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“THE HOLY SPIRIT COMES TO MEET US AND KINDLES FAITH IN US”

“On … Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles, let us prayerfully reflect on some of the words contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the Holy Spirit.

‘The HOLY SPIRIT comes to meet us and kindles faith in us. By virtue of our Baptism, the first sacrament of the faith, the Holy Spirit in the Church communicates to us, intimately and personally, the life that originates in the Father and is offered to us in the Son.’ (Section 683).

‘The Holy Spirit is at work with the Father and the Son from the beginning to the completion of the plan for our salvation. But in these ‘end times’, ushered in by the Son’s redeeming Incarnation, the Spirit is revealed and given, recognised and welcomed in a person. Now can this divine plan, accomplished in Christ, the firstborn and head of the new creation, be embodied in mankind by the outpouring of the Spirit: as the Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.’ (section 686)

The Church, a communion living in the faith of the apostles which she transmits, is the place where we know the Holy Spirit:

• In the Scripture he inspired;

• In the Tradition, to which the Church Fathers are already witnesses;

• In the Church’s Magisterium, which he assists;

• In the sacramental liturgy, through its words and symbols, in which the Holy Spirit puts us in communion with Christ;

• In prayer, wherein he intercedes for us;

• In the charisms and ministries by which the Church is built up;

• In the signs of apostolic and missionary life;

• In the witness of saints through whom he manifests his holiness and continues the work of salvation (section 688).”
– From “Spiritual Thought from Fr Chris” (June 2014)

 

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ABOUT “A VOICE THAT CRIES IN THE WILDERNESS” AND FLYING SAUCERS

“Just like the experience of John the Baptist, perhaps we may feel that when we talk about Jesus to others, or we try to put the Church’s point of view on a topic, that we are a voice crying in the wilderness of hostility or apathy.

I remember one of the priests in the parish I grew up in was a member of the Catholic Evidence Guild. He would talk about the times when he would stand on a box on a street corner, or some other public place, and he would speak to passers-by about the Catholic Faith.

Sometimes people would listen, but often people would be indifferent or get into heated discussions or arguments. There are many wonderful stories about these encounters. I remember reading one encounter about a preacher speaking to a crowd of people gathered around his box. He was telling them about God, but a person interrupted him by asking the question, ‘What about flying saucers?’ The preacher responded with a smile on his face, ‘I’m sorry sir, but I’m not interested in your domestic disputes.’ Those who take to the streets to tell others about Jesus are a voice that cries in the wilderness.

Most of us will not venture onto the streets with our Christian message, but in our everyday lives, with family, friends, neighbours, work or school colleagues, we are called to be witness to Jesus and to use every appropriate opportunity to promote the Christian message and the Church’s teaching. To be a voice that cries in the wilderness is a very lonely place to be, but we should not give up, knowing that John the Baptist persevered in order to fulfil the mission given to him by God.”
– From: “Spiritual Thought from Fr Chris”, December 2011

 
 

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RESEARCH SUGGESTS THAT FAITH BENEFITS HEALTH – BUT IN BRITAIN TODAY, DOCTORS ARE NO LONGER PERMITTED TO BRING UP THE DIVINE PHYSICIAN IN DOCTOR-PATIENT CONSULTATIONS

“…As a GP in Margate, I have long been aware of the World Health Organisation’s view that spiritual health is an essential part of well-being.

Presenting the Gospel, or simply offering prayer to patients when relevant, has been an integral part of my work in these past 15 years, with many patients benefiting and some coming to faith.

Over the course of thousands of consultations with a spiritual element, I have had about eight written complaints. One was made directly to my professional body, the General Medical Council (GMC), and resulted in a prolonged public battle in which I sought to defend the right of Britain’s Christians to express their faith at work.

Predictably, last summer I lost my case and duly received an official warning from the GMC. One more similar complaint within a five-year period and a yellow card would quite likely turn red, losing me my job…

JUST ONE COMPLAINT AWAY FROM LOSING HIS JOB FOR SHARING HIS FAITH

…In 1993 guidelines allowed for gentle, sensitive discussions of faith. But subsequent [GMC] guidelines stated that doctors should not normally initiate faith discussions unless it is directly relevant to patient care. Again, I could sign up to that as it still gives us a wide freedom to introduce Jesus into situations where the Bible tells us (and experience shows) he can help – for example, anger, depression, anxiety, hate, inability to love, addiction and abuse.

But this March the GMC went further, stating that doctors should now not initiate faith discussions unless the patient has previously indicated a desire to do so.

This means that not only does the highly secular GMC not trust doctors to do their best for patients, but it also pays lip-service to the World Health Organisation’s view, while also ignoring the wealth of scientific papers that prove without doubt that faith benefits health.

NO ISOLATED CASE

Mine is no isolated case. When it hit the press, I looked to Christian Concern for help.

These lawyers based in London defend those who have run into trouble for holding on to Christian principles in the face of aggressive secularism and political correctness.

Working with this organisation has opened my eyes to the growing extent of this problem, as I met those who had been blacklisted by their professional organisations, or suspended or sacked for expressing their faith at work or in the public space.

They were just the tip of the iceberg. Over their five-year existence, Christian Concern has fielded hundreds of calls from those in trouble seeking help. Shocked by what I had seen, God prompted me to write a book, ‘Christians in the Firing Lane’ [Wilberforce Publications – all profits go to Christian Concern]…to inform the general public…and also, I hope, encourage others to make a stand…”

[One of the better known cases Christian Concern is defending is that of Celestine Mba, who is made to work on Sundays, another involves the right to put counter-advertisements offering help in response to London bus advertisements in favour of gay lifestyle, and also a case regarding the right for scouts and brownies to promise to do their duty to God.]
– The above is an excerpt of the article “Britain has become a hard place for Christian doctors” published in “The Catholic Herald” issue December 6 2013. For subscriptions please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk (external link). The book by Dr Richard Scott is available via wilberforcepublications.co.uk (external link)

 
 

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PRAYERS ON THE SOLEMNITY OF THE BIRTH OF JOHN THE BAPTIST

God chose John the Baptist from all the prophets to show the world its Redeemer. United with the faith of John the Baptist, we turn to the Father with our prayers:

John the Baptist experienced the grace of Christ while he was still in his mother’s womb: may we live our baptismal promises with renewed fervour and joy.

John the Baptist fearlessly proclaimed the truth, even when it led to his imprisonment and death: may all Christians bear witness to the truth of the Gospel with the courage of John the Baptist.

Of Christ, John the Baptist declared, “He must increase, I must decrease”: we pray that we will find the humility to allow Christ to grow in us as he grew in John the Baptist.

John the Baptist preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins: that all those who are enslaved by sin may come to repentance and be reconciled to God.

For those who dwell in any sort of darkness: that the birth of John the Baptist will be for them a source of new hope and gladness.

For the grace to live totally committed to Jesus Christ as did John the Baptist.

Loving Father, true to the example of John the Baptist, may we always behold the Lamb of God, your Son, and love him with all obedience. For Jesus is our Lord, now and for ever. Amen.

 

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ST JOHN VIANNEY: “THE PRIESTHOOD IS THE LOVE OF THE HEART OF JESUS”

“The priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus,” the saintly cure of Ars would often say. This touching expression makes us reflect, first of all, with heartfelt gratitude on the immense gift which priests represent, not only for the Church, but also for humanity itself. I think of all those priests who quietly present Christ’s words and actions each day to the faithful and to the whole world, striving to be one with the Lord in their thoughts and their will, their sentiments and their style of life…

“AFTER GOD, THE PRIEST IS EVERYTHING!”

The Cure of Ars was very humble, yet as a priest he was conscious of being an immense gift to his people: “A good shepherd, a pastor after God’s heart, is the greatest treasure which the good Lord can grant to a parish, and one of the most precious gifts of divine mercy.” He spoke of the priesthood as if incapable of fathoming the grandeur of the gift and task entrusted to a human creature: “O, how great is the priest!…If he realised what he is, he would die…God obeys him: he utters a few words and the Lord descends from heaven at his voice, to be contained within a small host”…

Explaining to his parishioners the importance of the sacraments, he would say: “Without the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord. Who put him there in that tabernacle? The priest. Who welcomeed your soul at the beginning of your life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for its journey? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest, always the priest. And if this soul should happen to die [as a result of sin], who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace? Again, the priest…After God, the priest is everything! … Only in heaven will he fully realise what he is.” These words, welling up from the priestly heart of the holy pastor, might sound excessive. Yet they reveal the high esteem in which he held the sacrament of priesthood.

He seemed overwhelmed by a boundless sense of responsibility: “Were we to fully realise what a priest is on earth, we would die: not of fright, but of love… Without the priest, the passion and death of our Lord would be of no avail. It is the priest who continues the work of redemption on earth… What use would be a house filled with gold, were there no one to open its door? The priest holds the key to the treasures of heaven: it is he who opens the door: he is the steward of the good Lord; the administrator of his goods… Leave a parish for twenty years without a priest, and they will end by worshipping the beasts there… The priest is not a priest for himself, he is a priest for you.”

“ONE NEED NOT TO SAY MUCH TO PRAY WELL”

Saint John Mary Vianney arrived in Ars, a village of 230 souls, warned by his Bishop beforehand that there he would find religious practice in a sorry state: “There is little love of God in that parish; you will be the one to put it there.” As a result, he was deeply aware that he needed to go there to embody Christ’s presence and to bear witness to his saving mercy: “Lord, grant me the conversion of my parish; I am willing to suffer whatever you wish, for my entire life!”: with this prayer he entered upon his mission.

The Cure devoted himself completely to his parish’s conversion, setting before all else the Christian education of the people in his care… As his first biographer tells us: “Upon his arrival, he chose the church as his home. He entered the church before dawn and did not leave it until after the evening Angelus. There he was to be sought whenever needed.”

The Cure also knew how to “live” actively within the entire territory of his parish: he regularly visited the sick and families, organised popular missions and patronal feasts, collected and managed funds for charitable and missionary works, embellished and furnished his parish church, cared for the orphans and teachers of the “Providence” (an institute he founded); provided for the education of children; founded confraternities and enlisted lay persons to work at his side…

Saint John Mary Vianney taught his parishioners primarily by the witness of his life. It was from his example that they learned to pray, halting frequently before the tabernacle for a visit to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. “One need not say much to pray well” – the Cure explained to them – “We know that Jesus is there in the tabernacle: let us open our hearts to him, let us rejoice in his sacred presence. That is the best prayer.” And he would urge them: “Come to communion, my brothers and sisters, come to Jesus. Come to live from him in order to live with him… Of course you are not worthy of him, but you need him!” This way of educating the faithful to the Eucharistic presence and to communion proved most effective when they saw him celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Those present said that “it was not possible to find a finer example of worship…he gazed upon the Host with immense love”. “All good works, taken together, do not equal the sacrifice of the Mass” – he would say – “since they are human works, while the Holy Mass is the work of God”…

THE BEAUTY OF THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE

In France, at the time of the Cure of Ars, confession was no more easy or frequent than in our own day, since the upheaval caused by the Revolution had long inhibited the practice of religion. Yet he sought in every way, by his preaching and his powers of persuasion, to help his parishioners to rediscover the meaning and beauty of the sacrament of Penance, presenting it as an inherent demand of the Eucharistic presence. By spending long hours in church before the tabernacle, he inspired the faithful to imitate him by coming to visit Jesus with the knowledge that their parish priest would be there, ready to listen and offer forgiveness.

Later, the growing numbers of penitents from all over France would keep him in the confessional for up to sixteen hours a day. It was said that Ars had become “a great hospital of souls.” His first biographer relates that “the grace he obtained [for the conversion of sinners] was so powerful that it would pursue them, not leaving them a moment of peace!” The saintly Cure reflected something of the same idea when he said: “It is not the sinner who returns to God to beg his forgiveness, but God himself who runs after the sinner and makes him return to him. This good Saviour is so filled with love that he seeks us everywhere.”

We priests should feel that the following words, which he put on the lips of Christ, are meant for each of us personally: “I will charge my ministers to proclaim to sinners that I am ever ready to welcome them, that my mercy is infinite.” From Saint John Mary Vianney we can learn to put our unfailing trust in the sacrament of Penance, to set it once more at the centre of our pastoral concerns, and to take up the “dialogue of salvation” which it entails. The Cure of Ars dealt with different penitents in different ways. Those who came to his confessional drawn by a deep and humble longing for God’s forgiveness found in him the encouragement to plunge into the “flood of divine mercy” which sweeps everything away by its vehemence. If someone was troubled by the thought of his own frailty and inconstancy, and fearful of sinning again, the Cure would unveil the mystery of God’s love in these beautiful and touching words: “The good Lord knows everything. Even before you confess, he already knows that you will sin again, yet he still forgives you. How great is the love of our God: he even forces himself to forget the future, so that he can grant us his forgiveness!” But to those who made a lukewarm and rather indifferent confession of sin, he clearly demonstrated by his own tears of pain how “abominable” this attitude was: “I weep because you don’t weep,” he would say. “If only the Lord were not so good! But he is so good! One would have to be a brute to treat so good a Father this way!” He awakened repentance in the hearts of the lukewarm by forcing them to see God’s own pain at their sins reflected in the face of the priest who was their confessor. To those who, on the other hand, came to him already desirous of and suited to a deeper spiritual life, he flung open the abyss of God’s love, explaining the untold beauty of living in union with him and dwelling in his presence: “Everything in God’s sight, everything with God, everything to please God… How beautiful it is!” And he taught them to pray: “My God, grant me the grace to love you as much as I possibly can.”

“I GIVE SINNERS A SMALL PENANCE AND THE REST I DO IN THEIR PLACE”

In his time the Cure of Ars was able to transform the hearts and the lives of so many people because he enabled them to experience the Lord’s merciful love… Thanks to the word and the sacraments of Jesus, John Mary Vianney built up his flock, although he often trembled from a conviction of his personal inadequacy, and desired more than once to withdraw from the responsibilities of the parish ministry out of a sense of his unworthiness. Nonetheless, with exemplary obedience he never abandoned his post, consumed as he was by apostolic zeal for the salvation of souls. He sought to remain completely faithful to his own vocation and mission through the practice of an austere asceticism: “The great misfortune for us parish priests” – he lamented – “is that our souls grow tepid,” meaning by this that a pastor can grow dangerously inured to the state of sin or of indifference in which so many of his flock are living. He himself kept a tight rein on his body, with vigils and fasts, lest it rebel against his priestly soul. Nor did he avoid self-mortification for the good of the souls in his care and as a help to expiating the many sins he heard in confession. To a priestly confrere he explained: “I will tell you my recipe: I give sinners a small penance and the rest I do in their place”…

DEVOTED TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN

Saint John Vianney was greatly devoted to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin; in 1836 he had dedicated his parish church to Our Lady Conceived without Sin and he greeted the dogmatic definition of this truth in 1854 with deep faith and great joy. The Cure would always remind his faithful that “after giving us all he could, Jesus Christ wishes in addition to bequeath us his most precious possession, his Blessed Mother.”

To the Most Holy Virgin…I ask her to awaken in the heart of every priest a generous and renewed commitment to the ideal of complete self-oblation to Christ and the Church which inspired the thoughts and actions of the saintly Cure of Ars. It was his fervent prayer life and his impassioned love of Christ Crucified that enabled John Mary Vianney to grow daily in his total self-oblation to God and the Church. May his example lead all priests to offer that witness of unity with their Bishop, with one another and with the lay faithful, which today, as ever, is so necessary…Dear priests, Christ is counting on you. In the footsteps of the Cure of Ars, let yourselves be enthralled by him. In this way you too will be, for the world in our time, heralds of hope, reconciliation and peace!
– The above are extracts of a letter by Pope Benedict XVI, “from the Vatican, 16 June 2009”

 
 

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“CATHOLICS MUST BE PREPARED TO FACE THE COURTS AND EVEN PRISON IN ORDER TO BEAR WITNESS TO THEIR FAITH”

British Catholics must be prepared to face the courts and even prison in order to bear witness to their faith, the Bishop of Shrewsbury has said. In an interview with the Catholic Herald published this week, Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury said: “If we are called upon in our generation, our time, to give such witness, even being brought before courts, even facing the prospect of imprisonment…that this is our opportunity to give witness, as the Gospel reminds us, not just for our contemporaries but for generations who will follow us.”

Bishop Davies said that it was difficult to know what the future would hold, especially as it once seemed unthinkable that Catholics would be persecuted in Britain in this day and age. He said: “As a young person, I used to pray for those Christians suffering under totalitarian regimes. It would have been unthinkable to believe that in Britain, during the gentle reign of Queen Elizabeth II, Christians would be brought before the courts for giving witness to their faith.”

He continued: “I remember the words of Blessed John Henry Newman when he foresaw a time coming, a time of infidelity which, he said, would leave such courageous hearts as St Athanasius and St Gregory aghast and dizzy.” Bishop Davies, who has been in his post for just over two years, said that when he met Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, the Pope repeatedly said the word “courage” to him. Bishop Davies recalled: “He stretched out his hand several times, and it was very striking, he was using the word in English – “courage” – repeatedly before all the very evident challenges that we are facing.” But Bishop Davies said that he was not naturally courageous himself. He said: “Perhaps that’s what the Pope saw! But he was speaking very clearly of a supernatural courage, which he had spoken of elsewhere, particularly required by bishops, that they need that supernatural courage to carry out their mission. I think what has helped me most of all in that is a sense of eternity and my own mortality.”

In the interview the Bishop of Shrewsbury emphasised the importance of the sacraments, particularly Confession and regular Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. He said that in order to sustain his daily routine as a bishop “the essential is prayer and giving that generous time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.” He said: “I seek to spend an hour each day as foundational to my whole day. The most important meeting is before the Blessed Sacrament in prayer and to be able to bring everything to Him, so that I can have some effectiveness in what I seek to do.”

[ In answer to the question: “Is your sense that this time that John Henry Newman spoke about is imminent?” he said: ] “I think it is the dramatic moment that we are living through now. Now, of course Blessed John XXIII reminded the fathers of the Second Vatican Council of this: every stage of the Church’s journey, of our history, has been a dramatic moment. But Blessed John Paul II said as we came into this new millenium that he saw a new spiritual crisis taking shape which would either lead towards a new barbarism or to a new springtime of hope, following what he called the ‘century of tears’, the 20th century. I think that Cardinal Pell was recently speaking about this at the synod: the drama of our time which is caught between hope and fear, the supernatural struggle that we are engaged in. I think that we have to be attentive to the drama of our own time.”
– The above are excerpts from an article published in the Catholic Herald, December 23, 2012

 
 

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