Archive for July, 2005

Faith equals hope

July 31, 2005

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Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Emily Dickinson


Persevering in Faith

July 31, 2005

Radiant Light

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Our everyday duties are like a golden string left to us by the Lord. If we fulfil them faithfully and lovingly, we can be sure of doing God’s Will, and we can move forward steadily towards the light of Heaven. “Whatever your work is, put your heart into it as if it were for the Lord and not for men, knowing that the Lord will repay you by making you his heirs.”
Col 3:23-24

Whenever I post a story or article, I like to look for a visual image to put with it to attract interest and lend understanding to the words and feeling to the whole experience. Today I typed ‘persevering in faith’ into Google to see what kind of references I would get as this topic means a lot to me. I have a fair amount of trouble keeping my head up in this world and continuing to believe that things might turn out for the better at some point. I know I am not alone. Anyone who is unfailingly cheerful and upbeat and satisfied with their life is either unusually blessed or is putting on a brave front in order to instill confidence in other people. That’s my opinion. At any rate, I found this web page by Elizabeth Wang, an artist, I think you might like.

Sunday Mass Readings

July 31, 2005


Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Reading: Isaiah 55:1-3
Psalm: Psalm 145:8-9, 15-18
Second Reading: Romans 8:35:37-39
Gospel: Matthew 14:13-21

Know that the experience of pain is something so noble and precious that the Divine Word, who enjoyed the abundant riches of Paradise, yet, because He was not clothed with this ornament of sorrow, came down from Heaven to seek it upon the earth.– St Mary Magdalen de’ Pazzi

The plight of a small Catholic community

July 29, 2005

Pakistani priest visits West Belfast and makes plea

Appealing to the renowned generosity of the people of West Belfast, a Pakistani priest is in town for three weeks making it his mission to raise awareness of the plight of the very small Catholic community in Pakistan.
Speaking to the Andersonstown News, Fr James Shamaun detailed the plight of the tiny Christian population in the country.

“The Christian population of Pakistan is approximately one per cent of the total population. They are a tiny minority and are treated very much as second-class citizens. The vast majority of people are employed in low-paid jobs, mainly sweeping,” he said.

“The parish which I serve is known as St Joseph’s Cathedral Parish, it is situated near the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. There are 15,000 Catholics in my parish who live in slums in sub-human conditions.”

Describing his parishioners as “very, very poor”, Fr Shamaun said the people earn a mere $1 per day and in some cases even less.

“It really is a miracle that these people are surviving on nothing but their dependence on God. The poverty is so intense that people are dying every day due to a lack of basic necessities including medication.

“Education is also a priority, 80 per cent of the people are illiterate yet the only government schools are staffed by Muslims and the syllabus is heavily biased and Islamic. Any Catholic children who attend these schools are subject to an apartheid of sorts. For example, they are not allowed to drink water from the same tap as the other children.”

Having met Father John Murray of St Luke’s parish in the Czech Republic some years back, this is the second time that Fr Shamaun has taken him up on the invitation to visit Belfast.

“Fr Murray invited me to his parish when we met in the Czech Republic. I came three years ago and celebrated Mass there and on Sunday past I celebrated Mass at Our Lady Queen of Peace. I told the congregation about my own parish, I wanted to make them aware of what is going on and perhaps they can help make some change. We cannot change everything but we can make some difference, through sharing we can experience real joy.”

Fr Shamaun went on to compare the situation in his own parish to the plight of Catholics living in the North.

“This is the first generation of Christians living in a 98 per cent Muslim country. They are treated as second-class citizens in the same manner as Catholics were here in the North of Ireland, it’s exactly the same type of situation with jobs and housing where Muslims are given priority over Pakistani Catholics.”

The priest is trying to establish his parish in Rawalpindi Cantt outside Islamabad but is up against great obstacles including an extremely stubborn military government. He and his parishioners urgently require the help of their fellow-Catholics not only in West Belfast but across the world.

“I need your prayers and financial support to build the faith of our people and complete the church which is currently under construction. The help of the people of West Belfast would be highly appreciated in Rawalpindi Cantt,” he added.

• Anyone wishing to donate to Fr Shamaun’s parish can contact Reggie Donnelly on 90 300980.

Journalist:: Francesca Ryan

Feast Day – St James

July 25, 2005

St. James the Greater, Apostle

Feastday: July 25 – Patron of Laborers

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For James there was no indication that this was the day that his life would change. The dawn for him was not the bright beginning of a new day, but the end of long fruitless night of fishing. As James sat mending his nets in the boat with his brother John and his father Zebedee, he must have watched in wonder as his partner Simon brought in nets loaded with fish he had caught at the command of Jesus. Was he shocked when he saw Simon and his brother Andrew walk away from this incredible catch at a word from this same Jesus?

As he watched Jesus walk toward him followed by Simon and Andrew, did he feel curiosity, fear, hope, envy? Jesus didn’t pass him by but, stopping by their boat, called James and his brother John to do just what Simon and Andrew had done. Without argument or discussion, James and John left their boat and even their father behind, and followed Jesus.

The first thing James saw after he followed Jesus was his teaching with authority in the synagogue and the cure of Simon’s mother-in-law.

We all know that Jesus was the focus of James’ life from then on, but it is also evident that James held a special place in Jesus’ life.

He was chosen by Jesus to be one of the twelve apostles, given the mission to proclaim the good news, and authority to heal and cast out demons. To be named one of the twelve James must have had faith and commitment.

But even among the apostles he held a special place. When Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter when all thought her dead, he only allowed James, John, and Peter to come with him. Even more important when he went up to the mountain to pray, he wanted James, John, and Peter to go with him. And it was there on the mountain they were privileged to witness what no one else had seen — Jesus transfigured in his glory, speaking to Moses and Elijah, as the voice of God spoke from a cloud.

And with Simon Peter, James and John were the only ones of the apostles that Jes us gave a special name: Sons of Thunder.

To be singled out in these ways, James must have been a close and respected friend of Jesus.

It’s no wonder then that James, along with John, felt that he had the right to go to Jesus and ask him to give them whatever they asked. As a mark of his love, Jesus didn’t rebuke them but asked them what they wanted. They showed their lack of understanding of his mission when the asked that he let one of them sit on his right and the other on his left when he came into his glory. He replied that they didn’t know what they were asking. They didn’t see the cross in his future, but an earthly throne. Could they drink of the cup he would drink of? They replied that they could. He assured them they would indeed drink of that cup.

(Matthew has their mother asking for this favor for her sons. Despite the bad reputation their mother got for this, it should be remembered that she too had followed Jesus in his travels, providing for him, and was one of the women who stayed with Jesus as he was crucified when the apostles, including her son James, had fled.)

The other apostles were furious at this request. But Jesus used this opportunity to teach all of them that in order to be great one must be a servant.

James and John did show further lack of understanding of their friend and Lord when he was turned away by Samaritans. They wanted to use their newfound authority as apostles not to heal but to bring fire down on the town. (Perhaps Jesus gave them their Sons of Thunder nickname because of their passion, their own fire, or their temper.) Jesus did reprimand them for their unforgiving, vengeful view of their power.

But despite all these misunderstandings, it was still James, Peter, and John that Jesus chose to join him in prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane for his final prayer before his arrest. It must have hurt Jesus that the three of them fell asleep on this agonizing evening.

James did drink of the cup Jesus drank of, all too shortly after the Resurrection. Acts 12:1 tells us that James was one of the first martyrs of the Church. King Herod Agrippa I killed him with a sword in an early persecution of the Church. There is a story that the man who arrested James became a convert after hearing James speak at his trial and was executed with him.

James is called James the Greater because another younger apostle was named James. He should not be accused with this James, or the James who is a relative of Jesus, or the James who was an elder of the Church in Jerusalem and heard Peter’s defense of baptizing Gentiles. James, son of Thunder, was dead by then.

Legends have sprung up that James evangelized Spain before he died but these stories have no basis in historical fact.

James is the patron saint of hatmakers, rheumatoid sufferers, and laborers.


Saint James, pray for us that we may be willing to leave everything to follow Jesus as you did. Help us to become special friends of Jesus as you were. Amen

Mystical Marriage

July 24, 2005

Catholic Encyclopedia
In the Old and the New Testament, the love of God for man, and, in particular His relations with His chosen people (whether of the Synagogue or of the Church), are frequently typified under the form of the relations between bridegroom and bride. In like manner, Christian virginity been considered from the earliest centuries as a special offering made by the soul to its spouse, Christ. Nothing else seems to have been meant in speaking of the mystical nuptials of St. Agnes and of St. Catherine of Alexandria. These primitive notions were afterwards developed more completely, and the phrase mystical marriage has been taken in two different senses, the one wide and the other more restricted. (1) In many of the lives of the saints, the wide sense is intended. Here the mystical marriage consists in a vision in which Christ tells a soul that He takes it for His bride, presenting it with the customary ring, and the apparition is accompanied by a ceremony; the Blessed Virgin, saints, and angels are present. This festivity is but the accompaniment and symbol of a purely spiritual grace; hagiographers do not make clear what this grace is, but it may at least be said that the soul receives a sudden augmentation of charity and of familiarity with God, and that He will thereafter take more special care of it. All this, indeed, is involved in the notion of marriage. Moreover, as a wife should share in the life of her husband, and as Christ suffered for the redemption of mankind, the mystical spouse enters into a more intimate participation in His sufferings. Accordingly, in three cases out of every four, the mystical marriage has been granted to stigmatics. It has been estimated by Dr. Imbert that, from the earliest times to the present, history has recorded seventy-seven mystical marriages; they are mentioned in connection with female saints, beatae, and venerabiles — e.g. Blessed Angela of Foligno, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Colette, St. Teresa, St. Catherine of Ricci, Venerable Marina d’Escobar, St. Mary Magdalen de’ Pazzi, St. Veronica Giuliani, Venerable Maria de Agreda. Religious art has exercised its resources upon mystical marriage, considered as a festive celebration. That of St. Catherine of Alexandria is the subject of Memling’s masterpiece (in the Hospital St. Jean, Bruges), as also of paintings by Jordaens (Madrid), Corregio (Naples and the Louvre), and others. Fra Bartolommeo has done as much for St. Catherine of Siena. (2) In a more restricted sense, the term mystical marriage is employed by St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross to designate that mystical union with God which is the most exalted condition attainable by the soul in this life. It is also called a “transforming union”, “consummate union”, and “deification”. St. Teresa likewise calls it “the seventh resting-place” of the “interior castle”; she speaks of it only in that last treatise which she composed five years before her death, when she had been but recently raised to this degree. This state consists of three elements: The first is an almost continual sense of the presence of God, even in the midst of external occupations. This favour does not of itself produce an alienation of the senses; ecstasies are more rare. Nor does this permanent sense of God’s presence suffice toconstitute the spiritual marriage, but is only a state somewhat near to it. The second element is a transformation of the higher faculties in respect to their mode of operation: hence the name “transforming union”; it is the essential note of the state. The soul is conscious that in its supernatural acts of intellect and of will, it participates in the Divine life and the analogous acts in God. To understand what is meant by this, it must be remembered that in heaven we are not only to enjoy the vision of God, but to feel our participation in His nature. Mystical writers have sometimes exaggerated in describing this grace; it has been said that we think by the eternal thought of God, love by His infinite love, and will by His will. Thus, they appear to confound the two natures, the Divine and the human. They are describing what they believe they feel; like the astronomers, they speak the language of appearances, which we find easier to understand. Here, as in human marriage, there is a fusion of two lives. The third element consists in an habitual vision of the Blessed Trinity or of some Divine attribute. This grace is sometimes accorded before the transforming union. Certain authors appear to hold that in the transforming union there is produced a union with the Divine Word more special than that with the other two Divine Persons; but there is no proof that this is so in all cases. St. Teresa gives the name of “spiritual betrothal” to passing foretastes of the transforming union, such as occur in raptures.

‘Marriage of the Lamb’ by Karolsfeld

July 24, 2005

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St. Matthew

July 24, 2005

Feastday: September 21st Patron: Bankers

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St. Matthew, one of the twelve Apostles, is the author of the first Gospel. This has been the constant tradition of the Church and is confirmed by the Gospel itself. He was the son of Alpheus and was called to be an Apostle while sitting in the tax collectors place at Capernaum. Before his conversion he was a publican, i.e., a tax collector by profession. He is to be identified with the “Levi” of Mark and Luke.

His apostolic activity was at first restricted to the communities of Palestine. Nothing definite is known about his later life. There is a tradition that points to Ethiopia as his field of labor; other traditions mention of Parthia and Persia. It is uncertain whether he died a natural death or received the crown of martyrdom.

St. Matthew’s Gospel was written to fill a sorely-felt want for his fellow countrymen, both believers and unbelievers. For the former, it served as a token of his regard and as an encouragement in the trial to come, especially the danger of falling back to Judaism; for the latter, it was designed to convince them that the Messiah had come in the person of Jesus, our Lord, in Whom all the promises of the Messianic Kingdom embracing all people had been fulfilled in a spiritual rather than in a carnal way: “My Kingdom is not of this world.” His Gospel, then, answered the question put by the disciples of St. John the Baptist, “Are You He Who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

Writing for his countrymen of Palestine, St. Matthew composed his Gospel in his native Aramaic, the “Hebrew tongue” mentioned in the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Soon afterward, about the time of the persecution of Herod Agrippa I in 42 AD, he took his departure for other lands. Another tradition places the composition of his Gospel either between the time of this departure and the Council of Jerusalem, i.e., between 42 AD and 50 AD or even later. Definitely, however, the Gospel, depicting the Holy City with its altar and temple as still existing, and without any reference to the fulfillment of our Lord’s prophecy, shows that it was written before the destruction of the city by the Romans in 70 AD, and this internal evidence confirms the early traditions.

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 24, 2005


24 July 2005

First Reading: 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12
Psalm: Psalm 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-130
Second Reading: Romans 8:28-30
Gospel: Matthew 13:44-52 or Matthew 13:44-46

All the wealth in the world cannot be compared with the happiness of living together happily united.– Blessed Margaret d’Youville

The Presence of God

July 17, 2005

Awaken to Prayer

Coming into The Presence of God for Prayer and Meditation.
by St. Francis de Sales

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“Perhaps you do not know how to undertake mental prayer since many people in our day do not practice it. Let me show you a short method which you can use until you are more practiced in it. You will find that there are many good books which go into greater detail on mental prayer or meditation.

Two points are always used to prepare oneself for the meditation: place yourself in the presence of God, and ask for his help in praying.

“The presence of God” means a lively, attentive realization of God’s absolute presence — God is everywhere, in all places, in all things, in all people. Wherever birds fly, they encounter the air; so wherever we go or wherever we are, we find God present.

When a prince walks among blind men, they do not see him so they do not honor him. When told about him, they acknowledge him, but soon forget him, because they do not see him. Unfortunately, we do not see God, so we often forget he is there, or hold back on the honor due him. We are like that with God. We know the theology that God is here, right now. What we have to do is put our whole heart into acknowledging that he really is with us, now.

The next way to place yourself in the presence of God is to remember that he not only is in this place with you, but in a very true way he is in your heart in the very center of your spirit. St. Paul reminds us that “we live and move and have our very being” in God. (Acts 17:28) Excite in your heart a very real reverence for the God who is present to and in you.

A third way to practice this is to imagine that Christ in his sacred humanity is gazing at us from Heaven, on all humanity, on Christians who are his special children, but especially on us when we are in prayer.

Finally, we can imagine that Christ in his sacred humanity is drawing close to us, as a friend might. If the most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar is present, then Christ’s presence is real, not just imaginary. The real presence of the Risen Christ in the Eucharist is a most sacred item of our theology.

Use one or another of these methods, whichever you find most useful that day.”

*A note to say that just because I mention the source of an image does not necessarily mean I recommend the source to read. I look for images everywhere.