The problem of Zombie-Robot parishioners and ‘active participation’.

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Have you ever sat in Mass and felt like this?! I know I have. There have been many times where I have just zoned out. I realise the priest has got to the end of his sermon and I haven’t really heard a word because I was daydreaming.

I suppose it doesn’t help when most other people around you are doing the same thing. To my horror, I realise that I have become one of those legendary Zombie-like parishioners that I used to marvel at as a child.

I remember the droning monotone chorus of the congregation during the creed, the robotic expressionless handshake of peace, the lifeless melody of the organ with literally 2 people singing out of the entire congregation. The ones who used to hit the ESCAPE button and walk out straight after communion – I guess they’d fulfilled their weekly obligation right? And yet we, and the same other people used to turn up week after week and filter up the isle into the same old pews that we almost seemed to be pre-programmed to return to.

A congregation of mindless robots.

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And it wasn’t as if our church wasn’t trying – they got the parishioners involved in the offertory procession, the choir, the readings and bidding prayers, they even got the children to go up onto the sanctuary during the consecration to see up close what the priest was doing. But still, before long it began to dawn on me that I really wasn’t getting anything out of Mass.

By age 13 I had stopped going. I just didn’t see the point. It was so boring. The people there were so boring. The final nail in the liturgical coffin for me was the ‘Teen’ mass. The cringeworthy band with their ‘Rock’ hymns, the priest trying to be cool, the fact that they were trying so hard to include and please us… It was just embarrassing.

I felt quite sorry for them in a way. I could see how hard the few motivated ones were trying to make it work, but it wasn’t cutting it. It didn’t have any interest whatsoever in going to a dead church full of robots. There was nothing in it for me.

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It wasn’t until 5 years later, age 18, when I had my first ridiculously powerful, life changing personal encounter with Jesus after a failed suicide attempt that I began returning to Mass.

Because of that encounter, I suddenly realised that Jesus Christ was real, alive, and truly present in the liturgy of the word and the liturgy of the Eucharist during Mass. In those first few weeks of returning to Church as a young adult, on my own, I remember how the words of the readings and the Holy Gospel would just fly accross the church out of the mouths of the readers and just penetrate my heart like a flaming spear. I remember getting butterflies in my tummy, and my heart racing as I approached Jesus in the Holy Eucharist for the first time in a long time. And I remember the gentle peace of Him, as He surrounded me with reassurance and calm during my first tentative steps of my conversion of heart, that I was wanted and loved by Him.

And yet, I was still surrounded by those loyal, yet long suffering mindless robots that surrounded me as a child. The droning creed, the robotic handshakes, the 2 lonely hymn singers… They were all still there! In some ways I found it quite funny 🙂 but I also found that it broke my heart. I was home, but my family were zombies.

I would just watch them week after week, just going through the motions. It was like they were asleep inside, while my heart was completely on fire for Jesus. I learned pretty quickly that I was not going to fit in.

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After another 10 years or so I began my Catholic studies at Maryvale university, and for the first time ever came accross the term “active participation” in the Vatican 2 document Sacrosanctum conciliumthe Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. I learned here that one of the main aims of the day in and around the 1960’s was to get the laity to participate more in the Mass. I was amazed because I thought the robotic zombie parishioner was a modern phenomenon. It seems not.

The other bombshell I learned was that up until the late 1960’s, the priest always used to say Mass with his back to the congregation!! I couldn’t believe it! Why on earth would he do that? The Mass before the late 1960’s was very different. It was said in Latin, the priest had his back to the congregation, people used to kneel to receive Holy Eucharist and would only receive on the tongue. Women were required to cover their hair in church, members of the congregation would often say rosary during Mass if they didn’t understand the Latin. Things were really different.

I can really understand why people were calling for reform in the church and pushing the idea of the “active participation” of the laity in the Mass. How easy would it be to zone out during Mass if you were just sitting there not even able to understand the language? So the Council Fathers developed this idea of active participation:

“14. Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people” (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.

In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else; for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit; and therefore pastors of souls must zealously strive to achieve it, by means of the necessary instruction, in all their pastoral work.” – Sacrosanctum concilium

Although it was never actually an official part of the reforming documents of Vatican 2, the radically new idea of the priest facing the people began to creep in a few years later. The idea behind this was to make the people in the congregation feel more welcome, more involved and for the first time ever they could see what the priest was doing on the altar. It was all aimed at moving towards this idea of active participation.

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I can totally understand what they were trying to do in the late 1960’s, but 50 years later with obviously dwindling parishes, lack of religious vocations and widespread theological ignorance within the church, the million dollar question is:

Has this radical idea of active participation actually worked?

It was initially implemented to reduce parishioner zombification during Mass. But as i’m sure you will agree, the zombie robots are alive and well and STILL filling our churches today.

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Now, as you have probably heard, Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, urged priests and bishops at the Sacra Liturgia conference in London on July 5 to start celebrating Masses ad orientem (with their back to the congregation) beginning on the first Sunday of Advent this year 2016.

This had caused uproar in the more progressive circles of the church as they believe it would take us back 5o years and undermine all the efforts made at active participation since then.

However I think they have got the wrong end of the stick here…

I think that it is pretty safe to say now that the active participation thing has not worked as intended. In all honestly, I think it has backfired massively and has actually drawn the people even further away from participating actively.

You see, the active participation that occurs currently is focused on outward signs and physical gestures. But this is not what active participation is meant to be. The true meaning is for the persons spirit to be actively involved in the mass, not though superficial things like carrying the offertory gifts, but to carry out our Baptismal ‘priestly’ role by offering our entire lives to God as Christ did on the Cross.

Of course it was never explained to me as a kid – or even as an adult that we are actually present at Calvary in real time during Mass. I never knew that. I also never realised that the Mass is something that is directed at God – not at the people. I never knew. The first time I realised that was during my first ever Tridentine (Traditional Latin) Mass where the priest had His back to me. When he lifted up the consecrated host with his back to me, I suddenly realised that Mass was not all about me. It was all about God.

We all face God. The priests offers the sacrifice on our behalf. Man is not the centre of the liturgy – Christ is.

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During Mass, by right and duty of my Baptism, my job is to offer my whole life – joined to the eternal sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, to God.

Why oh why did no-one ever tell me this? How can anyone possibly be luke warm during Mass armed with this knowledge? THIS is the active participation that we are meant to be carrying out during Mass – not joining the priest on the sanctuary or clapping during the Gloria.

I can see now that all those external participations actually served as distractions that drew my attention away from what I should really have been concentrating on internally. Even the priest himself can become a distraction during Mass – especially if he is young and handsome (yes, this has happened to me before during Mass *cringe*).

So to cut a very long argument short – I can totally see where Cardinal Sarah is coming from. He is trying to move the focus of the Mass back to where it should be – onto Christ, and eliminate the many distractions that have crept into the liturgy over the years. He is also trying to educate us as to the real meaning of “active participation”.

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There is one last thing…

Offering Mass this way would also be a wonderfully unitive thing to do with the Eastern Churches. They all offer Mass with the priest having his back to the congregation – they never changed. And as with everything in Catholic culture, this posture is highly symbolic. I spoke to my Byzantine friend who put it perfectly:

“Every movement in the Liturgy is symbolic. For instance, we face west during the exorcism part of the Baptism ceremony and then turn to the east (the altar) to declare our allegiance to Christ. It seems strange that the priest would face west to lead us in prayer/speaking to God on our behalf.”

Yes, that does seem strange when she puts it like that doesn’t it? I’m going to have to think more about that last part very, very carefully.

 

 

Did Voris just become our mascot for the Year of Mercy?

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I was very moved to see Michael Voris confess to his gay past a few days ago. I’m sure this must have been a very difficult thing for him to do, but I have to say – I think it is probably the best thing that has ever come out of Church Militant TV.

It explains a lot. The ruthless style journalism, the depth of revulsion – verging on hatred, of all things flimsy and unorthodox within the church, the hair… 😉

I think that when someone has lived in the depths of sin for so many years, the freedom that comes with confession and conversion is so life transforming that it is a pretty natural reaction to want to reject all sin with such dramatic force.

Mr Voris has often come across as rather cold and judgmental. But in the light of his recent revelations it is possible to see now that his motivations were not “holier than thou” but much more likely an impassioned revulsion at his own sinful past.

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The reason Mr Voris has brought his past to light was because he claims that New York diocese was “…collecting and preparing to quietly filter out details of my past life with the aim of publicly discrediting me, this apostolate and the work here.” 

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York told the Catholic Herald: “It is absolutely, 100 per cent untrue that the archdiocese was collecting and preparing to release anything concerning him personally or his website.”

Hmmm… difficult to say what really happened. I don’t think Mr. Voris would have revealed his past unless he really did think New York diocese was going to try to use it to discredit him. But if he was really smart, he would have allowed them to go ahead and do it – and basically give themselves enough rope to hang themselves with. As it stands now it is very difficult to prove that was the diocese intention.

In recent years New York diocese and Cardinal Dolan have been sued by Catholic parishioners accusing them of covering up for a homosexual priest Fr. Peter Miqueli, who stole millions from parishes to finance a sadomasochistic sex life with his gay-for-pay prostitute.

There was also the decision of Cardinal Dolan to head the 2015 St Patrick’s day parade despite the inclusion of a gay activist group, and the exclusion of a pro-life group. Mr Voris actually questioned Cardinal Dolan on this issue, at the parade itself. It feels very different now to watch this in the light of Mr. Voris’ past. I really think he is extremely brave as this is obviously an issue that is very close to his heart.

Cardinal Dolan recently wrote: “And…the Pontiff who has proclaimed a Year of Mercy, urging us, like a prophet of the Old Testament, like Jesus, like the apostles, like the saints, to ask Jesus for His mercy in our prayer, in the sacrament, and then to show this mercy to others.”

How ironic that those who claim to offer Christ’s mercy, seem to be perfectly alright with a gay activist group being part of their parade, but allegedly try to use the homosexual sins of a man’s past to try to discredit his reputation. While on the other hand we have a man who is renowned for being ruthless and apparently judgmental, now standing as a perfect example of what Christ’s mercy really looks like.

What better Christian witness is there than being a forgiven sinner? 🙂

What the diocese of New York has perhaps overlooked is that fact that there is nothing shameful about turning away from a sinful past.

Personally I think that this is the best thing that Mr. Voris has ever published. And I am excited to see how he will now continue with his ministry, because now he has revealed his need for confession, compassion and understanding, we will never see Church Militant in the same light again.

God’s love and mercy is made perfect in our vulnerability and weakness.

The Jewish roots of the Eucharist.

Very excited to introduce my mum – Julie Brook who has been reading the amazing book ‘Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist’ by Brandt Pitre, and has written this great article for Faith in our Families…

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By Julie Brook

Did you know that the Jews had Sacred Bread which the priests elevated in the Temple before the people every Sabbath saying, ‘Behold God’s love for you’? Or that at every Passover the sacrificial lambs were fixed on a kind of crucifix? Or that the Jews were expecting a new Exodus? Or that a cup of wine was missing at the Last Supper?

Did you think that the Jews were expecting a political figure? What they were really waiting for was the restoration of Israel in a new Exodus. The first Exodus ensured the freedom of the Jews to worship God. By sacrificing on Mount Sinai Moses and the people sealed their Covenant relationship with God concluding the ritual with a great feast. Soon afterwards the Jews broke the Covenant by worshipping the Golden Calf but a thousand years later the prophet Jeremiah foretold a new, everlasting Covenant.

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After the Exodus the Jews built a Tabernacle as the central point of God’s presence in their midst. It was a small, moveable building, the dwelling place of God on earth. The later Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem was permanent and far more splendid but it was destroyed by the Babylonians in 537BC. King Cyrus of Persia permitted it to be rebuilt but it never regained its splendor.

The prophets now forecast a new Covenant, a new Temple that God would build in the age of salvation at the time of a new Exodus. It would bring both Jews and Gentiles into a new Promised Land which they would possess forever. The new Moses would be a Messiah, a king, prophet and miracle-worker who would rain down bread from heaven. Redemption would take place on a Passover night and a new Covenant would end in a heavenly banquet.

This new Exodus would need a new Passover. The procedure for the first Passover was as follows: first, sacrificing an unblemished male lamb (a priestly action), spreading the blood of the lamb on the doorposts (averting the angel of death), and to complete the sacrifice, eating the lamb and finally keeping the Passover as a Remembrance.

Fifteen centuries later, at the time of Jesus, the lamb had to be sacrificed in the Temple and eaten in Jerusalem. The Jews would drive a thin smooth stave of wood through the shoulders of the lamb in order to hang it and skin it. Another spit would transfix it right through from the lower parts right up to the head. Jesus would have gone up to Jerusalem every year and seen lambs bled and crucified – thus prefiguring his own death.

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The last supper

There are similarities between the Last Supper and the traditional Passover which took place in Jerusalem after sunset on Passover night; wine was drunk, the meaning of the bread was explained and a final hymn was sung. The father of the family led the ceremony and explained the meaning of the lamb, unleavened bread and bitter herbs (which fulfilled God’s original command to keep the Passover as a day of ‘Remembrance’).

Jesus, however, acted as host and leader of the Apostles, not as their father. He focused on the New Covenant rather than on the events of the first Exodus. Without mentioning the body and blood of the Passover lamb he spoke of his own body and blood while handling the traditional food – bread and wine – stating ‘This is my Body’ and ‘ This is my Blood’, and commanding the Apostles to  ‘Do this in memory of me.’ Thus, Jesus deliberately changed the format.

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Manna in the desert

The manna in the desert was a miraculous bread from heaven. It appeared in the same quantity, about one litre, never lasted for more than one day, was provided for forty years and stopped the day after the Israelites reached the Promised Land. Some of the manna was preserved in the Temple as being holy, from God. The Jews came to believe that this bread existed in heaven before the world began, and it would return to earth again one day at the new Exodus with the Messiah.

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Bread of the Presence

The holy bread in the Temple – the Bread of the Presence – was in the form of twelve cakes for the twelve tribes of Israel; with the wine offering it was the sign of God’s Presence, his Holy Face, an everlasting Covenant, offered by the High Priest and eaten by priests in Jerusalem. At the Last Supper there were twelve apostles, there was the Bread and Wine of Jesus’ presence, offered by Jesus himself in a new Covenant and eaten by the Apostles (now priests).

The Last Supper was not just a new Passover, or new Manna; it was also the institution of the new Bread and Wine of the Presence i.e. Jesus. Like the priests in the Temple before him, Jesus was saying, ‘Behold God’s love for you’. A mandatory part of the Jewish Passover was the four cups of wine. The first cup was blessed before the food was brought in. The second was drunk after the father’s telling of the Exodus story. After the meal started the third cup was blessed and drunk, and the concluding rites were the singing of the Psalms and the drinking of the fourth cup. It was forbidden to drink any wine between the third and fourth cup.

Luke 22: 14 – 20 mentions only two cups. The first of these was drunk by the Apostles and Jesus said, ‘…I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ The second cup mentioned came after supper, so it was the traditional third cup. This was the moment when Jesus said, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new Covenant in my blood.’ The psalm was sung and they all went out to Gethsemane. There is no mention here of the fourth cup, and yet the Passover was not complete without it.

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A soldier offers Jesus wine with myrrh.

Imagine the bewilderment of the apostles. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed three times about the cup he must drink. This must be the fourth cup. On the cross Jesus was offered wine and myrrh, a traditional act of mercy to dull the pain of crucifixion, but Jesus refused it. Later he cried out, ‘I thirst’, thus asking for a drink, and was offered vinegar (sour wine) which he accepted. He then said, ‘It is finished’. This was the fourth cup, taken at the very moment of death.

By vowing not to drink the last cup at the Last Supper, Jesus extended his last Passover meal to include his own death, so uniting the Last Supper to his death on the cross. No Passover meal was complete without the eating of the lamb; now Jesus’ disciples might understand his insistence (John 6:35 – 58) that in order to have life we must eat his flesh and drink his blood. This is the Body and Blood of the resurrected Jesus, holy indeed and the source of everlasting life.

O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine.

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist by Brandt Pitre. Doubleday.  ISBN 978-0-385-53184-9

 

When God heaps crap on your life.

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Some smiting taking place here.

Well, as you know I am trying to give up worrying for lent. I have discovered so far that beauty has an important role to play in this as it reminds us that God is bigger than us and that He is good.

The next thing I am beginning to realise is how little time I spend praising God. Beauty inspires us to praise Him. But praising Him when we are going through a trial or period of suffering is not so straight forward. After all – why would I want to praise a God who is allowing me to suffer? Sometimes I think my bad attitude lends itself much more naturally to just lamenting about the fact that I generally feel so smited. I’d much rather just attend my own pity party.

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This sort of question about suffering cuts through to the real depths of our faith. I suppose the first answer here is to recognise that God allowed his Son to suffer. Does that make God a bad God? No, because through the suffering of His son is revealed our redemption, and God’s incredible love for us sinners.  Suffering, in accordance with God’s plan, achieves stuff.

Does it?

Yes. But we often can’t always see how or what it is achieving until we have come the other side of it. Then we can look back and realise how much we have grown.

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But it’s not easy, is it?

No. It’s not.

In my own experience  over the last two years I feel like I have been completely stripped back down to the bone in every area of my being: mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. God has then taken my bones and ground them down into dust – just to make sure He is getting His point across properly 😉

But  perhaps He is right? (Of course He’s right – He’s God!) But seriously, there must be a plan in all this right? That is what separates those with faith from those with no faith. I couldn’t imagine facing lifes trials with no faith in God’s plan because then the suffering would just be meaningless. In that frame of mind there is the opportunity to find utter despair. But with faith there is always hope – and openmindedness.

I had a rather good plan for my life. It involved us having lots of cash and a nice big house and a nice big car and me not having to work. And we were doing that. But it seemed that for all our hard work and planning, God had a different plan.

It seems that God thought it was much more important for my husband to have the opportunity to spend much more time with the children, to reassess where his life was taking him, and also to test our marriage and our faith in Him. I guess we were lacking in several areas right?!

Well, I was. I have never taken responsibility for myself as an adult. I absolutely made an Idol of my husband who has basically looked after me like a Dad for the last 17 years. That has to change right? God wants to be in first place in my life. And He wants me to live according to His will. It seems that for all my good intentions I was still living according to my will.

I guess my lack of praise to God only illuminates the self centred nature of my heart. My bad. I didn’t realise quite how little room I has given Him. I claim to love Him, yet when it comes to the crunch I am not happy to do His will. I guess sometimes God has to strip us back down to our bear selves and then crush our bones to be able to revive and rebuild them in His image. If I would just co-operate… the whole procedure would be a lot less painful for the both of us!

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This is me.

Psalm 51 says it well:

“…Indeed you love truth in the heart; then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom. Purify me, then I shall be clean; O wash me, I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear rejoicing and gladness, that the bones you have crushed may revive. From my sins turn away your face and blot out all my guilt. A pure heart create for me, O God, put a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, nor deprive me of your holy spirit. Give me again the joy of your help; with a spirit of fervor sustain me, that I may teach transgressors your ways and sinners may return to you. O rescue me, God, my helper, and my tongue shall ring out your goodness….” – Psalm 51

There is also my favorite Gospel, Luke 13:6-9, The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree:

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

In a nutshell, this Gospel tells us that if you are not producing enough good fruit, then God will heap a load of crap onto your life and agitate you until you do.

And on that note… enjoy your day 🙂

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Beautiful Lent.

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‘Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge’ – Monet.

How’s your Lent going?

Are you finding it easy? Then perhaps do a little something extra.

Are you struggling? Then perhaps ease off a bit and try something a little easier.

You see, it is not how much we are fasting, but with how much love we do it that charms the heart of Christ (St Therese of Lisieux). Sometimes the smallest things require the biggest effort. God sees all of this. It’s not an endurance test 🙂

I have been giving up my first cup of tea in the morning, and also trying my best to find a way of giving up worrying. My worry habit exposes my lack of trust in God and my reliance on myself. This is something that needs to be addressed, but it really is easier said than done. However, I have found one little thing that really has seemed to make a difference.

I was at my Mum’s house on Ash Wednesday and she handed me a CD. “You should listen to this – it’s really good!” (You know you are approaching middle age when your Mum recommends you music – and it IS actually really good!) It was a CD from Medjugorije made by the young men and women of the Cenacolo Community. It was basically a praise and worship CD – but she was right, it was REALLY good!

I found that listening to people who had allowed Christ to be in complete control of their lives, who were worshiping Him with such enthusiasm and openness really lifted my mood. The whole thing was just so good, so beautiful, that it seemed to remind me that there were things bigger than me and my problems.

I had the same experience today in the car when I accidently turned on Radio 3. They were playing Vaughan Williams and I don’t know what it was, but the sheer beauty of the music seemed to have the most profound calming effect on me. It was just so beautiful. I swear the medical profession should start using beauty as a treatment for all sorts of ailments. Yeah – beauty therapy! I guess that would make composers like Vaughan Williams and artists like Monet beauty therapists!!

I think beauty is extremely important during difficult times in our lives. Real beauty is an intensely spiritual thing that simply cannot be rationally explained. Beauty – I believe – is a purely human experience. I don’t think animals are touched in the same way by a piece of music or a beautiful sunset. I believe real beauty speaks directly to our immortal souls. It is God giving us a foretaste of the life to come. And that is perhaps what I find so calming about it – to know that this life’s problems are only temporary, and they will not exist in heaven.

I suppose you could look at beauty as being an incredible act of mercy – giving us hope and inspiring patience, forbearance and also creativity within us. It reminds us that God is bigger than us, and that He is good.

I found that my response to this beauty was not just awe and wonder, but incredible gratitude. And I feel that is a most appropriate feeling to dwell upon as we go further into Lent and head towards Holy Week.

“The air feels soft – like Christmas.”

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It was August 2015 a few days before the start of my husbands Lightning Process treatment for CFS that I knew something special was about to happen. Lying in bed in the dark and the silence, I could feel that feeling.

Sometimes it feels like the room is filled with angels, sometimes it feels like I am totally present – in front of a mirror of truth, and can see myself for who I really am. Quite often my heart just burns heavily inside my chest, a bit like when you are the early stages of being in love. Sometimes it is Jesus, sometimes it is Mother Mary, sometimes it is Teresa or Therese or Joseph. It is difficult to describe.

I know that not everyone feels this type of thing but for me it is a normal day to day thing. This doesn’t mean I am holier than other people – of course not, far from it! This is just the way that God has always made Himself known to me – ever since I was 4 years old.

So you can imagine my surprise when my  husband rolled over and said to me “Can you feel that? The air feels soft – like Christmas.”

“Yes” I said, “you know I can, But YOU can feel it too?!” 

The air was soft. It was the softness of a mother’s caress that seemed to say “It’s all finished now. Enough suffering, you are going to get well now.” She was  letting us know that she had not just seen our suffering, but she had been standing at the foot of our cross, every day since the beginning.

It happened a second night, and then a third. And it was then that I began to expect a miracle.

Nick’s recovery happened on the second day of the treatment. It was like flicking a switch. In the morning he was sick, in the evening he was well. He actually felt so ill that morning that he called to say that he wasn’t going to make it in. But they convinced him to go in for 10 mins or so 😉

And I knew that this was our last ditch attempt at getting him well before we would have to make some serious life decisions about selling the house and changing the kids schools. It was also pretty much the last strand of hope for keeping the marriage together. I’ve never really spoken of this before, but the effects of long term illness on a marriage with 2 young kids and a newborn baby, and the vulnerable state that puts you in is not to be underestimated. Without the intercession of St Joseph – protector of families, I don’t know what would have become of us.

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But none of that mattered anymore. Nick had gone in on that Tuesday morning as sick as i’ve ever seen him, and when he came out he was well. He has been well ever since. It happened on Tuesday 11th August – the feast of St Clare!

And for those of you who don’t know already he will be going back to work for the first time in 2 years in the new year 🙂 He went for one interview last week and they offered him the job on the spot!

This indescribably difficult period of our lives is now truly coming to an end.  Nick will be stepping back into the usual father/husband role, and I will GET MY HOUSE TO MYSELF once again for the first time in 2 years!!! (I will miss him desperately of course… 😉 )

The baby is 2 now and is going to start a few hours at nursery, and I will get a little more time to sew vestments. Things are really looking up for us now. Praise God! Praise the name of Jesus forever! And God bless His beautiful mother Mary who loves all her children, and stands at the foot of all of our crosses and suffers with us.

 

 

 

 

 

2017 – Are you ready?

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I have been wanting to write the ‘2017 post’ for a long time now. For about 10 years I’ve had a gut feeling about that year, but of course gut feelings don’t mean very much do they? But those feelings are still with me and are getting stronger – whatever that means. I also feel things are escalating at an increasingly fast rate now. But again, feelings don’t mean very much, so I’ve been gathering various sources of information that could possibly explain why 2017 feels significant to me.

Firstly It is 100 years since the first apparitions at Fatima. These extraordinary events in 1917 can be seen as ushering in the catastrophic twentieth century. By 1917 the first World War was grinding on with horrors never before imagined by the human race. The lady of Fatima predicted another war if mankind did not repent. This war would be presaged by a heavenly sign. This took place with an amazing display in the night sky across Europe on January 25, 1938–just before Europe was plunged into another war.

The rest of the century would witness untold misery and bloodshed in genocide, atomic warfare, terrorism, famine, natural disaster and the rise of technologies that would poison nature, destroy the family and set humanity on a course of self destruction.

The miraculous nature of the events at Fatima have been affirmed by the church and most of the popes of the last century have had a strong personal and seemingly apocalyptic association with the prophecies given to the three children. The co-incidence of the dates of May 13 (when the apparitions began) and October 13 (when the apparitions ended with the miracle of the sun) are interesting. Pope Piux XII was consecrated bishop on May 13, 1917 – the day of the first apparition and became known as the Fatima Pope. He consecrated the world to Our Lady of Fatima and made repeated references to the prophecies.

Photograph taken during the “Dance of the Sun” at Fatima on 13 October 1917.

Photograph taken during the “Dance of the Sun” at Fatima on 13 October 1917.

Paul VI met the visionary Sister Lucia and prayed with her on May 13, 1967–on the fiftieth anniversary of the visions. John Paul II was almost killed by an assassin’s bullet on May 13, 1981, and six years later on the seventieth anniversary of the visions went to Fatima to give thanks to the Virgin for saving his life.  Benedict XVI affirmed his belief in the supernatural origin of the visions, visited Sr Lucia, went to Fatima and said “the prophecies of Fatima are by no means completed.” Pope Francis had his papacy dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima on May 13, 2013 and consecrated the world in a public ceremony on October 13, 2013. He has the image of Fatima in Rome  today to be venerated and plans to visit Fatima in 2017 for the centenary of the events.

Seeing that it is one hundred years since the events makes one wonder how significant this anniversary in two years’ time is for world history. Also, seeing how the events of 1917 opened up an unprecedented century of evil in the world one is reminded of the vision of Pope Leo XIII in which Satan would be given one hundred years to attempt to destroy the church.

In 1884, after saying Mass on the morning of, according to at least one source, October 13th, as he was leaving the Altar, the 74 year old and frail Pope Leo XIII fell to the ground as if dead. He related that he had experienced a sort of vision, in which he heard two voices, one of which he took to be that of Christ, gentle and kind, and the other that of Satan, guttural and harsh.

Satan said, “I could destroy Your Church if I had the time, and more power over those who give themselves over to my service.” And then Pope Leo heard Christ to answer, “You have the power, you have the time: 100 years.”

Pope Leo XIII

Pope Leo XIII

Curiously, the prophet Venerable Bartholomew Holzhauser predicted seven ages of the church. The fifth began in 1517 with the Protestant Revolution. This period of tribulation comes to it’s five hundredth anniversary also in the year 2017. This fifth age would culminate in terrible persecution of the church. After that he predicted an era of peace and consolation. Our Lady at Fatima also predicted a period of peace after the difficulties to come.

Will 2017 therefore see some sort of climactic event which surges humanity and the whole world into a new era?

Wait – there’s more…

Three Kings Behold the Star of Bethlehem

Three Kings Behold the Star of Bethlehem

In 3/2 B.C., there occurred a rare triple conjunction of Jupiter (the king planet, through its retrograde motion) and Regulus (the king star). The Magi likely interpreted this rare triple conjunction as a giant neon sign in the heavens blinking KING-KING-KING. This all began at the Jewish New year and all within the constellation of Leo (the lion, a symbol of the tribe of Judah). So it heavily symbolized Jewish King from the tribe of Judah, a clear indication for those familiar with the Messiah. Further, rising right behind Leo was the constellation Virgo, with the sun behind and the moon at her feet.

After this incredible triple conjunction, Jupiter began moving westward in the sky, eventually coming into conjunction with Venus, a planet long symbolically associated with motherhood. The conjunction of the king planet and the motherhood planet was so close, that no man alive had ever seen anything like it and together it formed the brightest object in the sky.

All this symbolism of a Jewish king from Judah and a Virgin was enough to get the well-versed Magi moving to Jerusalem, but you can understand why the average citizen of Jerusalem missed it. Jupiter continued its western movement in the sky until it finally stopped. When it stopped (as seen from Jerusalem), it stopped directly south, directly over the small village of Bethlehem, on December 25 of 2 B.C. This may be easily seen with modern star programs that can show you the night sky on any date in history from any perspective. It is the advent of such computer programs that now allows us to not only look at the past, but to look at the skies of the future.

Given the context of all I just described, it is when we turn our gaze to the heavens of the future that things start to get really interesting.

“A woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”

“And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars: And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered.” – Revelation 12

The author of Revelation clearly indicates that this vision is one of a sign in heaven or in the sky. What do we see in the sky of the near future?

In 2016, an astronomical event begins and will last nine and a half months:

On November 20, 2016, Jupiter (the King planet) enters into the body (womb) of the constellation Virgo (the virgin).   Jupiter, due its retrograde motion, will spend the next 9 ½ months within the womb of Virgo. This length of time corresponds with gestation period of a normal late-term baby.

After 9 ½ months, Jupiter exits out of the womb of Virgo. Upon Jupiter’s exit (birth), on September 23, 2017, we see the constellation Virgo with the sun rise directly behind it (the woman clothed with the sun). At the feet of Virgo, we find the moon. And upon her head we find a crown of twelve stars, formed by the usual nine stars of the constellation Leo with the addition of the planets Mercury, Venus, and Mars.

Unbelievable right?! And as far as I can determine, this is a unique series of events in the history of mankind with a startling degree of concurrence with the vision of Revelation 12.

So what does it mean, if anything? The obvious and truthful answer is that we simply do not know. That said, we are not entirely without possible context.

virgo and hydra 2

The culmination of these astronomical events occurs just 3 weeks before the 100th anniversary of the great miracle of Fatima, in which the sun “danced” (another heavenly sign), an event that was witnessed by many thousands.

In August 1931, Sister Lucy of Fatima was staying with a friend at Rianjo, Spain. There, Our Lord appeared to Sr. Lucy and He complained the requests of His mother had not been heeded saying, “Make it known to My ministers, given that they follow the example of the King of France in delaying the execution of My command, they will follow him into misfortune. It is never too late to have recourse to Jesus and Mary.”

And again in another text, Sr. Lucy quoted Our Lord as saying, “They did not wish to heed My request! … Like the King of France, they will repent of it, and they will do it, but it will be late. Russia will have already spread its errors in the world, provoking wars and persecutions against the Church. The Holy Father will have much to suffer.”

Those references to the King of France are very interesting for our discussion as this is an explicit reference to the requests of the Sacred Heart given through Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque on June 17, 1689 to the King of France. King Louis XIV and his successors failed to heed Our Lord’s request to publicly consecrate France to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As a result, on June 17, 1789, one hundred years to the day after the request, the National Assembly of the French Revolution rose up and declared itself the government of France and stripped the king of his power. Later, the king lost his head to the revolution.

It is not possible to know the relevance of this 100-year allusion or to know if and when the clock may have started ticking, but it is certainly interesting and relevant in this context. And let’s not forget the vision of Pope Leo XIII.

I must also note that the date the astronomical event begins on 20th November 2016, is the Feast of Christ the King. It is also the very day that Pope Francis’ declared “Year of Mercy”, comes to an end.

So what does all of this mean? Nothing, quite frankly – after all, I could walk out my door tomorrow morning and get struck by lightning or hit by a bus. Coming face-to-face with our creator is a certainty for all of us one day. But all this does make me wonder if following the Year of Mercy in 2016, we will be having the Year of Justice in 2017?

And I haven’t even begun to talk about the 3 days of darkness, or the (so far neither approved or condemned) 10 secrets of Medjugorje yet…

Blessed candles: Check.

Salt and Holy water: Check.

Been to Confession: Check.

Daily Rosary and fasting for the conversion of the world: Check, but I really need to do this one more…

Sources:

2017, Fatima and the End of the World

http://remnantnewspaper.com/web/index.php/articles/item/2127-apocalypse-now-another-great-sign-rises-in-the-heavens

The Time of the Lukewarm Church is Over.

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St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher.

Many are feeling discouraged or even despair that many cardinals – including Vincent Nichols, are supportive of the notion that individuals should be allowed to decide for themselves whether or not they should receive our Lord in the Eucharist despite being in a state of mortal sin. But I am beginning to see something else I never dreamed I would see so soon in my lifetime.

Every time I check my Facebook or Twitter feed, every faithful catholic blog I read, every faithful priest, or lay person I come across is suddenly, all at once proclaiming the truth of the indissolubility of the sacrament of marriage, the healing freedom of the sacrament of Confession and our Lord’s real presence in the sacrament of Holy Eucharist.

Whether it be a gentle line or two in their own twitter feeds, or a reply correcting a heretic spreading false messages of fake mercy, the faithful are fighting tooth and nail to shout the truth of the Catholic church from the rooftops.

Most are delivering it in a gentle but firm way, and those who are finding themselves consumed by frustration and passion are learning quickly the correct, informed, prayerful composed approach with which to deliver the truth.

Before the Synod I had NEVER heard a priest speak on contraception, adultery, homosexuality or even marriage in general. Now that is all I seem to be hearing! It seems to me that the Holy Spirit has found a voice in the faithful who are no longer afraid to speak the truth in these matters. Yes, you will lose some friends, you might lose family, you will definitely lose members of your congregation, but the time of the lukewarm church is over. It is time to decide to live for radically for Christ – or just get out.

Now is the time for a strong, faithful church full of people in love with Jesus Christ, living radically counter-cultural prayerful lives in which the Gospel can be clearly witnessed by those around them in the normal day to day aspects of their daily living. Now is the time for those who wish to step courageously out onto the road to holiness – to sainthood – even to martyrdom: dying to themselves so they can live more fully for Christ.

Saints Louis and Zelie Martin

Saints Louis and Zelie Martin

This synod really is the last roll of the dice for the likes of Kasper and his cronies. In 5 or 10 years the majority of the Spirit of Vatican 2 generation will be dead, and that shameful period in the life of the church will become history. But I am 35, and I am strong. My relationship/prayer life with Jesus and His Mother is strong. My kids are being brought up secure in the truth. We are the future of the church.

God gave me a big mouth and I’m not afraid to use it! Ha!Ha! I am not afraid of proclaiming the truth – whatever the cost 🙂  Truth is absolute. You can’t have versions of the truth. That is called Relativism and had been condemned as one of the biggest evils of the 20th century. ++Vincent Nichols it seems is afraid of this absolute truth. Remember how he reacted when the 500 priests asked him to re-affirm the churches teaching on marriage? He panicked. He faltered. Why? Because he knows that there is very little he can do to stop the power of the Holy Spirit moving among his priests 🙂

Priests, Bishops, Deacons, Nuns, Mothers, Fathers, Husbands, Wives, Children… Do Not Be Afraid! Ha!Ha! Pray. Become the saints of tomorrow. Do not be afraid to choose the road to holiness. Once you step onto it you will find you will never walk it alone.

Pray, proclaim the truth, live the Gospel. Do Not Be Afraid! Begin to usher in the new springtime of the Catholic Church.

Saints Louis and Zelie Martin, pray for us.

Saint Therese of Lisieux, pray for us.

Saint John Paul II, pray for us.

Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, pray for us.

Omgosh I did a bidding prayer at the Vatican!

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I’m writing this at Fiumicino airport on my phone so I hope it is going to present itself ok?!  Let’s try…

Well… Yesterday I read a bidding prayer at the Vatican, during the canonisation Mass of Louis and Zelie Martin – the parents of St Therese of Lisieux.

This all came about because I am a secular Carmelite. My formation director is friends with one of the Carmelite friars in Rome who happens to be the assistant to the General Procurator (the guy who investigates the miracles attributed to possible saints) and he was looking for an English speaker to do one of the bidding prayers. So she gave him my email address!

We had a practise on the Saturday, but I actually missed our practice slot because I was too busy chatting. Typical me. But in my defence I was chatting to the relatives of Louis and Zellie Martin, and Therese of Lisieux! (but that’s another blog post I am yet to write).

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I was just so happy to be there watching all the preparations to be honest. Let me tell you this: a Papal Mass is one big choreography. It was fascinating to see the organisation going on in several different languages. Lucky for me most people spoke at least basic English, because I can’t speak a word of any other language. I struggle enough with English frankly! But it didn’t matter. There is always someone who is available for a bit of impromptu translation. But I did at least get to go and stand at the Ambo and freak out at how many chairs there were!

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Sunday morning I arrived at St Peters square at 7.45am and there was already hundreds of people queuing to get in. Lucky I had a ‘special’ ticket and was able to go straight through up into the VIP area.  There I met the rest of the bidding prayer crew.

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We were able to have a run through but I have to say, I wasn’t really nervous, just really, really excited!

Then Mass started. We were sitting pretty much in the front row. There were just two suits in front of us who I assume were security, with black briefcases that I assume contained lots of guns and stuff. Seriously – I think we had the best seats in the house.

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Pope Francis seemed to me to be a Father under enormous pressure, who desperately needs the prayers and support of Mother church. It’s not an easy marriage at the moment. I don’t envy his job one bit.

He declared Louis and Zélie Martin saints. The first married couple ever to be canonised together. May they watch over, and be a tangible source of help to all married couples and families.

So then, after the homily, came the moment of truth for me. Bidding prayer time. I’m very happy to report that I managed NOT to trip up, fluff my lines or do a Marilyn Munroe with my dress.

Click to view video.

After Mass their was opportunity to get a quick photo of Papa Franko in the Popemobile.

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He usually takes about 20 minutes to drive around the whole of St Peters square and kiss babies ect. But his drive was cut rather short that day. Probably because he needed to get home pronto to watch Argentina destroy Ireland in the rugby (just kidding!).

The crowd was estimated at about 80k, and spilled out into the roads surrounding St Peters square.

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And I even managed to get a pic of the gorgeous altar frontal – for research purposes only 😉

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Then I had to leg it before security rolled me up in the red carpet and threw me out! Ha!ha!

It was an INCREDIBLE day. Probably one of the best days of my life. I’m in no doubt that my Carmelite sister St. Therese orchestrated all of this for me on her parents big day! I’m forever in her debt. <3

I prayed for you all, and all your intentions xxx