Archive for September, 2005

ST MICHAEL

September 30, 2005

Catholic Encyclopedia

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St. Michael the Archangel<!–

–>(Hebrew “Who is like God?”). St. Michael is one of the principal angels; his name was the war-cry of the good angels in the battle fought in heaven against the enemy and his followers. Four times his name is recorded in Scripture: (1) Daniel 10:13 sqq., Gabriel says to Daniel, when he asks God to permit the Jews to return to Jerusalem: “The Angel [D.V. prince] of the kingdom of the Persians resisted me . . . and, behold Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me . . . and none is my helper in all these things, but Michael your prince”; (2) Daniel 12, the Angel speaking of the end of the world and the Antichrist says: “At that time shall Michael rise up, the great prince, who standeth for the children of thy people.” (3) In the Catholic Epistle of St. Jude: “When Michael the Archangel, disputing with the devil, contended about the body of Moses”, etc. St. Jude alludes to an ancient Jewish tradition of a dispute between Michael and Satan over the body of Moses, an account of which is also found in the apocryphal book on the assumption of Moses (Origen, “De principiis”, III, 2, 2). St. Michael concealed the tomb of Moses; Satan, however, by disclosing it, tried to seduce the Jewish people to the sin of hero-worship. St. Michael also guards the body of Eve, according to the “Revelation of Moses” (“Apocryphal Gospels”, etc., ed. A. Walker, Edinburgh, p. 647). (4) Apocalypse 12:7, “And there was a great battle in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon.” St. John speaks of the great conflict at the end of time, which reflects also the battle in heaven at the beginning of time. According to the Fathers there is often question of St. Michael in Scripture where his name is not mentioned. They say he was the cherub who stood at the gate of paradise, “to keep the way of the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24), the angel through whom God published the Decalogue to his chosen people, the angel who stood in the way against Balaam (Numbers 22:22 sqq.), the angel who routed the army of Sennacherib (IV Kings 19:35). Following these Scriptural passages, Christian tradition gives to St. Michael four offices: To fight against Satan. To rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy, especially at the hour of death. To be the champion of God’s people, the Jews in the Old Law, the Christians in the New Testament; therefore he was the patron of the Church, and of the orders of knights during the Middle Ages. To call away from earth and bring men’s souls to judgment (“signifer S. Michael repraesentet eas in lucam sanctam”, Offert. Miss Defunct. “Constituit eum principem super animas suscipiendas”, Antiph. off. Cf. “Hermas”, Pastor, I, 3, Simil. VIII, 3). Regarding his rank in the celestial hierarchy opinions vary; St. Basil (Hom. de angelis) and other Greek Fathers, also Salmeron, Bellarmine, etc., place St. Michael over all the angels; they say he is called “archangel” because he is the prince of the other angels; others (cf. P. Bonaventura, op. cit.) believe that he is the prince of the seraphim, the first of the nine angelic orders. But, according to St. Thomas (Summa Ia.113.3) he is the prince of the last and lowest choir, the angels. The Roman Liturgy seems to follow the Greek Fathers; it calls him “Princeps militiae coelestis quem honorificant angelorum cives”. The hymn of the Mozarabic Breviary places St. Michael even above the Twenty-four Elders. The Greek Liturgy styles him Archistrategos, “highest general” (cf. Menaea, 8 Nov. and 6 Sept.). VENERATIONIt would have been natural to St. Michael, the champion of the Jewish people, to be the champion also of Christians, giving victory in war to his clients. The early Christians, however, regarded some of the martyrs as their military patrons: St. George, St. Theodore, St. Demetrius, St. Sergius, St. Procopius, St. Mercurius, etc.; but to St. Michael they gave the care of their sick. At the place where he was first venerated, in Phrygia, his prestige as angelic healer obscured his interposition in military affairs. It was from early times the centre of the true cult of the holy angels, particularly of St. Michael. Tradition relates that St. Michael in the earliest ages caused a medicinal spring to spout at Chairotopa near Colossae, where all the sick who bathed there, invoking the Blessed Trinity and St. Michael, were cured. Still more famous are the springs which St. Michael is said to have drawn from the rock at Colossae (Chonae, the present Khonas, on the Lycus). The pagans directed a stream against the sanctuary of St. Michael to destroy it, but the archangel split the rock by lightning to give a new bed to the stream, and sanctified forever the waters which came from the gorge. The Greeks claim that this apparition took place about the middle of the first century and celebrate a feast in commemoration of it on 6 September (Analecta Bolland., VIII, 285-328). Also at Pythia in Bithynia and elsewhere in Asia the hot springs were dedicated to St. Michael. At Constantinople likewise, St. Michael was the great heavenly physician. His principal sanctuary, the Michaelion, was at Sosthenion, some fifty miles south of Constantinople; there the archangel is said to have appeared to the Emperor Constantine. The sick slept in this church at night to wait for a manifestation of St. Michael; his feast was kept there 9 June. Another famous church was within the walls of the city, at the thermal baths of the Emperor Arcadius; there the synaxis of the archangel was celebrated 8 November. This feast spread over the entire Greek Church, and the Syrian, Armenian, and Coptic Churches adopted it also; it is now the principal feast of St. Michael in the Orient. It may have originated in Phrygia, but its station at Constantinople was the Thermae of Arcadius (Martinow, “Annus Graeco-slavicus”, 8 Nov.). Other feasts of St. Michael at Constantinople were: 27 October, in the “Promotu” church; 18 June, in the Church of St. Julian at the Forum;and 10 December, at Athaea. The Christians of Egypt placed their life-giving river, the Nile under the protection of St. Michael; they adopted the Greek feast and kept it 12 November; on the twelfth of every month they celebrate a special commemoration of the archangel, but 12 June, when the river commences to rise, they keep as a holiday of obligation the feast of St. Michael “for the rising of the Nile”, euche eis ten symmetron anabasin ton potamion hydaton. At Rome the Leonine Sacramentary (sixth century) has the “Natale Basilicae Angeli via Salaria”, 30 September; of the five Masses for the feast three mention St. Michael. The Gelasian Sacramentary (seventh century) gives the feast “S. Michaelis Archangeli”, and the Gregorian Sacramentary (eighth century), “Dedicatio Basilionis S. Angeli Michaelis”, 29 Sept. A manuscript also here adds “via Salaria” (Ebner, “Miss. Rom. Iter Italicum”, 127). This church of the Via Salaria was six miles to the north of the city; in the ninth century it was called Basilica Archangeli in Septimo (Armellini, “Chiese di Roma”, p. 85). It disappeared a thousand years ago. At Rome also the part of heavenly physician was given to St. Michael. According to an (apocryphal?) legend of the tenth century he appeared over the Moles Hadriani (Castel di S. Angelo), in 950, during the procession which St. Gregory held against the pestilence, putting an end to the plague. Boniface IV (608-15) built on the Moles Hadriani in honour of him, a church, which was styled St. Michaelis inter nubes (in summitate circi). Well known is the apparition of St. Michael (a. 494 or 530-40), as related in the Roman Breviary, 8 May, at his renowned sanctuary on Monte Gargano, where his original glory as patron in war was restored to him. To his intercession the Lombards of Sipontum (Manfredonia) attributed their victory over the Greek Neapolitans, 8 May, 663. In commemoration of this victory the church of Sipontum instituted a special feast in honour of the archangel, on 8 May, which has spread over the entire Latin Church and is now called (since the time of Pius V) “Apparitio S. Michaelis”, although it originally did not commemorate the apparition, but the victory. In Normandy St. Michael is the patron of mariners in his famous sanctuary at Mont-Saint-Michel in the Diocese of Coutances. He is said to have appeared there, in 708, to St. Aubert, Bishop of Avranches. In Normandy his feast “S. Michaelis in periculo maris” or “in Monte Tumba” was universally celebrated on 18 Oct., the anniversary of the dedication of the first church, 16 Oct., 710; the feast is now confined to the Diocese of Coutances. In Germany, after its evangelization, St. Michael replaced for the Christians the pagan god Wotan, to whom many mountains were sacred, hence the numerous mountain chapels of St. Michael all over Germany. The hymns of the Roman Office are said to have been composed by St. Rabanus Maurus of Fulda (d. 856). In art St. Michael is represented as an angelic warrior, fully armed with helmet, sword, and shield (often the shield bears the Latin inscription: Quis ut Deus), standing over the dragon, whom he sometimes pierces with a lance. He also holds a pair of scales in which he weighs the souls of the departed (cf. Rock, “The Church of Our Fathers”, III, 160), or the book of life, to show that he takes part in the judgment. His feast (29 September) in the Middle Ages was celebrated as a holy day of obligation, but along with several other feasts it was gradually abolished since the eighteenth century (see FEASTS). Michaelmas Day, in England and other countries, is one of the regular quarter-days for settling rents and accounts; but it is no longer remarkable for the hospitality with which it was formerly celebrated. Stubble-geese being esteemed in perfection about this time, most families had one dressed on Michaelmas Day. In some parishes (Isle of Skye) they had a procession on this day and baked a cake, called St. Michael’s bannock.

Rainbow Bridge

September 27, 2005


This is for my beloved pet:Just this side of Heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food and water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable. All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.

The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing: they miss someone very special to them; who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. The bright eyes are intent; the eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to break away from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster. YOU have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together…….” (~Anonymous) http://rainbowsbridge.com/Poem.htm (graphic)http://www.cyberhideaway.com/RainbowBridge/ (poem)Both sites are very comforting to those dealing with grief for their pet.

William Bouguereau – Notre-Dame des Anges – Our Lady of the Angels

September 25, 2005

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Intercessory Prayer

September 25, 2005

spirithome.com

What’s Different About Intercessory Prayer?Intercessory prayer is not the same as prayers for yourself, or for ‘enlightenment’, or for spiritual gifts, or for guidance, or any personal matter, or any glittering generality. Intercession is not just praying for someone else’s needs. It is praying with the real hope and real intent that God would step in and act for the good of some specific other person(s) or other entity. It is trusting that God will act, even if it’s not in the manner or timing we seek. God wants us to ask, even urgently. It is casting our weakness before God’s strength, and (at its best) having a bit of God’s passion burn in us.”I commend intercessory prayer, because it opens man’s soul, gives a healthy play to his sympathies, constrains him to feel that he is not everybody, and that this wide world and this great universe were not after all made that he might be its petty lord, that everything might bend to his will, and all creatures crouch at his feet.”

INTERCESSION IN THE BIBLEThe Bible has many cases of people standing up for others before God. The most striking example is that of Abraham. He took the initiative to step forward before God on behalf of his neighbors in Sodom and its area. He cared enough to do it, even though he knew how thoroughly wicked Sodom was, and knew how furious God was about it (which explains why he was so careful in speaking to God about it). Moses also stepped in when God was angry, standing in the gap in the most literal sense : offering his own life for that of his nation. (Thankfully, God didn’t take him up on the offer.) It was part of the role of a prophet not just to speak what God speaks, but to speak with God for the people of Israel. A fine example is the exchange between the prophet Habakkuk and God, where the prophet asks for God to act against injustice, but God replies about a coming doom. Isaiah prayed with King Hezekiah to save the nation from defeat and destruction at the hands of Assyria, and the armies were suddenly turned back (see Isaiah ch. 36-39). The master builder Nehemiah prayed to God to bring about the rebuilding of Jerusalem and of his people. As they took their concerns to God, the key motivation behind these giants of faith was compassion. They loved the people, the culture, the faith with a love like God’s love, and it burned in them so much that they dared to take on God on their behalf. Unlike the gods of the lore of most other lands, this God did not zap them with lightning or turn them into half-beasts. God listened to their cries — not by ignoring the wrongdoings that got the divine wrath kindled in the first place, but by saving at least some of the people and bringing them back to where they belonged.The New Testament has its cases of intercessory prayer. Jesus was the prime example of an intercessor. He interceded in prayer that God bless and protect His followers. At the cross, He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Indeed, His whole life, His whole reason for being born, was to be a living intercession, a giving of His life to span the rift caused by our rebellion against God. Stephen’s last words were an intercession on behalf of those who were killing him. Paul prayed constantly for the struggling young church, for character, behavior, witness, and wisdom. It is Paul’s regular prayer for the church and its people that sets the usual pattern for our own intercessory prayers. And Epaphras was the ‘prayer wrestler’ for the church in Colossae.Even at its earliest, the young church was praying for people : for safe travel, praying that people might know Christ through other peoples’ witness, praying for healing and health, for rescue, for wisdom, for childbirth, for spiritual growth, for marriages — asking God to bring benefit or blessing to people other than themselves. The others were not always beloved; they prayed for their political leaders, some of whom were out to kill them. But they knew their God was merciful and was intimately involved with what was going on in the world. And they knew that they were called by God to share in that involvement.
DOING IT YOURSELFThe place where intercession must start is with you. It’s great to know that others may be stepping up for someone before God, but God wants you to put something of yourself on the line. Otherwise, it’s too cheap to be real. Your private devotions are not just for your own benefit. If God’s love is at work in you, you will care about others, and your love for them will lead you to take it to the ultimate Source of strength, healing, and love. Don’t be fearful; be persistent and stubborn. God doesn’t mind; God likes to see divine love at work in you. God honors your part in the relationship.It is best to always be aware that you never really pray alone. For when the honest love in you for other people causes you to ask God to act to strengthen, heal, defend, change, or bless them, there is someone else praying with you : the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is leading you to pray. When your love is not whole or your mind is not clear, the Spirit steps in for you, to express the prayer and draw you into it. It’s been the practice of Christian intercessors over the past two millenia that intercessory prayer is prayed in a ‘Trinitarian’ manner : to the Father, through the Son, and in and with the Holy Spirit. God isn’t fussy about that pattern, but it helps us to see some part of how God works in prayer.The intercessory prayer that first comes to you about someone may not be what God wants you to pray for. For instance, you might be praying to lift a burden, but the Lord might be using the burden to prepare them to do something for God. Then again, your prayer might be what God wants to happen. Thus, we are to pray listening for the Spirit, and pray that God’s will be done. I find myself concentrating better when I mutter the words; it gives my mind more focus. The mind may go off to explore something during personal devotions, but not while you’re interceding for others — those others must be your first concern. So, it’s sometimes best to do it before you seek stillness (though God will sometimes lead you out of stillness into intercession — be open to it).Don’t be surprised if the Spirit starts tugging on your heart to take some sort of action about a matter you’re praying about. You may be the answer God sends into their lives. That’s not a license to be a buttinski, stepping into everyone’s private lives like some sort of conquering hero. But the Spirit might be calling you to be more than a bystander. Be ready for it. When you intercede, bring your knowledge, gifts, abilities, attention and energies before God and say, ‘use these, if that’s what it takes to set this right’.
GIFTED INTERCESSIONAnyone can pray for others and step in with God on their behalf. But some people are gifted at intercession. They have an ear for the needs of others, and take them before God even when those other people reject God. An intercessor’s heart is touched for those in need, not so much on their side as by their side and on their behalf. They have a burden for that person. They persevere. They let the Spirit give them comfort about it, instead of worrying. And when word of results comes, they celebrate and are happy about it. If that sounds like you, then you may be a gifted intercessor.Sometimes, someone is led to be an intercessor for a specific person or mission or task. Such people are valuable even beyond donors. Such intercessors sometimes get a strong sense of coming danger about whom they’re praying for. They often report that they’re driven to their knees to pray about something they can’t otherwise have known was happening.

Mass Readings

September 25, 2005

EWTN

Sunday, September 25, 2005
Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Reading: Ezekiel 18:25-28
Psalm: Psalm 25:4-9
Second Reading: Philippians 2:1-11 or Philippians 2:1-5
Gospel: Matthew 21:28-32

We know we are traveling together. If our pace is slow, go on ahead of us. We won’t envy you but rather will seek to catch up with you. However, if you consider us capable of a quicker pace, run along with us. There is only one goal, and we are all anxious to reach it….some at a slow pace and others at a fast pace. Let everyone’s sighs be uttered in longing for Christ. Let us run to Him and cry out for Him.
~St Augustine~

‘In Safe Hands’: Distressed Jet Makes Successful Emergency Landing

September 22, 2005

CBS

(CBS 13) LONG BEACH A jetBlue airliner has successfully made an emergency landing at Los Angeles International Airport.

The plane’s front wheels were turned sideways and were unable to retract into the Airbus jet.

Dozens of emergency crews and vehicles, including a foam truck, were standing by as sparks flew and the plane skid to a halt.

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‘In this image taken from television, a JetBlue Airbus A320 airliner with its front landing gear stuck sideways safely landed at Los Angeles International Airport. (AP Photo/ABC via APTN)’ – Victoria Times

**I was watching this on streaming video after a friend alerted me to what was going on with this plane when he thought someone he knew was on it. To envision a whole plane-load of people who have been flying in a pattern over the Pacific Ocean for hours, trying to get rid of the heavy fuel so the pilot can attempt an emergency landing at LAX, knowing that each and every one of them is thinking that they might die at this time, is a very stressful thing. I sat with my Rosary in my hands watching the approach of the jet and listening to the news readers drone on. I was praying and crying and appealing to all avenues of aid when all of a sudden I ‘saw’, but not actually saw in a concrete fashion–I saw the hand of God reach out and encircle the middle top of the plane much as a child would with a model airplane he was pretending to zoom over the ground. I knew at that moment that all would be well because God had reached out to bring this plane and these people to safety. I continued to watch the landing, which was one of the most beautifully executed jet landings I have ever seen. The pilot never waivered–never deviated from his straight-in approach. The sideways nose gear produced a streaming shower of sparks as the rubber tyres melted, yet nothing caught fire, nothing went awry; it was as smooth as if all gears had been working correctly. It was awesome. I have nothing but respect and admiration for this pilot, and I thank God that this plane was saved. Prayers do make a difference, and I know that like this plane, we are all in the safe grip of our God even when we think we are in the most danger.

See news story >>JetBlue

Our Lady of Compassion

September 18, 2005

When I was looking for pictures of Our Lady, Google came up with this beautiful painting from a blog which evidently no longer exists. The picture was called the crying painting of Our Lady of Compassion. I could not, however, find any other information about it.

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Saint Finnian

September 18, 2005

Irelandseye.com

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Finnian of Clonard is generally regarded as the father of Irish monasticism. He was born in Co. Meath towards the end of the fifth century and it is said that all the birds of Ireland gathered as a portent of the holy life he would lead. As a young man he founded three churches in Ireland before being attracted to monastic life in Wales. He studied under Saint Cadoc at Llancarfan, Glamorganshire, and was much influenced by Cadoc’s pupil Gildas, who was critical of the worldliness and wealth of British bishops.

Finnian became convinced that the ascetic life offered the best way of consecrating one’s life to God. It was a belief well-suited to Ireland, with its population dispersed in small rural kingdoms. Finnian’s first monastery was at Aghowle, Co. Wicklow, but he settled c. 520 at Clonard, Co. Meath, on the River Boyne. Clonard becarne the most famous monastic school of the sixth century, its importance derived from the number of disciples who left to found other monasteries. Finnian’s most prominent pupils have been called the twelve apostles of Ireland. The saint died of plague c. 549, but the monastery at Clonard survived until the sixteenth century.

From the Appletree Press title: A Little Book of Celtic Saints.

Happiness Project

September 18, 2005

Inspiration Room

The Happiness Project is devoted to helping others find happiness. There are many links to visit and things to read. Here is one article:

10 Keys to Large Amounts of Happiness!

1. Look for happiness!

Perception is a choice! Who is right, the cynic or the optimist? Do you think the cynic is right? Or will you vote for the optimist? The point is, the cynic and the optimist are both right! Perception is a choice. Be careful what you look for because you will find it! Perception is projection: you see what you want to see. If you are looking for one more reason why you’re in the wrong job, you’ll find it. If you’re looking for one more reason why the world is out to get you, you’ll find it. Similarly, if you look for happiness, happiness finds you.

Choose consciously what you are looking for today. You will see a difference if you are willing to see things differently. Outlook determines outcome.

2. Celebrate the “GOOD NEWS”

Judging by our day-to-day conversations with friends, family and colleagues, no one is happy, no one is successful and no one is having a good time. “How are you?” we ask, when we greet one another. The replies arrive thick and fast: “Not bad”, “Not so bad”, and “Not too bad”. Some people, more creative, say,

“Could be better”
“Could be worse”
“Bearing up”
“Oh, so-so”
“Fair to middling”
“Hanging in there”
“Soldering on”
“Surviving”
“Can’t complain”
“Mustn’t grumble”

How about that! I call this type of inane conversation “Not-so-badder-itis”. It is like a “near-life experience”, as opposed to a “near-death experience”, in that there is no happiness, no sadness, no commitment, no nothing. In our fast and furious world, where no one appears to have the time to engage in mindful conversations, “Not so bad” has become a learned response, a type of social shorthand. It’s quick, its easy, and we have no idea what you are talking about!

Celebrate the “good news”. Sit down, right now, and make a list of ten “successes” you have had in the last week. Yes, ten! They are there if you look for them. For the next seven days, I want you to sit down each evening and make a list of 5 successes you have had for each day. Affirm and acknowledge your successes, your joy, your good fortune.

3. Remember what’s IMPORTANT!

Do you remember the Monty Python Sketch about the “Silly Olympics”, called the “100 Meters Dash for People With a Poor Sense of Direction”? Well, the gun goes off, and pretty soon the athletes are running backwards, sideways and nowhere. They are running very fast, but they have no direction. This morning, your alarm clock went off, and you too started to run – it’s another busy day, auto-pilot kicks in (thank God!), and you dash from bed to bathroom, have breakfast on the run, tackle the traffic, negotiate the road-rage, and frantically you consult the personal organiser for “What first?”, “What next?” and “What now?” Do you know where you are running to? Are you on track? Is there any finishing line in sight?

Decide who and what is important to you and give, wholeheartedly of your time, your energy and your attention. People get ill and unhappy because, 1) they forget what is important; 2) they know what is important but their time, energy and attention is spent elsewhere. Do not let details eclipse what is important.

Exercise: write down 10 things you love to do, and then write down next to each of these activities the date you last did it; write down 10 people that you love to spend “quality time” with, and again write down the date you last spent “quality time” with each person. Are you still on track? Have you got enough time to do this exercise?

4. What did you decide today?

Take your mind back to first thing this morning. Would you describe the way you woke up today as a beautiful performance, or, more simply, a performance! Was it peaceful, or were you in pieces? Did you rise and shine, or, rise and whine? Did you wake up fresh, or, on auto? Do you ever find that the effort of waking actually exhausts you for the rest of the day?

How did you greet this new day? Are you, for instance, the sort of person who wakes up in the morning and says, “Good morning, God”, or, swears, “Good God, morning!”? Maybe you like to start the day with a smile, to get it over with! How do you prepare for each new day?

Try to recall specific decisions you made during the very first hour of today. Your first decision may have been to hit the “Snooze” button on your alarm clock! What then? A fast coffee, maybe? Hit the shower. A cigarette. A search for socks. New underwear. Yesterday’s underwear. Hurry the children along. Make-up. Breakfast on the run. Catch the news headlines Hunt for your wallet. The “find the keys” game. Walk the dog. A quick jog?

Most early morning decisions are about showers, make-up, clothes, children, food, time and transport perhaps. They are “doing decisions”, as opposed to “being decisions”. What I am most interested in is not your “to do” list, but your “to be” list. In other words, did you make any conscious decisions about how you wanted to be today? To put it another way, what sort of a day did you decide to have today?

Percentage wise, how much time did you spend preparing your body for today, i.e. washing, feeding and clothing, as opposed to how much time spent preparing your mind for today? What was the split? Body 95%; Mind 5%, perhaps? Body 25%; Mind 75%, perhaps? Generally speaking, how do you like to prepare yourself mentally and spiritually for each new day of your life?

Your first hour on waking is like the rudder of a ship in that it serves to steer a course for the rest of your day. More specifically, it is during this time that you make up your mind exactly what sort of a day you will have. In other words, you set your intention for the day, unconsciously and consciously. So, once again, think back to first thing this morning and ask yourself, how did you decide to be today? What sort of a day have you already decided to have?

Decision is power! Decision, above circumstance, is the key to happiness NOW. Know, therefore, that your decision counts. You really can decide what sort of a day to have today. In fact, you already have. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can happen without your decision.

5. To be or not to be?

Did anyone tell you when you were growing up, you can be what you want? Hopefully, if you were fortunate, there was at least one person in your life who encouraged you to dream, to dare and to be? The words, you can be what you want, sound so positive, hopeful and affirming. They are also a statement of truth, for they illustrate a very important principle of being. This principle is outlined in a poem of affirmation I wrote called “You Can Be What You Want!”. It reads,

If you would want love, be loving.
If you would want care, be caring.
You can be what you want.

If you would want joy, be joyful.
If you would want peace, be peaceful.
You can be what you want.

If you would want happiness, be happy.
If you would want kindness, be kindly.
You can be what you want.

If you would want forgiveness, be forgiving.
If you would want acceptance, be accepting.
You can be what you want.

Being is proactive. It is literally being what you want. It is also about being first, e.g. if you want honesty, be honest first; if you want loyalty, be loyal first; if you want trust, be trusting first; if you want enthusiasm, be enthusiastic first; if you want courage, be courageous first; if you want inspiration, be a Light first! Be what you want, and stick to it! Your courage will be rewarded.

6. Work, Rest and Play!

According to the world ethic, happiness is not natural – happiness is a pay-packet you earn for putting in the hours. There are, in particular, four erroneous, fearful beliefs about happiness that help make up the work ethic, and they are,

* Happiness has to be deserved
* Happiness has to be worked for
* Happiness has to be earned
* Happiness has to be paid for

The work ethic is all about labour: birth is labour, life is labour, love is labour, happiness is labour, work is labour, death is rest. We labour, not for the joy of it, but because we have learned to believe we must. The purpose of the work ethic is to work hard so as to atone for your guilt and unworthiness and thereby “deserve happiness” once more.

“Workaholism” is endemic, and for many of us our life is governed entirely by work. Once upon a time, we worked to live; now, we live to work. Any “life” we do have is merely recovery from work. We work, recover from work, and then work again. We go to the office to work.

After work, we bring home some work with us. For rest, we go tot he gym for a work-out. Totally exhausted, we go to therapy to work through our problems – “I’ve done a lot of work on myself,” we say. After all that, there’s the house-work! Finally, we hit the sack, too tired to be happy, but our mind is still working and we cannot sleep. No problem! Insomnia is a wonderful chance to get more work done!

The work ethic is motivated by the belief that anything worthwhile requires great work, effort and labour. According to the work ethic: creativity is not inspiration; it’s perspiration; love is a labour, not a joy; success is a fight, it never comes easily; health is about a “no pain, no gain” attitude; salvation is hardest of all – it is a wrestling match with the angels – just ask Jacob. Nothing comes easily according to the work ethic.

We are too busy working to be happy, to be happy. In the last ten years, the average working week has increased by over ten hours to nearly 50 hours a week; the lunch break faces extinction; 6 out of 10 men and 4 out of 10 women work Saturdays; Sundays are now a workday for many. To cap it all, when we dare leave the office at 5pm, there is always one sad, brainless colleague who shouts out, “Part timer”, or, “Only doing a half day?” Guilt ensues.

As a society we spend more and more time as a human doing and less and less time as a human being. Indeed, the work ethic despises rest and play. We hardly ever go out to play anymore; instead we go for cardiovascular workouts, business lunches and corporate away days. According to the work ethic, rest is “downtime” – nothing useful is happening. Too much rest and you lose your edge!

Kick the work ethic into touch! When you are relaxed and happy, you perform brilliantly. Remember the old saying: “you do not stop playing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop playing”. Work is an attitude. So too is play. Go out to play!

7. Laugh your head off!

How wonderful it is to laugh! Instinctively, we know that there is something magical, nourishing and uplifting about laughter, particularly the warm, whole-hearted laughter that arises spontaneously between friends, loved ones and even occasionally a stranger. The entertainer, Victor Borge, once commented, “laughter is the shortest distance between two people”.

In September 1991, I opened the doors to Britain’s first NHS Laughter Clinic off a road in Handsworth, Birmingham where as “Life” would have it (I don’t believe in luck), there had been large-scale rioting the night before. To my astonishment and wonder we had a near full house for our first event – looking back, there was something poetic about our meeting, something so hopeful, loving and life-affirming. We were united in laughter.

Physicians, philosophers and priests of all cultures have forever acknowledged the healing properties of laughter, a happy frame of mind and a joyful heart. In the Bible, for instance, it is written, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine; but a broken spirit drieth the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). I like the words, in particular of Jonathan Swift who wrote, “The best doctors in the world are Doctor Diet, Doctor Quiet and Doctor Merryman”.

Two thoughts: 1) “The most wasted day is that in which we have not laughed, 2) “Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves, for they will never cease to be amused”. The greatest happiness of all is to know that happiness needs no reason. Indeed,

“Laughter needs no reason.
A smile needs no reason.
Love needs no reason.
Kindness needs no reason.
They are gifts for free –
life’s true treasures.”

Can you remember a time in your life when you were happy for no reason at all? All of a sudden you were surprised by joy. It bubbled up as if from nowhere. Your smile was almost too big for your face, your heart wanted to leap out of your chest, and your whole body rung like a bell. “I’m happy!” you cried. “I wonder why?” you thought. “I must know why?” you demanded. And just then, the joy appeared to die.

Children are often happy without reason – it is a part of their charm. Often you can catch a child laughing for the fun of laughing, smiling for the sake of smiling, playing happily with happiness. It both amuses and saddens me to think that, when a child laughs for no reason at all we think it wonderful, but when an adult laughs for no reason at all we immediately fear for his or her health! The point is, who ever said happiness needs a reason?

Give up all thoughts that happiness needs a reason. Practise “unreasonable happiness.” Laugh for no reason – it will entertain everyone! Smile for no reason – smiling always triggers curiosity.

8. Give What you Want!

One of the healing processes I use on my workshops that I most enjoy is called “Complementary Medicine Therapy”. This process acknowledges the enormous healing potential of kind, loving and encouraging words of complement.

These are three stages to “Complementary Medicine Therapy”. You might want to try each stage for yourself. The first stage is to write down five complements you would most like to receive from anybody. These complements may highlight a particular quality, talent, skill or value that is dear to you. Once written, I ask participants to repeat these complements out loud to themselves. Why? Because, often what you want to hear from others is what you are currently not saying to yourself.

Other people can complement you a thousand times over, but you will only truly hear (i.e. receive) as many complements from others as you are willing to give yourself. Thus, giving to yourself can help you to receive from others. Keep your list of complements on hand. Read them not just once, but three times a day, for seven days minimum.

The second stage of “Complementary Medicine Therapy” is to think of someone in your life who is perhaps overdue a sincere complement from you. The name or face of this person will appear almost instantly. Think carefully now what it is you would most like to complement them for. Why do this? First, because being loving is fulfilling your purpose; second, it’s great fun; third, whatever you complement in another person you are strengthening in yourself also.

Complements are affirmations. Like sacred greetings, they bless both the receiver and the giver. A good way to strengthen any joyful quality in yourself is to first spot it in others. What you spot in others, you give life to in yourself. The Buddhists refer to this practice as, sympathetic joy. The ego, born of lack, cannot afford to be this generous; but you can! Remember, giving is a gain; not a loss.

The third stage is to think of a person whom you feel is overdue in giving you a loving complement. Once again, the name or face of this person will appear almost instantly. Think for a moment, what would you most like them to say to you? Next, make contact with this person and give to them the complement you would most like to receive from them? Give what you want? Why? Because, often what you are not getting may be what you are withholding.

Other people are you! They are your mirrors! And just as it would be entirely unreasonable to stand before a mirror and demand to see something you are not presenting, so too, it is unreasonable to expect from someone something you are not willing to give. Many people have experienced great breakthroughs in their relationships (with both the living and dead) during this third stage.

9. Gratitude

For the next seven days, sit down each evening and write down ten things you are grateful for for each day. Better still, do this with your partner or a friend. Before we practise gratitude, we are in the dark and there appears to be very little to be grateful for. Once we begin, a new light dawns, sometimes a brilliant light, a light as bright as heaven itself.

To whom are you grateful to in your life? Do these people know the full extent of your gratitude? Do you realise how grateful they will be when you tell them? Gratitude is more than an attitude; gratitude is a philosophy. The philosophy of gratitude begins as a hope, grows into a belief, and, finally, becomes an absolute knowing. It is a knowing that within any given situation – peaceful or painful, beautiful or ugly – there is always a gift waiting, wanting for you to see.

If it appears you have nothing to be grateful for, it is because you are not allowing yourself to receive. Just because you do not receive does not mean there is nothing to receive. On the contrary, there is always something to receive, and so there is always a reason to be grateful. Pray, “Dear God, teach me I am worthy to receive, teach me how to receive, teach me gratitude”. Gratitude is good medicine. One single serving of gratitude is often enough to open the heart, energise the body, warm the bones, make your hair curl, put a spring in your step, start you humming, and make you smile like a baby!

10. Make Happiness A Way of Travelling!

After years of studying stress, I have concluded that one of the biggest causes of stress is that we wait for happiness to happen! We think happiness is not for now; rather, we see it as a reward we work to, struggle after and suffer for in the hopes that one day it will happen. Following this erroneous train of thought, today becomes a day for well-behaved hardship, noble suffering, mild martyrdom and quiet desperation; and tomorrow, maybe, we might be happy.

Well, it’s official. The news is out: “There is no future!” Please understand, this is not a message of despair; it is simply a statement of truth. I repeat, “There is no future”! Save not, therefore, your best for the future. Do not WAIT to give your best to the next job, the next time, the next person, or, the next opportunity. Give your best NOW!

Some things never change: your greatest opportunity for happiness has been, will be, and still is, NOW! Unfortunately, you are often too busy “pasturising” and “futurising” to see that everything is here already right now. Give up the past, give up the future, and give in to happiness NOW! It really is all here. It must be, because you are here.

The one piece of good news that is true forever is, The present is here, now!

When in search of wisdom, linguists often refer to roots and connections of words from pre-historic civilisations. They explore ancient languages like Sanskrit, Aramaic and Latin, for instance, to unearth forgotten gems of wisdom. Well, much closer to home and to present time, it is helpful to note that in the English language, the word “present” has three distinct meanings: “here”, “now” and “a gift”.

Is this only a coincidence, or could it be that, the greatest gifts of life are always available to you here and now! The word “present” also links to “presence”, “being” and “being present”. Here is another clue. Give yourself to NOW! The future is not your answer – it has no true power. Now – right here – is good enough for you. All you need remember is, nothing is missing within you and nothing is missing here now.

One final thought: At the Happiness Project, we celebrate the idea of happiness as a gift in this statement:

It is because the world is so full of suffering,
that your happiness is a gift.
It is because the world is so full of poverty,
that your wealth is a gift.
It is because the world is so unfriendly,
that your smile is a gift.
It is because the world is so full of war,
that your peace of mind is a gift.
It is because the world is in such despair,
that your hope and optimism is a gift.
It is because the world is so afraid,
that your love is a gift.

Extract from Happiness NOW , article by Robert Holden

Mass Readings

September 18, 2005

EWTN

Sunday, September 18, 2005
Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Reading: Isaiah 55:6-9
Psalm: Psalm 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18
Second Reading: Philippians 1:20-24, 27
Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16

All of us can attain to Christian virtue and holiness, no matter in what condition of life we live and no matter what our life work may be.
–Francis de Sales–