Each First Thursday of the Month in Ireland, lay apostles are invited to join us via livestream for the lay apostles monthly prayer group in Bailieborough, Ireland at St. Anne’s Catholic Church. If Anne joins us then we often are able to publish her talk for each month on this page… In case you missed you are welcome to watch here.
We are gathered together in joy. It is Advent and we are an Advent people. At this time of year I want to take the opportunity to thank our beloved board members. Eustace Mita, David Abel, Bryan Baird, Karla Fioani, Father John Murphy, Father Darragh Connolly, Nora Lanctott and Jane Gomulka. Together we have remained unified and committed for God’s plan in this apostolate. Please join me in asking God to bless all of the intentions of these people in a special way tonight.
My friends, the Holy Father is being challenged to explain himself. This is hard because he is dealing, not with logic and reason, although the people challenging him make certain to appear logical and reasonable. The Holy Father is dealing with a spirit. And when a wrong spirit comes at you, it often does so with a good technical performance. But a wrong spirit always shows itself, because it is not willing to be obedient, nor will it admit fault, except in a surface manner. A wrong spirit harbours arrogance, superiority and disobedience. A wrong spirit ultimately insists on division and destruction and can go very far indeed.
Apostles of the returning King, our Holy Father is leading us to the baby in the manger. He has been chosen carefully to do so. I would like to think that nobody would be fooled by people who claim to be saviours of the church, protecting us all from our pope. But some people become seduced by reason, even when it lacks mercy, humility and the willingness to be led. Remember what I’ve always told you, quoting another, ‘Humility is simply knowing one’s place’.
Let’s consider a question. What do we all have in common on this side of the Church? None of us is the pope. What do all of those people have in common on that side of the Church? None of them is the pope. Let’s be honest, no matter what Catholic Church people are sitting in, they share our reality. Unless their name is Pope Francis….they are not the pope. At this time, my place seems to be that of reminding us that we are not the pope. And neither is anybody else the pope. The pope is the pope. And life in the church should not resemble a reality tv show. Perhaps everyone needs to focus on ingesting the teachings of the Holy Father and allowing those teachings to change our thinking and direct us into service with a greater emphasis on mercy. What is right about people? God seems to want us to ask. As opposed to leading with ‘What do we find you guilty of?’ Let us take people living in an irregular union.
Our Holy Father writes, “I am in agreement with the many synod Fathers who observed that the “the baptized who are divorced and civilly remarried need to be more fully integrated into Christian communities in the variety of ways possible, while avoiding any occasion of scandal. The logic of integration is the key to their pastoral care, he continues, a care which would allow them not only to realise that they belong to the Church as the body of Christ, but also that they can have a joyful and fruitful experience in it. … they are brothers and sisters; the Holy Spirit pours into their hearts gifts and talents for the good of all. Their participation can be expressed in different ecclesial services which necessarily requires discerning which of the various forms of exclusion currently practiced in the liturgical, pastoral, educational and insitituional framework can be surmounted. Such persons need to feel not as excommunicated members of the Church, but instead as living members….able to live and grow in the Church and experience her as a mother who welcomes them always, who takes care of them with affection and encourages them along the path of life and the Gospel.
Later, we read, that what is being proposed is a process of accompinemnt and discernment. My friends, could this possibly be wrong?
I am quoting from Amores Leticia, the Joy of Love, the Pope’s apostolic exhortation. It’s so beautiful. now if I wanted to interfere with the progress the holy Father is trying to make, i would say, “I’m confused. People are confused. It’s all so confusing.” But it’s not confusing at all. This document, like the Holy Father’s leadership is full of light unless you have an agenda which seeks to undermine the Pope’s authority and his obligation to keep us all moving and developing.
My friends, be very careful here if you are in any way involved in this challenge to the authority of our Pope. If we believe that the Lord, Jesus Christ is the author of the Volumes, then we will listen to him carefully in Volume Five. Jesus warns us “There are many who claim to be my followers. Some follow my lead, but others do not. They follow their own will, but do so behind a guise of obedience. The reason this obedience is a guise and not a genuine obedience is because they have rejected My Church, in that they feel they have greater wisdom than the soul whom I chose to represent me. Children of God, you are accountable. Do you think I made a mistake when I asked this current man to be my earthly vicar? Well then you must take that up with me upon your entry into my kingdom. That will be the appropriate time to discuss what you may feel are the mistakes I have made. Until that time, I am calling on you to be respectful, obedient and supportive of this man, your pope.” My friends, please. do not be part of a camp which offers a pretence of fidelity to the magisterium while simultaneously attempting to weaken and discredit it. the popes challengers are like the person who holds your gaze with a smile while standing on your foot, trying to crush it. “We’re trying to help,” they wail. But they are behaving with passive aggression. enough said. God prompts me to shine a light on this. Don’t take the bait. i pray that people will come down on the right side of this because the ramifications are grave and dangerous. My friends, to repeat a point I often make, it’s God’s church. It belongs to him. And He will have His way. He will protect the development of His Church. I feel alerted by this. It will not go well for those who seek to create disunity in our Church family. It will not go well for them. Please, do not stand with these people. We must wonder, in all of it, what the enemy of peace is trying to distract us from.
We are in Advent. Christ is coming. And the baby in the manger, the reality of God coming into the world as man, inserts itself again into the front of our mind for the fullest possible reflection. Jesus was born into the world, through the agreement of His mother who accepted fully the will of the father. And when Mary and Joseph looked down at the face of their little son, we can only imagine their delight and their reverence.
Scripture tells us in Psalm 149 that, ‘The Lord takes delight in his people.’
We are all God’s people, every country, every nationality, every religion and yes, every political party. The Lord takes delight in all of his people. And while it is crucial that we accept that the Lord takes delight in every person ever created by God universally, there is something more important, that cannot be waved aside, underplayed or treated casually. It is as logical as the movement of planets and it is that the Lord takes delight in you, personally.
Yes, the Lord takes delight in you, and me. We must not only rejoice in this when life is going well, we must accept this when life seems to be causing us suffering and confusion, when we experience what feels like rejection, hopelessness and failure. The Lord takes delight in me, we must whisper to ourselves from our prison cells. The Lord takes delight in me, we must remind ourselves when we experience relapse in our attempts to be free from an addiction. The Lord takes delight in me, we should insist quietly when others distort us through misunderstandings, gossip and lies. The Lord takes delight in me, we must repeat without cease as we strive to negotiate broken marriages, single parenting, irregular unions or same sex attraction. The Lord takes delight in me.
We share infinite dignity as children of God. As such, we must say to ourselves, ‘I am good enough to be, not just loved, but delighted in.’ And while we can harbour what is unattractive, pride, arrogance or superiority, we also harbour what is beautiful, indeed, delightful, meaning, seeds for the growth of humility, honesty, a spirit of service and integrity to others and to God. We can harbour hope. And with hope, the whole world can change.
My friends, do not let your relationships be full of games. Do not pretend to be victimised by the people around you. And do not make them carry the banner of offender for something they did in their past. We must forgive others and not hold things against them indefinitely. Perhaps plain speaking will help. People are imperfect. Families include people. Families are imperfect.
Do not use your spouse or family members as an excuse not to grow in holiness. Grow in holiness anyway.
My friends, every day we choose a state of being. How do I want to BE today? Do I want to hold a state of gratitude, love and hope? It’s up to me. If I choose to descend into bitterness and anger, that is also up to me. My life’s work is to transcend the adversities I encounter, in people and circumstances, and focus on the love of the Father in heaven. We must stop blaming external forces and other people for our states of hopelessness, bitterness and anger. Our life is our journey. And we can choose to hold a state of being that is full of light and love. If people can do it in concentration camps, we can do it anywhere. We must each rise each day and decide what state of being we will live. Jesus hopes it will be a hopeful, loving and forgiving state. If we do so, we will change the experience of others in the world, and in our families.
Perhaps this Advent, we can undo an awful cliché, which is about familiarity breeding contempt. Perhaps for us, as an apostolate, we could each practice viewing everyone we know, everyone we talk about and everyone we meet, with the same reverence that Joseph and Mary must have experienced when they looked upon their little Son, baby Jesus. For us this Advent Season, let familiarity breed greater and greater reverence for all of God’s children on earth.
My friends, we gather tonight, with Christ and for Christ, and also for ourselves and for each other. We come together seeking healing and also conviction. We seek strength in our journey and hope in our troubles. We come together to seek from Jesus, clarity. Are we on the right track? Are we looking at ourselves with honesty? Can we recall the reasons why we remain willing to suffer for the spread of the Gospel message? Can we persevere a little longer in the place we hold as followers of Christ? We are here, in Christ’s presence. And He is also here, in our presence.
Perhaps, in order to refresh ourselves, we contemplate Christ and His true representation of the Gospel Message. It is God’s Church after all. It belongs to Him.
And so when Pope Francis offers an encyclical about the environment, Laudato Si, we think to ourselves, yes, the Holy Father knows Christ and wants to serve His Church accurately. Because God lovingly and intricately created the earth as a home for all of humanity. And if the earth is damaged and starts to die, it is not because of a design flaw on the part of God, but because we are mistreating that which he offered as our earthly home. And when Pope Francis offers an Apostolic Letter called Integral Human Development, we see that the Holy Father urges us forward, not toward stagnation, but into advancement. And in that letter the Holy Father asked for consideration for justice, peace and the care of creation. He asked that we all be concerned about health and charitable works regarding migrants, those in need, the sick, the excluded and marginalized, the imprisoned and the unemployed, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters and all forms of slavery and torture. Our consideration of people suffering in these ways should be full of hope and also action. That surely must be at least part of what God’s expects from His Church.
I want to say tonight, that we are contemplating our place at the Abbey. We are removing the statue of Our Lady in the grotto, as we have Bernadette, in order to repair and repaint it, and we are erecting a temporary sign, to mark the transition. I want to share the language of that sign tonight. Our temporary sign will say, “Please pray for us as we prepare what we hope will become a sacred space for contemporary and balanced Catholic expression. Together we pray for all who have experienced abuse. “ Where sin abounds, grace abounds much more” ( Romans 5:20). Some people might say, forget about the past. But we can’t. Because victims of clerical abuse cant forget about the past. They have to suffer it. And so we, as an apostolate, will suffer with them. The Holy Father expressed similar sentiments also, saying that he was deeply moved by the witness to the depth of sufferings of victims and also the strength and faith of victims. He said that ‘everything possible must be done… to open pathways of reconciliation and healing for those who were abused’. And while people might have opinions about how we, as an apostolate manage this topic, we are looking at Christ and reflecting about His feelings and His desires. He, Himself knows that we are not trying to be popular or be approved of, but to fulfill His will for us here on earth. So…Keep up the prayers for us and if you can help us, do help us!
And now back to our holiness work…looking at Jesus in Scripture, particularly in the Sermon on the Mount, it seems that He promoted a virtue based theology, rather than a sin based theology. The virtues have, at their core, love. Let’s remind ourselves that the Four Cardinal Virtues are prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. And the theological virtues are faith hope and charity. We must fill our minds with the consideration of these virtues and look for them…all throughout our days here on earth. What kind of day would we have if we decided in the morning to search all day for signs of prudence around us? And then, whenever we spotted prudence, we brought it to the attention of others. “Look,” we might say, “I see that political leader has made a prudent decision to cut the budget and save money.” Have we ever, ever heard that? Or, “that was an excellent choice you just made to talk about what is hopeful and not what feels hopeless.” Or “I understand criminals because I, too, have made mistakes.” That is an abundantly charitable statement. And if we heard someone say something like that, we could, perhaps contemplate the charity in it.
A holy man once said, ‘Humility is simply knowing one’s place.’ And humility, the humility that comes with knowing one’s place and one’s role, can only be obtained through contemplation, through remembering and reminding. We must remember our place. We must remind ourselves that we carry the message of another. Modern technologies have given us access to a lot of information. And while that is good, and I hope we never go backwards, it does not make us all experts, at anything really. God always knows more. And the flash and drama of today’s headlines and our opinionated conversations about them, do not generally change a thing for people who are suffering. And only through the study of virtue will we be ones who bring about more virtue and relief for others.
And so we ask ourselves, What is a virtuous person? What does a virtuous person look like? We examine the Catechism which tells us that a bearing toward the virtuous life allows a person not only to perform good acts but go give the best of himself. The virtuous person, it states, tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.
Oh my… to give the best of one’s self, one’s highest expression, one’s very holiest decisions and actions…these are exciting possibilities. Jesus Christ gave the best of himself on earth, all the time, not just to those who were important, but to everyone. And with prayerful discernment and reflection we can do the very same. But we have to THINK about life. We must silence our voices for a time each day and give the deepest consideration to what we are about. My friends, this call, to become thoughtful men and women of God, is an urgent one. People, unwilling to face that which is painful for them, their wounds and their propensity to wound others, occupy their minds with the constant stimulation of their opinions. Who, they ask, is saying what, about whom? This leads to noise, not silence. This leads to a conversation in which points are made but people remain unheard. It is worth noting that the section of the Catechism on virtues begins with very solid advice from Saint Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Think about it. When we turn on the television or go online, how much do we hear of what is just, honorable, pure, lovely, gracious? Not a lot. But I have to tell you that I find a lot of beauty floating past me on social media. I realize not everyone does and maybe I have good friends but I see what used to be the subjects of human discourse, great stories about triumphs and sacrifice, wonderful information exchanged and yes, some really great recipes, too. I see people talking about who is hurting and pointing to injustice but also to justice. So while some people mis-use social media, I find for me that it can be wonderful at times. And if our minds are filled with that which is pure, honorable, gracious and excellent, we will talk about these things, attract more of these things and even perhaps share them on Facebook.
My friends, what I really want to say tonight is this: next time you go to Confession, and I pray you are taking advantage of this Sacrament monthly, please briefly confess your sins and then tell the priest how it could have gone and what you should have done and what you hope to do the next time. Because if there is a wrong action, there is always a right action to match it, let’s say, a better choice. Because a thing is not a sin if you can’t help it. A sin is a choice to do the wrong thing. In Confession, let’s begin to practice bouncing right off the sin. Let us spend most of our time talking about and thinking about the right way to do a thing in the future. We must move away from sin and toward the virtue, in our actions, yes, but also in our thoughts. Because we cannot kid ourselves. Thoughts prompt actions. And the best way to think about yourself and others is in virtue and hope, resting in the promise of growth and transformation.Lay apostles, let’s start a revolution. Let’s not be like the news and negatively scrutinise ourselves, others and the world. Let’s take the spotlight off sin for a few decades and push the virtues. And see what happens. Let us, as an apostolate, heed the advice of that verse of scripture and dream about ourselves as holy people, full of hope, full of kindness, full of Christian action. Let us do as the Holy Father asks and advance and develop. Let us become Christ on earth so that He can reflect His Church with accuracy.
Remember this, no matter what anyone tells you. You will never become a saint by studying sin, in yourselves or others. That’s what the enemy wants us to do. We will only become saints by studying virtue in ourselves and others and that is what God wants us to do.Advent is coming. The Spirit of Emmanuel is on its way and while I know people get irritated by Christmas things being put out too early, I never do. It cannot come soon enough for me. We are meant to be an Advent people and when the spirit of the Christ child starts to build up I start to get more and more energized. And so I confess to you, I keep a Christmas ornament hanging on my bed. It shows the nativity. I do this because I desire to live the spirit of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in the manger all year round. For me, the Christmas spirit has to remain a constant. That Spirit of dignity in poverty and trust in providence. The more the world talks about negative things, the more we should think about Emmanuel, the reality of God’s presence with us.
We gather again, offering God our gratitude for His many blessings on this apostolate. As we relax into thought and prayer together, perhaps we can contemplate this mission, from its beginnings to today. We began with Volumes, the richness of heaven’s formation which offer a timely way to live that which is timeless.
The Volumes could only have been sent because God saw grave need. Those of us who immersed ourselves in the writings have changed. We began to see our relationship with heaven deepen and we became more integrated in our relationships with people on earth. We began to see healing, better decisions perhaps, and a greater commitment to prayer and service to our families and parishes. Subtly, over time, many of us began to fit in less and less with worldly thinking and more and more with heavenly thinking.And now where are we?
Well, our world has changed, our Church has changed in many places and our apostolate quietly grows and develops. We offer human formation to supplement the spiritual formation and we have integrated the most current science into prayer in order to maximise God’s influence on us, putting ourselves in the best possible disposition to receive from Him the directions that we need to bring about His kingdom.
My friends, the short message tonight is that anyone reading the Volumes should be praying contemplatively each day. We are well fit for greater intimacy with Jesus Christ and it is this intimacy that He needs, to both satisfy His craving for our love and to receive his direction on how to carry that love into the world. We are committed to the Sacramental life. We understand that the Sacraments are visible signs of invisible graces, which we badly need as spiritual beings. But not everyone is living sacramentally sustained lives. And they are still spiritual beings. So our call is a big one. We have to bring the love of the king to those who have rejected the Sacraments. And we also have to live a witness for those who go through the motions of the Sacramental life but who are actually disconnected from God’s love and His mercy. Both of these situations cause grief for God.
God needs us to spread His love. The Gospel message is love. And this is a constant need, a daily need, an ongoing spiritual emergency for many people around us. And so if we are to walk in this way of love, in a way that will impact others, it will simply have to come from Christ.
Father Finbarr Lynch gave a powerful homily recently and he spoke about the apostles observing Jesus pray. They knew it was different. They most likely could see that the relationship Jesus had with the Father was tender and helpful and that it helped Him to know what to do and how to do it. And so they said, like small children needing their Father, too, ‘Jesus, teach us how to pray’. They longed to have what He had.
Consider this. When Jesus prayed what happened? I think we could say He rested and refreshed Himself in the mind of the Father. He would have found the most enormous relief. There is nothing more exhausting and energy-sapping than small minds. We’ve spoken about the mind of God, how it is vast and full of potentials, how it is invitational and merciful. The Father who created us is understanding and full of love. He cares about what happens to us. And I believe that if someone desires to be in contact with God, our Father, then that very desire alone absorbs the person higher up into God’s mind. If we have this desire all the time, then we can be in union with God’s mind. But we need something more in this time. I believe that with all of my heart and my mind.
If the Church is to regain her robust body, and her compelling witness, we will all have to become more spiritual, less focused on what is passing and more focused on that which is eternal. Because when being spiritual went out of style, and people were discouraged from talking about their direct understandings and experiences of God, we became worldly. And, predictably, the Church did not look her best as a worldly institution and the Church in many areas lost credibility. The ‘brief’, which is to support people’s direct relationship with God, possibly became subordinated to a bigger concern with the preservation of an institution. Not everywhere, obviously, but in some areas.
My friends, I think most people are going to heaven and most people are not Catholics and of those who are, most don’t practice. Are they all going to hell? The non-practicing Catholics? I don’t think so. Nothing I’ve ever experienced about God indicates that. And yet, a huge hope is lost and God cannot support, strengthen and nourish them as he desires if they abandon the Sacramental life.And that is why so many people have proved willing to die for the right to live the Sacramental life. Because many of us who understand the smallest piece of what happens in the Sacraments are indeed willing to die for the right of people to experience God this way on earth.
Many are willing to die for this because they believe in God’s presence in every single ordained priest. We believe in God’s presence in the Eucharist. We know that God is with us in the world in both of these places. And when a man submits to ordination after discerning the vocation of the priesthood, I believe that Jesus Christ submits himself to placing a slice of Himself into the man, so that the man can walk the earth and bring Jesus to the children of His Father, our Father. This is huge. This is mystical thinking. And we must consider. What is actually going on in the Mass? What is happening when we receive Communion and when we adore Jesus Christ, the man who was and is God, in the Eucharist? Well, it has to be that Jesus Christ, the man who walked the earth, has allowed himself to become present in the wine and bread, which then become His very physical substance. I believe this is real. I feel I know it is real. I have certainty about the presence of the Lord, Jesus Christ in both the priesthood, and in the Eucharist. And our Church is charged with the protection of not only the priesthood, but the Eucharist.
And I believe that when we commit ourselves to the Sacramental life with mature, adult choice, then we become like a piece of metal approaching the strongest magnet that will ever exist. The pull becomes greater and greater, more and more irresistible. We are daily more absorbed and delighted by the things of the unseen world, that is, the mind of God. I think of the Eucharist and I believe that the little speck of energy that actually is in each of us, our eternal piece, is also in the Eucharist and I believe it is the same Jesus Christ who walked the earth. I believe it is He who saves, who transforms and who wants to direct us specifically now with direction for our times. I understand it in this way and it is partially from this understanding that I take my certainty.
And so we, like the first apostles, must learn to pray as Jesus prayed. We must regain our commitment to that which is spiritual as both individuals and also as a faith family.
Does this mean we constantly seek signs and wonders? Does it mean we view everything as supernatural and talk incessantly about mystical experiences? On the contrary, it means we understand that when something supernatural occurs between us and God, it is so deeply personal that we almost cannot talk about it because it cheapens it. It means that words simply cannot communicate the bigness of what changes in our hearts, minds and souls. We are not inclined to talk about the mystical but rather to live the mystical, with renewed hope, courage and commitment to the Sacramental life which is dynamically present in every single parish Church.
My friends, in this time we find ourselves, like the first apostles, in a state of longing, craving, actually in pitiful need. We are in dire need of a relationship similar to that which Jesus displayed with His Father. The intimacy. The unfailing commitment. The mind which refused to condemn God’s children based on technicalities. We must learn to pray in a way that not only protects our own minds and bodies, but that protects the people around us from our tendency to misrepresent both God and HIS church. And remember, it is God’s church. Any participation we are called to offer should be very trembling indeed.
And so I can only beseech apostles to put away the things of children and embrace contemplative prayer. As many of you know, we are offering a contemplative prayer structure. Our hope is that we will all develop a discipline which will train the mind and integrate Christ through our whole life. If we practice it, over time, the Lord will come to us in a way which will give us certainty about His instructions. We will learn discernment. I believe God himself wants this for us. And we will learn how to separate our ego from our spirituality. We must all gain self-awareness, growing in virtue and maintaining our existence in that exquisite place that holds both knowledge of our sinfulness and also hope of redemption and hope of an eternity where we are freed forever from imperfection.
My friends, it might just be time to get more serious about our commitment to prayerful discernment of God’s will in our lives. I believe we can do that, at least initially, through the contemplative prayer structure.
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We come together tonight with fidelity to our Returning King and to our way of life. Tonight I would like to talk about the Eucharist. Because in the Eucharist we have access to the personal presence of Jesus Christ, his body, his blood, His soul and His divinity. The Eucharist is central to our Church. Sometimes I think we might forget that it is God’s Church, after all. And the Eucharist in each tabernacle holds not just a reminder of Jesus Christ, but the true physical presence of Jesus Christ.
Our world is full of change. But what does not change? We are here, on earth, for a short time and then we will move on into eternity, our forever home, where there is no separation, no suffering, no disappointment nor any infirmity. Confusion will be forever retired as we live on, in creativity and shared truth and love.
For us now, while we live on earth, the Eucharist and the Eucharistic presence of Christ with us visits us in advance of our eternal life. And so what exactly happens in the Mass? Well, at the words of the priest, through a relationship that God has with His church, Jesus comes into time and a change of substance takes place in the bread and wine, which becomes his body and blood. The word transubstantiation means a ‘change of substance’ from the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. There he remains so that we can be with him personally and intimately. He, as He promised, is , in the Tabernacle, with us in our exile and will remain so until the end of time. And when we receive the Eucharist, it is as if Jesus Christ is saying in each of us, “I live.”
Yes, in the moment we receive Communion, we are in intimate contact with Jesus Christ, the God who became man, who walked amongst us, who ate, drank and lived full of love, full of light, full of potentials for goodness, growth and development. He is with us inour human body. And God the Father has a hope for each communion which I believe is distinct. He hopes to impact the individual in a calming and reassuring way but he also must hope to impact the world, too. “I live”, he surely exults each time someone receives him, “I live.”
And then we rise from the pew and hopefully we have allowed His impact. Jesus, true God, true man, has visited us from the next world, from out of time. And when we die we will go fully into Him. But for now, during our life, we are making a choice. Do we ignore the Gospel message? Or live it? And so perhaps each of us must ask that question. Jesus wants to maintain us in hope through communion with us, yes and then together we can move into the world with his hope vibrating in our being. What is in each day, each moment that the second person of the Trinity would desire to prepare us for it? The mundane becomes potentially sacred very quickly when contemplated in this manner. What beautiful alterations in our being does God will occur through our union with him in the Eucharist? We will allow the greatest impact from our Communion with Jesus if we decide to hold the state of our being in love and gratitude. So, we receive Communion. We might feel love and gratitude. We want to hold that disposition of love and gratitude by decision in all circumstances. This is what saints do.
And if we hold our being in love and gratitude then we will be most likely to impact our external world positively. Overall, it could be seen that everything else is nearly incidental to the primary relationship with God. And so really, whether we serve here or there, in this vocation or that vocation, what really matters most is that we do so in Christ, focussed on what is eternal. Our relationship with Jesus Christ in the Eucharist should be something like a love affair. This is how it is for Jesus, anyway.
What can we understand about this mystery of the Eucharist? Well, we are taught and we know, we believe, that the bread and wine which are brought up to the altar in the offertory hold only potential. They are simply ordinary bread and ordinary wine. They are made to feed people and they do feed people but God, also wants to feed people, but in a more advanced, sublime way, spiritually.
The Mass brings Jesus into our presence, not figuratively, not symbolically, but truly present in the Eucharist.
I think of it this way. Each of us is a unique unrepeatable person. God contemplated us into being and through the union of our parents a person, us, came to be in our mother’s womb. In a different but similar process, Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, came to be in Mary’s womb. We actually have this in common with Jesus Christ, meaning, our humanity.
And then Jesus was born and then Jesus died and so too will we die. But Jesus’ story is different. He lay down his life in submission to the plan of his father to show us how to live and then after three days he picked up his life. He was the master of life and death. We will submit to these things through no choice because we are not God. But by picking up His life, He showed the apostles, in an irrefutable way, that he WAS God.
And then what? He ascended back to His father, and they began to recognise him in the breaking of the bread, as do we at every Mass.
Let’s consider what is called the hypostatic union. Jesus Christ has both a human and a divine nature. Forever and forever and then after that…forever. If one cannot be separated from the other, and that is our teaching, then the presence Jesus Christ in the Eucharist includes both the human nature and the divine nature in one divine person, Jesus. This same Jesus was the son of Mary, son of Joseph, who talked, walked and lived. My friends, in each tabernacle we have the physical presence of Jesus Christ.
Let’s take it another way.
Who are we? We are people made up of bodies. Our bodies are made up of cells. We know this to be true. Our cells are made up of molecules. Those molecules are made up of atoms. Those atoms, and this is the fun part, are made up of sub-atomic particles.
And what are those sub-atomic particles composed of? Mostly non-matter and also something that moves, like a little light, darting and dancing in space, in the invisible reality, meaning, crucially, invisible to the naked eye.
And so that which animates the body, our life force, we call the soul. Scientists are talking about quantum physics and particle matter. It’s very exciting and these breakthroughs will inform our understandings. Christians, or anyone who queries where we have come from and where we are going, will find this intriguing. To say that we are contemplated into being in the mind of God becomes truly a magnificent thought when we understand that we begin life through a ‘birth’ of energy which occurs at the unity of egg and sperm. Two separate people. One new life emerging and taking on physical features at an astounding rate of growth and development. Truly…an astounding rate, with each person bearing a unique and unrepeatable DNA code. All of this physical matter assembling in such rapidity to create a baby capable of living independently from his or her mother. Amazing.
Yes, the sub-atomic world becomes not only relevant, but very compelling for Christians. As Christians, we should never stop staring into the mysteries of our faith and also science, for greater and greater knowing. Using science to study our faith is completely consistent with God’s desires for us. We so crave answers and this craving, all alone, testifies to the truth that God wants to give us answers and expand our understandings, particularly now, when we need those answers so badly to counter secular humanism.
And so we ponder. If scientists are often asking how and Christians are often asking why, (searching for meaning). Maybe the marriage of the two might lead to quantum physics and the study of the atomic field, the universe, the unseen. It certainly has for me. I cannot get enough of it because I am always asking, how does God get this done? Because it is all real. To note, sub-atomic refers to the parts of the atomic world, meaning, specifically, electrons, protons, neutrons, etc. which are the building blocks of all things physical, including us people, even though we are more than just physical.
For example, we know that upon our death we go on. This is our faith. And we know that Christ is present in the Eucharist. He remains with us in the world through of his total commitment to the Church. And so, to continue on logically, when we receive the Eucharist, we are actually being visited by Christ, the man who is God. And when we adore him in the Eucharist, we are, again, quite literally in the presence of the same Jesus who came to be in the womb of Mary because our eternal soul does not change and neither does God change.
And to radically simplify a thing, if Scripture will tell us what Jesus Christ did then, while he walked the earth, then the Eucharist will help us to know what that same Jesus Christ WANTS now, for us, for our vocations and for the kingdom of God to come in our world. Jesus lives, my friends.
To close, I recall again the words of Saint Vincent of Lerins who said, regarding the Church, “Certainly there is to be development and on the largest scale. Who can be so full of hate for God as to try to prevent it?” My friends, we must contemplate Christ in the Eucharist to discern what development God chooses for His Church. Because we are not without leadership. Christ is with us. And Pope Francis is leading us for Him. At great personal cost I am sure. The question is this. Are we following him?
My friends, we gather this evening in thanksgiving. We are thankful to be together. We are thankful to be drawn into the service of God’s holy work. And we are thankful that Father Darragh, on Tuesday, took possession of the keys to the Abbey.
While Tuesday was simply another day of service to us, it must be noted that this particular milestone took a lot of work and time. This apostolate belongs to God. It is a gift to the Church and as such it will be protected. Our confidence in the ultimate safety of the apostolate, comes from our belief that if God wants something, He will have it. And on Tuesday, when Father Darragh took possession of the buildings at our new headquarters, it seemed to us, God had gotten his way!
Lay apostles, in terms of our place in the Church, be confident. This apostolate enjoys de-facto canonical status as a Private Association of the Faithful. We are proceeding along within the Church. We have an Imprimatur on our writings. We now have a headquarters. We feel certain that this apostolate has been created for life in the Church. This is why we can feel so detached from opposition. God will always look after His interests and have the final say.
Why would God desire this apostolate? Well, let’s look at some of the benefits the apostolate has brought to us all. Changes come in the world. But the dedicated lay apostle barely blinks. We are absorbed in the considerable task of transformation. This absorption is not narcissistic. Rather, it comes from acceptance of our imperfection and also determination to become as ready for heaven as we can whilst remaining on earth.
It will only ever be about love if we are talking about transforming in Christ. Christ was faithful to the will of his Father. Every day. Every moment. His fidelity came from a single minded purpose about his life. Jesus Christ lived and died for the will of the Father. The will of the Father was and is about you and I. Our safety is personal to our Father in heaven. So personal that he sent Jesus. My friends, if we study Christ in Scripture, we will become ever more faithful to the will of our Father. Jesus loved His Father and he loved us. It will always be about love if we are talking about God. Love should be the biggest part of any ‘religious’ conversation.
And the ability to receive love from God and return it, the ability to participate in intimacy with our Creator, and the ability to stand for something good, pure and lasting, who would not want this? Does this carry a price tag? Yes. Of course. We have to move away from selfish, immediate wants and choose instead, sacrifice so that both we and others can experience love. And after we turn into the divine will, we have to put a lot of effort into remaining in the divine will. We must not think that we are so virtuous that we will not have to fight for our holiness. To think that is to become complacent.
You see my friends, to serve in the divine will is to swim against the tide. What happens if you stop exerting yourself when you are swimming against the tide? You drift backwards. What does that look like? Just ask any Pharisee. And if we want to conduct an interview with a Pharisee, we should start with ourselves. We all have an inner Pharisee. What happens when we begin to drift is that we continue to talk the talk but our walk becomes wobbly. What happens is that we become less loving. Our humility slips. Arrogance and pride return. What happens is that old habits and thinking patterns spring back up like little weeds in a vegetable bed. What do these little weeds remind us of? Maybe they remind us that we weren’t always so tidy. Maybe God had his hands full getting us to serve. Maybe God healed us from past wounds and loved us enough to seek us out when we were in bad shape.
Why, then, when we know all this, are we so vulnerable to regression? Well, we’re human. And possibly, we forget the pain of isolation from God and we take for granted the relationship we enjoy with the Trinity.
Given this historical time, when information and material goods exist in abundance, we might strive to live simply. The more simply we live, the less distracted we will be from the next world. I heard once that the best way to be satisfied with our life is to reduce material wants. To have less. To contemplate more. These are the ways of the lay apostle.
Which brings us to the Abbey and the purpose of the Abbey. When God asked us to buy the Abbey, we set about doing so, even though it did not make a lot of sense. For myself, I had seen enough of God working to do as He asked. But now, not only is it clear that we need it, but we cannot get into it fast enough. Why? Because we have outgrown our premises. We have always tried to grow our School of Holiness at a reasonable rate, a rate that we could handle. This year we kept the largest amount of residential students. But we needed more space. And we need dedicated classrooms for our teachings. God wants balanced Christians. During the last few years, we put our heads down and developed the Curriculum. We teach using a three pronged methodology. We emphasize, Human Development, Spirituality, and Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. We are a spiritual assembly, obviously. And to help us maintain true spirituality, we offer solid human development. This helps us to understand ourselves. How many here felt, at one time, that they were not holy enough to be called a lay apostle? But then, once we dove into the practical nature of our apostolate, we felt it might just be a place for us.
Let’s get practical again. Per the Lord’s urging in Volume Two, we look at our words, what we say to people. God wants us to be aware of our word choices. Each of our communications sows a seed. The people around us walk away with our words in their heads. And no more than we cannot change an echo across a canyon, we cannot change the echoes our words leave in people’s minds and hearts. Our words carry our unspoken dispositions. The dispositions of our hearts, good and bad, carry the words to the human being with whom we communicate. Have you ever walked away from someone, who, technically, said the right thing? But as you walked away, your mind or heart was heavy or hurt or confused? And maybe days later, you thought about it again, and wondered what had happened there. My friends, when the words and the spirit are at odds, we can feel confused by people.
Now maybe there is no hostility toward us in the other person. And maybe the person’s attitude has nothing to do with us. Much of what comes to us from other people is not personal, even while it impacts us personally. But in our close relationships, as Christians, we must take responsibility for what is coming off us and how it is impacting others. We must be assured that if we plant seeds of bitterness, then bitter little shoots will come up. These shoots will make themselves known in various ways, at various times and certainly any children around will be impacted, because children, who are undefended, are adept at reading the unspoken. And how do we want someone who is living with us going out into the world? Do we want them going out into the world hurt? Sad because they feel unloved? Disposed to hurt others?
Let us take a universal example.
Most parents will send their children off to school with love, as best they can, despite any pressures in the day. Parents know that their children “take their cues” from them, and parents want their children to embark on their time away, in the world, confident that they are loved and lovable. Because a loved person becomes more and more lovable. And a person who feels unloved can feel less and less lovable.
Perhaps we could aim to view all people with whom we come in contact in the same way as we would view children we are sending off to school. How are people walking away from us? Are they encouraged? Are they feeling a little bit better about themselves and their ability to express their being in the world?
Why is this important to God? In the same way that bitter words sow seeds of bitterness and bring up angry, hurt, sad little shoots, loving words sow seeds of love and bring up hopeful and kind little shoots. If we send those around us away from us with kindness, with confidence that they are loved and lovable, they will act as a force of healing in the world. They will be more resilient and more able to field disappointment and set it firmly aside, moving on with hope that there is a good experience of life awaiting them, even on days when it seems that the good experience is being reserved for us in the next world.
When people are in true relationship with God, they are able to bring the bitterness of others to God and God, Himself eradicates the angry little shoots sown by others. In this way, the soil that is our soul is kept resistant to any bitterness taking root in us. In this way we can retain a disposition toward others that is loving and soothing, willing to overlook a lot of imperfection. If we are turned toward others in love, it will show, my friends, and it will be felt. Did you ever have the experience of someone saying a hard thing to you? But they did it with such love that you could receive it? I certainly have had that experience. Love makes hard messages digestible. God wants us to transform, because he loves us.
We are not asked to do the extraordinary. Rather, we are asked to let God do the extraordinary through us as we are living ordinary lives. That is our apostolate. There is joy in humility, my friends. And there is sorrow in pride.
I recently heard a song where a young man repeated a question. ‘What do I stand for?’ the young man asks, again and again. That young man is searching. But we are not. We stand for love. Lay apostles. We are loved. We are cherished by God. And so is each person around us. Why do we want to help people come back to our faith practice? Because the sacramental life engages the mysteries of heaven most fully, as far as I can see. The sacramental life is our way to live the divine life while we remain on earth. We must work hard for God’s plan. And continue to transform. We must work together, to prepare the Abbey for the teaching of our Curriculum so that others may learn about God’s love and how to share it.
Welcome. We thank God for allowing us to assemble here on our First Thursday prayer group. It is so good for us to be together during our time on earth. And while many might look at our apostolate and see books with words on a page, we, lay apostles, see instead people with companions on a journey, linked in some invisible way that brings us joy and clarity and, yes, direction.
Tonight we are in a celebratory mood because one aspect of our long journey is ending. Years ago, the Lord prompted us to embark on a real estate transaction. Given that we were so young an apostolate, with absolutely no excess money, it did not seem like a humanly great idea. We discerned it to death, understanding that this news would require a rather enormous leap of faith for those of us involved. Well, the instruction did not change and the Lord persisted and so we made the instruction known and we began, as an organization to purchase the property we call the Abbey.
My friends, I think it is safe to say that it is good that the team did not know the suffering that would come to us because of this element of God’s plan. You see, it made no sense to us. Why did we need this property? Frankly, at that time, we did not need the property. But what God knew was that at this time, 2015, when we would take possession of the property, we would have a great need of it. And so in the next month we will begin our process of renovation. And tonight I would like to talk about what it is we will be doing at our new Headquarters.
We might think about our apostolate as a fountain. We, lay apostles, together make up the water in the fountain. We are meant to hydrate the area in which we serve. So the apostolate is not intended to draw anyone away from their duties, but to refresh and renew them in those duties.
Let us say that the bottom and largest part of the fountain is the Volumes. The Volumes, a great gift, provide the foundation for protecting the water, us, in the most broad way and generally, people of faith who read the Volumes find themselves in the pages of the Volumes. Would you agree with that? Something we read speaks to us and we say, yes, truly I need to transform. And so a new journey begins for the reader. Let us each think back to our beginning days of becoming lay apostles. The Volumes consoled us and then gently instructed us and then by Volume Ten, we were being challenged, sent out in a certain way, conscripted really, and also encouraged. From Volume Ten we read, “Souls will return to Me and then they too will join the Rescue Mission. We will grow in number and in strength. All renewals begin this way and initially rest upon the courage of a few. Difficulties will come. You understand that the work you do for heaven is destined to save many. As such, it will draw resistance. But this mission is divine in origin and none will stand successfully against it.”
Well heaven was right. The apostolate has drawn resistance from its first day. And to date, none have stood successfully against it. Today we are safely in many countries, in many languages and our Returning King has many, many lay apostles and many prayer groups. We are so often surprised to know of friends in distant places we knew nothing about. We work, always, within the diocesan structure of the Church and with all necessary permissions obtained.
The next tier of our fountain is found in the spiritual concepts of what we call The Big Books: Climbing the Mountain, The Mist of Mercy, Serving in Clarity, Lessons in Love, Whispers from the Cross and Transforming Grace. My goodness, can we remember when we first read about Heaven? That there are no separations and that heaven and earth work together, both in time and out of time? Or the truth that Purgatory is about accepting the sublime Truth about ourselves and the impact we had on others? Some people felt that this meant purgatory was too easy. But my friends, that is only if a person is thinking on the surface of things. Who can describe the pain of legitimate remorse when one is allowed to see the grave impact our negative thoughts, words and actions had on those around us? I can only pray that we will try very hard to do the hard work during our time on earth.
Through the big books we went deeper into the need for unity in the Church and we learned for the unity to occur, everyone must move, if only in his or her thoughts and minds. We learned about how to conduct ourselves as Christians and the bar was raised very high indeed in terms of our participation as lay people in the Catholic Church. One lay apostle said to me recently, that given the writings, she knew that gossipy or negative conversations were unacceptable to God. But she found herself in a situation where there existed a lot of negative and gossipy conversation. And so she went to confession. She left confession and outside of the Church she spotted a person with whom she had the greatest difficulty NOT engaging in these conversations. And she told me this: “I RAN away,” she said. “I literally ran in the opposite direction.” She said, “I must have looked ridiculous. But I was worried that I was not strong enough to resist the temptation and it was either run or face the embarrassment of going back into the Confessional the next day.” “And it would be the same priest,” she said, “and I thought, better to pick up my feet and run.” My friends, we both laughed but in my head I thought, there is a real lay apostle, doing the hard work. She showed self-awareness and conviction. She refused to be part of pulling something down and chose instead to protect another person by refusing to gossip.
And so we ask ourselves the question again now. Am I engaging in activities or conversations that pull down or even destroy? A heavenly work? The reputation of another? Or even the self-esteem of a family member? If we do this work daily we can avoid purgatory.
In Transforming Grace we learned to pray contemplatively, according to a prayer structure that is designed to reclaim our thoughts and minds and stake out a safe pasture for Jesus Christ to communicate with us. In Joseph Peiper’s book, Leisure, the Basis of Culture, he noted that every created child of God is entitled to ongoing communication with Him. I was struck by this because obviously I agree. But, given the plagues of our time, constant mental stimulation in the form of noise, violent entertainment and pornography, many of Gods children are tormented by anxiety, intrusive thoughts and looping brain circuitry which literally makes people physically, emotionally and mentally sick. And they fear that they are crazy or permanently damaged.
And so we have the third tier of our fountain which is the Curriculum, the teaching programs. God sends us the instruction to offer teaching which can protect and recover our minds in the form of the truth about our brain’s functioning and neuroplasticity, that is, the brain’s ability to change and recover throughout life. People attending our weekends were ‘healed’ from anxiety, depression and ruminating and catastrophic thinking. And so their ability to communicate with God was increased and in some cases restored to them.
In Transforming Grace we read about trauma and our Curriculum teaches about this phenomena. Why? Because it is part of the Human experience and God’s children are entitled to know the truth about themselves. If an event traumatizes us we might feel that it is difficult to forgive, maybe even impossible. Let’s talk about trauma for a moment. Trauma occurs when a person feels a sense of shock, terror, horror, betrayal, humiliation or shame, when a person feels powerless or out of control, when a person feels unprepared or without adequate resources to handle a situation, when a person feels they will never be the same after the event or that they are scarred and damaged, and when a person feels trapped and possibly isolated with this experience. That is taken from a book called Ireland, Healing the Soul Wound by Margaret McGahon, who is creating the Human Development component of our Curriculum.
Why do I reference trauma when we are an assembly of people called to work spiritually in the world? Because unhealed trauma impacts us. And in those cases the process of forgiveness might not be as straightforward as choosing to forgive. And we need to know that because if inside we feel that we cannot forgive, we might be afraid that we are a fake, a Pharisee, pretender. And that is probably not true. Most likely, one fears, humanly, that to forgive means to make one’s self vulnerable again. Unchecked, this can result in a sad split where a person externally prays and practices their faith, but harbors secret bitterness in their heart. In today’s gospel we read, “knowing what was in their minds, Jesus said: ‘Why do you have such wicked thoughts in your hearts?’” My friends, on any given day, that could be us. We are all tempted to have wicked thoughts in our hearts at times. This is the truth about us. But as lay apostles we go after these thoughts. We ask Why? Why am I angry? Why am I hurt? Disappointed? Fearful? This is the way of honesty and integrity and courage. A holy lay apostle spends most time engaged with his own imperfection. Not in a narcissistic way but in a compassionate and interested way, in union with Jesus Christ, seeking to protect God’s plan for love through self-awareness and sincere effort. We are all impoverished next to God’s perfection. The poverty of our being should not dissuade us though, or discourage us one little bit. Because we can do all things in God who is our strength. And God has given us holy science and knowledge to heal our brains and get them working in new, creative and holy ways. And if we are doing this hard work of becoming self-aware and understanding what we are capable of, both good AND bad, we are an asset to the kingdom and God can get through us to others.
I’ll tell you a story. There was once a person who felt bemused at the burdensome nature of his humanity. The person wished earnestly to be freed from his humanity so that he did not have to deal with temptations, anger and hurt at the betrayals of others, and also harassment and slander. Because you see he had a human reaction to these things and he felt like it was a terrible distraction from all things holy. And so he prayed to his guardian angel asking to be freed from this terrible burden of humanity. The angel asked him, “Would you like to be freed now?” At that moment the man saw two of his daughters coming around a bend, and he said, “Not just now. I have to talk to my daughters.” When they arrived home, later, the angel asked again, “Is this the time? Would you like to be freed now?” The man thought about it and said, “No. This is not the time because I have to cut the grass and clean the windows.” Later, the man was in deep prayer and the guardian angel interrupted him abruptly, and said, “Is this time now, to free you? Would you like to be rid of your burdensome humanity now?” At that very moment the man heard his son call out, “DAD.” And so he understood that at this time his humanity was needed on earth, despite the distractions and the upsets. The things that he felt weighed his soul down were actually serving to convict him in his service and grow strong spiritual muscles. And he was so moved by this that he decided to take the motto of the United States Marines, “Semper Fidelis”, and remain always faithful to his duty, because he knew that if God was worth dying for then God was most certainly worth living for, not just getting by, but serving with all of his life, his work and his heart.
The contemplative prayer structure is important. Prayer is, I feel, our response to love. Does anyone remember the Hoover Dam teaching? The Hoover Dam enabled life giving water to be piped out from a very far distance indeed. In the same way, because of the truth about the indwelling trinity, each of us can access heaven through prayer, and draw beautiful healing plans and instructions into the world from our prayer lives. But in order for these plans to make it all the way from prayer into the world, the plans must traverse a perilous territory through our humanity, and all of our ‘stuff’, safely out from us to the next person. And so we keep the pipeline clear and unrestricted by honestly facing the truth about ourselves and trying to heal. That lay apostle in front of the Church was right to literally run from the occasion of sin. She knew what she was capable of, both good and bad. And she chose to build up, or at least on that day, not tear down the reputation of another.
And so we will advance into God’s plan for us as an apostolate. We will continue to create a Curriculum which, modeled on Pastores Dabo Vobis, includes formation in Human, Academic, Spiritual and Pastoral formation for lay people. This Curriculum will include the very best in psychology and neuroscience, it will include our beautiful spirituality, and it will be buttressed and validated through the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Holy Scripture. And this work will be based at the abbey. My friends, you have our most sincere gratitude for making any part of this journey with us. As people, we certainly needed your support and we were not disappointed. God bless you and may God protect our work.
Good evening. It is so good to be together here with you at our prayer group. God assembles us to receive graces, and, when necessary, to correct our heading toward greater holiness. Tonight we have with us some of the students from our three week Immersion School of Holiness. You are most welcome, students, and we all pray earnestly for you and with you. May God bless your time with us.
As you know, lay apostles, we provide teaching using an approach which combines Spirituality with Psychology and human development along with Catechism and Scripture. The contribution of true science to our faith, we believe, prompts the most accurate compass of where we need to develop, both as individual children of God, but also, more broadly as a Catholic faith community. My friends, we want to be clear thinkers as we contribute to society at large. We want to understand that we know a lot more now than we did in the past.
But at this time, some Catholics may be worrying about how we can contribute to a society which disagrees with the Catholic teaching about marriage, amongst other things. The temptation would be to believe that this has created a divide, an ‘us vs them’ circumstance that we will not be able to negotiate as Christians. Another temptation would be to believe that something unusual has happened that has never happened before.
But Christianity has always been counter-cultural. This is nothing new. And just as the times change, so must our representation of the Gospel Message. You notice I did not say the Gospel Message must change. But our representation of that message must adapt, develop and be updated. And we must not consider any of God’s children our enemy, regardless of their politics or different opinions or beliefs. All of God’s children are in our family. God loves us all and we hope to spend eternity together. And I would venture to say that heaven is now filled with people who completely agree about God’s love, even though they might have disagreed about God’s teachings on earth.
What is something that does not change? There is still a gospel to be preached. And so we go back to Scripture, again and again, to ask how. How did Jesus Christ handle the reality of the tension that generally exists between society and Church?
We look to chapter 12 in the gospel of mark. “they sent some Pharisees and some Herodians[a] to him, intending to trap him in what he said. 14 They came and told him, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere. You don’t favor any individual, because you pay no attention to external appearance. Instead, you teach the way of God truthfully. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay them or shouldn’t we?”
15 Seeing through their hypocrisy, Jesus[b] replied to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.”
16 So they brought one. Then he asked them, “Whose face and name are on this?”
They told him, “Caesar’s.”
17 So Jesus told them, “Give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were utterly amazed at him. (Mark 12: 13-17).
My friends, the Pharisees used words but Jesus saw past words and identified spirits and dispositions of heart. Jesus probably thought, oh dear. Here they go again. They want to fight with me, to trick me, to trap me into something to use against me. Remember, Jesus was in no real danger, divinely speaking. He was always miles ahead of them. Miles. He was a clear thinker, omniscient and connected always to the big picture that is the will of the father.
How many here, have sometimes felt that people wanted to trap them with words? This can be a confusing experience, but we see in this passage that Christ, Himself had to deal with the very same thing. And we, ourselves, must be very careful how we use words. We must try to be aware of the disposition of our hearts because our words can leave echos in other people’s lives. And what do we know about an echo? You cannot take it back. Neither can you change it. In the same way, the impact of harsh words or divisive messages from us can go on and on.
The Gospel message is love. It is simple. We should not complicate it. We can always listen to another with compassion, trying to understand their wounds. And if we believe people are trying to use words to trap us or bait us, then we can be like Jesus and dead end the conversation. The Pharisees were not listening to Jesus when he spoke to them. He was not going to convince them of anything. He knew that. But he also knew something else and we should remember it, too.
Jesus knew that there would come a moment when each of the Pharisees would have to listen and hear the voice of God. Believe this because it is true. No man lives forever and when a man faces death, it is the ultimate teachable moment. And if not before, then most certainly at that moment a person will hear God’s voice, even if he has ignored it his whole life. I often think that our job is mostly to help dispose people to hear the voice of God. Now, if a person is feeling scorned, judged or misunderstood, it can be very hard for that person to hear anything. Right? And we can do that with our words. If a person is feeling respected, understood and accepted, that person is more likely to listen and hear. And we can do that with our words. What we ultimately want to dispose people to be open to is God and His infinite love.
I’ll tell you a story. there was a young priest. He was newly ordained and had not seen a great deal of ministry. He got a call late one night to go to the local hospital. He was pretty nervous. A newborn baby was dying. He was unfamiliar with the hospital but eventually he found the neo-natal intensive care unit. The baby’s situation had deteriorated and there was terrible urgency and loud activity in the room. People were talking loudly, a lot of instruments were being banged around and in the middle of all this, a baby lay on a table, eyes closed, motionless, seemingly already gone. The mother stood, equally motionless, off to the side as the medical personnel tried to save her child. The young priest had the most dreadful feeling that he was young and he felt inadequate to the circumstance. He was, in the awareness of his poverty, terrified.
“God help me,” he prayed. And then it came to him. “SHHHHHH, everyone, be quiet.” he said. He moved the infant’s side. “Mother, quickly, come. Speak to your child.”
The mother went to the baby’s side and said, “David.” And the baby opened his eyes and turned his head to his mother’s face. And she began to speak to him, lovingly and sweetly. Shortly afterwards, baby David died, a baptized Catholic. The young priest had done his job, in more ways than one. He had seen what was important in the room. How many priests, with the help of God, do similar things in their ministry every day?
Let’s look at another circumstance. There was a woman down on a beach. She called to another woman who was walking away. The woman did not hear. She called again. The woman did not hear again. At that moment, a small child standing next to her, the daughter of the woman walking, called out ‘MOTHER’. The woman turned instantly. She had immediately recognized the voice of her child.
Lay apostles, in the first story a dying child recognizes only the voice of his mother. In the second story a distant mother recognizes only the voice of her child. How much more again, does God recognize the voice of every single one of the children He created? Be assured that when any person calls out to God, regardless of his circumstances, or even his beliefs, God will hear him. Let us never be upset by the times in which we have been placed by God.
A writer named Joseph Peiper in a book called Leisure, the basis of culture, noted that every created child of God has a right to ongoing communication with Him. He was advocating contemplation, as we also advocate contemplative prayer, not so much to see where others need to adapt their lives, but to understand where we need to adapt our lives to a Gospel message that was is and always will be about God’s love for all of humanity.
We try to follow the teachings of our Church, as thinking human beings, because we understand them to be protective. But many of us did not always follow the teachings of the Church. And there is not a one of us who follows the Church’s teachings perfectly. So our position as Catholics is a position of poverty. We do not know everything about other people or even about ourselves yet. We do not always have a clear perception and we can get it wrong and we do get it wrong as Catholics and as human beings.
What are we sure of? God’s love. We should talk more about God’s love. We should talk about the fact that we are loved infinitely and that we do what we do, not because we are better than anyone else, or further along than anyone else, but because we know we are loved. I am loved and so I work in a soup kitchen. I am loved and so I serve my family. I am loved and so I go to Mass. I am loved and so I donate to charity. I am loved and so I discern my vocation carefully. I am loved and so I find a place in the Church where I feel comfortable and understood.
God loves you. God loves me. We are called to transform, not because we have an abundance of knowledge and wisdom and righteousness. We are called to transform because we have a poverty of these things. We live in a poverty of being, trembling with all that we do not know, do not understand and cannot explain. The mystery of God’s love and the call to holiness is always both present and over the horizon. We never arrive, in this life, at perfect wisdom or holiness. When we realize this, we gain a certain freedom. We do not have to pretend that we possess anything but we can point confidently to God who possesses everything.
Be at peace, lay apostles. God is with us.
People sometimes talk about different models of our Church. And this is good. Because we may be inclined, as Catholics, to limit our thinking of the Church’s being to that which occurs in buildings, such as this one. And further, we may be tempted to limit our thinking about the Church’s action to that which is done sacramentally, by priests. And when we limit our thinking of the Church’s being and action in those ways, we risk living as under-active Catholics, perhaps not excited enough about what we can offer the world as Catholics in this time. And while we might not be inspired to work in a Chancery office, we might be very excited about working like Mother Teresa did. Or, maybe service to the poor does not excite us, but proclaiming God’s presence, perhaps to children, might give us huge energy and joy.
I was contemplating us, lay apostles serving in this Apostolate, recently, and I was struck by our diversity of work, and vocation but also, as is said, our unity of mission. And I decided that we are all living a model of the Church that could be called The Church in the Individual. What do I mean by that? Serving the Church in the Individual, the way I see it, is something that will keep us serving in spite of, or regardless of any negative experience of the humanity of those around us. Because the temptations to leave service or abandon practice will come. Anyone serving actively in ministry has been injured, at times, by the human clumsiness or active aggression of others. Sharing the experience of Christ Crucified brings suffering and we must be willing to absorb that suffering. But if we view the Church as a vague centralized power structure or flawed bureaucracy, it can make it very difficult to negotiate our temptations against our Catholicism. Viewing individuals as being either in or out will also make it difficult to negotiate our temptations. Because, really, who wants to be part of a group that excludes people? I certainly do not. And would not. And in truth, our Church excludes nobody. It is people misrepresenting our faith who exclude people.
If, on the other hand, we view the Church from the context of the Church present in each individual, we will be more likely to remain in service for the same reason Christ remained in service, into and through the crucifixion, for love of individual people, that is, each one of us. My friends, is it time for us to mature in our view of Church? We cannot express the Spirit of Christ if all we speak about or turn our eyes to is the Institutional Church. Young, non-practicing Catholics look baffled when the notion of Church is brought to them, because they actually only think of the building. And they wonder about its relevance to them. But when the notion of different expressions or models of Church is brought to them, lively opinions begin to emerge. And when we talk to them about the very human and universal needs of people around us, they feel the Spirit move within. We can each ask ourselves, how am I expressing my Catholicism in the world? What excites me about the Church?
Now, because the Church on earth is attended by the Spirit combined with imperfect humanity, we will have flawed representation. People distorting the gospel message are out there. And at times, in here, meaning in each one of us. We do not always represent Christ as accurately as we would like. And members of any faith will reflect the contemporary society from which they came so in each faith we will encounter the same contagions found in the historical period. Far from discouraging us, as Catholics, this should inspire us to work and repair for the flaws of ourselves and others.
At this time, confusion is pelted through the world at the speed of light via modern technology. In the past, women serving in an orphanage in Beijing, for example, would have been oblivious to events in perhaps, Poland, but now, we hear it all at once. And if we are distracted from the Church in the Individual, meaning the Church present in each of the brothers and sisters we serve, we can become gravely discouraged or even put off task. But we must not allow this to happen.
And, brothers and sisters, in this time of instant communication, is there too much talk about the sins of a few and not enough talk about the needs of so many? As Christ looks at the world today, He must see children neglected, people hungry, addicted, rejected and spiritually impoverished. He must also see the mentally ill homeless whom we are largely failing. When God looks at the world he cannot miss the men and women demoralized in prisons, often for non-violent crimes. And those people are in developed countries. And if people are not expressing Catholicism by helping others, in some way, then I would also wonder about its relevance. I mean, why is it that we have been assembled, if not to understand that we are loved and then to share that love, in whatever way people need, in our culture.
For our Apostolate, let us focus on the people God has placed in our care. For us, Church must be found in the needs of the individuals around us. If we are discouraged in the Church, then we will look to the people in whom God has placed the Church around us, and we will persevere. The most severe temptations will not sway us if we focus on our work, studying others and asking ourselves where love wants to go in the moment. Because our Catholic faith, expressed correctly, will always be about love. And that is our question to answer in each day. Where does love want to go? The inevitable ups and downs of our experience as Catholics in the Church will not shake our resolve because we do not stare into the Church demanding something but stare into the people around us offering something. The Sacramental graces of the Church will sustain us. And contemplation of people and their wounds will inspire us to give generously of all that we have.
And we remember that Christ was not always thanked and blessed. He was often rejected and distorted. Because He is the one we follow, our own experience will sometimes mimic His. We have to arrive at a place where suffering does not alarm us or overly distress us. Rather, eventually, it should confirm us in our service.
Regarding circumstances outside of our control? Those are the Lord’s affair. Healthy detachment protects us from disillusionment when we are persecuted and we must see the hand of God where the Church acts protectively. Women, in particular, cannot let down the historical contribution of other women who have gone before us. We must persevere in their footsteps, caring for all beloved men, women and children and helping to form the next generation. We protect the development of the Church by ongoing contribution in order to balance what can become lopsided ministry in any area which is all male. Complementarity in Church leadership is the future. We will all, male and female, have to consider what that should look like and no doubt suffer to bring it about.
Let us think of the Church in the Individual as mostly regional and domestic in its viewpoint and expression. What are the needs of those in my household, my family, my neighbors, my parish and my diocese? Who is hungry? Who are the lepers? Are the prisoners experiencing ministry and care? Do they know they are loved? By us and by God? Who is addicted and in need of treatment or simply in need of compassion? Who needs recovery of their mind because of an influx of the most horrendous entertainment? (All of us, particularly our children.) Let me offer a quick tip. If you want to know where love wants to go, study the faces of the people around you. Look at them carefully. To do so we must go a little slower. If we study the faces of the people around us, we will know what God needs from us. Yes, we must be busy at once. We must reject, like Christ, the political rivers, tributaries and eddies in the Church at this time and clip onto the broader movements of the Spirit, flowing right down the centre of the Church.
And in our ministries, let us think about God’s children as each possessing a portion of the Church and serve them, regardless of their compliance or non-compliance in our teachings. We look ridiculous, it must be said, when we harp on about distortions of sexuality. Are we, through constant talk of it, actually reflecting our own version of the obsession with all things sexual? Literally, this has to stop. And why would we think people should agree with us before they know us? Should we not be more actively showing them what love looks like by offering a Gospel experience rather than what can come across as a harsh judgmental experience? Sharing the truth with love is the goal. We should start with the love. I think most of our leadership in the Church is hitting the right mark in this regard. Certainly Pope Francis is steering us this way. But people who say they are obedient to the Magisterium can sometimes be unwilling to follow its leadership. Are we willing to be led? Somewhere else? If we are not, we could be feeding something for God’s enemy and not God. People are physically hungry and starving for love. In the name of the Father who loves them, we should be offering these things.
Were mother leading alongside father in the Church, would this look different? We women in the Church must not under estimate our importance. We must get active and remain active. Perhaps we should focus on what the Church in the Individual looks like in our area with determination to care for people as Christ would, were He physically present in this time.
Lay apostles, accept these thoughts as my thoughts, offered in love and gratitude to you for your perseverance alongside us in this Apostolate. We earnestly desire to steer this Apostolate straight into the will of the Father. We believe that this means education, 21st century style, meaning integrated in truth: mind, body and soul. We believe that our future in the Church has been secured by God, Himself and that we are following the Star that leads to the Christ child. And we rejoice that we can work alongside you, in so many regions and languages. May the Holy Spirit Who unites us, direct us.
My friends, together with you, we welcome the New Year, with all of its hopes and also challenges. None of us can say exactly what will happen in this next year. In looking back, we can see that nobody could have told us what would occur last year. Only God knew what last year would bring and only God knows the future and all that the new year will offer.
Perhaps if we look back at last year, we will see times when we responded well to adversity trusting God and remaining faithful to our commitments. Perhaps we will see moments where we could have done better and we will plan for that in the future.
For the apostolate, I am deeply pleased because I believe we are on track. I believe we are following our star with all speed. Why? Well, because we are helping people to identify personal holiness and move toward it. We are also, hopefully, identifying distortions of holiness and urging people away from those and into an experience of living as contemplative men and women of God. This contemplative life will protect us from despair and brings us through all trial.
Now, as human beings, we sometimes suffer from illness, and then later, perhaps, from fear of illness. We might suffer rejection and then later, perhaps, from fear of further rejection. Sometimes we suffer because we feel we do not have enough money and then, when we do, we may suffer because we fear the loss of that money.
But my friends, we are not our last illness or our last rejection or failed relationship and we are most certainly not our latest bank balance, high or low. We are bigger than that, greater than those things. And we cannot allow life’s past experiences to limit us or make us feel we are doomed to living life in a shadow.
We must learn to pursue a perspective which celebrates recovery and renewal, all the time expecting to have to up our game and engage courageously with the future.
Now when we look back on last year, some crosses will jump out at us. It’s true. We suffer. That will never change until we are in heaven. But how much suffering do we choose? Where do we make our suffering harder than it has to be? How much greater can our experience on earth be if we choose to embrace the cross when it comes? A simple way to embrace the cross is to acknowledge it, accept it and then look beyond it. What else is in the day? We must not let the cross block out all light and any chance of joy.
And perhaps another way to keep the cross in perspective is to view it as formation. Now, clearly, if we die from the cross, then our formation is over. But if something difficult occurs in our life, regardless of what it is, and we survive, then we have to assume God is forming us, strengthening us and stretching us for something else in the future.
This perspective, while difficult at times, is worth cultivating. How so? Well, at the very least, it helps with self- pity. At the best? We are always aiming higher toward greater abandonment, resilience and possibility. We strive to do what we can, where we are with what we have.
We are all traumatised at times, it is true. But we must engage in recovery. We do not want to remain stuck, stopped, paralysed and stilted. We have all known someone who suddenly pauses the fun because of what seems like a little thing. Or someone who throws a temper tantrum, and I’m not talking about children, because something sets him or her off. And the rest of us think…oh no, here we go. And the truth is, we all, at times, spoil the progress by our inability or unwillingness to negotiate our wounds and engage in recovery and growth.
And we all know people who suffer now because they might suffer later. I witnessed a conversation once. A man was melancholy. Another asked why. The first said, “My dad died at 56. I’m 55 and a half.” The older man remained quiet for a moment, considering this and then replied, “Well you might have six months, anyway.” My friends, do we want to stop serving today because we fear we will not have what we need to serve tomorrow. Sometimes we think, “this service is hard today. No doubt I will hate serving in the future.” But do we know that? Isn’t it more likely that we have everything we need to serve today and that in the future we will not only survive but flourish? And the ability to flourish in questionable, unusual or unexpected soil is the difference between the dead plant and the flower coming up through the sidewalk.
A wise man once said, “You have to fight to stay alive.”
Another person responded, “Why? Being alive is difficult, it brings considerable inconvenience and aggravation. Sometimes one is hot and then one can suffer cold, clothes don’t fit. The food is inconsistent, the water questionable and the body has good days and bad. Add to that the mind can torment one and leave one physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. Why should we fight to stay alive?”
“Because life is a gift,” the man said.
“It’s a funny old gift,” replied the other. “Kind of like being given a jack hammer. One wonders about the implication of the gift.”
Indeed. The implication of being the gift of life is that we are expected to live it. We are alive, temporarily. We will suffer, and our life’s work will be to recover and become resilient and bring as much good as possible to other people while we are here.
God is love. Love is the answer, the solution. And love, like the truth, will set us free. Love will insulate us from all disappointment because when we know God created us in love we also know that God has given us everything we need to live our life in joy and creativity. Life is a gift and we have to fight to stay alive, not just physically, but also mentally, emotionally and of course, spiritually. Much of the body’s experience is determined by the brain’s functioning and we know that we can act back on our brain and change it, through neuro-plastically helpful activities and exercise. Anxiety? It becomes a choice when you know what it is.
Let me explain. We know that when we are being chased by wild animals the body will detect threat which we will experience as fear. The brain will signal for emergency hormone help and cortisol will be released which will help our body gear up to fight for our life, which, we are hardwired to understand, is a gift that must be protected.
This is awesome. God is amazing. But many of us are living our days as though we are being chased by wild animals when in reality, perhaps, we can’t find a parking spot, are late for an appointment or don’t fit into the size of clothing that we would like. Other anxiety provokers are that we will fail, be rejected or not fit into a mould that comes from the opinion of others. We are anxious that others will find out we are imperfect. What is the truth? We will all fail, be rejected and experience the need to think for ourselves. And none of us are perfect. Only God is perfect.
If we are honest, we might admit that a lot of our suffering last year came from fears. Fears, it would seem, that were at least partially unfounded because not everything we feared happened to us. And some things did happen and we lived through them and other things happened and we accepted them and decided to go after healing and recovery. And most of us did not experience perfect romantic relationships, high bank balances and ideal health and guess what? We had moments of absolute joy anyway!! “Do you want to be healed?” Jesus asked the paralytic.
My friends, we have a choice. Do we want to live in fear? Or do we want to live expecting that, with God, we can contribute love, listening and compassion to the world around us? Because God’s children are suffering, in our families, our workplaces and our parishes. Do we choose to preach a Gospel of having enough, indeed, an abundance? Or do we want to drive people away in droves like the Pharisees by living in fear, critical and negative, pouncing on people’s sins.
The Gospel tells us to think thoughts of peace and not affliction. Current neuroscience exposes why we should do so. Because we, in contemplating God’s love, God’s presence in others and God’s perfect plan for us, actually Become more like God in our thoughts words and actions. We, through contemplation of God, begin to resonate with God. We eventually find it easier and easier to put on the mind of Christ, despite personal weakness.
My friends, when you study your interior self, look for all that is good, noble and pure. Look for those moments of clarity and right thinking. It’s all there. Because God is in you and with you. God is everywhere. There is a star for you to follow and it will lead to Baby Jesus and His plan for you. He wants to take the good work he has started in you and really make progress in the year to come. Now is the time. This is your life. You only have one and you are making choices each day about it.
We, lay apostles, have been given a lot. Isn’t it true? God has blessed and recovered us and restored us where we were wounded. But my friends, when God puts this much into people, he has expectations and he has a right to expect a high performance from us. Think of a race horse. He is bred for speed. He is cared for in every way. He is trained incrementally, never pushed too hard, never overly stressed but challenged yes, to get the best out of him. Well, after years of training and care, when the gate opens at the track, what do we expect the horse to do? Run, Right? The Magi did not sit in the field. They moved.
Well, the same could be said of us. We have been blessed. We have not only been given the gift of life, but many of us have been given the gift several times because we were sick and recovered. All of us have been given some degree of love and a great deal of food over the years. Again, how do we know that our crosses were formation? Because we are still here. And the gate is up. God is asking us to take all that we have been given and run with it.
For what purpose? Possibly, so that others can be formed to give and receive love. Do not be overly concerned that others misunderstood you. Do what God is asking of you. And expect to be misunderstood, particularly by those not following the star. We, apostles, understand each other. We fit in with those who love, regardless of their religion. It is no accident that we are here right now, together in our minds and thoughts, in one Spirit, seeking truth, both individually and as a group. It is no accident that our translators are willing to suffer so much to bring the words of the apostolate into other languages for other people in their countries, may God reward them. And it is no accident that we have been given a share in this apostolate.
My friends, we are not suffering alone. Or in futility. Do not be distracted. We must follow the star, wherever it takes us.
This evening we gather together with the tremendous anticipation of all Christians. It is Advent. And we are an Advent people. So this period of the Liturgical Calendar for us is one where we attempt to concentrate fiercely on the fact that Christ is coming. That we are asked to have hope. That hope for us is both a Way and a way forward. The call to live from hope and to offer hope as an alternative to despair will always resound in our souls.
My friends, when we read in the news of the failures of mankind or when we examine our consciences and confront our own, sometimes painful, personal failures, hope can dim or even slip out of our grasp for a few moments. At those times, we look up, like the Magi, and keep moving. If we believe anything about mankind, it is that mankind requires both redemption and transformation. And redemption is there for us. And we are trying to transform in Christ.
I wonder what choices we are making regarding our minds this Advent. Perhaps, as an apostolate, we can make a collective decision to concentrate fiercely on hope, as a decision and as a discipline. If you are following the teachings we offer, you will know that we take exercising custody of our minds very seriously. We believe God wants this. In Jeremiah the Lord said: “I think thoughts of peace and not of affliction.”
We must all try to be alert to our thoughts and understand that if we are choosing negative thoughts, by default, meaning, if we do not reject negative thoughts in favour of hopeful, holy and happy thoughts, then we are actually choosing not to think thoughts of peace. As such we are actually choosing to think thoughts of affliction indirectly. This concept of taking custody of the mind is supported throughout Scripture.
St Paul urges us in Philippians Chapter four “ Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
My friends, there is such beauty all around us, in our imperfect relationships, our families, in our moments where we sit down with others and share a simple meal or a mutual conversation or a grief or one of the funniest things that ever happened to us. There is beauty, also, in the contemplation, not just of how things are in the world, but how they could be. And if we never contemplate anything but the failures of the past, how will we draw down from heaven its hopes for the future? Who will do that for God? We know that just as we hope in baby Jesus, Baby Jesus hopes in us. He hopes that we will quietly contemplate what he wants for the people around us.
As Christians, it is possible that our parents urged us to store up our treasures in heaven? But what does that mean? I remember trying to explain it myself to a child who then asked when he could count the money he had stored up in heaven. I said, “are you sure your treasure is money?” yes, He replied. “Yes. I think Gold money. Coins and things.” Ok. That was his known currency. But we know, more maturely, that God is love and our treasures stored are those moments where we either gave love or graciously received love. And how does that work at all?
Well, when we stop and listen to someone, we are putting some of our treasure into that person. When we apologise to someone for unkind or casual behaviour, we are showing them that we have reverence for them as a person and that they should have reverence for themselves. When we form another, suffer with another, cry with someone who is grieving, laugh, teach, learn respectfully, make someone a sandwich or a cup of tea….we are storing up treasures in heaven. You see, my friends, we can only truly store up treasure in heaven by offering it generously to the people around us. What have we been given? Are we hoarding it? Because we do not need to. God gives abundantly.
This Advent, let us all think thoughts of loveliness, generosity, joy and laughter. Let’s think thoughts of ultimate hope in heaven where prisoners will be freed and healed and our minds will not loop on tragedy, trauma and sadness. Focus on those happy moments in time where you did the right thing, in kindness, in temptation rejected, or when you make a choice to live with a little less so that someone suffering could have a little more. Compare down, to those who have been given less materially and feel blessed. Compare up, to those who have achieved virtues that you admire and strive to grow.
Think now of your favourite saint. Who is it? Picture him or her in your mind. What do you love about that saint? What is it that the saint is remembered for most in terms of holiness? Never mind what God did through the saint. Never mind the stories of ecstasies or visions, really, because those things are God being God. Consider your favourite saint in his or her humanity. Which virtue possessed by that saint would you like to have? Maybe it was kindness. Love of the poor. Gentleness.
Those virtuous dispositions did not just happen. The saints went after holiness. Many were known for being passionate and having tempestuous personalities. So we know that they had to discipline themselves and learn self-control. They practiced not getting it their way. Mother Teresa served the poor. Was she known for having houses full of material goods? No. She tried to live as simply as possible. She offered something for the sake of the virtue she wanted to possess. What virtue would we like to possess? What virtue does Baby Jesus hope that we will accept from Him? And what are we willing to offer in exchange for it? Our good ideas? Our leisure time? Our addictions? Some of our money? Perhaps a little fatigue or tiredness? Should we offer our self-hatred in exchange for celebrating our dignity, whatever our condition? Or…most exciting, should we let go of our negative thinking patterns in favour of hopeful, happy and heavenly thinking patterns?
My friends, the Magi followed a star. Let’s contemplate their experience. What sort of things might have gone through their minds? Maybe they asked themselves, is this hope flawed? Do you think they ever wondered if they were doing the wrong thing by following the star? Is it possible that in the daily discomfort of their journey, they had moments of doubt, fear, temptation and possibly, moments where they wondered if the whole thing would end in futility. What is the point of this, they might have fretted? My companions are annoying me or hurting my feelings. Will we have enough food? Are we bringing the right gifts? Will I make it to the end successfully? Or will it all end badly, in failure?
When the Magi were unsure, what might they have done? Well….I presume, they looked up. Yes. The star was still there. When the clouds came, they probably just kept going. Because they believed that behind the clouds the star remained fixed in the heavens. When they were tired they most likely rested, yes, no doubt and cared for their physical needs, too, but they kept moving, they journeyed, advancing toward their goal. They followed a star. And it took them, roughly to 31.701 degrees 30’ N and 34 degrees 45’ East.
Here is my point. There IS a destination for you. You ARE being lead. It IS real and heaven is with you, drawing you further into your future, toward the end of your life, when you will also gaze upon the form of the Christ Child. Look up, my friends, every day, all day. When your experience is that the clouds are covering the star, keep going. You will know what God needs you to do on the journey through study of your duty and also the circumstances and people around you. Who needs your help? What is your job in the day? Who will be positively impacted because you are living a hopeful life, filled with happy and peaceful thoughts to share with those around you?
If someone in your family is suffering, know that other families shared that cross and that some people will only recover in the next life. Still, we claim hope for them, for us and for others. If you have recovered from something, anything, assist others where you can. If you have been given a gift, share it, whether it be financial well-being, the ability to sing or play music or the gift of listening with kindness. The star is leading you, further and further into virtue.
Look up, my friends, often and regularly. Look up in the morning and pledge your allegiance. Look up in the evening and thank God for the day. Look up as you struggle and look up as you succeed. Look up when others need courage and when you need it yourself. God is with us. The Magi did the right thing by following the star. Their journey was righteous. And so is ours. We are being led.
A popular word with young people today is random. Everything is thought to be random. Just using the word random gives us relief from the dreadful fear that we have been abandoned by God. Because you see when we say it is random what we are really saying is it’s not personal. When we say something is random we say, it does not have to hurt as much as it does because it is all random. Random communicates lack of meaning or crisis of meaning and in this way the dart loses its sting, people think. Poor little children of God, who believe it is all random. But in this time, let the star remind us. There’s nothing random about it! We are being led. But we must be willing to follow.
A possible digression. Pope Francis is doing a great job. He is leading, like the star of Bethlehem. And people often make a claim of obedience. They say, I am faithful to the magisterium. I am faithful to the teachings of the Church. Well, that is good. We should all try to be. But there is another part of obedience and it is this. Are we willing to be led? To follow leadership? To move and develop in our thinking? Because if the Magi simply sat in a field admiring the star and making a god out of it, they would never have gotten to the manger. What am I saying? A true spirit of obedience is willing to be led, and to allow the Church herself to grow and develop, further and further into the layers of her teachings. Pope Francis is taking us to Baby Jesus. Do not doubt it.
My friends, look up. There is nothing random about our presence together in this Church, this apostolate, this historical period. Rather, I suggest to you that God has placed enormous hope in each of us, both individually and as a group. There is a plan. And no more than the Magi were led to a specific latitude and longitude we are each being lead to very specific duties and challenges and projects. We can do this, lay apostles. We have each other and we have God. We have all that we need. The future for us is certain, nothing random about it. The plan is distinct. And no more than the star was fixed in the heavens and brought the Magi to Bethlehem, if will bring us to God’s holy and hope-filled plan for our life and for this lovely apostolate. We simply have to keep moving.
Look up, my friends. We are being led.
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Good evening. We are so happy that God has brought us together once again. Tonight, we have the great joy and privilege of welcoming the image of Our Lady Queen of the Church. A more complete explanation on why we believe the Lord desires Mary to be known by this title is available at both the back of the Church and on our website. Now, I want to describe for you some of the components of the image and the related symbolism. This description is not in order of priority.
The icon, first of all, introduces Our Lady as Queen of the Church. Why do we believe the Lord is calling for the spread of both the title and the image?
The times prompt equality and dignity between men and women. In heaven, there is most assuredly this equality and dignity which we desire on earth but have yet to achieve. By offering the truth about Mary’s role in the Church, we will help, hopefully, to heal some people from a wound and direct us all to a model.
We know that the Church is developing over time. And we know that Our Lady is very important to us now because we so urgently need renewal in the Church.
The images of Jesus Christ the Returning King and Our Lady Queen of the Church are meant to be side by side to represent the complementarity of the genders. Our Catechism teaches that in creating man, male and female, God gives men and women an equal personal dignity. He wants this in the Church and out of the Church.
You will see that Our Lady’s right hand is in a similar teaching and instructing position as the Lord’s right hand in image of Jesus Christ the Returning King. Both the feminine and the masculine teach the truth, but often in different ways. We need both.
Her left hand supports the Church and the Church is seen as a humble, simple building. The doors are open, the windows also. There is transparency, and, we pray, humility. When I say Church, please do not think of only clergy. WE are ALL the Church. We need to be transparent about our beliefs and also our imperfection and our journey. The whole Church, in order to represent Jesus Christ accurately, needs more humility. All of us. Our Lady will help us with this and prompt us gently toward very humble service to the people around us.
The many bells on the roof represent the Church in every country. I saw, in a vision, on top of the Church, a bell for every country. Each was meant to ring out a distinct harmonious note. I saw that there were weeds coming up through the inside of the Church and they were interfering with the movement and function of the bells in various countries. In other countries the bell was ringing functionally and sounding the right note, meaning, the Church in that country was accurately representing heaven. In other countries, the Church was being misrepresented and therefore people could not see the beauty of our faith. Overall, the bells were not sounding together and creating the type of harmony that the Lord wants. I saw that it was Our Lady’s role to bring the bells into harmony, meaning, to restore and renew the Church in each country and to bring about consistency.
Now, consistency does not mean conformity. You can see in the lower left foreground that there are three sets of bells. These represent the Church in different countries and the colours are notably different. The subtle difference in the colours indicates the unique personality of the Church in each country. This is good. The Church in each country must transform into its highest representation of Church. We must contemplate ourselves as Catholics and also nationally so that we can express our unique selves in the international Church. The Irish Church will look a little different than the African Church and the Chinese Church will hold its beautiful Chinese expression and still function in the same way as the American Church only singing out a little differently. We have a great deal, always, to learn from each other.
We see our Lady indicating the bells on the top of the Church. It is her project to renew the Church in each country and she must be known in each country individually as the Queen of that Country.
Our Lord holds the sceptre of Kingship in the image of Jesus Christ the Returning King. Our Lady, through her humanity, offers us the truth that the Church on earth is incarnational and meant to be presented and represented daily through our human representation modelled after her spotless call. The fact that we imperfectly represent God’s perfection should not deter us from a spirited preaching of the Gospel message.
Our Lady, the Queen of the Church is issuing an invitation to all Catholics to return to the Sacramental life of the Church.
The diocesan structure of the Church is represented by the intricate and rich hem of her garment which encircles her mantle, just as the Church encircles the earth. The church is held in the hand of Mary, near her heart and offered to the world from the hand of a woman so that we can see that women are essential to the life and growth of the Church and impact profoundly how the Church is both presented to the world and viewed by the world. The Queen of the Church is inviting all women to emulate her strength and humility and she is asking men to protect and promote the role of women, in the Church, yes, and also in the world and, of infinite importance, in the family. We must advance together in unity or we will not advance.
Now, the diocesan structure of the Church is very important in this time. For renewal to take place quickly, it will have to happen more or less simultaneously in every diocese around the world. This is why lay apostles are urged to pray for their bishop and be part of their diocese in some way. Our children must know which diocese they come from and understand that they are part of something from heaven, here on earth.
Our Lady’s beautiful hands represent her humanity and the teaching of the Assumption that she was brought into heaven both body and soul. She sits on a silver throne, different to the Lords. This emphasises that she is separate from the Trinity, a created human being, simultaneously subordinate to God and elevated by God. While God created her immaculate for her role as the first tabernacle, Mary contributed an ongoing yes answer and made a choice to remain immaculate. In doing so, she enclosed herself in the divine will which is represented in the closure of the clasp of her belt with the silver fleur de lei, symbolising the Trinity. Her whole humanity and life were enclosed in service to the Church on earth.
Indeed, Mary is a living symbol of obedience and models for us the same call of obedience to the teachings and leadership of the magisterium of the church. She is directing us all to this obedience in a special way in this time.
On her silver crown there is a large blue stone, the most prominent. This represents her maternity, both human and through her human maternity to Jesus, divine. She was a human mother who nourished a little baby and she is a spiritual mot