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.

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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.

It all sounds like gibberish to me.

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Tower of Babel

My priest gave a great Pentecost homily today. He Began by talking about the tower of Babel. The rather over confident (more like arrogant) people of that time wanted to build a tower high enough to reach God – ie. they wanted to control God. When God saw what they were trying to do He confused all their languages. In the confusion and communication breakdown the whole project failed.

Then we have Pentecost. The Holy Spirit descends on the disciples and they suddenly realise they have the ability to speak in all different tongues. They are understood by everyone.

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What struck me about these two situations was the issue of control. The people building the tower of Babel wanted complete control. The fools wanted a relationship with God, but they wanted to be in charge. God wasn’t having any of it! They were completely full of themselves. The tower of Babel and desire to be in control was mans initiative.

In contrast, the disciples had let go of themselves and their own ideas had been filled with the Holy Spirit. They had all received many spiritual gifts – power, if you will, but it was God’s power and they knew and respected that. They were not full of themselves but were full of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost was God’s initiative.

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If we take these ideas into the present day we can see that things have not changed so much! Within the Catholic Church we have certain pro-abortion ‘Theologians’, and certain pro-divorce and remarriage Cardinals. We have the pink clergy brigade and the lunacy of the coven of banshee’s that will not stop screeching about female ordination.

Honestly, some of the stuff these guys come out with is so hard to get one’s head around – it would be easier to decipher and translate an army of Minions than it would be to work out what those groups are saying.

All these groups do seem to want a relationship with God, but they want it on their terms. Oh but hang on a minuet, I do too. There were many years I was having a relationship with Christ but refused to stop using contraception. And then there was the phase when I used to use prayer as an escape from the duties of a wife and a mother. That phase must have been rather tiresome for God. I would turn up to pray feeling all holy and excellent, and then I would just run the show and talk, talk, talk and wouldn’t let God get a word in edgeways! I couldn’t risk actually listening to God – He might tell me that the best place to find Him was in the pots and pans! 😉  – (Teresa of Avila).

And then there is the issue of suffering. “I promise I will believe in You God and I’ll never do anything wrong again – just as long as You don’t ask me to suffer in my life, ever. Well maybe a little bit but only as much as I say is ok…” 

Ha!Ha!

We all try to control God in our subtle little ways. It stems from our chronic lack of trust and chronic lack of humility problem. Yeah, that’s  what was afflicting the Tower of Babel builders, and that’s what affects us today. And when we begin to rely on ourselves in this life we soon find that nothing makes sense – just like the Babel builders did.

But as we see from Pentecost, when we let go of ourselves and our own ideas in complete humility and trust, God can then come and fill that space with His Spirit, and all of a sudden everything makes sense – even the really crazy impossible paradoxical stuff like agape love. We must let go, and let God.

I’m still working on it… 😉

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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Another boring Valentines day, Another boring Mass.

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Last week I was visiting a church near to us. I went into the sacristy before Mass to speak to a friend of mine. She was busy getting things ready for Mass and was showing me where all the vestments and altar linens were kept. She asked me if I would like to serve Mass that day. With a heavy heart I said “No, thanks. I’m a girl!”

That threw me a little bit and it wasn’t until i got home later that day that I realised that something very, very disturbing indeed was going on in that sacristy. The used altar cloths – the corporals, and the purificators used by the priests and the ministers of Holy Communion were not being properly rinsed after Mass. Instead they were being tossed straight into an old cardboard box where they would wait to be picked up by the cleaners and put through the washing machine. This meant that small parts of our Lord’s body and precious blood were getting washed down the drain. With our Lord’s body and blood on this linen, this old cardboard box shoved under the sink was in-fact acting as a tabernacle.

I spoke to a priest friend about this and he told me that there is no way in the world this should be happening. I was horrified. I felt sick to my stomach. I was so distressed by this that I didn’t sleep that night. How could this possibly be happening? Did no-one realise what was happening? Did no-one care?

In the morning I cancelled all my plans for that day and set about buying the things that were needed to set this situation right. I bought a glass bowl that the linens could be soaked in, a clothes dryer they could be hung out on, I replaced the old cardboard box with a plastic crate and put instructions for the priests and ministers of Holy Communion explaining how the linens needed to be rinsed by the priest before going into the laundry. I spoke to the sacristan that morning who had never really considered what was happening but agreed with me that it could not continue. I spoke to some of the priests who agreed with me that it could not continue.  I set up all the stuff in the sacristy and said the chaplet of Divine Mercy, begging forgiveness for the way His body and precious blood had been treated. I went home feeling uneasy – but better.

That night I sent an email to the priests of that parish explaining what I had done and also saying “… although there are many clubs, groups and initiatives within the parish, the central focus should always be Jesus in the Eucharist. And if we cannot get respect for Jesus in the Eucharist right, then any other work we do is quite frankly useless…”

I spoke to another priest friend that night and told him about the situation. He was embarrassed to say that he had also been failing to rinse the altar cloths properly after Mass, but that he would not be making that mistake again. It started to dawn on me that this was probably not a one off situation. My heart sank. No, it broke.

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The next morning I got a call from the parish manager. She had removed all the stuff I had put into the sacristy and proceeded to call me a “very naughty girl” for acting without getting specific permission from the parish priest (who’s day off it was yesterday). I apologised and said that in any other circumstance I would agree with her, but on the issue of the blessed sacrament being disrespected then I’m afraid I had no other choice than to act that day. She asked me who was in charge of the parish. I said Christ. She disagreed with me! It seems that by not following strict parish protocol I had somehow offended her to the point of undoing time and space. She was more concerned with the fact that I hadn’t got an email reply from the parish priest, than she was about our Lord’s body and precious blood getting washed down the drain. I told a priest friend about this and he told me not to worry too much. He said “Clare, if she had been around on the morning of the resurrection she would have complained to Jesus that He had left cloths in the tomb!”

So now what was I to do? I sent a letter of apology to the priests:

“…I’m very sorry if I have caused any offence by trying to sort out the used linen situation in the sacristy.
The parish manager called me today and explained that under no circumstances must I act without the approval of the Parish Priest.
I understand and agree with this, but in this circumstance my responsibility was to my Lord. I’m afraid once I found out what was happening, I knew the situation needed rectifying that day. I simply could not be responsible for His Body or Precious Blood being disrespected in that way for a second longer.
I was also aware that if anyone else was to find out what was happening it would cause great embarrassment to the parish.
I’m sorry if I have caused distress, and of course it is up to the parish priest if he wants the linen situation to continue in the way it was? But I assumed that he would have been as horrified as me…”

I just couldn’t understand how the parish priest was letting this happen? Either he didn’t know he was supposed to be doing this – which is a FAIL. Or he did know he was supposed to be doing this but wasn’t bothering – FAIL. Or even worse, he didn’t believe those altar cloths were carrying our Lord’s body or precious blood – MAJOR FAIL.

How was it possible, I thought, that the relationship this priest has with Jesus (assuming he has one) has got so dry, so mundane. How is it possible that his heart has become so cold that he is not moved to tears by this situation like I am?

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And then my husband asked me a question: “Sooooo honey! What shall we do for valentines day this year? Hot crazy sex under the stars? A mad shopping weekend in Paris? A hot air balloon ride over the Pyramids? Or shall we just do what we’ve done every year for the last decade and get a take-away and watch Arnold Schwarzenegga movies?”

“Meh.” I replied. It kinda struck me at that point that I had probably been judging that poor priest unfairly.

Let me be the first to admit that I take my spouse for granted – everyday. We have been married for 15 years. And anyone who has been married for more than about 5 minuets will agree with me that the mind blowing-ness of well, everything tends to wear off pretty soon – well day-to-day at least. Eating dinner together every night, having sex, watching films, conversation, all gets a bit, blah. And of course the relationship will go through good patches and bad patches. And in the bad patches we would rather just not be around each other at all to be honest, but we have made a life long commitment so we just get on with it.

Now who am I to say that this priest is not going through a bad patch in his relationship with Jesus? And who am I to say whether the relationship has just got a bit, blah? This good and faithful priest has said mass pretty much at least once EVERYDAY for the last 40 years or so. And that is besides all his other duties. I can’t even say whether I have the backbone to survive marriage for 40 years?! Who knows? The thought sends shivers down my spine to be honest (and my poor husbands too he!he!).

But, I am also a mother. And if it was my son’s blood on that cloth, and I was standing I the sacristy after Mass, you can bet your bottom dollar the priest would not be throwing that altar linen into a beat up old cardboard box. And for us as laity, do we prepare properly every time we receive Jesus? Or has that become routine too? Forgive us Mother Mary, for routinely disrespecting your Son in this way.

In hindsight I would have approached this whole situation differently by going straight to the parish priest and bringing up the subject with gentleness and compassion. But instead I just reacted, all be it justifiably, but it has still resulted in a massive evangelisation FAIL on my part in regards to the needs of the priest. Now, somehow, I have got to find a way to sort it all out “…That’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into!”

Finally, may I ask all the priests who read this blog to have a think about if this is a situation that is going on in your sacristy? If it is, please, please take steps to ensure the Blessed Sacrament is not washed down the drain. And know that I am praying for you. I love you, and I understand that a lifelong vocation is not easy, but it is worth it.

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

THE MASS: I ate some old cheese and had a really weird dream.

A few nights ago I found some really strong cheese at the back of the fridge (probably left over from Christmas). I ate it, and then went to bed. I had the strangest dream…

I was in my Church – the church in which I was Baptised , made my First Holy Communion, Confirmation and got Married in. The church I like to go and sit in, right up next to the Tabernacle to pray. But today I was not sitting praying. Today I was standing. The Tabernacle was open and Jesus was standing just outside it, and I was standing right next to Him. We were looking out over the church.

Let me show you a picture of my church. I have put a big yellow circle round the Tabernacle to show where we were standing in the dream:

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This is the view we had from where we were standing:

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Then Jesus began to show me the history of my church from about 100 years ago. It was like watching a film in fast-forward. The first thing I noticed was a priest directly in front of us dressed in very beautiful ornate vestments. He was wearing a heavily embroidered beautiful sort of cloak thing I haven’t seen before. Anyway, he performed the consecration and then elevated the Host right in front of us – facing us, using the old high altar.  Then I looked at the congregation and I saw women with hats. I was aware of people being born, growing up and dying. And I could see people’s prayers coming up off of them – rising like steam and hovering above them filling the air.

Here is a picture of my church from a long, long time ago:

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Then as time was fast-forwarding I saw physical changes within the church. The high altar was no longer used. I saw the new altar being constructed and put into place about 15 meters away from us. Priests now said Mass facing the congregation instead of facing us. Vestments had become simpler with brighter colours, and the whole thing just seemed a bit less formal. Women no longer wore hats. I saw people wearing short-sleeved tops. People were being born, growing up and dying. There were now 2 atmospheres I could see within the congregation. One was reserved and quiet, uneasy yet still trusting in God. The other was loud and brash and domineering. In parts of the congregation, hearts were growing cold. I looked at Jesus. He wasn’t saying anything, He was just there, showing me all this.

Here is a picture of my church with the new altar put in. This is how I remember my church as a child.

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Then came more building work. Massive building work. The whole layout of the church was changing. The new altar was removed. The altar rails were removed. The Baldacchino was removed and sold to an American pop star (this actually happened in real life). The first 6 pews were removed. The top of the pulpit was removed. The whole sanctuary was brought forward about another 15 meters into the congregation.

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Now the priests was very far away from us. He was right there in the middle of the congregation. All eyes were on him. The congregation were smiling and laughing. People were on the sanctuary dressed in jeans and trainers receiving Jesus in Holy Communion and then distributing Him to others. Holiness had been replaced with a generalised social acceptance and a more day-to-day relaxed attitude. People were being born, growing up and dying. The congregation looked different. People were now coming into the church expecting to gain something for themselves rather than coming to give something to God. People had an expectation to be entertained. Some priests began to entertain. The people laughed and smiled. All eyes were on the priest.

Here is a picture of my church now:

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And as we stood there watching as time past I felt the congregation move further and further away from us. Peoples intention was good, but they were so distant – like the same way people look when they are watching TV and you are trying to talk to them. Distracted I suppose, but more than that. I think it would be more accurate to say that for these people, their parents were distracted but they are just vacant. Their attention seemed not to be able to get past the priest.

This is the view from the Tabernacle during Mass.

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They were happy enough but undernourished. Like how you feel when you have spent a whole week eating nothing but junk food. They did not understand what was happening during the Mass. Prayers no longer rose like steam from the congregation. There was just this deadness. Heaven was all around them but they could not see or feel it. They were blind and deaf to the supernatural. It felt like it really wouldn’t have mattered whether we were there or not because quite frankly, we were just being ignored.

And then it hit me. The horror of what had happened, what was happening. The result of choices and changes over several generations. Slow enough so you would not recognise it in real-time, but as clear as day if you watch it in fast-forward like we were doing. I looked at the congregation and then turned to Jesus, and with tears in my eyes and my voice filled with despair I whispered “They don’t know You’re here…”

Then I woke up.

Fr. Dylan’s Sermons – 2nd Sunday in ordinary time, Year B.

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By Fr. Dylan James

We heard in our first reading about how God called to Samuel, and something that you and I need to remember is that, right now, the Lord is calling out to you and me. He has something to say to you, now. Something that is relevant to your time and place. Maybe a message of consolation, of strength in your pain. Or maybe a message of direction, advice to persevere or advice to stop. The problem, however, is that we so easily fail to hear what God is saying. And, on this point, today’s readings give us some useful indicators.

Samuel had the voice of the Lord speaking to him from heaven, speaking more directly than you or I are ever likely to experience. And yet, Samuel wasn’t able to recognise the call of the Lord. Samuel was, it would seem, a good boy: He did his master’s bidding. He came running to him. But, he didn’t recognise the call of the Lord. Why? The text we heard gave the reason why, “Samuel had as yet no knowledge of the Lord”(1 Sam 3:7).

Now, let us recall, Samuel was a Jew; son of devout mother; he lived in the Temple. And yet he didn’t “know” the Lord. Just as you are I can be Catholic without really “knowing” the God that our faith gives us access to. And, if we do not really know the Lord then we cannot recognise His voice calling to us. And how do we get to know Him? By spending time with Him.

On that point, moving on to today’s Gospel text, the text does not yet have the Lord issuing His call, “Follow me”(Jn 1:43) –that call is recorded in the next verse, and what is recorded in today’s account is an important preparation for that call. In today’s account we heard about how disciples of St John the Baptist went to Jesus and asked Him, “Rabbi, where do you live?”(Jn 1:38). Now, they weren’t just curious about whether He had a flat or a bungalow! They wanted to know HIM. And they knew they had to spend TIME with Him to know Him. And, having spent time with Him, having gotten to know Him, they were ready to hear and accept the call to “follow” Him that He then gave them.

I began by saying that the Lord has something to say to you, something relevant for you today, in your current circumstances. And, like Samuel, we can struggle to “know” the Lord well enough to able to hear His call. Well, the point is this: there two things I am recommending to you today to address this: (1) prayer, and (2) reading the Gospels –the Gospels being the part of the Bible that most directly tells us about the Lord, so that might “know” Him. Let me be more specific still, and suggest to you a daily pattern to follow (one that many of you already use, and a good number of you do even more than this):

(1) daily reading a paragraph of the Gospels, and
(2) then spending 5 minutes in prayer: silent, private, talking to God and listening to Him.

Click Here for a list of 7 excerpts from the Gospels, to take you through each day this coming week, so you can make this week the start of something new.

5 minutes is short enough that every single person here should be able to achieve it. But I’d also assert (and I think I can say I witness this in many people) that 5 minutes a day can be enough to start you out on a new trajectory. A new trajectory that can start you on a path such that you might hear what the Lord is calling out to you –just as Samuel was eventually able to say, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening”(1 Sam 3:10)

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