*Adopt a comfortable posture with the spine as nearly straight as possible and the eyes open or half-closed.
*Form a specific intention for your period of prayer.
*Say to yourself or quietly an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be. (the prayers mentioned can be found at CatholiCity dot com))
*Then with your indrawn breath say to yourself or out loud ‘Jesus’ and with your outward breath ‘Mary.’
*Persist in this for whatever time you have decided, I recommend not less than ten minutes and not more than forty-five.
*Finish with a Salve Regina/Hail Holy Queen and offer your thanks to God.
*There is nothing mystical about the posture. Its designed to be comfortable enough to hold for a reasonable length of time without being so comfortable that you fall asleep. If you prefer kneeling to sitting while you pray then do so.
*The intention transforms your action from a solitary one to a communal one. If you intend the spiritual benefits of your prayer to flow to the needs of the world, or the Church or your loved ones then it is not all about you. If your intention is to be strengthened in virtue then, again, the chief beneficiary of your good acts will not be yourself.
*Saying the prayers of the Church is not only a good thing in itself but, psychologically and physiologically it provides a bridge between whatever you were doing before to what you are about to do. It allows your body and mind to relax into their new activity.
*Jesus is the breath of life to us so invoking Him with our inspiration makes good sense. Mary is our mother, our fellow pilgrim, our good companion, so sending our respiration up to heaven with her for company also makes sense.
*Again the prayers at the end are good in themselves and, in the case of the Thanks Be To God, necessary, whilst also acting as a useful bridge…click here to read more
St Luke tells us about three significant forty-day periods in the life of our Lord. These are:
-the time between the Nativity and the Presentation in the Temple (Luke 2:22)
-the time that Jesus spent in the desert after His baptism (Luke 4:1-2)
-the time between the Passion and the Ascension of our Lord (Acts 1:3)
It would seem to be the case that the period in the wilderness was a necessary final preparation before the Messiah began His mission and that the period after the resurrection was a necessary final preparation before the Apostles undertook their mission, to proclaim the Good News to the world. I would argue that the first period constituted a necessary preparation for Mary before she undertook her mission as the Mother of God present in the flesh, Emmanuel, God with us.
The forty-days had an explicitly Marian dimension in that they constituted the time required for Mary to purify herself, according to the Law of Moses, after the birth of a son. Of course strictly speaking she could have dispensed with the requirement (as her Son could have done with circumcision on the eighth day) because the Law was only the shadow of things to come (Colossians 2:16-17) and the reality had now come in the form of the infant Christ. However since He was born of a woman, born under the Law (Galatians 4:4) it was seemly that the provisions of the Law should be adhered to until our Lord completed His mission on the cross at Calvary.
These days, though, were much more than the formal keeping of an outward legal prescription. They were a time of great and never to be repeated joy for the Blessed Virgin…. click here to read more
In an earlier blog (Repentance-Why Bother?) I looked at reasons for making a fundamental decision to change your life, to ‘die to self.’ Here I will consider why, that decision having been made, you should make Jesus the focus for your new direction. It might be asked ‘why look to anyone else at all?’ If you are an intelligent adult possessed with the ability to reason should you not be able to work out your own destiny for yourself?
The difficulty here is that by accepting the need to radically transform your Self you have acknowledged that the problem is not something which is external. The thing which is broken cannot repair itself unaided. Archimedes is reputed to have said “Give me the place to stand, and I shall move the earth.” Granted that you necessarily have a share in your own rebirth you still require some kind of partner, catalyst or teacher. Christianity proposes that Jesus is the place you can stand upon in order to move the inert globe of your dead self.
There is a passage in the Gospel according to St John which, I think, is relevant here-
-I am the door. By me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved: and he shall go in, and go out, and shall find pastures.
-The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly.
-I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep
This contains three clear propositions.
- Jesus is the gateway through which the new self or kingdom can be entered.
- In Him we will experience life more fully than ever before
- He demonstrates a self-sacrificing love for us of a kind that cannot be exceeded.
If we were to become convinced of these three things then we would have no reason not to accept Him as the place upon which we can stand with perfect confidence and hope…..click here to read more
In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.
Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful:and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
Both David (the psalmist) and Jesus draw a contrast between the drain on resources caused by multiplicity and the peace to be derived from simplicity. David describes an internal environment and Jesus an exterior one but, of course the two are intimately linked.
Martha’s busy-ness was concerned with the tricky task of being a good hostess for an horde of visitors which meant having to juggle several balls in the air at the same time. Mary was simply concerned about sitting at the feet of our Lord and learning from Him.
Anyone who has tried meditating will recognise David’s description. Our body may be as still as Mary’s but our mind is, like Martha, bustling around like a shuttlecock from one thing to another and, very often, back again. The key difference, though, is that Martha’s activity is purposeful and useful whereas the thoughts rattling around inside our head are often neither. Both of the sisters are focussed on Jesus, just in different ways. A contrast is often made between Mary as emblematic of the contemplative life and Martha of the active one. This is true so far as it goes there is, however, what Al Gore would no doubt call ‘that little known third category‘ where action follows contemplation…to read more click here
In religion as in politics very often the one thing which makes you most popular also makes you most unpopular. Putting forward a demand or a slogan mobilises both support and opposition and, usually, the more extreme the demand the more extreme the response. A central plank in the programme proposed by Jesus was repentance; words change their meaning over time and for us that word calls up the idea ‘feeling sorry for being naughty.’ What it meant at the time was something like ‘turn your entire life upside down.’ Or, more theologically, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily” (Luke 9:23) This won for Him, as it did for His forerunner St John the Baptist, an enthusiastic hearing among those who felt the need to change their lives. It also earned Him the enmity of those who were convinced that they were doing just the right thing already and didn’t need to be rebuked by an upstart carpenter’s son from an insignificant little town in a despised region.
Is the demand a sensible one? Did they need to revolutionise their lives, do we? Will we gain more than we lose if we do? The Christian proposition is that without repentance we will necessarily be, at our deepest level, unhappy and unsettled. With repentance united to faith in Christ we may experience deep sadnesses, traumas and sufferings but in the most interior level of ourselves we will be at rest. Against this is the idea that life is inevitably a blend of light and shade and that we should enjoy the light when we have it and endure the shade when we must and that anyway most of our lives, whatever we do, will be spent in a neutral zone between the two things. To abandon the living of normal life in pursuit of the chimera of happiness proposed by Christianity is a tremendous gamble undertaken on very slight evidence.
The most high profile of England’s martyr priests to be executed during the time of Elizabeth Tudor was certainly St Edmund Campion who died 1 December 1581. During the year or so of his mission he preached the Word and administered the sacraments to recusants while being hunted for his life by pursuivants (the Elizabethans had a wonderful way with words.) St Edmund’s fame, or notoriety, arose because of two documents which he wrote while on the run. First a short letter, called by his opponents Campions Brag, which contained a challenge to debate the issues between Catholics and Anglicans at his old university of Oxford. Secondly, after what became known as the Uxbridge Conference
with fellow recusants, he wrote, in Latin, Ten Reasons which outlined the arguments he would have made had such a disputation been permitted.
These were angry and passionate times and St Edmund’s writing style was combative, that of his opponents if anything was even more so. There is little that modern readers might find edifying in the polemics of that time. The Brag
however ends on this note-
“I have no more to say but to recommend your case and mine to Almighty God, the Searcher of Hearts, who send us his grace, and see us at accord before the day of payment, to the end we may at last be friends in heaven, when all injuries shall be forgotten.”
Perhaps unconsciously Dr Rowan Williams, when he held the title of Archbishop of Canterbury, echoed this idea as, in 2010, he commemorated the Carthusian martyrs
to Henry VIII-
”If Henry VIII is saved (an open question perhaps) it will be at the prayers of John Houghton. If any persecutor is saved it is at the prayers of their victim. If humanity is saved, it is by the grace of the cross of Jesus Christ and all those martyrs who have followed in his path.”
Although many great and terrible wrongs can be laid at the feet of those who call themselves Christian there remains at the heart of the faith an irreducible core which can be ignored but cannot be denied. There is an obligation to forgive, to love and pray for those who hate us and to acknowledge that every child conceived in the womb is a person for whom Jesus died on the Cross. Christians cannot despise any of their fellow humans…click here to see more
The declining sun lit up her sweet-sad smile, the folds of her blue mantle glowed softly. Below, the stone-flagged nave was dappled with multi-coloured shadows. For over a thousand years her delicate, fragile eyes had looked benignly on the people who passed backward and forward through her Son’s cathedral.
Many of these had scurried across the shaded space ignoring her. Others, half-aware of her presence and of her beauty had snatched hasty glances at her. Occasionally one or two individuals had stopped as if transfixed and had drunk their fill of the gifts of light which flowed through her and into the hearts of each woman or man who would accept them.
There was no one upon whom she did not smile; the empty headed and the wise, the ambitious and the contented, children of the pharisees, heirs of the Apostles. If the smile did not benefit each equally the fault lay not with the giver but with the recipient. People who will not be smiled upon will walk in a gloom of their own making.
Over that same thousand years too she had gazed upon the altar at the Eastern end of the nave. There the life, death and resurrection of her beloved Son had daily been made present in the midst of a mostly indifferent world. A spiritual truth become visible, like herself, under the veil of material forms. She did not weep at the sight, her weeping was done. Now her eyes were forever fixed on Him and would be though altar, window and cathedral should pass away into destruction….click here to read more
The nuns in St Bernadette’s convent were praying a novena to the Blessed Virgin Mary when the little saint was noticed offering her petitions in the chapel of St Joseph.
“But you are mistaken sister” she was told.
“Oh,” Bernadette smiled “In heaven no one is jealous.”
Of course the Lourdes visionary was right but if the heavenly angels were ever to be envious I suspect it would not be of their captains St Michael and St Gabriel but of these guys-
“Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him“ (Matthew 4:11)
“And to strengthen him an angel from heaven appeared to him” (Luke 22:43)
To serve the suffering and sorrowful Jesus in the desert or in the garden where He experienced such agony of spirit is surely a great privilege. Think what a joy it must be to know that the lesser has comforted the greater, that the almost nothing has brought strength to the author of all, the recipient of love has shared that love with its divine author and so brought Him relief in His sorrows. St Thérèse of Lisieux said “disinterested love is for us to console Jesus, not for Him to console us” and those angels who have chosen to serve God exist only for the purpose of disinterested love- “Are they not all ministering spirits sent to serve, for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14). It therefore seems that those fortunate, those blessed angels who ministered to our Lord after His forty day fast and before His Passion fulfilled their role in a way which no other angels could ever equal or surpass….click here to read more
“One of the reasons why Catholic and Orthodox Christians on the one hand and Christians of the Reformation traditions (Protestants) on the other have such divergent approaches to the person of Mary, the mother of Jesus, is because they read the Old Testament in significantly different ways…It strikes me, however, that there is a possible way which allows us to synthesise our understanding to some extent. Even if we grant for the sake of argument that the allegorical method is generally inadmissible there should be no reason why we cannot agree that the use of analogy is perfectly acceptable. By which I mean that if the Old Testament shows God acting in certain ways or upholding certain principles we can assume that He acts in the same way and on the same principles in the New unless Scripture specifically informs us otherwise.
Which brings me to Mary and the Tabernacle of the Lord. The Tabernacle was that structure sitting at the heart of the nation of Israel where God dwelt among His people in a special manner. It first took shape as the Tent of Meeting at the time of Moses and later became the Temple of Solomon. There is no doubt that God dwelt in a special way too in Mary, the mother of the Son of God. I would suggest that the principles which underlay the construction of the first Tabernacle, made by human hands, also underlay the creation of Mary in the womb of her mother St Ann by the hand of God…click here to read more“
“We all know, from our communities, parishes and neighbourhoods, the bad brought to the Church and the scandal caused by those people who call themselves very Catholic, who frequently go to church, but then, in their daily lives, don’t take care of their families, speak ill of others, etc.”
From the inside looking out we might think it possible to be part time Christians. We can sometimes give ourselves a break from being quite so holy, from holding ourselves to quite such a high standard. Pope Francis in his remarks just quoted takes another view. He goes on to point out-
“This is that which Jesus condemns because this is a Christian ‘counter-witness.‘“ (Vatican Insider)
From the outside looking in everyone who knows us will consider that anything we do has the mark of ‘Christian’ about it.And when we publicly do things which are discreditable to ourselves we are bringing down scandal upon the Church. Quite literally in fact because the word ‘scandal’ means stumbling block and every time we bear a counter-witness to the Gospel we are putting a stumbling block in the way of others entering the Christian life.
Some of the things we do may be hidden or private but malicious gossip, ‘speaking ill of others’ as the Holy Father puts it, is always by its nature a public act. Very often it becomes more public than we intend since once it is put into circulation who knows where it will end or what damage it may do….click here to read more