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THE BLESSING OF BEING A CATHOLIC CHRISTIAN

There is perhaps nothing that should give us more comfort in these troubled times than the thought that we are members of the one true Church instituted by Christ, who said to His disciples: “I shall be with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” [Mt 28:20]. Whatever may happen in this world, however great may be the disasters that befall it, however many the difficulties, hardships and sufferings that life at any time may present, there remains the indubitable fact that Christ, the Son of God, is ever in our midst to support and to guide by His omnipotent strength and unerring wisdom His Church and all who are members of it.

“Behold, I shall be with you all days” (Mt28:20b)

But it is not every Catholic who fully understands or realises what this means, and so he fails in a greater or less degree to profit by and to enjoy the immense consolation that might be his. Let him reflect that being a Catholic makes him a member of the great Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, the Head of which is Christ Himself, and which embraces not only all Catholics upon earth but the countless multitude of the saints in heaven, as well as all the suffering souls in purgatory, who, although unable to help themselves, can – as most theologians teach – most efficaciously help us by the assistance of their prayers.

Christ is the Head and we His Body – the Mystical Body, the Church, is as real and true as any physical body

The Catholic must conceive of this Mystical Body that though by its nature supernatural and spiritual it is none the less a very real and true Body, as real and true as is any physical body. It derives its life not only, though principally and essentially, from its Divine Head, but from all its members as well, who work together for the good of the whole. Every member of the Body is bound to contribute his share, great or little as it may be, to the general benefit of the other members, just as every member of a physical body is necessary for its complete health and maintenance. When any member or part of a human body is hurt or sick, the rest of the members of that body come to its relief and help to its restoration and renewed health, whenever and as far as this is possible.

A true “team effort”

So he who would have a right understanding of what it means to be a Catholic must bear in mind that he is a member of a Body where all, without exception, who make up that Body are concerned to bring about his spiritual and eternal well-being, as well as their own. The mistake for any one to make is to look upon himself as isolated and apart from the other members, independent of them and capable of procuring his final salvation without their aid. Such a one has not grasped the meaning of the Communion of Saints: he does not see that if he be finally saved, he will be saved not as one individual, aloof from all others, but as being a living member of the whole Body which is saved. So when a sinner repents and turns to God, it is primarily and chiefly because Christ, the Head of the Church, died for him on the Cross, but also because other members of Christ’s Body by their holy lives and prayers are continually making intercession for all sinners, so that Christ’s redemptive work may have its desired effect.

“You are always on our mind…”

This, then, is one of the consolations a Catholic can enjoy, that though he is often tempted and sometimes falls into sin, yet he is ever in the mind of Christ and the faithful fellow members of Christ’s Body, who, if he will only avail himself of their help, will bring him back to spiritual life and the privileges of grace of which they are the possessors.

Certain and glorious victory

It is the thought of this immense and unlimited strength upon which he can draw that gives a Catholic confidence and courage to go on with his struggle against evil and to advance ever more in a life of holiness in the service of God. He knows that he is not alone but is attended by untold millions of holy men and women in heaven and on earth, who recognise in him one of their own great body and are ready at his every moment and step to proffer him help. He is in truth one of a vast and all-conquering army in whose certain and glorious victory he can share, if only he will identify himself with that army and strive to be a faithful soldier in its ranks. What matter if the campaign be a hard one, fought amid all the evils of a disrupted and ruinous world, when he can be persuaded that the struggle is a comparatively very brief one and that at the end, with the rest of his fellow soldiers, he will join their great Leader who already by His own life and death has secured the victory and is waiting to give him a share in His own everlasting glory and happiness.

“Go ye and teach all nations”

These, to the Catholic who will think, are not empty words, the effervescence of a poor rhetoric. They are the exact and solemn truth, the teachings of his Faith. With that great blessing of Faith, for which he can never thank God enough, he knows to that together with all the other members of Christ’s Mystical Body there is offered up for him every day and all day the sacrifice of the Mass, which continues the great sacrifice of the Cross and bears equal merit and fruit. In addition he has the help of the Sacraments, especially those of the Holy Eucharist and Penance; and he may hope that when he is dying he may receive Extreme Unction, to be forgiven his sins, to be strengthened and consoled, and to be admitted sooner to the unclouded and full vision of God. All these are undoubted blessings, the thought of which serve to console a Catholic amid the difficulties that confront him to-day. He is the more grateful for the gift of Faith when he sees around him so many who are without that support and know not where to turn to find relief in their miseries. Their unhappy condition ought to be a spur to his zeal. The Church is a great missionary organisation, as its Divine Founder declared when He said to His disciples, “Go ye and teach all nations,” and every Catholic is a member of it and is called upon, at least by his example and prayers, to further its purpose, which is none less than the conversion of the world. He should know that he will best promote his own interests by forgetting and sacrificing himself for the good of others; by taking an intelligent interest in the welfare of the Church in general and of his own parish in particular; by participating, as far as his opportunities and conditions of life allow, in all that active work which aims at the spread of Catholic truth and at bringing within Christ’s fold those irreligious and unbelieving souls who form, alas! such a large part of the world to-day.

The virtue of charity, the distinguishing mark of every genuine follower of Christ

To act this way is to exercise the great virtue of charity, which must be the distinguishing mark of every genuine follower of Christ. On the other hand, it will be seen how radically false is the piety of those who, though they frequent church, are so absorbed in themselves and their spiritual welfare as never to consider the needs of others or to raise a little finger to help them. Indeed they may be noted for their uncharitable conversation and their harsh condemnation of others.

The good Catholic will make no such grievous mistakes. He will realise how spurious is a [“faith”] that is not infused with the love of God and of his neighbour; and he will be suspicious of all [“faith”] that concentrates almost solely on self and has no remembrance in prayers and good works for the Church as a whole, the Mystical Body of Christ, of which he is privileged to be a member. In recounting the consolations his religion affords him – the certainty of its truth, the help of the Sacraments, the hope of eternal felicity – he will let no day pass without thanking God for the blessing of being Catholic.

– From: Lift Up Your Hearts, Christopher J. Wilmot, S. J., The Catholic Book Club, London, 1949

 

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PEOPLE’S OPINIONS WILL PASS AWAY, BUT THE FRIENDSHIP OF GOD WILL REMAIN WITH US

Let all your life, every hour, be a perpetual prayer of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord…irrespective of what the world says about that.

Let us joyfully and cheerfully dig all those little furrows which Providence has entrusted to each of us.

Let us not allow ourselves to be delayed or disturbed by ambitious thoughts which whisper in our ears, “You could do something better;” by the deceitful desires of a false zeal which would persuade us to desert our daily task; by a ridiculous desire to propagate more beautiful flowers than our neighbours.

Let us occupy ourselves with one thing alone – that is, “to do well what is our duty to do, because God requires no more from us.”

Now, this “doing well” may be summed up in four words: “act purely, actively, joyfully, completely.”

 

How do we please God? – By acting purely, actively, joyfully, completely.

But then we may be forgotten, despised, wrongly understood, calumniated, persecuted… What matters it? This contempt, these injuries will pass away, but the friendship of God will remain with us. And we will have merited it by our patience and fidelity.

The friendship of God!

The friendship of God! Oh! who can say all that is contained in it of sweetness, of joy, of strength, of consolation? No human friendship, in its most ardent dreams, has ever even formed the faintest idea of that sweetness of God’s friendship, rendered more sensible by the Eucharistic union in our souls.

I can also understand this expression of a loving soul: “With the prospect of heaven in a short time, and holy communion every day, how can anyone think of complaining?

– From: Golden Grains, Eighth Edition, H.M. Gill and Son, Dublin, 1889

 

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WHEN GOD ASKS US TO GIVE UP SOMETHING FOR THE ULTIMATE WELFARE OF OUR SOUL…

God always has our very best interests at heart

When there is question of some sacrifice to be made, of some affection to be withdrawn, for example, let us not wait until God acts directly.

When we ourselves work, God lends his grace, and the sacrifice is accomplished without too much anguish.

When God works alone, He takes less precaution, and cuts when we would simply have disentangled.

– From: Golden Grains, Eighth Edition, H.M. Gill and Son, Dublin, 1889

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2016 in Words of Wisdom

 

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THE ANGELS OF THE FIRESIDE: THE ANGEL OF SMALL SACRIFICES

How to attain a happy home and a content family

The Angel of Small Sacrifices

Have you never seen her at work? Have you never, at least, felt her influence?

In every Christian family, and in all pious communities, God has placed the Angel of Small Sacrifices, in order to be the image of his Providence in the household. Her duty is to remove all thorns, to lighten all burdens, and to share all fatigues.

She has for her motto these gracious words: God makes no noise, because noise effects no good.

Thus she is like a ray of sunlight, lightning, warming, giving life to all, but inconveniencing no one.

We feel that she is near us, because we no longer experience those misunderstandings which we formerly met with, those rancorous thoughts, those deliberate coolnesses which make family life unhappy; because we no longer hear those harsh words which wound so deeply; because affectionate sentiments mount readily from the heart to the lips, and life becomes sweeter.

Who, then, has taken from us that self-love which would not yield; that egotism which had a place in the most sincere friendship; that self-indulgence, in short, which always sought for ease?

The Angel of Small Sacrifices has received from heaven the mission of those angels, of whom the prophet speaks, who removed the stones from the road, lest they might bruise the feet of travellers.

And that of the angels who, according to the simple legend of the early Christians, scattered rose-leaves beneath the feet of Jesus and Mary during their flight into Egypt…

But, like them, she is invisible; she does her work in secret.

 

The Angel of Small Sacrifices works in secret

If there is one place less commodious than another, she chooses it, saying, with a sweet smile, How comfortable I am here!

If there is some work to be done, she presents herself simply to perform it, with the joyous manner of one who finds her happiness in so doing.

If it is an object of trifling value, she deprives herself of it in order to give it to her who the evening before manifested a desire to possess a similar one.

How many oversights are repaired by this unknown hand!

How many neglected things are put in their places, without our ever seeing how they came there!

How many little joys are procured for others without their ever having mentioned to any one the happiness which they would give them!

Who has thus known how to do good in secret?

Who has thus known to divine the secrets of the heart?

 

Who has thus known to divine the secrets of the heart?

Should a dispute arise, she knows how to settle it by a pleasant word, which wounds no one, and falls upon the slight disturbance like a ray of sunlight upon a cloud.

Should she hear of two estranged hearts, she has always some means of reuniting them without their being able to show her any gratitude; she does everything sweetly, simply, and naturally.

But who can tell the thorns which have torn her hands, the pain which has racked her heart, the humiliations which her charity has borne?

And yet she is always smiling. Does sacrifice cause her joy?

Have you never seen the angel of small sacrifices at work? On earth she is called a mother, a friend, a sister, or a wife. In heaven she is called a saint.

– From: Golden Grains, Eighth Edition, H.M. Gill and Son, Dublin, 1889

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2016 in Words of Wisdom

 

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“MY YOKE IS SWEET AND MY BURDEN LIGHT” – HAPPINESS AND PAIN

God meant us to enjoy happiness even in this world, though it could not be the happiness which excludes all pain and suffering. Such complete happiness is reserved for the next life, when we are participating in the infinite happiness of God in heaven. As long as we are living in this world pain and suffering are inevitable, because of the fall of man and the general corruption of human nature that followed upon it. Nothing that men can devise will ever change that fact or bring us to an earthly garden of Eden. This has been attested in every stage of the world’s history and never more clearly than in these latter days of widespread misery, chaos and unrest.

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily (Lk 9:23)

So it was that when Christ Our Lord came on this earth to redeem us and to show us by His own example how we must live if we wish to have happiness both now and hereafter, He said: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily,” and St Luke (9:23) prefaced the words, “He said to all.” It was to help and encourage us that He Himself took up His own Cross, an infinitely heavier one than any of us will be called upon to bear, so that because of His bitter Passion and Death He is known as “The Man of Sorrows”. But it would be a mistake to lay an undue or exclusive meaning on that title. Our Blessed Lord was in truth the happiest man that has ever lived on this earth: His human soul was the recipient of the greatest natural joys in His association with His Blessed Mother, with St Joseph His foster-father, with His relations and close friends. He found delight, too, in the world in which He lived, the beauties of nature, the hills, the fields, the flowers, in running water. Nothing of beauty escaped His sensitive gaze. He could find joy in the humble work of a carpenter, in all the trivial happenings of a peaceful home, in the simplicity of village life. Though He knew well the sufferings that were to befall Him, that terrible vision did not darken His life and leave Him ever fearful and depressed. For He had within His human soul the root of happiness – a complete union with His Father in heaven. His every activity in living wholly for God and in giving over His entire human will to the will of God ensured His happiness, a happiness that was not disturbed even when He hung on His Cross and suffered a death of the utmost anguish and pain.

The root of happiness

He wants us, too, to be happy even in this world but He knows that such limited happiness as this affords can only be attained by bearing our own cross and in facing courageously, in patience and without complaint, the ever-recurring trials of life. It is not enough to look upon Him crucified for us, but if His merits are to be productive of good in us we must shoulder our own crosses and find our happiness here below in so following Him.

Are happiness and pain really incompatible?

To many people it seems impossible that there can be happiness where there is pain. But a little reflection will show them their mistake. A mother will find happiness in suffering pain for the safety or life of her child. A brave soldier will be happy even when he is enduring hardships, privations, and perils to help his country’s cause. Many a man will undertake arduous work that puts a strain on his courage and is a cause of much present comfort, while at the same time he enjoys an inner happiness in the consciousness that he is attaining some great purpose. Again, to one who has been converted from a life of sin there is happiness in the thought that by bearing his sufferings, whether mental or physical, he is making reparation for the past [see also: Col.1:24] and gaining ever added merit [see also: Mt6:20]. Innocent and more spiritual souls, in whom there has been no serious sin in their lives, such as was the childlike Saint of Lisieux, will have joy in the knowledge that they become co-victims with Christ in the redemption of the world and in bringing others to God.

Lives of undisturbed calm

Pain is not in itself a good and is not something for itself naturally desirable, but in the inherited corruption of our human nature it can be recognised as a means of correction that redresses evil; and when so recognised adds to, rather than detracts from, that happiness that God would have us enjoy in this world. This is the explanation of the consolation and joy that the saints experienced even when subjected to multiplied suffering. A marked feature of their lives was their undisturbed calm and equanimity under the most distressing and painful earthly conditions. They forgot themselves in their love for God, and in so forgetting themselves they found the truth of His words – paradoxical as they may sound – “My yoke is sweet and my burden light.”

How to make one’s own hell for oneself

On the other hand, they who separate themselves from God and seek their happiness exclusively in this world, either in intellectual pursuits or, as is most commonly the case, in ministering to their passions and the demands of their lower nature, are sooner or later disillusioned and disappointed. Suffering and pain for them assume undue and exaggerated proportions. Their love of self brings its own nemesis and fills their lives with afflictions of soul they need never have known. They make their own hell, for the final result of living for self, when persisted in to the end, is the eternal loss of the One Supreme Good who alone can give us true happiness here and complete happiness hereafter.

My meat is to do the will of my Father (Jn 4:34)

Let us not forget, what has already been said, that the secret of happiness is what Our Blessed Lord by His own life and teaching disclosed to us. We must give ourselves entirely to God without reserve, even as He in His human nature gave Himself to His Father. “My meat” (that is, the very nourishment of His soul) “is to do the will of my Father” were His words (Jn 4:34).

Is it possible to bargain with God?

Even some substantially good Catholics make the mistake of thinking that they can make a sort of Concordat with God, conceding to Him the fulfilment of certain essential religious duties, such as hearing Mass and frequenting the Sacraments, but God in return is to secure their salvation, while they keep certain reserves for themselves, some inordinate attachments to persons and things in which God does not enter, attachments which, though not necessarily sinful, create a barrier between their Maker and themselves. Their religion thus becomes a wretched compromise, and as such precludes that happiness which a whole-hearyed acceptance of God’s rights over them would ensure

Complete surrender, complete union

Such persons fail to see that religion must enter into every single part of their lives, that it must be a duty to God not at certain times only of the day or the week but one that is interwoven with everything they think, say, or do at all times and at every moment of their lives. If they would know joy and happiness under every variable condition, whether of pleasure or of pain, God must be realised as the One Supreme Good whom with all the intensity of their intelligence and with all the energy of their will they embrace as wholly lovable and desirable to the exclusion of everyone and everything that threaten their complete union with Him.

“Not only for canonised saints”

Let it not be thought that only those who reach to the heroism of canonised saints can fashion their lives to this pattern. It is within the power of every fervent Catholic to do so. What holds back most is their inordinate fear of pain, their unwillingness to accept the Cross, their constant but futile endeavour to escape suffering whenever it rears its head. But of this they may be assured, that by earnest prayer and by the right use of the Sacraments, the grace of God, once their hearts are fully given to Him, will so transform them that they will realise and understand in their own lives the truth of the words in the Imitation:

Love is a great thing, yea in all ways a great good; for it alone maketh light all that is heavy and beareth with even mind every uneven fortune; for it carryeth a burden while counting it no burden, and maketh sweet and of good savour every bitter thing.

It is this love of God which, entwined with the Cross, gives a true conception of what religion means, and will enable all of us of goodwill, in spite of so much that is distressing and difficult in the world to-day, to possess even now happiness in our lives, while, still exiles on this earth, we look forward to the lasting union with Him “who will give us life without end in our fatherland” in Heaven.

– From: Lift Up Your Hearts, Christopher J. Wilmot, S.J., The Catholic Book Club, London, 1949

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2016 in Words of Wisdom

 

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TODAY’S RESPONSORIAL PSALM (PSALM 127)

R. Indeed thus shall be blessed
the man who fears the Lord.

1. O blessed are those who fear the Lord
and walk in his ways! (R.)

2. By the labour of your hands you shall eat.
You will be happy and prosper;
your wife like a fruitful vine
in the heart of your house;
your children like shoots of the olive,
around your table. (R.)

3. Indeed thus shall be blessed
the man who fears the Lord.
May the Lord bless you from Zion
all the days of your life! (R.)

ALLELUIA

Alleluia, alleluia!
The Lord is faithful in all his words
and loving in all his deeds.
Alleluia!

 

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“RECEIVE EVERY DAY AS A RESURRECTION FROM DEATH, AS A NEW ENJOYMENT OF LIFE”

THE BEST ANTIDOTE TO FEELING WORN OUT AND DISHEARTENED: PRAISE AND GRATITUDE TO GOD! PRAISE “RELEASES THE POWER OF GOD INTO A SET OF CIRCUMSTANCES…”

“After having celebrated these past weeks the joy of the Resurrection of Jesus and… His Ascension into heaven, we can unite our thoughts with the words of the Psalmist…, ‘Sing praise for God, sing praise, sing praise to our King, sing praise’. Let us prayerfully reflect on what some people have said about praising God:

‘To God who gives our daily bread
A thankful song we raise,
And pray that he who sends us food
May fill our hearts with praise.’ (Thomas Tallis – composer)

‘Happy moments, praise God. Difficult moments, seek God. Painful moments, trust God. In every moment, always thank God.’ (Unknown)

‘But now, instead of organs, Christians must use their body to praise God.’ (St John Chrysostom)

‘I praise God because He not only guides my directions but overrules my mistakes.’ (Norman Pell)

‘The very act of praise releases the power of God into a set of
circumstances and enables God to change them if this change is his design.’ (Merlin Carothers – chaplain)

‘Love’s trinity, self-perfect, self-sustaining;
love which commands, enables and obeys;
you give yourself, in boundless joy, creating
one vast increasing harmony of praise.’ (Alan Gaunt – hymn writer)

‘At a time when you are in trouble, offer up petition, and when you are well supplied with good things you should give thanks to the Giver, and when your mind rejoices, offer up praise.’
(Aphrahat – 4th century Syrian monk)

‘Receive every day as a resurrection from death, as a new enjoyment of life; meet every rising sun with such sentiments of God’s goodness, as if you had seen it, and all things, new-created upon your account; and under the sense of so great a blessing, let your joyful heart praise and magnify so good and glorious a Creator.’ (William Law)

‘Praise him for the sun and for the stars above.
Praise him everybody for he is the God of love.
Praise him when you are happy,
Praise him when you are sad.
He’s the God who saves us
And his message makes us glad.’ (Gerald O’Mahony)”
– From: “Spiritual Thought from Fr Chris”

 

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