The Comfortable Words

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. St Matthew 11:28

These are comfortable words, whom anyone leading a life full of strife or difficulty can take particular enjoyment in. They are the opening words to the funeral liturgy of the Ordinariate, of many Anglican traditions, and are included in common Gospel readings at Requiem Masses throughout the English-speaking world.

Perhaps I am going out on a limb to say that we live in a world disenchanted with its past. A world, a society of people, collectively less aware of God although He makes Himself known. However, anyone with an open mind, if it is truly a mind receptive to establishing the truth of existence, ought to give these words some credence. We never truly grow old. We are always little children, gasping for air and for stability. We can fall on any bridge we wish, and quite often those bridges are made of wood near splintering into a thousand pieces; not close enough to open a gap quite yet, but near the point. We get up on the bridge and cross it many times, going one place at a time yet dependent on where we have fallen. We claim it as ‘life’s lot’, and accept it as our life’s purpose.

But then the bridge opens wide. We fall through. We hit the icy water below. We cannot breathe. We cannot swim. Our feeble hands claw and scrape at that river, yet we cannot find a ledge or a rock to cling to that could keep us steady or grant us a gasp of fresh air. Seldom do we find it. Thus, we hit a crisis. What was wrong? I thought I was on my feet. I thought the bridge that allowed me to travel to all corners of life was steady; a few cracks are normal. We aren’t perfect.

The bridge was a human construction, with human imperfections, made for the world’s use and was therefore unstable. Some of us, when we cooperate with the Grace we are given, fall upon a bridge that has weathered many a storm. It has been beaten and pelted with salty ocean waves, but it has dried and the wood was restored again and again. In fact, this particular structure was so susceptible to the acts of nature that sometimes we didn’t cross it for fear of the life we saw growing upon it. Moss, fungi, other green and brown things we cannot know of. However, when we really needed to come safely home, we could only cross this bridge. Eventually, after the length of time the wood stood, interrupted only time and time again by footstep, it petrified. The whole bridge became a solid rock.

Often our faith is like this isn’t it? Trust and obedience, dependence and doubt. We experience these in fluttering diversions, sometimes hitting us like arrows, mostly the safety net that ought to catch us should we ever fall through. To the non-believer, coming to belief can often be like this. Like walking a new bridge over a deep crevasse. Do you understand the imagery?

We know God would never ever build us an unsafe bridge. In fact, His bridges are perfect – the bridge saints trod. Yet they are filled with obstacles, many our own, many to test us, many to strengthen us. Today’s trials are the cause of tomorrow’s triumph.

The Psalmist St David, in Psalm 139: 6-9 has this to say:

Whither shall I go then from thy Spirit: or whither shall I go then from thy presence?
If I climb up into heaven, thou art there: if I go down to hell, thou art there also.
If I take the wings of the morning: and remain in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there also shall thy hand lead me: and thy right hand shall hold me.

The Lord Jesus Christ never departs from our presence. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday (or perhaps today is, depending which part of the globe you live in). You are going to be reminded, with the placing of a cross upon your forehead, that ‘thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return’, Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.

Remember, O Man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.

Meditate on these words. A cigarette only lasts you a couple minutes, and palm leaves burn in less time than that. Our life, because we alone experience it as we can, is but a burning star in the glimpse of time God allows. On the last day, our Lord will announce the faithful of the elect. The Roman Canon asks God to “Be mindful, also, O Lord, of Thy servants and handmaids…who are gone before us with the sign of faith and who sleep the sleep of peace. To these, O Lord, and to all who rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light and peace. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.” Therefore, God wills that we all be saved through Him, through the prayers of the Blessed Mother, and of the saints: yet only we can decide whether to cooperate with that grace He alone gives us, through the various ways He does. We can receive His very body, blood, soul and divinity. He give us Himself. His arms are open to the heavily laboured, the afflicted, the poor, the sinner.

Our abandonment of our pride, our excess, to His will; to let go of our hubris, to ask God where we belong.

It is difficult to lower ourselves, yet we have every means to do it. What can you lose? Death. What can you gain? Life. Be mindful of your sins, and use the sacraments to assist you on your life’s journey. For it is so very short, and eternity is…forever. Hell is real. Heaven is your home.

Throughout this Lenten season, my dear readers, we all must do penance and seek contrition for our downfalls. It is the time. You’re given no other day than the present, for the past is gone and the future doesn’t exist yet. Remember the words of the psalmist when you become weary, and the gospels when you despair. Remember the constant presence of God, who has given us everything, including His Own Son. His Own Mother. His Own Body. His Own Church. We need not fear Clothos, we need not fear the slowing draw of the thread of life. We need only to hope, to fear, to adore, to glorify, to adore the passion of Our Lord. Go to confession.

Go to Him, all of you that labour and weep, all who face darkness, and ask Him to be your eyes: go to Him, let Him embrace you. For you are His. He will give you rest.

 

Advertisements

A Woman’s Right to Choose

One particular person I admire, who is dear to my heart, and remains on my mind every time I pray, is my great grandmother. Nan Uí Bhriain – everyone called her Nan O’Brien – yet she faithfully wrote the full form of her name.

She gave birth to six children, my grandmother was the second; she struggled to carry many children to full term, and so many passed on within the womb. She was a remarkable woman so I’m told. I never did meet her, yet her legacy lives on like a river that never dries up. She died when my own ‘Nan’ was 15. My great-grandfather was stricken with grief from that day on, unable to cope with her loss. He turned to alcohol often, but more often relied on my grandmother – now the oldest; my uncle (the firstborn) had drowned in a boating accident, which added to their collective grief.

But ‘Nan O’Brien’ was a force from God. While her husband worked, she also worked – along with raising a family, she was the housekeeper for the rectory and its four priests. She met many throughout her life, one whose cause for canonisation is at the diocesan level and remains an unofficial patron of the town she loved and lived in. She taught her children that love was an unconditional thing, and that anyone you met was subject to it. I know this is true because of how my own dear nan responds to the people around her: she brings food to her sick friends, and she admonishes those she knows who have gone wrong or members of our family who have made great mistakes, yet she always tells them she loves them. I think whoever meets her confrontation knows her forgiveness is at the end of the tunnel, because she forgives all of her friends, all of our family.

Is that a perfect family? Of course not! Besides the Holy Family, no family is perfect. My grandmother has told me of many lessons she learned in her life, and one of those was about life and forgiveness. Broad topics, eh?

One night as my grandmother lay in bed, her mother came trotting home from her friend’s house. She burst through the bottom door crying, weeping, screeching for her husband. About ten minutes later, after he asked her what’s wrong, he apparently ran outside and cried on the bank behind the house. Half an hour later, everyone was asleep.

Nine months later, my grandmother had a new younger sister.

My dear readers, I confide in you: the dear public, a lesson. That night when love wept, a woman was taken by another’s husband. By force, not by choice. My great-grandmother was raped, and she conceived of a child.

The night of tears wasn’t an ordeal. It was a moment: reality came to light, human vengeance perished, and love overcame all.

My grandmother told me about this after we watched a programme about abortion. Nan always wore her faith on her sleeve. Someone in my family was conceived in an unorthodox way, yet lives today as a mother and wife, an aunt and friend herself.

Abortion is murder.

How He Loves Us!

He found it hard to focus on the light, because the strength and depth of the void between them was far too blighting, far more gentler, and slightly more beautiful than the stars which mapped the heavens.

Water moved below his feet, slapping against concrete, holding the River Thames together. Finite, finished, feeling. “Oh just to plunge, to drown – to fall into the depths of darkness and complete this earthly journey…”

The young man prayed, and Jesus came. Consumed by divine love and ardour, he took up his pen. Then he wrote a hymn, words of hope and an expression for reason. A true reason, the only reason for to live.

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o’er them from the throne!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
‘Tis an ocean vast of blessing, ’tis a haven sweet of rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ’tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!

Samuel Trevor Francis is the author. Although a member of the non-conformist Plymouth Brethren, as a lay preacher, his sentiments are contained in no ecclesial community specifically, and reign in the fulness of truth when we consider the profound truth of Christ’s holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Perhaps if Francis were a member of the Church, he might have been completely consumed in the fire of Divine Love, with access to the Body and Blood of our loving Saviour himself.

I love this hymn. Quite often I find myself lost in the void of darkness, carrying the burden of a sadness so inhibiting and burdensome that I wonder if I can carry on until the next day. I have never been suicidal, because it is the love of God alone who guards me from those thoughts. It is my faith that drives me, because I know that God wants every individual here on Earth for a divine reason. I know I am loved, and I know who is my master, and it is not myself.

“How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!” How true are these words! How He loves us! Each Sunday we are privy to His own flesh and blood, soul and divinity!

Though unworthy, how He loveth! 

To all who carry their cross, never despair. Always hope, and if you can’t hope, pray. Then you will be given the grace to hope. Never stop praying.

20234865_1_x

The Good Shepherd – Voelkel

Cars don’t fit in Coffins

Eventually, eventually, we travel our way through life and learn to love those we love for whatever their meaning is to us. Sometimes the memory of unrequited love becomes a theme to our lives, and we stay attached to what we couldn’t have as if we had already had it but it was torn from us with great force.

Perhaps, we fall in love with a thing; a favourite toy or keepsake, perhaps with sentimental value. Perhaps it was a moment in the sand of time, a glimmer in which we saw heaven or felt the flames of hell. Then, we are stuck with that recollection through all the rest of the days in our short lives.

But when our last breath draws nigh and the angel of death descends at our last hour, we cannot say “ah just wait, I need my bracelet.” No, we take nothing of our earthly possessions. We leave all things unclaimed, for it matters not then. Our fate is eternal, and though the Lord might send us on a purgatorial quest on earth to some final battle or cleansing fire, we will never again require that which we had previously owned. We see this in the saints, who before us, have perfected humility and non-attachment. It is a virtue we ought to pray for now, since our attachment to the physical object in our ownership is a defining feature: it decides how people look at us, how we compare ourselves to the ‘other’, and which social class or societies in which we mix.

To be truly poor is to be rich. Consider how the great perfect imitator of the Sacred Heart, St Francis, abandoned all his wealth and nobility to pursue true love of his common man, exercising therefore a great understanding of the human condition and of God’s great goodness and love. He one said, “…if you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.” Does this mean to say then that the greatest possession we can obtain is virtue? I think so. In Aristotelian flavour, we can only become virtuous if we practise those virtues. This, we take to the grave because it is the key by which we open Heaven’s gate; it is the seed by which grace is planted and infused by God. Yet, by asking God for His grace, He gives us these virtues, through the hands of His Most Blessed Mother.

Now, this is not to say at all that being rich is at all a vice. Quite the opposite, in fact. Money is not a problem, it is the use of currency which is – its theft, by communism, being a major evil in this world. But, our wilful use of our riches to afford the poor a better living? A true commandment of Our Blessed Saviour, in true imitation of Him.

“Dies Irae” is a text commonly sung at Requiems and at the Office of the Dead. The second verse reads as following:

What horror must invade the mind
when the approaching Judge shall find
and sift the deeds of all mankind!

We don’t hear enough of this, do we? He is to sift the deeds of all mankind. And through which gate will we enter? I pray one with angels and saints.

 

The Banality of Hell

This evening at the vigil Mass, we had a visiting priest – or rather, a priest originally from our town returned to offer Mass. He was always very intelligent: spiritually, theologically, liturgically. His heart truly carried each word of the beloved sacrifice to his lips, visibly stirred his soul.

Now, for a long while we have been under the, um, regime of a rather particular vicar who years ago was silenced for speaking out in support of same-sex marriage™ but somehow was reconciled to stable ministry. Today, during the intercessions, I watched a pleasant rouge fade to a placid grey as the intercessor, through no fault of his own, beseeched us all to “pray for people of all faiths, that we may come to know the truths in all the religions of the world.” This was quite a trick on behalf of our regular parish priest; an intentional shot from the arrow of contempt for good and solid theology, and the sensibility of a pious priest.

Notice the wording. I trust my memory in this case, because it disturbed my conscience that we as Catholics should be praying for others to basically remain pagan and not led home to the truth of the Church. Notice the banality of it – for people of all faiths – know the truths in all the religions of the world – we could interpret that in various ways, really. But the common individual would hear “all religions are equal and good.” In addition, one could think that by virtue of the word “truth”s perhaps it really is a plea for conversion, as the truth can only be found in one spot in fullness; a thing cannot be half true or a quarter truth. But the Church, in her holy wisdom, does not deny that people of diverse belief can come to know some truth: quantity vs. substance.

But recall the nature of ourselves: somewhat genteel, or possibly selfish. We often tend to follow the crowd, as the pack mentality consumes our more definable individuality – we see this in the world: the rise of socialist politics and self-entitled teenagers whining because they refuse to work for an education and want it on the taxpayers wallet, or, the “public purse.” See how they riot? In New Orleans a group of protestors wanted to tear down a statue of St Joan of Arc, confusing her with some civil war figure or other. Notice this new iconoclasm of sorts? History repeats itself.

But now, more than ever, we ought to be apt in claiming the truth of God’s glorious redemption; His redeeming love, and His Mother’s role in salvation. Now, more than ever, in this age of nihilism and absurdity – we should strive to lead souls HOME to Christ, not confirming their position in Buddhism. We were warned by the Lord to not be lukewarm.

There is truth. Let’s stick to it. Why are we so adverse to obedience? Why do our own members reject our own teaching! We need to pray. We need to love and protect and pray for our priests and bishops. They are how God communicates with us, and those men are whom God chose to be His soul-keepers.

Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae!

The Angelus of the Most Blessed Mother for the Persecuted Christians in the Middle East, for the Anglican Ordinariate, and for the Faith in Japan and Korea.

The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary:
And she conceived of the Holy Spirit. 

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of
our death. Amen.

Behold the handmaid of the Lord: Be it done unto me according to Thy word.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of
our death. Amen.

And the Word was made Flesh: And dwelt amongst us.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of
our death. Amen.

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:

Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord.

Amen.

 

Religious Opinion

Last night I was graced with the presence of some of the most highly renowned 17-16 year old intellectuals on the island. My good friend and myself were camping with them, and when got everything around the fire so we could roast a decent marshmallow without cremation, the religious opinions broke out: peacefully, but in the way that the lark in the morning sweeps up the worm by surprise.

Of course this little gathering was not unlike the congregation of the finest educated minds at a pub near the finest and superior universities, so they thought, and their speech was that of foreign “grandiosity” (if I could use that instead of pretentious).

It’s hard for me to, in all honesty, take them seriously when they get at it because there’s just so much hot air that a boiler would push itself off the stove in embarrassment. It didn’t get steamy, but I found it a great insight, on my part, into the mind of he that aligneth himself not. Religion is useless, harmful, a dangerous corruption of civilisation. The very civilisation that is threatened by our religiosity, is one that was built and reared on the rock that is faith in Christ.

As it goes now, Christ is endangering the common good of the common man, in his common home and his common thought. I feel bad and angry at myself because I didn’t speak up. I couldn’t honestly take what they were saying, as something they were serious about. I had a hard time trying to understand if they were joking, or saying it just to see if I’d react? I wasn’t sure. I don’t really care, in all honesty, because you’ve got to base your reactions upon the character of each person. We all want an honest conversation, and we all know we’re right. Don’t go clawing and screaming at someone as if they were a wooden head with a mouth.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. Gospel of St Matthew 5:44

If our aim is to be Christlike in all our actions, then who can we look to but Christ himself? He is our Master and our King. To imitate him is the greatest of all struggles because we have that pride and self-righteous idea that we are somehow better than all that breathes and God only knows how many days I’ve woken up with that attitude: Huff-puff, I know better, no one is greater than me. These are the days I need a good friend with a good rugby ball to smack me over the head. To match the logician, we’ve got to use our God-given logic. Pray, pray, pray. There’s no greater thing than prayer. This is more of a reminder to myself I’d say, than to back up what I’m saying.

When a friend upsets us, forgive him, but help correct him as well. Don’t get defensive. Say that “you understand why he thinks that because it’s certainly what it looks like, however, consider this (fill in the blank).” If I was a devout soul, I would frequent the sacraments much more than I do now. I’d say many more Rosaries than I do now. I’d walk the way of the Cross, the Via Dolorosa, much more than just at the beginning of Lent. Our good behaviour, our manners and inner peace depends on the faith we have and in our willingness to cooperate in divine providence and in God’s will. I’m ashamed at how many times I’ve sat by and let those who are genuinely ignorant of the truth in the Church because all they’ve been exposed to is the media’s perception and outlook, and let them criticise what they don’t really understand. Just the same can be said about me, when I sit and type a criticism of those who believe what they do. I certainly don’t know what they’ve been exposed to on television, the internet, radio, in school; and that is why our prayers make all the difference.

The world is unkind to any Christian. We have no spiritual weaponry ready at hand, but if we frequently met Christ at the fortress of forgiveness, the door to the confessional, and we poured our hearts out knowing that there is a forgiving and loving God always at our side, if we received Him in the Holy Eucharist, and adored His very flesh with a devout and pious spirit? Our words would flow as smooth as honey, sweet as the dew, never without the guidance of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother. Our heart would achieve it’s peace, and the burden of our cross would be as if the wood hollowed out. 

O Christian Soul, hold onto Holy Mother Church, and make use of her great traditions. Earth will survive us, I’m sure.