The Everyday Saints

The Everyday Saints

“I see the holiness of the Church militant. Very often it a holiness found in.. those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence. We might call them ‘the middle class of holiness’.”
– Pope Francis, ‘Gaudete Et Exsultate’

Celebrating All Saints Day, we might be tempted to think only of those whose names the Church places before us – the canonised Saints and the beatified Blesseds. And while this is good, we would be missing so much more.

Today’s feast is really about a different group, people who will never be remembered on any feast day except this one; for this is the feast of all those unnamed persons who have entered the joy of Heaven and upon whose intercession we now rely – and who are the un-canonised and ‘everday saints’.

In his extraordinarily beautiful Apostolic Exhortation ‘Gaudete Et Exsultate’, our Holy Father Pope Francis reminds us of these everyday saints who are all around us; they live next door, they live in our own homes; they are our relatives, our friends, our neighbours and those who have had a role in our lives. Pope Francis reminds us of something written by Edith Stein, better known as Saint Teresia Benedicta of the Cross. She wrote –

“The greatest figures of prophecy and sanctity step forth out of the darkest night. But for the most part, the formative stream of the mystical life remain invisible. Certainly, the most decisive turning points in history are substantially determined by souls whom no history book ever mentions.”

Pope Francis tells us that “holiness is the most attractive face of the Church” and reminds us that all of us are called to holiness – “each in his or her own way”, he says, quoting the Second Vatican Council. And so he appeals to us – “let the grace of your Baptism bear fruit in a path of holiness”.

When we think about these words of the Holy Father, it may occur to us that he is actually describing many people who have figured in our own lives – parents, relatives, neighbours, teachers and so forth. These are the ones who have put into practice what the Pope described above. It is for this reason that they are now enjoying the glory of Heaven – and it is these who we celebrate today on this feast of All Saints.

If we remember these good souls, it is perhaps because the Holy Father was right – holiness is indeed the most attractive face of our Church. There is something intangible but very real about souls such as this – it is as though their souls speak to ours, with “sighs too deeep for words” (cf. Rom.8:26) as St Paul describes it. But those wordless sighs do touch us and they achieve something within us. Years later, we will remember the effect such a soul had upon us even decades before through their example, a tender gesture, or a kind word. Something about their goodness lives on.

Today, we remember and we celebrate souls such as these, and we give thanks for them.

But if we stop there, we risk having missed the point.

And the point is this – that we learn the example they have placed before us and that we are changed and made better by it. And, God willing, perhaps one day we, too, will leave such an example, and have such an effect, upon a soul who will come after us. And in this way, through the grace and mercy of God, that we also enjoy the Beatific Vision in Heaven for all eternity.

May all the Saints of Heaven, those we know and those known only to the Lord, pray for us. And may Our Blessed Lady, the Queen of All Saints, pray for us.

The Homeland Above

The Homeland Above

“With God, nothing is lost! In Mary, the goal has been reached and we have before our eyes the reasons why we journey: not to gain the things here below, which are fleeting, but the homeland above, which is for ever.”

– Pope Francis

With these words issued today, our Holy Father Pope Francis reminded us of why we celebrate the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven. It is a sign of the hope we all profess as Catholics – that one day, God willing, we will share in the joys of Heaven forever, in the presence of God, the Blessed Virgin, the Saints and Angels, and all those who have made the same journey before us. The Assumption is a foretaste of what we hope to experience ourselves.

Defining the Dogma of the Assumption of Our Blessed Lady in his Apostolic Constitution ‘Munificentissimus Deus’, Pope Pius XII touched on this –

“That privilege has shone forth in new radiance since our predecessor..Pius IX..solemnly proclaimed the dogma of the loving Mother of God’s Immaculate Conception. These two privileges are most closely bound to one another. Christ overcame sin and death by his own death, and one who through Baptism has been born again in a supernatural way has conquered sin and death through the same Christ. Yet, according to the general rule, God does not will to grant to the just the full effect of the victory over death until the end of time has come. And so it is that the bodies of even the just are corrupted after death, and only on the last day will they be joined, each to its own glorious soul. Now God has willed that the Blessed Virgin Mary should be exempted from this general rule. She, by an entirely unique privilege, completely overcame sin by Her Immaculate Conception, and as a result She was not subject to the law of remaining in the corruption of the grave, and She did not have to wait until the end of time for the redemption of Her body.”

And so that hope which all of us have, is fulfilled in the person of the Mother of the Lord, in whom is brough to completion the great grace granted to Her by God in Her Immaculate Conception, as the Pope noted.

So often, we become focussed so intently on the present life that it is tempting to forget there is still a world – a life – to come. But as the Saints remind us, this life is the vessel, but not the port – it is the journey, but not the destination.

Today, let us look to Mary, taken to Heaven body and soul, and let us think of the life to come; and let us renew our hope that one day, by the grace of God, we might share in it.

Papal Rosary Prayers

Papal Rosary Prayers

“I want to encourage everyone to rediscover the beauty of praying the Rosary at home in the month of May.”

– Pope Francis 

Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis
to the faithful for the month of May 2020  

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The month of May is approaching, a time when the People of God express with particular intensity their love and devotion for the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is traditional in this month to pray the Rosary at home within the family. The restrictions of the pandemic have made us come to appreciate all the more this “family” aspect, also from a spiritual point of view.

For this reason, I want to encourage everyone to rediscover the beauty of praying the Rosary at home in the month of May. This can be done either as a group or individually; you can decide according to your own situations, making the most of both opportunities. The key to doing this is always simplicity, and it is easy also on the internet to find good models of prayers to follow.

I am also providing two prayers to Our Lady that you can recite at the end of the Rosary, and that I myself will pray in the month of May, in spiritual union with all of you. I include them with this letter so that they are available to everyone.

Dear brothers and sisters, contemplating the face of Christ with the heart of Mary our Mother will make us even more united as a spiritual family and will help us overcome this time of trial. I keep all of you in my prayers, especially those suffering most greatly, and I ask you, please, to pray for me. I thank you, and with great affection I send you my blessing.

Rome, Saint John Lateran, 25 April 2020
Feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist

Pope Francis


First Prayer

 

O Mary,
You shine continuously on our journey
as a sign of salvation and hope.
We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick,
who, at the foot of the cross,
were united with Jesus’ suffering,
and persevered in your faith.

“Protectress of the Roman people”,
you know our needs,
and we know that you will provide,
so that, as at Cana in Galilee,
joy and celebration may return
after this time of trial.

Help us, Mother of Divine Love,
to conform ourselves to the will of the Father
and to do what Jesus tells us.
For he took upon himself our suffering,
and burdened himself with our sorrows
to bring us, through the cross,
to the joy of the Resurrection.
Amen.

We fly to your protection,
O Holy Mother of God;
Do not despise our petitions
in our necessities,
but deliver us always
from every danger,
O Glorious and Blessed Virgin.


Second Prayer

“We fly to your protection, O Holy Mother of God”.

In the present tragic situation, when the whole world is prey to suffering and anxiety, we fly to you, Mother of God and our Mother, and seek refuge under your protection.

Virgin Mary, turn your merciful eyes towards us amid this coronavirus pandemic. Comfort those who are distraught and mourn their loved ones who have died, and at times are buried in a way that grieves them deeply. Be close to those who are concerned for their loved ones who are sick and who, in order to prevent the spread of the disease, cannot be close to them. Fill with hope those who are troubled by the uncertainty of the future and the consequences for the economy and employment.

Mother of God and our Mother, pray for us to God, the Father of mercies, that this great suffering may end and that hope and peace may dawn anew. Plead with your divine Son, as you did at Cana, so that the families of the sick and the victims be comforted, and their hearts be opened to confidence and trust.

Protect those doctors, nurses, health workers and volunteers who are on the frontline of this emergency, and are risking their lives to save others. Support their heroic effort and grant them strength, generosity and continued health.

Be close to those who assist the sick night and day, and to priests who, in their pastoral concern and fidelity to the Gospel, are trying to help and support everyone.

Blessed Virgin, illumine the minds of men and women engaged in scientific research, that they may find effective solutions to overcome this virus.

Support national leaders, that with wisdom, solicitude and generosity they may come to the aid of those lacking the basic necessities of life and may devise social and economic solutions inspired by farsightedness and solidarity.

Mary Most Holy, stir our consciences, so that the enormous funds invested in developing and stockpiling arms will instead be spent on promoting effective research on how to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.

Beloved Mother, help us realize that we are all members of one great family and to recognize the bond that unites us, so that, in a spirit of fraternity and solidarity, we can help to alleviate countless situations of poverty and need. Make us strong in faith, persevering in service, constant in prayer.

Mary, Consolation of the afflicted, embrace all your children in distress and pray that God will stretch out his all-powerful hand and free us from this terrible pandemic, so that life can serenely resume its normal course.

To you, who shine on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope, do we entrust ourselves, O Clement, O Loving, O Sweet Virgin Mary. Amen.

 

Star of the Stormy Sea

Star of the Stormy Sea

“I would like this evening to entrust all of you to the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, Health of the People and Star of the Stormy Sea.”

– Pope Francis

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, never fails to recommend us to the Blessed Virgin Mary, nor to recommend that we approach Her with simplicity and with confidence, like little children. After all, that is precisely what we are – the children of Mary. And no child should ever hesitate to approach his or her mother, particularly at moments of great need.

Pope Francis leads by example. Before every one of his foreign trips, he goes to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and prays silently before the ancient Icon of Our Lady which is called ‘Salus Populi Romani’ (Salvation of the Roman People). And as members of the Catholic Church, every one of us is part of the ‘Roman people’ and so this Icon is for every one of us. And at his extraordinary ‘Urbi Et Orbi’ given from the Vatican on Friday evening, the Holy Father had this Icon brought to the Basilica, where it was prominently displayed. Before adoring the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, the Pope venerated this Icon – a picture of that moment is at the top of this page.

Our present Holy Father, at the beginning of his papacy, consecrated his own Petrine ministry to the Mother of God under the title of Our Lady of Fatima. He follows in the footsteps of all the Popes who have preceded him, and who were similarly devoted to the Blessed Virgin. Benedict was deeply devoted to the Mother of God; and few will have forgotten that St John Paul II was a shining light of deep and authentic Marian devotion, his own example lighting a fire in the hearts of a great many of the faithful across the world.

Indeed, the Church herself similarly recommends all of us to be devoted to the Mother of God. The Catechism tells us –

“The Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship. The Church rightly honors the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of ‘Mother of God,’ to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs..” (Catechism, para.917)

The great Church council of our times, the Second Vatican Council, spoke at length about Marian devotion; the eighth chapter of ‘Lumen Gentium’, the ‘Dogmatic Constitution on the Church’, speaks very eloquently about Her. Beginning this chapter, the Council Fathers wrote –

“Wherefore this Holy Synod, in expounding the doctrine on the Church, in which the divine Redeemer works salvation, intends to describe with diligence both the role of the Blessed Virgin in the mystery of the Incarnate Word and the Mystical Body, and the duties of redeemed mankind toward the Mother of God, who is mother of Christ and mother of men, particularly of the faithful.”

It is notable that the Catechism tells us that Marian devotion is ‘intrinsic to Christian worship’, and the Council Fathers speak of our ‘duty’ toward the Blessed Virgin – put another way, it is something we should all be doing, for this is the will of the Eternal Father; He very deliberately chose that the Saviour would come to us through Her and by doing so, He made the entire plan of salvation for mankind dependent upon Her acceptance of that plan through Her consent to become the Mother of God .

In other words, Marian devotion is not something we should consider ourselves free to choose or to decline; rather, it is expected of the redeemed people of God, for God wills that it be so.

You can read the entire text of Lumen Gentium here.

Writing on the fiftieth anniversary of the first appearance of the Mother of God at Fatima, Pope St Paul VI wrote a beuatiful and prophetic Apostlic Exhortation called ‘Signum Magnum’ (The Great Sign). Addressed to the Catholic Bishops of the entire world, this Exhortation deals with Marian devotion, looking particularly at what constitutes authentic Marian devotion. It is an exceptionally beautiful document and I heartily recommend you to read it. At it’s conclusion, the Holy Father noted his hope for the Church –

“..We express the trust that, thanks to your encouragement, the clergy and the Christian people entrusted to your pastoral ministry will respond in a generous spirit to this exhortation of ours so as to demonstrate toward the Virgin Mother of God a more ardent piety and a firmer confidence. Meanwhile while we are comforted by the certainty that the glorious Queen of Heaven and our most sweet Mother will never cease to assist all and each one of Her sons and will never withdraw from the entire Church of Christ Her heavenly patronage.”

Likewise, so very many of the great Saints of the Church have heartily encouraged us to be devoted to the Blessed Virgin, both by their example and by their words. Indeed, it is difficult to find a Saint who was not so devoted. And that is as it should be.

In these days when such heavy gloom has descended upon the entire world, still the Blessed Virgin is placed before us by the Church as that luminous and radiant figure who so clearly reflects the Light of Christ, in the same way that the moon reflects the light of the sun; and whose task it is to do all in Her not inconsiderable power to lead us safely, like ships tossed about on the stormy seas, to the safe port of Heaven. She is the compass that will get us there.

Throughout these days – and far beyond – let all of us to go our Heavenly Mother without fear or hesitation, knowing with the confidence of little children that She will take us by the hand and lead us to the Lord.

 

Address of the Holy Father

Address of the Holy Father

“Today we invoke the Mother of God, who gathers us together as a people of believers.

O Mother, give birth to hope within us and bring us unity. Woman of salvation, to You we entrust this year. Keep it in Your Heart.”

– Pope Francis

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica
Wednesday, 1st January 2020


 

“But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman” (Gal 4:4). Born of woman: Jesus came in this way. He did not appear in the world as an adult but, as the Gospel tells us, he was “conceived in the womb” (Lk 2;21). It was there that he made our humanity his own: day after day, month after month. In the womb of a woman, God and mankind are united, never to be separated again. Even now, in heaven, Jesus lives in the flesh that he took in his mother’s womb. In God, there is our human flesh!

On the first day of the year, we celebrate this nuptial union between God and mankind, inaugurated in the womb of a woman. In God, there will forever be our humanity and Mary will forever be the Mother of God. She is both woman and mother: this is what is essential. From her, a woman, salvation came forth and thus there is no salvation without a woman. In her, God was united to us, and if we want to unite ourselves to him, we must take the same path: through Mary, woman and mother. That is why we begin the year by celebrating Our Lady, the woman who wove the humanity of God. If we want to weave humanity into this our time, we need to start again from the woman.

Born of woman. The rebirth of humanity began from a woman. Women are sources of life. Yet they are continually insulted, beaten, raped, forced to prostitute themselves and to suppress the life they bear in the womb. Every form of violence inflicted upon a woman is a blasphemy against God, who was born of a woman. Humanity’s salvation came forth from the body of a woman: we can understand our degree of humanity by how we treat a woman’s body. How often are women’s bodies sacrificed on the profane altars of advertising, of profiteering, of pornography, exploited like a canvas to be used. Yet women’s bodies must be freed from consumerism; they must be respected and honoured. Theirs is the most noble flesh in the world, for it conceived and brought to light the love that has saved us! In our day, too, motherhood is demeaned, because the only growth that interests us is economic growth. There are mothers who risk difficult journeys desperately seeking to give a better future to the fruit of their womb, yet are deemed redundant by people with full stomachs but hearts empty of love.

Born of woman. The Bible tells us that woman come onto the scene at the height of creation, as a summation of the entire created world. For she holds within herself the very purpose of creation: the generation and safekeeping of life, communion with all things, care for all things. So it is with the Mother of God in today’s Gospel. The text tells us, “But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (v. 19). She kept all these things: joy at the birth of Jesus and sadness for the lack of hospitality shown in Bethlehem; the love of Joseph and the amazement of the shepherds; the promise and the uncertainty of the future. She took everything to heart, and in her heart, she put everything in its right place, even hardships and troubles. In her heart, she lovingly set all things in order and entrusted everything to God.

In the Gospel, Mary does this a second time: at the end of the hidden life of Jesus, we are told that “his mother kept all these things in her heart” (v. 51). This repetition makes us realize that “keeping in her heart” was not something nice that Our Lady did from time to time, but something habitual. Women typically take life to heart. Women show us that the meaning of life is not found in making things but in taking things to heart. Only those who see with the heart see things properly, because they know how to “look into” each person: to see a brother apart from his mistakes, a sister apart from her failings, hope amid difficulty. They see God in all persons and things.

As we begin this new year, let us ask ourselves: Do I know how to see with the heart? Do I know how to look at people with the heart? Do I take to heart the people with whom I live? Or do I tear them down by gossip? And above all, do I put the Lord at the centre of my heart, or other values, other interests, like advancement, riches, power? Only if we take life to heart will we know how to take care and overcome the indifference all around. So let us ask for the grace to live this year with the desire to take others to heart and to care for them. And if we want a better world, a world that will be a peaceful home and not a war field, may we take to heart the dignity of each woman. From a woman was born the Prince of peace. Women are givers and mediators of peace and should be fully included in decision-making processes. Because when women can share their gifts, the world finds itself more united, more peaceful. Hence, every step forward for women is a step forward for humanity as a whole.

Born of woman. Jesus, newly born, was mirrored in the eyes of the woman, in the face of his mother. From her, he received his first caresses; with her, he exchanged the first smiles. With her began the revolution of tenderness. The Church, looking at the Baby Jesus, is called to continue that revolution. For she too, like Mary, is both woman and mother. The Church is woman and mother, and in Our Lady, she finds her distinctive traits. She sees Mary immaculate, and feels called to say no to sin and to worldliness. She sees Mary fruitful, and feels called to proclaim the Gospel and to give birth to it in people’s lives. She sees Mary a mother, and she feels called to receive every man and woman as a son or daughter.

In drawing close to Mary, the Church discovers herself, she finds her centre and her unity. The enemy of our human nature, the devil, seeks instead to divide, to highlight differences, ideologies, partisan thinking and parties. But we do not understand the Church if we regard her by starting with structures, programmes and trends, ideologies and functions. We may grasp something, but not the heart of the Church. Because the Church has a mother’s heart. And we, as her sons and daughters, invoke today the Mother of God, who gathers us together as a people of believers. O Mother, give birth to hope within us and bring us unity. Woman of salvation, to you we entrust this year. Keep it in your heart. We acclaim you, the Holy Mother of God. All together now, for three times, let us stand and acclaim the Lady, the Holy Mother of God. [with the assembly] Holy Mother of God, Holy Mother of God, Holy Mother of God!

 


© Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

United With the Holy Father

United With the Holy Father

“I saw the Holy Father in a very big house, kneeling by a table, with his head buried in his hands, and he was weeping. Outside the house, there were many people. Some of them were throwing stones, others were cursing him and using bad language. Poor Holy Father, we must pray very much for him.”

– Saint Jacinta Marto

EDITORIAL

One of the dangers of social media in our day is that we run the risk of believing everything we read. Of course, not everything we read online is actually true, and so we need to exercise a degree of discernment – checking facts and the (apparent) sources of quotations and of claims made, and placing things in context rather than simply accepting them at face value.

We also need to exercise prudence in our online responses; it is all too easy to read something and immediately respond to it. I know from bitter personal experience that this is often the wrong thing to do, and can be regretted at a later moment. If this is a danger for the average person, how much more of a danger can it be if we present ourselves as ‘Christian’ or ‘Catholic’ to the online community.

A particular feature of the present day is the tendency to criticise the Pope; whilst the Holy Fathers have always been sport for the written and spoken barbs of others, those others were generally – in days past, at least – outside of the Catholic Faith.

In the present time, the real danger is coming from some who profess to be Catholic.

No doubt, most of these are well-intentioned  – but that does not lessen the damage they are capable of producing. While most of those who criticise and castigate the Holy Father may be well-intentioned, even if they get things wrong, we should be aware that there are also some whose intentions are decidely dark and nefarious, and others who will be used by those with dark intentions. Remember, our battle is – above all else – a spiritual one.

The damage caused by attacks on the Holy Father takes two forms.

The first form is the damage to the unity of the Church – how can we say we are members of the Catholic Church whilst our words and our hearts are openly in combat with the Shepherd who has been given the task of leading the Church? And when these people are Cardinals, Bishops, Priests or Deacons, or organisations describing themselves as ‘Catholic’ – what message does this send not only to those outside of the Church, but to her own members? Where is the unity? Where is the loyalty? Our Church is ONE, holy, Catholic and Apostolic.

The second form is the damage to ourselves – to our spiritual life and to our soul. Walking the path of criticism of the Pope carries with it the danger that, unchecked, we will eventually find ourselves distancing ourselves from the Church herself. After all, how can we remain in the Church if we believe she is heading in the wrong direction and is being led astray by the one whose very task it is to lead and govern her?

Have we no faith in the Lord, whose promise to Peter means that a Holy Father can never err in matters of faith or morals? Regardless of our thoughts on the person who is Pope at a given moment, still he is the Pope – and this demands our loyalty and the submission of our will and our religious intellect to his teaching magisterium – this includes not only his officially promulgated documents, but also the teaching he gives day after day. We might think a particular Pope has ‘got it wrong’ in some way – and if we do, we need to stop, take stock, check our ‘facts’ and then ask ourselves what is more likely: that the Pope is indeed wrong as we believe, or perhaps that our understanding is at issue. Or simply that what is being reported is either inaccurate or just not true. Stop and think for a moment – do you honestly believe that you know better than the Pope when it comes to the Catholic Faith? It takes docility, humility and charity to do this; but the effort will be well-rewarded.

How do we resolve this situation?

We need to pray and we need to TRUST in the Lord; it is His Church and His Mystical Body – and He has already promised that she will not go astray and will never be overcome by evil. That is our starting point – trust in the Lord. And the Holy Father of any given moment has been placed there by the Lord, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for a very good reason – regardless of whether or not we know (or understand) that reason. Again, we must TRUST the Lord. His divine will shall always prevail.

We also need to be prudent and discerning, as noted already. We should not automatically believe something that is reported as fact, nor should we be too quick to deliver a judgment, especially where this is negative. We ought also to remember the sin of calmuny, which is the damage to the reputation of another. This is a serious sin and one that is not always easily undone.

As Catholics, we are aware that our first aim is to make use of this life in order to reach Heaven, our true home – and to do all in our power to ensure we don’t arrive there alone, but assisting other souls to reach there too. Charity is, as the Lord said in the Gospel, something which covers a multitude of sins – and which may well tip the balance for us, one way or another, depending on how we have exercised it.

Our hope of reaching Heaven lies in our membership of – and communion with – the Church; she is designed precisely to get us to Heaven, her Sacraments assisting us greatly along the way, especially at those times when we fail in one way or another. But in order for this to happen, we need to be part of the Church – united to her in our will, our heart and our mind; and that means remaining united to the Holy Father.

So what do we need to do?

If you ‘like’ (for want of a better word) this particular Holy Father (or the next one, or the one after), then pray for him. Pray for him every single day – he needs our prayers.

And if you do not ‘like’ this (or any future) Holy Father – pray for him every single day. And if you find yourself in this latter category, these prayers will have greater merit because they will require a greater degree of charity, humility, docility and TRUST in the Lord.

May the Lord greatly bless our Holy Father Pope Francis. And may the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Church, smile upon him and keep him always close to Her Immaculate Heart.