The Priest A Soldier

THE PRIEST A SOLDIER

“Labora sicut bonus miles Christi Jesu.”

“Share in suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”

2 Timothy 2:3

The priest is more than once compared by St. Paul to a soldier; and rightly so, for the more of the soldier there is in him, the better a priest he is. We therefore dedicate this article to the Servant of God Fr. Emil Joseph Kapaun (April 20, 1916 – May 23, 1951). Fr. Kapaun was a Roman Catholic priest and United States Army captain who served as a United States Army chaplain during World War II and the Korean War. Kapaun was a chaplain in the Burma Theater of World War II, then the Battle of Unsan and served again as a chaplain with the U.S. Army in Korea, where he was captured. He died in a prisoner of war camp. Recipient of Medal of Honour, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal with “V” Device, Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman Badge, Purple Heart, Prisoner of War Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star, World War II Victory Medal, Army of Occupation Medal with Japan Clasp, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal with two Bronze Service Stars, Combat Infantryman Badge, Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, United Nations Korea Medal, Republic of Korea War Service Medal. In 1993 the biggest honour of all, St. John Paul declared him a Servant of God, the first stage on the path to canonisation.

Fr. Kapaun is not the only priest soldier but he is an outstanding example of one and we felt he should be included in this article as one of our persons who inspires.

At first sight, nothing seems more opposed than the two callings, but a closer examination reveals the fact that several of their leading features are the same. The same general conditions of life are found in both, and the same qualities are required.

1. The priest, like the soldier, once engaged is no longer free; he is no longer at liberty to forsake his profession, and to turn to any of the pursuits of life which were previously open to him. He cannot even combine them, to any extent, with the duties he has assumed. “No man” says St. Paul (ibid), being a soldier to God, entangleth himself with secular business” That is, he has no right to do so. The soldier has ceased to belong to himself. His very life is not his own. The Roman soldier that St. Paul had in mind was separated from family, kindred, home, country; indeed, everywhere the soldier’s life is a life of detachment. In active warfare he has to hold himself always in readiness; at any time he may be called upon to face certain death. And therefore he is best without a family. If he has left behind him persons tenderly loved. It is not good that he should give them much thought; such memories would unman him. In a word, the life of a soldier in active service is a life of detachment, of self-devotion; a ready gift of his energies, and, if need be, of his life, to the service of his country.

What else is the life of a priest, if he is true to his calling? His time, his energies, hiss influence, all his gifts, belong to the great purpose for which he became a priest. Like St. Paul, he is ready to give his very life for it: But I most gladly will spend and be spent myself for your souls? — 2 Corinthians 12:15.

2. The qualities of the soldier are no less necessary in the priest, — courage, endurance discipline. The true soldier is the type of courage. He is fearless in presence of danger, or, if fear is awakened in him, he does not yield to it, else he would branded as a coward. But his courage is only occasionally appealed to, whereas his power of endurance is taxed at every hour. Long marches, scanty provisions, excessive heat or cold, lack of shelter, sickness, — these are what try the soldier much more than facing the enemy. This is why St. Paul does not say: “Have courage; be brave;” but “suffer hardship” for such is the meaning of the Greek term, κόπος, rendered in the Vulgate by the word labora. Last of all, but not least, discipline. In the Roman army discipline was of the strictest kind, and the oath of obedience (sacramentum) was looked upon as the most sacred of all. In man, as in nature, only disciplined power is useful. Uncontrolled, it wastes itself, and often proves destructive.

Courage, too, is a requirement of the priesthood; physical courage sometimes, moral courage always. To be faithful to duty, at any cost; to live up to his convictions whatever others may say; to speak out for the right, to censure and to oppose what is wrong; to carry out necessary but unpopular measures; to face; the risk of being misunderstood or blamed, or to forfeit certain advantages sooner than relinquish a useful purpose, — all this is necessary in the priest and it means in all cases to have true moral courage.

The power of endurance is not less necessary. The life of a priest, if he strives to meet all the requirements of his position, is generally a trying one. His mission may be what is called a hard one. The demands upon his physical strength may be as much, as he can bear. His patience is tried in numberless ways. Among those with whom he is placed in contact, there are the thoughtless, the unreasonable, the obstinate, the deceitful, the selfish, the ungrateful; he has to bear with all, and strive by dint of gentleness and forbearance to win them to Christ.

Finally, his life has to be one of order, of rule, of discipline. In many things he is left to his own initiative; but in a still larger number he is under rule, — the rule of the Gospel and the rules of the Church. His action as a priest is individual in one sense, in another it is collective, that is, associated with the action of the Church herself and of her representatives. In both it is equally withdrawn from capriciousness and subject to law.

But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who calls on the name of the Lord turn away from wickedness.”

“It is the soldier’s pride to fight for his king; what an honour to be the soldier of Christ! But if campaigning means endurance, he who endureth not is no soldier” — St. John Chrysostom on 2 Timothy

A Good Soldier of Christ Jesus

You then, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus; and what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well. Share in suffering like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving in the army gets entangled in everyday affairs; the soldier’s aim is to please the enlisting officer. And in the case of an athlete, no one is crowned without competing according to the rules. It is the farmer who does the work who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in all things. Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David—that is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful — for he cannot deny himself.

A Worker Approved by God

Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth. Avoid profane chatter, for it will lead people into more and more impiety, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth by claiming that the resurrection has already taken place. They are upsetting the faith of some. But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who calls on the name of the Lord turn away from wickedness.”

In a large house there are utensils not only of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for special use, some for ordinary. All who cleanse themselves of the things I have mentioned will become special utensils, dedicated and useful to the owner of the house, ready for every good work. Shun youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, and that they may escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

Please pray for our priests, remembering especially our military chaplains and Vocations in your daily conversation with God. We in turn remember you collectively in our prayers. May the Lord our God walk always at your side and the Holy Spirit’s breath guide your life.

Pax et Bonum

Algerian martyrs bear witness

Below you will find the complete text of the homily of Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and Special Envoy of the Holy Father, as pronounced during the celebration of the beatification of the 19 martyrs of Algeria at the Shrine of Our Lady of Santa Cruz d’Oran:

Dear brothers and sisters !

The passage of Apocalypse (Rev. 7:9-17), proclaimed in the second reading, introduces us to the “immense crowd” (v.9) of those who have already reached the goal of eternal salvation towards which we are all on the road: the kingdom of hope, the kingdom of those who see God as He is. The Apostle John in his vision rich in symbols sees them standing in front of the throne of God, “dressed in white robes”, the colour of divine light and paschal glory. But the whiteness of the robes is obtained by plunging them into the red blood of Christ: these elect have experienced the “great trial; they have washed their robes, they have whitened them with the blood of the Lamb “(v.14). The splendour is reached through the crucible of suffering, of self-giving, of the cross. By participating in the passion and death of Jesus, the king of martyrs, we reach the light: per crucem ad lucem (by the cross to the light) says the ancient Christian saying. In this way “what remains to suffer from the trials of Christ in my own flesh, I fulfil it for his body which is the Church” (Col 1:24) underlines St. Paul.

Those saved hold in their hands a palm, which in the Old Testament is the sign of triumph and acclamation; the suffering, the rigorous engagement of the testimony, the renunciation of oneself do not lead to death but introduce into the glory; they do not produce failure but life and happiness. The scene of the Apocalypse then shows the mighty chorus of saints singing with a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and the Lamb” (Rev 7:10).

The text of the Apocalypse has thus traced to us the portrait of the blessed and the saint: it belongs only to God, it appears in every point of the earth and at every period of history, it lives with fidelity even in the ordeal In traversing the way of the cross, he reaches the glorious goal of eternity, where he will live forever in joy, in song, in glory, in that infinite whirlwind of light and peace, which is God.

In the immense crowd of those who have reached a fate of glory, the Church wants to call today by name 19 new Blessed, killed between 1994 and 1996 in different places and times but in the same restless context. On this earth, here in Algeria, they announced the Lord’s unconditional love for the poor and the outcast, testifying to their belonging to Christ and the Church to the point of martyrdom. It is beautiful to think now that they are among those who have gone through “the great trial and have washed their robes and have bleached them with the blood of the Lamb” (verse 14). Coming from eight different Institutes, our brothers and sisters lived in this country where they performed various missions; they were strong and persevering in their service of the Gospel and the people, despite the threatening climate of violence and oppression that surrounded them. Reading their biographies we are struck by the fact that everyone, well aware of the risk they run, courageously decided to stay on the spot until the end; in them has developed a strong spirituality of martyrdom rooted in the prospect of sacrificing themselves and offering their lives for a society of reconciliation and peace.

Blessed Pierre Claverie and his 18 companions and companions martyrs carry on them the salvific seal of the Redemption of Christ. By inscribing their names in the book of the saved and blessed, the Church wishes to recognise the exemplarity of their virtuous life, the heroism of the death of these extraordinary peacemakers and witnesses of fraternity, and at the same time , to pay the highest homage to Jesus, Redeemer of man. In Christ, the Church desires to worship the living God: since the glory of God is the man who receives from him the fullness of life.

This fullness of life, the Virgin Mary – whose Immaculate Conception we are celebrating today – has experienced it in an incomparable way, when the Archangel Gabriel announced to her that she had found favour with God and that by the action of the Holy Spirit she would conceive of Jesus, the Son of the Most High. “Rejoice, full of grace: the Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28). We too, today, contemplating these new Blessed, are invited to overcome all narrow-mindedness and to rejoice, because in them we see the mystery of the eternal sanctity of God shine forth; holiness which is offered to us through a new actualisation of the Gospel by our martyrs who witnessed it until the shedding of blood. We remember them as faithful followers of Christ who loved poverty, who were sensitive to suffering and caring for the abandoned, who took part in the anguish and affliction of their brethren. These heroic witnesses to the love of Jesus have gone to the very root of the experience that man has of his own limits: humiliation, tears, persecution.

They fully complied with the sacrifice of Christ who, according to the prophet Isaiah, identified himself with the suffering Servant of the Lord; he who, as we have heard in the first reading, offering himself “as a sacrifice of reparation, […] as a result of his torments, will see the light and justify the multitudes” (Is 53:10b.-11). This happens precisely by the Cross, since in the death of Jesus God has definitely become close to humanity and man has become fully conscious of his dignity and elevation. By their death as martyrs, the new Blessed also entered into the light of God, and from above they watch over the persons whom they have served and loved, praying unceasingly for all, even for those who have them. struck. They continue this prophetic mission of mercy and forgiveness, which they have witnessed during their earthly life. May their example inspire in all the desire to promote what Pope Francis has defined as “the culture of mercy that gives birth to a true revolution” (Apostolic Letter Misericordia et misera, 20 Nov. 2016). By welcoming the dynamic of forgiveness, admirably experienced by the new Blessed, we hope that Algeria can definitely overcome this terrible period of violence and misery and we pray for it!

The tragic death of Blessed Peter Claverie and his 18 companions and companions martyrs is a seed fallen in the ground in difficult times, fertilised by suffering that will bring fruits of reconciliation and justice. This is our mission as Christians: to sow every day the seeds of evangelical peace, to enjoy the fruits of justice. By this beatification we would say to Algeria as a whole only this: the Church wants nothing more than to serve the Algerian people, testifying to her love for all.

In all parts of the world, Christians are motivated by the desire to contribute concretely to build a bright future of hope through the wisdom of peace, to build a society based on mutual respect, collaboration, and love. Such a society can be fully realised if everyone strives to develop the pedagogy of forgiveness, if necessary also in this country.

The Christian community in this country is spreading small but significant seeds of peace. Through this Beatification, she can feel comforted in her presence in Algeria; by these 19 martyrs, strengthen her belief that her precious presence near this people is justified by the desire to be a light and sign of the love of God for the whole population.

The luminous witness of these Blessed is a living and close example for all. Their life and their death is a direct call to all of us Christians, and especially to you, brothers or sisters in religious life, to be faithful at all costs to your own vocation, serving the Gospel and the Church in a lifetime. true fraternity, perseverance and witness to the radical choice of God.

I can not end without expressing deep gratitude to the religious congregations to which our brothers belonged as well as to their natural families who have suffered so much from their loss, but who now can rejoice with the whole Church to know them blessed in heaven. We are all comforted by the certainty that our martyred brothers and sisters, by their sacrifice, by their constant intercession and by their protection, will produce on this earth abundant fruits of goodness and fraternal sharing.

For this we address them and say: Blessed Peter Claverie and his companions and companions martyrs, pray for us!

[Original text: French]

Second Sunday in Advent: the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The feast of the Immaculate reminds humanity that there is only one thing that truly pollutes mankind: saying NO to God, which is sin. It is a very urgent and valuable message to be shared.

+ from the Gospel according to Luke 1:26-38

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[c] will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

The solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary and the second Sunday of Advent this year are in days of rapid succession. At this time which prepares us for Christmas, the Church wants to introduce us to Mary, the Woman whom God has chosen throughout eternity to be the Mother of His Son, Jesus. To be honest, Advent is actually a Marian time: the time when Mary made room in her womb for the Redeemer of the world; the time when the Virgin brought within herself the expectations and hopes of all of humanity.

Advent signifies the first historical coming of Jesus, Mary has not only been waiting for Him with her people, but has prepared for Him and made it possible because she is the Mother of the Expected. If Advent then tells us of the second and last coming of Christ when He brings liberation and definitive salvation, Mary – who is already in glory – anticipates the future that the Church expects. Mary is now already what the Church will be, when her Lord will come.

The Immaculate Conception is a dogma of faith, an undisputed truth affirmed by Pope Pius IX on 8 December 1854, who wrote: “The most blessed Virgin Mary in the first instant of her conception, by singular grace and privilege of almighty God and in view of merit of Jesus Christ, saviour of the human race, has been kept immune from all stains of original sin”.

Four years later the Virgin appeared at the grotto of Lourdes to St. Bernadette announcing herself with the words: “I am the Immaculate Conception“.

The texts of the words of God of this solemnity lead precisely to this mystery of weakness and sanctity of humanity.

Genesis refers to a rebellion against God at the beginning of creation. For his part, the apostle Paul in his Letter to the ancient inhabitants of Ephesus recalls the great dignity to which God has elevated all of mankind, predestining them to be holy and immaculate in His loving presence.

The Gospel of Luke narrates in great detail the moment of the annunciation. The Archangel Gabriel called Mary full of grace and announced to her the birth of the Redeemer in her virgin womb, after giving her assent to God who chose her throughout eternity to be the Mother of His Son. Imagine her shock, her fears! What must have gone through her mind.  Yet her love and trust in God made her accept this gift and great responsibility. It is likely that Luke may have met Mary of Nazareth in person. Tradition tells us that Luke was first to paint the image of the Mother of God with her Son cradled in her arms.

Dear friends,

God has not yet finished to be filled with wonder by what he has achieved in Mary. God never tires of contemplating her, astonished and captivated in light of the work that has been so perfectly successful. Our joyful wonderment before Mary shares the very wonder of God. With her saying YES to God, Mary has traveled her path of faith to the feet of the cross. In imitation of the Mother our faith must also be translated into daily works, coherent choices and obedience of love to God. It is a strenuous YES to be verbalised to God, after the equally fatiguing NO that we must say to sin.

Mary is immaculate also because she has never said NO to God.

The feast of the Immaculate reminds humanity that there is only one thing that truly pollutes mankind: saying NO to God, which is sin. It is a very urgent and valuable message to be shared. Mankind have lost their perception of sin. Mary is our point of reference, the polar star of our purity and of our hope of living in this world more holily and in a manner responsive to God’s plans and to his divine will.

She is our model for a holy life. Woman all of God, Mary. She is the mother and sister of those who are on the way, seekers of meaning and truth, to find a final and definitive harbour to their thirst for the infinite. For this reason we must never tire of looking at her, of invoking her, of imitating her in her virtues and in her daily following of Christ and of his Gospel. She, the YES Woman, facilitates total and trustful adhesion to the Word which, alone, is able to change the history and the hearts of those who welcome it and let it flourish in all its beauty and goodness.

Mary leaves us an example to follow. If the work of salvation is a gift of God’s love, its realisation in us then requires our availability. As God asked Mary for her collaboration for the birth and human nurturing of Jesus, so it requires from us all a “yes” of faith, a yes through which He invites us to trust Him and that we entrust ourselves to Him.

His Holiness Pope Paul VI recalled:

“The purity of Mary is a purity conceived in the first moment, deeply inserted into the being and the history of this exceptional creature.We must bring our purity, our love to the virtue in the heart, where our thoughts are born, where we truly are ourselves, in the cenacle of our thoughts, there we must be God’s love, there, desiring to be good and pure, there to try to filter out the bad impressions that arise inside and outside of us and look for the flame of purpose there Christian is pure, and if we do not succeed in doing so, then the Mystery of purity and of victory that we have contemplated puts this invocation on our lips: Our Lady, give us strength, give us virtue, give us what we lack. Mary, who is not a distant and alien being, but is our Mother, marvellous and infallible Mother, to whom she invokes her she will give this strength and this purity”.

We should be fascinated by the beauty that radiates from the Immaculate Virgin. It reflects an image pervaded by the love of God that makes us capable of love, inhabited by the fullness of life that comes from Him and is an advance of eternal life.

Let us therefore continue to look to Mary as a sign of consolation and sure hope and learn from her this simple but profound lesson: “The more you renounce what is yours, the more God will offer you what is his.”

May the Lord grant us, through the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin, our Mother, our exemplar and our guide, to go and meet Him in holiness and purity of heart and spirit.

PRAY WITH ME:-  O Father, who in the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed ever Virgin Mary prepared a worthy abode for Your Son, and in anticipation of His death You have preserved her from every stain of sin, grant us also, through her intercession, to come to meet You in holiness and purity of spirit. Amen.

UK: Discrimination against Christian Refugees

The UN recommended 1,358 Syrian refugees for resettlement in Britain during the first quarter of 2018, of whom only four were Christians. Britain agreed to resettle 1,112 of these refugees, all of whom were Muslims, and refused to accept the Christians.

“As last year’s statistics more than amply demonstrate, this is not a statistical blip. It shows a pattern of discrimination that the Government has a legal duty to take concrete steps to address.” — Lord David Alton of Liverpool, in a letter to UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid.

What specific initiatives, other than empty words, does the UK government aim to take to rectify the damage that has already been done and to prevent it from happening again?

The British government appears recently to have decided that it would like to give the impression that it cares about persecuted Christians. Prime Minister Theresa May said in Parliament on July 18:

“As a Government we stand with persecuted Christians all over the world and will continue to support them. It is hard to comprehend that today we still see people being attacked and murdered because of their Christianity, but we must reaffirm our determination to stand up for the freedom of people of all religions and beliefs and for them to be able to practise their beliefs in peace and security.”

The British Government even recently appointed its first Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief with Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, a former minister, filling the post. According to the government, the role “will promote the UK’s firm stance on religious tolerance abroad, helping to tackle religious discrimination in countries where minority faith groups face persecution”.

Prime Minister May said she looked “forward to supporting [Lord Ahmad] in this new role as he works with faith groups and governments across the world to raise understanding of religious persecution and what we can do to eliminate it.”

Perhaps the UK should not be so quick to preach to others, when it does not appear to be doing much at home to help Syrian Christians, who have been among the most persecuted for their faith since the civil war in Syria began seven years ago:

According to information obtained from the UK Home Office by the Barnabas Fund, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), during the first quarter of 2018, recommended 1,358 Syrian refugees for resettlement in the UK, of which only four refugees were Christians (no Yazidis were recommended). The Home Office agreed to resettle 1,112 of these refugees, all of whom were Muslims, and refused to accept the Christians.

This decision was made despite the fact that approximately 10% of the pre-2011 population of Syria was Christian – a number that has reportedly fallen to 5%. There were also an estimated 70,000 Yazidis in Syria. Yazidis, with Christians, were among the groups most viciously targeted by ISIS in Syria and Iraq. In 2017, moreover, according to the Barnabas Fund, the UNHCR recommended 7,060 Syrian refugees for resettlement in the UK, of whom only 25 were Christians and seven were Yazidis. The Home Office ended up accepting 4,850 Syrian refugees – of whom only 11 were Christians.

While the UK appears to favor Muslim refugees over Christian ones, the fault does not lie with the UK alone. Lord David Alton of Liverpool, a life peer in the House of Lords, wrote in a letter to Home Secretary Sajid Javid:

“There is widespread belief, justified or not, among the religious minorities of Syria that the UNHCR is biased against them. The UK has a legal obligation to ensure it does not turn a blind eye to either direct or indirect perceived discrimination by the UN.

“It is widely accepted that Christians, who constituted around 10 per cent of Syria’s pre-war population, were specifically targeted by jihadi rebels and continue to be at risk.

“…As last year’s statistics more than amply demonstrate, this is not a statistical blip. It shows a pattern of discrimination that the Government has a legal duty to take concrete steps to address.”

There certainly does appear to be “a pattern of discrimination” that has been ongoing since at least 2015. According to the Barnabas Fund, the UNHCR, in 2016, recommended 7,499 refugees to the UK, of whom only 27 were Christians and five were Yazidis. In 2015, out of 2,637 recommended refugees, 43 were Christians and 13 were Yazidis.

In December 2016, Nina Shea, Director of the Center for Religious Freedom of the Hudson Institute, asked the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees at the time, António Guterres, to explain the disproportionately low number of Syrian Christians resettled abroad by the UN. “Mr. Guterres said that generally Syria’s Christians should not be resettled, because they are part of the ‘DNA of the Middle East,'” writes Shea.

Guterres’ statement was a blunt admission of the UN’s apparent disregard for Christian lives, not least because only 9 months earlier, in March 2016, US Secretary of State John Kerry had said, “(ISIS) is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control including Yazidis, Christians and Shiite Muslims”. The UN itself stated in September 2005:

“[A]t the United Nations World Summit, all Member States formally accepted the responsibility of each State to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. that all member states had accepted “the responsibility of each State to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity… world leaders also agreed that when any State fails to meet that responsibility, all States (the “international community”) are responsible for helping to protect people threatened with such crimes.”.

The apparent discrimination against Christians by the United Kingdom and the UNHCR is all the more disturbing in light of studies that find Christians to be the most persecuted faith in the world. Christians are “the most widely targeted religious community, suffering terrible persecution globally”, according to a 2017 study by the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture, the Religious Freedom Institute and Georgetown University’s Religious Freedom Research Project. In June, the ninth annual Pew Research Center report on global religious restrictions also found that Christianity was still the world’s most persecuted faith, with Christians being harassed in more countries (144) than any other group.

In light of these facts, it would certainly appear, as Lord Alton states in his letter, that the UK has indeed been “turning a blind eye” to the plight of Christian (and Yazidi) refugees for several years. Now that May has announced that her government stands with persecuted Christians all over the world, the question remains: What specific initiatives, other than empty words, does the UK government aim to take to rectify the damage that has already been done and to prevent further damage?

REFLECTIONS FOR OUR LORD’S ADVENT. (2018)

In what manner does it befit us to be prepared on the Advent of so great a Power; that so, joyous and glad of heart, we may be counted among the worthy and receive our Lord with honour and praise;

NOW that the most sacred and solemn day is approaching, when our Saviour in his Mercy wasScreenshot 2018-12-02 at 12.27.33 pleased to be born among men, consider diligently, beloved brothers and sisters, in what manner does it befit us to be prepared on the Advent of so great a Power; so that, joyous and glad of heart, we may be counted among the worthy and receive our Lord with honour and praise; and in His sight being able to rejoice with thankfulness, amidst the blessed companies of the Saints, rather than to be cast off by Him as punishment for our vileness, and to deserve, with the sinners, everlasting confusion. Therefore, I would ask and pray, that with the help of God we labour all we can, so that on that day we may be able with a conscience pure of offence, clean heart and chaste body,  draw near to the Altar of the Lord, and deserve to receive RequirementsHis Body and Blood, rather than His condemnation, for our soul’s wellbeing. For in the Body of Christ stands our life; even as Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” John 6:53  Let him, then, change his life who desires to receive Life.  For except he change his life, he will receive a Life of condemnation; and will be corrupted by it rather than healed, killed rather than made alive.  As the Apostle has said: “For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.” 1 Cor. 11:29.

And although it befits us at all times to be adorned and resplendent with good  works, most importantly on the day of our Lord’s Nativity, as He himself tells us in the Gospel, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16  I beg you to consider, my brothers and sisters, when any man in power or of noble birth desires to celebrate his own birthday, or that of a son or daughter, how meticulously and for how many days beforehand he looks to what is dirty in hisconscience house, and orders it to be cleaned anything he sees as dirty or disorderly in his house; order that which is trivial and messy to be thrown out, and what is useful and necessary to be displayed; the house, too, if it is gloomy, to be whitewashed or re-decorated; the floors are swept and mopped, the rooms embellished with various flowers and decorations; and whatever serves to gladden the mind and comfort the body is provided with all care for the festivities. And why is all this done, beloved brothers and sisters, if not to celebrate with joy the birthday of some perishable mortal?  If, then, such preparations are made on your own birthday, or that of a son or daughter or spouse, how many, and what kind of preparations should we make for the Birthday of Our Lord? If you prepare all these things for a mortal, what should you to prepare for the Eternal? Whatever, then, you would be unwilling to find, so far as you can help it, in your house, strive that God does not find in your soul.  

Were some earthly king or leader of a family to invite you to  their birthday festivities, what type of outfit would you wear — how new or clean would they be; how soul adornedelegant — so that none of their oldness, or their wear and tear or plainness or dirt on them would offend your host?  You would ensure that you are presentable, fit in, make an impression.  With the same eagerness, you should therefore strive, with the help of Christ, to arrive at the solemn feast of the Eternal King with a clear conscience; to the birthday of your Lord and Saviour; your soul complete in all the garments of holiness, adorned with the jewels of simplicity, the flowers of abstinence, chaste in mind and body, noble in charity and in the white garments of donation.  For Christ the Lord, perceiving that you are accordingly prepared for the celebration of His birthday, will condescend Himself, in His own Person, to come to you, not only to visit your souls, but to rest there and dwell there forever.  As it is written: “I will live in them and move among them,” [2 Cor. 6:16] and again, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me.” [Rev. 3:20]. Just  imagine how happy a soul that seeks, with the help of God, to order their life in such a manner that they will be deserving of Christ’s visit and Him knocking at your door so that He may, as a guest, dwell within you!  Alternatively, how miserable would your conscience be, filled with a flood of tears and mourn, the evil works that have so mutilate you; that have placed you so far from Christ that instead of Him resting in your soul, you have allowed the devil to rule there instead!  A soul such as this, unless the soothing balm of penance comes to its aid, will be abandoned by the light and instead will be dominated and taken over by darkness, corruption and immorality.  This soul will be emptied of any remaining sweetness which will be replaced with bitterness and bile, it will become a quarry to death and deserted by life.  This person should not mistrust the Lord’s love for them, nor his favour or they will be taken over and consumed by a despair that “cultivates death”; instead go to confession, make an act of contrition, and while the wounds and the sins are still fresh and in your mind, apply the healing remedies that your penance required. There is only one great Physician and that issin followed by Almighty God, our Father in Heaven, who so very much wants to cure our wounds, so much so, that after His remedies, not a single scar would remain visible on you. Should we therefore not prepare most carefully and for many days in advance, before His Nativity and abstain from sin, wrongdoing, defilement, acts of selfishness, lewdness.  I have no doubt whatsoever that He would never deny His healing balm to us, if we seek it earnestly.  How do I know that?  Because he loves us as a Father loves his children.  He loves us unreservedly.

So as we prepare ourselves for the celebration of the Lord’s Nativity, or come to that, any solemnity within the Church calendar, stay away from drunkenness, don’t get angry as it can become a rage, drive out all the hatred from your heart and mind, it’s a poison to you which is slow and deadly.  For once, reach out, not just to your friends but also your enemies [before I ever made any vows I my minor orders, my spiritual director told me to sit down and write all the offences and wrongs I had committed towards others, with obedience, I earnestly tasked myself to remember everything.  When I completed the list, I went back sins shunnedto him and gave him the list, he asked me why had I brought it to him? He tells me to approached everyone that I could find on my list personally and apologised for the hurt or wrong I had caused them and to make things right.  Some remembered, some did not; some accepted my apologies others did not, some thought it funny and one became hostile and violent; yet it was done and it was liberating in a manner that I cannot really put into words.  Yes it was a shock to be asked to do it, yes it was a bit scary and on one occasion somewhat painful, but extremely unburdening for the mind and soul.] The reason for doing this is so that you can honestly and with a safe conscience say in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.”  I’m not certain how or why anyone would want to approach the Lord’s Altar when their heart is filled with, hate, envy, a grudge or sin in their heart towards a single person.  Remember the fearful exclamation of St. John the Evangelist: “Any one who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” 1 John 3:15

I leave it to your judgement, should a murderer, before he has made a penance, approach the Altar and receive the Eucharist.  St John reminds us “But he who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” 1 John 2:11 he further writes: “ If any one says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen.” 1 John 4:20  From this we determine that whoever nourishes hatred or anger in their heart and is not frightened or worried, should be seen not as slumbering but dead.

These things, then, my dearest brothers and sisters, must be considered each and every day; let those who are good strive, with the grace of God, to continue in their good works; since it is not he who has begun, but he who has continued, even to the very end, that will be saved. But let those who are conscious of being slow in alms-giving, quick to anger, and prone to excess, hasten, with the help of the Lord, to deliver themselves from their evil; so that they may have the grace to fulfil that which is good; that when the Day of Judgment comes, they may not be found among the unworthy, but be deserving to attain, with the just and merciful, to everlasting rewards, through our Lord Jesus Christ, who with the Father and the Holy Ghost liveth and reigns for ever. Amen. 

I will pray for you all throughout this advent period in the hope that you will spare a prayer for me and the Hermits of Saint Bruno.  I extend my humble blessings upon you all in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

 

Serra San BrunoDom Ugo-Maria

 

OBITUARY: Dr. James Lester Hogg (Mar. 10, 1931 – † Nov. 18, 2018) aged 87

It is with great sorrow that we announce that the father of the Carthusian studies Professor James Lester Hogg completed his labours and joined the Lord on November 18, 2018.

He was founding director of the University of Salzburg Press, having published, in excess of 550 books in his “Salzburg Studies in English Literature” series between 1971 and 1998. One branch of his publishing programme was devoted to republishing books by British poets neglected by mainstream publishers. Between 1994 and 2000 he also co-edited the The Poet’s Voice magazine .

Between 1971 and 1996 James taught at the Department of English and American Studies at the University of Salzburg. His many academic publications comprise such diverse fields of studies as contemporary British literature, Elizabethan literature, Romantic poetry and Restoration drama. James also distinguished himself as a worldwide ‘cognoscente’ and historian of the Carthusian Order of which he had been a member, he took the habit as Fr. Aelred at the Chartreuse de Selignac on June 23, 1961; Professed in June 24, 1964 and sent to Farneta on November 22, 1965.  He left the Order on June 24, 1968.

In the “Analecta Cartusiana” series, founded by him in 1970, he had edited and published in excess of 300 volumes.

His work in the field of Carthusian studies brought him two gold medals in 2006, one from the Federal State of Lower Austria and one from the Bishop of St. Pölten. The same year the President of France, Jacques Chirac, nominated him as a Grand Officer of the Légion d’honneur for his decisive contribution to the recovery of the Carthusian memory.  In 2007 Queen Elizabeth II officially acknowledged his great services to academic research. In December 2009 the Vatican made him a Knight of the Order of St. Sylvester. 

A good friend, academic advisor and donor to St. Mary’s Hermitage and our library, having provided us a vast collection of research material on Carthusian History & Liturgy.  Always available to give research advice even when Ill. Fr. Ugo-Maria last heard from James last October when he sent James the latest transcript on Carthusian Liturgy for comment; James been in and out of hospital for some time and said that he would be going back to hospital.

A part of his life from the 70s onwards was dedicated to the documentary, historical, artistic and historiographical collation for the Carthusian Order, founded near Grenoble by Saint Bruno the Carthusian in 1084; a work which was condensed in the publishing of approximately 350 miscellaneous and monographic issues from all the Charterhouses particularly in Europe.

James actively participated in the “Congrés Internacional sobre les Cartoixes Valencianes (El Puig de Santa Maria, Altura and Serra, April 2003), and was one of the signatories of the ‘Manifesto Asociacion Cultural Cartuja Valldecrist‘ (Altura, January 2004), visiting the foundation of Cánava Valley for the last time in 2008. He was interviewed in Saó magazine, nº 308 (2006), on the occasion of the monograph ‘Les cartoixes valencianes: el silencio de la memòria’ and collaborated in the series’ Les cartoixes valencianes’ (13 chapters) for RTVV, broadcast in 2007.

Among the works published from Salzburg include those dedicated to the houses of Portaceli (Serra, Valencia), Valldecrist (Altura, Castellón), Aracristi (El Puig de Santa Maria, Valencia) and Viaceli (Orihuela, Alicante) – in addition to the female foundation of Benifassà (Castellón) -, as well as some of its most important inhabitants, such as Bonifacio Ferrer, Francisco de Aranda, Francisco Maresme, Juan de Nea, Juan Bautista Civera, Joaquín Alfaura, Juan Bautista Giner, etc.

Two of his last works in the Central European collection brought to light this year are dedicated to the Valencian Carthusian, Fray Bonifacio Ferrer (1350-†1417) brother of St. Vincent Ferrer, coinciding with the VI centenary of his death: his monograph (nº 336) and the collected minutes of the presentations of the seminar that were dedicated last April in Valencia, Altura and Segorbe (No. 338).

Some of the most distinguished historians of  the Valencian Carthusians, such as Francisco Fuster Serra, Josep-Marí Gómez i Lozano, Josep-Vicent Ferre Domínguez, Miguel Ángel Catalá Gorgues, Estefania Ferrer del Río or Albert Ferrer Orts among others, as well as the Cultural Association Cartuja de Valldecrist, of Altura (which paid him an emotional tribute in the autumn of 2008) want to express their condolences, as well as to remember at this moment an essentially good man determined to restore the silent memories of the Charterhouse.

A Requiem Mass was held for James (Frá Aelred) Hogg this morning at St. Mary’s Hermitage by Fr. Ugo-Maria, entrusting James to God’s love,  the salvific value of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  

Requiescat in pace James.

Memorable Words of Life For Everyone Trying to Lead the Good Life By Fr. Francis Acharya OCSO.

Modelling their life on the early Church of Jerusalem, they lived the
common life to the hilt, sharing living quarters, basic amenities and
goods. Prayer services were initially in Syriac. Fr. Francis, driven by the
typical Cistercian search for authenticity, traveled all the way to Iraq
and managed to procure original Syriac prayers of the Antiochean rite
(the Penqito). By a Herculean effort spanning nearly two decades, he
translated selected portions into four volumes totalling 2300 pages,
named Prayer with the Harp of the Spirit. “…He has freely used his
sources with striking effect, reflecting the Christian freedom and
creative genius of the great masters of liturgical prayer in the past”
wrote Orientalia Christiana Periodica of the Pontifical Oriental
Institute. Rome, praising the first of this quartet, adorned as it is
with ‘seeds of the word’ gleaned from the spiritual heritage of
India. A book of daily readings on the Lives and Saying of Saints

St. Mary’s Hermitage Press – the publishing branch of St. Mary’s Hermitage are extremely delighted to make available to the Friends of St. Mary’s Hermitage their latest publication free of charge.

Memorable Words of Life For Everyone Trying to Lead the Good Life By Fr. Francis Acharya OCSO.

This book came into existence quite by accident after Bishop Alistair said that he would like to one day visit the Monastery of Our Lady of Kurisumala in Vagamon India. Dom Ugo-Maria ESB had a look at their website and saw an opportunity and contacted Father Abbot Savanand OCSO.

Several emails and 13 days later we present to our readers on behalf of Kurisumala Abbey a book that we hope will enlighten you.

Click on image to download

May the Holy Spirit enlighten you and Guide you always.

Dom. Ugo-Maria ESB (csr)

Migration from Facebook

Dear friends & supporters,

We have recently decided to begin a migration from our Social media site on Facebook to Diaspora (click here). There are several reasons for doing this but mainly because of Facebook’s practices in mass marketing, advertising policies which are inconsistent with our religious ethos and their lack in replying to our concerns.

It will in some ways be an alternative social media mirror site until we decide if necessary to fully migrate from Facebook.

We would of course like you to follow us when that happens and therefore hope you will take a look at Diaspora (click here)

Feastival of Santa Rosalia of Palermo 15-July 2018… to all the Sicilians from Palermo who have emigrated…

We must all make an effort and enter into and adopt a more authentic Gospel process of reasoning.  It teaches us that the place in which we have been placed by God’s will is primarily a service to be carried out for the common good of all, for a better, more humane world and for peaceful coexistence. The concept of service to the common good must be able to precede everything else and prevail over a mentality of profit and gain, for which we often selfishly work toward. This impoverishes us, it makes us petty and detaches us from the reality in which we are engulfed thus preventing us from seeing the face of Christ in our brother who is right next to us.

Homily by the Rev. Fr. Dom. Ugo-Maria  of St. Mary’s Hermitage.

My dear Bishops, brothers in the priesthood, Deacons, Religious, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord and always dear to me!

Perched 1,970 feet above the Tyrrhenian Sea and the city of Palermo, the Grotto Sanctuary of Santa Rosalia on Monte Pellegrino is one of Sicily’s two primary Catholic shrines.  I grew up in the shadows of Monte Pellegrino in Palermo, it was visible from my grandmothers balcony window. Our patron Saint (La Santuzza – The Little Saint) Santa Rosalia († 1166), is known by all who originate from Sicily.  Many years ago on the celebration, called the festino, which is still held each year on July 15, and continues into the next day, I made my first and only pilgrimage to the top of the Mount, bare footed, frankly exhausted yet exhilarated by the achievement and the view was stunning.  As a hermit I had a slight tinge of admiration in Santa Rosalia finding a perfect spot for her desert.  On the cave wall she wrote “I, Rosalia, daughter of Sinibald, Lord of Roses, and Quisquina, have taken the resolution to live in this cave for the love of my Lord, Jesus Christ.”

 

l'Acchianata a Santa Rosalia.png
Arial View of the Sanctuary

In the churchyard of the Sanctuary of Mount Pellegrino in Palermo, crowded on that day that I made my pilgrimage there were so many people, the sun was glaring, you could hear the people whispering their prayers or singing during the ascent, these are the faithful who never cease to pray to her and who annually bring her their pure and heartfelt devotions, Santa Rosalia welcomes them with her inner story even today, her life and her fervent and passionate witness is palpable to all.

At the front of the Grotto of Mount Pellegrino, in which Santuzza lived in her hermitage in the last years of her earthly life – as evidenced by the discovery of her relics – she passed away on a morning whilst the celestial light that she had always enjoy so much began to enter her cell: “O God, my God, to thee do I watch at break of day. For thee my soul hath thirsted.” (Psalm 62:2)

Il Santuario della Santuzza
Sanctuary Church of Santa Rosalia.

These days, and especially tonight, the Sanctuary, which is a highly significant place not only for worship but also in the history of the city of Palermo, becomes a destination for the usual pilgrimage that the faithful offer as a sign of their devotion to the Santuzza.  The traditional “acchianata” (climbing up) sees thousands of people who dissolve their promises or implore a grace through the intercession of the saintly virgin hermit.

As a priest and hermit of this beloved portion of God’s people who grew up in Palermo, I too could not but resist to find myself among you in the past, a pilgrim among pilgrims, to share in the joy of this celebration, to raise perfect praises to God and bless Him in the figure of Saint Rosalia, which her infinite goodness wanted to donate to the Church.

Climbing this mountain, and even more arriving at the churchyard which is always so crowded with the faithful, I was impressed by the number of faithful, which bears witness to the affection and devotion that the people of Palermo and from around the world nurture towards this Patron Saint of the city.

Of course all this is positive. It is a devotion that we have a duty to transmit to the next generation, to discover evermore the message that Santa Rosalia communicates to her faithful.

When I ascended, my examination of Jesus turning provocatively toward the crowds flowed from the depths of my heart – and I have heard the repeated echoes – when recalling the prophetic and steadfast figure of St. John the Baptist: “What went you out into the desert to see?” (Cf. Matthew 11:7).  It is a question that i address to you today, gathered together to celebrate Santa Rosalia.  What did you come to see? What moved you to come? Why are you here? What are you asked to contemplate during your ascent on Monte Pellegrino?

Teenage drink drivers
Teenage drink driver.

La Santuzza, my grandmother Concettina used to tell me, freed Palermo from the Peste (Plague).  Today luckily through science this disease is under control with antibiotics and can be cured if diagnosed in time; yet today there is another form of plague, one that is within us, which destroys our dignity; yet she can heal us, if we make a true commitment.  It is an inner pestilence, imposed by a dominant secular culture, where there is no respect for oneself – drug and alcohol abuse to which many young and older people look for an quick fix and false happiness – there is no respect for each other, a lack of loving your neighbour, vandalism, theft much of it brought about by these consumeristic and secular attitudes.   It is as if modern society has become the new Sodom and Gomorrah, yet no one is doing anything to stop it dead in its tracks.

 

I remember that when I was serving the UN as a young officer and had chance to drive to  Hebron in Palestine a city located in the southern West Bank, 19 miles south of

Palestinian Boy
A boy in Palestine having lost his family, his home.  He has nothing left but his dignity.

Jerusalem and nestled in the Judaean Mountains and when returning to Sicily, I was struck by the enormous waste done everywhere.  It often happened that I’d see a lot of food or bread thrown away in streets, whilst still carrying and remembering the faces of thousands of undernourished and homeless children and people who died of hunger and hardship deep within my heart.  It is something that still haunts me and is forever unforgettable.

 

We know very well that a pilgrimage is not done out of sheer curiosity, nor a habit that is repeated annually by pure impulse of vague religious sentiments. People go on a pilgrimage because they are attracted to Santa Rosalia who chose the Lord as the only Spouse in her life, making Him become the entire reason of her love, full of His joy, the reason for her freedom and from personal and social conditionings. A full freedom with which Santa Rosalia, like the young girl in Solomon’s Song of Songs, runs to meet His love, and embraces Him for the rest of her life.

This is who we came to see! The virgin who gave everything of herself and for this she made her life a shining example of the sanctity of our Creator who from the beginning chose her as a witness by her goodness. The pilgrims have come to see Christ in love, to the point of wanting to be totally his. We have come to see a lionhearted young woman, who defied her time bringing into fulfilment of how much intimacy the Holy Spirit had placed in her heart, this path is traced through listening to the Word and to its deepest desires.

This fundamental choice of God, the place that God occupies in our lives commits us all, according to the duty of our own state.  To us priests, called by the Lord and representing his ministry, and who are called to centralise of our prayers, our faithfulness to our priestly commitments, our unconditional dedication in administering the sacraments, listening to confession and serving our communities loyally.  To you, wives, husbands, a commitment to remain faithful to the love you have promised to each other and the gift of the sacrament you exchanged.  Just as grace sustained Santa Rosalia’s gift of life with fidelity to her husband, we all have to rely on grace as the force which helps us conquer our difficulties and moments of crisis.

But we did not simply come to “catch a glimpse of” the testimony of eight hundred and fifty-two years ago.  Pilgrims do not make a pilgrimage just to be spectators at a feast.  One cannot call themselves an authentic devotees of Santa Rosalia if we allow this experience to pass by without it leaving an indelible mark on our lives, without the Santuzza having pierced a clear message in our way of life and in our times.

Santa Rosalia had lived in the Grotto the idyll of divine love, her own Garden of Eden whilst choosing a hard, rigorous, stringent and unyielding life, comprised of prayer and self-abnegation.  The act of denying her own wishes, of refusing to satisfy her desires, especially from a moral, religious and altruistic motive, bares witness to us of her total surrender to the will of God.  With her we celebrate, not so much the rejection of a comfortable and carefree life that she as a noble woman could have lived, but rather a love so strong, so unique and so boundless for her Lord that she had not been seduce by material things or anyone.  Her life was entirely Christocentric, not in a manner that surrounded her with riches but in absolute poverty, which she lived as a hermit.  This is concomitant of the fact that when loving the One who created everything, and making Him the centre of your life, she would not need anything else at all.  We have been taught this in the Gospel of Matthew when the apostle Peter said to Jesus “Behold we have left all things, and have followed thee: what therefore shall we have?” (Matthew 19:27-28)  Jesus knowing that with God all things are possible replied “Amen, I say to you, that you, who have followed me, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the seat of his majesty, you also shall sit on twelve seats judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  Too often today we expect rewards there and then, being disappointed when our efforts seem to have been ignored by our peers or employers.  I once overheard a young student I was teaching at Oxford say “I’m only doing this charity trip thing because it will look good on my resume for the firm I want to join”.  This disheartened me greatly, it was for her a purely self-seeking motive and not as she had written on her application to help others less fortunate than her and be of use to the community.  Too many of us these days seek rewards for the small things that we do and this is purely egocentric, unchristian and soul destroying.

This is why the example of Santa Rosalia’s austere and unwavering life still calls to us today, because we can all be encouraged to experience more and more the cruciality in which we discover and rediscover, every day, the absolute primacy of God and the beauty of the authentic values ​​of life that He has given us and that He has committed himself to in redeeming us from evil and darkness of this world.

The socio-economic crisis that the world is facing these days are visible to all of us.  How many of us waver with the effort just to get to the end of the month, coping with the various commitments and finding the means to be able to provide.  How many of us look to the future with desolation over the many social instabilities that look like dark clouds on every skyline.  We are told as children that every cloud has a silver lining, then we grow up and realise that the silver lining  do not exist.  But the promise of our Lord’s future gifts do exist and our deposited in our heavenly bank account awaiting our withdrawal once we have joined him.       

surprisingWhen I looked on the internet for “Global Crisis effecting humanity” the only images that came up in my search were matters concerning the financial industry, corporations, economy, investments.  Have we really sunk so low that we cannot recognise the human global crisis beyond the financial.  Surely human life is more valuable than a bank?  We live in times when the crisis for mankind has become present at many levels, as evidence of a social context in which possessions and merriment seem to prevail over every logic rather than dedicating and donating ones life to service and helping our neighbour. Yes there are many risks. particularly for the next generation and those to follow. They are all connected to the serious possibility of corroding all beauty and the full and authentic sense of life for those things that are non-essential, trite, worthless, even purposeless and fraught with danger.

We see it in the inability to serve the common good, to do one’s duty seriously, determined only by one’s selfishness, self-interests and egocentrism. We all have responsibilities, because each of us has a duty to our neighbour, even the ones we do not like.

I think of those who work in public services or offices. The politicians that have been elected, chosen by the people to serve the common good. You have this responsibility toward everyone and not just yourself.  Just think what a better place we would live in if a politician actually really genuinely cared, was honest to a fault, truthful at all times.  Your responsibility is and always will be to God, the state and those who elected you.  At the same time everyone must also do their duty.  Think of the mothers who provide nurturing care for the family, teach us how to pray, encourage and nurture spiritual growth and development, and are living examples of the meaning of sacrificial, self-giving love which is the genesis and source of an authentic spirituality.  Through the lens of the Blessed Virgin Mary, “we see [in all motherhood] the reflection of a beauty which mirrors the loftiest sentiments of which the human heart is capable: the self-sacrificing totality of love; the strength that is capable of bearing the greatest sorrows; limitless fidelity and tireless devotion to work; the ability to combine penetrating intuition with words of support and encouragement” (Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, 46).

A father should strive to be to his family everything that is revealing and in reliving on earth the very fatherhood of God, a man is called upon to ensure stability and harmony within the family.  He does this by exercising generous and selfless responsibility for the life conceived in the womb of the mother; by taking a more active role in, and making a more serious commitment to his children’s education and prayer life, a task that he shares equally with his wife; by working in a job that is never the cause of division within the family but promotes and provides for its security and unity; and, most importantly, by being a living witness and example to his children of what it means to live and act as a man of God, showing his children first-hand what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and how that relationship is lived-out daily by loving the truth, goodness, and beauty of our Catholic faith.

I think of you the educators, who recognises that the human heart is created with an

Jesus our Teacher
Jesus our Eternal Teacher

innate yearning to seek, find and rest in God in this world and the next and will therefore develop the whole person intellectually, physically emotionally and spiritually.  The educator does this by respecting each child of God, preparing their students as much as possible to attain their immutable destiny.  An exceptional educator at whatever level of schooling they teach at encompasses and frames for other a Catholic perspective of the world structure by reflection, prayer, action, service, teaching and sacramentality.  This is expressed and developed through the physical space, choice of activities, allocation of time, and the kind of relationships that are fostered.  The educator’s tools are the rich moral, artistic, scientific, spiritual and intellectual treasury of the Catholic church (see The Excellent Catholic Teacher).

The Gospel page of the parable of the ten virgins “The Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish and five were wise.  The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.”  Jesus is talking about our spiritual preparation and conditioning.  The parable gives us some strong indications of what needs to be in place here and now.  We must not wait to be sure our lamp is lit and that we have plenty of oil.  It almost seems that the lethargy that affects young people today also concerns our civilisation, which has forgotten to live in waiting for our encounter with God.  More and more people lean towards secularism, stopped believing that the Lord is ever present in every moment of our lives and in which we must be watchful to recognise HIs signs, vigilantly listening for His call and be ready for action.

The numbness of our society manifests itself in forgetting the essentials of life and many idolise and to turn to new false god, innumerably propagated by commercial entities who are advocate and sell that false happiness that leaves only a bitter taste and disappointment.  In our youth today there seems to be an increasingly weak sense of personal responsibility, an extremely potent example is the increasing number of traffic accidents due to speeding, the use of drugs and alcohol where alcohol is cheeper than food and encouraged by the “buy one get one free” culture, without the slightest responsibility being taken by those who drive a vehicle carelessly and irresponsibly.

For this very reason today, I would like you all to look at Santa Rosalia’s austerity, her strong and decisive choices, to always remain conscious and wait to welcome her Lord in her daily and mystical meetings with him. I would like Santuzza to be the stimulus for all to become more responsible from now on, for all the occasions in our lives and situations in which the Lord has by his will placed us, to be prepared, to be aware, to be responsive and responsible.  A time, which in Christ has become kairos (right, critical, or opportune moment), an occasion for personal sanctification, which is one of the instruments that God’s mercy gives to us to enable us to reach him. It is a benefaction given to us, so much so that none of us can waste a single minute to our lives.  Therefore let us not waste it in that which does not lead us to the truth.

The occasions, the circumstances by which we always judge the positive or negative, depending on whether they correspond to our schemes or not, are in fact opportunities that the Lord offers us so that we can appreciate and love Him in everything.  From this stems or responsibility toward duty, to respond to the task to which we are called for the common good.  I wholeheartedly endorse it because it is worth it!  Doing your duty well is a requisite on account that through it one arrives at the realisation of one’s self, being fully content, which gives a credible witness to one’s encounter with God in the workplace, among our co-workers, often non-believers or like many just indifferent.  Santa Rosalia, adhering to the will of the Lord fulfilled her duty in such an exemplary manner as to be a model for us even today after so many centuries.

We must all make an effort and enter into and adopt a more authentic Gospel process of reasoning.  It teaches us that the place in which we have been placed by God’s will is primarily a service to be carried out for the common good of all, for a better, more humane world and for peaceful coexistence. The concept of service to the common good must be able to precede everything else and prevail over a mentality of profit and gain, for which we often selfishly work toward. This impoverishes us, it makes us petty and detaches us from the reality in which we are engulfed thus preventing us from seeing the face of Christ in our brother who is right next to us.

Everyone is invited to do his part.  However small or large, it is the part that belongs to each member of the Mystical Body of Christ which is the Church.  The essentiality of Santa Rosalia’s austere life shows us the responsibility with which we are called to bring our faith to life, to transfer the beauty of our encounter with Christ into our daily lives whilst walking among men.

And it will be one of the most beautiful pilgrimages ever undertaken. It will be the most significant one you have ever done, because it will enable you to reach the full significance of our existence and to prepare us for our heavenly goal which is the eternal Kingdom in which Santa Rosalia, together with the angels and saints, enjoys the face of God for eternity.  Surely that is what we all seek and desire?

I leave you all with my humble prayers and blessings, and ask for the intercession of Santa Rosalia to help you in your daily service for the common good.  In Jesus and Mary.  Amen

Translation of the Prayer to Santa Rosalia:

Oh admirable Santa Rosalia, who resolved to imitate within herself the most perfect image of Your only good, the Crucified Redeemer, you applied yourself to all the rigors of the most bitter penance in the solitude of a cavern, where you always delighted ‘to extol with vigils and fasts, the scourges which macerated your innocent flesh, a grace to us all the grace to always tame by the exercise of evangelical mortification all our rebellious appetites, and to always pasture our spiritual meditations the most devoted of those Christian truths, which alone can bring us true well-being in this life and eternal bliss in the other.  Pater, Ave and Gloria