Tertullian says he "receives back his former vesture, that state, I mean which Adam lost by his former vesture "transgression". In the moment of conversion the sinner knows he is reconciled by the Fathers love and that he is part of the mystical body which unites him in faith and love to the family of the Church. He says "I will go to my father" (V18a) that is he "is established in the Church by Faith, where there may yet be a lawful and effectual confession of sins".
Through confession we are restored to the father and receive back what we have lost. In the parable the prodigal son is given a ring and a cloak by his father as a sign of his restoration. Ambrose calls the cloak, the cloak of the Holy Spirit and the ring the seal of faith. Now that the reconciled sinner has received from his father the signs of his pledge to new life, he is taken in to the feast which has been prepared for him. A fatted calf is killed for his return. For St Chrysostom and St Augustine and others the fatted calf refers to Christ himself and is of great importance in the argument from Tradition for the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist. "But the father did not himself sacrifice the gift, but gives it to be sacrificed to others. For the father permitting the son consenting thereto by man was sacrificed to others".
There is great rejoicing (V23) because "the food of the father is our salvation; the joy of the father, the redemption of our sins". This feast is none other than the Eucharist. "Those banquets are now celebrated, the Church being enlarged and extended throughout the whole world. For the calf in our Lords Body and Blood is both offered up to the father, and feeds the whole house".
To share the banquet of the Lord presumes a serious striving after a holy life and it is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation that we are given the grace to do so.
St Ambrose 337-397
St Augustine 354-430
St Chrysostom c349-407
(footnotes available on request)
Confession and Holy Communion go together. If we deepened our awareness of the great gift we receive from Our Lord who gives us His Body, the living bread, we would prepare ourselves. This preparation means that in prayer we examine our conscience in order to be reconciled and at peace with Him who is perfect love. We should then come to the Sacrament of Confession often because as a member of the Body of Christ, the Church, my personal sin affects the whole body. St Paul said to the Corinthians "Let a man examine himself" (2:28). Paul in addressing the Corinthians warns against a superstitious regard for the Eucharist in which some believed that their participation in the Eucharist assured them against any possible forfeit of future salvation and so it did not matter how they lived their lives. They might commit idolatry (10:7) and fornication (v8) they might tempt God (v9) and complain against Him (v10), without fear because they were baptised and received the Eucharist. The punishments of the children of Israel who put God to the test will be their lot if they escape from the continuous and renewed act of faith and obedience that every person must make each time he receives the Body of the Lord. The Eucharist, the Holy Mass, does not save a man but makes possible salvation. The abuse of the Sacraments will bring upon the Corinthians the destruction of Satan (10:10).
Behind 1 Corinthians 11:27 Paul makes an important link again between the divisions of the community as being an abuse of the Eucharist. Eating without discerning the Body of Christ, the living Lord, who is truly present. To realise Christ's presence every person must prepare themselves suitably and approach with the right dispositions (cf.2 Cor 13:5). Of this St John Chrysostom (c349-407) says, "Not discerning the Lords Body, that is not searching, not bearing in mind, as he ought, the greatness of the things before him, not estimating the value of the gift. For if you should come to know who it is before you, and who He is who gives Himself, and to whom, you will need no other argument, but this is enough for you to use all vigilance" (Patrologia Graecia, vol 61,p223)
The Task Before Us (continued)
The person with eyes to see the spiritual warfare. A warfare which shows itself in conflict and division against a supernatural faith does not loose heart. He resists a secular mindset whos diversionary tactics are to find refuge in political ideology or simple avoidance by a negative silence. When faced with the truth delivered to the Saints there are those within the body of the Church who actively seek to recreate a new Church in their own image. The action of the Deceiver is to clothe himself in a semblance of reasonableness. In safeguarding the Traditional Catholic Faith the man of faith does not waste his energy but makes full use of the spiritual weapons given to us which the enemy lacks.
Penance and prayer
Love of the Holy Mass
Practise of the moral virtues
These are the weapons which help us in our daily counter-revolutionary struggle. Indeed, we find a mention of this struggle in Holy Scripture itself. St John, under the dictation of "He that hath the seven spirits of God and the seven stars", that is, under the dictation of Our Lord, addresses himself to the Angel of the Church of Sardis by saying "Esto vigilens et confirma quae moritura errant" which means "Be watchful and strengthen the things that remain, which are ready to die" (Apoc 3:2)
It is our sacred duty to protect "the things that remain", the unbroken cord of Apostolic tradition and faith. For when the Master comes it is necessary that He finds us vigilant. Those that understand God's plan and who seek to comply with it, form, one will agree, "the few" to whom Our Lady of Salette appeals when she says "Fight, children of light, you, the few who can see".
What is the significance of this few, in terms of the supernatural order, and what can one expect of it in our earthly fight? God always gives strength to the few when humanly speaking it all seems lost. Often to a single man For example Moses had only his staff, and his faith, to take the Hebrews out of Egypt. David too, had only his sling and faith to overcome Goliath. Also, at the time of the incarnation, a single family was perfect, the Holy Family, the head of which was St Joseph.
So for us God has given us the weapon of prayer to which must be added penance which gives wings to prayer.
Our Lady has shown herself to us by her solicitude and anxiety in the face of the rise of iniquity so that we would not lose heart. By the prophetic words she gave us at Fatima. She consoles her little ones and fulfils before us the celebrated prophecy contained in the Canticle of Canticles:
"who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array" (Cof .6a)
The Task Before Us.
When we talk of the crisis of the faith in our times, when we desire the true renewal of Christian life we must not put or hope in any outward solution. For the struggle in which we are engaged is a spiritual one against the heresy of Modernism. This system of thought believes that the Church must accommodate itself to the world by changing the essentials of faith given to us by Our Lord in sacred scripture and tradition. It finds refuge in endless changes and projects, always avoiding a truly supernatural faith as witnessed in the lives of the Saints. Of the unknown saints, the good and humble men and women of the past, who lives their lives in humility and hiddenness.
The face of the Church is the face of Christ and it is a thing of beauty. No Church reform that is not faithful to tradition, to a supernatural faith, can draw souls to that beauty. Rather a distoration a rupture takes place. Nothing lasting has or will come from this as we see all around us. The springtime of renewal that was promised decades ago has become the chill winter of discontent. Everywhere the "experts" began making change after change thinking in making a pact with the values of the world it would win respect and be listened to in the marketplace of babel.
The way to go is another: "Thus says the Lord: Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls"
The way of the ancient path is that of working every day in the education of souls to live the Mass faithful to holy tradition. To help everyone to understand its sublime beauty, the face of Christ.
Intelligent fervent priests are needed, able in prayer, study and sacrifice to teach, help and support their people to rediscover this divine beauty so that they can strive to be saints passionate for the work of God.
Human games of continuous change are the sign of the bored man, always in search for the latest novelty, always restless, never still, fearing the silence of the Divine gaze.
There is nothing external that can replace our conversion to sincere personal devotion, to an authentic love of Christ. Our conversion, however, worked through grace, will spring from the prayer of the Church which Tradition has given us and which is the prayer of Christ Himself.
People raise every conceivable kind of objection to making their Confession, and give a hundred reasons. I can give you another hundred, but they are completely useless and I can tell you where they come from. They come straight from the devil, the father of lies, who tempts us to think that we are in complete control of our destiny. The sin of our first parents was the sin of pride. All sin is pride and that pride makes us resist the light of the Holy Spirit that searches our inmost conscience. We fear surrendering ourselves, we fear inward changes even though it will give us freedom from the burden of an unexamined life. I can't make anyone go to Confession, I can't make them have a shower, but I know it is a good thing to have a shower and I know it is a good thing to go to Confession. Our Lord wants to make us clean from the odour of sin. For this odour impairs our relationship in knowing Him and loving Him.
All I can do, as any other priest, is to tell you that this Sacrament of the Lords healing and mercy helps us to grow in holiness. Daily examination of conscience will help us prepare to come to this sacrament. There is nothing to fear if you have been away from Confession for a long time for the priest is there to help and guide you. Remember there is no sin that the Saviour cannot forgive if you are truly sorry and make a commitment to a new beginning. It is not the number of sins that matters but knowing our need of the Lords healing and forgiveness that sets us free. And this I know, that every priest on the day of his personal judgement will be asked this question by the Lord: "Did you teach the people this way of forgiveness?".
What is it then, to be a priest? (part 3)
The Mass is the Sacred Action of the whole Church in a particular place and moment in time. It is the offering that Christ has made by his Passion upon the Cross and the fruit of that Sacrifice is that a new relationship between us and the Blessed Trinity has come about in a new Covenant, sealed by the blood of Jesus. This is an eternal offering made once and for all time, the graces of which continue in time and beyond it. It's effects hold out the promise of eternity. That is the intimate union with God which is mans destiny.
The mediation of grace through the Sacraments comes through the hands of the priest, in Persona Christi. On the human level this is an awesome responsibility because the priest is a sinner like everyone else. But the path of his own particular call to holiness is in being faithful to the call to "feed my sheep". His call is to give only what Christ gives. God chooses the weak and makes them strong if they are faithful to Him in love and service. He must preach and teach a supernatural faith so that he can be a signpost to mans eternal destiny. He cannot afford to be trapped in the worldiness of the world for his mission is to draw all souls to Christ.
It is true that he has many things to do each day and he must use that time well for it is given to him on trust. An internal discipline, formed by a life of prayer, will give him the discernment to know how to respond to his peoples needs. But whatever he does there is one fundamental thing that underlines every moment of every day, what St. Francis de Sales declares,
"at every moment of the day I am preparing myself to celebrate Mass".
What is it then to be a priest? (part 2)
The calling to the priesthood is a calling to spiritual Fatherhood through the love of the Heart of Jesus in the Body of the Church. As a Father the priest must follow the command of the Lord to "feed my sheep". When the Lord asked Peter three times, "Do you love me?", and Peter said "yes", the condition of that love was "feed my sheep". The priest follows the Good Shepherd by service and sacrifice. He is not himself because he is the servant and minister of Christ. Any by his Fatherhood he is the spouse of the Church. And so far as he does not understand that he is like the hired man who has no concern for the sheep. He just gives himself (stones) when his children ask for the True Bread (Christ).
But the priest who understands the depth and mystery of his calling has no fear in speaking the Truth in love. He is prepared to risk everything because God has given him everything.
In himself he is nothing so that in Christ he may be everything.
In all his lifes journey, despite all difficulties, he feels the hand of God upon him, waiting patiently at his side. In the secret harbour of the Sacred Heart of the Lord he finds rest and peace. Safe from error and the assaults of the Evil One, he is renewed and refreshed.
We are all dependant upon one another in some way. The meaning of all life only makes sense in relation to others. A child is utterly dependant on it's mother for food. Food that makes life grow. As adults, in a spiritual sense, we are utterly dependant upon our Creator and Redeemer, who gives us life, both physically and spiritually. We cannot understand the nature of His giving unless we make space within ourselves for Him to enter. A quiet recollected mind receives that Divine giving. This giving is a movement from God who gives, to us who receive or put it another way, a movement from contemplation to action . St Thomas Aquinas states that the highest spiritual perfection consists in this movement. This is shown, for example in the Gospel account of Mary and Martha. Martha's activity was not wrong, rather Our Lord says that we must begin from a state of receptivity to purposeful activity.
The essence of all worship begins in this way. Above all, in the Holy Mass we are fed with that which is given, the Bread of Life, that has come into the world. We do not take to ourselves that which we can barely understand but we receive it in child-like trust.
The Mass is always a communal act, it is the action of Christ Himself as head of the body, that is mediated through the hands of the Priest. The prolongation in time of the incarnation. Therefore the attention of the Priest and people does not lie in each other but upon the altar.
What is it, to be a priest?
This is an important question. We might say that a faithful Catholic priest allows all the little children to come to Christ (are we not all children?), and strives to enable everyone he meets to live and die in the state of sanctifying grace. A priest who tries to consider everyone whom God's Providence puts into his life to be his own potential companion in the way of the Vita Aeterna - in Beatitude - if he and they also both faithfully persevere unto the end, in Grace. For he knows that the gift of final perseverance is itself a great gift. That gift of God is never to be presumed upon. Until the moment of our death, we retain the permanent possibility of voluntarily defection from Divine Grace and from God Himself: in what Dante called "the Great Refusal". Such is the terrible gift of our human freedom, for we can only love God freely. It cannot be forced.
He must be a witness. A man whose life and faith are so completely one that when the challenge comes to step out and testify for his faith, he does so, disregarding all risks, accepting all consequences. This view is rooted in the incarnation and the incarnation's continuation in the Seven Sacraments of Christ; especially in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, where the Eternal Himself intersects with Time, where the Sacred Mystery and Concrete Intimacy are graciously joined. Such is the Sacred action of the Mass. The Universal is present in the Particular. It is also present to our senses, especially in the Mass's sacramental visibility which elevates and draws us into our contemplation of God, with love. That is to say, from the visible to the invisible beauty, the heart with love is raised in rapt attention to God.
The humble Cure of Ars does not, in his humility, realise that his own "spiritual childhood" would awaken the souls of his little village to a greater life of grace. But the cost is at times heavy. Faced with apathy, boredom and a lukewarm response to his pastoral care, he identifies with Our Lord's mental and moral agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. He is a man for others, a father and shepherd of his flock whose joys and sorrows he shares. Aware of his deflects and sins, he is an instrument by virtue of God's calling to teach, govern and sanctify his people, continuing in time the same work of Jesus Christ . Whatever his personality and human skills may be, he knows that they are dependent on Divine Grace.