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“EACH OF US IS A KEY FIGURE IN GOD’S PLAN”

“Most of us lead rather unexciting lives. From childhood on, through high school and perhaps through college, we have followed a pretty conventional path. We have settled into a job or profession, sometimes without too much choice in the matter. We have married, bought a home, founded a family and are tied to a routine in which every day is quite like every other day.

‘WE HAVE FOLLOWED A PRETTY CONVENTIONAL PATH’

We are neither rich nor famous. Nothing very thrilling ever happens to us. Life is just a continuing round of work, bill-paying, minor crises and moderate pleasures. We read about other people whose names make the news, people who are doing important things, and we feel vaguely dissatisfied. Our own life seems drab and insignificant by comparison.

‘NOTHING VERY THRILLING EVER HAPPENS TO US’

We can see nothing in our future except more of what we have in our present. We wonder whether we have somehow missed the boat. Perhaps we were meant for greater things than this rut of mediocrity in which we seem to be imprisoned. It is all very discouraging.

‘WE WONDER WHETHER WE HAVE SOMEHOW MISSED THE BOAT’

There are very few of us who wholly escape such jaundiced moments of self-depreciation. They may not occur often, but we do encounter periods when we feel disheartened at what appears to be the pointlessness of our life.

‘WE DO ENCOUNTER PERIODS WHEN WE FEEL DISHEARTENED’

It seems that we need to remind ourselves of our essential importance in God’s scheme of things. Each of us is a key figure in God’s plan; otherwise He would not have created us. And our importance, in God’s eyes, is not to be measured by spectacular achievements, but precisely by the day-to-day fulfilment of the duties which we sometimes find so deadly dull.

GLORY ENOUGH FOR ALL

It is a fruitless undertaking to attempt to evaluate the comparative value of human accomplishments. It does seem obvious, however, that some of the achievements which rate high in news value may be scaled pretty low by God’s standards. The first men to land on the moon will have demonstrated a high degree of courage and of physical stamina, but they will not necessarily have added much to the sum of total human happiness.

ADDING TO THE SUM OF TOTAL HUMAN HAPPINESS

Moreover, there is no man (or woman) who can with honesty preen himself upon the success of his endeavours, whether he be the President of the United States or the world’s greatest artist. He never can say, ‘I did it all by myself.’ Too many other people have had a part in his making.

WE CANNOT TAKE ALL THE CREDIT

His parents have transmitted to him his brains and his talents and have formed his character and implanted ideals. Selfless and dedicated teachers have cultivated his mind and have imparted knowledge. Numberless friends and acquaintances along the way have bestowed encouragement and support.

LIKE A GREAT RIVER IS FORMED BY THE CONFLUENCE OF TRIBUTARY STREAMS…

Like a great river which is formed by the confluence of many tributary streams, a ‘great’ man is the fortunate focus of the contribution of many people. He has added his own bit to the total, unquestionably. He has used his assets well. But he has not arrived at his objective alone and unaided.

NOT ALONE AND UNAIDED

God’s plan for the universe undoubtedly calls periodically for men and women of beyond-average talent and accomplishment. This is true even on the natural level and aside from the heroism of the saints. When such men and women are needed, God can be depended upon to see that they are produced.

However, when it comes to the assignment of merit, God has only one rule: the ultimate glory goes to him who does the best he can with such abilities and opportunities as he possesses, however humble that ‘best’ may be.

A VERY IMPORTANT ROLE

By the usual standards of money, power, romance, fame and success, ours may be a very undistinguished life. Yet, to God and to the final realisation of His plan, ours may be a very important role. We cannot measure or even know the eventual effect of our influence upon our fellows. But we do know that our day-to-day relationships with family, friends, co-workers and even casual acquaintances, can constitute a vocation of a very high order.

The simple kindness and considerateness which we show toward others, may, in the end, be of greater consequence for humanity than the conquest of space.”
– Fr Leo J. Trese, 1966

 

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ARE WE TURNING TO GOD ONLY WHEN WE NEED SOMETHING?

A BREATH-TAKING QUESTION

“‘What wouldst thou have me do for thee?’ This is the question which Jesus put to the blind man who besought mercy of our Lord as He passed by on His way to Jerusalem. It was a breath-taking question. It was a blank check on the infinite power of God. ‘Anything you want you may have,’ Jesus is saying. ‘What is your choice?’

The blind man had his answer ready. He was obsessed by a single consuming desire – to be able to gaze upon the world about him. ‘Lord, that I may see!’ he begged. Instantly his prayer was granted. ‘Receive thy sight,’ Jesus replied, ‘thy faith has saved thee.’

‘THY FAITH HAS SAVED THEE’

If Jesus suddenly were to appear before us with a similar question, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’ what would our answer be? Better health? Success on the job? Money to pay off the bills? Solution of a personal or family problem?

It is to be hoped that we would have the discernment to pass over all such lesser needs and to ask for the gift which surpasses all others in importance: the grace of final perseverance, the grace of a happy death. ‘Lord, that I may love You, and love You to the end!’ This surely would be our answer if we had but one opportunity to draw upon God’s bounty.

Fortunately we are not limited to one opportunity. Jesus does not appear visibly before us, but His ears are permanently attuned to us. His invitation is never withdrawn, His benevolence is never exhausted. ‘What wouldst thou have me do for thee?’

JESUS’ INVITATION IS NEVER WITHDRAWN

God knows our wants, of course, even better than we know them ourselves. It would seem that in temporal matters the more perfect prayer of petition would be simply, ‘Give me whatever You know to be best for me, Lord; whatever is most in accord with Your will.’

Still, it pleases God to have us turn to Him in our particular needs. In every prayer of petition there is an implied act of adoration. By our requests we acknowledge God’s infinite goodness and power. We would not be turning to Him if we did not believe He cares for us and that He can help us.

GOD’S INFINITE WISDOM

If our entreaty is to be effective, however, it must also include an acknowledgement of God’s infinite wisdom. We must concede that, in the end, only God knows what is best for us and for those whose lives are intertwined with ours. His must be the final decision as to whether another grace must be substituted instead.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF PRAYER: THE HIERARCHY OF IMPORTANCE

As we well know, petitions are the least essential of our prayers. In the hierarchy of importance, prayers of adoration are at the top of the list. These are the prayers in which we salute God’s infinite greatness and holiness. We concede our own nothingness apart from Him. We assure Him of our faith in Him, our trust in Him and, above all, of our love for Him.

Next come prayers of thanksgiving for the love and the care which God has lavished upon us. Adoration and gratitude then naturally lead to prayers of contrition, as we grieve for our pettiness and our disobedience to a God so holy and good.

It is only after these three steps that we are prepared for prayer of petition. This does not mean that every time we give ourselves to prayer we must mechanically tick off praise, thanksgiving and contrition before daring to ask God for anything. It means only that we must maintain a sense of proportion in our prayers and not think that when we have asked for our daily bread, we can let the rest of the Lord’s prayer go by the board.

PRAYERS PLEASING TO GOD

In our petitions, too, there is a gradation of importance. Unselfish prayers, prayers offered for the needs of other persons, are especially pleasing to God. In praying for ourselves, it is our spiritual petitions which God most welcomes. When we plead, ‘Please, God, help me to keep from sin.’ ‘Please, God, help me to do Your will always,’ or ‘Please, God, help me to grow in love for You,’ there is no need to add the condition, ‘If it be Thy will’. In such petitions, we KNOW that our will is at one with God’s. Offered with sincerity and perseverance, these requests infallibly will be granted.”
– Fr Leo J. Trese, 1966

 

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“SUBSIDING ON A DIET OF LOCUSTS AND WILD HONEY”

“Many of us tend to feel that we have a positive right to a pain-free and a happy life.”

“ADVERSITY HAS ITS USES

The image of John the Baptist which emerges from the pages of the Gospels is a somewhat grim one. Living in the wilderness along the Jordan River, subsiding on a diet of locusts and wild honey, clothed in a coarse garment of camel’s hair, he is the very epitome of austerity as he thunders out his call to repentance and charges onward to his martyr’s death in Herod’s dungeon.

John must have possessed an attractive personality beneath his wild exterior because he drew to himself a band of loyal disciples. But he is the complete ascetic, totally detached from the world’s attractions. As such, he is an everlasting rebuke to those of us who might be tempted to place too high a value on the good things in life.

PLACING TOO HIGH A VALUE ON THE GOOD THINGS IN LIFE

We would hesitate to say so, but many of us do tend to feel that we have a positive right to a pain-free and a happy life. In theory we admit that, as a consequence of original sin and our own personal sins, we have sacrificed any claim to special treatment on God’s part. Yet, when sorrow, sickness or financial stringency comes to us, we are inclined to feel cheated. ‘Why did it happen to me?’ we ask.

WE FEEL CHEATED

It is one of the paradoxes of life that very often the more of God’s natural gifts we possess, the farther we drift away from God. We might expect that having perfect health, plenty of money and success in our undertakings would give us a deep sense of gratitude and would expand our love for God to the bursting point.

A DEEP SENSE OF GRATITUDE?

Nevertheless, it would be difficult to find instances of persons who have advanced in sanctity as they have grown in wealth. It would be equally difficult to establish any correlation between freedom from sickness and growth in holiness; in fact, the lives of the saints indicate quite the opposite. And, to express it conservatively, persons who have achieved a high degree of success or fame are not necessarily the most prayerful, the most dedicated to the doing of God’s will.

THE GOOD THINGS OF THIS WORLD AREN’T BAD

This does not mean that the good things of this world are bad. The temperate use and enjoyment of the world’s resources are quite compatible with our vocation as Christians. But it does seem that the more fortune smiles upon us, the harder we have to labour to keep acute our sense of the spiritual.

OUR ULTIMATE ADVANTAGE

There are very few of us who cannot look back on occasions in our lives when we met with some seeming disaster which, from the vantage point of today, we now can see was to our ultimate advantage. At the time we were full of resentment against the workings of Providence; yet now we can see that we are a better person because of the blow which befell us. St Paul was not the first or the last person who had to be knocked to the ground in order to head him toward heaven.

SHARERS IN THE CROSS OF CHRIST

To the great majority of us, misfortune comes only occasionally. But there are other persons for whom suffering seems to be a life-long vocation. Some are afflicted with chronic illness, others are the victims of circumstances which result in continuing frustration or grief. Such sharers in the cross of Christ enjoy a privileged position. Their suffering constitutes a permanent sight draft upon God for limitless grace, wherever and whenever needed.

PRESERVING OUR SENSE OF PROPORTION

Whether we are among this favoured minority, or whether our own share of adversity is just average, it is important for us to preserve our sense of proportion. The distance in happiness between the person who knows nothing but misery and the person who has everything – health, wealth, success and love – is infinitesimal when compared to the distance between this world’s highest happiness and the bliss of heaven.

WE MUST ALL LOOK PRETTY WRETCHED

From the viewpoint of the angels and saints, who look upon the face of God and know what real happiness means, we mortals must all look pretty wretched, even at our most prosperous and most hilarious.

Assuming that our life is one long unbroken series of calamities, it still will be better to have lived than not to have lived, for the sake of the joy that is to come.”
– Fr Leo J. Trese, 1966

 

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WHAT DID DAVID LACK AFTER HIS SIN? HE STILL HAD HIS MAGNIFICENT PALACES AND HUNDRED OTHER AMUSEMENTS…

THE ONE THING NECESSARY

“The one thing necessary! ‘In such sort,’ says Saint Augustine, ‘that with God we have everything, and without Him we have nothing.’

Of what use to a rich man are his gold and his fortune, if God fails him? What does it avail the monarch to wear the mantle of royalty, if he is stripped of the grace of God? Of what service to the scholar is his brilliant knowledge, if he does not know how to love God? Of what profit is it to the general to have a whole army under his command, if he himself groans under the yoke of Satan?

What did David lack after his sin? He had still his splendid gardens and magnificent palaces, the pleasures of the chase and hundred other amusements. Nevertheless, amid all these enjoyments, he found neither peace nor contentment, and his tears fell night and day. Ah! he heard a voice whispering to him: ‘Where is your God?’ And the voice added: ‘Return to your God. He alone can satisfy you.'”
– Laverty & Sons (eds), 1905

 

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THE GOODNESS OF CHRIST TEACHES US THAT WHO WE ARE IS ABSOLUTELY INDEPENDENT OF WEALTH, POWER AND SUCCESS

IF WHAT SOCIETY TELLS US TO BE GOOD AND BAD DOES NOT CORRESPOND WITH WHAT IS REALLY GOOD AND BAD EACH INDIVIDUAL FEELS BURDENED.

“For a person to encounter the goodness of Christ in another person is in particular to encounter himself for what he really is. The world forces us to be ourselves, plus something else: family, profession, nationality, race, class… It necessarily groups us in series. It judges us according to what counts for the world as qualities and deficiencies, but does not touch who we really are.

Each person in society feels himself branded by the original sins that vary according to the social environment and that are treated as incurable. But in relation to the goodness of Jesus Christ, it is the individual person who exists, and everything else is relativised in one fell swoop.

WHO AM I, THEN?

If the catalogue of what is good and what is evil does not correspond with what is actually good and evil, each person nevertheless – and this time it does touch who he is – feels burdened with his deficiencies and limitations. No society is kind toward what it considers vices or a disgrace.

But in the encounter with the goodness of Jesus Christ we do not automatically become innocent; we may learn that we no longer have to feel guilty about certain weaknesses, but we learn quickly which weaknesses really affect us.

HONEST ACCEPTANCE OF MYSELF WITHOUT SWEEPING MY WEAKNESSES UNDER THE CARPET ANY LONGER

Nevertheless, the goodness of Christ considers them all curable. It teaches us that this ‘who we are’, which has been so manhandled by the world, possesses a value that is absolutely independent of wealth, power, smarts, influence, strength, and success. The goodness of Christ works with us; even more, it hopes for something from us, from each one of us. The goodness of Christ is above all something else: an encounter that affirms for us that we exist, that makes us present to ourselves, that walks alongside us in a common life.”
– Servant of God Madeleine Delbrel

 

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IS YOUR MARRIAGE ON THE ROCKS?

“THINKING ABOUT SEPARATION OR DIVORCE?

Is your marriage or that of a relative or friend heading for divorce? Do you know how to save that marriage? Or do you feel helpless?

Retrouvaille (pronounced retro-vi with a long I) is designed to help troubled marriages regain their health.

It helps spouses uncover or re-awaken the love, trust and commitment that originally brought them together. The programme is highly successful in saving hurting marriages, even bringing reconciliation to couples that have already separated or divorced.

For confidential information about or to register for the programme beginning with a weekend on the 28th – 30th March 2014, email info@retrouvaille.org.uk; call or text 0797 338 0443 or visit http://www.retrouvaille.org.uk (external link).

 

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“HELP, MY PRAYERS DON’T SEEM TO GET ANY RESULTS!”

A BREATH-TAKING PROMISE

“‘If you ask the Father anything in My name, he will give it to you.’ This is a breath-taking promise which Jesus has made to us. It puts tremendous power into our human hands.

It may be that we do not fully appreciate the extent of that power. Perhaps we are not fully using this power over God which He Himself has given us. It even may be that, deep down in our hearts, we do not truly believe that anything is ours for the asking.

DO WE FULLY BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF PRAYER?

If we seem to have a discouraging lack of success with our prayers of petition, it is possible that we are not really asking in the name of Jesus. To ask in His name is much more than a matter of words. It means to approach the Father in union with Christ and in His spirit.

ARE WE IN CHRIST?

God can recognise His Son in us only if we have love for God, as witnessed basically by our freedom from grave sin, by our oneness with Christ in the bond of grace. Further, we come to God in the spirit of Christ only if we are committed to the doing of God’s will. Our commitment may be still imperfect and probably is. However, the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane, ‘Not My will but Thine be done,’ must find some answering echo in our own heart. Otherwise we are incapable of asking ‘in His name.’

LOVE FOR NEIGHBOUR

Further, since love for neighbour is so essential an element in our Christlikeness, we hardly can present God with a request which can be granted only at the expense of someone else. We are not asking in Christ’s name if the gain we seek must mean another’s loss.

WE PRAY AND PRAY – AND NOTHING HAPPENS?

Let us assume that when we offer our petitions to God we actually do so in the name of Jesus. That is, we do love God and try to be fully acceptant of His will. We do love our neighbour and desire his greatest good. Why is it, then, that with such dispositions we so often seem to appeal to God in vain? We pray and pray, but nothing happens.

The customary explanation is that God, Who is infinitely good, wants for us only what will promote our welfare. He knows all things and knows, better than we, the ultimate effect of this or that favour which we ask of Him. If the result will be harmful to us in the long run, then God certainly will not grant what we ask. Our prayer will not be wasted. God will compensate us in some other way. But God would be untrue to Himself if He gave us what would hurt us.

OUR PRAYERS ARE NEVER WASTED

All of this is perfectly true and undoubtedly does account for some of our apparent failures in prayer of petition. However, there may be another and less obvious reason for some of our disappointments in prayer. It may be simply that we do not pray with sufficient faith.

DO WE PRAY WITH SUFFICIENT FAITH?

Perhaps when we turn to God in some necessity or emergency we are not really very hopeful. We feel that we have nothing to lose by appealing to God but we expect that in the end we probably will have to work out the solution for ourselves.

‘MIGHT AS WELL PRAY AS WELL, JUST IN CASE…’

This state of mind is ruinous to prayer of petition. The one disposition above all others which we must bring to prayer is a strong, strong faith in God’s ability and d e s i r e to help us. We have only to page through the Gospels to see what emphasis Jesus puts upon faith. Time and again He assures a petitioner, ‘Your faith has saved you,’ or, ‘Your faith has made you whole.’

IN THE NAME OF YOUR SON, OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

Is there some favour which you very much want from God? Are you in the state of grace? Is God’s will your norm of action, so far as you can make it so? To the best of your knowledge will the favour you seek bring no hurt or loss to another? Are you also as sure as humanly possible that the granting of the favour will not be in the least prejudicial to your own spiritual welfare?

Very well, then. Present your petition to God ‘in the name of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Ask bravely, ask confidently, God will not mind even if you scold Him a bit. (‘God, Your Son promised this. Aren’t You going to back Him up?’) Then be ready, perhaps much sooner than you think, to offer your prayer of thanksgiving.”
– Fr Leo J. Trese, 1966

 
 

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“GO FROM PLEASURE TO PLEASURE – YOU SHALL NOT FIND HAPPINESS”

THE WHOLE EARTH CAN NO MORE SATISFY AN IMMORTAL SOUL THAN A PINCH OF FLOUR CAN ALLAY THE HUNGER OF A STARVING MAN.

“Worldly people say that it is too difficult to save our souls. Nevertheless, nothing is easier: Observe the commandments of God and of the Church, and avoid the seven deadly sins; or, if you will ‘avoid evil and do good’ – that is all.

Good Christians, who endeavour to save their souls are always contented and happy. They taste in advance the joy of heaven, and they will be happy for all eternity. On the other hand, unfaithful Christians, who are damning themselves are always complaining; they murmur and are sad, and thus will they be for all eternity.

A good Christian, covetous of heaven attaches little importance to the treasures of earth. He thinks only of adorning his soul, of amassing riches, which will truly satisfy him, and which will endure for ever. Look at the kings, the emperors, the great ones of the earth. They are very rich, but are they happy? If they love God, yes; but otherwise, no, they are not happy. In my opinion, no one is so much to be pitied as the rich, if they do not love God.

Go from continent to continent, from kingdom to kingdom, from riches to riches, from pleasure to pleasure – you shall not find happiness. The whole earth can no more satisfy an immortal soul than a pinch of flour can allay the hunger of a starving man.”
– Blessed Cure d’Ars

 
 

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HOW CAN ALL OF US BE VERY SUCCESSFUL IN THIS LIFE?

SUCCESS IN THIS LIFE IS…

… to be a docile tiny unit of the incarnate manifestation of God’s body on earth which advances the Kingdom by suffering and virtue; thus being united with and absorbed in Christ in Spirit, loving and praising Our Creator & serving neighbour through Him and in Him.

 
 

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TODAY’S RESPONSORIAL PSALM (PSALM 117)

R. The stone which the builders rejected
has become the corner stone.

1. Give thanks to the Lord for he is good,
for his love has no end.
Let the sons of Israel say:
“His love has no end.”
Let those who fear the Lord say:
“His love has no end.” (R.)

2. The stone which the builders rejected
has become the corner stone.
This is the work of the Lord,
a marvel in our eyes.
This day was made by the Lord;
we rejoice and are glad. (R.)

3. O Lord, grant us salvation;
O Lord, grant success.
Blessed in the name of the Lord
is he who comes.
We bless you from the house of the Lord;
the Lord God is our light. (R.)

ALLELUIA

Alleluia, alleluia!
This day was made by the Lord;
we rejoice and are glad.
Alleluia!

 

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