Newsletter for Sunday 3 December 2023

1 Dec

God’s answer  –  a child!

Everyone is rooting for an unborn child, then exploding in celebration when he is born. It’s that time of year again. The yearly December pro-life celebration that has everyone rooting for an unborn child, then exploding in celebration when he is born. Everyone gets involved: Our town and city streets are redecorated to celebrate the birth to come. Music in shops celebrate an impoverished mother and adoptive father who committed to carrying the child to term. And everywhere you look, corporations entice you with new ways to celebrate a refugee couple giving birth far from home. 

Christmas is the biggest pro-life celebration in the world. Advent reminds us why this joy ignited thousands of years of Christmas celebrations. Advent is the season of darkness. It takes place in the literal darkest days of the year, and it is filled with the words of prophets who are deeply unsettled about the state of the world, “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!” Isaiah cries. He sees “a root from the stump of Jesse” and predicts “a child will be born to us.” 

In Advent, a dark world longs for a saviour, and the great Jewish prophet sees what God will do: He will send a babyInto this darkness, God sent an angel to Mary in Nazareth. The angel who visits Mary gives her remarkable news: She will be pregnant with a child who will receive an eternal kingdom. The story has many layers of meaning, but one thing it spells out is that unborn children and infants are critically important. As if to emphasize that point, the angel tells Mary that her relative, Elizabeth, is also pregnant, in her sixth month. Mary goes “in haste” to her house in the “hill country of Judea,” a trip that, even if you hurried, would have taken at least a week or two. After that, Mary stayed at Elizabeth’s, presumably, for at least three months. We now know what this would mean in Jesus’ development. Around day 20, Jesus’ heart began to beat — the Sacred Heart’s first activity. A month later, all of his bodily systems would be present, including little fingers and toes. But on the day Mary first arrived — when Jesus was just 10 to 20 days old — none of that had happened. What was Jesus like then? At the earliest stage, a human embryo is already a boy or girl, with DNA setting life expectancy and other traits.  

Jesus the embryo, was already Jesus, but He didn’t look at all like Jesus yet.

And so it was that, before the Sacred Heart had begun to beat, before the hands of Christ that would break bread had formed, before the feet that would walk on water had toes, Mary arrived at Elizabeth’s house. And Luke’s Gospel tells us that “She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb.” Mary brought the unborn Jesus to Elizabeth’s house, and as soon as she arrived, an unborn child reacted to the sound of her voice. A baby more than six months in utero witnessed to Jesus Christ, who was just a few days in utero. 

This astounding witness to the unborn Jesus was greatly amplified after Jesus was born.

Before his birth, an unborn prophet witnessed to him with a jump. After birth, a multitude of angels  proclaimed:To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Men came from the Far East with gifts and asked,Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East and have come to worship him.” 

The birth of Jesus is so important, it remains part of Christian spirituality to this day. Jesus tells Nicodemus, and us,Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” St. Paul explains that this birth by baptism makes us adopted sons of God, like Christ, “all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. … When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” 

So, this Advent and Christmas, let’s pray for the unborn.

A great and powerful king was once in the same position as them, and He came to save us all!

Fr David Jones OLW

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Newsletter for Sunday 26 November 2023

24 Nov

The Reign of Christ the King

Today is the Feast of Christ the King and it is the last Sunday of the liturgical year. Next Sunday we begin the new year with the First Sunday of Advent. The Feast of Christ the King is not just some sentimental feast for Catholics and neither is Catholicism just one religion among many who happens to have this man “Christ” as its head. It is the one true Faith. Christ is King of the whole universe, the whole cosmos, both in the supernatural and in the natural order because He is God. And as such He is King and Lord of all, and therefore has rights over all.

Now it’s true that throughout recent centuries, in what was once Christendom, revolutionaries have removed Christ from His rightful Throne. Those determined to establish the New World Order have decided to build their kingdoms without Christ. Today, politics wants nothing to do with God. They refuse to enthrone Christ and so they reject His Bride which is the Catholic Church. They seek to tear Him out of society for good. They essentially reject Christ when they think it’s their place to determine the moral code and promote things like abortion, euthanasia, fornication, transgenderism, homosexual activities and so on. They define what is right and wrong and then try and impose it on us. Although some politicians may express religious belief in private, essentially we are atheistic. Courts today even try to prohibit public prayer and more recently even private prayer. To forbid public prayer to God is to violate His rights, because God has the right to receive public worship from every one of us. Furthermore, Christ’s sovereignty is denied when people refuse to allow God into public discussion out of fear of offending others.

But God is God and so civil society must acknowledge Him and obey Him, because it is God’s plan to bring the whole of humanity to Himself. This is why Christ came, so that we could be brought back to God through His Mystical Body, which is the Catholic Church. And societies must acknowledge this and Christ’s Kingship. By doing so, our supernatural end (Heaven) is acknowledged.

God also wills that Church and State, though they be distinct, are never to be divorced, but rather that they should collaborate to bring about Christ’s reign on earth. This would be where the Ten Commandments, the Gospel and the natural law become the foundational guide of society and for legislators who write the moral law.

So we have an obligation to work for the Kingdom of God and to do our part in converting the world to Christ. That is the mission Our Lord gave to His Church. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt 28:18-20). This is certainly very daunting, but with God all things are possible. After all, Christians converted pagan Rome in the past, so why not now? At the Last Judgment, God’s Kingdom will be fully established, and all other religions and all secular governments will pass away. In the meantime, the reign of Christ the King must begin with each one of us. By trying to rebuild a truly Catholic culture in our homes and in our families, His reign will then flow out into society.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Newsletter for Sunday 19 November 2023

17 Nov

The Deadly Sin of Sloth

In today’s Gospel we hear the famous Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) in which JESUS urges us to be ready for the Master’s return. He Himself is that Master, and that return will be either at the moment of our death or at His Second Coming.

In the parable, the talents are not distributed equally. One servant received five talents, another received two, and the other just one, each according to their ability. The Master returned after a long time. The first two had doubled their investment and were rewarded, whereas the third who had done nothing and hid it in the ground was punished and “thrown out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” He hadn’t done anything immoral but his sins were those of omission rather than commission. So it is possible to lose our souls by doing nothing. He had been lazy or slothful and had not used the talents he had been given.

Sloth or laziness is one of the Seven Deadly Sins. It does not refer to legitimate recreation or rest. We all need time for ourselves to relax and chill out, especially if we’ve been working hard. But when we think only of ourselves and our own comfort and become unwilling to do anything for anybody else, and when we neglect our spiritual duties, this can cause us serious damage. St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) speaks of sloth as “sorrow for spiritual good” and as “a sadness arising from the fact that the good is difficult.” In other words, we can have an aversion to improving our spiritual lives because it involves too much effort. It involves the setting aside of worldly or carnal pleasures, some of which may even be sinful. We all hear the devil whispering in our ear that God accepts me and loves me just as I am and so I don’t have to bother improving myself. If we give in to these thoughts it causes our spiritual life to deteriorate and we begin to fall into more serious sins. Neither do we want to be so ‘busy’ in life that we neglect spiritual things. God does love us, but He wants us to become holy, and that requires effort on our part. St Jane Frances de Chantal (1572-1641) said, “Hell is full of the talented, but Heaven of the energetic.” In other words, we will be judged not on how many talents we had, but on how we used the ones we were given, and whether we used them towards a supernatural end.

So what talents has God given you? How are you using them? Do you cultivate the gifts God has given you? If you have monetary gifts, do you help those in need? Almsgiving is an essential part of the spiritual life. Could you be a volunteer for a worthy organisation? Could you sing in the choir? Could you help clean the church? Is there a sick person you could visit or do shopping for? Do you pray and make sacrifices for the souls in Purgatory? The majority of the saints didn’t become holy overnight. For most it was the result of a life of humble sacrifices and loving actions. Even insignificant actions done out of love of God have supernatural value. St Thérèse of Lisieux famously said, “To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul.”

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Newsletter for Sunday 12 November 2023

10 Nov

A Precious Gift

While it is generally well known among Catholics that the best way to help the Holy Souls in Purgatory is to have Masses offered for them, what is little known is that we can also help relieve their sufferings through sprinkling holy water.

Holy water has been used in the Church since Apostolic times. It is mentioned in the ‘Apostolic Constitutions’. Pope Alexander who died in the year 130, in a decree confirming this tradition said, “We bless salt and water for the people, that all who may be sprinkled therewith may be cleansed and sanctified.” Holy water is mixed with exorcised and blessed salt. St Justin Martyr who died in 163 also tells us that the faithful in his time were sprinkled with holy water every Sunday.

When a priest blesses holy water and makes the sign of the Cross over it, he does so in the name of the Church, which renders it more powerful than our ordinary individual prayers. He prays that God may preserve those sprinkled with it from the snares of the devil, grant them health of body and purity of soul. Thus whoever takes holy water and confidently sprinkles it on himself or on objects, or sprinkles it in the room with the intention of bringing blessings on those who are absent, he can be assured that every time the prayer of the Church reaches Heaven, it will bring down graces and blessings on his soul and body, and on all the objects touched by the holy water. Exorcists famously use holy water to send the devil on his way because it is recognised by the Church as being powerful over him and it burns him. The devil can’t bear to stay in a place or be near a person that is frequently sprinkled with holy water.

Holy water is especially beneficial to the Holy Souls in Purgatory and they long for it. A drop of holy water can be far more beneficial to them than a long prayer. Our prayers can often be distracted and lukewarm, but the prayer of the Church attached to the holy water is always pleasing to God. Hence the souls in Purgatory long for holy water and we should assist them by sprinkling it for them.

One day Venerable Dominic of Jesus-Mary (1559-1630) who was a Carmelite, and it was customary at the time for Carmelites to have a skull on their desk, one day he sprinkled this skull with holy water, when he heard a voice imploring him, “More holy water, more holy water.” The sprinkling no doubt relieved its pains in Purgatory. Also very effective is to sprinkle the graves of our beloved dead with holy water. A deceased sister once appeared to Venerable Sister Francis of the Blessed Sacrament begging that her grave be sprinkled with holy water because it relieved her sufferings.

So where do you get holy water? There is a big stone urn full of holy water by the Altar of the Sacred Heart. Bring a bottle, fill it, and sprinkle it frequently in your homes, on yourselves, on your children and for the Holy Souls. In the not so distant past, it was common practice for Catholics to have a small holy water stoup by the front door or in the bedroom. Among the Holy Souls, please remember the deceased priests who ministered to you, who baptised you, who absolved you in Confession and administered the Sacraments to you. In gratitude sprinkle them every day with holy water to relieve their sufferings in Purgatory saying the simple prayer, “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.” How many blessings and helps to salvation you would obtain for yourselves and your families by this simple act of charity which is basically no effort. A drop of holy water is so effective, and are we going to be so lazy as to back away from giving this priceless gift?

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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Newsletter for Sunday 5 November 2023

3 Nov

Before or after?

Some years ago, a wise old priest was asked how many people had attended the early morning Mass on a particular day, and he replied, “There were thousands but I only saw eight of them.” So in addition to those eight who got up in time to attend the early Mass, God had allowed thousands of souls in Purgatory to attend that Mass, as He does at ever Mass, along with Our Lady, St Joseph, St Michael and myriads of angels and saints. We don’t see everything that actually happens at Mass, and if we did we would be utterly amazed and overwhelmed.

During November particularly, we celebrate Masses for the Holy Souls in Purgatory which is one of the great Spiritual Works of Mercy, but which is more profitable – to have Masses celebrated for us during life or after our death? The following points I have taken from the book ‘Charity for the Suffering Souls’ by Fr John Nageleisen.

Many Catholics leave funds in their Will to have Masses celebrated for them after their death, and this is a very praiseworthy thing to do and no one should be dissuaded from doing so. However, St Leonard of Port Maurice (1676-1751) says it is more profitable and meritorious to have these Masses celebrated for us while we are still alive as opposed to having many celebrated for us after our death. Here are some of the reasons:

  1. If we have a Mass celebrated for us during our lifetime, we have been the cause of it and can assist at it, which after death is not possible.
  2. If a Mass is celebrated for us during life and we are perhaps in a state of sin, by virtue of the Mass, we could well receive from God’s mercy the grace to recognise our sinful state, be moved to contrition, and then to reconcile ourselves with God by making a good, humble confession. This grace cannot be obtained after death, and if we die in a state of mortal sin, many thousands of Masses would not put us into a state of grace. We would remain cut off from God for eternity.
  3. A Mass offered for us during life can obtain for us the grace of a happy death, because it will move God to assist us in triumphing over the enemy in that decisive hour.
  4. If Masses are said for us before our death, we will increase in merit and therefore spend a shorter time in Purgatory, especially if we attend them with real devotion. If they are celebrated only after our death, we could be a long time in Purgatory awaiting their celebration which could be very painful. Thus it is better to accumulate these benefits in advance than to wait for them in the cleansing fires of Purgatory.
  5. By asking for a Mass to be said during life, we make an offering to God, thereby depriving ourselves of some earthly gratification. After death we deprive ourselves of nothing because our earthly joys have now ended. Therefore it must be more meritorious and pleasing to God to make this offering during our lifetime.
  6. When we perform a good act in a state of grace, we receive a double reward: the remission of part of the punishment due to our sins, thus meriting a higher degree of glory in Heaven. When the Mass is offered only after our death, even though it pays part of our debt of sin, our glory is not increased in Heaven. Even if thousands of Masses were celebrated for us after our death, our heavenly glory would not be increased one iota.

Therefore, as St Anselm (1033-1109) said, “To hear one Holy Mass devoutly in life is more profitable than to bequeath so much that thousands can be said after death.”

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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