The problem with the Church of ‘nice’.

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Perfect family…    …perfect teeth.

I am not a perfect wife. I am not a perfect mother. And I don’t pretend to be – anymore.

I fight with my husband and my kids all the time. Most of the time it is over silly little things. They drive me mad. I drive them mad. We all have to live together.

I often used to think that I was doing something wrong. Everyone else seemed to have these perfect ‘nice’ marriages and perfect ‘nice’ families, and my marriage and family were just not like that. It became a point of shame for me that we were not as perfect as other people and really started to get me down.

Satan would whisper things in my ear like “Your marriage is not working… You are not cut out for motherhood… You are failing.” Of course the Father of lies is the master of keeping himself hidden, so I believed that what he was saying was true.

I think the biggest lie I believed was “You are not good enough.” My response to this was to try harder. Mistake.

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*Puke*

The scales began to fall from my eyes when one day a close friend who had the perfect marriage and family confided in me that her husband was obsessed with work and never spent any time at home, and she was in love with another man. She was terrified I would judge her. I didn’t of course because she was my friend and I loved her – but I couldn’t understand how her perfect marriage had got into that state?

I kept her confidence, and marveled at how they managed to keep it together at family events – still projecting the facade that everything was still ‘nice’.

The second eye opener for me was when a family member got divorced. It came as a complete shock for everyone because they seemed to be the perfect couple. It seems there was major troubles within the relationship that no-one knew about.

The third and most painful eye-opener was when I decided to hide my post natal depression. I was so ill, but I was so ashamed of not being as good as all the other mothers – or so I thought at the time. Then I found out that another friend was on antidepressants and that she also felt utterly trapped in the unending cycle of nappies, feeding and crying.

When I recovered from the depression I began to see things in a new light.  I looked at all my friends and their marriages and families and realised that all of us were struggling. It still makes me smile now when I see newly weds, or first time parents desperately trying to convey the ‘nice’ picture of perfect domestic bliss, because I know that Satan will be whispering the exact same thing into their ears as he was into mine. They are gonna have to work it out for themselves just like I did. I wouldn’t have believed it if anyone had tried to tell me anyway…

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*Real life*

This culture of perfection that we all seem to be striving for is based on pride. The fact is that none of us are good enough to carry out God’s plan for our lives. That’s right – I just said we are not good enough. Well, the truth is that we aren’t – and that was the final piece of the puzzle for me.

“I can’t do this Father, but You can. Please, I need You Father, I need You.”

It is amazing how the weight of my whole life just lifted off me at that moment. Realising that I was incapable was the most freeing moment of my life because it finally allowed me to rely entirely on God. And for the first time at that moment, it made sense that I should be entirely truthful with other people about how I find marriage and motherhood incredibly difficult at times. If I was ever going to be able to give an authentic witness to the sacrament of Marriage or to motherhood, then I was going to have to let people see that I was not perfect, and that that was ok.

What better witness to the truth is there than letting people see God’s mercy made perfect in my weakness? I am in need of a saviour. I need my Father.

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I bet these nice people don’t sin.

This exact same principle applies to the Church at large. People do not need a perfectly veneered version of the church. In fact I would say that this is probably the most off putting, disingenuous way of presenting things. If you try to give people the Church of ‘nice’ you are leading them to believe that everyone in that church is already perfect. Then they try to be perfect, and fail, and then try to cover up their shame and get totally put off because they can’t live up to your churches unattainably high moral standards. You know – they are probably terrible sinners, just like you are.

People need to see the truth, and the truth is that we as the church are just a big bunch of helpless sinners in need of a saviour. That includes the laity and the clergy. My role in evangelising amounts to nothing more than me being one beggar, telling another beggar where the bread is.

Eucharist-resources

People aren’t looking for ‘nice’. They are looking for truth. And the truth is that none of us are perfect, yet God still loves us unconditionally and wants us to totally rely on Him, and return to Him again and again through the sacrament of Confession.

Christianity is the answer.

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I was watching my 2 year old playing along side a little muslim boy in the soft play center today and for some reason I started thinking “Those two will never be able to marry”. A strange thought considering they are both babies – but I’m right aren’t I? For them to be able to marry, one of them would have to convert to the others religion – or they would both have to renounce their religions. Whichever way it would cause enormous upset to both families. However at this toddler age, they can play together just fine. I smile at his headscarf wearing mother, and she smiles back. But we both know the score.

My 6 year old came home from school recently and told me confused that a muslim child had told her that “Jesus is a slave.” I had to compose myself before answering her. I quietly asked her “Who do we say that Jesus is?” she answered “The Son of God!”  I told her “That’s right!” .  And at 6 years old, that is enough – enough for today at least. There have been other questions about why so-and-so is not baptised and I tell her “Because their parents don’t understand why it is important. But hopefully they will realise for themselves when they are older.” And in the back of my mind I have to take control of the unpleasant thought: ‘I wish so-and-so was not in my daughter’s class.’

That, of course, is not a very inclusive or politically correct thought to have. What we have all be told by the powers that be is that multiculturalism is a good thing. Diversity is a good thing. And if you say otherwise it means that you are a racist and a bigot and you are basically Hitler – or at least that is what the militant lefties tell you. They probably learned that from this book when they were kids 😉 :

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But i’m afraid that is just not true. I’m not a racist or a bigot. What I am is a realist. It is obvious to me that two cultures of completely opposing beliefs are never going to fully integrate. We can live alongside each other with tolerance and respect, but we are never going to fully integrate. What multiculturalism has done is to set up a community of tension. It also serves to destroy national identity, because to be proud of your country and of your country’s faith heritage would be (according to the secularists) terribly offensive to those of other races or faiths.

Baloney.

This secular apologetic, pathetic attitude, along with the encouraged steady loss of morality and the wanton destruction of everything Christian has been the fertile ground in which the seeds of radical Islam has been firmly planted. And they have surely and steadily grown – and continue to do so. No government has effectively tackled the root cause of the problem. No government has had the balls to do so, because to do so would be to admit that all their efforts at multiculturalism and integration over the last 20 or so years has been at best a catastrophic failure, and at worst a co-ordinated and planned attack on Christian Europe and the UK. The problem is Islam. And still, still no-one in power is brave enough to stand up and say so. Mr. Cameron, Ms. Merkel, Mr Hollande, Mr Obama? Anyone? No.

Ask any vaguely educated Muslim and they will be able to tell you that the big issue within Islam is that there is no central teaching. In very much the same way that Protestantism works, each Imam is able to interpret the Qu’ran as he sees fit. And any man can set himself up as an Imam. This leaves the door wide open for misinterpretation of scripture. In Protestantism the end result of this is groups like Westbro Baptist Church. In Islam you get ISIS.

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Al-Azhar University

And though President Obama and other Western leaders have persistently attempted to divorce the ISIS from the religion of Islam, some influential members of the Muslim community apparently disagree. A report from 2014 notes that Egypt’s oldest Islamic university, Al-Azhar University, refuses to declare ISIS heretical to Islam.

The Al-Monitor’s Ahmed Fouad details the “honorable” Al-Azhar university’s official declarations concerning ISIS, which it refuses to condemn as apostate, or heretical to the teachings of Islam.

Back in Dec of 2014, the university issued a statement refusing to declare ISIS apostates. “No believer can be declared an apostate, regardless of his sins,” read the university’s statement, which was issued shortly after some interpreted an influential Nigerian Muslim authority as having pronounced the group heretical, which the university strongly denied.

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Now let me just make myself perfectly clear on something. I do not have issue with muslim people as such – but with their creed. It is what is written in the Qu’ran that I have the major problem with. People are made by God, for God, and people can change. Ideology cannot change, and what is written in the book can’t change. The fact that several verses in the Quran tell muslims to go kill their enemies does not sit well with me. In Christianity we are told to find ways to love our enemies – not kill them.

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Islam is the problem. Each muslim sect of course claims to be the correct one with the correct interpretation. And in some ways I actually find sympathy with those who are taking the radical path. After all – I am called to be a radical Christian. I understand this desire to give ones all to their faith. I also understand the desire to adhere to what is orthodox. It seems to me that the islamic radicals are simply adhering more closely to what it actually says in the Qu’ran, than the moderate muslims who are more ‘flexible’ in implementing their religious zeal. But is this radicalisation doing more harm to Islam than good?

Angry Muslim Protestors

Islam will reportedly become the world’s largest religion 55 years from now based on recent projections, but could the barbarous practices of the ISIS actually undermine the growth of the world’s Muslim population?

According to a recent Pew Research Center study, Christianity and Islam will be near parity by 2050, with Christians expected to comprise 31.4 percent of the planet’s population against 29.7 percent who follow Islam. The study said Islam will grow more than twice as fast as any other major religion over the next half century because muslims generally have a higher fertility rate than the contraceptive loving Europeans.

However, Muslims frightened by the inhumane acts by the ISIS are now questioning their faith, and presumably considering to leave it. This is backed by testimonies from missionaries working in the Islamic world who noted the large scale of Muslims who have converted to Christianity in the last 14 years since the devastating Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US. The number of converts in the recent period, they said, is greater than during the entire 14 centuries of Islamic history.

Brother-Rachid

Brother Rachid

“Many Muslims are saying, ‘If ISIS is Islam, I’m leaving.’ Some are becoming atheists,” said Brother Rachid, who hosts a Christian program reaching Muslims called “Daring Questions” in Arabic language. “There is a huge wave of atheism in the Arab world right now and many are turning to Jesus Christ. Islam was never faced with this crisis before…Islam is going to collapse,” added Brother Rachid, whose father is a Moroccan imam who lived as a secret Christian convert for 15 years.

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Pastor Fouad Rasho

This is also the case in Angered Alliance Church in Sweden. Pastor Fouad Rasho, who has  in the last few years baptized more than a hundred former Muslims, maintained that ISIS causes many Muslims to come to Jesus. But most converts keep their shift in religion a secret, fearing for their lives and for being an outcast. Imram (not his real name), a British college student from a Pakistani immigrant family, said leaving Islam is tough:

“If someone leaves Islam and becomes an apostate, he is thrown out of his family; his family will be the first ones to abandon him,” he said. “(But) Every week I meet one or more persons who come to me and want to know more about Christianity and the Bible because they are very angry about being a Muslim. They don’t want to continue to be Muslim….His friends will reject him and he will be killed or he will be persecuted. A lot of my friends said, ‘This is the last time I’m talking to you because you disrespected the prophet Mohammed, you disrespected Islam.'”

 

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The liberation of women?

When Nassim Ben Iman came with his parents to Germany as immigrants from a Muslim nation, he remembers thinking that if Germany is a Christian nation, then Christianity is a dead, sinful religion. “So nakedness on the television is because of the Christian religion. Living together not married is because of the Christian religion.” Nassim recalled thinking. Of course what Nassim was witnessing was not the fault of Christianity, but the wanton destruction of Christian values and morality in general that europe has experienced over the last century. Thankfully Nassim discovered the truth and  has since converted to Christianity. “When the people understand who Jesus is, they will love Him and follow Him more and more. And when the Muslims understand more and more what Mohammed is, what the Koran is, what the history is, then they will go farther and farther away from Islam,”

Surely Europe, with is 80 million muslim migrant influx should be promoting Christianity to those arriving on its shores? But sadly the European militant secularists have seen to it that almost every last shred of Christian heritage has being destroyed, or at least suppressed from the national identity of Europeans. Because of this spiritual and moral void, politically correct Europe has become the perfect fertile ground in which the shoots of radical Islam can flourish. I really truly can understand why young European Muslims feel trapped between secularist atheism and radical Islam. But some are finding hope in Christianity.

Let us not be afraid to confront the twin demons of radical Islam and radical secularism, and offer the solution of Christianity to the poor lost souls who are victims of both.

 

Sources:

http://www.dailywire.com/news/2161/islams-oldest-university-says-isis-are-not-james-barrett

http://www.breakingchristiannews.com/articles/display_art.html?ID=16080

Giving Everything.

 

Eucharist-resources

Sitting at mass a few days ago I found my mind wandering. This is not unusual. It happens in prayer too – ALL THE TIME. It used to really bother me and so I used to really try to concentrate. Try harder! Pray harder! Block out all unwanted thoughts.

Of course, this was the fool’s way of approaching the situation.

What I was actually trying to do was suppress all thoughts I personally deemed as not holy enough for the situation of praying. Ha!ha! How stupid of me. Do I really think I can hide my thoughts from God?! He knows my thoughts before they enter my head. For goodness sake – He is permitting those thoughts to enter my head, even if they are placed there by Satan. God is in control.

Perhaps I thought If God knew what I was really thinking He wouldn’t like me as much? Perhaps I wouldn’t be good enough for Him? Ahhh… that’s another trick from the Devil.

I have learned since then how to allow my thoughts to manifest themselves during prayer, but without losing my focus on God. Now I am able to allow a thought to remain present, but view it from an objective point of view – from God’s point of view, rather than viewing it subjectively from my own point of view and allowing myself to become distracted by it.

This does require a certain amount of detachment. It also requires a rather large dose of compassion towards oneself and also the humility to accept our imperfectness. You also have to be solid in the reality of God’s unending mercy and love for you as His beautiful child. But once you are secure in those things it is possible to allow our thoughts the freedom to manifest themselves during prayer. We are then able to stand naked (as it were) in front of God – warts and all. And when we do, we can allow God to show us why He is allowing those thoughts to manifest themselves in our heads.

 

For instance – when I was sitting in Mass I suddenly found overwhelming thoughts of sex entering my mind. This is not particularly unusual for me (depending where I am in my cycle) as i’m sure it isn’t for many people.  I used to panic at thoughts like these as they seemed to be the most inappropriate, but now I just take a step back and observe them objectively alongside Christ. He Is my Father, I am His child, and He wants to help me as any good parent does.

I usually tell Him “Oh look! See what has just popped into my head? I  wonder why you have allowed that to arrive in my mind? Let’s look at it together.” 

Jesus holding child

So we sit together and observe the thought in complete honesty. I don’t try to hide it or suppress it, and I remain humble enough not to allow guilt or shame to overwhelm me. Sometimes it becomes apparent that this is something or someone that I need to be praying for. Very often it is simply to be honest in a situation in which I am struggling. But at other times it is because God is trying to teach me or show me something. The Holy Spirit doesn’t usually shout – He whispers, and we have to quieten our minds enough to hear Him.

This particular time a few days ago as thoughts of sex entered my mind, I sat alongside Christ in observing why He had allowed these thoughts to manifest – especially during Mass. I allowed Him to direct my thoughts and I felt a great sense of acknowledgment in regards to what it takes for me to live the Church’s teaching regarding marriage and sex. It’s not easy. It is completely different to contracepted sex. I am called to give everything during sex. A total gift of self. And every time I do it becomes not only a repeat of my wedding vows but also a total act of submission to God’s will. I literally couldn’t give anymore at that moment, physically, emotionally or spiritually. That just doesn’t happen during contracepted sex. But it does take a lot to give like that – God only knows! Because of that total gift of self I/we have brought 3 new lives into the world.

Anyway, during that moment as we observed this thought together He did fill me with this overwhelming sense of acknowledgment for giving myself entirely. Which was nice – because remaining open to life is one of  the hardest thing I have ever had to give.

He then directed my thoughts back up onto the altar. It was the consecration. 🙂 God’s ways are perfect! He had taken me down the path of acknowledgment in all I had to give, so I could enter more deeply into the mystery of all He gave for me.

During that moment of the consecration, Jesus was present there on the altar, at Calvary, giving everything He was: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity – for me. 🙂

Christianity is a love affair.

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I realised at that moment that all I had to give was simply a response to His eternal declaration of love on the cross. In truth, I never would have reached the point where I was able to remain open to life without the Eucharist.

I felt suddenly incredibly special to Him – which of course I am. I wanted to throw my arms around Him. But He wants more than that. Through the Eucharist He wishes to actually dwell within me, just as I do in Him. I remained in that wonderful, beautiful moment for the rest of Mass, and for sometime afterwards.

Later that evening my thoughts were turned to the atrocities in Paris, and the fact that our western secular society, weakened by several generations of cultural marxism, is not strong enough to withstand a 60 million influx of muslim immigrants. I cried bitter tears as I came to terms with the fact that I was not willing to die for a society that honours gay marriage and kills millions of its own children through abortion.

I thought of the warnings and promises of Fatima, and stupidly viewed all these things subjectively  – which promptly became too much and overwhelmed me.

In the morning I was able to sit alongside Christ, objectively viewing these thoughts, and I became aware of my attachments to things I never considered I was attached to: my country, my national identity, my freedom, my safety etc. And then Christ directed my thoughts back 24 hours to the wonderful experience I had at Mass and I realised that He was asking me to respond to our current situation in exactly the same way. He was helping me understand that I was going to, or should I say am going to, be called to possibly give EVERYTHING in His name.

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The only possible solution to the crisis we are facing as a society is Christianity. Now, God’s ways are perfect, and I am just wondering in a bizzar mathematical kinda way if Islam + Cultural marxism = the elimination of the problem of the lukewarm Christian – or perhaps a better way of saying it is: the rise of the solid faithful Christian on fire with the Holy Spirit.

One thing is certain – in the end Our Lady’s immaculate heart will triumph and we will enter the era of peace. But before that we will have to pass through the great tribulation. And we will all be called to give everything. I pray that this will lead all of us into a deeper understanding and appreciation of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist, and open our hearts to the indescribable joy that there is in this Sacrament. Because that is the one thing that will sustain us.

Too ashamed to pray.

Elsa, trying to hide her deepest darkest secrets.

Elsa, trying to hide her deepest darkest secrets.

I don’t know why I have put a picture of Elsa at the top of this post. I think it is because one of the things I most enjoyed about Frozen is the fact that Elsa has to carry the heavy burden of hiding the deepest darkest parts of herself.

I was talking to a priest friend recently about this very subject. There is a wall that effects pretty much everyone in regards to prayer – and that wall is shame.

I think shame effects us the most when we don’t quite measure up to our own false expectations of ourselves. Perhaps we are not quite as good as we thought were eh? Or as good as we thought we should be?

Now, everyday the enemy encourages us to think or do something sinful. We quite often oblige him – especially if we are tired, or upset or under pressure. Then it comes time to pray. “Oh I can’t…” we tell ourselves “I’ve just been watching porn! I’ll pray later when the memory of naked ladies is not so fresh in my mind.”

STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! That is the stupidest thing we could do. Why did Jesus die again? Oh yes – it was to TAKE AWAY MY SINS!

Another stupid trap I have fallen into in the past was to only show the good parts of myself to God during prayer – a bit like being on my best behaviour. I would try to please and impress God with all the ways I had been good today, and ask for help with the things I had found difficult. But I sure as hell was not going to tell Him about the deepest darkest parts of my heart because otherwise He might be cross with me or not like me any more.

STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! That is the enemy talking. Do you really think you can hide stuff from God?! He made you for goodness sake – ‘even the hairs on your head have all been counted!’ (Luke 12:7) You might as well come clean and tell Him – He knows it all anyway! The only person you are fooling here is yourself.

But sometimes we do something that makes us too ashamed to even look ourselves in the mirror. An abortion, an affair, an addiction. This is exactly where the enemy wants you to be: feeling worthless, isolated, ashamed, beyond hope. He will lie to you and tell you that God does not love you any more. He will tell you that God is angry and hates you for what you have done. He will confuse you with notions of justifying your actions to regain your lost pride in yourself.

Pride. Hmmm. Pride is the enemy’s favourite sin. It takes true humility to admit we have done something wrong. True humility is not easy.

If I’m totally honest with you here I have to admit that I’m not too badly effected with shame. Is that because I never think or do anything wrong? No! Of course not – I sin everyday, we all do. I think I am not bound by shame because I am a brutally honest with myself, I am totally in love with confession, AND because I am so solidly anchored in my identity in the eyes of God:

I know how small and wretched I am compared to Him – and I’m totally OK with that.

What I find more difficult is that fact that the creator of the universe would consider me so lovable, so marvellous and interesting and funny and delightful, that He would rather die for me than risk spending eternity without me. But He did – ‘while we were still sinners…’ (Romans 5:8) I know who I am in Christ. I know I will be in need of His forgiveness at the end of every day, for the rest of my life. I am a sorry, forgiven sinner, and I am not ashamed to say it.

So please, do not let shame get in the way of proper true prayer. Tonight, tell Jesus that thing that you keep hidden in the darkest depths of your heart. He wants to take it from you – you don’t need to carry it any more. Tomorrow, do yourself a favour: go to confession. He has the power to take that sin away.

I kinda wanna break into song here and start singing “Let it go! Let it go! Can’t hold it back any more…” But I’ll spare you all 😉

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Fr Dylan’s Sermons – Meeting Jesus all over again, for the first time…

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Mk 1:14-20; Jonah 3:1-5.10

I’d like us to consider today what were the FIRST words ever said by the Lord Jesus. Because in today’s Gospel, St Mark gives us what he portrays as the first PUBLIC words of the Lord, the first words He said to the crowds, the first words indicating His MESSAGE.  In contrast, I looked up what we heard in the Gospel last week, which recorded from St John the start of the Lord’s public life, and had His first words as, “What are you seeking for?”(Jn 1:38) -words that’s that weren’t His message addressed to the crowd, but were words addressed in a personal encounter -words that point out how the Lord Jesus satisfies what people are seeking for. This, in fact, is a point that St John repeatedly notes in the various encounters he records between people meeting Jesus. Time and again: People meet Jesus, they sense something in Him that will satisfy, and so the question from Him, “What are you seeking for?” sums this up.

Back to St Mark, however, and those first PUBLIC words, words to the crowds, encapsulating His message. The Church presents them to us today along with our first reading from the prophet Jonah. In Jonah we heard of how Jonah went to Nineveh and brought a call to repentance, and of how the people responded to that call by “renouncing their evil behaviour”(Jonah 3:10). And the point is this: the first public words of the Lord Jesus LIKEWISE brought a call to change: “Repent and believe the Good News”(Mk 1:15). More fully: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent…”(Mk 1:15) -this, as St Mark very deliberately portrays it, sums up the whole message of Jesus and His mission.

Let me be emphatic about a point: MEETING JESUS brings an automatic call to REPENT, a call to change my life.
I noted last week that Samuel couldn’t recognize the call of the Lord because he didn’t yet “know” Him (1 Sam 3:7). I noted also that just as the first disciples were prepared for the call to “follow” Him (Jn 1:43) by first being called to “come and see”(Jn 1:39) -to spend time with Him. And I said that you and I need to spend time with Him daily by reading the Gospels and praying.

There is, however, something MORE that happens when I spend time with Jesus, when I get to know Him. And what happens is this: I automatically start to compare His life with mine; to see how I don’t measure up to the love, the compassion, the generosity, the hard work, the perseverance, and so forth, that I see I the Lord’s earthly life.  And so, to spend time with the Lord automatically brings a call to repentance, a call to change. And I receive that call to change from the same One who empowers me, by His grace, to be forgiven for my past and enabled to live differently for the future.

When Christ came He didn’t just come as another prophet. He came as the fulfillment of all that was promised. And so He said, “the time is fulfilled”(Mk 1:15). He came as the living embodiment of God’s reign on earth, and so He said, “the Kingdom of God is at hand”(Mk 1:15). He came calling us to a new way of life, and so He said, “repent”(Mk 1:15).

And so last week’s Gospel with the PERSONAL call to spend time with Him as the foundation of the call to “follow” Him, is actually making the same point as this week’s Gospel with the PUBLIC call to “repent” and enter into a new way a life -a new way of life that is now possible because we have met Him.

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Edmund’s Friday F A S T – Family Actions – Spirituality Thoughts

Edmund Adamus

Friday January 23rd, 2015

Transmitting the Faith – hands on!

This week I was facilitating the ground-breaking marriage promotion project “Explore” www.theexploreexperience.co.uk in one of our schools with 150 year-10 boys. To see 5 volunteer married couples sharing their stories of love, joy, sorrow, loss, hope and faith with these young men to inspire them, to one day to aspire to marriage was truly edifying and a privileged apostolate to support.

In one of the sessions where pupils are invited to share what their fears are for the future and the prospect of marriage, one student declared he feared ‘having a daughter!’ You can imagine the levels of amused response. But on reflection, it begs a deeper question about why and from where does the lack of appreciative understanding come from between the sexes at such a tender age, apart from the usual and very natural tensions that exist between boys and girls as they grow up?

Boys will pick up so much about how they ought to treat the opposite sex from the way they see the measure of love and respect shown by their father to their mother. And where that wholesome presence, for whatever reason, isn’t and cannot be present through no one’s fault, it just means that as parents, grandparents and even godparents, we have to ‘up our game’ as they say to increase the amount of time and ways in which we positively interact with the young ones in our life. That interaction is so much of an indispensable contribution to their natural and healthy formation in human sexuality; i.e understanding at a sub-conscious level their being a boy or girl is a gift from God in whose image and likeness they are made.

Making images, creating godly things together – adults and children – is so much a part of this development in flourishing relationships. We all know how satisfying – even if it requires special effort – it can be to have a child help us out in preparing a meal or laying the table or completing some type of chore. How much more rewarding can it be then when we choose to make or create something together that is explicitly religious and spiritual like the family crib or prayer shrine in the home?

To that end, I highly recommend the “Jesse Box” www.thejessebox.com. The Jesse Box is ‘an interactive learning tool that helps the instruction of the faith through the narrative of salvation history. It consists of many Bible stories and events that walk students through God’s saving plan from Creation to Eternal Life. Liturgical year stories are included. After reading and listening to the Scripture passage, the children bring to life the Bible story using arts and crafts.’ The one-off purchase of the Box – £25 from Catholic Truth Society – is well worth it as the follow up storylines and materials to create the other scenes are all downloadable for free. This could be a nice gift for a child preparing for First Holy Communion maybe? Or even a birthday gift or no reason at all.

And I’m joining the social wave! You can now follow me on twitter @edmundadamus.

– Edmund Adamus
Director, Office of Marriage and Family Life – Diocese of Westminster

Edmund’s Friday F.A.ST. – Prayer is done among the pots and pans.

Edmund Adamus

Edmund Adamus

Prayer is done among the pots and pans

This year marks the 500th anniversary of that great Spanish mystic and Doctor of the Church, St. Teresa of Avila. There is a wonderful little exhibition about her life and Carmelite spirituality in Westminster Cathedral – St. Patrick and the Irish Saints chapel – at the moment. Well worth a visit. What struck me about Teresa’s wonderfully simple take on prayer ultimately being a conversation with a Friend, Jesus Christ, was this statement in the exhibition that the Saint, ‘Understands prayer as an activity embedded in daily life. It is not something that can only be done in silence and solitude but amidst the “pots and pans.” ‘

It reminds me of that old adage, “can you smoke whilst you pray? No, but you can pray whilst you smoke.” In other words, the Spirit of Christ is to be found in the seemingly mundane and ordinary stuff of life, so long as we actually make the effort to seek Him and invite Him there.  It’s all part of this ‘Kitchen Table Theology’ I mentioned last year. The Domestic Church in real time if you like – which is why I was struck by another obvious but revelatory piece in this article which stated:

Family dinners have been found to be a more powerful deterrent against high-risk teen behaviours than church attendance or good grades … and that children will learn 1,000 more rare words at table during conversation than being read to aloud. Family dinners or lunches at the weekends have their own interpersonal qualities argues the piece. Well of course they do, which is why every meal shared among loved ones, especially family is reminiscent of the Christ-centred Last Supper and a foretaste – however small – of the great feast of heaven. Hopefully they humanise us in preparation for the great banquet where we will become MOST human, with Christ, Our Lady and all the Angels and Saints.

Meanwhile on another but not altogether unrelated note, please pray for the priests of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy who are behind this timely statement below and who clearly value the family and home as central to their priestly life and ministry.

“The International gathering of Confraternities of Catholic Clergy meeting in Rome (January 5th to 9th 2015), have discussed issues pertinent to the forthcoming Synod on the Family in response to the Holy Father’s call for reflection. The fathers pledge their unwavering fidelity to the traditional doctrines regarding marriage and the true meaning of human sexuality as proclaimed in the Word of God and set out clearly in the Church’s Ordinary and Universal Magisterium. Confraternity priests from Australia, Great Britain, Ireland and the United States commit themselves to the work of presenting anew the Good News about marriage and family life in all its fullness and helping, with the Lord’s compassion, those who struggle to follow the Gospel in a secular society. The Confraternities, furthermore, affirm the importance of upholding the Church’s traditional discipline regarding the reception of the sacraments and that doctrine and practice must remain firmly and inseparably in harmony.”

You can read more here.

– Edmund Adamus
Director, Office of Marriage and Family Life – Diocese of Westminster

Charlie Hebdo – You are not allowed to say that.

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Eternal rest give unto them oh Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them, may they rest in peace. Amen.

My heart goes out to the friends and family of those killed at Charlie Hebdo.

…………………………………..

They died for free speech. Their offensive and provocative cartoons poked fun at everyone and everything. I have been disgusted by their artwork in the past. I am still disgusted, But today I recognised the importance of what they do.

Last year I was forced to close my wedding cake business down because of the same-sex marriage law. If I was to have said to a gay couple that I would not be able to make their wedding cake because my religious beliefs, I could have been prosecuted for hate speech.

Adoption agencies throughout the UK are now not allowed to say that children have the right to both a mother and a father.

Last month Bernadette Smyth received 100 hours of community service, a £2000 fine and a 5 year restraining order because she stood outside the Northern Ireland Marie Stopes abortion clinic protesting that life is precious.

A few weeks ago Johnathan Scott, a 19 year old Canadian was suspended from his part time job after his immediate supervisor told him he wasn’t allowed to do this, saying he should instead say “Happy Holidays.”

Yesterday 2 young men burst into an office in Paris and shot 12 people because 4 cartoonists drew a picture they didn’t like…

Deacon Nick Donnely said today that “The Charlie Hebdo massacre represents the violent collision between extreme secularism with extreme Islam.” I would agree with him on that, and also remind myself that my Lord is challenging me to love all my enemies – what ever form they take. While I can not stand alongside Charlie Hebdo in complete solidarity because of its offensive images of Christ – I believe the freedom to satirically criticise ANYTHING is a freedom this country no longer enjoys. I wonder if we did have that freedom to openly criticise – would cases like Rotherham have gone on for so long? I would tolerate criticism of my faith if I was allowed to openly criticise gay marriage. But I’m not. In France it seems they have freedom of speech much more than in the UK. Here we have political correctness.

I wonder if now, because of Charlie Hebdo I will be able to express my views without fear of prosecution? I never thought I would be appreciating the ‘right to offend’ but it seems today I am.

Je suis Charlie, and I would like to proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, marriage can only occur between 1 man and 1 woman, and that abortion is murder. Or am I not allowed to say that?

The MASS: How could I possibly have been so dumb?

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I had a life changing conversation last night with a seminarian friend of mine. It was about the Mass. It went like this… (I’m in red, he’s in blue.)

Hey! I have just started my first parents newsletter on the Mass. I’m talking about the Last Supper and how that was the first Mass. What would be the one line you would want to get across?

If the Mass was meant to recreate Maundy Thursday, the Christian Holy Day would have been Thursday. But it’s not – it’s the day of the Resurrection – because Thursday gives the model for what happened on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Ok say more to me…! explain it as you would to a 10 year old. So Mass is not a re enactment of the last supper? *Stumped at the first hurdle, Clare realises she is way out of her depth and knows nothing*

OK here goes (this is exactly as I’d say it to a 10 year old): Some people think that what we do at Mass is a bit like having a meal – a special meal – but still a meal. In some ways this is right, BUT it is the most special meal you can imagine. It is special because the person you love most in the world (Jesus, of course) is actually giving you himself as food. That sounds a bit gruesome doesn’t it? Well, that’s what’s special about Mass – Jesus gave us the way to eat his body and drink his blood in a non-gruesome way the night before he was raised up on a cross. This was called the Last Supper – or you could call it the First Mass! You see, the important thing is that Jesus died and was raised up again 3 days later. That’s what we have at Mass, not just a memory of something that happened in the past, but we’re actually there – we are there with Mary beside the cross, but also there 3 days later when Jesus rose from the dead. So to go back in time to the night BEFORE he died doesn’t make sense – why would we want to go back in time then? The most important bit hadn’t happened yet! Instead, on that night Jesus gave us the way, not to time travel, but to make present in our today what He did for us once and for all.

So Mass is not Maundy Thursday?

…no Mass is not Maundy Thursday! Maundy Thursday gives the model for the making present of Good Friday and Easter Sunday – the Paschal Mystery itself!

My head understands it technically, but my heart wont let it in. I’d die I think, if I let it in.

No you won’t! Let it in! Your heart is where it makes sense – your head – well, not so much!

I have enough problems coming to terms with the fact that He did that for me AT ALL – let alone to be present while it is happening! Man, this year is going to be an emotional roller-coaster

Yep.

So in a line…. At Mass, we are present at the crucifixion, and resurrection. I regard myself as being an extremely enthusiastic Catholic. If I don’t understand this then I can tell you right now – other people don’t understand this either. 

Strictly speaking, at Mass, we witness the sacrifice made once on the cross, it is made present for us in the Eucharistic species and we can see Him lifted up, whose sacrifice alone could atone for the sins of humanity. So yes, it is the way for us to witness Calvary – but Calvary is only efficacious because of the Resurrection, so we witness the sacrifice in view of the Resurrection – the Lord’s “Hour” is not just the Cross, but also the Empty Tomb and the Ascension.

You know the greatest fear I would have if I was a priest? That saying Mass would become anything other than mind-blowing.

To be honest – it has to be less than mind-blowing otherwise a priest wouldn’t be able to celebrate it. But that’s how wonderful He is to us – He makes himself small for us, touchable…edible.

It’s too much! seriously! I’m going to bed…

I’m shell shocked. I never knew this. I NEVER KNEW. At Mass, I am present at the actual crucifixion and the actual resurrection! How come I don’t know this? Am I stupid? No. Did anyone ever teach me? No. NO ONE EVER TAUGHT ME. I was however wrongly taught that the Mass was just a re enactment of the last supper. I can’t remember who is was – it must have been at school. Who ever taught me was wrong. Who taught them?

I cried myself to sleep last night and then woke up at 4am filled with the same emotions. How many times in my life have I been present at the actual crucifixion and the actual resurrection without even realising it? As a Catholic with contemplative tendencies this kills me. How has this spiritual information been withheld from me for 35 years? I’m so angry.

But I’m also terrified. How am I supposed to go to Mass now? It’s the crucifixion: I will be standing at the foot of the Cross alongside His grieving Mother Mary. It’s the resurrection: I will be running to discover the empty tomb with Mary Magdalene – but instead of Jesus saying “Do not touch Me…”  -(John 20: 17) He is telling me “Take and eat; this is my body.” – (Matthew 26:26).

Ressurection

The secret jealousy I have felt towards Mary Magdalene all my life is now the cause of my utter humiliation. I have been at the actual crucifixion and resurrection with her pretty much EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. for years and years without realising it. *Deep breath*

How is it possible to take this all in? I feel an overwhelming desire to go to confession.

My final post on suffering for 2014, and my prayer for 2015…

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My prayer for 2014 was “Lord, teach me about suffering.” My goodness I have learned so much! And I am so grateful. Here are a few of the main points I have learned:

1. To watch someone else suffer can be harder.

Sometimes it is harder to watch someone else suffer than to suffer yourself. I have known this all too clearly this year. I’ve had to watch my husband go through the ravages of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome knowing there is absolutely nothing I can do to take that suffering away – not even a little bit. This killed me. I would have done anything to take it upon myself – but that is not how God wanted it to be. There is purpose in my husbands suffering that I do not understand, but I do understand that this is his cross. So, sometimes I will be his Simon of Cyrene and help him carry it. Sometimes I will be Mother Mary and walk along side him. And sometimes I will be John or Mary Magdalene and will simply be with him as he is crucified.  Even though I cannot take this suffering upon myself, I can be there – so he does not have to suffer alone.

2. Crucify yourself as soon as possible.

I have come to the understanding that the worst kind of suffering we can experience in this life is to be separated from God through our own sin. I have experienced this in a massive way this year. I have been hanging onto a sinful thought that has indeed been damaging my relationship with Jesus all year. I was hanging on in false hope of a situation that I knew could never be because it was outside of Gods plan for my life. This has caused me so much needless suffering this year I can hardly begin to explain. It could of course have been entirely avoided if I had just stopped rebelling and instead accepted the situation for what it was by crucifying my own wants and desires immediately as soon as I saw the situation developing. It came to a head last week when the Lord asked me how long I intended to keep carrying this cross for before I would finally crucify myself and accept the freedom that this would bring. If I had crucified myself at the start, I would have saved myself a whole year of needless cross carrying! Through His grace, obtained for me by a dear friend who willingly offered to suffer for me, I have managed to let this crucifixion of self take place and I am now reunited with Christ with a pure heart. My peace has returned and now I have come through the crucifixion process I am enjoying the fruits of the resurrection I am now experiencing in my life.

3. Suffering is a gift.

Most Christians (including myself up until very recently) have no idea how to suffer. We will all suffer in this life – that is for certain, but we can either decide to do it in line with Gods plan or outside of God’s plan. When we suffer outside of Gods plan it is because we are sinning. Our suffering in this way is self-inflicted and entirely avoidable. When we suffer within Gods plan through no fault of our own we are presented with an opportunity to accept this suffering (bizarre as it may seem) as a gift. To offer this type of suffering in prayer for others is one of the most powerfully loving things we can do as human beings. Personally I have experienced a seismic shift in my attitude in regards to suffering when I have started offering it for other people. I have found that offering my suffering for others intentions not only gives it meaning and purpose, but also fills me with the most profound sense of joy. By willingly and joyfully offering my suffering for others I am imitating my Lord, and loving others in a sacrificial way that seems to touch hearts deeply. It also seems to remove the fear from suffering that I used to feel. Once the fear is gone, there is room to love. And where there is love, there is God. I never in a million years thought I would ever feel a desire to joyfully suffer – to actually be attracted to it, but I am. My Carmelite sister Therese of Lisieux is helping me to understand this.

4. The little way of suffering.

Suffering is the biggest, most un-tapped resource we have as Christians. Can you imagine if every Christian opened their hearts to the power of redemptive suffering and what effect that would have on the world?! Sometimes God gives us huge sufferings to bear, but usually on a day-to-day basis it is just little things we are given. A headache, someone annoying us, a boring job, being lonely etc. Imagine if every Christian joyfully used these little gifts to pray for the conversion of their loved ones, or for the souls in purgatory who once in heaven could intercede for us, or for priests, bishops and the Pope. It would utterly transform things! You can also give little things up to produce a suffering: sleep without a pillow, give up 1 cup of coffee and have water instead, hold your tongue in an argument (that’s the one I really need to work on! Ha! Ha!). There are billions of Christians all over the world. One little suffering each day offered joyfully in prayer from each of us would renew the church. It would renew face of the earth.

And that leads me on to my prayer for 2015…

One suffering that is dominant in western society is loneliness. This comes from a lack of depth in our relationships with each other, and more profoundly from a lack of depth in our relationship with God. If we only knew how much He loves us. If we could only understand and accept that He loves us so much He would rather send His only son to suffer and die, than risk spending eternity without any single one of us. As we begin to learn the incredible spiritual power of suffering this mystery becomes more and more understandable. Do we love someone enough to die for them? Do we even love someone enough to give up our morning cup of coffee to obtain graces for them? How many people in your parish do you know who would willingly give up their morning cup of coffee for you? My guess is that if you asked them they would probably look at you as if you were mad – or they would make some excuse as to why they could not do it. We are so weak aren’t we?!

The great North African theologian Tertullian (160–220 AD) recognised the love expressed in suffering in Christian relationships. He imagined pagans looking at Christians and saying, “Look . . .  how they love one another … and how they are ready to die for each other…” And on the same subject Christ even tells us that “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35

If we understood and imitated Christ’s sacrificial love for us within our parish communities – is it possible that any of us could ever be lonely again? We are called brothers and sisters for a reason. But I think perhaps in our modern world of comfort and consolations we have forgotten how to love each other properly. Love and suffering go hand in hand.

Faith has become a solitary pursuit – rarely discussed and often compartmentalized. Suffering has become taboo and is associated with failure. Yet it is the cross that unites us as brothers and sisters, and we come together in church each week to be part of this. The key to this whole issue is here right in front of us. If we personally accepted the sacrificial love that occurred for us individually on the cross, and understood that this is the way to love each other as a community, we would never be lonely again. But many, many Christians, many Catholics do not understand these mysteries – because they have never been taught.

So, my prayer for 2015, and the subject I will be predominantly blogging about is: “Lord, teach me about the Mass.”

I hope you will join me on this voyage of discovery!