Newsletter for Sunday 6 March 2022

4 Mar

Russia and our Lady of Fatima

We are all deeply concerned about the escalating conflict between Russia and Ukraine. I believe this is all connected with Our Lady’s message at Fatima, Portugal in 1917. It has been the constant teaching of the Catholic Church that Divine Revelation concluded with the death of the last Apostle and that nothing can be added or changed from the revealed Deposit of Faith. That said, the message of Our Lady of Fatima, who appeared to three shepherd children, Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco, although we would regard it as private revelation, her message is one of vital importance for the entire world, and one which we continue to ignore at our peril.

In July 1917, after showing the three children a vision of Hell, Our Lady said:

“You have seen Hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them God wills to establish throughout the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If people do what I tell you, many souls will be saved, and there will be peace. The war is going to end. But if they do not stop offending God, another and worse war will break out in the reign of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that it is the great sign that God gives you, that He is about to punish the world for its crimes by means of war, hunger, persecution of the Church and of the Holy Father. To forestall this, I shall come to ask for the Consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart and the Communion of Reparation of the First Saturdays. If they heed my requests, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace. If not she will spread her errors throughout the world, promoting wars and persecutions of the Church; the good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated; in the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, which will be converted, and some time of peace will be given to the world.”

The first part of this prophecy was fulfilled exactly as Our Lady said with the ending of the First World War in 1918, and then the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. The final part, although it is yet to be fulfilled, assures us we are not living in the lead up to the end of the world and the coming of the Anti-Christ, because Russia will be converted and a period of peace will be granted to the world. Our Lady asked for the Consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart by the pope in union with the world’s bishops. Various popes since Pius XII have made various consecrations to Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart, but have not consecrated Russia specifically in union with the bishops of the world. This is a controversial point, but Pope St John Paul II in 1984 made a consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart. He wanted to say Russia, but the diplomats wouldn’t allow him to do so for fear it would cause political problems. Some argue that by consecrating the world, Russia was included. While I don’t doubt that the 1984 Consecration brought benefits, like the collapse of the Iron Curtain, I think we can see that Russia has yet to be converted and the promised period of peace we are still awaiting. Therefore the 1984 Consecration would seem not to have fully satisfied Our Lady’s request. Our Lord Himself, made it known to Sister Lucia in 1931 that the Holy Father will make the Consecration, but that it will be late. Amazingly, the Catholic bishops of Ukraine, this last Ash Wednesday, asked the Pope to consecrate Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart as Our Lady requested.

We may have little influence in world politics, but we can all strive to fulfil Our Lady’s requests, by prayer and penance, making the Five First Saturdays Devotion and praying the DAILY Rosary. Let us also use this time in Lent to pray in earnest for peace in the world and for the Pope to be given the grace to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the manner she requested at Fatima.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Newsletter for Sunday 27 February 2022

25 Feb

Stations of the Cross

Lent begins this Wednesday, and the ‘Via Crucis’ or ‘Way of the Cross’ is a very popular devotion during the Lenten season. The story of the ‘Stations of the Cross’ goes right back to the first Good Friday, when the apostles, disciples and followers of Our Lord began to tread the very same ‘Via dolorosa’ or ‘Way of Sorrows’ Our Lord Himself walked to save us. In the early centuries, Christians from all over the world would come to Jerusalem to walk the same holy road. But then Jerusalem fell into the hands of the Muslims and so this devotion became very dangerous and eventually impossible. So the Church decided that the devotion could be performed in individual parish churches.

From the earliest days this devotion was promoted by the Franciscans. St Francis had a great devotion to Our Lord’s Passion and was the first to bear the stigmata (the wounds of Christ). The Church attached Indulgences to making the Stations, at first only for the Franciscans, but then Pope Benedict XIII in 1726 extended this to the whole Church and it became commonplace to see the Stations of the Cross in all Catholic churches.

Traditionally there are fourteen Stations, and most of the episodes are described in the Gospels. A few are not, such as JESUS’ three falls, His meeting with His Mother, and Veronica wiping His face. These incidents are part of tradition which is also a sound source of history.

Every time you make the Stations of the Cross you may gain a Plenary Indulgence. The Catechism describes an Indulgence as the remission of temporal punishment due to sin whose guilt is already forgiven in Confession (CCC #1471). Every sin has two consequences: guilt and debt. In the Sacrament of Penance we confess our sins, receive God’s forgiveness and perform a penance. So through a good Confession the guilt of our sins is removed, and if we have committed a mortal or grave sin which cuts us off from God, we are restored to God’s grace and thus we avoid Hell. But the debt still has to be paid. That debt is paid either in this life or in Purgatory where God heals us and undoes the damage we have done. This is where Indulgences help us, because they help us to pay the debt of sin in this life. So it’s a good idea to try and gain as many Indulgences as we can. We may also apply any Indulgences we gain to the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

So how do you gain an Indulgence by making the Stations of the Cross? The Stations must be lawfully erected, which they are in St Mary’s. There must be fourteen crosses and we must meditate on the Passion and Death of Our Lord at each Station. Those unable to come to church may also gain the Indulgence by spending 15 minutes in devout reading and meditation on Our Lord’s Passion. In addition to making the Stations, one must be in a state of grace, have a detachment from all sin, even venial sin, make a sacramental Confession within a week either before or after, receive Holy Communion, and pray for the Pope’s intentions which we do at the end of the Stations anyway. If one doesn’t fulfil all these conditions, the Indulgence is partial, but one must be in a state of grace. You can fulfil all these conditions on a Friday evening by making your Confession before the 6.30pm Mass, receiving Holy Communion at Mass, followed by making the Stations.

This devotion helps us to think of what Our Lord did for us and the great love He showed in doing it. By devoutly making the Stations, it helps us to return some of that love. Be sure to try and gain the Indulgence at least once this Lent.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Newsletter for Sunday 20 February 2022

18 Feb

Judging Others

One of the most frequently taken out of context Bible verses must be this one from today’s Gospel: “Do not judge and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn and you will not be condemned yourselves” (Luke 6: 37). This is a favourite verse that the secular world, and people who know nothing about religion, Christ or His Church like to bash us with! It’s like a Biblical proof text of relativism – the “you’re okay, I’m okay” mentality. If, for example, we state that certain activities, usually in the sexual arena, are morally wrong, we often receive a response along the lines of, “Stop judging me because JESUS said we shouldn’t judge others.” And we have fingers wagged at us. After all, didn’t Pope Francis say, “Who am I to judge?” Now when people talk like this, it is clearly an attempt to shut down all discussion and to shame the Christian or the Church into silence. But correcting or admonishing the sinner is one of the ‘spiritual works of mercy’ and Scripture constantly counsels us to correct sin. (See, for example, Matthew 18:15-18, James 5:19).

Nowadays, too many are terrified to say anything at all in case someone will accuse them of being judgmental, fascist or rigid when they call attention to sin or wrongdoing. “How dare you say such a thing! Who are you to judge someone else?” This is a misrepresentation of Our Lord’s teaching. It is very clear that Our Lord is not saying you cannot judge the moral value of an action. Such an assertion would be absurd. What He means (if you read it in context with the second half of the verse) is that you cannot pass judgment on the state of a person’s soul. Whereas ‘judgment’ can be applied by us to a person or an action, ‘condemnation’ or pronouncing a final verdict on someone is something only God can do. He is the final judge of all. But people need time to repent, and a correction or a rebuke should be an aid to this process, and not a means to intimidate or humiliate a person. And so at the end of this Gospel reading, Our Lord further warns, “the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back”.  In other words, if we are unnecessarily harsh or severe with others, God will mete out to us the same treatment. In the words of St James, “Judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy” (James 2:13).

Another reason the secular interpretation of Our Lord’s words on judging is wrong, is the fact that after having said not to condemn, He says you must pardon or forgive if someone has wronged you. Now you cannot forgive someone unless they have actually done something wrong. So this presupposes moral absolutes. In other words JESUS is not a relativist!

Finally, when someone criticises you for correcting or ‘judging’, notice they are doing precisely the same thing with you. We should recognise this hypocrisy and not be fooled by this false interpretation of Our Lord’s words.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Newsletter for Sunday 13 February 2022

11 Feb

Getting ready for Lent

In the traditional Roman calendar, as opposed to the modern one, this Sunday is Septuagesima Sunday. It means seventy days before Easter during which purple vestments are worn and the Gloria and Alleluia are omitted to help get us ready for Lent. Numbers are very important and symbolic in the Bible. The number seven signifies completion and perfection. There are seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, seven days of the week and there are seven Sacraments instituted by Our Lord. The number twelve also has meaning. In the Old Testament there were twelve sons of Jacob who led the twelve tribes of Israel, and in the New Testament there were twelve Apostles who were the source and foundation of the new Israel – the Catholic Church. The number forty is also highly symbolic – it points to a time of affliction and penance. In the time of Noah it rained for forty days and forty nights. The Jews roamed the desert for forty years until they eventually entered the Promised Land. And Our Lord Himself spent forty days and forty nights fasting and praying in the desert as He prepared to do combat with Satan.

Then seventy symbolises a time of exile. Israel was exiled for seventy years as a punishment for idolatry and for disobeying many of God’s commands and laws. Through Adam the whole human race was exiled from the Garden of Eden or Paradise for disobeying God. And so all of us, not just the Jews, are exiles under the curse of Original Sin. And even after receiving the Sacrament of Baptism which opens the gates of Heaven to us, we are still destined to spend time wondering in the wilderness, so to speak, until our earthly life ends, and then hopefully we will enter eternal life in Heaven. So this period of Septuagesima (approximately seventy days), gives us time to meditate on the fact that we are exiles. Seventy days to consider that we are the “poor banished children of Eve” until we reach the liturgical celebration of Easter which is eternal glory.

So traditionally, this period has penitential aspects and helps us to prepare for the Lenten period of forty days (Quadragesima). I think it’s a pity Septuagesima is not included in the modern calendar. We need signs and symbols to point us towards Lent and to help us prepare for it. Nowadays it can take us by surprise and ends up being less fruitful than it might be. Incidentally, Fr David has told me that Septuagesima is still observed in his Ordinariate Rite. We too, therefore, can still make good preparations for Lent. We just need to be reminded of its approach. Ash Wednesday this year falls on 2nd March.

Lent is a time of penance and mortification (dying to ourselves). Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fasting and abstinence. But this isn’t enough for most of us because we are slaves to our passions. We love our comforts and pleasures. So our Lenten penances should be things that hurt us a little, but not too much. We need to keep a sense of balance. Giving up some food can be good and we can try and attend Mass an extra time in the week and say extra prayers like the Rosary or make the Stations of the Cross. You can give alms. Children could give away some toys to the less fortunate.

Penances should also be discreet and not done for show, because you lose the merit of it by taking the glory for yourself rather than giving it to God. So don’t tell other people what you’re doing. Choose a couple of things you know you can sustain for forty days as opposed to many things which you will end up doing only half-heartedly. So I recommend you begin thinking now about what you will do, so that when you receive the ashes on your forehead on Ash Wednesday you will already have a plan of action.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Newsletter for Sunday 6 February 2022

4 Feb

Unity in Truth

St Paul in today’s Second Reading (1 Corinthians 15:1-11) is very worried about the divisions in the Church at Corinth.

“Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, the gospel that you received and in which you are firmly established; because the gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you – believing anything else will not lead to anything.”

It is clear from what Paul says that this gospel is something that he has received and then he hands it over. He doesn’t get to pick and choose what he thinks the tradition is. And he goes on to expound the articles of faith – that Christ died for our sins, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to the Apostles, and then to five hundred other people at the same time. It sounds remarkably similar to the Apostles’ Creed. Many scholars think Paul here is echoing an early creedal formula that was already circulating in the Church. But Paul emphasises here the Resurrection because some of the people in Corinth were denying the Resurrection of Our Lord from the dead.

Divisions are always a threat to the Church and we see that very clearly today, particularly over the liturgy and also over sexual issues. But Our Lord knew there would be divisions, and that because of our fallen human nature it would be hard to stay united. This is why He gave us the Magisterium or the teaching authority of the Church. And St Paul here uses this teaching authority to solve the crisis of belief in Corinth: “The gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you…What matters is that I preach what they [the Apostles] preach, and this is what you all believed.”

According to Pope St John Paul II, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is a “safe standard for the doctrine of the faith”. The Catechism was written to strengthen the Faith of those whose belief has been weakened by the relativistic society in which we live. We cannot be ‘cafeteria Catholics’, picking and choosing to believe the bits we like while rejecting other truths revealed by God. If we do this we simply make up our own religion. “Oh, but I like to think for myself. It cramps my freedom” people say. But no, this is false. The opposite is true. Freedom is in the truth. Our Lord said “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Which is freer to arrive safely at harbour? The boat guided by a lighthouse, or the boat guided by the moods and whims of the captain? The answer is obvious! The Church teaches us the truth about faith and morals with Christ’s authority to help us get to Heaven. And the job of the Pope and the Bishops is to protect that Deposit of Faith (Depositum fidei) that has been handed down from Christ and the Apostles, and then to faithfully hand it on in its undiluted beauty and purity. If anyone contradicts what has always been taught, we must reject it as not being of God, because God does not change and God cannot lie, but the devil does lie and is constantly seeking to lead us astray.

Let us thank God for the Magisterium of the Church which protects our Faith, and make an effort to study this great treasure of teaching so as we become experts in Christ. A great place to begin is the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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