At the cross her station keeping

                 stood the mournful Mother weeping,

                 close to Jesus to the last;


                 through her heart, his sorrow sharing,

                 all his bitter anguish bearing,

                 now at length the sword had passed.


                 Oh, how sad and sore distressed

                 was that Mother highly blessed

                 of the sole-begotten One.


                 Christ above in torments hangs;

                 she beneath beholds the pangs

                 of her dying glorious Son.


                 Is there one who would not weep,

                 whelmed in miseries so deep,

                 Christ’s dear Mother to behold?


                 Can the human heart refrain

                 from partaking in her pain,

                 in that Mother’s pain untold?


                 Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled

                 she beheld her tender child

                 all with bloody scourges rent;


                 for the sins of his own nation

                 saw him hang in desolation,

                 till his spirit forth he sent.


                 O you Mother, fount of love!

                 Touch my spirit from above,

                 make my heart with yours accord:


                 make me feel as you have felt;

                 make my soul to glow and melt

                 with the love of Christ our Lord.


                 Holy Mother, pierce me through;

                 in my heart each wound renew

                 of my Saviour crucified:


                 let me share with you his pain

                 who for all my sins was slain,

                 who for me in torments died.


                 Let me mingle tears with you,

                 mourning him who mourned for me

                 all the days that I may live:



                 by the cross with you to stay,

                 there with you to weep and pray,

                 is all I ask of you to give.


                 Virgin of all virgins best,

                 listen to my fond request;

                 let me share your grief divine;


                 let me, to my latest breath,

                 in my body bear the death

                 of that dying Son of yours.


                 Wounded with his every wound,

                 steep my soul till it has swooned

                 in his very blood away;


                 be to me, O Virgin, nigh,

                 lest in flames I burn and die

                 in his awful judgement day


                 Christ, when you shall call me hence,

                 be your Mother my defence,

                 be your cross my victory.


                 While my body here decays,

                 may my soul your goodness praise,

                 safe in paradise with you.



                 108. From Kylemore Abbey


                 May the road rise to meet you.


                 May the wind be always at your back.


                May the sun shine warm upon your face.


                And the rain fall soft upon your fields


                And until we meet again May God

                hold you in the palm of His hand.


               (An old Irish verse).



109. Piet Derkson The founder of Center Parc Village Holidays.

We have just returned from a four day break at Center Parcs. (To celebrate my safe return from the 1998 Holy Land Pilgrimage).  Whilst there I learnt something about the man who first had the idea of the Forest Villages. He was a Dutchman called Piet Derkson. He was a Catholic and he was not afraid to let everyone know. At the entry to all the Forest Villages is a very large Cross which can be seen by everyone entering the village. Also on one of the main paths in the village is a statue of the Sacred Heart in a glass case (like a large reliquary). It is illuminated at night.....very impressive. A few years ago Piet’s wife became ill so he took her to Lourdes and she was cured. That made him decide to give away the large fortune which his Forest Villages had helped him to amass. He died in 1997. He was a very private man and I have not found it possible to find out any more about him. There are some wonderful stories where we least expect to find them.


      110. Young People.

          If young people live with criticism, they learn to condemn.

         If young people live with hostility, they learn to fight.

         If young people live with ridicule, they learn to be shy.

         If young people live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.


         If young people live with tolerance, they learn to be patient.

         If young people live with encouragement, they learn confidence.

         If young people live with praise, they learn to appreciate.

         If young people live with fairness, they learn justice.

         If young people live with security, they learn to have faith.

         If young people live with approval, they learn to like themselves.

         When young people live with acceptance and friendship,

         they learn to find love in the world.


     (Adapted from Dorothy Law Holte.)


111.Humble Abbots.

In 1990 when Douai Abbot Finbar had just been elected I asked him about the election process and whether he was given the chance to say “No”.  “Yes” he replied, “But I thought I’d better accept rather than have us go through all the long election process again”!

Eight years later I found myself asking Abbot Geoffrey what he felt like when he had been elected. “Cross!” he said “I’d come down from Ormskirk for the election and had my bag packed ready to go back”!

Two humble men who had no idea that they would find themselves chosen as Abbots.




Seeing the crowds he went onto the mountain. And when he was seated his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:


How blessed are the poor in spirit.

 the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

Blessed are the gentle:

 They shall have the earth for their inheritance.

Blessed are those who mourn

 they shall be comforted.

Blessed are those who hunger

 and thirst for uprightness

 they shall have their fill.

Blessed are the merciful

 they shall have mercy shown them.

Blessed are the pure in heart

 they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers

 they shall be recognised as children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted

  in the cause of uprightness

  the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

Blessed are you when people abuse you

 and persecute you and speak all kinds of

 calumny against you falsely on my account.

Rejoice and be glad,

 for your reward will be great in heaven;

 this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.


Matthew 5:1-12.


In the Beatitudes Jesus turns ordinary human, and especially Jewish ideas, about happiness, upside down. The Jews thought that poverty was a curse from God. But Matthews Gospel totally dispels that suggestion.


The original beatitudes about the ‘poor’, the ‘mourners’ and the ‘hungry’ express Jesus mission to the needy in Israel and the dawn of a new era of salvation history.

All three refer to the same people. The poor are happy not because they are morally better than the others but because of God’s special care for them. The long, last beatitude, about the persecuted reflects the experience of martyrdom in the early church.


So it is not the rich, the ruthless, the powerful who are really ‘well off’. The genuinely fortunate are those who recognise their dependence on God – the ‘poor in spirit’ – trusting in God and not their own resources. The hallmarks of God’s people are ‘suffering’, ‘meekness’, ‘a longing to be right with God’ and to ‘see right prevail’, ‘readiness to forgive,’ ‘having their hearts set on God’ and ‘peacemaking’.


Their reward will be to receive what they long for. And their lives are effective in the world: they put the seasoning into life, they stop the rot, they light up the way. By what they do and say and how they react, they reflect something of what God himself is like – so that others see and give God the credit.


Perhaps we can have a greater understanding of the Beatitudes by examining them line by line:-


‘Seeing the crowds he went onto the mountain.’


The exact location is uncertain. It may have been the gently sloping hillside at the north-west corner of the Sea of Galilee, not far from Capernaum.


‘And when he was seated’


Being ‘seated’ was the recognised position for a teacher.


‘his disciples came to him.’


This might make it appear that only the disciples were present. But later we read ‘When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.’ 7:28:29. Matthew was making it clear that all the disciples had heard his words.


‘Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them.’


Note the word ‘taught’. This indicates that Jesus was about to tell them something new; something not necessarily contained in the Old Testament.


‘How blessed are the poor in spirit:

  the kingdom of heaven is theirs.’


Being ‘blessed’ means more than just being ‘happy’ because happiness is an emotion often dependent on outwards circumstances. The ‘blessed’ here refers to the ultimate well-being and distinctive spiritual joy of those who are to share in the salvation of the kingdom of God. They are ‘poor in spirit’ in contrast to the spiritually proud and self-sufficient. ….‘the kingdom of heaven is theirs.’ The Kingdom is not something which they have earned. It is more of a gift than a recompense.


‘Blessed are the gentle,

  they shall have the earth as inheritance.’


‘Gentle’ meaning ‘humble, unassuming, undemanding.’ Those who ‘demand their rights’ will have to wait until the ‘gentle’ have been given their reward.


‘Blessed are those who mourn:

 they shall be comforted.’


The first mourners were those who saw evil reign on earth (originally, over Israel). But at the end of time all who have experienced deep sorrow will receive comfort. Jesus, who would have mourned at the death of Joseph, realises the heartfelt sadness which is felt and offers comfort.


‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for uprightness:

 they shall have their fill.’


The ‘hunger and thirst’ referred to is for ‘justice’. Those who seek justice will have justice shown to them.


‘Blessed are the merciful:

 they shall have mercy shown them.’


To be merciful is to forgive: to pardon and to love one’s neighbour and even one’s enemies. Sinners who during their lives have tried to be merciful will have mercy shown to them. ‘Judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgement.’ James 2:13.


‘Blessed are the pure in heart:

 they shall see God.’


The heart is the centre of one’s being, including mind, will and emotion. ‘Pure in heart’ means a desire for justice, fidelity and loyalty to God’s commands. An absolute acceptance of God’s covenant including sincere worship. The reward is beyond our understanding!


‘Blessed are the peacemakers:

 they shall be recognised as children of God.’


Peace has to be the ultimate aim in our prayers and desires. For if peace exists then all else will be ‘at peace’. ‘In truth I tell you, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.’ Matthew 18:3.


‘Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness:

 the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.’


‘Uprightness’ is the covenant – the ten commandments. If we are persecuted for obeying those Commandments then the reward is Heaven.


‘Blessed are you when people abuse you

 and persecute you and speak all kinds of

 calumny against you falsely on my account.

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in Heaven;

 this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.’


When he said these words was Jesus thinking of John the Baptist? Was he thinking of three years hence when he would suffer the very things he had said; persecution, abuse, calumny? Listening to his words were the disciples, who were the successors of the prophets. As their lives came to a cruel end as martyrs, they would surely recall these words of Jesus.  


           113. A GRANDMOTHER’S PRAYER


           St Anne, Grandma of Jesus, I come to you in prayer

           I take our dear grandchildren and put them in your care.

           Watch over them and guide them, caress them in your love.

           With the help from Mary, Joseph and your grandson up above.

           When we cannot be with them to show them right from wrong,

           Please have their guardian angels comfort them in song.

From one Grandma to another, please take out precious jewels,

          Teach them to be kind and true and live the golden rule

          You are the greatest Grandma, you know how much we care.

           St Anne, I know you’ll guard them, that’s this Grandmother’s Prayer.


114. The Story of Michael.


What follows is a copy of a letter that was written by a young  USA Marine to his mother while he was hospitalized after being wounded on a Korean battlefield in 1950. It came into the hands of a Naval Chaplain, who read the letter before 5,000 Marines at a San Diego Naval Base in 1951.


The Navy Chaplain had talked to the boy, to the boy’s mother and to the Sergeant in charge of the patrol. This navy chaplain, Father Walter Muldy, would always assure anyone who asked that this is a true story.


‘Dear Mom,   I wouldn’t dare write this letter to anyone but you because no one else. Would believe it. Maybe even you will find it hard but I have got to tell somebody.


First off, I am in hospital. Now don’t worry, you hear me don’t worry. I was wounded but I am okay you understand. Okay. The doctor says that I will be up and around in a month. But that is not what I want to tell you.

Remember when I joined the Marines last year; remember when I left, how you told me to say a prayer to St  Michael everyday. You really didn’t have to tell me that. Ever since I can remember you always told me to pray to St Michael the Archangel. You even named me after him. Well I always have. When I got to Korea I prayed even harder.


Remember the prayer you taught me? “Michael, Michael of the morning fresh corp of Heaven adoring,” you know the rest of it. Well I said it everyday. Sometimes when I was marching or sometimes resting. But always before I went to sleep. I even got some of the other fellas to say it.


Well, one day I was with an advance detail way up over the front lines. We were scouting for the Commies. I was plodding along in the bitter cold, my breath was like cigar smoke.


I thought I knew every guy in the patrol;, when along side of me comes another Marine I never met before. He was bigger than any other Marine I’d ever seen. He must have been 6’4” and built in proportion. I gave me a feeling of security to have such a body near.


Anyway, there we were trudging along, The rest of the patrol spread out. Just to start a conversation I said, “Cold ain’t it?” And then I laughed. Here I was with a good chance of getting killed any minute and I am talking about the weather.


My companion seemed to understand. I heard him laugh softly. I looked at him, “I have never seen you before, I thought I knew every man in the outfit.” “I just joined at the last minute”, he replied. “The name is Michael.”  “Is that so”, I said surprised. “That is my name too.” “I know,” he said and then went on “Michael, Michael of the morning……….”


I was too amazed to say anything for a minute. How did he know my name, and a prayer that you taught me? Then I smiled to myself, every guy in the outfit knew about me. Hadn’t I taught the prayer to anybody who would listen. Why now and then, they even referred to me as St Michael.


Neither of us spoke for a time and then he broke the silence. “We are going to have some trouble up ahead.” He must have been in fine physical shape or he was breathing lightly I couldn’t see his breath. Mine poured out in great clouds. There was no smile on his face now. Trouble ahead, I thought to myself, well with the Commies all around us, that is no great revelation.


Snow began to fall in great thick globs. In a brief moment the whole countryside Was blotted out. And I was matching in a white fog of wet sticky particles. My companion disappeared. “Michael,” I shouted in sudden alarm. I felt his hand on my arm, his voice was rich and strong, “This will stop, shortly.” His prophecy proved to be correct. In a few minutes the snow stopped as abruptly as it had begun. The sun was a hard shining disk.


I looked back for the rest of the patrol, there was no one in sight. We lost them in that heavy fall of snow. I looked ahead as we came over a little rise. Mom, my heart stopped. There were seven of them. Seven Commies in their padded pants and jackets and their funny hats. Only there wasn’t anything funny about them now. Seven riffles were aimed at us.


“Down Michael,” I screamed and hit the frozen earth. I heard those rifles fire almost as one. I heard the bullets. There was Michael still standing. Mom, those guys couldn’t have missed, not at that range. I expected to see him literally blown to pieces.  But there he stood, making no effort to fire himself. He was paralyzed with fear. It happens sometimes, Mom, even to the bravest. He was like a bird fascinated by a snake. At least, that was what I thought then. I jumped up to pull him down and that was when I got mine. I felt a sudden flame in my chest. I often wondered what it felt like to be hit. Now I know.


I remember feeling strong arms about me, arms that laid me ever so gently on a pillow of snow. I opened my eyes, for one last look.. I was dying. Maybe I was even dead, I remember thinking well, this is not so bad.


Maybe I was looking into the sun. Maybe I was in  shock. But it seemed I saw Michael standing erect again only this time his face was shining with a terrible splendour.


As I say. Maybe it was the sun in my eyes, but he seemed to change as I watched him. He grew bigger. His arms stretched out wide, maybe it was the snow falling again, but there was a brightness around him like the wings of an angel. In his hand was a sword. I sword with flashed with a million lights.


Well, that is the last thing I remember until the rest of the fellas came up and found me. I do not know how much time had passed.  Now and then I had but a moment’s rest from the pain and fever. I remember telling them of the enemy just ahead.


“Where is Michael?” I asked. I saw them look at one another. “Where’s who?” asked one. “Michael, Michael that big Marine I was walking with just before the snow squall hit us.” “Kid,” said the sergeant, “You weren’t walking with anyone. I had my eyes on you the whole time. You were getting too far out. I was going to call you when you disappeared in the snow.”


He looked at me curiously. “How did you do it kid?” “How’d I do what?” I asked half angry despite my wound. “This Marine named Michael and I were just………. “Son,” said the sergeant kindly, “I picked this outfit myself and there just ain’t another Michael in it.”


He paused for a minute. “Just how did you do it kid?” We heard shots. There hasn’t been a shot fired from your rifle. And there isn’t a bit of lead in them seven bodies over the hill there.”


I didn’t say anything, what could I say. I could only look open mouthed with amazement. It was then the sergeant spoke again, “Kid,” he said gently, “everyone of those seven Commies was killed by a sword.”


That is all I can tell you Mom. As I say, it may have been the sun in my eyes, it could have been the cold, or the pain. But that is what happened.


Love, Michael.’


       (I have tried but failed to find the prayer mentioned in this story. “Michael,

        Michael of the morning fresh corp of Heaven adoring”. If anyone knows it

        please share it with me.  Michael Blackburn Oct 2005)





Towards the end of the war, two Polish women were transported to Siberia. Anna, the elder of the two, had left three young children behind in the village that had been razed to the ground by the Red Army. Her husband had been captured by the Gestapo and was sent to Belsen where he died. Maria was unmarried, an only child, who had to watch as both her parents were shot, and tossed into a common burial pit, before she was pushed into a cattle truck with Anna, bound for the labour camp where dew survived. They became close friends and shared a crude straw bed in a flimsy wooden hut that was not protection against the freezing winter. Every night they huddled together for warmth and every night Anna cried herself to sleep for the three children that she had left behind, and the fourth she knew she was carrying. Maria cried too at first, but then she began to pray for her parents, then she prayed for herself that she might be of some help to her friend, who had a far greater burden to carry than herself. The morale in the camp was appalling. People lived more like animals than human beings, each grabbing for themselves, fighting over food and drink and endlessly squabbling over what would have been considered trivial elsewhere. Shortly after their arrival rations were cut by half.


Despite the fact that Anna was pregnant, she seemed to manage as well as the others, though that wasn’t saying much while Maria got worse and worse and died shortly after the baby was born. It was several weeks after Maria’s death that the truth came out. Her prayer had been answered. She’d been given the strength to share the greater part of her oosel rations with her friend, so that the baby could have the life that Maria was prepared to risk for her sake. The effect of Maria’s sacrifice had a dramatic effect on the other inmates. They were so deeply moved by such selfless love that they felt ashamed of the way they had been behaving to one another. People suddenly began to became a little more like human beings. The fighting over food and drink all but ceased and the endless quarrels became the exception rather than the rule.


From a rabble that had been behaving more like brute beasts then human beings, the semblance of a community began to emerge. At first it was quite spontaneous. Then as morale was restored leaders were chosen and the discipline that they imposed was accepted by all. A wooden cross was placed over Maria’s grave and it was revered by all for what she had done, not just for her friend but for the whole community, by reminding them of what they had all but forgotten. Many nominal Christians admitted later that they understood the meaning of the cross for the first time, because they had seen for themselves what it symbolised enacted before them. They had seen genuine selfless love made flesh in a way that they had never seen before. Everyone who survived that camp was convinced that their survival was due to a miracle of love that brought about a rebirth genuine resurrection in one of the last places on earth where you would have excepted to find it.


It’s the Gospel story all over again that was told to me by a young Polish nun over 20 years ago. Naturally she was too young to remember the terrible conditions inside the labour camp where she was born, but her mother had told her the whole story. St Maria had retained her Christian name when she entered , to remind he of the loving self-sacrifice of her mother’s closest friend. She believed that the miracle of rebirth in the Church and in religious life can only be brought about by those who are prepared to open themselves to the love that she had first received through the  self-sacrifice of the godmother she had never seen.


She explained how it would involve great suffering as all the saints discovered to their cost and our gain. She quoted the words of Solzhenitsyn who also experienced a re-birth in a labour camp similar to the one in which she had been born – “I believe that the rebirth in faith will only come about through those who suffer most.” I’ve never forgotten Sister Maria’s story, nor those words of Solzhenitsyn. They’ve often inspired me to pray for the grace to journey on, come what may, to learn the self-sacrificial love that will alone bring about the re-birth in faith.


From  Inner Life by David Torkington. The Catholic Herald.


           116. BAD HABTS ONLY GOD CAN CURE.


The wages of work is cash. The wages of cash is want more cash.

The wages of want more cash is vicious competition.

The wages of vicious competition us – the world we live in.

(D H Lawrence)


The Seven Social Sins according to Mahatma Gandhi.

Politics without principle.

Wealth without work.

Commerce without Morality.

Pleasure without conscience.

Education without character.

Science without humanity.

Worship without sacrifice.


We have some bad habits that only God can cure.

(A Los Angels Gang leader.)


We need to be on fire again.

For our hope is no longer an easy one.

We live in a culture of despair

Pentecost can no loner be taken for granted.

We must refuse to make the Holy Spirit a piece of private property.

(Mary Jo Leddy)


We don’t want your money – we can steal that from you when we need it.

We need you to lead us back to God … and to give us some jobs.

(Gang leader t a group of church and business leaders. Washington USA.)


In the world’s schema of things, survival odf the fittest is the rule. In God’s

Schema, survival of the weakest is the rule.

(Alphonse Keuter.)


Seeking injustice is not what makes you just.

Crossing over to the other side, as did the Good Samaritan

And as did God in the Incarnation, is what gives birth to justice.

(Erick Riechers)


Strength without compassion is violence.

            Compassion without love is sentiment.

Justice without love is Marxism.

And…..love without justice is baloney.

(Cardinal Sin.)


           117 How Wonderful Are Your Ways, O Lord!


In 1920 Fr Honorius a Blessed Sacrament Father was assigned to Saint John the Baptist church in New York City. At 7.00a.m. one morning he made his way to the subway (underground) that would take him to the convent where he was due to say Mass. When he reached the turnstile and was about to put a coin in the slot he saw a man who was looking pleadingly at him. “Father”, said the stranger, “could you give me a nickel (five cents) so that I can get to work?” I don’t have a cent on me. If I return home for the money I’ll be late for work.”


As Father put his hand in his pocket for the fare he asked: “What is your name?” “Sim Baker” was the reply. “And I’m Father Honorius, a Blessed Sacrament priest, and is Sim and Catholic?” “Yes, but I don’t believe in all those things any more. It’s many years since I darkened the door of a church.” “I’ll give more than you need. Please accept this miraculous medal.” “But I don’t believe in these things.” Replied Sim. “And say one Hail Mary every day” continued the intrepid priest. “I don’t think I can do that” “It’s up to you. As far as I am concerned you’ll still be cooling your heels here tomorrow. You’re not getting anything from me.” A moment of silence followed broken only by Sim. “You know, I’m the kind of fellow who always does what he promises. Give me the money and the medal and I’ll do what you asked me.” The deal was done and they parted.


Years later Fr Honorius was transferred to a Blessed Sacrament church in Quebec, Canada more than 500 miles from New York City. One day he was asked to go to Montreal, 180 miles from Quebec, to give a retreat to the Little Sisters of the Poor before the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the 18th December. A young man called on him. “Would you be Father Honorius, a Blessed Sacrament Father from New York?” the young man enquired. “Yes” answered Father. “That’s my name and I did spend some time in New York.” “Follow me,” the visitor said “a dying man wants to see you.” Father wanted to know who that man could be. When he was told that the man was Sim Baker he was amazed. How could Sim of New York send for him and find him in Montreal. After that meeting in New York both had gone their separate ways and there had been no exchange of letters. Puzzled Father followed the young man.


When he knocked, Mrs Baker opened the door. “Thank God,” she said, “you’re the only priest to whom my dying husband will speak.” “But Lady” exclaimed Father Honorius “will you please tell me how you managed to track me down. From New York I was assigned to Quebec and I came to Montreal to give a retreat. How did you succeed  in finding me?”


“Well Father,” she said in a low voice so as not to be heard by her husband who was upstairs. “I kept urging him to make his peace with God, I insisted that a priest should be allowed to visit him. Yesterday he told me angrily: ‘Stop pestering me. The only priest I would talk to is a Blessed Sacrament Father. Who lives on New York. Father Honorius.’ When I heard that I called the rectory of the Blessed Sacrament Fathers here in Montreal. They told me you happened to be here, giving a retreat to the Little Sisters of the Poor. So I asked a  neighbour to fetch you.” “Does he know that you succeeded in  locating me?” “He doesn’t suspect.” Answered the wife. “There may be a scene when he sees you.” “Leave it to God and our Blessed Mother” Father said confidently. He prayed fervently as he entered the room. “O Mary Immaculate, you evidently have a hand in all this. May there be a happy ending.”


When Father entered the room Sim rubbed his eyes, then shouted: “Father Honorius, who told you to come here at this time?” “You’re wife. She claimed you said that I am the only priest you would talk to, so here I am.” “I said that simply because I wanted her to stop pestering me. But would you please tell me how she managed to find you.” Father told him what had happened. “Anyway,” Sim said, “I told you I no longer believe in these things. Don’t waste your time with me.” “Do you still have the medal and did you say that Hail Mary every day?” Father asked. “Sim Baker” the dying man said proudly, “always keeps a promise and the promise I made that morning in New York I kept.”


Changing the subject Father talked about New York. Little by little the sinner began to thaw. Finally he broke down and said “Father, hear my confession.” The man who ‘no longer believed  in these things’ had changed. He made his confession received the Viaticum and was anointed a monument to the mercy of God and the intercession of Mary.


Father Honorius has accomplished his mission. So he left and returned to the Little Sisters of the Poor. On his way he could not help musing on the ways of God. “Here I am in Montreal, 180 miles from the house to which I am assigned and 375 miles from New York where I first met Sim. He spoke to me because God permitted it: he did not have the money to pay his fare. I thought I was coming to Montreal just to give a retreat to the Sisters of the Poor in preparation for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. But God also had in mind the salvation of Sim who, apart from keeping a medal on which the Immaculate Conception is engraved, had asked her every day “to pray for us sinners now and at the hour our death.”  And when ‘now’ blended with ‘hour of his death’ Mary went out of her way to obtain for her client the great gift of final perseverance.”


Prayer:- Lord our God, in your love you chose the Virgin Mary and kept her free from sin. May this sacrament of your love free us from our sins.  Amen.  (Prayer after Communion. Feast of the Immaculate Conception.). The Link April 1999.


           118. Something & Nothing.


Several years ago, while doing my doctoral thesis, I had the privilege of having as mentor and promoter the distinguished Belgian philosopher-theologian, Jan Walgrave. One day, while discussing a point he asked me: ”Do you ever sit on a park bench and ask yourself: Why is there something instead of nothing?” The presence of to great a saintly man curbs any temptation t lie, so I had to answer: “To be honest, no. Or, at best, very rarely.” Then you are not a philosopher!” he gently suggested. “A true philosopher asks questions every day for it’s a miracle that anything at all exists. Having met occasionally, in persons like Walgrave and others, true philosophers, I know better than to claim citizenship in so contemplative a realm. True philosophers , like true mystics, true poets, and true artists, are very rare.


Sometimes though I have my contemplative moments and, lately, in doing some reading in science regarding the origins of our universe. I am beginning to oosely why philosophers such as Walgrave do not so easily take the world for granted. When one examines  the current scientific hypothesis regarding the origins of our universe (the so-called “big bang” theory) one oosely that it is a miracle, something beyond the human imagination, that there is something instead of nothing. Science today tells us that our universe had a birthday. Roughly 15 billion years ago there was a time = zero, a time when everything in our universe as we have it now was not.


Everything that is now in our entire universe began about 15 billion years ago with an explosion (the “big bang”) from something which was tinier than a single atom. Moreover, for our universe, our world, and human life to have come about a mind-boggling combination of factors had to be just right. I say “mind-boggling” because it is when we examine those factors that we are left with  the philosopher’s wonder at why there is something instead of nothing. Let me list just a few of these ‘mind-bogglers’.


First off, as Steven Hawking writes, “If the rate of expansion one second after the big bang had been smaller by one part in a hundred thousand million million it would have all re-collapsed” and we would have no universe. On the other hand, if it had been greater by one part in a million, the universe would have expanded too rapidly for planets to form. That equilibrium (upon which depends the existence of our universe) is, even today, still balanced on that same razor’s edge.


Second, if the nuclear force caused by this great explosion were even slightly weaker we would have only hydrogen in the universe. If it were even slightly stronger, all the hydrogen would be converted into helium. In either case, we would not have the present universe, the planet earth, and human life.


Finally, in the first seconds that followed this great explosion, for every one billion antiprotons in the universe, there were one billion and one protons. The billion pairs annihilated each other t produce radiation……but the one proton was left over. A greater or smaller number of survivors (or no survivors at all, if they had been evenly matched) and, again, we would not have a universe. And, to accentuate this anomaly, normally there is a symmetrical balance between particles (a billion protons for a billion antiprotons). Why the billion and one?


And then the complexity that is ultimately produced by this big bang! For example, there are a hundred trillion synapses (point a which a nerve impulse passes from one neutron to another) in a human brain and the number of possible ways of connecting them is greater than the number of atoms in the universe.


Looking at all of this, the chance coincidence of so many trillion possibilities that had to be exactly right for a universe and life to emerge, even Steven Hawking admits “there are theological implications.” My mentor, Walgrave, used to define these ‘theological implications’  in the following way……’The next time you are sitting on a park bench and looking at a tree, or you are looking into the eyes of someone you love, there should flood through you gratitude for the marvel of it all and you should ask yourself: “Why is there something instead of nothing?”


Ronald Rolheiser. Catholic Herald 16th November 1990.


119. Padre Pio’s Rosaries.


Time and again when I read about the number of Rosaries which Padre Pio prayed each day I am amazed that it is sometimes stated “he must have prayed shortened versions”. I cannot believe that Padre Pio would do such a thing. He was meticulous in everything he did and to suggest that he took short-cuts in his prayers just doesn’t ring true. On one occasion he was asked how many rosaries he had prayed that day. In obedience he said “thirty two and I still have one more to pray before the end of the day”. We know how long it takes us to pray a Rosary and from that, and taking into account the length of time he spent in the Confessional, wrongful assumptions can be made that Padre Pio took short- cuts in his prayers.


There are two things which we are not taking into account. Firstly the good Padre had trained himself to such perfection that he would probably be able to pray the Rosary and hear confession at the same time. After all, Christ’s agony in the garden was an acceptance of all, past present and future, have to confess. The sorrowful mysteries were to the fore in Padre Pio’s contemplative life. But secondly Padre Pio was not subject to the laws of nature as we are. We know that he had the power of discernment. We know that he had the power of bilocation. In essence the more Padre Pio gave himself to God the more supernatural gifts God gave to the good Padre. So to all intents and purposes Padre Pio’s striving for supernatural perfection was rewarded by his living in this world but not subject to its laws. Therefore Padre Pio’s days could have been extended to whatever number of hours God would allow.


In stating that, it is not intended to suggest that it would make his days any easier. But God, in his goodness, wanting and desiring the intense love which Padre Pio was capable of giving, could easily have allowed the extra hours necessary. In effect it would be similar to the miracle when Father Villani’s mother went the several miles to her village and back in the time it took Padre Pio to unvest after Mass. ‘Time’ was put on hold.


Cecil Humphery-Smith had the great privilege of knowing Padre Pio. I have asked him for his thoughts. He supports my conclusion and he comments: ‘Those who have experienced moving phenomenal distances in little time due to the Divine intervention resulting from Padre Pio’s intercession do not need convincing. Furthermore, Padre Pio learnt his skill of constant prayer at the Altar; and, remember he did not simply say the Rosary, reciting the prayers by rite. He contemplated each mystery in its fullness. The Holy Mass is the Last Supper and the Sacrifice of Calvary united through Christ’s own redemptive words. It is not a play acting. It is not a substitute. It is the very same Sacrifice but most certainly not a repetition. It is Christ destroying time to be present with us in His alter person, the Priest. We are in the Upper Room; we are at Calvary; we do witness the Resurrection. God overcame the World. Holy Mass is the miracle that taught Padre Pio how to use his life to the full; for God’s purpose and in His praise, worship and service.’ 


The more I think about it the more certain I am that Padre Pio would have always prayed full Rosaries and to think otherwise is, to me, almost blasphemous.


          Thoughts of the writer of this memory archive.


          120. Another Medjugorje Story.


A priest was present during an apparition of Our Lady at Medjugorje. Asked by this particular priest what Our Lady had said, the visionary replied that Our Lady was calling for conversion, to attend daily Holy Mass, recite the Rosary go to monthly confession and fasting. “We’ve heard it all before.” Said the priest in a dismissive manner. Next day when the visionary received her apparition she said to Our Lady – “The priest said we’ve heard it all before.” Our Lady’s reply was cautious and direct “Tell my priest that he is perfectly correct, he has heard it all before, but he hasn’t been doing it”


    121. ANYWAY


                                         People are unreasonable

                                         Illogical and self-centered.

                                          LOVE THEM ANYWAY



                                    If you do good, people will accuse you

                                          Of selfish ulterior motives.

                                             DO GOOD ANYWAY


                                            If you are successful,

                                 You win false friends and true enemies

                                             SUCCEED ANWAY


                                                 The good you do

                                           Will be forgotten tomorrow.

                                               DO GOOD ANYWAY


                                Honesty and frankness made you vulnerable.

                                              BE HONEST ANYWAY


                                          What you spent years building

                                            May be destroyed overnight.

                                                   BUILD ANYWAY


                                               People really need help

                                      But may attack you if you help them.

                                             HELP PEOPLE ANYWAY 


                                            Give the world the best you have

                                         And you’ll get kicked in the teeth.

                                                     GIVE THE WORLD

                                      THE BEST YOU’VE GOT ANYWAY


                                (On the wall of the children’s shelter. Calcutta.)

                                          From the book ‘A Simple Path.’


                                  ‘Everybody has something good inside them.

                                   Some hide is, some neglect it, but it is there’

                                                        Mother Teresa.


     122. Send your Angel to Holy Mass.


                                                O Holy Angel, at my side,

                                                Go to church for me.

                                                Kneel in my place at Holy Mass,

                                                Where I desire to be.   


                                                At Offertory, in my stead,

                                                Take all I am and own,

                                                And place it as a sacrifice

                                                Upon the Altar Throne.


                                                At Holy Consecration’s bell,

                                                Adore with Seraph’s love,

                                                My Jesus hidden in the Host,

                                                Come down from heaven above.


                                                And when the priest communion takes,

                                                Oh, bring the Lord to me,

                                                That His sweet Heart may rest on mine,

                                                And I His temple be.



123. Relieved.


                                                I visited the altar rail

                                                   Tonight when I was blue

                                                And everything seemed wrong to me,

                                                   Until I came to you.


                                                A cross I had throughout the day,

                                                   My path, a shadow crossed.

                                                A thing of grief had saddened me,

                                                   And peace of mind I’d lost.


                                                I went to Christ and knelt with Him

                                                   And begged His precious care,

                                                And then my cross the lighter grew,

                                                   It was easier to bear.


                                                I left it at the altar rail

                                                   Just as I came away,

                                                And now my soul is happy,

                                                   My heart is light and gay.


                                                The grief and sorrow that was mine

                                                   No more my peace will slay;

                                                I left them at the altar rail

                                                   Just as I came away.


124. Who Owns What?


Fifty years ago my mother gave me an old silver plated propelling pencil. I didn’t know that it worked so I put it in a box along with other old pen and pencils. Twenty years later I happened to notice it and decide to see if it would work – it did and it became my pride and joy. Obtaining leads for it wasn’t easy. They had to be specialy ordered and when I visited the stationers I noticed the staff casting jealous eyes at my old silver plated propelling pencil. I would quickly return it to my inside pocket. It was mine and nobody else’s!


Then one day it suddenly occurred to me that as I was so protective towards it – so

troubled by others being envious of it – that I didn’t own it – it owned me! Something had to be done about this state of affairs. How silly to allow myself to be owned by an old silver plated propelling pencil – it didn’t make sense. So I decided that the next day I would take my old silver plated propelling pencil to a local lake and cast it into the middle. At last I would be rid of it – I would be free – and no longer embarrassed by it owning me. Many ‘next days’ came and went. In fact eighteen months of ‘next days’ came and went.


Then fate took a hand. One day I returned from town to discover that my old silver

plated propelling pencil was missing. I rushed back to town – to the Café where I

had had a coffee – no I hadn’t left it there – to the Police Station – no they hadn’t

had old silver plated propelling pencil handed in. I walked the route I had taken in

town scouring the pavements and gutters but without result. Then I remembered that I had sat in a deck chair in the garden. It was sure to be somewhere in the garden. But a long search brought no result. Then another brain wave. It had probably worked its way down into the lining of the jacket I had been wearing and would be found at the bottom of the lining. But on checking that jacket, and all the other jackets ‘just in case’, no old silver plated propelling pencil was to be found.


Then came the final insult – the realization that whilst I hadn’t been able to get rid of the old silver plated propelling pencil – it had got rid of me.


 When I die on my tombstone or plaque will be written:-


                                                    He was a vassal                                             

                                      of an old silver plated propelling pencil.


           Michael Blackburn


125                  JESUS CAME TO VISIT………………..    


                        If Jesus came to your home to spend a day or two……

                        If He came unexpectedly, I wonder what you’d do.

           Oh, I know you’d give your nicest room to such an honoured guest, and

                         all the food you’d serve Him would be the very best.

               And you would keep assuring Him you’re glad to have Him there….                      

                        That serving Him in your home is joy beyond compare.

               But when you saw Him coming, would you meet Him at the door with

                     your arms outstretched in welcome to your heavenly visitor?

             Or would you have to change your clothes before you let Him in, or hide

                      some magazines, and put a Bible where they’d been?

              Would you turn off the radio and hope He hadn’t heard, and wish you

                                 hadn’t uttered that last, loud, nasty word?

               Would you hide your worldly music and put some hymn books out?

                     Could you let Jesus walk right in or would you rush about?

                     And I wonder….if the Saviour spent a day or two with you,

                      Would you go right on doing the things you always do?

                     Would you go right on saying the things you always say?

                        Would your life continue, as it does from day to day?

             Would your family conversation keep it’s usual pace, and would you

                               find it hard each meal to say a table grace?

              Would you sing the songs you always sing and read the books you read

                  and let Him know the things on which your mind and spirit feed?

               Would you take Jesus with you everywhere you’d planned to go, or

                     would you, maybe change your plans for just a day or so?

              Would you be glad to have Him meet your closest friends, or would you

                                 hope they’d stay away until His visit ends?

               Would you be glad to have Him stay forever on and on, or would you 

                              sigh with great relief when He at last was gone?

                It might be interesting to know the things that you would do. If Jesus

                                 came in person to spend some time with you.


                From the February Issue of The Children of Medjugorje Magazine.





126 You are Very Special.


In all the world there is nobody, nobody like you. Since the beginning of time there has never been another person like you. Nobody has your smile, your eyes, your hands, your hair. Nobody owns your handwriting, your voice. You’re special.


Nobody can paint your brush strokes. Nobody has your taste for food, or music, or dance or art. Nobody in the universe sees things as you do. In all time there has never been anyone who laughs in exactly your way, and what makes you laugh, or cry, or think may have a totally different response in another. So….You’re special.


You’re different from any other person who has ever lived in the history of the universe. You are the only one in the whole creation who has your particular set of abilities. There is always someone who is better at one thing or another. Every person is my superior in at least one way. Nobody in the universe can reach the quality of the combination of your talents, your feelings. Like a roomful of musical instruments, some might excel in one way or another, but nobody can match the symphonic sound when all are played together. Your symphony.


Through all eternity no one will ever walk, talk, think or do exactly like you. You’re special. You’re rare and in all rarity there is enormous value and because of your great value the need for you to imitate anyone else is absolutely wrong. You’re special and it is no accident you are. Please realise that God made you for a special purpose. He has a job for you to do that nobody else can do as well as you can. Out of the billions of applicants one is qualified. Only one has the unique and right combination of what it takes and that one is You.


You are Very Special.                     JESUS LOVES YOU.


127. The New Gas Heater.


We had just had a new gas heater fitted in our Parish Room. Very expensive, £1,000, and I had been the one to suggest it! The first time I came to light it, it wouldn’t work! I tried and tried and tried but no luck. It seemed that my pride was about to be shattered as I would have to tell the Prayer Group “Sorry no heat.” I sat on the floor feeling thoroughly dejected. “What can I do?”  I said to myself, and the answer came “Pray.” So I said “Padre Pio, Holy Spirit, please get this new heater to light.” I turned the switch and on came the heater!


Why was my prayer answered for such a small thing when there are so many more important things? I suppose the answer is that from time to time our faith needs a boost and mine certainly got one! An engineer came a few days later and discovered a broken part. The heater shouldn’t have worked! 


128. The Killing.


         That was the day they killed the Son of God

         On a squat hill-top by Jerusalem.

         Zion was bare, her children from their maze

         Sucked by the demon curiosity

         Clean through the gates. The very halt and blind

         Had somehow got themselves up to the hill.


         After the ceremonial preparation

         The scourging, nailing, nailing against the wood,

         Erection of the main-trees with their burden,

         While from the hill rose an orchestral wailing,

         They were there at last, high up in the soft spring day.

         We watched the writhings, heard the moanings, saw

         The three heads turning on the separate axles

          Like broken wheels left spinning. Round his head

          Was oosely bound a crown of plaited thorn

          That hurt at random, stinging temple and brow

          As the pain swung into its envious circle.

          In front the wreath was gathered in a knot

          That as he gazed looked like the last stump left

          Of a death-wounded deer’s great antlers. Some

          Who came to stare grew silent as they looked,

          Indignant or sorry. But the hardened old

          And the hard-hearted young, although at odds

           From the first morning, cursed him with one curse,

          Having prayed for a Rabbi or an armed Messiah

          And found the Son of God. What use to them

          Was a God or Son of God? Of what avail

          For purposes such as theirs? Beside the cross-foot

          Alone, four women stood and did not move

          All day. The sun revolved, the shadow wheeled,

          The evening fell. His head lay on his breast,

          But in his breast they watched his heart move on

          By itself alone, accomplishing its journey.

          Their taunts grew louder, sharpened by the knowledge

          That he was walking in the park of death,

           Far from their rage. Yet all grew stale at last, 

           Spite, curiosity, envy, hate itself.

           They waited only for death and death was slow

           And came so quietly they scarce could mark it.

           They were angry then with death and death’s deceit.


           I was a stranger, could not read these people

           Or this outlandish deity. Did a God

           Indeed in dying cross my life that day

           By chance, he on his road and I on mine?


           Edwin Muir.




Holy Water is a Sacramental that remits venial sin. Because of the blessing attached to it, Holy Church strongly urges its use upon her children, especially when dangers threaten, such as fire, storms, sickness and other calamities. Every Catholic home should have always in it a supply of Holy Water.





                                 LET US CLUTIVATE ITS USE


       Untold spiritual wealth is concentrated in a tiny drop of blessed water.


                            AND WE GIVE SO LITTLE THOUGHT


                               THE HOLY SOULS LONG FOR IT


Only in Purgatory can one understand how ardently a poor soul longs for Holy Water. If we desire  to make a host of intercessors for ourselves, let us try to realise now some of their yearning, and never forget them at the Holy Water font.

The Holy Souls nearest to Heaven may need the sprinkling of only one drop to release their pining souls.


                                       REMITS VENIAL SINS


Because Holy Water is one of the Church’s sacramentals, it remits venial sin. Keep your soul beautifully pure in God’s sight by making the sign of the cross carefully while saying:


                        “By this Holy Water and your Thy Precious

                          Blood wash away all my sins, O Lord.”


                                         DISPEL THE DEVIL


The devil hates Holy Water because of its power over him. He cannot long abide in a place or near a person hat is often sprinkled with this blessed water.




Holy Water, sprinkled with faith and piety, can move the Sacred Heart to bless your loved ones and protect them from all harm of soul and body. When worry and fear take possession of your heart, hasten to your Holy Water font, and give your dear one the benefit of the Church’s prayer.



130. From a prayer by the Holy Father Pope John Paul II.


O Risen Christ, in your glorified wounds receive all the painful wounds of contemporary man : those of which so much is said by the media; of social communications; also those which silently throb in secrecy hidden in hearts. May they be tended in the mystery of your Redemption. May they be healed and closed up through Love, which is stronger than death.


In this Mystery: We are with you, who suffer want and hunger, sometimes witnessing the agony of children calling for food. We are with you, the ranks of millions of refugees, driven from your homes, exiles in your own countries.


We are with you, all you victims of terror, shut up in prisons or concentration camps, worn out by ill treatment or tortures. We are with you who have been abducted. We are with you, who live in the nightmare of daily threats of violence and civil wars. We are with you who are suffering unexpected calamities……


We are with you, families who pay for your faith in Christ by suffering discrimination or having to give up studies and careers for your children. We are with you parents trembling at the spiritual travail or certain errors of your children. We are with you, young people, who are discouraged at no finding work, housing and the social dignity to which you aspire.


We are with you, who suffer from ill health, age, solitude. We are with you who are bewildered by anguish and doubt, and ask light for your minds and peace for your hearts. We are with you who feel the weight of sin and call upon the grace of Christ the Redeemer.




131   Payer of St Francis I Sales.


                   Do not look forward to what might happen tomorrow;

                   The same everlasting Father who cares for you today,

                   Will care for you tomorrow and every day.

                   Either He will shield you from suffering

                    or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it.

                   Be at peace, then, and put aside all anxious thoughts

                               and imaginings.



Leonard Cheshire.

In the early days of his work for the disabled Leonard Cheshire was £7,000 in debt.                                                     Unless the money came from somewhere quickly then his attempt to help the disabled would collapse. Leonard Cheshire had learnt to ‘trust’ and left the matter in  God’s safe hands. One morning, soon after the problem arose, he opened an envelope and there was a cheque for £7,000 which he had no idea was on its way to him. 

Cecil Humphery-Smith.

Cecil was a friend of the stigmatist, Padre Pio, and relied on his help during difficult times. Some time after Padre Pio’s death Cecil got into financial difficulties. One morning he opened a letter. It was from the Bank telling him that he owed them £1,459.17.6d. (It was in the days of old money.)  If he didn’t pay up a once they would close his account and take the necessary steps to obtain the money from his assets.  He was devastated. He had no way of paying the debt. He carried on opening the mail. (I have heard him tell this story and at this point he always says “You don’t have to believe this but it is true!”) the very next envelope he opened contained a cheque made out to him for £1,459.17.6d! He didn’t even know the lady who had sent it. It was only years later that he met her. She had received a dividend on some shares and because she had heard of the work which Cecil was a doing in promoting Padre Pio she had decided to send it to him. But – just the same amount – to the very penny! The hand of God was at work.

Mother Teresa.

One of the sisters in charge of the kitchens in one of their Homes for the sick in India came to Mother Teresa and said “Mother we have no bread.” Mother Teresa trusted in God and asked him for help. A short time later a large van pulled up full of bread! It was the van which went around delivering to all the schools. But that day, for some unknown reason, all the schools were closed but no-one had advised the bread supplier. So instead of wasting it the bread they brought it all to Mother Teresa’s  home for the sick.


Denis Nolan.

Denis was supplying some religious tapes to a TV station but knew that they would only accept them on payment of $5,000. He hadn’t got that sort of money but encouraged by his wife, who had prayed, he sent off the tapes with his personal cheque for $5,000 but with no money in his account to back up the cheque!

Meanwhile over on the West Coast of USA a woman was praying. She was praying for the salvation of souls when suddenly into her head came the words “Send Denis Nolan $5,000!”. She ignored the words and kept on praying. But the words came back again “Send Denis Nolan $5,000!”. Once again she ignored it. But when it happened a third time she said “O.K Lord!”.

Denis Nolan received the cheque in time for it to clear his bank before his cheque was presented.   

        133. Love Your Enemies.

It is amazing what just one person can do. One of my favourite examples of what ordinary human beings can do is a woman I only know through a single press report. Mrs Louise Degrafinried, who was seventy-three when I read about her. She lived with her husband , Nathan, in Mason, Tennesee.

One morning a few years ago a man who had just escaped from a prison in Memphis came to their house, aiming a shot gun at them and shouting, “Don’t make me kill you!”

“Young man,” Louise said “I am a Christian lady. I don’t believe in no violence. Put down that gun and sit down. I don’t allow no violence here.”

He put the weapon on the couch. Whilst she had Nathan get the unexpected guest some dry socks, she made breakfast. When the three of them sat down to eat it, she took the escaped prisoner’s hand in her own and said “Young man, let’s give thanks that you came here and that you are safe.”

She said a prayer and asked him if there was anything he would like to say to the Lord. He couldn’t think of anything so she said to him “Just say “Jesus Wept.””

After breakfast she held his hand again. He was trembling all over. “Young man, I love you and God loves you. God loves all of us, especially you. Jesus died for you because he loves you so much.”

Then the police arrived. Hearing the approaching sirens, the man said, “They gonna kill me when they get here.” But Louise said she was going out to talk to them. Standing on her porch, she spoke to the police in the same terms she had spoken to the convict. “Y’all put those guns away. I don’t allow no violence here.”

The police were as docile in the response to this authoritative grandmother as the convict had been. They put their guns back in their holsters. Soon afterwards the convict was taken back to the prison. No one was harmed.

From a 1987 CTS pamphlet ‘Love Your Enemies’ by Jim Forest.

   134. Heaven’s Grocery Store.

           As I was walking down life’s highway many years ago

           I came upon a sign that read ‘Heavens Grocery Store’.

            When I got a little closer the doors swung open wide

            And when I came to myself I was standing inside.

            I saw a host of angels, they were standing everywhere

            One handed me a basket and said “My child shop with care.”

            Everything a human needed was in that grocery store

            And what you could not carry you could come back for more.

            First I got some Patience, Love was in that same row.

            Further down was Understanding, you need that everywhere you go.

            I got a box or two of Wisdom and Faith a bag or two,

            And Charity of course I would need some of that too.

           I couldn’t miss the Holy Ghost it was all over the place,

            And then some Strength and Courage to help me run the race.

            My basket was getting full but I remembered I needed Grace,

            And then I chose Salvation for Salvation was for free.

           So I tried to get enough of that for you and me.

            Then I started to the counter to pay my grocery bill,

            For I thought I had everything to do my master’s will.

            As I went up the aisle I saw Prayer and put that in,

            For I knew when I stepped out side I would run into sin.

           Peace and Joy were plentiful, the last things on the shelf,

            Song and Praise were hanging near so I just helped myself.

            Then I said to the angel “Now how much do I owe?”

            He smiled and said ”Just take them, everywhere you go.”

            Again I said “Really now, how much do I owe?

            “My child” he said “Jesus paid your bill a long, long time ago.”





                                               135. A SENATE PRAYER.


                     When Minister Joe Wright was asked to open the new session of

the Kansas Senate, everyone was expecting the usual generalities      this is what they heard:

                              “Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask

                              Your forgiveness and seek Your direction and

        guidance. We know Your Word says, “Woe to those

        who call evil good” but that is exactly what we have

        done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and

        reversed our values.

       We confess that:-

        We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and

        called it Pluralism;

        We have worshiped other gods and called it multiculturalism;


        We have endorsed perversion and called it alternative


        We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery;

        We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare;

        We have killed our unborn and called it choice;


        We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable;

        We have neglected to discipline our children and called

        it building self-esteem;

        We have abused power and called it politics;

        We have coveted our neighbour’s possessions and

        called it ambition;

                   We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography     

                             and called it freedom of expression;

                               We have ridiculed the time-honoured values of our

                             forefathers and called it enlightenment.


                             Search us, Oh God, and know our hearts today; cleanse

                             us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these

                             men and women who have been sent to direct us to the

                             centre of Your will. We ask it in the name of Your Son,

                             the living Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.”


                 A number of legislators walked out in protest during the prayer. But in

                 the next few weeks the Central Christian Church, where Rev Wright is

                 pastor, received 5,000 phone calls with only 47 of those calls

                 responding negatively.



                         136. Racism.    


                      Racism is wrong – totally wrong – and no-one can claim to be a

                     Christian if they have any racial feelings. Racism can take many

                      types of forms. It can be due to a difference of skin colour. It can

                      be because of a difference of language. It can be because of a

                      difference of religion or someone with no religion at all.



                      The whole of our lives must be based on ‘love’. This ‘love’ must so

                      permeate our hearts, bodies and souls that there is no room

                      for racism because racism is ‘hate.’ The evil one, is ever on the

                      watch for a chance to destroy love which goes against the way of

                      life which he wants us to live.


                      Total ‘love’ doesn’t allow for racism in any form. Therefore as ‘a

                      man sins if he looks at a woman and lusts for her’, so we also sin if

                      we even ‘think’ racist thoughts.


                     If fighting racism within us is a battle then we are battling for our

                     own souls. We might think that it is our hearts which cause us to

                     ‘hate’. But life doesn’t come from our hearts but from our souls. No

                     heart can beat without a soul to drive it. So, to fight racism, it is our

                     souls which need controlling.


                    Are there ways which can help us to control racism within our

                     hearts and souls? Yes, the answer is to ‘see Jesus in everyone’.

                     We know that we are all made in the ‘image and likeness of God’

                     So it helps us if we look for Jesus in everyone. Because Jesus is

                     certainly there.


                     It is easy to see Jesus in the poor, the deprived, the persecuted, in

                     refugees, in the abused. It might be less easy to see Jesus in the

                     rich, the proud, in those who lack humility. But we must never stop

                     searching and we must never criticise. Whenever ‘looking for Jesus’

                     is mentioned someone often mentions Adolf Hitler. Surely there is

                     no way that we can ‘see Jesus’ in Hitler. Perhaps it is not generally

                     known that a few days before he killed himself he got a minister to

                     go into the bunker and he married his mistress Eva Braun. So here

                     we have someone who is regarded as totally evil carrying out a

                     kindness. Why else should he have wanted to be married than out

                     of kindness to Eva? Anyway it is not for us to judge ‘the plank in

                     our own eye’ must always be our main concern.


                     A current line of thought of people who claim not to be racist is ‘why

                     are they [the immigrants and the refugees] being given so much

                     when some of our own people are in need?’ This line of thought

                     comes not only from those who were born in the U.K. but also from

                     refugees who came to the U.K. at the end of the second world war.


         Firstly things have changed in the past fifty years. The United

                     Nations and, more recently, the European Union make demands on

                     Governments which they cannot ignore. We are quick to criticise

                     China, Burma and other countries who do not operate a system of

                     freedom and of helping the less fortunate. Yet we are sometimes

                     slow to realise that, in our hearts, we are equally repressive.


                      Secondly decisions on who should or should not be allowed to stay

                      in the U.K. are political. Once we have put our cross on the ballot

                      paper on Election Day then we hand over to the politicians the

                      responsibility on immigration. From then on it is not a matter which

                      we can control and therefore not one which we should hold against

                      the immigrant or refugee.


                      If we let ‘love’ be the mainstay of our every breath then, despite all

                      the troubles going on around us, our hearts and our souls will be

                      places of peace.




                      Translated from the Italian by Cecil Humphery-Smith

                      Arranged to music by Stella Lilley.                     


                        Stay with me Lord for without Thy presence I forget Thee,

                        Thou knowest how easily I abandon Thee.


                        Stay with me Lord for without Thy strength I fall,

                        Thou knowest how weak I am.


Stay with me Lord for without Thee my fervour fails,

                        Thou art my life.

                        Stay with me Lord for without Thee I am in darkness,

                        Thou are my light.


                        Stay with me Lord and show me Thy Will.


                        Stay with me Lord and let me hear Thy Voice.


                        Stay with me Lord that I may follow Thee.


                        Stay with me Lord that I may love Thee more.


                        Stay with me Lord that I may stay with Thee,


If Thou woulds’t have me to be faithful,

stay with me Lord.


Stay with me Jesus for thou my soul is poor,

it desires to be in the fold of love for Thee,

a place of consolation.


Stay with me Jesus for it is getting late,

the day is ending, life is passing;

death, judgement, eternity are coming soon.


Now I must muster all my forces,

so that I do not faint on the road.

I have such great need for Thee on this journey.


It‘s getting late and death is approaching.

Darkness, temptations, dryness, crosses

and all sorts of troubles beset me

and Oh how much I need Thee my good Jesus

in this night of exile.


Stay with me Jesus because this night of life

is so full of dangers and I have such need of Thee.

Grant that like Thy disciples I may recognise Thee

in the breaking of Bread.


Grant that the Eucharistic Union may be the light

which casts out the darkness; the force that

sustains me and the one means to sanctify my soul.


Stay with me Lord because when death arrives

if I cannot really be with Thee in Holy Communion

then I shall wish to remain united to Thee at least

through Grace and Love.


Stay with me Jesus. I do not ask Thee for Divine

Consolation because I deserve it.

But I beg of Thee with all my strength

for the gift of Thy most Holy Presence.


Stay with me Lord. Thee alone I seek.

Thy Love, Thy Grace, Thy Will, Thy Heart,

Thy Spirit, for I love Thee. Thee alone I love.


Let me seek no other reward but the increase

of that love. That my love may be real and firm

and practical.


I ask no more than to love Thee with all my heart

on earth and to follow Thee with all with all perfected

love for all eternity.


                 138. PRAY FOR SOULS IN  PURGATORY


      There are more souls released from purgatory during the

      Consecration of the Mass than at any time. Christmas is

                 the day of the year when most souls are delivered; then

                 feast days of Our Lord, Our Lady and great saints. Souls

                 receive much grace from prayers offered for them on their

                 birthdays, day of baptism, anniversary of death.


                 The more we work for the Poor Souls on earth the more

                 others will pray for us, the more merciful will Christ be

                 with us when we are in purgatory.


                            139. PRAYER OF ST GERTRUDE THE GREAT


                   Our Lord told St Gertrude the Great that the following prayer

                   would release 1,000 souls from Purgatory each time is it said.


                   The prayer was extended to include living sinners as well:                           

“Eternal Father, I offer Thee the most precious blood of thy

Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout

the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners

everywhere, for sinners in  the universal church, those in my

one home and within my family.                                 Amen.”


Our lady said that if we pray the prayers “we will deliver so many

souls, so many souls!”


         “The Holy Wounds are the treasure of treasures for the souls

         in Purgatory.


         “It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the

         dead, that they may be loosed from their sins.” 2 Mach 12:46



                                  140. A MIRACLE CHOSEN AS A TESTIMONY FOR

                                          THE BEATIFICATION OF POPE JOHN XXIII


            Sister Caterina Capitani was very ill. She had been vomiting blood  and, on

examination, was found to have a haemorrhage in the chest area. She obtained a consultation with an eminent Professor  who was the  director of the Surgical 

Institute of the University of Naples and a specialist in the surgery of blood vessels.


          The professor tried a cure by medication but when, after five months, that didn’t work

          he decided on an operation which lasted five hours. The inside of Sister’s stomach

          was completely covered with a strange and rare form of ulcerous tumors, caused

          perhaps, by the improper functioning of the pancreas and spleen. The professor was

          obliged to remove her stomach, except for a small piece the size of a prune. He also

          removed the pancreas and the spleen and he had to make various internal

          adjustments to, hopefully, enable the Sister to survive with so many vital organs



Sister Caterina had a devotion to Our Lady of Pompei. The day after the operation

she was thanking Our Lady of Pompei for having come through the operation safely when another Sister from the Congregation told her “It was Pope John XXIII who

saved you. I had placed his image on the bed of the operating room and had

continued to pray to him throughout the operation.” Sister Caterina thanked her

fellow sister but still believed that it was Our Lady of Pompei who had saved her.

The two sisters continued to argue, jokingly, about whether it was Our Lady of

Pompei or Pope John John XXIII who was responsible.


Sister Caterina’s condition became worse and she developed pleurisy and, not

without reason, became depressed. Other sisters now started to tell her to pray to

Pope John XXIII so she started to pray to the Good Pope. She had a short period of  improvement and was sent home but two months later she returned to the hospital looking as if she was already dead.


She had another bad attack of vomiting and discovered that her abdomen was completely wet. The gastric fluids along with blood and small amount of orange

juice which she had just drunk were flowing out of a perforation which had opened

up on her abdomen.


Sister Caterina had not taken her final vows, though she was just about to do so

when her illness commenced. In this critical condition she made her final vows and received the Eucharist. She was brought a relic of a piece of the sheet upon which

Pope John XXIII had died and she placed it on the perforation.


In her suffering she prayed to the Good Pope to take her to heaven. She was

normally watched over day and night by one of the Sisters but one day she was

left alone and drifted off to sleep. She felt a hand pressing on the wound on her

stomach and the voice of a man saying “Sister Caterina, Sister Caterina.” She

thought it was the Professor come to check up on her but when she opened her

eyes she saw Pope John XXIII standing beside her bed. He was the one who was holding his hand on her wound. He said with a calm voice “Many people have

prayed to me, but especially one. You have really taken this miracle from my heart.

But don’t be afraid now, you are healed. Ring the bell, call the sisters who are in the chapel, have them take your temperature and you will see that you will not have


even the slightest temperature. Eat whatever you want, as you did before the

sickness: I will hold my hand on your wound, and you will be healed. Go to the Professor, have him examine you, have some x-rays done and have it all written

down, because these things will be needed someday.”


The vision disappeared and after a time of feeling both emotion and fear Sister

Caterina rang her bell. The sisters hurried to her bedside to find her sitting up in bed. They looked at her as if they were dreaming. She told them “I have been healed.

It was Pope John XXIII. Measure my fever, you’ll see that I have none.” Mother

Superior thought she was delirious, as sometimes happens before death.”


They took her temperature 96F. “Do you see?” She said. “Now give me something

to eat because I’m hungry.” She hadn’t been able to keep anything down in her

stomach for many months. Mother Superior who seemed hypnotized by what was happening ordered the sisters to get some food. They started with semolina, then ice cream. When Sister Caterina asked for more they fetched her some meatballs

followed by soup! Sister Caterina devoured the lot!


At this point Mother Superior, who was still not convinced of what was happening,

said; “Now we have to change you,” thinking that everything Sister had eaten would

had gone out of the perforation in the stomach, which is what had always happened.

A nurse brought gauze and a clean nightgown. They uncovered Sister Caterina.

The wound had completely disappeared. The sisters fell on their knees, crying

from emotion. Until a few minutes earlier the skin on her stomach had been one big wound: the gastric juices that constantly flowed out of the perforation had corroded

the skin. Now there was no sign of the perforation, not a trace, the skin was smooth, clean and white.


From that day Sister Caterina hasn’t been ill at all. There is no sign of her illness.

All this happened thirty-four years ago. She returned to a normal life, eats well and

manages a normal hectic work load.




At a recent Padre Pio Retreat Stella mentioned the power which holy medals contain. She had been walking down a street in London when she came across a shop selling pornography. She had some Miraculous medals with her so she dropped one in the doorway of the shop. Further down the street she came across a Sex-Shop and another medal was left in the doorway.


Some time later she was walking down the same street and noticed that both shops had closed down!


Fascinated by this story and wanting to check it for myself I obtained a supply of small miraculous medals and, having had them blessed, I shared them out among our Prayer Group and awaited an opportunity to put them to the test!


The chance came when I was in a large Shopping Mall in Manchester. A shop which sold all sort of trinkets had some items which disgusted me. With a shop full of people there was no chance of dropping a medal there and then but outside shop was a fountain. So a medal went into the fountain with ‘the intention’ for the items in the shop.


A couple of months later was in the same Shopping Mall. I was reluctant to go into the shop as I didn’t want to be upset by what I had previously seen (O me of little faith!) but my wife persuaded me to go in and the offensive items had gone!


One of the medals which had been passed to the Prayer Group found its way (providentially) into the hands of a thirteen year old Catholic girl. She had been told about the ‘power’ which the medals possessed. A new shop had opened up in her town – it was a Joke Shop. But some of the things in the window, on view for all passing by to see, were no joke, they were disgusting. She dropped her medal in the doorway and awaited results. To begin with nothing happened but the young girl had a strong faith and whenever she passed the shop she said a prayer. Shortly afterwards the shop closed down!  The medal, and her faith, had been rewarded.


When I phoned the local repository for a further supply of medals I explained why I wanted them, and was told the following story:


Some time around 1900 the Mill Hill Fathers were wanting to move into Glasgow. They made frequent visits but as soon as the vendor go to know that it was Catholics wanting to buy, the sale fell through. (To say that Catholic were disliked would probably be an understatement!) On one visit the priests thought they had found the perfect property. One of the priests had a St Joseph medal with him and he left it on a widow ledge. Shortly after their return home the deal was agreed and they were allowed to purchase the property at less than the asking price.


Medals really do have a power. So get a supply and get to work!




Padre Pio complained bitterly to God about his visible stigmata. It was an embarrassment to him. But despite his protestations the marks of the crucifixion stayed with him for fifty years and he learnt to accept them as an unwanted ‘gift’ from God.


How would we cope with a stigmata? Without realising it we frequently have invisible stigmata to cope with. Don’t all of us have aches, pains or problems which we complain about? What is the difference between these invisible stigmata and that suffered by Padre Pio?


Yes, Padre Pio’s stigmata was excruciatingly painful, and our invisible stigmata are not only far less painful, but, also, they don’t cause us embarrassment. But as Padre Pio was made to suffer and was given the strength to bear that suffering so we too, if we ask for it, will be given the strength to bear our aches, pains and problems of our invisible stigmata.


But we must not only bear them. Padre Pio used the pain of his stigmata to buy souls back from the brink of the abyss. By following his perfect example we can do the same. Many of us complain, sadly, at our lapsed children and grandchildren. We can offer the suffering of our invisible stigmata, our aches, pains and problems, to do what Padre Pio did. Offer them to God asking for his mercy on our families and asking for his compassion that we will all meet in the glory and eternal peace of heaven.

Padre Pio did not accept the normal understanding of time. He knew that ‘time’ is man made and prayers can be answered outside of time. So, after the death of his parents, he was still praying for their happy deaths. If we use our invisible stigmata in that way it surely follows that we can share in Padre Pio’s visible stigmata. As we use his perfect example so we can assist him, even years after his death, to bear the extraordinary pains to which he was subjected.


If we do that then surely he will thank us by accepting our petitions and putting them at the foot of the Cross along with his prayerful approval of our needs, which we must always accept, might differ from what we think are our real needs! 


            Blessed Padre Pio, Pray for us.


            143. A PRAYER TO.JESUS, OUR SAVIOUR.


Lord, hold my hand,

     I so need your loving kindness;


Lord, hold my hand,

    All through life, in joy and grief.


Lord, hold my hand,

    When I’m sick with fear and anxious;


Lord, hold my hand,

    In the wonder of relief.


Lord, hod my hand,

    When it’s dark and storms are raging;


Lord, hold my hand,

   and help me live it through.


Lord, hold my hand,

    When I’m lifted, joyful, loving;


Lord, hold my hand,

    When I’m trying something new.


Lord, hold my hand,

    When I fail or faint or waver;


Lord, hold ,my hand,

    For I know your love is true.


Lord, hold my hand,

   When I’m lonely. Weary, ageing;


Lord, hold my hand,

    When there’s only me and You.


 Amen.    Fr Ingwell’s Hospital visiting card.





The Gospel of St Matthew. Biblical scholars seem to have determined to their satisfaction that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke are based on that of Mark. In that case what part of this Gospel can be entirely attributed to Matthew? The answer is that Matthew could have been the writer of a collection of sayings of Jesus known as ‘Q’ which have been interspersed into St Mark’s writings. It is generally accepted that St Mathew’s Gospel was intended for the Jews to encourage them not to return to ways of Judaism. Both Matthew and Luke tell the story of the Birth of Jesus which Mark does not mention.


The Gospel of St Mark. This Gospel is considered by Biblical Scholars to be a ‘master copy’ on which Matthew and Luke’s Gospels are based. It is considered certain that Mark obtained his information directly from St Peter. So we are given the life of Jesus as seen through the Prince of the Apostles.


The Gospel of St Luke. As with Matthew so with Luke; the gospel is said to be based on that of Mark. He is thought to have been a Gentile, a Physician and also possibly a Painter. Luke, using Mark’s Gospel as a template, adds the emphasis of prayer (and especially Jesus praying), the role of women and, as distinct from Matthew, was writing for the Gentiles.


The Gospel of St John. John’s Gospel differs from the other three which relate the same material but with different emphasis. John states “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God…………” His approach is evangelistic. Like Mark he misses out The Nativity which had been well covered by Matthew and Luke. It is thought that John was writing for the Greeks – encouraging them to continue to believe as well as to win new converts.


The Acts of The Apostles. Biblical Scholars suggest that Luke is the author of The Acts. The book is far ranging and takes us from The Resurrection to Paul’s journey to Rome and his eventual imprisonment. 


St Paul’s Epistle to The Romans. Now we start on the fourteen books written by St Paul. These were written in the form of letters of teaching, encouragement or, in some cases, reprimand. In the letter to the Romans Paul deals with the fundamental questions of sin, salvation, faith and righteousness.


St Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians. In this letter Paul deals with factions, then answers questions on marriage, impurity, heathen feasts, public worship & spiritual gifts and expounds the doctrine of The Resurrection.


St Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians. Paul meets Titus who has come from Corinth to tell him the result of his first letter. Paul comments on Titus’ news and encourages Corinth to give financial help for Christians in Jerusalem who were deprived of aid from their Jewish families. There had been some hostility to his position as a Christian leader so he spends some time defending and explaining his position.


St Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians (Re Jews and Gentiles). This is written to Gentile Christians who had earlier been converted by Paul. But Jewish teachers were starting to return them to circumcision and the Mosaic laws. They were also undermining Paul’s teaching by suggesting that he was not divinely inspired. Paul defends his position and doctrine and asserts the divine origin of his teaching; justification of faith is not through the Mosaic law but through Jesus Christ.


St Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. The four Epistles of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon are known as ‘The Epistles of the Imprisonment’ or ‘of the Captivity.’ They were written during Paul’s Roman imprisonment. This letter may have been written as a circular to all the Christian Communities rather than to Ephesus alone. The central thought is the Church being regarded as the Mystical  Body of Christ through which God pours out the divine life of grace in a most generous fashion to its members, the Christians.


St Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians. This letter was probably written shortly before Paul’s martyrdom. In it he thanks the Philippians for their gift which had been brought to him by Epaphroditus. He explains his own circumstances and encourages the Philippians to stand firm in the face of persecution.


St Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians. There is a similarity between this letter and that to the Ephesians. Although this letter is shorter Paul is emphasizing the same teaching. It is suggested that the Epistles of Ephesians and Colossians should be read and studied together.


St Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians. This and the second Epistle to the Thessalonians are the earliest of Paul’s letters. This Epistle teaches that Christ is one with the Father; that Christ is our Redeemer; that Christ is the Lord; that Christ will come again from Heaven. Paul emphasizes that his letter must be read to all and not just retained by a select few.


St Paul’s Second Epistle to the Thessalonians. The Thessalonians were expecting Christ’s second coming to take place very soon. Some thought it unnecessary to work but just await the coming. Paul tells them that this is not the case and encourages them to work and pray.


St Paul’s First Epistle to Timothy. The two letters to Timothy and the one to Titus are known as Pastoral Epistles because they are addressed to the head of the church for his guidance. As such there is little definite arrangement. They vary over several subjects in an easy manner as they occur to the writer, just as one would expect in a genuine letter. Contents of the First Epistle include Public Worship; Officers of the Church; False Teachers; Widows; Elders; Slaves and Covetousness.


St Paul’s Second Epistle to Timothy. This letter was probably written shortly before Paul’s martyrdom. It contains his last instructions to Timothy and to all future ministers of the Church. It was written in the conviction that the end is near at hand; dark days are coming. Hence the urgent appeals to be firm and courageous.


St Paul’s Epistle to Titus. Titus was one of Paul’s most trusted disciples. As Paul’s martyrdom is close at hand the main object of the letter is to instruct Titus in how to carry on the work which Paul had to leave incomplete.


St Paul’s Epistle to Philomen. This is a completely private letter and to that extent it stands alone among the writings of St Paul and almost alone in the whole Bible. Philemon and his family had been converted by Paul. In his prison in Rome Paul somehow comes into contact with Onesimus a slave of Philemon who had stolen from his master and run away to the big city. Paul converts Onesimus but then has a problem. Onesimus belongs to Philemon and must return to his master and make restitution. Paul writes a loving, polite, appealing letter asking that Onesimus should be received back as a Christian – ‘Confident of your obedience.’ Onesimus returns accompanied by Tychicus who was an associate of Paul.


The Epistle to the Hebrews. Biblical scholars have never determined who wrote this Epistle. Whilst some suggest it was Paul others deny that it has Paul’s style. Another possible writer was Appolos (See Acts 18:24-28) who was known to Paul. It could be that is was written by Appolos under Paul’s guidance. The Epistle was written for the first Hebrew Christians who were eventually excluded from the Temple and from the fellowship which went with it. The writer explains the eminent superiority of the new dispensation over the old. Inaugurated by the Son of God Himself this new way was God’s  final revelation to man and brought to perfection all that was of value in the Mosaic Law.


The Epistle of St James. Besides the fourteen Epistles of St Paul there are another seven Epistles and the first of these is of St James. The writer is considered to be James the son of Alpheus whose wife, Mary, was a close relative of Jesus’ Mother. The content of the Epistle is a discourse in Christian living especially aimed at those living among the pagans.


The First Epistle of St Peter. This Epistle is varied in its content but its aim is to encourage Christians to stand firm against the persecution which was upon them.

The Second Epistle of St Peter. Peter’s first Epistle concerns persecution from outside. This one concerns problems from within – false teachers and evildoers.


The First Epistle of St John. Biblical scholars are in no doubt that this and the Second and Third Epistles were written by the same John who wrote the fourth Gospel. This First Epistle was written to counteract certain heretical doctrines which false teachers were promulgating.


The Second Epistle of St John. The purpose of this Epistle is similar to the First. As well as warning of the dangers of heretics Christians are also exhorted to love one another.


The Third Epistle of St John. In this brief Epistle John praises Gaius for his hospitality, deplores Diotrephes who ‘loves to have the first place’, then finally commends Demetrius.


The Epistle of St Jude. St Jude is the brother of St James. He writes in very much the same vein as the Second letter of St Peter. The Church must have been infiltrated by heretics who were destroying from within. Jude uses Old Testament traditions to explain his arguments.


The Book of Revelation or Apocalypse. It seems to be generally agreed that the book was written by St John. The book is prophetic and uses symbols. Some possible explanations are:- stars are angels; lampstands are churches; the great prostitute is Babylon. The number ‘seven’ is repeatedly used. Symbolically this number may represent completeness. There are many possible interpretations of the book. Four of them are:- 1 That the book refers to events now past. 2 That the book represents a series of prophecies continuously being fulfilled. 3 That the book deals with the second coming of Christ. 4 That the book is a symbolic picture of the victory of good over.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              



Some time ago I was in the local infirmary. An expected stay of five days lasted fifteen! Things went wrong but it was no-ones fault I was given every possible care and attention.


I recall one particular night when the bleeding was severe. My bed was surrounded by compassionate and caring nurses and a doctor who had been aroused from her sleep. As I lay there in considerable pain it occurred to me that all those around my bed were just like angels.


Then the thought developed into obtaining ‘angel badges’ as a gift for when I was discharged. Thanks to a helpful Catholic Repository in Leeds I was able to speedily obtain a large supply of the badges. On discharge I gave them to the Staff Nurse and asked her to wait till I had gone but then make sure that everyone, on all shifts, were given a badge.


I wasn’t even sure whether they would be allowed to wear them and I even thought that perhaps it was another of my crazy ideas which I should have ignored.


Four weeks later I went back to the ward to take them some chocolates for Christmas. When I entered the ward my heart missed a beat. Nearly every one of the staff including domestics and administrators were not only wearing their angel badges and were obviously doing so with pride.


I now know that the ‘idea’ of the badges was not mine but that of the Holy Spirit. Thank you Holy Spirit for thus guiding me.


 Michael Blackburn




On the second of January it occurred to me that I hadn’t made any New Year Resolutions. I determined to do something about it. So I started to think about ‘Resolutions’. What resolutions were there that I could attempt to make which would be of greatest benefit? The word ‘Peace’ came into my head. But surely such a resolution would not be practical. The whole world is so far removed from peace that it seems a waste of time to pray for it. Those words ‘waste of time’ made me realize where I had previously been going wrong when praying for peace.

Recently I have been carrying out a detailed commentary of the four Gospels. What has emerged is the compassion which Jesus had towards the sick, blind, lepers and anyone and everyone who came to him for healing. BUT these people had to have Faith. If they did not have Faith then Jesus was unable to heal. That is where I had been going wrong when praying for Peace. I had been doing so half-heartedly. If I were to make Peace my New Year Resolution then I had to do so with complete faith knowing that God will listen to my prayer. Yes, I know that He will do so in His own time but that is His prerogative. Mine is to pray with complete faith.

As the theme of Peace entered my mind I understood the immensity of what I was asking for. When Peace comes everything else contrary to Peace will disappear. So war, violence, abortion, persecution in all its forms, will no longer be. Isn’t it worth praying for?

Please will you join me in making the year 2001 and every year the one we pray for Peace? If we Pray with all our faith then God, in his great mercy and goodness, if He so chooses, can and will reward our prayers.




Sometimes we feel justified in being jealous of those who lived in the time of Jesus and who were able to see and hear him. We say to ourselves ‘Think of the great advantage they had.’ We might be blessed for not having seen: but it would be nice to ‘have seen’. Anyway why should the people alive in those days have so much advantage over us?


Wouldn’t it be wonderful to hear Jesus and even more wonderful to be healed by him? Because of his great compassion Jesus couldn’t refuse anyone and I believe that the Gospels give only the briefest indication of how Jesus was healing everyone who came to him. There was just one drawback – those who came must have faith in Jesus’ power to heal. Some who came to him did not have faith and Jesus could not cure them. Can we be certain that we would have had faith?


By thinking these thoughts we are blinding ourselves to our greatest need which is forgiveness. Of course Jesus knew that and, during his ministry there were many cases where, as well as healing, he told the person “Your sins are forgiven.”


Because Jesus knew that forgiveness is our greatest need he didn’t ascend to heaven without leaving his apostles with the power to act as a mediator between God and us for the forgiveness of our sins and to pass on that power to others who followed after them.


So we have at our disposal God’s answer to Our Greatest Need: The confessional. We might see the confessional as a trial but it is God’s way of telling us that he loves us. Through the confessional God is opening his arms eager to enfold us in a loving embrace.


Going to confession will never become easy. I don’t think it ever should or it would mean that we are blasé about our sins. Sorrow is what is needed not apathy. But if we can recognise that Jesus, knowing our Greatest need, made full provision for it then we are totally irresponsible if we ignore that provision.


God is Love. But He can only give us His love us if we let Him do so. He is not going to force Himself onto us.


Potentially the most dangerous thing we possess is our Free Will. We must keep it under control and do so by accepting God’s offer of forgiveness by regular confessions.


OUR GREATEST NEED is God’s love.       HIS GREATEST DESIRE is our love



Or, more to the point, why doesn’t God always intervene?


During a discussion on these thoughts with a friend I mentioned St Paul and his conversion. That was an occasion where apparently God chose to personally intervene. ‘It happened that while he was travelling to Damascus and approaching the city, suddenly a light from heaven shone all round him. He fell to the ground, and then he heard a voice saying “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me?”’ Acts 9:5. This appears to be nothing more than a spectacular intervention. If God could do that for Paul then why doesn’t He do it for many other causes?


I was reminded of Mother Teresa and her ‘conversion to the poor’ when she was on a railway journey. She suddenly heard an inner voice telling her to leave the religious order she belonged to and help the poor in India.


The friend I was talking to always spends an hour after work in meditation in front of the Blessed Sacrament in a church near her place of work. She told me that recently during one of these times of meditation she was approached by a young man in his twenties. He had come from the railway station where a journey had just ended. He was a Catholic in name alone. For the past several years he had only ever been to church twice. He knew that his grandmother always prayed for him. On his train journey he had a heard an inner voice telling him to ‘go to church.’


So he had come to the church and asked my friend for help. “What shall I do? I am afraid to come to Mass as I won’t know what to do.” My friend told him that attending Mass would not be a problem – just follow what everyone else was doing. But the main thing was to go and see a priest and she directed him to the presbytery.


Then the thought occurred – this young man had come to church, and hopefully to a full return to his faith, due to the prayers of his grandmother. Prayers had been answered.


Can we doubt that the early Apostles possibly saw a weakness in their numbers. They needed someone well educated who was both a writer and an orator. So they prayed to God for their need. It follows that God’s intervention and Paul’s conversion would have been a direct result of prayer.


God, in His mysterious way, chose to answer their prayer by sending them the very last person they would have expected. We can feel very sorry for Ananias who was given the initial task of going to see Paul. “Lord, I have heard from many people about this man and the harm he has done…………” Acts 9:13. Ananias must have been terrified at the task the Lord was giving him. But he obeyed and the rest of the story is contained in Paul’s writings.


But despite the above God can and does intervene. Lourdes, Fatima, Garabandal and Medjugorje are all instances of a direct intervention. They are occasions when God, seeing our great need, has chosen to send, as His emissary, His dear Mother Mary.


God is good and will always be compassionate to our needs.





In June 2000 the Catholic Herald kindly published a letter in which I was asking for information regarding lepers in China. I received several replies and our Parish 3rd World Group has been able to send financial assistance to an eighty year old priest who helps the lepers.


On the 26th January 2001 I received a letter from a Sister Maura Murphy FMSJ.

She had seen my letter in the Catholic Herald, had been wondering whether to write,

and, even though it was seven months after my letter had been published, she had decided

to do so.


Her letter had come from Cork where she is on home-leave from the missions in Ecuador. She wanted to tell me about a hospital for lepers in Ecuador run by a sister Anita. It is a very simple hospital which looks after sixty lepers. Leprosy is considered ‘a punishment’ so no-one, including the government, want to know. She manages to obtain some financial help by making appeals in the U.S.A.


Sister Maura was wondering, if I hadn’t managed to obtain the information I needed, whether I might be able to help sister Anita and her lepers. As it happens our 3rd world group had just sent £1,000 to help the Chinese lepers and has moved on to other projects. In her letter Sister Maura mentioned that for the next two weeks she would be in the mother house in Worlsey Manchester.


I wrote her a letter but instead of sending it to Cork I thought I would send it to Worsley. I have a Catholic Directory but was unable to find the Franciscan Missionary of St Joseph House in Worlsey. But I did find one in Didsbury so I phoned them to ask for the Worsley address.


A Sister answered and I said “My name is Michael Blackburn from Halifax and I’m wanting to send a letter so Sister Maura Murphy at Worlsey. Can you give me the address please?”  She replied “I can do better than that. She is here now you can speak to her. I won’t tell her who you are you so can surprise her!”


I couldn’t believe it. The Holy Spirit had worked a miracle. Sister Maura was just calling at the Disbury house to see old friends, She would shortly be leaving to go back to the Worsley mother house.


When she came on the phone and I told her who I was we both praised the Holy Spirit for the wonderful way we had been brought together. I will be keeping in touch with her.


Praised be God in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  



(This is the most realistic crucifix I have ever seen. The anguish of Passion can be clearly seen.)


O Jesus

I stop thoughtfully at the foot of the Cross

I too have built I by my sins

Your goodness that doesn’t defend itself

And allows itself to be crucified is a mystery

That surprises me and moves me profoundly.


Lord, you came to the world for me

To search for me, to bring me to

The embrace of the Father.


You are the Lord of Goodness and of Mercy

For this you want to save me!

Inside me there is darkness,

Come with your light.

Inside me there is selfishness,

Come with your boundless Charity.

Inside me there are grudges,

Come with your mildness and humility.


Lord, the sinner to be save is me

The Prodigal Son who must return is me.

Lord, give me the gift of tears

To find liberty and life

And Peace with you and Joy in you



151 Power of Prayer Proof Baffles Boffins.


When we pray for a seriously ill person, what proof do we have that our prayers will be answered. The answer is quite simple – none, writes Hugh Farmer.


But what we do have is faith in a kindly God who will listen to our prayers and grant our wishes, and so we continue to pray.


Over the centuries people have tried to understand the power of prayer or rubbish it depending on their views.


To the cynics the power of prayer had never been proven unto the late Eighties when a study of 400 heart patients showed that prayer did have an effect on their health.


Now another study has really got the scientific world interested. Patients in an American coronary care unit were secretly enrolled in a study over 12 months, and the hospital chaplain’s department arranged with a volunteer Christian group to pray for patients given even medical numbers. The volunteers had the patients first names sonly.


Odd numbered patients were out into control group receiving no prayers.


To assess the patient’s recovery, a scoring system was set up and 10 doctors had to reach a 96 per cent agreement on the patient’s progress.


Then results proved the 466 patients who were prayed for over four weeks had a significantly better outcome than their 524 control counterparts. The story of the study appeared in an issue of the New Scientist magazine and SAGA magazine’s Health section. It began when the researcher, William Harris of St Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City wanted to design a better trial than the earlier one of 400 heart patients.


Harris thought that trial was spoiled because both the doctors and the patents knew it was in progress, even though no-one knew who was being prayed for. He designed another trial on similar lines but this time only Harris and his colleagues knew what was happening.


Now the study has been reported in her Archives of Internal Medicine which is published by the American Medical Association. Even with this mark of approval, it has courted controversy.


Professor Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School, who is a leading mind-body medicine specialist, has his doubts about the trial design.


Now a highly sceptical group called the committee for the Scientific Investigation of the Paranormal in New York has offered to collaborate on a new study of prayer. Meanwhile Harris is sticking to his guns.


Several years ago in The Universe.



152 The Monk with the Quick Temper.


One of my favourite stories is probably one that you have also heard. It concerns a monk with a very quick temper. It took very little time to make him angry, so angry that people kept away from him.


One day the monk lost his temper. H was so angry that he turned bright red in the face and dropped dead. His community was horrified that anybody, especially a monk, could be s angry, that he could die in the middle of his outburst and, as a result, they thought that he must have gone straight to Hell. Surely God could not forgive such a terrible sin.


That night, in a dream the abbot saw God. “Why are you not praying for your brother” God asked. Well it’s easy to see why” replied the abbot. “There’s not much point. If someone can commit such a big sin, surely you can’t forgive him, so why pray for his soul?”


God smiled sadly and shook his had. Don’t forget, I see things differently. You saw that your brother had lost his temper. I saw the effort he was making to keep it!”


It’s so easy to see he faults of others and to be critical. It’s easy to see the faults in those who should know better and who should be setting an example to others. Somehow this story helps me to keep a sense of proportion. It’s not always easy, especially when I think on a global scale and see the horrors perpetrated on innocent people. However for just people in my own circle, well, perhaps this story makes me a little bit kinder than I would otherwise be!


Sister Janet.