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A Happy Easter

Taken from Bible Alive Easter 2021 www.alivepublishing.co.uk

We are an Easter people – Alleluia is our Song

‘Alleluia’ is an unusual word, native neither to English or Latin, rather it is Hebrew. Like ‘Amen’ its roots are in Jewish soil. This word of praise, jubilation and rejoicing can seem almost unintelligible, like childish babble, as if we are trying to express the inexpressible. ‘Alleluia’ is the song of the Easter people, as if we are saying: ‘In the presence of the mystery of Easter, our usual intelligible vocabulary is inadequate. When confronted with the superabundant mercy, love and power of God we can only stammer and babble in amazement.’

We believe in the Resurrection of Jesus

The Creed crescendoes to the proclamation of our belief in the resurrection of the dead on the last day and life everlasting. We firmly believe that just as Christ is truly risen we too will live for ever with him and he will raise us up on the last day. For as St Paul says, ‘If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you’ (Romans 8:11). ‘The confidence of Christians is the resurrection of the dead; believing this we live’ (Tertullian).

Pieta

Now is my misery full, and namelessly it fills me.

I am stark, as the stone’s inside is stark.

Hard as I am, I know but one thing.

You grew – and grew, in order to stand forth as too great pain, quite beyond my heart’s grasping.

Now you are lying straight across my lap.

Now I can no longer give you birth.

(Rainer Maria Rilke)

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord

Office of Readings: a excerpt from the addresses of St Andrew of Crete

Come, come, let us go up together to the Mount of Olives. Together let us meet Christ, who is returning today from Bethany and going of his own accord to that holy and blessed passion to complete the mystery of our salvation.

God called and I answered

I’m Sister Meinar, SSpS, a member of the Missionary Congregation, Servants of the Holy Spirit. I come from Indonesia and I’ve been living in Birmingham, England, since 2018. At the moment, I live in a community with other sisters, Sr Yudith from Indonesia, Sr Mary from England and Sr Simone from Germany.

How do I live my life as a Christian?

The Church teaches us that there are three vocations: the single life, married life, and the religious life or priesthood. I chose to live as a religious sister.

Our Founder St Arnold Janssen gifted us with a powerful motto: “May the Holy Triune God live in our hearts and in the hearts of all people.

In 1875, he founded the Society of the Divine Word to focus on missionary work. The Divine Word Missionaries preach the Gospel and share the Word of God by living, working, teaching and sharing with others in many areas of the world.

Then he founded two congregations for women. Missionary Sisters, Servants of the Holy Spirit (SSpS for short). This is the group that I belong to. We are active missionaries. The SSpS of Perpetual adoration are contemplatives. These two congregations are working internationally in more than 50 countries across the world.

Before joining the congregation as a sister, I would say that I didn’t know much about the world. I lived in a small village in Kalimantan, Indonesia. I was brought up in a sheltered environment. At that time, I was only thinking about myself, my family and my neighbourhood. I had never thought that in some parts of the world, war was going on and people were being oppressed. I didn’t even know that human trafficking and harassment were thriving. Then, after joining the congregation, I felt like my eyes were opened to a whole new world, its beauty, and its struggles.

How did it happen? How did I recognise my vocation? Was it because I have a great personality? Or was it because I was flawless or perfect?

No, the answer is. It happened because God called, and I answered.

As I look back to my family roots, I feel so lucky. I was brought up in a Catholic family who actively participated in Church activities every week. I had strong bonds with my family and a strong sense of community surrounded me. In our village, we didn’t have Holy Mass every day or not even every week. Instead, we had liturgy of the Word together every Sunday. Three or four times a year we were just thrilled to get a visit from the priest or religious sister.

This situation created a feeling of longing for more. The once-in-a-blue-moon visit built up my enthusiasm to meet and interact with the priests and religious sisters every time I had a chance.

The idea of being a religious sister kept coming and going from my childhood through to adolescence. When the priest or sister paid us a visit, they had special activities with the children teaching them to pray and singing gospel songs. And then, at the end of a session, they would ask whether any of us was interested in being a sister or a priest. I put my hand up every time, without knowing what it was all about. However, at one retreat, when I was 17 years old, the thought of being a religious sister came back to me even stronger, but I didn’t know what to do. Once again, I tried to ignore it and kept myself busy preparing for university just like my other classmates did.

One thing I knew for sure at that time was that I wasn’t keen on studying in the university, but I didn’t know what else to do. I enrolled and waited to start university.

Then, a golden opportunity appeared. I met a missionary sister who was on holiday with her family in the village. I thought at that time, entering the convent would be a better alternative to going to university. I thought to myself: If I don’t make it in the convent, it doesn’t matter; at least I would have given it a try.

I then told my parents about my intention. They were surprised because I had never talked about this to them. I was lucky to have supportive parents and family. They kept saying: you are very welcome anytime you feel you want to come back.

I started my formation when I was 18 years old and thank God that I am still able to continue my journey.

As time goes by, I have learned many things and have grown mature in thinking, making decisions and taking action. My vocation is not about avoiding the university but about my relationship with God, with my fellow SSpS sisters globally and with the community where I live and serve. I think God has a sense of humour, because now I am studying at the university. So, I didn’t avoid it after all.

I now have the privilage of attending Holy Mass every day and having time for personal prayer and reflection. On top of that, by joining the Holy Spirit sisters, I have experienced great joy. I have served many more people than I could ever imagine, both in prayer and in action. In Indonesia, after I entered the convent, I could reach out to the lonely, by visiting and bringing Holy Communion to the elderly and the sick. I visited prisoners and joined them for Holy Mass and socialising. I visited a shelter for women victims of violence to be with them and comfort them.

Now I have to put those ministries on hold to pursue my university studies.

Everybody has their own vocation, I am living my vocation as a missionary sister and it’s a privilege to be God’s representative to bring hope and a smile to the people I meet and serve in my daily life.

Would you like to join me?

Happy St Joseph’s Day

An article from The Tablet 13th March 2021 by Richard Leonard SJ author of The Law of Love: Modern Language for Ancient Wisdom, Paulist 2021

St Joseph, has never had it so good, or, at least, he’s never had such a friend as in Pope Francis. The Pope announced that from 8 December 2020 the Church would have a special Year of St Joseph. It would honour “the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence, who nonetheless played an incomparable role in the history of salvation.” In being tender, open to the demands of faith, obedient, creatively courageous and humble, Pope Francis says St Joseph is a model for all of us.

Devotion to St Joseph is a comparatively late development in Christian history. We know by the ninth century local churches had commemorations in honour of him as the husband of Mary, but this didn’t become a feast day in Western Churches until the twelfth century. Only then did devotion to St Joseph take off. Pius IX proclaimed St Joseph “Patron of the Universal Church” in 1870. Almost a century later, John XXIII added Joseph’s name to the first Eucharistic Prayer; and in 2013, Pope Francis extended that directive to Eucharistic Prayers II, III, and IV.

Christian art hasn’t been kind to him, usually depicting him as 103 not out, presuming that old men would have no sexual interest in young women. Those artists need to meet some of the old men I know. There is nothing in the gospel texts to indicate that Mary or Joseph were anything other than the marriageable age according to Jewish custom at the time: around 13 for girls; 18 for young men.

There are only five episodes involving Joseph in the gospels: the Annunciation: the Nativity; the presentation of the child Jesus in the Temple; as a refugee to Egypt; and the loss and discovery of the boy Jesus i the Temple in Jerusalem. One can see why the earliest Church may have been slow to make a fuss of him. He is not recorded as ever saying anything in the New Testament – not a word. He should be the patron saint of shy, hard-working backroom players who say little but do a lot.

Joseph is a dreamer: that’s how God communicates with him. In the Scriptures, his namesake Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob, is the famous dreamer and interpreter of dreams in the Old Testament. King Nebuchadnezzar, the prophet Daniel and King Solomon are just three others whose dreams were to have a dramatic impact on the destiny of Israel. There are plenty of people in the New Testament who dream dreams and see visions too, culminating in the Book of Revelation.

In the gospels, Joseph has a quartet of dreams: when he is told not to fear taking the pregnant Mary as his wife; when he is warned to flee to Egypt to escape Herod’s plan to kill Jesus; when he is given the all-clear to return to Israel; and finally, when he is told not to settle in Judaea but to go to Galilee.

Today we often dismiss belief in dreams as a fad of the new age. This is a mistake. God speaks to us however he needs to. If God has given us an unconscious and subconscious life, of which dreams are a sign, then God has a purpose for this gift, and it can be used for good. Long before Carl Jung, dreams were understood to be a gateway to our inner life and the mystical world, with St Joseph as their champion. If we refuse to take our dreams seriously, if we decide that God cannot or does not talk to us through our subconscious, then we will never realise their potential.

Even though the flight into Egypt is a theological story, it portrays Joseph’s transformation from being a dreamer to being one of history’s most famous refugees, fleeing a murderous dictator and saving the Saviour of the world.

Just as Matthew draws parallels between the dreams of the Joseph of Genesis with the dreams of Joseph of Galilee, we can see the parallels in our own lives too. Like the Scriptures, dreams need careful interpretation and discernment, but Joseph, the silent partner within the Holy Family, is testament to how a few words and great actions can save ourselves, our family and even the world.

When Pope Francic announced the Year of St Joseph, he also gave us a new prayer:

HAIL, GUARDIAN OF THE REDEEMER, SPOUSE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY. TO YOU GOD ENTRUSTED HIS ONLY SON; IN YOU MARY PLACED HER TRUST; WITH YOU CHRIST BECAME MAN. BLESSED JOSEPH, TO US TOO, SHOW YOURSELF A FATHER AND GUIDE US IN THE PATH OF LIFE. OBTAIN FOR US GRACE, MERCY AND COURAGE, AND DEFEND US FROM EVERY EVIL. AMEN

Editor: This is a lovely prayer and one we could easily learn by heart, take to heart and let often slip off our tongues. Thank you Pope Francis for this short prayer.

Blessed Carlo Acutis

The “Cyber Apostle of the Eucharist” by Fr. Sean Maguire from Totus Tuus

We often hear people bemoaning that young people do not engage with their Catholic faith. However, the beatification of an Italian teenager in October 2020 is a reminder to us that the Catholic faith ought to be a source of joy in the lives of our youth today. There is a lot written about the life of the first millennial to be beatified, but in this article, I will shine a spotlight on the extraordinary Eucharistic devotion of this ordinary teenager.

When Carlos received his First Holy Communion at the age of seven, he fell in love with the Eucharist and never wanted to miss Mass ever again. Carlos went to Confession weekly and prayed the Rosary daily, which he said was “the shortest ladder to climb to Heaven.” Carlos referred to the Eucharist as “his highway to heaven.” His mother had only been to Mass three times in her life but she was captivated by her son’s devotion to the Eucharist and this led to her conversion.

Carlos regularly prayed before the Blessed Sacrament for an hour before or after Mass. He certainly believed that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist and he allowed Jesus to transform his youthful heart. He used to say “if we get in front of the sun, we get suntans, but when we get in front of Jesus in the Eucharist we become saints.” Through regular exposure to the rays of grace that come from the Eucharist, Carlos was able to reach his full human potential and become the person that God created him to be. Carlos said that “the more Eucharist we receive, the more we will become like Jesus.” Each time Carlos received the Body of Christ, he became what he received and his life reflected in a greater way the life of Christ.

The summer after his 14th birthday, Carlos created a website cataloging an array of Eucharistic miracles that occurred throughout the world in history. Most Eucharistic miracles involve incidences in which the Eucharist Host has turned into human flesh and blood. Many have been scientifically examined and approved by the Church. Jesus, through these miracles, shows us in a tangible way that he is truly present in the Holy Eucharist. Nicola Gori, the postulator of Carlo Acutis’ cause for sainthood said that Carlo was concerned by people growing distant to the Church and the sacraments and he wanted to bring them back. His website “is a call to shake consciences” and many people throughout the world have had their faith strengthened by Carlos’ work.

Carlo was so convinced and overcome by the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist that he couldn’t understand why stadiums were full of people and churches were empty. He would often say, “They have to see, they have to understand.” Carlos understood that “we have a foretaste of Heaven” on earth when we receive the Eucharist. In a diary given to him, he wrote, “sadness is looking at oneself, happiness is looking at God.” Carlos’ life was certainly pointed towards God and he derived so much joy from being in the presence of his Eucharistic Lord.

Blessed Acutis’ life reminds us that everyone is called to sainthood. For Carlos, to become a saint is simple: “The only thing we have to ask God for, in prayer, is the desire to be holy.”

And he was able to reach the beautiful goal of holiness above all by participating in the Mass and the Eucharistic Adoration.

Carlo died from a brain tumor in 2006 at the age of fifteen. As he was dying of leukemia, he said, “I am happy to die, because I lived my life without wasting even a minute of it on anything un-pleasing to God.” Certainly his Eucharistic centered life enabled him to live a spotless life pleasing to God. As he was dying, Carlos offered all his suffering for the Church and for the Pope. Blessed Carlos Acutis was beatified in Assisi on the 10th of October 2020, at which Cardinal Agostino Vallini said that the “love for the Eucharist was the foundation that kept alive his relationship with God” and that “he had his gaze turned to Jesus.”

Blessed Carlo pray for us.

Happy St Patrick’s Day 2021

I praise and proclaim God’s name in all places, No only when things go well but also in times of stress.

Escape

In my sleep one night I heard a voice saying: ‘…soon you will go to your own country…look, your ship is ready…’ I ran away and left the man with whom I had spent six years…The power of God directed my way and nothing daunted me until I reached the ship.

I spoke to the crew…but the captain retorted: ‘On no account are you to go with us’…I began to pray, and before I had ended I heard loud shouting: ‘Come quickly…’ I went back…and they began to say to me: ‘Come on, we will take you on trust.. and we set sail at once.’

After three days we came to land and for twenty-eight days we made our way through deserted country. Supplies ran out and the party was worse for hunger. The captain said to me: ‘…you say your God is great and all powerful; why then can you not pray for us?’

I said confidently: ‘Turn sincerely with your whole heart to the Lord my God because nothing is impossible for him, that this day he may send you food…until you are satisfied; for he has plenty everywhere.’

With the help of God a herd of pigs suddenly appeared on the road…; they killed many and stopped there for two nights…After this they gave profuse thanks to God and I became honorable in their eyes.

(This excerpt was taken from The Little Book of St Patrick compiled and introduced by Don Mullan. It is based on two documents written by Patrick: Confession and Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus.)

Opening our secrets to the light

An article in The Irish Catholic 11th March 2021 by Fr Rolheiser www.ronrolheiser.com

You are as sick as your sickest secret! That’s a wise axiom. What’s sick in us will remain sick unless we open it up to others and to the light of day. As long as it’s a secret, it’s a sickness. However, perhaps the problem is not with what we keep secret, but that we keep it secret. Maybe the sickness is the secret rather than what we deem to be sick.

We relegate our fantasies to a sickness when we believe they are something we alone suffer from, something sick, shameful, and unique to us”

We all have our struggles, and we can thank God for that. The image and likeness of God inside us is not simply a beautiful icon imprinted in our souls. It’s fire, divine, insatiable, befuddling fire. By our very nature, there are complexities inside us that cannot make easy peace with the person we like to think we are. We all have wild fantasies and dark obsessions. Were our daydreams ever made public, they would reveal that we all nurse fantasies of grandiosity, of hatred, of vindication, and that we all are periodically caught up in the grip of various emotional and sexual obsessions. There are things in our daydreams about which we would be ashamed to speak. We all harbour fantasies that are wild, earthy, grandiose and egotistical. So we keep them secret and deal with them either by pathologising them (relegating them to a sickness) or by denying them.

We relegate our fantasies to a sickness when we believe they are something we alone suffer from, something sick, shameful, and unique to us. They are something we never want others to know about us. As a result, our fantasies and obsessions become something to be ashamed of, a dark secret, a sickness beneath our normal self.

Denial

Another option is denial. We can consciously deny that we ever have these thoughts and feelings. Denial saves us from feeling shame, but we pay another price for this in the end. Denying our thoughts and feelings is akin to living on the ground floor of a house and taking any garbage or anything else we do not want to deal with and simply tossing it down into the basement and closing the door. Out of sight, out of mind. For a while. Garbage doesn’t cease to exist just because we have pushed it into the basement. Eventually it ferments and sends its poisonous gases up through the vents to contaminate the air we are breathing.

However, and this is the point, the complex yearnings, obsessions and grandiosity inside our soul are not a sickness, nor something that we need to deny. Our soul, for all its wildness, is not sick.

The problem is that we lack an understanding of the deeper part of our soul, our shadow, and believe ther’s some sickness inside there – and it’s keeping this a secret that’s the actual sickness”

What is our shadow? Popular literature has given us a one-sided notion of what makes for our shadow. The popular notion is that our shadow is some dark, fearful place we are afraid to go, an inner desert we want at all cost not to venture into, inner demons that we want consciously to avoid. While we might at times feel those fears in the face of our own shadow, our shadow is not a dark thing at all. The opposite.

“In a healthy person, dark secrets generally hide the things that emanate out of the excessive light, divine energy, infinite longings, and godly grandiosity inside of us”

Here’s how our shadow forms. When a baby is born, it is luminous, wonderfully open and aware, looking around, simply drinking in reality. However, at this stage of life, a baby cannot think because it lacks an ego and thus lacks self-awareness. In order to form an ego and become self-aware, the baby has to make a series of massive mental contractions, each of which shuts it off from part of its own luminosity. First, early on in life, it distinguishes between what is self and what is other: I am not my mommy. Soon afterwards, it distinguishes between living and non-living: a puppy is alive, a stone is not. Sometime after that, it distinguishes between mind and body; a body is a hard, solid thing, thinking is different. Finally, and this is the critical piece in the formation of our shadow, at a point it its life, the baby will make a distinction between what it can consciously face inside of itself and what is too overwhelming to consciously face. In doing that, it forms its shadow by splitting off a huge part of its luminosity (the full image and likeness of God inside itself) from its own conscious awareness.

Our light

Notice that our shadow is made up of our light, not our darkness. As Marianne Williamson aptly puts it (in a phrase Nelson Mandela used in his inauguration address) it is our light not our darkness that frightens us. In a healthy person, dark secrets generally hide the things that emanate out of the excessive light, divine energy, infinite longings, and godly grandiosity inside of us. When we bring these into the light, we see that they are neither dark nor sick. The sickness lies only in not bringing them to light.

Editors comment: Always begin an article with a prayer to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will enlighten what we need to absorb.

The Joy of the Discovery

(taken from Bible Alive for Saturday 6th March 2021)

Did you know that the parable of the Prodigal Son is unique to St Luke’s Gospel? And yet, to believer and unbeliever alike, it is surely (along with the Good Samaritan) the most well-known and familiar of Jesus’ parables. For Jesus was sent to seek and save the lost. God is the God of mercy and kindness, always searching for us, always holding out to us the hand of forgiveness and reconciliation.

The wonderful thing about the three parables linked by the theme of something or someone being lost is that as we open ourselves up to the teaching and guidance of the Holy Spirit, we enter more deeply into understanding God’s love for us. These parables have the power to literally change the way we think: about God, about his mercy and about his love. Too often our emphasis is on what we have done or will do for God, rather than on what God has done for us in Christ. In the parables the shepherd and the widow represent God, and the sheep and the coin represent us. Neither the sheep nor the coin achieve anything other than being lost. It is the action, the initiative, the search of the shepherd and the widow which results in the joy of discovery of what was lost.

You see, our problem is that we imagine it is we who have to look for God, and so we easily lose heart and give up. In truth, it is the other way around – God is always looking for us. The mystery of faith is that we pursue God only because he has first put this urge within us. It is God who gives us the grace to seek him but all along we are being sought by God. In being found by him we discover who we really are – children of God made in his image and likeness.

God’s pursuit of us moves us towards repentance, for it is in these moments of repentance, sorrow and contrition that we touch the reality of ourselves and the reality of God. As St Augustine of Hippo said “Desire only God and your heart will be satisfied.” In receiving and experiencing God’s amazing mercy, our hearts are renewed, refreshed and satisfied.

‘We taste thee, O thou living Bread, and long to feast upon thee still. We drink of thee, the Fountainhead, and thirst our souls from thee to fill.’ (St Bernard of Clairvaux)

Reflection

We all need God’s mercy for we all have sinned. The only road back to God’s house passes through the mercy field. Mercy is God’s unmerited favour, of which we are “qualified” to receive because no qualification is needed. Both those who have gone far away from the Father’s house like the prodigal son, and those who are in the house like the first son, need God’s mercy and grace to understand deeply what it means to truly belong to God’s household.

(taken from God’s Word Daily Reflections 2021 St Pauls publication)

Don’t give up now

Three pieces of spiritual writings taken from The Living Spirit in The Tablet 20th February 2021

When He had fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards was hungry, He gave an opportunity to the devil to draw near, so that He might teach us through this encounter how we are to overcome and defeat him. This a wrestler also does. For in order to teach his pupils how to win he himself engages in contests with others, demonstrating on the actual bodies of others that they may learn how to gain the mastery.

This is what took place here. For, desiring to draw the devil into contest, He made His hunger known to him. He met him as he approached, and meeting him, with the skill which He alone possessed, He once, twice, and a third time, threw His enemy to the ground.

St John Chrysostom from The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers edited by M.F.Toal (Ignatius Press, 2000)

Lent is an opportunity to become Christian “anew”, through a constant process of inner change and progress in the knowledge and love of Christ. Conversion is never once and for all but is a process, an interior journey through the whole of life.

Pope Benedict XVI General Audience, 21 February 2007

But Jesus’ command is inexorable: if you want to walk with me, there are no excuses. No days off. You’re obsessed with riding your stationary bike every day and taking all your vitamins and checking your email and flossing your teeth. Well, this is your real obligation. It won’t kill you. You might get tired or bored or scared or fed up, but this is the condition for your walk with me. It doesn’t happen any other way. Put on your sandals or your sneakers or your hefty boots. Pick up that cross and let’s get going.

Margaret Guenther from Walking Home: From Eden to Emmaus (Morehouse, 2011)

Editors comments: did you get energized like I did through reading these three spiritual writers. Yes! Good. Then let’s get going together.