Sunday, May 26, 2013

Trinity? What Trinity?

For years many people have tried to understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

I offer a simple attempt to explain it HERE.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Excellent prayers: "Loving desire of our heart towards God, and . . . .

 . . . .suffering of things that displease us."  St. Jane de Chantal, 1572-1641

St. Jane had several great reflections captured in my copy of The New Jerusalem Bible: Saints Devotional Edition.  This one comes from a counsel of hers on dealing with distractions while praying, that was put alongside of Matthew 6:1-14. 

(Jesus taught them) "When you pray, go to your private room, shut yourself in, and so pray to your Father."  --Matthew 6:6
The rest of this post is written by St. Jane to counsel us in the way of prayer.  Emphasis was added in places by me.


Prayer is the channel that unites our heart to the heart of God.  It draws waters from heaven that descend and rise from us to God and from God to us.  Prayer is the first act of our faith, and consequently what the apostle says of faith--that it is impossible to please God without it (see Hebrews 11:6)--we must say of prayer.  By it we ask God and Jesus Christ, who is our deliverer, to save us.  We feel so despoiled by our weakness that we should perish unless he sustained us every moment with new graces.
When we place ourselves in the presence of his divine goodness to speak to him alone, then our prayer consists in the presence of our spirit before his and of his Spirit before ours.  That's the case whether we have good thoughts and good sentiments or not.  We need only with all simplicity and without any violent spiritual effort to keep ourselves before him.  We should express our love for him and focus our attention on him without entertaining any voluntary distractions.

Then God will view the whole time we are on our knees as prayer.  He loves our humbly enduring the vain and involuntary thoughts that attack us as much as the best thoughts we have had at other times. 
One of the most excellent prayers is the loving desire of our heart towards God, and the suffering of things that displease us.  Prayer is then united to patience, which is the premier virture.  And the soul that rises humbly from its distractions may believe that it has prayed as well as if it had not suffered from them at all.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Collect for Pentecost - Extraordinary Form - Ah Hah!

Used under Creative Commons License from striatic at Flickr
Preparing for Mass by reading commentary on the Sacred Liturgy helps me get a lot more out of being there. On Pentecost we find a very familiar prayer in the Mass that ends the "Come Holy Ghost" invocation often said before meetings or retreats. This Collect and Dom Prosper Gueranger's short comments knocked me over. After all the years of reading and saying this prayer, today turned into a "Wow!" experience. A thoughtless dullard woke up.
O God, who by the light of the Holy Ghost, didst this day instruct the hearts of the faithful: grant that, by the same Spirit, we may relish what is right, and ever rejoice in His consolation. Through our Lord…
Gueranger says:
The Collect tells us what favors we should petition for from our heavenly Father on such a day as this. It also tells us that the Holy Ghost brings us two principal graces: a relish for the things of God and consolation of heart. Let us pray that we may receive both the one and the other, that we may thus become perfect Christians.
After learning about the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost and the twelve fruits, memorizing them and studying their meaning, I still didn't realize what's behind it all. We are supposed to delight in, to savor our Faith. Our Faith encompasses all the things of God. We are not oddballs if every time we turn around we are seeing God in the ordinary. We are not crazy, as the world would have us believe, if we are eagerly listening to hear God's will for us. We are not off the wall if we share our Faith with others and speak enthusiastically and indefatigably of the great things God has done for us. This is normal for the Christian. This is a gift of the Holy Spirit. This irrepressible relishing is what Peter and the others did on the first Pentecost Sunday when some scoffers accused them of being drunk.

The second grace, consolation of heart, flows naturally from the first. The lies and pressures of the world cannot shake up the heart of one relishing the things of God. We can discover the hand of God even though experiencing evil. It's all in our spiritual orientation. Truth is our true North on God's compass. To know it and carry it in our hearts is the greatest consolation and cause for rejoicing.

How can we develop a habit of relishing the things of God? The simple answer is, structure in our spiritual life. The Ignatian Daily Examen is only one method. Set times for prayer and set prayers help. Even in times of dryness in prayer we can do our daily duties out of love of God and they become a structure conducive to relishing the things of God. Living according to a Rule such as that of St. Benedict can be part of our structure, or imbibing the spirituality of the Carmelites, Franciscans, Dominicans, Passionists, et al.  Everything is there for us. All we need do is commit.  In today's Collect we have already asked for the grace. God will not refuse. Amen. Alleluia.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Father Francis Maple - 50th Anniversary

Father Francis Maple

Father Francis Maple is an occasional guest writer on this Blog. He lives in England and has recently celebrated his 50th Anniversary as a priest. He re-visited the Church where he was ordained and this is his homily which will hopefully inspire someone somewhere to consider joining the priesthood.

Welcome everyone!  I would like to welcome particularly Bishop George of Kerala in India who just happens to be passing through Bedford and has asked to concelebrate Mass with us this morning.  I would like to thank my family and parishioners for coming today to celebrate and help me thank God for being His priest for 50 years.

On the day of my ordination I gave my mother my memorial card.  She read it.  I also gave her the memorial card of another priest who was ordained with me the same day.  Very gently my Mum said, “Son, I wish you had written on your card what he had written.”  He wrote, “I thank the Lord for choosing me to be His priest.  I wrote on mine, “I thank the Lord for the gift of the priesthood.”  Mum was right, his was more personal.

I am standing here today because I owe my vocation to my saintly parents.  I think of them today and thank God for the parents He gave me.


I invited Canon Seamus Keenan, the parish priest, to say these words.  He declined saying, “I am sure your family would like to hear you speak.  So if you don’t like what I have to say, you know whom to blame!”

Every priest, like St. Matthias whose feast we keep today, is chosen by Christ.  No priest can say, “I chose to be a priest.”  Rather it is Jesus who says, “I chose you.”  It is Jesus who leads us to the priesthood in different ways.

The majority of priests come from good Catholic homes.  I was blessed with saintly parents.  I was one of twelve children, eight girls and four boys.  If God had called all of us to be priests and nuns I am sure my Dad and Mum would have been extremely happy.  That says something about the holiness of my parents.  One girl became a nun and one boy a priest.  The rest married and I can proudly say that not one lapsed and all happily married.  We owe this to the strong faith of our parents and the good example they gave us.

We owe so much to our ancestors.  One day when I was a deacon, well on the way to the priesthood, my grandmother said to me, “Do you know Marcy God is calling you to be a priest.  It will be you who will lead us all to Heaven.”  I said, “Mamma, please don’t place that responsibility on my shoulders.

What inspired me to be a priest?  It was hearing my father say, “If one of my sons becomes a priest it will be the happiest day of my life.”  I think I was about six at the time, but those words made a deep impression on me that I, who loved my Dad so much, was going to be the one who would bring about the happiest day of his life.  Someone could make the case that my motive wasn’t the right one, but it was God who eventually channelled that motive to please Him first before pleasing my father.

Now what sort of priest was I going to be?  A strange circumstance in life brought this about.  I was now eight years old, an altar server in a Corpus Christi procession in New Delhi.  There I was a young lad of eight, with a huge quiff of hair like Elvis Presley, carrying a lighted candle.  I could hear a burning noise.  Suddenly from nowhere a Capuchin priest rushed over to me and started patting my head.  The candle I carried had set my hair on fire.  There was a bald patch there for a few weeks.  That priest was Fr. Luke.  I got to like him and decided when I grew up I would become a priest like him, wearing a brown habit, a black beard and a pair of sandals. 

It was now my ninth birthday, and on our birthdays, our father used to tell us to go the priest and get his blessing.  I was shy at that time and I didn’t want to do it, but you could not say no to Dad.  It was to Fr. Luke I went.  When I told him my Dad had sent me to get his blessing as it was my birthday, he said, “Fancy that!  It’s my birthday too!”  So he was the one who inspired me to be a Capuchin friar and priest.

Fifty years ago on 31 March 1963 I said my first Mass in this Church.  Sadly my father had died two years before I was ordained a priest.  He did not see me a priest, but knew I was well on the road to becoming one.  My mother and all my family were present at my ordination and first Mass.  Canon Anthony Hulme was the parish priest at that time; also present were Fr. Tom McConville from Northern Ireland, who served for many years as a curate here and for whom I had great respect and Fr. Tony Philpot a fellow altar server of mine in this church.  I remember that day so well.

I can’t believe that 50 years has gone by since that day.  A man wrote to me the other day congratulating me on being a priest for 50 years.  He said, “How many people’s lives as a priest have you touched in those 50 years?”  It made me wonder and start to think.  At all stages of people’s lives a priest is there to administer to all their needs.  I would love to know how many babies I have baptised and set on the road leading to Heaven.  Several times as a hospital chaplain I was called out in the early hours of a morning to baptise babies weighing just over 2 lbs.  One of these babies lives in Chester.  He is now 14 and comes regularly to me for Confession. 

Then there is the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.  In 50 years every priest would give as much a million Holy Communions.  What an honour that is.

A bishop is the ordinary minister of the Sacrament of Confirmation, but one Pentecost day I was privileged to administer this Sacrament to 62 children.  The week before the parish priest was due to confirm these children he broke his leg and he asked me if I would confirm them.

On average every year I hear 900 confessions.  That means in 50 years I have heard 45.000 confessions.  I can recall the happiness I have brought to many people by hearing their confessions.  Only recently I heard the confession of a lady whose marriage had broken down, she remarried outside the church.  Her husband died and after being away from confession for nearly forty years she made her confession to me.  She told me, “I can’t describe the joy and peace you have given me by going to confession.  I shed tears of joy throughout the whole of Mass and when you placed the consecrated host on my hand I just wanted to gaze at It forever.”

Here is another story about a confession I heard as a young priest.  The doorbell of the confessional rang.  I entered the confessional.  By the sounds on the other side of the confessional I knew it was an old person who was the penitent.  She began, “Father, I don’t know where to begin.  The last time I went to confession was the day before my wedding when I was 18 and now I am 82.”  All I could say to her was, “Congratulations!  It must have been very hard for you to come here.”  She replied, “If only you knew how many years I have just wanted to do this!”  After her confession her daughter who had brought her to church rang our doorbell and told me, “Father, you will never know how happy you have made my mother.  May I bring my mother, who is house bound, along again to confession to you outside the appointed hours of hearing confession.”  I told her, “Bring her along any time.  That’s what we are here for.”  I could tell you dozen of stories of this nature where through this sacrament people have experienced the peace of Christ.  No doubt those people have now died and I feel sure are in heaven.  They are there because it was that moment of their turning back to the Lord and hearing from my lips those wonderful words, “And I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Countless times I have administered the Sacrament of the Sick.  I remember the occasion I was visiting the sick in hospital.  I don’t know what made me to be drawn to this particular man lying in a bed.  I never even knew he was a Catholic.  We chatted.  It turned out he was a Catholic, married outside the Church and had left the church for years.  He told me he had just days to live.  I encouraged him to make his peace with God.  He accepted my invitation.  The result was that I heard his confession, regularised his marriage and administered the Sacrament of the dying and in two weeks’ time gave him a Catholic burial.  I wish I could convey to you the happiness I brought to him, his wife and his family.  What a wonderful way God has in using His priests to bring the lost sheep back into His fold.  How can I ever thank God for that honour?

A priest doesn’t administer the Sacrament of Matrimony.  It is the husband and wife who do so.  The priest is the chief witness of the church.  I like doing marriages.  They are happy family occasions.  I like to make it personal by singing two songs, one for the bride on behalf of the bridegroom and the other for the bridegroom on behalf of the bride.  I know how much these songs are appreciated.  I wonder how many children those marriages have produced because you were the priest who helped to tie the knot.  I shall never forget the first wedding at which I ever officiated.  It was that of my younger sister Francesca.  She told her husband Gordon of happy memory, “We are not going to get married until my brother is a priest and he will marry us.”  And they were married in this church.

What is the chief duty of a priest?  It is to offer sacrifice.  Every morning as he stands at the altar he takes bread into his hands and holds the chalice of wine and says over them those beautiful words, “This is My Body…This is My Blood”.  At that solemn moment he performs the greatest miracle that takes place in our world every day, when bread and wine are changed into the risen Lord Jesus.  On behalf of the church he offers this sacrifice of Jesus to God the Father for the salvation of the world.  Is there any greater thing a human person can do?  Is there any greater power and honour God can confer upon a man?   How can a sinful man ever thank God for bestowing such a gift upon him?  It is now that I can appreciate the words of my father, “The day one of my sons becomes a priest will be the happiest day of my life.”

Singing has a played an important and enjoyable part of my life.  How pleased I am to relate to you the fact that I sing a pro-Life song called “Cry from the heart” and as far as I know that song has influenced at least twenty two mothers who were contemplating abortion not to have one.  In fact the twenty second life it saved was a boy of ten who wrote to me.  He said, “Father Francis, I want to thank you for that song, ‘Cry from the heart’.  My mother was about to abort me when she heard it and said, ‘I can’t do it.’  And because of that I am living today.  I can’t thank you enough.”

Every priest must be very near to the heart of Our Blessed Lady, the mother of the High Priest Jesus.  I would like to thank her for all the love and care she has given to me over these fifty years and I would like to place the rest of my life in her hands.  I long for the day to be in heaven and embraced by our loving mother.

The Golden Jubilee of a priest is what we are celebrating today.  I thank all of you, but particularly my family, for coming to celebrate this occasion and helping me to thank God for the many graces he has bestowed on me the last 50 years of my life.  I thank Canon Seamus Keenan for allowing this happy event to take place in his Church.  May God reward you all.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Self-Righteousness and Self-Esteem

Our guest writer today is Jose D Pinell.

I encourage you to visit him HERE.

Two weeks before Lent was over, God was calling me into a deeper intimacy with Him.

I can't tell you exactly how it started, but I remember a thirst growing inside of me to learn more about contemplative prayer, and even the monastic life.

There was also a desire to pray. I saw how minutes flied in prayer, and many times even hours in prayer felt short.

I started praying the divine office with more diligence. I started to attend mass more frequently.

I felt more at peace. I felt more joyful. I also felt more self-righteous.

Slowly these nagging voices started to come into my head. Look at all these people, they don't pray as you do. Why they don't come to mass as frequently as you do? Look at this neighbor, trying to be a show off with his 3 huge cars and look how simply you live.

These voices kept coming almost inadvertently into my mind. I tried fighting them, but many times the thoughts and its feelings were difficult to shake off.

Then one morning during prayer, I had this vision of me as a toddler struggling and learning to walk. I saw Jesus with His arms stretched, smiling, encouraging me to keep walking.

And then He told me "Don't think of yourself as an adult in this, but as a baby who is barely learning how to walk in my steps. Walk my son, for I am guiding you".

It was a humbling vision. I haven't even learned to walk and I think myself as spiritually superior to others.

And then came the fall. Sin is always chasing us around.

The voices turned sour this time. You are not a true follower of Jesus. You are not worthy to be a missionary. You are probably the most sinful and worthless of all the missionaries here.

How to believe this voice in my head? At one point it exalts me and canonizes me before dying, at in the same breath it condemns me to hell and tells me I'm not a true christian!

I have wondered whether there is a connection between having a low self-esteem and being self-righteous.

I have been told that bullies love put downs because of their own lack of confidence and self-esteem.

Can something similar be happening here with self-righteousness?  How is that after discovering my sinful nature I am so quickly prone to think of myself as worthless? Why do I feel so spiritually powerful and then, in the middle of my weakness, the most hideous heathen?

I can come out from the whole of low self-esteem, see a glimpse of spiritual growth, and then hold on to that moment in time, allowing my self-esteem to rest on it. The result are self-righteous thoughts, feelings and attitudes.

When that moment in time is gone, my self esteem, seeing no base to rest on, falls to the floor.

Pride and self-righteousness then, seems to come not from high self-esteem, but from a low self-esteem.

And maybe self-loathing and self-deprecation leads not to humility but self-righteousness.

How different it would be to truly see my sinfulness and yet, at the same time, the immense grace of God that adopts me into His family?

How different it would be if all of us would find our identity and worth in God, and not in our jobs, careers and degrees, or even worse, our spiritual growth.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Quick Bytes #57: A Long Way to Go

Jesus, when dying on the cross, asked God to forgive his captives.

Saint Stephen, while being stoned to death, asked God to forgive his assailants.

The other day, when someone cut me off on the road, I shouted some four letter words that aren't fit to be printed in this post.


Another lesson.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Moaner Lisa

I asked a sick old man how he was doing, just as a conversation starter. He replied: I can’t complain ... there are so many others worse than me.

This set me thinking. When we complain about our situation, it may be a big thing, or a small matter ... a little grumble ... you know what I mean ... what are we doing exactly?

We are opening the door one tiny little bit for the devil to sneak in and play havoc with our thoughts. One tiny complaint leads to another ... and soon we become a Moaner Lisa !!!

If our Walk with Christ is to be perfect we should trust Him in everything. So the slightest complaint, grumble or moan is a hint that perhaps we don’t trust Him as much as we should or as much as we claim.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Quick Bytes #56: Aim High

I desire to become a better Catholic.
I desire to find more time for God.
I desire to do more of His will each day.

Therese of Lisieux desired to be a Saint.

I feel like there is a lesson here ....