Tag Archives: meaning of life




O Jesus, Friend of children, Who from thy most tender years didst grow visibly in wisdom and in grace before God and men; Who at the age of twelve east seated in the Temple, in the midst of the doctors, listening to them attentively, asking them questions, and exciting their admiration by the prudence and wisdom of thy discourse; Who didst receive so willingly the children, blessing them and saying to thy disciples: “Let them come to Me, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven,” inspire me as thou didst inspire Blessed Peter Canisius, model and guide of the perfect Catechist, with a profound respect and a holy affection for childhood, a taste and a marked devotion for instructing them in Christian doctrine, a special aptitude in making them understand its mysteries, and love its beauties. I ask this of thee, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

[300 days, once a day. – Pius X., March 15th, 1906.]

– St Anthony’s Treasury, Laverty & Sons, Leeds, 1916



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The Monotony of Life

For most people living on this earth it must be confessed that life is monotonous. If not a suffering, it is at any rate one of those things from which most are glad to escape and they seek to do this by getting such distractions and amusements as the world offers them and they can afford to buy.

Many are glad to escape “boring lives”

These distractions and amusements have become more numerous with the material progress that has been made in the last hundred years and more. So we find people hurrying off to cinemas or listening in to the wireless, snatching a week off at the seaside or going off in a motor-coach to some beauty spot that is within reach of their homes and their money.

The general hunt for distractions and amusements

The disastrous wars through which we have passed have, however, considerably curtailed their means of so finding change and pleasure. If they are not people who find their help and consolation in religion, they are inclined to grumble and to express their feelings in such phrases as “I am fed up.”

“I am fed up”

The monotony of their lives is represented by the houses in which the majority of them live, long streets of drab-looking buildings, each one a repetition (outwardly at least) of its neighbour. If you are going into London, for instance, you will see from your carriage window long processions of such streets, with never a tree or a flower-bed to relieve their ugliness. It makes one think how cheerless must be the lives of the people who live in such surroundings.

Having learnt how to face this monotony of life

But, apart from other good people, there will be good Catholic Christians living in those houses, who have learnt how to face this monotony of life. They will know that whether in a town, or perhaps even more so in the country in some little village or isolated farmhouse, one day is much like another and there is very little variety to break the humdrum of existence.

This world is not a playground in which we must look for nothing but pleasure and amusement

Since the fall of man this world is no longer the paradise that God originally designed it. It is not a playground in which we must look for nothing but pleasure and amusement. Rather it has become a drill-ground where monotony necessarily finds a place to train and mould us to a state that will make us pleasing to God. That is why Jesus Christ, “the way, the truth, and the life”, spent the greater part of His life in a state of obscurity, whose monotony for thirty years was rarely relieved and yet the sanctity of which, year by year, day by day, hour by hour, was an unbroken succession of infinite merits.

The Way, the Truth, and the Life

But for our purposes, perhaps we can better consider the matter in the life of St Joseph, who lived this life of monotony from start to finish. After Our Blessed Lord and Our Lady, St Joseph, as we know, was the greatest of God’s saints, proved as it is by the fact that he was chosen for that unique and special office – to be the foster-father of the Incarnate God.

He showed none of those exterior signs by which greatness is gauged by the world

Yet how little was he known to men while he was on this earth. Outside the village of Nazareth, where monotony marked his every day, no one had any knowledge of him. In the village itself he would not have been regarded as a person of any special note or distinction. He was just the village carpenter – a good, trustworthy and honest workman but nothing more. He lived a quiet monotonous life and died as quiet and as unnoticed as he had lived.

No one could have guessed how truly great he was, because he showed none of those exterior signs by which greatness is gauged by the world or by the ordinary men and women in the world. Even in the early centuries of the Church, St Joseph remained obscure and there was no special devotion to him. The reason for this, perhaps, was that the Church wished first that the fact of the Virgin-Birth of Our Lord should be well I established and that there should be no mistake about His paternity. However that be, it remains that no life of this very great Saint could have been more hidden and obscure, not only during his lifetime but even for some considerable time after it.

“Love to be unknown and to be accounted a nobody”

It all emphasises the value of a hidden life of monotony, that real virtue is best exercised and fostered under such conditions and that all who aim at perfection strive to lead such a life, as far as possible to do so. “Ama nesciri et pro nihilo reputari” (Love to be unknown and to be accounted a nobody) is the dictum of à Kempis.

He is indifferent to what men may know or think about him

A really religious man is glad when he is engaged in work that is monotonous and calls for no special recognition. He is not anxious to be in any sort of limelight and takes care to avoid it whenever he can. He does not push himself forward to call attention to himself and his doings. He may rightly think that there is not much to which he can call attention. He is carrying on the same way every day of his life, as so many others are doing. He is content to do just what God wills and is indifferent to what men may know or think about him.

He is content to do just what God wills

So we may see that though from an external point of view a man’s life may be monotonous, it does not follow that there is not a great deal of variety and change going on within his soul.

This was proved in the hidden life of St Joseph, where he was practising the most heroic virtue and was subjected to the greatest trials without which sanctity is impossible. What an agony of mind he endured when he learned that Our Lady had conceived. He wished at first secretly to put her away. He could not think that she had done any wrong and yet there was no explanation of what had happened. His faith in God was rewarded, for it was told him a little later that this conception was miraculous. Though before he finally settled down at Nazareth, there were two events that broke the monotony of his life, they were both such as were fraught with much suffering to himself.

A sense of humiliation and failure

The journey up to Bethlehem, where our Blessed Saviour was born and whither St Joseph had to repair to comply with the order of the census-taking, brought to him much humiliation and trial. Refused admittance to the inn, he had to wander about to find a place where Mary’s Son could be born; and then defeated, as it were, in his quest, had nothing else to offer his Virgin Spouse but the rough stable or cave that gave shelter to cattle. The joy that must have been at the birth of the Redeemer was a reward for all the humiliations and sense of failure that had preceded it.

An immense privilege

The other event that broke the monotony of his life was the order “to fly into Egypt with the Mother and her Son”. This again was no journey of pleasure. To ordinary human thinking it seemed so unnecessary: it involved, too, so many inconveniences, difficulties and hardships. But there was no hesitation on St Joseph’s part in obeying the will of God, as conveyed to him by the message of the angel. Then at length when they had returned to Nazareth, there set in those years of persistent monotony, only relieved by visits to Jerusalem to assist at the religious festivals to which the Jewish law summoned them. But settled at Nazareth where, year after year and day after day he could have found little change, as the “Village Carpenter” he pursued his humble calling. It was in his soul that there was change and variety, for he was experiencing ever greater knowledge of God and growing in virtue, as his union with, and his love of God mounted, having Him now in human form, the Child and then the Boy, to whom he was privileged to be guardian and foster-father.

It was in his soul that there was much change and variety

But the great world knew none of this. St Joseph died as he had lived, unknown, a person of no consequence or importance to a world that understands nothing of the hidden grandeur and nobility of a very holy soul.

He experienced ever greater knowledge of the Divine and was growing in virtue, as his union with, and his love of God increased

But, of course, to God he was known and to the God-Man who, now sitting at the right hand of His Father, has long since found place for His beloved foster-father near Himself. The whole court of heaven, amid the acclamations of all the heavenly hosts, welcomed to his eternal glory him who, after the Queen of Angels, was received as the greatest of God’s saints.

The greatness of St Joseph, so long unrecognised on earth, has now been acknowledged by his being proclaimed by our sovereign pontiffs the Universal Patron of the Church; innumerable churches throughout the whole Catholic world have been dedicated to him to his honour: many Congregations of Religious, both men and women, have been founded and established with his name and are consecrated to promote devotion to him. It is with his name on our lips, together with the names of Jesus and Mary, that we pray for the happiness of a good death.

An entire resignation to God’s will

The whole purpose of this conference is to show us that though our lives be monotonous and of no interest whatsoever to the world about us they need not be dull or valueless. On the contrary, as the hidden lives of Our Blessed Lord and of St Joseph prove, they may be filled with an ever changing and increasing glory of virtue. It is only necessary to accept the monotony of life with an entire resignation to God’s will and to lead the lives of fervent Catholics, making use of all the means of grace that God offers us in Holy Mass, the Sacraments and all the services of the Church.

Freedom and joy far beyond ordinary human understanding 

Such lives will gradually make us independent of this world: we shall be detached from a longing for the amusements and distractions of this passing show on earth, and find our consolation in serving God who, as in the case of St Joseph, will, if not always now, yet infallibly hereafter, fill us with His own joy and eternal happiness.

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




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“We are more than just consumers

In an inspired remark at the Mass for All Souls Day, our parish priest Fr Paul Redmond at Christ the King, Bramley, invited us to reflect on the fact that when we die and meet God ‘face to face, the full purpose and meaning of our own mysterious lives will be revealed to us’.

When we die and meet God face-to-face, the full purpose and meaning of our lives will be revealed to us

Meanwhile, we struggle on, trying to relate to others and manage our human desires for basic material goods, for other human beings and for God.

The difficulty seems to be that we are now living in times of such ferocious reductionism that our abilities to manage our desires are constantly being diminished. No need to worry about God in our secular world, only our abuse of others is a serious problem (especially in war and sexual abuse), though we can scarcely agree on what are the basic human needs of shelter, food and clothing for each and every person.

And yet, as St Augustine spelled out, our insatiable desires have the power to burn us up if not managed properly.

Our insatiable desires have the power to burn us up if not managed properly

An editorial in the recent Concilium theology magazine asked: ‘How can we humans order our desires rightly when we are bombarded with advertising that constantly tells us that we need more of everything all the time?’

Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded

We are all increasingly reduced to being regarded as consumers today. All values are reduced to monetary measures as the ‘economy now rules all’. Parents are even being urged by government to ask first and foremost ‘can they afford to have another child’? Students, patients and passengers are all called ‘consumers’. Personal contribitions, even of charitable volunteers, are now measured in quantitative cash values. As Pope Francis spells out in Evangelii Gaudium : ‘human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a throwaway culture which is now spreading’.

Everything human is being given a price tag

Not only are humans being regarded as literally ‘disposable’, increased consumerism is being driven by economic globalism, which is leading to a widening divide between those getting richer and those becoming poorer. Trade and commerce are driven by a continuing commodification of human life where nearly everything that human beings can be or do is increasingly a marketable product. Everything human is being given a price tag. This is far from the mysterious meaning and purpose of the human vocation, that personal ‘calling by God’ of each and every person whose human dignity is sacred from the outset.

Resisting the tyranny of market domination

Resisting this ‘tyranny’ of market domination, as Pope Francis labels it, is a huge challenge. Notably, the new supermarkets of Aldi and Lidl are overtaking the ‘big four’. In Leeds, Morrisons in Kirkstall offers 28,000 choices of goods on the shelves; the new Aldi store in Bramley only 8,000. St Augustine warned that entrapment in too many ‘choices’ is actually a form of slavery which diminishes our capacity to make really important choices.

I find myself hard to grasp (St Augustine)

When he wrote ‘I find myself hard to grasp’ he was challenging that  reduction of our lives to the economy of ever-expanding choices and inviting us to open up to God’s mysterious purposes.

– This article by John Battle was published in the Catholic Universe newspaper, issue 7th November, 2014. (Bold and headings added afterwards.) For subscriptions to the Catholic Universe newspaper please contact (external link)


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Jesus called the people and his disciples to him and said, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the Gospel, will save it. What gain, then, is it for a man to win the whole world and ruin his life? And indeed what can man offer in exchange for his life? For if anyone in this adulterous and sinful generation is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

And he said to them, “I tell you solemnly, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.”

V. The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.


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QUESTION: “Jesus has the power to heal. It must be obvious that healing people of physical illness would immediately bring followers to believe and follow Him. This is a problem I have and I would like you to write about it in your question and answer column.

ANSWER: To answer it we must start with asking why did Jesus come? He came that we may have life and have it in abundance. He came to bring us wholeness and completeness, to make us aware of His Father’s love for us, that we are important to God, that God is the purpose, the end, and the fulfilment of life, that without God we are nothing.


And so Christ tried to make us conscious of sin and of our need to open our hearts to God and accept his love and forgiveness. He came to heal our spirits and make us whole again which He does by bringing us God’s forgiveness.

Who hasn’t prayed for healing from the various illnesses which affect the human body? Most people suffer from one illness or another and those with faith will ask His help. In Lourdes, Fatima and other great shrines of Our Lady we see the healing hand of God at work where many miracles of physical healing have occurred. But Christ seems to be deaf to the prayers of the vast majority. There is no visible healing but our prayers are answered with a deeper healing – a healing of spirit.


This is why God became man. He answers our prayer in the way which will most benefit us on our journey to eternal union with Him. As we have seen this may sometimes mean miraculous physical cures.

Finally it doesn’t follow that a person who is cured of a bodily illness by divine intervention will follow Christ and be faithful to Him. Remember the 10 lepers who were cured? They, with one exception, didn’t even return to thank Him. (From St Martin’s Messenger, Ireland)”
– This article was published in “Don Bosco’s Madonna” issue July 2013. For subscriptions and donations please visit (external link) or (external link).


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“A fourteen year-old girl, falling from the sixth floor, there is no hope survival. She believed in no one and nothing. She was desperate, too young to understand the advice of her elders and too deluded by the fables she had heard.

The meaningless fear of sickness and pain, the body, wasting away and the mind growing old, lying in a hospital mourned by the family and forgotten by doctors, unable to recognise anyone and terminally ill. For one moment the elderly lady was slightly distracted and her husband met his longed-for death at the top of the stairs on the second floor.

He was a good driver, a very safe and experienced taxi driver, a happy husband and a proud and generous father. His heart stopped just as he reached the curb and his life slowly ebbed out; the end of life and the beginning of death… Our God is the God of the living and not of the dead. He gave us life and not death.

He calls us to an eternal life, not to a definite and dark end in oblivion. Our faith, without denying the inevitability of death with its corresponding pain reveals what it is: a tiny instant in which everything is obliterated and the true meaning of time, and history, of life and death, what is understood and what is ignored now dawns on us. We realise the meaning of ‘the already’ and ‘the not-yet’. Death is not all that there is. Only God is ‘forever’ for life and for eternity.


The meaning of death…lies in the meaning of life. When we have realised the meaning of life then we shall know the meaning of death and we will no longer be afraid of it. For those who are afraid of life death has immense meaning. It will be the end of anguish. It will be the finish-line, the end of an appalling nightmare. For those who are afraid of death, life has not yet been understood, intuited or perceived as an opportunity or a duty. It is understood as a free and gratuitous, unique and divine gift, something unfathomable, fascinating and precious, very precious.

The burden of living suffocates the beauty of living, the physical pain, the psychological suffering, unjust privations, the denial of fundamental rights and all these reduce life to an oppressive journey that seems futile, hostile and meaningless. Then death comes along, as a sweet companion, long-awaited and reassuring; a balm for the bruises without any delusions, tricks or stealth. In fact it is liberating, peaceful and from which there is no return.

The fear of death is also the fear of loneliness. Each of us dies alone. Throughout life we have so many travelling companions, but at the moment of our last breath, our last attempt to open our eyes, say our last word, our last superhuman effort to rise from the pillow…and we are alone. Those around us are waiting for the last breath, the last flicker of the eyelids when our bodies will become still and cold.


We will be alone to face this inevitable departure from life in order into Life, not just another life, but a different life, the fullness of life, devoid of evil, pain or death.

For the Christian, life is a Person who is from eternity. He died and rose to tell us that life reaches its fullness and its summit when we rise free from sin into a life of perfect grace, free from the bonds of space and time, to step into eternity…without any fear!”
– This article by Giovanna Colonna was published in “Don Bosco’s Madonna” issue July 2010. For donations and subscriptions please visit (external link) or (external link).


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“Raissa Maritain was born in Russia. Her parents, Orthodox Jews, had moved to France to seek better educational opportunities for their gifted daughters. Raissa advanced so quickly in her studies that she was admitted to university at sixteen. There she met her husband Jacques Maritain… They shared a passion for poetry, art, social justice and the need to discover the meaning of life. Neither had much religious training; they found it intolerable to imagine that existence might be absurd. Married in 1904, they made a vow that if, within a year, they had not found an answer to their quest they would end their lives.


From Henri Bergson they acquired a sense of the Absolute. Through the novelist Leon Bloy they were led to the world of Catholic Christianity and to Holy Scripture. Raissa was particularly moved by Bloy’s writings on the Jews, chosen by. God for a special role in the history of salvation. [Jacques became the most eminent Catholic philosopher of the twentieth century.] Within a year of their first meeting Bloy, they were baptised in 1906.


Having found their way to the Church, Raissa and Jacques ever after conceived their lives in religious terms. They took vows as Oblates of St Benedict and soon after made a vow of perpetual celibacy. Despite this private commitment, they felt strongly that they were not meant for monastic life, but were called to live out their faith in the midst of the intellectual and artistic circles in which they were immersed.


Raissa wrote, ‘It is an error to isolate oneself from men… If God does not call one to solitude, one must live with God in the multitude, make him known there and make him loved.’ Throughout their life together the Maritains’ salon was the centre of an extraordinary Catholic revival. As Jacques became more famous as a philosopher, Raissa was also recognised through the publication of several volumes of poetry and prose. Otherwise, she remained more in the background, the intimate collaborator in her husband’s work. He later said her aid and inspiration had penetrated everything he wrote.


Raissa died on 4 November 1960. It was only then that Jacques discovered her private journals and so realised the depth of spirituality that had been hidden even from him. Later published, the journals reflect Raissa’s intense life of prayer, and her understanding of her vocation as a contemplative ‘on the roads of the world’. Indeed on the basis of these writings, Thomas Merton called her ‘perhaps one of the greatest contemplatives of our time’.
– To read more, see ‘All Saints’ by Robert Ellsberg, The Crossroad Publishing Company, New York, 1997.”
– This article was published in “Far East” issue November 2013. For subscriptions, vocations or donations to the missionaries please visit (external link) or (external link).


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