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PSALM 50 – MISERERE

PSALM 50 – MISERERE

The repentance and confession of David after his sin. The fourth penitential psalm.

Unto the end, a psalm of David. When Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had sinned with Bethsabee [2 Kings ( = 2 Samuel) 12]

Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy great mercy.

And according to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my iniquity.

Wash me yet more from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my iniquity, and my sin is always before me.

To thee only have I sinned, and have done evil before thee: that thou mayst be justified in thy words, and mayst overcome when thou art judged.

For behold I was conceived in iniquities; and in sins did my mother conceive me.

For behold thou hast loved truth: the uncertain and hidden things of thy wisdom thou hast manifested to me.

Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed: thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow.

To my hearing thou shalt give joy and gladness: and the bones that have been humbled shall rejoice.

Turn away thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

Create a clean heart in me, O God: and renew a right spirit within my bowels.

Cast me not away from thy face; and take not thy holy spirit from me.

Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and strengthen me with a perfect spirit.

I will teach the unjust thy ways: and the wicked shall be converted to thee.

Deliver me from blood, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall extol thy justice.

O Lord, thou wilt open my lips: and my mouth shall declare thy praise.

For if thou hadst desired sacrifice, I would indeed have given it: with burnt offerings thou wilt not be delighted.

A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit: a contrite and humbled heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

Deal favourably, O Lord, in thy good will with Sion; that the walls of Jerusalem may be built up.

Then shalt thou accept the sacrifice of justice, oblations and whole burnt offerings: then shall they lay calves upon thy altar.

 

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COME, O HOLY GHOST, THOU SPIRIT OF TRUTH AND LOVE

COME, O HOLY GHOST, THOU SPIRIT OF TRUTH AND LOVE

PREPARATION FOR CONFESSION

Prayer to the Holy Ghost

Come, O Holy Ghost, thou Spirit of truth and love, enlighten my understanding that I may truly know my sins. Let me see all my offences as clearly as they will appear before me one day when I go before my Divine Judge.

Place before me the greatness of my disloyalty and unfaithfulness. Let me clearly behold how often and to what extent I have sinned against God, against my neighbour, and against myself, the good which I have omitted, and the duties of my state which I have neglected; help me that I may clearly recognise my predominant passion, and the sins which, alas, have become habitual.

Move my heart that I may sincerely repent of my sins and truly and unreservedly confess them, and that with an efficacious purpose of amendment I may be found worthy of forgiveness, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Holy Mary, Mother of grace and refuge of sinners, pray for me now that I may make a good confession.

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

 

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WE ARE THE GOOD FRAGRANCE OF CHRIST FOR GOD IN EVERY PLACE (2Co 2:15)

WE ARE THE GOOD FRAGRANCE OF CHRIST FOR GOD IN EVERY PLACE (2Co 2:15)

On Luke 7:36-50. For the text of this Gospel passage, please click here.

The importance of the Sacrament of Penance! The importance of true repentance! The importance of a real amendment of one’s ways in future, in word and deed!

What does this Pharisee, exulting in his self-righteousness, typify but the Jewish people? And the woman, the sinner who came and wept at the feet of the Lord, symbolise the Gentile world. She came with her alabaster box. She poured out her ointment. She knelt at his feet, in back, washing them with her tears, wiping them with her hair. Nor did she cease to kiss those feet she had so anointed and so wiped. That woman typifies us also, if when we have sinned we return to the Lord with a whole heart and imitate the example of her penitent grief. Of what is the ointment a type but of the sweet savour of a good reputation? Of this Paul says: “For we are the good fragrance of Christ for God in every place.”

If, therefore, we do good works which gain for the whole Church the savour of good repute, we pour out our ointment upon the body of our Lord. The woman at the feet of Jesus remained behind him but we – do we not stand opposed to him when we continue obdurate in sin and dispute his path. But when we are turned yet again and truly, earnestly repent of our sin, we stand behind him. We follow in the footsteps of one against we contended [by every single sin we commit; however small the sin may appear to us. One with a mature and trained conscience realises that there is no such thing as a “little sin”]. The woman washed his feet with her tears. We, too, do that very thing when we are moved to show compassion to the very least members of the Lord – when we comfort his holy ones in tribulation, when we make their sorrows our own.

Hence, we wipe the feet of the Lord with hair when we give as charity to his holy ones, even things for which we have no need. When our hearts sympathise, the bounty of our hand shows the truth of our compassion. The hand shows itself more generous when the mind is more deeply moved by compassion. The man who sympathises with the sufferings of his neighbour, yet gives nothing to alleviate them, even from the things he does not need, may wash the feet of the Saviour, but he does not wipe them with hair. Nor does he who gives words of pity to the sufferings of his brother but fails to remove the source of suffering. He weeps but he does not wipe the Lord’s feet. The woman kissed the feet she wiped. We do that, too, if we love warmly those we support out of our bounty – when the need of our neighbour is not irksome to us, nor the poverty we relieve a weariness to us, nor while our hand ministers to his wants our heart is untouched by compassion.

– From: St Gregory, Pope, Homily 33 on the Gospels [titles added afterwards], from: An Approved Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2016 in Words of Wisdom

 

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WE MAY SAFELY EXTOL THE MERITS OF ST EDMUND OF ABINGDON (NOVEMBER 16)

WE MAY SAFELY EXTOL THE MERITS OF ST EDMUND OF ABINGDON (NOVEMBER 16)

FOR WHAT WAS THE COURSE OF HIS LIFE, BUT ONE LONG CONFLICT WITH A WATCHFUL FOE?

We may safely extol the merits of the blessed Father [St Edmund of Abingdon], for he is now secure; he who, manfully handling the rudder of faith, has now cast the anchor of hope in a snug harbour, has brought his ship, laden with heavenly riches and eternal rewards, to the shore for which he longed. For a long time he opposed the shield of the fear of God unflinchingly against all enemies until the victory was won. For what was the course of his life, but one long conflict with a watchful foe?

How often did he not open the eyes of blind souls, who were wandering from the way of truth, and already hanging from the edge of a precipice over the abyss, and restore to them their sight, that they might see Christ? How often did he give the precious gift of hearing to ears that were deaf, afflicted by being stopped up by unbelief, that they might perceive the voice of the heavenly commandments; that they might hear God calling them to forgiveness, and might answer by obedience? How often did he not heal the wounds of the spirit by the skill of his prayers and angelic words?

How many, enfeebled by long neglect of the stain of sin and, as it were, full of infection of leprosy, have been cleansed by the grace of God working in him, and expiated through his teaching and discipline? How many, living in body, but already dead in soul and overwhelmed and buried beneath the weight of their sins, has he not raised to life in God, by calling them to amendment, as it were, to light? For, marvellous imitator of his Lord, he brought souls to a life-giving death, by which they die indeed to sin, but live unto God.

– From: Sermon of St Maximus, Bishop, ‘on the feast day of a Confessor Bishop’, from: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964

 

 

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MINUTE MEDITATION: THE MERCIFUL HEART OF JESUS

MINUTE MEDITATION: THE MERCIFUL HEART OF JESUS

HE GIVES HIS LIFE TO SNATCH US, HIS CHOSEN SHEEP, FROM THE DEATH OF SIN AND OF HELL.

Tender and compassionate, immense and truly incomprehensible is the pity of the Heart of Jesus for our miseries.

It was pity which made Him descend from heaven to earth, to work so many prodigies of mercy and compassion on our behalf. Like a good shepherd, He gives His life to snatch us, His chosen sheep, from the death of sin and of hell. Lamb of God, He exposes Himself to the rigours of divine justice, that we may be spared. Mediator between God and man, He consents to be abandoned, that we may be received into the friendship of His Heavenly Father.

And all this mercy, all this compassion, is living still in the Heart of Jesus. How He grieves to see so many perishing, or exposing themselves to perishing eternally! “O men,” He cries to them, “my poor children, why do you perish thus? Rather return to Me and live.”

“Return to Me and live.”

And when at length, contrite and humbled we return to Jesus, oh! with what tender mercy and compassion He welcomes us, embraces us, and re-establishes us in our rights! And – prodigy truly incomprehensible! – He even forgets our iniquities, so that, banishing from His Heart all resentment and all idea of vengeance, He seems never to have suffered the smallest injury at our hands.

– From: Laverty & Sons (eds), 1905

 

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ENCOURAGEMENT AND PRAISE

A great deal of our spirituality is taken up with our faults and backsliding. We are constantly being reminded that ours is a fallen race and that sin is our heritage. No inconsiderable part of ascetical treatises is composed of the survey of sin and its malice, and we are continually being invited to reflect on what miserable sinners we are and what a hash we have hitherto made of our lives. The sole object of a great number of sermons we hear is to point out to us the sins and faults into which we fall and to persuade us at once to set about the correction of them.

A necessary part of our spiritual training

All this is without doubt a most necessary part of our spiritual training, which we can never overlook or neglect. But there may be at times just too much of it. It may be unmeasured and disproportionate. If we keep our minds exclusively fixed upon such topics the natural result must be one of gloom and despondency.

Anyone who is engaged in the reformation of a sinner will prove his unfitness for the task if he is for ever harping upon the sinner’s depravity.

We need to encourage as well as correct

If we would do any permanent good to such a one we need to encourage as well as correct. We need to remind him that if there is evil in him, so is there good. Souls in whom there is nothing but evil are only to be found in hell. As long as a man is living on this earth, however bad he may be, there always remains in him some little spark of goodness which by co-operation with grace can be fanned into a flame of salvation.

A spark of goodness which by cooperation with grace can be fanned into a flame of salvation

That we need to encourage as well as to correct seems obvious enough to anyone with any knowledge of human nature; and yet, obvious as it is, it is a truth that is sometimes strangely overlooked.

The mistake is the greater when the people with whom you have to deal are not bad characters at all but in reality are substantially good, even though subject to many sins, imperfections and faults. Among such people we may most certainly and unquestionably count those Catholics who never neglect to hear Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation and regularly frequent the Sacraments. They may not have attained to any high degree of perfection but by fulfilling their duties they are making sacrifices which prove the genuineness of their faith and their endeavour to please God. A preacher, therefore, whose congregation is made up for the most part of such Catholics will conceive a certain respect for them and will avoid a form of address that may lead some of his hearers to go away with the idea that they are compounded of nothing but sins, with no redeeming virtues as a set-off to their failures.

A skewed picture

To be continually harping upon the faults and shortcomings of a congregation will not only have the effect of depressing or irritating them, but such a habit of speaking will not be conveying the full truth.

It will be as false as the picture entitled The Island in the North that leaves the impression that England is a country where nothing but damp and fogs prevail and where sunshine and beauty are never found. Whistler was fond of painting that kind of picture. It was sometimes described as a nocturne and a certain king of melancholy beauty was claimed for it. But it was really rather depressing, and one felt that on the same wall on which it was exhibited there should be another picture, say, of an English wooded country-side under a June sun, as a set-off to, and a correction of, the other. It is the distinguishing art of the Dutch school of painting that in their quiet scenes of home-life they manage so well the lights and shades; and it is the light of course that reveals the beauty of the picture as a whole.

We live in evil days when God’s laws are openly flouted

There is no doubt that we live in evil days when God’s laws are openly flouted by so many and His very existence denied.

But that is not the whole picture. There are still millions of substantially good Catholics and other Christians who acknowledge God as their Creator and Lord and strive to live by His commandments. Some of them are leading very holy lives in obscurity, unknown to the world at large.

Some live very holy lives in obscurity, unknown to the world at large

They are the really great ones in the eyes of God, who serve to counteract much of the evil surrounding them and by their example inspire us with hope for the regeneration of mankind.

This is a fact we need to dwell on when the outlook on what is undoubtedly a bad world is apt to depress and discourage us.

There have always been dark periods in the history of the Church but even in the worst of these God has always raised up saints who have helped to eradicate the evil and to bring back men to a sense of their duty to Him. What a scandal, for instance, was that of the great Schism of the West, when the faith of many must have been shaken or even wholly destroyed; and yet by the shining example of such saints as St Vincent Ferrer, St Catherine of Siena and others the Church emerged with her divinity unimpaired and entered upon a new life of worthier living.

“Lo, I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world”

So does Christ fulfil His promise: “Lo, I am with you always even to the consummation of the world.” It is faith in Him and in His presence in our midst that is the foundation of our confidence and gives us that encouragement, so necessary to preserve, in our service of God. It is the cheerful outlook that helps to advance in perfection; and sadness and melancholy, as we are constantly reminded, are enemies to be combated.

It is our faith in God that gives us that confidence

Our duty is not only to encourage ourselves but to encourage as well others with whom we may come in contact and to whom our influence extends.

As it is a means of encouraging, it is good sometimes to give people praise, show recognition of their good points and virtues, to let them see that if in some ways they have failed there are many more ways in which they have succeeded.

Encouraging ourselves and others

Charles Brookfield, a well-known actor of his day and a convert to the Catholic Church, once jokingly remarked: “I think there ought to be in every church not only the confessional where we have to tell our sins but another confessional where we can tell our virtues. In that way we recover our self-respect and the priest would have a truer and more complete knowledge of us.”

Every sincere sacramental confession is not only a confession of sin but an unconscious revelation of virtue

There is, of course, no need for this second confessional. We may assume that the priest has the qualities of a good confessor and will know that every sincere confession is not only a confession of sin but an unconscious revelation of virtue. It is testimony to the penitent’s faith, to his hope, to his humility – and often much else. Remembering this, the good confessor’s inclination is not to upbraid but on the contrary to be sympathetic, encouraging and helpful. If he sees his penitent unduly cast down or even suspects that he is likely to be, it is for the priest to remind him that he is not without some virtue, or at any rate has a substantial foundation of good upon which virtue can be raised.

In all accounts of Our Lord’s risen life, we do not find a word of recrimination to his repentant disciples for deserting Him

It is characteristic of Our Blessed Lord in His dealings with men, and especially with sinners, that He was always striking the note of encouragement and cheer.

When sinners repented, it was not His wont to bring up their past against them but He hastened at once to put them on the footing of friends who had never gone wrong.

In the dark hour of His suffering and death, Peter denied Him, and the rest of His apostles who with Peter had declared they would die with Him had on the contrary ingloriously fled and left Him to His fate.

But in all the accounts of His risen life, where do we find a word of recrimination for their defection, a word of blame to those shame-faced repentant disciples who cane out of their hiding-places to have share with Him in the victory of His Resurrection?

If there was in one instance a gentle chiding of them for their want of faith, there was no lack of warmth of welcome, no diminution of His love and friendship now that they had seen their folly and had hastened to His side again.

Though always aware of the evil in men, Our Blessed Lord seemed ever more intent upon seeing what was good in them.

And so in the Gospels we find Him constantly commending and praising those who had shown faith in Him and had done something to win His favour. Even when they had been guilty of much evil but had turned from the evil with sorrow, it is not on their evil He dwells but on the goodness that led to their sorrow.

Her love was more than her sins

“Many sins are forgiven her,” he said of the Magdalen, “because she has loved much,” to show us her love was more than her sins. He did not reproach the good thief with his multiplied crimes; but because one act of perfect contrition outweighs years of iniquity, He has for him only the consoling words:”Even this day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.”

Our Lord’s mercy for repentant sinners

We might multiply the instances in which Our Lord proves that He makes the utmost allowances for human frailty, and seemingly ignoring what is wrong and defective, eagerly seizes and expatiates upon what is good in men, that He might give them hope and encouragement.

In the spirit of Christ

We must learn the spirit of Christ in our dealings with our fellow men and in the ordering of our own interior life.

Many of us have a long record of sins against us for which by the grace and mercy of God we have repented, and whilst we ever retain an abiding sorrow for those sins let us never forget that the merits of our Redeemer on our behalf are infinite, only to be measured, if any measurement were possible, by the infinite love that He bears for each and every one of us.

The merits of Our Redeemer are infinite

He knows the clay of which we are formed. Most of us are far from being saints even now: we still sometimes sin, but if the habitual set of our wills is on good, the Saviour of men is ever there to assist us at once to rise and with courage renewed to continue the struggle.

The Saviour of men is ever there to assist us

Nor can it escape His notice that we are living in times of unusual trial and strain, brought about directly and indirectly by the terrible wars in which the greater part of the world has been involved. Everything, as we know, has been made more difficult – travelling, food, clothes. We often consider ourselves lucky to find even standing-room in our over-packed trains. We no longer get the abundance and variety of food which we once enjoyed. Poverty for many who once were in possession of riches has become such a real thing that they are now content to wear, if they can get them, the second-hand clothes of a pawn-shop.

Under these conditions of living we may be quite sure that if we humbly and patiently resign ourselves to the dispositions of Divine Providence, our credit balance in heaven will rapidly mount up and we need not fear to find ourselves declared bankrupts when the great day of reckoning comes.

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

 

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2016 in Words of Wisdom

 

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SACRAMENTAL CONFESSION IS “LIKE HAVING A TOOTH OUT WITH ANAESTHETIC”

Quick relief

Let me tell you a story about Bishop Fulton Sheen. It well illustrates how delicately God, through this sacrament of confession , takes away from us the terrible burden of sins. Really it’s like having a tooth out with anaesthetic. Jesus took all the pain in his Passion. We just feel the relief.

Bishop Fulton Sheen was on a plane journey, and after a time the man next to him, seeing he was a priest, said, ‘You know, Father, I’ve got all sorts of troubles.’ Fulton Sheen said, ‘What are they now?’

The man started telling him all his woes, and after a time the Bishop said, ‘You know, from the way you’re talking you might be a lapsed Catholic.’ And the man said, ‘Well Father, I suppose you could call me that.’

Fulton Sheen said, ‘How long is it since you went to confession?’

‘About twenty years.’

‘Are you married?’

‘Yes.’

‘Are you living with your wife?’

‘Yes.’

‘Are you having an affair with another woman?’

‘No.’

‘Well, fasten your seat belt, and I’ll hear your confession.’

When he had been to confession the man said,

‘You know, Father, I reckon God wanted me to sit here, because I had a seat reserved on a previous plane but I missed my connection, and I had to ring my wife and say I was coming on the next plane. This seat I’m sitting on was the only empty seat left on the plane.’

God’s plans

Fulton Sheen said, ‘Does your wife go to the sacraments?’ and the man said, ‘No.’ ‘Is it long since she went?’ ‘About the same as me.’

So Fulton Sheen said, ‘When we get there you must introduce me.’

At LA Guardia airport, the man introduced Fulton Sheen to his wife and they found a secluded part of the airport and he heard her confession too.

Now that incident shows how confession defuses what could be an explosive emotional situation, the return of the prodigal son.

Confession makes the return of the sinner to God easier, because it concentrates the sinner’s attention and energy on the one essential element in the whole process of reconciliation: the movement of the will away from sin and towards God, in other words, a change of heart. This sacrament cuts out the frills. It keeps emotion in a duly subordinate place and enables the sinner to come straight to the point.

God respects our free will

God respects our free will. He does not force anyone. He does not force the sinner to come back. But confession makes it all relatively easy and unembarrassing.

It took God’s wisdom and love to invent this sacrament, which frees us so gently from our sins. I once knew a nurse who worked in a maternity hospital. She was a very gentle soul, and she once told me that women who’d had surgery would ask for her to take their stitches out. They knew no one could be more gentle. That’s how Jesus is with our souls when he comes to us in this sacrament. No one could be more gentle.

But he does more than just take away our sins. He also strengthens us against further temptation. For there are other graces we receive in this sacrament besides the forgiveness of sins…”

– Fr Hugh S. Thwaites, S.J.

 

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