78. NEWS AS IT HAPPENED
The Joyful Mysteries.
1. The Annunciation.
Rumour has it that a to this impossibility
local woman has become Old Testament tracts
pregnant whilst remaining are being quoted. The
a virgin. In order to gullibility of the
try and give credence public knows no bounds.
2. The Visitation.
Mary from Nazareth assisted in the birth of
along with her husband the child. Ein Karem
Joseph have come to Ein synagogue is still
Karem to visit Mary’s investigating the strange
cousin Elizabeth who in event when Elizabeth’s
her old age is with husband, Zachary, was
child. Joseph is struck dumb during his
returning to Nazareth and term of office as priest
will come back to Ein in the Temple.
Karem after Mary has
3. The Nativity.
Some local shepherds story-telling as they also
are putting about claim to have seen the
rumours of angels singing child Messiah in a stable!
in the sky and the birth We must question whether
of the Messiah! Shepherds travellers coming to
are not know for their register of the House of
intellect and it would David have been offering
appear that on this the shepherds alcoholic
occasion they have gone drinks. There is no other
‘over the top’ in their logical explanation!
4. The Presentation in the Temple.
Our Temple Correspondent this particular mother and
reports that today there made predictions which
were the usual number seemed to infer that the
of mothers attending for child would become some
Purification. There was sort of prophet. In a less
an unusual occurrence than caring statement
when a Galilean mother Simeon also predicted much
entered the Temple with sorrow on the mother. Anna
her husband and a boy of the tribe of Aser was
child. Simeon, who we all also present and made
know as a devout follower similar predictions.
of our Jewish faith met
5. Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple .
Our Temple Correspondent That query was answered
reports the presence in today when his worried
the Temple of a young boy parents came looking for
who had just come of him. He had failed to join
age. He sat among the the caravan returning to
Priests and his searching the North. One of the
questions and obvious elder priests thought that
knowledge of his faith he had previously seen the
astounded all who heard parents several years ago.
him. All wondered where It was just prior to
he came from though his Simeon’s death when he and
accent indicated that he the prophetess Anna were
might be from Galilee. frequently in the Temple.
The Sorrowful mysteries.
1. The agony in the Garden.
Our religious correspond- undisclosed sum, reputed
ent reports a disturbance to be as much as sixty
last evening in the pieces of silver, led the
garden of Gethsemani. arresting garrison to the
The Nazarene, Jesus, who garden which he knew the
like many before him, has Nazarene frequented. The
been attempting to under- Nazarene’s followers made a
mine the authority of the futile attempt to protect
Scribes and Pharisees was their former leader. This
apprehended and taken was crushingly repelled,
into custody. His where- the followers fled, and the
abouts were made known by prisoner was captured. He
one of his number, was taken to the house of
Iscariot, who, for an Caiphas for questioning.
Our political correspond- seemed ill at ease with
ent reports on the latest this criminal and made it
criminal proceedings. The clear that he did not agree
two desperados recently with a severe sentence.
apprehended for robbery After failing to persuade
were sentenced to be the crowd to release
crucified. Also on trial the Nazarene instead of
was the Nazarene. He was the robber Barabbas, he
found guilty of trying to agreed to crucifixion. The
cause an uprising against three accused were then
the Pharisees and of scourged in preparation for
blasphemy . Pontius Pilate their crucifixion.
Our Roman Garrison him they gave him
correspondent reports. a reed and made him sit
The men were in a mood of holding it as if he were a
revelry today when the king with a sceptre! They
Nazarene was handed over put a blindfold on him and
to them. After the told him to guess who they
customary scourging the were as they came up to him
men had much fun with the mocking him, spitting on
prisoner. He claimed to him and knocking the thorns
be a king so they made a further into his head.
crown from a bush of Everyone joined in the fun
thorns and thrust it onto with flaunting of false
his head. To further mock honour and great hilarity.
We report another edition put to death to satisfy the
of our underground Temple Authorities, were
subversive publication. made to carry their crosses
Once again we urge the through the streets to
Roman Authorities to hear Calvary. There, the one
our plea to stop the called Jesus, rather than
cruel practice of been tied to his cross with
crucifixion. Today there rope as is customary, was
was a typical example of fastened with nails. His
the horror of this method howls of agony as the nails
of killing. Three men, were driven into his hands
one of whom was not a and feet give emphasis
brigand but was being to our plea.
Our Roman Garrison situation. The mother of
reports the successful the man named Jesus stayed
crucifixion of three by her son throughout the
criminals. They were whole of the three hours it
taken to Calvary where took him to die. The
they were dispatched Garrison felt troubled by
in the usual way. Those her presence. She showed a
carrying out this task courage and dignity beyond
have no time for anything they had ever
sentiment but they previously encountered.
reported an unusual
The Glorious Mysteries.
Soldiers guarding the weapons and although the
tomb of the troublemaker garrison fought bravely
Nazarene named Jesus, they were unable to repulse
reported a disturbance in the greater numbers. The
the night when they were followers of the Nazarene
overcome by a large force then took his body from
of his followers. They the tomb.
were armed with many
In this our first ago was crucified ascended
publication we report into heaven. We are happy
both happiness and that He has gone to The
sadness. Yesterday just Father but feel a loss
after the sixth hour greater than anything we
Jesus the Son of God can imagine. Fear now fills our
who had been ministering hearts and we await the
to us for the past three Spirit which Jesus promised
years and who forty days to strengthen us.
The last few days have by Jesus came to us. It
been filled with fear. came in form of fire which
We are afraid that the separated and came over
Temple Authorities will each of us filling us with
try to find us and put such love and spiritual
us to death. But today energy that it is hard to
our fear is gone! The to describe. Our fear has
Spirit of God as promised gone. Thanks be to God.
Since Jesus returned to to her eternal reward in
us we have been watching heaven. She dies, but not
the progress of His of an illness but of love.
Church and of His dear At the word of the Three
Mother Mary who has used Persons in One she
her profound knowledge to arrives in heaven. For the
guide the Church. Now love devotion and humility
the time has come to she has always shown she is
bring her body and soul given an eternal throne.
All are gathered for the Immaculate heart will
glorious and solemn triumph. Along with the
Crowning of Mary Her Three Persons in One, the
designation is Mother of cohort of Angels and Saints
Jesus, Mother of God and give her the honour which
Mother of the World. She by her complete devotion
it is who will crush she has won. Alleluia,
the serpent and her Alleluia, Alleluia.
How did the Rosary commence and how did it come to its present form of fifteen decades, made up of a total of one hundred and fifty Hail Marys split into the three ‘Mysteries’; Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious?
As far as can be discovered the use of ‘one hundred and fifty’ came from the early Monasteries where the monks obeyed the strict rule of St Benedict by daily recitation of the King David’s one hundred and fifty Psalms. But, in those early days, many of the monks were illiterate so to either read or memorize the Psalms was beyond them. To enable them to take part in the prayer of the community they were allowed to recite an appropriate number of Our Fathers (known as Paternosters). To keep track of the numbers they used a knotted string. People from the neighbouring villages would attend the services and they too followed the monks example and so the use of beads was accepted by the laity.
The next stage in the story takes us to the eleventh century and to St Anselm who was Archbishop of Canterbury. He composed a prayer to Mary which was based on the Psalms and consisted of one hundred and fifty verses, which he divided into three, each verse commencing with the word ‘Ave’. This prayer became know as ‘Our Lady’s Psalter’.
Now we move forward to the fourteenth century when a famous Carthusian monk, Henry Egher, claimed to have had a remarkable vision of Our Lady in which she taught him to say the ‘Psalter’ in her honour. He described this occurrence to one of the priors in his order and in a short space of time the prayer became known throughout the country.
In the same century Eton College was founded by King Henry VI which included in its statutes that the students were required to recite, every day, ‘the complete Psalter of the Blessed Virgin consisting of a Credo, fifteen Paters and one hundred and fifty Ave Marias’. This was in accordance with the instructions given by Our Lady to the Carthusian monk.
Gradually, from being based on the psalms, the Ave-Psalter began to develop a clear character of its own, and the division into the fifties came to represent the three moods that make up the rosary.
But why the name ‘Rosary’? In the early days of the church statues of Mary (Our Lady) would have roses put on her head in the shape of a crown or halo. It seems very credible that it is from those roses has come the name Rosary.
Some of the Joyful Mysteries are attributed to St Thomas a Becket who was Archbishop of Canterbury in the time of King Henry II. He composed a hymn on the seven joys of Our Lady. Some of his themes are now used as Joyful Mysteries. Over many centuries there followed a natural progression. Having prayed and meditated on the Joyful mysteries is was a natural to want to pray and meditate on the Sorrowful and then the Glorious themes in the life of Jesus and Mary so the other mystery came into being.
There is a strong tradition that The Rosary, as it is known today, started in England. This seems to be confirmed by a report on the state of England in 1496 made by a secretary of the Venetian Embassy.
‘They all hear Mass every day, and say many Paternosters (Rosaries) in public, the women carrying long strings of beads in their hands.........’.
There is a tradition that Our Lady gave the Rosary in its present form to St Dominic. Whilst this cannot be verified the tradition is so strong that it may have substance. The church often accepts tradition. It has always done so in the case of the Sixth Station of the Cross. There is nothing in the Bible regarding Veronica Wiping the Face of Jesus – it is ‘tradition’. That St Dominic was a man of remarkable character is not in doubt. He had the deepest compassion for every sort of human suffering. It is possible that he prayed the Rosary when working with the sick and it is from that the tradition began of him having being given the Rosary by Our Lady or he may in fact have been the recipient of the Rosary from Mary herself.
The Rosary has proved to be a most powerful prayer. There are many instances where praying the Rosary has averted disasters. In 1558 a massive Turkish fleet set out to capture Malta and to rid the Mediterranean of The Knights of Malta. The whole world waited for news that Malta had fallen to the Turks. In the meantime Pope Pius V, later to be canonized, encouraged everyone to recite the rosary. To everyone’s amazement the Turks were defeated. They had attacked with vastly superior forces but lost 30,000 men. After the battle the number of Knights was reduced to only 600 men.
The Turks were horrified by their defeat and were determined to get their revenge. This time two fleets, one of Christians from Malta and one from Turkey set sail to do battle. Each of the Christian galleys carried a priest to offer daily Mass and all the sailors were faithful to the rosary which was recited daily. Whilst the Turks fully expected to win this battle the one worry they had was that Pope Pius V would be praying against them. When the fleets met there was a tremendous sea battle which finished in favour of the Christians. The casualties were heavy: 7,500 Christian lives were lost and twelve galleys sunk. The Turks lost even more galleys and the lives of 30,000 men. The Turks were using Christians as galley slaves and 15,000 of these were freed. During the evening of the battle the Pope was in the midst of discussions in his small study in the Vatican when he suddenly broke away from his companions and crossed to a window. He paused and with a radiant smile turned to announce that a great victory had been won. This was more than two weeks before the official courier from Venice arrived in Rome with the news.
Had this battle been lost then it is almost certain that the whole of Europe would have been overcome by the Turkish forces. We know that ‘the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church’ but it would have put the life of every Christian in great danger and would have made the Church’s job extremely difficult.
In Rome Pope Pius V, giving joyful thanks for the deliverance of Christian Europe decreed that the date of the battle, 7th October, would thereafter be the feast of Our Lady of Victories. This feast day still remains in the calendar of the church except that its name has been changed to Our Lady of the Rosary.
A story from the end of the last war confirms the power of the Rosary. Russia had invaded Austria, the people were instructed on the radio to take their Rosaries in hand and pray, and, without explanation, and without precedent in that Nation’s history, the Russian troops retreated and Austria was saved from Communist domination.
Another story which proves the power of the Rosary happened in 1945 with the dropping of the Atomic bomb on Hiroshima. A small community of 8 Jesuit fathers only eight blocks from the epicentre remained unharmed (both the people and the buildings) while everyone else within a radius of 1.5 km from the centre was killed.
One of the community, Fr Schiffer, told the Eucharistic Congress of Philadelphia in 1976, when all eight members were still alive and well, that 200 scientists had carried out investigations for several years in search of a scientific explanation. He told them that there was only one thing that made their house different from the others: they recited the Rosary together every day.
Let us pray that the peoples of the world will heed Our Lady’s message of peace and reconciliation so that never again will a catastrophe of such a nature occur.
There are many other instances of the power of the Rosary. Padre Pio called the Rosary his ‘weapon’ and said that, after the Mass, the Rosary is the most powerful prayer.
In October 2002. Pope Paul II declared ‘A Year of the Holy Rosary’ from October 2002 to October 2003. He also announced five New Decades to be known as the Luminous Decades (Or Decade of Light).
These decades are:
1. The Baptism of Jesus.
2. The Marriage Feast in Cana.
3. Jesus declares his New Kingdom
and asks for our Conversion.
4. The Transfiguration.
5. The Last Supper and the Institution of the Eucharist.
The Holy Father suggests that the days for praying the decades can be:
Monday. The Joyful Mysteries.
Tuesday. The Sorrowful Mysteries.
Wednesday. The Glorious Mysteries.
Thursday. The Luminous Mysteries.
Friday. The Sorrowful Mysteries.
Saturday. The Joyful or Luminous Mysteries.
Sunday The Glorious Mysteries.
80. The Sin of Pride.
A young monk was travelling on an errand for his monastery and on the way met a beautiful girl and slept with her. Filled with remorse and shame, he rushed back to his monastery and threw himself at the feet of his confessor “I have committed the most terrible sin!” he said and wept bitterly. His confessor was a wise old man and after giving him absolution, he said to the young lad “For your penance, say two ‘Our Fathers’, now go in peace my son”. The young monk was very unhappy with the penance he had given, he felt it was much too light for the enormity of what he had done. He went straight to the Abbot. “Father Abbot” he said “Please hear my confession, I have done the most terrible thing, but my confessor only gave me two ‘Our Fathers’ as a penance. The old Abbot heard the young monk’s confession and told him that the two Our ‘Fathers’ was quite adequate a penance for his sin. The young monk went away distraught, Then he saw St Columba coming up the road. “Father Columba!” he cried “You are a very holy man, and a healer of souls, please hear my confession, because I have done the most terrible thing”. So St Columba heard the young man’s confession and how he had gone to his confessor and his Abbot and the light penance they had given him. St Columba said “For your penance for committing the sin of fornication with the woman on the road, I give you two ‘Our Fathers’, but for the sin of pride in thinking that your sin was more important than it really was, I give you six months on bread and water!”
From ‘Faith for the Future’ Church Bulletin 27th Oct 1995.
81. Sonnet for the Unborn Child.
I am the voice of the child you would not bear.
I am the voice of the one whose life you took.
I am the soul of the unborn you forsook.
My short life in a kidney dish laid bare.
God knit me together in your womb,
Man pulled me limb from limb alive.
You, whilst I love for life would strive.
Unraveled the tights knots of that sacred loom.
But when you die, I shall live and grow.
And at the gates of Heaven you will know
The act you let be done was not infanticide
It was the living Christ you crucified.
God’s grace upon your soul. I will forgive,
That though you wishes me dead God let you live.
Written by Anna. Sept 14th 1990.
Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.
82. A Lesson in Ecumenism.
An Obituary of the Abbot of Downside (May 1997) told of when he was put in charge of the parish of Bexley. At that time the local Council were in a turmoil. The Abbot along with others were asked to put their names forward as Independents for the local Council Elections. All the Independents were elected but were immediately faced with the problem that there was no obvious person in line of succession to become the next Mayor. The Abbot was asked to take on the position. He accepted and as his Chaplain he chose a Salvation Army lady officer. Wonderful Ecumenism!
83. THE LIVING SPIRIT.
In ‘41 Mamma took me back to Moscow. There I saw our enemies for the first time. If my memory serves me right, nearly 20,000 German war prisoners were to be marched in a single column through the streets of Moscow. The pavements swarmed with onlookers, cordoned off by soldiers and police. The crowd was mostly women with hands roughened by hard work, lips untouched by lipstick, and thin hunched shoulders which had borne half the burden of the war. Every one of them must have a father or a husband, or a brother or a son killed by the Germans. They gazed with hatred in the direction which the column was to appear. At last we saw it. The generals marched at the head, massive chins stuck out, lips folded disdainfully, their whole demeanour meant to show superiority over their plebeian victors.
“They smell of eau de Cologne, the bastards”, someone in the crowd said with hatred. The women were clenching their fists. The soldiers and policemen had all they could do to hold them back. All a once something happened to them. They saw ordinary German soldiers, the lower ranks, soldiers, thin, unshaven, wearing dirty blood-stained bandages, hobbling on crutches or leaning on the shoulders of their comrades: the soldiers walked with their heads down. The street became dead silent - the only sound was the shuffling of boots and the thumping of crutches.
Then I saw an elderly woman in broken-down boots push herself forward and touch a policeman’s shoulder, saying “Let me through”. There must have been something about her that made him step aside. She went up to the column, took from inside her coat something wrapped in a coloured handkerchief and unfolded it. It was a crust of black bread. She pushed it awkwardly into the pocket of the soldier, so exhausted that he was tottering on his feet. And then suddenly from every side women were running towards the soldiers, pushing into their hands, bread, cigarettes, whatever they had. The soldiers were no longer enemies. They were people.
Story related by Yevgeny Yevtushenko.
From Donald Nicholl’s book ‘Triumphs of the Spirit of Russia’.
84. Heaven and NOW
From the moment God creates us in our Mother’s womb our destiny is Heaven or Hell. Firstly, therefore, we must make a powerful effort to ensure that we reach Heaven. Some say that they might just scrape into purgatory. That isn’t good enough. What if they just miss and scrape into Hell? It doesn’t bear thinking of. The only way is to try and live as saintly a life as possible. We are potentially saints and will have to be so before we enter Heaven even if it means a long stay in purgatory.
One of the problems we all have to cope with in thinking about God and creation is that our understanding of Past, Present and Future leaves is with the obvious question...... ......how was God created? A clue to that comes from someone who claims that he doesn’t believe in God, or at least not the God who I believe in who created us and who loves us. That person is Professor Stephen Hawking. He has been granted an incredible brain. Very few can equal his ability to understand the Universe. Despite being trapped in a wheel chair for the past twenty five-years suffering from motor-neurone disease he has still been able to delve further and further into the Universe and explain why things are as they are. Not satisfied with knowing things himself he wrote a book to try and share his knowledge. His title for the book was ‘A Brief History of Time’. That title gives me a clue to understanding Heaven.
Before God created the Universe there was no ‘time’ as we know it. There was only ‘NOW’. Therefore in a system where there is no past or future then God doesn’t need to be created he was always present in the ‘NOW’. It still leaves many unanswered questions which we will only learn about after death. But it does enable us to have some small grasp of the ‘how and why’ God never needed to be created. We can certainly wonder why God created us with a past, present and future to cope with. I suspect that the answer will have something to do with our free-will which allows us to love God unconditionally.
Thoughts of the writer of this report.
85. Which Spirit are we living under?
For a great number of people the date, 1st January, 2000, is of immense significance. They conceive of this date as, literally, something that comes along only once ever thousand years. Moreover many see this particular transition to a new millennium as more than just an extremely rare calendar event. Sectarian groups of all kinds, Christian fundamentalists and neo pagans alike, are making special preparations, expecting either the end of the world or some kind of supernatural intervention that will usher in a new age of peace and harmony.
Being one of those persons who does not believe in the magic of numbers, I have no doubt that 1st January, 2000, will dawn and end just like every other day. However, while there is no magic in numbers, there is a symbolism in them and an occasion like this one, the turn of the millennium, just as any important birthday or anniversary, offers an important symbolic opportunity for renewal in commitment, gratitude, and reconciliation. We can ignore the symbolism of this date of course, just as we can ignore a birthday, but then we botch an opportunity for grace.
It is with this in mind that our present Pope, John Paul II, has asked that, for Christians, the year 2000 be a Jubilee year. In biblical terms, this means it should be a year of Sabbath, a year of special reconciliation, forgiveness, healing, and making peace. But none of this will happen without proper preparation. Hence, the Pope has asked us to make, in a manner of speaking, a three-year advent leading up to the year 2000, with each of the years dedicated to celebrating one of the persons of the Trinity. Thus, last year, 1997, was dedicated as the year of Jesus Christ; this year, 1998, is to be the year of the Holy Spirit; and next year 1999, is intended as the year of God the Father.
So this year, 1998, is to be the year of the Holy Spirit. How might we celebrate that? What might we do to make 1998, for ourselves and the world, a year of the Holy Spirit?
Thomas Aquinas once defined the Holy Spirit as “the love between the Father and the Son”. That definition is valuable, though more theologically than spiritually and pastorally. In terms of appropriating the Holy Spirit more personally, the biblical definition of the Holy Spirit is, I feel, more helpful.
Biblically, the Holy Spirit is more described than defined and there are various ways, all of them rich, in which the Spirit is described in scripture.
For example, St Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, tells us that there are two kinds of spirit, the spirit of the ‘sarx’ (A spirit that opposes God) and the spirit of God, the Holy Spirit.
The former is the spirit of envy, anger, gossip, factionalism, idolatry, impurity, self- centredness, and bitterness.
This spirit. he tells us in simple language, brings division and unhappiness. Conversely, there is the Holy Spirit, the spirit of charity, joy, peace, patience, goodness, long-suffering, mildness, faith, fidelity, and chastity. This latter spirit, he assures us, brings unity and happiness into our lives.
Hence, in terms of personal renewal, some of the things we might do to make 1998 more a year of the Holy Spirit is to stop deluding ourselves about what spirit we often lie within. If my life habitually contains more envy than admiration, anger than joy, gossip than praise, factionalism than community, impurity than chastity, and impatience than perseverance, then I am not living in the Holy Spirit, irrespective of whatever religious or liturgical activities I am involved in and might feel good about. But that is the Holy Spirit at one level.
John, in his gospel, describes the Holy Spirit as a ‘Paraclete’, an ‘advocate’.....a ‘lawyer for the poor.’ What an interesting concept! John tells us that the crucifixion of Jesus will set free the Paraclete and that it will convince the world of its wrongness in crucifying an innocent person, Jesus. Among other things then, the Holy Spirit in John is the defender of the accused, of the victim, of the scapegoat, of anyone who society deems expendable for the sake of the culture.
To live in the Holy Spirit, therefore, is to be an advocate, a lawyer, for the poor and for those who are being victimized and scapegoated by the culture.
Biblically the Holy Spirit is the person and the principle both of private renewal and of social justice. By living in the Holy Spirit we come to selflessness and joy in our lives and we become, as well, advocate for the poor. Let each of us enjoy our year of advocacy!
From Fr Ronald Rolheiser. The Catholic Herald. December 1997. (But the principles involved remain the same throughout every coming year.)
86. The Passion of Jesus. A Synopsis from The Venerable Mary of
Agreda’s book ‘The Mystical City of God’.
The Agony in the Garden and how Our Lady joined therein:- As Jesus left the place of the last supper Our Lady also left her retreat and they met. At this sorrowful meeting a sword pierced Our Lady’s heart inflicting a pain beyond human thought. Our Lady received a blessing from her Son and also received a special favour of being able to see all that passed in connection with her Divine Son. She then retired to the place of the cenacle where a thousand angels formed her guard in forms visible to her together with some of the pious women of her company.
Jesus, followed by his twelve apostles, made His way in the direction of the Mount of Olivet. Judas, who had made up his mind to betray Jesus, realized that Jesus was going to spend the night in prayer as was his custom. He considered this to be an opportune time to deliver Jesus to the Scribes and Pharisees. Having made this decision he lagged behind the others and unnoticed lost them from view and departed in all haste. Lucifer had never been sure that Jesus was the Messiah but watched all the events and perceived what Judas was about to do. Realizing that the death of Jesus could be the promised redemption and hoping to stop it he appeared to Judas in a live form and tried to persuade Judas that perhaps it was not a good idea to betray Jesus. But Judas continued on his way in order to fulfil his mission of betrayal. Jesus made His way to Mount Olivet and into the Garden of Gethsemane where the Gospel story of His agony was fulfilled. Our Lady was able to share this agony with Him from her retreat in the cenacle.
Eventually the time came for Judas to approach Jesus and offer his feigned kiss of peace. Our Lady witnessed this with great sorrow knowing that a short time earlier Judas had been among the first to partake of the body and blood of her son. She made a prayer of immense charity asking that Judas might be granted graces to save himself from ruin. When the servants of the high priest bound Jesus with ropes and chains Our Lady felt the pains as if she herself was fettered. She felt the blows and torments which were inflicted on her son.
Jesus brought before Annas and Caiaphas. This was to be a Religious Trial:- Judas had told the soldiers that Jesus was a sorcerer and could easily escape. They were therefore very thorough and took all precautions in binding him. As well as ropes they also used a chain which wound around his waist and his neck and with the two ends of the chain manacled his hands. The chain had been brought from the house of Annas where it had served to raise the portcullis of the dungeon. Two ropes were used. One wound around Jesus’ throat and then around his body with the two ends used by the soldiers in order to pull Him forwards. The other rope was used to tie his arms and then around his waist with the two ends held by other soldiers who used them for jerking him from behind.
The gospel story of Jesus’ religious trial before Annas and Caiaphas and Peter’s denial is exactly followed in Mary of Agreda’s writings. Our Lady wept bitterly at Peter’s third denial but then perceived that the Lord would not refuse him the necessary help for eventually rising from the fall. Jesus was accused of blasphemy for which the punishment was death. The soldiers increased their torture by striking him, kicking him, pulling his hair and spitting on him. Others slapped or struck him in the neck which was a treatment reserved among the Jews for the most abject and vile criminals.
It was past midnight and so that Jesus could not escape during the night they kept him bound by the chains and ropes and locked him in a subterranean dungeon. Scarcely any light penetrated into this prison. It was filled with un-cleanliness and stench. It had not been cleaned for many years. No-one thought it worth cleaning as it was used to house the very worst of criminals.
Jesus before Pilate:- At the dawn Jesus was brought from the dungeon and once again questioned by Caiaphas. The priests and scribes were anxious to show a semblance of justice before the people. Their questioning led them to the decision that Jesus was worthy of the death sentence and should be sent to Pontius Pilate to have this confirmed. This was to be a political trial. The sun had already risen when this took place. Our Lady, who saw it all from afar, now decided to leave her retreat and follow her Divine Son to the house of Pilate and to His death on the cross. As she, and the holy women who accompanied her, made their way through the streets they met Jesus being dragged to the house of Pontius Pilate. Their eyes met but they did not speak. During Jesus’ trial by Pilate Our Lady and her retinue were miraculously but invisibly allowed into the house of Pilate to witness all that took place. When Pilate learned that Jesus was a Galilean he sent him to Herod who was the governor of Galilee. Herod was the son of the Herod who had tried to kill Jesus at the time of the slaughter of the Holy Innocents. Pilate realized that Jesus was innocent and had only been brought before him due to the envy of the priests. He was therefore hoping that Herod would let Jesus go free. Jesus’ trial before Herod follows the Gospel story with Herod hoping to see some trick performed by Jesus who he took to be an enchanter and conjurer. When Jesus made no reply and performed no tricks Herod mocked and ridiculed him and sent him back to Pilate. Pilate continued to try and find a way of releasing Jesus but all his efforts came to nothing and eventually Pilate washed his hands of the death of Jesus.
The Scourging of Jesus:- Lucifer saw all that was happening and became more and more concerned that Jesus was to be put to death. Nevertheless he saw his opportunity of causing Jesus to suffer as much pain as possible and put into Pilate’s mind that if Jesus was scourged then the priests and people might relent in asking for his death. For the scourging the soldiers removed the chains and ropes but were so rough in doing so that they widened the wounds which his bonds had made on His arms and wrists. They then made Him remove the seamless tunic which was the one which Our Lady had made for him in Egypt when he first began to walk. Six torturers tied him to a column and then two at a time, commenced the scourging. Their scourging was of such intensity that a large portion of shoulder bone was left exposed. They also beat him in the face and on the feet and on the hands thus not leaving unwounded a single spot in which they could exert their fury. The number of blows inflicted on Jesus was five thousand one hundred and fifteen. They also spat on him and shouted at him.
The Crowning with Thorns:- After the scourging they took Jesus to the Pretorium where with great cruelty they mocked him as a counterfeit king and placed on his head a ‘crown’ woven out of thorns. Some of the thorns pierced his skull, others his ears, and others his eyes. Hence one of the greatest tortures suffered by Jesus was the crown of thorns. He was given a cane to hold so as to resemble a scepter. Then the soldiers, in the presence of the priests and Pharisees, gathered around Him and heaped upon Him their derision and mockery. Some snatched the cane from His hand and struck Him on His crowned head driving the thorns further into His flesh.
Jesus is condemned to death:- When Pilate saw the terrible cruelty which his torturers had inflicted on Jesus he felt sure that the sight would move the crowd to compassion and shame in their hearts. But the Priests and Pharisees encouraged the crowd to demand that Jesus be crucified. So Pilate handed Him over to the Jews.
The Way of the Cross:- The sentence of death having been published in a loud voice, the executioners loaded the heavy cross onto Jesus’ tender and wounded shoulders. In order that he might carry it they loosened the bonds holding His hands, but not the others since they wished to drag Him along by the loose ends of the ropes which bound His body. In order to torment Him more they drew two loops of ropes around his throat. The cross was fifteen feet long, of thick and heavy timbers. The herald began to proclaim the sentence and the whole confused and turbulent multitude of the people, the executioners and soldiers, with great noise and uproar and disorder, began to move from the house of Pilate to Mount Calvary. None of these happenings were hidden from Our Lady. The events she could not see with her eyes she was allowed to perceive by miraculous means. Lucifer and his throng were troubled by the happenings to Jesus. They were allowed to feel great misgivings at the coming death of Jesus even though they didn’t fully understand it. They therefore decided leave Jesus to His end and retire to their caverns in hell. But Our Lady perceiving their desire to flee was granted power over them and made them stay to watch Jesus live out His life which would bring torment to Lucifer and all His followers. Therefore according to a way of speaking Lucifer and his devils were also made to walk the way of Calvary like criminals condemned to a terrible death and seized by the dismay and consternation of an inevitable punishment. The executioners, bereft of any human compassion, dragged Jesus along with incredible cruelty. On account of being pulled in different directions by the ropes, the weight of the cross caused Him to sway and often to fall to the ground. The hard knocks he received when falling on the rough stones caused great wounds to open up especially on his knees. The heavy cross also inflicted a wound on his shoulder. The unsteadiness caused the cross to knock against his head thus the thorns were driven even deeper into the wounded parts. Our Lady followed her son through the streets but the surging crowds hindered her from getting near to Jesus. She prayed that she might be allowed to meet her son on His journey to Calvary. Her prayer was answered and her Holy Angels speedily lead her through some side streets so that she came face to face with her son. They did not speak but looked in sweet recognition of each other. Our Lady prayed that the executioners might find some way of lightening the load of the cross and her prayer was answered when Simon of Cyrene was made to help Jesus.
The Crucifixion:- It was the sixth hour which corresponds to our Noon. The executioners, intending to crucify Jesus naked, removed his seamless tunic and garments. In order to remove the tunic they pulled it over his head and in so doing tore off the crown of thorns. Thus were opened up anew all the wounds of His head, ears, eyes and face. With heartless cruelty they again forced the crown down upon His head opening up wounds upon wounds. The cross was lying on the ground and the executioners were making the necessary preparations for crucifying Him and the two thieves. To make it easier to nail Jesus to the cross they wanted to make preparatory holes which would accept the nails as they were driven through Jesus’ hands and feet. In order to find the position of these holes they commanded Jesus to stretch himself out on the cross. The executioners then, following their human instinct of cruelty, marked the places for the holes, not according to the size of His body, but larger, having in mind a new torture for their victim. This inhuman intent was known to Our Lady and was one of the greatest causes of affliction to her during the whole passion. She anticipated the torments to be endured by her beloved son when His limbs should be wrenched out of their sockets in being nailed to the cross. As the executioners bored the holes Jesus stood awaiting to be nailed to the cross. His mother approached and took one of His hands and kissed it with great reverence. The executioners allowed this as they thought that the sight of His mother would cause him greater affliction. Presently one of the executioners seized the hand of Jesus and placed it upon the auger hole while another hammered a large rough nail through the palm. The veins and sinews were torn and the bones of the hand were forced apart. When they stretched out the other hand they found, as expected, that it did not reach the auger hole. In order to overcome the difficulty they took the chain, with which the Saviour had been bound in the garden, and looping one end through a ring around his wrist, they pulled the hand over the hole and fastened it with another nail. They then seized His feet, and placing them one above the other, they tied the same chain around both feet and stretched them with barbarous ferocity down to the third hole. Then they drove through both feet a large nail into the cross. They inflicted further barbarity on Jesus as they raised the cross. Some of the soldiers put the sharp heads of the lances to his body causing fearful lacerations under his armpits. Then they crucified the two thieves one either side of Jesus, thereby they wanted to indicate that the one in the most conspicuous place was the greatest malefactor. Our Lady was allowed to feel all His sufferings of her son. Such was her abandonment and sharing in all His suffering that she would have died with Him except that she was spared that fate. Lucifer and his followers were made to watch the crucifixion realizing what they were seeing was the great mystery of the salvation of man and the ruin of themselves. When Jesus spoke the words ‘Father forgive them they know not what they do’ Lucifer knew that this was the Messiah, the son of God, and that God had permitted His son to offer Himself as a sacrifice for the redemption of man. When Jesus spoke the words ‘Woman behold your son’ the demons knew that this was the woman who was to crush their head. All other writings of Mary of Agreda concerning the crucifixion are as the Gospel writings regarding Jesus’ last hours on the cross.
87. Morning Prayer.
So far today, I am doing
all right, I have not
gossiped, lost my temper,
been greedy, grumpy, nasty,
selfish, or over-indulgent.
However I am going to get
out of bed in a
and I will need a lot of help after that.
88. A RAINBOW STORY.
Once upon a time, all the colours in the world started to quarrel, each claimed, that she was the best, the most important, the most useful, the favourite.
GREEN said: “I am the sign of life and of hope, I was chosen for grass, trees and leaves, you see, I am in the majority”.
BLUE interrupted: “Consider the sky and the blue sea. The sky gives a space and peace and serenity”.
YELLOW chuckled: “You are all so serious. I bring laughter, gaiety and warmth into the world, the sun, the moon and stars are yellow. Without me there would be no fun”.
ORANGE trumpeted: “I am the colour of health and strength. I may be scarce, but I’m precious. I carry all the most important vitamins. When I fill the sky at sunrise or sunset, my beauty is so striking”.
RED shouted out: “I’m your ruler. I’m the colour of blood, passion and love, the red rose poinsettia and poppy”.
VIOLET rose up and spoke with great pomp: “I am the colour of royalty and power. Kings, chiefs and bishops have chosen me to represent authority and wisdom”.
INDIGO spoke quietly but firmly: “You hardly notice me, but all need me. I represent thought and reflection, twilight and deep waters. You require me for balance and contrast, for prayer and inner peace”.
The colours argued on, but stopped when a rainstorm began, the thunder and lightening made them crouch in fear.
THE RAIN spoke: You foolish colours fighting among yourselves, each trying to dominate the rest. Do you know that God made you all? Each for a special purpose, unique and different. He loves and wants you all. He will stretch you across the sky in a great bow of colour, as a reminder that He loves you all, that you can live together in peace, a promise that He is with you a sign of hope for tomorrow. So whenever God has used good rain to wash the world, He puts the rainbow in the SKY.
89. DIARY OF AN UNBORN CHILD.
October 5th - Today my life began. My parents do not know it yet, I am as small as a seed of an apple, but it is I already. And I am to be a girl. I shall have blond hair and blue eyes. Just about everything is settled though, even the fact that I shall love flowers.
October 19th - Some say that I am not a real person yet, that only my mother exists. But I am a real person, just as a small crumb of bread is yet truly bread. My Mother is. And I am.
October 23rd - My mouth is just beginning to open now. Just think, in a year or so I shall be laughing and later talking. I know what my first word will be: MAMA.
October 25th - My heart began to beat today all by itself. From now on it shall gently beat for the rest of my life without ever stopping to rest! And after many years it will tire. It will stop, and then I shall die.
November 2nd - I am growing a bit every day. My arms and legs are beginning to take shape. But I have to wait a long time yet before those little legs will raise me to my mother’s arms, before these little arms will be able to gather flowers and embrace my father.
November 12th - Tiny fingers are beginning to form on my hands. Funny how small they are! I’ll be able to stroke mother’s hair with them.
November 2Oth - It wasn’t until today that the doctor told mom that I am living here under her heart. Oh, how happy she must be! Are you happy, mom?
November 25th - My mom and dad are probably thinking about a name for me. But they don’t even know that I am a little girl. I want to be called Kathy. I am getting so big already.
December 10th - My hair is growing. It is smooth and bright and shiny. I wonder what kind of hair mom has.
December 13th - I am just about able to see. It is dark around me. When mom brings me into the world it will be full of sunshine and flowers. But that I want more than anything is to see mom. How do you look, mom?
December 24th - I wonder if mom hears the whispering of my heart? Some children come into the world a little sick. But my heart is strong and healthy. It beats so evenly: tup-tup, tup-tup. You’ll have a healthy daughter, mom!
December 28th - Today my mother killed me.
90. GOD ON STRIKE?
It’s just a good thing God above
Has never gone on strike
Because he wasn’t treated fair
For things He didn’t like.
If He had ever once sat down
And said “That’s it I’m through.
I’ve had enough of those on earth
So this is what I’ll do.
I’ll give orders to the sun
‘Cut off your heat supply’
And to the moon ‘Give no more light’
and run the oceans dry.
Then just to make things really tough
And put the pressure on
I’ll turn off air and oxygen
Till every breath is gone.”
You know He would be justified
If fairness was the game
For no-one has been more abused
Or treated with disdain
Than God - and yet he carries on
Supplying you and me
With all the favours of His grace
And everything for free.
Men say they want a better deal
And so on strike they go
But what a deal we’ve given God
For everything we owe.
We don’t care who we hurt or harm
To gain the things we like
But what a mess we’d all be in
If God should go on strike.
Anonymous. From the Universe 23rd February 1979
91. Journey into Saintly Spirituality
On beginning our spiritual journey we are rather like burnt bricks - blackened and marred by original sin and our own personal sins. When we pray for others we want to give God’s light to others. (Jesus said “I am the light”.) A very dark brick will only absorb light. It cannot reflect any. As we progress in this journey and open ourselves to the healing action of Jesus then He is able to transform us: first we are changed into lighter coloured bricks which can, in a small way, radiate light. Then with continuing co-operation with His grace He is able to make us into something rather like a “mirror brick”. A mirror does reflect light beautifully - but that is not the end of the journey for there is an even higher stage of perfection: As saints totally correspond with God’s will and be totally what He wants them to be, so they are transformed from merely reflectors of God’s light to other souls, and they become like prisms. In a prism white light enters at one point and as it travels through the glass it is broken into all the colours of the rainbow. When a soul reaches this stage then everything they do, every person they touch, receives exactly the right colour of light they need for personal healing. This is a stage of Holiness to which all Christians are called. But to meet it is rare: think of the present Holy Father - even the secular media speak of the amazing effect he has on people, how he constantly brings people closer to God. Mother Teresa of Calcutta was the same. So it is possible - but in the world it is very difficult.
From ‘Dear Jane’ a letter to a prospective novice from Sister Mary OSB. Tyburn Convent, London.
92. From Temper Tantrums to Peace Tactics.
Brother Taurus was a man with the best intentions but with a terrible temper that made him impossible to live with. After he had fallen out with his family, he went to Tarsus to be apprenticed to a tailor. When he had frightened away half of his customers the tailor had to send him away before he lost the other half.
It was then that Taurus decided to do something about his temper before it did for him. He went into the desert and found a monastery in which he could come to terms with his affliction. In less than a year, the monks found his temper so impossible that he had to leave.
They gave him a fine set of earthen-wear pots and plates, a large jug of goat’s milk and enough food for a month. Then they helped him to find a cave in which to live the life of a hermit. At last, he thought, he could come to terms with his temper because there was no one there to try him.
It was when he was trying to light the fire that he overturned the jug and lost all his milk. Before he could control himself he picked up the jug and smashed it against the side of the cave. The pots went the next day and the plates the following day.
Brother Taurus cursed and swore but there was no longer anywhere for him to hide from the affliction that would have gone with him anyway. At last he had to face in solitude what he’d never faced before. It was there that he finally learnt that the trouble with the world he had run-away from was not “other people”, as Sartre said, but with himself. If he wanted to live in peace with others he must first find it within himself.
St Catherine of Siena used to say, “The trouble with the world is me!” It was a truth that she had for herself in blood, sweat and tears in her solitude, not in the desert, but in her own home, in what she called “the house of self-knowledge.”
It takes a saint to see a truth so clearly that pride and prejudice prevents the rest of us from seeing. The evils of the world that we hear about daily on our radios or see on our television screens are but the outward expressions of the evil that is within us all. Yet arrogant human beings find it offensive when they are told that the source of the world’s woes can be found within themselves.
They like to think that they have no part in them, that they are out there in a place where they can be dealt with by the expertise and endeavour of ‘homo sapiens.’ That’s why Schumacher pointed out in his book, ‘Small is Beautiful’, that although people go on clamouring out for solutions they become angry when they are told that the restoration of society must come from within, not from without.
Simplistic it may seem to the clumsy and cluttered mind of ‘homo arrogans’, but it is nevertheless true. There will never be peace and harmony in man’s world until there is peace and harmony in man’s heart. This has been the consistent teaching of the great philosophers and religious thinkers from the beginning.
All the great mystics have discovered the hard way what Job meant when he said that man’s life on earth is a continual war. A war that has to be waged within. It is only after losing battle after battle in the spiritual combat that a person finally learns that the ‘war to end all wars’ will never be won without help and strength that is quite beyond one own resources.
This was the lesson that St Paul finally learnt. He actually thanked God for his weakness because it enabled him to realize that without God he couldn’t win a single battle with himself. For St Paul, even sinfulness can become a stepping-stone to sanctity when it forces a person to turn again and again to the only One who can help him. The way to inner peace is paved with spiritual failures and dogged by defeat after defeat. If victory ever comes it will come through humility of the broken warrior, who begs for the help and strength that he finally realizes only God can give.
No politician, no diplomat did more for peace in her day that did St Catherine of Sienna. Nor will anyone do more, for peace in our day than those who have the courage to go within as she did and, with God’s help, fight first with themselves for what they want to bring to others.
From Inner Life by David Torkington. Catholic Herald
The Joyful Mysteries.
1. The Annunciation.
I am alone praying when a bright light distracts me. Out of the light a figure emerges. It is a figure of great beauty and as my eyes become used to the light it occurs to me that it is a heavenly figure, like an angel. I am concerned. Why has this seraphic vision come to me? As I think these thoughts the vision tells me not to be afraid. But what I am next told fills me with awe. How can it be that God has chosen me to be His mother? That He should choose me fills me with wonder but also with fear. To be the Mother of God is frightening. The Mother of Him who has always existed, has never been created. It is almost impossible to contemplate. Yet it is made clear that this miracle of conception cannot take place without the acceptance of my free will. The angel waits. My concern is how can this happen as I have made a vow of virginity? The angel tells me that it is by the Holy Spirit that I will conceive. The angel waits again. I feel an overwhelming weight of awe, of responsibility.
I realize that the whole of creation is waiting for my reply. The God, who I love and pray to continuously, has asked for my co-operation. I contemplate the waiting angel knowing that my decision can change, not just my future, but the future of the whole world..................the future of eternity. I cannot refuse the God who I love. In all humility I give my ‘fiat’ and a movement inside me tells me that the Holy Spirit has worked his miracle and God, the Messiah the Saviour of the world is within my womb. The seraphic spirit, the angel of God, leaves. I have an indescribable feeling of loneliness but also of marvel at what has occurred. I praise God for His goodness to me and ask His help for whatever the future holds.
The seraphic angel told me of that my cousin Elizabeth is with child. She, who in all her years has remained barren, now bears a child in her womb. I announce to Joseph that we must travel to Ein Karem to visit my cousin. He is confused by my sudden decision but accepts my request and at great cost to his work and earnings hires a donkey and we commence our journey. The sixty three mile journey takes several days and considerable discomfort. Throughout all Joseph is ever caring to my every need often at expense to his own comfort. I pray to God for him as I anticipate the time when he will realize that I am with child. The seraphic angel had not told me to explain the conception to Joseph. I await whatever means the good God uses to convey the unbelievable message to him. We approach Zachariah and Elizabeth’s house. Prompted by some heavenly message Elizabeth knows of our coming and comes out to greet us. She is ecstatic at our meeting and by her words conveys that she knows the nature of the presence in my womb. Filled with God’s love I recite the words which only the Holy Spirit can have can have prepared. ‘My soul magnifies the Lord.......................................’ I stay with Elizabeth till the birth of her child, a boy, who is named John. I then return to Nazareth with Joseph. He is now aware of my pregnancy and greatly troubled. I suffer with him as he considers what action to take. My prayers for him are answered when, in a dream, he is told of the wonder and beauty of what has happened. He is to be the Foster Father of the Son of God. Filled with God’s love we are now able to pray together and thank God for his goodness to us.
This is a day of contrasts...........some sadness but also unbelievable happiness. The sadness starts on the journey into Bethlehem. I ask Joseph to slow our progress due to my discomfort as the time for the birth of the Son of God draws near. Because of this we are late entering the town and I watch as time and time again Joseph is refused accommodation. I know that his concern is for me and the baby in my womb. He is distressed that he can find nowhere for us to rest our heads; nowhere for the Son of God to be born. I see someone talking to him pointing and giving instructions. Joseph approaches me as if reluctant to share the information. Slowly and with sorrow he tells me of a cave, a stable, which might give us shelter. In this I see the work of God. In absolute humility He wants His Son to be born in the lowest of places. I try and put Joseph’s mind at rest and explain that the stable must have been chosen by God for the birth of His Son, we must accept God’s Will. Joseph is encouraged by my words and we make our way to the place. Arriving there makes both of us unsure at our decision. The whole place is dirty and no place to bring a baby into the world. Nevertheless we must accept God’s Will. We start to clean an area making it more acceptable for the birth to take place. After some work things are cleaner and we rest and at Joseph’s insistence we take something to eat. I feel that the time is coming for the birth of God’s Son. Joseph goes to the cave entrance to pray. I am overcome by an ecstasy of great intensity. I don’t know how long it lasts but when I return out of the ecstasy the Son of God, my Son, has been born.............. I worship Him as my God............. .................I cradle Him in my arms. I place in him a manger which Joseph has filled with straw. I call Joseph from the cave entrance. He comes and joins me in giving glory to God for the wonder of the birth of His Son. Despite the austere surroundings we are filled with a happiness beyond description. Jesus is with us
To fulfil the command given by God to Moses I must wait forty days after the birth of my first-born Son and then I must attend the Temple for Purification and to present Jesus to the Lord. Also in accordance with God’s command to Moses we must present an offering. Joseph and I are both excited at the prospect of taking Jesus to the Temple. Our hearts are filled with joy at our forthcoming visit to that Holy Place. As we near the Temple Joseph goes to one of the stalls to purchase a dove for our offering. We mount the steps leading to the entrance and enter the confines of The Temple. The holiness and vastness of the building always makes us stop and praise God that such a building can have been built to His honour and this occasion is made the more beautiful by the fact that we are bringing Jesus, God the Son, into His Temple. As we stand in awe we are approached by an elderly man, Simeon, who looks at Jesus with a special longing. He asks to hold the baby and when he does so seems to be in an ecstasy. We learn that it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die till he had seen the ‘Christ of the Lord’. It was by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that he had come to Temple when we were there. He makes a prophesy that the baby is ‘destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel.’ Then, speaking to me, he prophesied much pain ‘and thy own soul a sword shall pierce’. Also in the Temple at that time was a elderly widow, Anna, who spent all her time praying. She came to us and gave praise to God. Both these two holy people embodied the heart of the Temple cult...............giving service to God. When all the rites of purification had been fulfilled we returned home. Simeon’s and Anna’s words remained in my heart.
The memory of this event will ever remain with me. Jesus had just come of age and we had happily celebrated this in The Temple. Joseph and I had never had any reason to query where Jesus was. We knew that he would be safely with one or the other of us and to do otherwise would have been completely out of character. That is why, after a day’s travel, when Jesus was found not to be with either of us we still didn’t believe that he was not with the caravan. But a search showed, to our dismay, that he must have stayed behind in Jerusalem. How could he have done such a thing? We were not only alarmed but confused. Although the time for travelling was ended we agreed to return immediately. The journey was frightening, night shadows looked like brigands or wild animals. We put our faith in God and made quick time so that we were in Jerusalem in only half the time it had taken to leave. We were both tired and hungry but decided not to waste any time but to immediately commence our search for our Son. So that we could cover more ground we searched separately and kept meeting to find if either of us had any news. Driven by the urgency of our worry and confusion we could not stop but kept up our search without sleep or food. This gave me a further worry as I was concerned for Joseph and his health. The constant nights without sleep and days without food were sapping his energy though I knew that he was equally concerned for me. At last, after three days, ‘A light at the end of the tunnel’. Some people recalled seeing a boy of Jesus’ description. More than once he had been seen in the area of The Temple. We had already searched there as it seemed the most obvious place to find Him. But, during our searches, He had never been there. Now we returned to The Temple with confidence that our search might be at an end. Joseph and I wept with joy as we saw Jesus sitting among the priests talking to them. He hadn’t seen us so we were able to watch without Him knowing. The priests appeared to be in awe of this young boy. They conversed with Him and listened to what He had to say....... .....it was as if they were learning from Him rather than the reverse. Eventually we approached the group and Jesus saw us. What could I say? I could not pretend that nothing had happened. “Son, why have you done this to us? In sorrow your Father and I have been searching for you.” His reply pierced our hearts “How is it that you searched for me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” What we did not then understand is that Jesus’ relationship to His Father was to take precedence to ourselves. Jesus came with us to Nazareth where his wisdom became even greater. His Father in heaven was watching over Him and teaching Him. This three day loss of our Son reminded me of Simeon’s words that “a sword will pierce thy soul”. That indeed had happened.
The Sorrowful Mysteries.
I know that my son’s time of ‘ministry’ is over and that He is starting His time of Passion and Death. I receive a special favour in being allowed to see all that passes in connection with my son as he enters this final stage of His life. As Jesus commences his agony my attention is drawn to Judas and his treacherous thoughts. I pray that his heart will be softened and that he will not proceed with his plans. I watch my son as He prays. I see Him appealing to His Father that He may be released from the Passion and Death which awaits Him. In answer His Father shows him all the sins of the world which must be redeemed. Jesus accepts the weight of the sins and, in fear and dread, his sweat becomes drops of blood. I pray that he may be given some solace in His agony and in answer an Angel comes and ministers to Him. With sadness I watch Peter, James and John sleeping instead of praying with their Master. They had been amazed by events in the upper room when Jesus had given them his body to eat and his blood to drink but they are blind to the significance of that and as to what is about to take place. Sadly I see Judas coming with a cohort of soldiers. Equally sad is the sign he gives. The treacherous kiss makes me pray even more that he may be allowed to realize his sin. The soldiers arrest Jesus and commence their rough handling of him which is to continue right up to his death on Calvary. The apostles attempt to defend Jesus but their fear gets the better of them and they flee.
It was Pontius Pilate who ordered my son to be scourged but it was because of the sins of the world that it took place. Pontius Pilate knew that the Scribes and Pharisees only wanted Jesus put to death because they were jealous of him. So he was hoping that, after the scourging, when the crowd saw their ‘King’ they would demand His release. It was a Roman scourging which my son had to undergo. This did not have the limit of ‘forty strokes less one’ which the Jews permitted. The Romans continued for as long as the scourgers had their energy or until they considered that any further punishment might lead to the death of the victim. Death had to take place on the cross and not before. I watch in dread and sorrow as Jesus, who is love itself, is stripped and shackled so that He is unable to move. But I dare not look as the scourgers take their implements of torture and commence their brutal task. I hear the whiplash and the howls of agony of my son. All I can do is pray that He be given strength and that this brutal torture should soon come to an end. Eventually The noise abates and I dare to look at the scene. Jesus is slumped on the floor, His body a mass of bleeding flesh.
The soldiers hadn’t finished with their cruelty. They had heard of this man ‘Jesus’. They had heard of His miracles. But now that He was in their power their minds tell them that these stories must have been false, made up so as to promote Him as a king. “If this man is meant to be a king then let’s crown him. Where can we find a suitable crown? Yes, there’s one. We can make one out of that thorn bush. If Pontius Pilate wanted him scourged then he will be even more pleased that we have increased His suffering.” I watch in dread as a large branch of thorns is made into a circlete and forced down onto my Son’s head. His whole body reacts with pain. The soldiers are enjoying this mockery and they vie with each other as to who can think up other ways to continue their ridicule. They make Jesus sit down. They give Him a reed as a symbol of a scepter. Then they take turns in coming up to Him in mock loyalty. My heart aches for Jesus but also for these poor soldiers. At the end of their lives they will learn who it was they were mocking. What a shock it will be for them. But now my Son is, to them, a game of fun; an opportunity to relieve the boredom of being far away from home. Eventually they finish with their mockery and return Jesus to Pilate. Even he seems shocked by what he sees. Surely the Jews will now ask for His release. But when he puts the question to the throng the Priests and Pharisees commence the chant “Crucify Him” and this is taken up by the crowd. I have always known that this must happen so that my Son can redeem the world. But that doesn’t lessen my pain. My son, after all his ministry, miracles and love is totally rejected.
I see the soldiers bringing the Cross which Jesus is to carry to Calvary. To the soldiers it is a form of execution. To my Son it represents His Father’s way to redeem the world. Jesus takes the Cross and He does so almost lovingly knowing that it fulfils His Father’s Will. My Son’s flesh is so torn by the scourging that there is no place for the cross to touch which is not already an open wound, sore and bleeding. The pain of the cross and the weight of the cross are too much for my Son in his weakened condition. He stumbles and falls thereby adding further lacerations to his knees. As he falls the cross pushes further down into His wounds causing intense pain. When walking He attempts to keep the cross away from His head and the crown of thorns. But when He falls He can’t control the cross which crashes into His head and drives the thorns further into his skull. The soldiers have no concern for whatever extra pain their victim receives. To them He is just another criminal to be put to death by the accepted method of crucifixion. They want to get the job over with and get back to camp. So they want to speed up this slow criminal. He is taking too long to make the journey to Calvary. I pray that Jesus might be given some respite and my prayer is answered when the soldiers, using their power as an occupying army, force Simon of Cyrene to help Jesus to carry the cross and brave Veronica comes to wipe away the blood so that Jesus can see. My son knows that I am following Him and for one brief moment, filled with more sorrow than I can describe, he looks towards me and our eyes meet. It is a look both of intense love and intense pain. The total sadness of that moment is forever etched on my heart. Now we are close to Calvary where the barbaric cruelty of crucifixion is to take place. But I know that this is not the fault of the soldiers. I do not feel any bitterness towards them for what is to take place. It is the sins of the world which are to crucify my son.
Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James and Jesus’ apostle John have accompanied me on the journey to Calvary. Now they gather close to me not knowing whether I will collapse as Jesus is fastened to the cross. But I ask for God’s help. I must watch. I must not fail my Son at this time. The nails are hammered into my Son’s hands and feet and He howls with excruciating pain as each nail is driven home. Then come the hours of pain which He must undergo. I stand at the foot of the cross watching and waiting. The effect of crucifixion makes talking extremely difficult. His words come as a whisper. We must strain to hear His every word. Despite the agony of speaking He thinks of me and makes me the Mother of the World, and asks John to give me a home. My anguish is increased by the priests and Pharisees who make fun of my Son. “You saved others, save yourself. If you are the Christ come down from the cross and we will believe in you”. I pray for them that, at the moment of their deaths, when they realize the enormity of what they did to Jesus on the Cross, they will be granted, and will accept, forgiveness”. I am torn between not wanting my Son to suffer any more and the enormity of the loss I will feel when He dies. During His life on earth we have been as one. It had been as if my heart was not beating by itself but beating as one with that of my Son. Knowing the time is coming when he will have fulfilled his Father’s Will I pray for strength. Despite the final pain which it causes, Jesus shouts out His final words “It is accomplished” and He dies. God the Father’s will has been accomplished. Now, whatever suffering it may cause me, I must live up to my words to the Angel Gabriel thirty three years previously “May it be done unto me according to thy word”.
The Glorious Mysteries.
I knew that my Son would defy death but it was not for me to reveal such secrets. When Mary Magdalene and Mary the Mother of James returned to report an empty tomb and their frightening experience of seeing an Angel, my heart, of which since the death of my Son every beat had been one of pain, enters a period of calm and ecstasy.
Now I eagerly await the time when my Son will show Himself to me. I do not have to wait long. I am with the eleven, who because of fear are hiding, when Jesus appears. The joy I feel is like that which I experienced in the stable in Bethlehem. I am able to hold Him and feel His kiss. I offer a prayer of thanks for the strength which has been given me over the past few days and for my companions who have been a continual source of comfort. My Son has conquered death.
For forty days Jesus has been with us but now comes another parting. He must go to the Father so that the Holy Spirit, which proceeds from them both, can come and inspire the apostles with a strong fervour for the Faith which they must preach to all nations. Jesus leads us to the top of the Mount of Olives and there speaks to us for the last time before being taken up to His Father in Heaven. He had already spoken to me in private putting His apostles into my care. He explained my task in helping the Church of His New Covenant to become strong. He will always watch over me and guide me. When the Church is strong enough he will call me to Himself and to The Father. The moment when he leaves the earth should make my heart ache. But I have his word that, in spirit, he will always be at my side. By my example I must show the apostles the way ahead. A way which has complete confidence in ‘Hope’ for the future.
I am with the apostles in the upper room. They remain in fear for their lives. Then the Holy Spirit comes to us in the form of tongues of flame. The effect on the apostles is immediate. They are transformed from frightened men into men full of self-confidence, full of faith, hope and love. They can’t wait to get out into the streets of Jerusalem and declare the word of Jesus and his New Covenant. As I watch them go I know that I will have to live through many trials as the authorities apprehend them and put them to death. My Calvary is starting again. But for my Son’s sake and the good of the whole world I must be brave and shoulder the task which my Son has given me. I pray fervent prayers for the apostles. But I know that my Son has left His Church in safe hands - I do not need to teach them, Jesus did that. I need only to remind them and encourage them and love them.
I have reached the end of my life on earth. My death is neither painful nor one of tragedy. I do not die of an illness but of love. Love for my Son, for the Holy Trinity, love for His apostles, love for the whole world. Through love I have not been stained by sin. I have been tempted as everyone, even my own Son, was tempted. But by God’s Grace I have being able to resist all temptations. God has prepared a reward for me, one far above anything I expect or that I deserve. After my death the whole cohort of heavenly Angels descends to earth. My soul returns to my body which is reanimated. Then takes place a procession of Angels singing praises and moving like a sublime celestial cloud towards heaven. There I am met by my Son who greets me with eternal love and peace.
How can I, in humility, explain this ‘glory’ which is given to me? I cannot. I do not deserve it. My life has been one of ‘love’. There is nothing more pure than love. To love is easy, to hate needs working at, it is very difficult. Therefore how can I pretend to deserve glory for something which is naturally the easiest thing to do? I must leave it to your imaginations to meditate on this Mystery.
It is the wish of the writer of these meditations that Our Lady should bless, with a special blessing, all who read these Mysteries. Our Lady knows how much the writer loves her and hopes that she will forgive the presumption of this request.
94. MEDITATIONS ON THE HOLY ROSARY
Having visited both the Basilica of The Annunciation in and Nazareth, the Holy House at Loreto and read The Venerable Mary of Agred’s account of the life of Our Lady I can imagine the scene; Mary is praying, she was often to be found in prayer...............the sight of Angels was not strange to her but her perfect humility never for a moment gave her to think that she could be the one chosen to be the virgin who was to bear the Messiah.
The angel appears. Mary is disturbed while praying. The angel, to put her at ease, says “Do not fear” and tells her of God’s desire that she should become the Mother of the Son and God. She and Joseph had already agreed to live a life of chastity hence her question. “How shall this be as I know not, nor can know, man?” The angel’s answer is all Mary needs to put her mind at rest. Anyone other than Mary would have had to spend anxious moments considering the state of their soul. But Mary was always in a perfect state of grace therefore she had no qualms in making that statement which was to change the history of the world; “May it be done unto me according to your word”. I can imagine Mary’s state of mind after the angel had left her. In a state of almost disbelief at what had just happened yet with a perfect trust in God. This complete trust was to stay with her throughout her life and help her through the difficulties which were ahead.
Mary’s meeting with Elizabeth is a joy on which to meditate. Before anything was said Elizabeth knew of Mary’s pregnancy and that she was carrying the saviour of the world. This was disclosed to her by divine inspiration enhanced by her own baby leaping in her womb.
Then there is the spiritual discourse between the two women. “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb”. Mary answers with her now famous words of The Magnificat “My soul glories the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour...............”.
Biblical historians seem to be divided on whether or not Our Lady stayed for the birth of John the Baptist. The Venerable Mary of Agreda states; ‘Our Lady was still with Elizabeth when her baby was born’.
I doubt if any two people will have exactly the same feelings of emotion or spirituality at being in the Cave of the Nativity. The actual birth of Jesus is too private a moment for me to attempt to consider. My thoughts don’t commence until the shepherds have been and gone and Our Lady and baby Jesus are asleep with St Joseph watching over them. His thoughts take him through the day’s events. The journey into Bethlehem...........having to slow down due to Our Lady’s discomfort at the time of fulfillment for the birth of Jesus. Other travellers pass by and St Joseph worrying at how he will be able to find lodgings. The trial of being refused time after time, everywhere was full and the last thing landlords wanted was a woman about to give birth. She would need more space and a midwife might have to be called. There were plenty of customers without having to go to any extra trouble. Then being told about the cave/stable. How could he possibly tell Mary that this was the only place he could find for the birth of the Son of God? Yet she accepted it so calmly without a word of concern. Then, after the birth and the visit of the shepherds, when Mary and Jesus are asleep, it all falls into place. This is were God the Father ‘intended’ His Son to be born. St Joseph looks on the sleeping Mary and Jesus and realizes, more than ever before, the enormity of the task he has accepted on behalf of us all.
4.. The Presentation in the Temple. Spiritual Fruit ‘Dependability’
Joseph and Mary follow the command for the Consecration of the firstborn from Exodus 13:1-2 and the Purification from Leviticus 12:2-8.
I can imagine the scene as they make their way from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. The slight rise of the road out of Bethlehem leading to the road into Jerusalem. Then the Temple comes into sight. They make their way up the steps which are still to be seen at the Southern end of the Temple complex. There they are greeted by Simeon and Anna.
The power of prayer is emphasized by God answering Simeon’s request ‘that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord’. The power of the Holy Spirit is also present ‘And he came by inspiration of the Spirit into the Temple.’
The stage is now set for The Song of Simeon; ‘Nunc Dimittis’.
“Now Lord, you have kept your word:
Let your servant go in peace.
With my eyes I have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people: a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.”
But he also has sadness to disclose to Mary: “…..a sword will pierce your own soul.”
Anna also prophesies praising God and giving witness to the meaning of Jesus for those who long for redemption.
5. The Finding in the Temple. Spiritual Fruit ‘Obedience’
Jesus allows Mary and Joseph to spend three days of incredible anxiety searching for him. Perhaps it was somehow necessary for Mary and Joseph to have to experience this great loss.
It is not difficult to imagine Mary & Joseph’s apprehension at discovering that Jesus is not with them after a day’s journey. Their immediate return to Jerusalem would be full of danger from robbers and wild animals.
The Venerable Mary of Agreda states ‘Their initial search proved fruitless. None of their relatives or friends were able to help. Thus they continued their search for three days without sleeping or eating anything.’
Eventually they go to the Temple and there experience the Joy of finding Jesus. The first words of Jesus which we learn of are questions. “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?.” ‘And Mary and Joseph did not understand the word that he spoke to them.’ They could not comprehend that his relationship to God takes precedence over his relationship to them. Thus the sword spoken of by Simeon is at work.
Jesus always knew that He was going to have to suffer and die. He told this to His apostles but they didn’t understand. So all His life he must have lived in a state of apprehension knowing of the suffering to come.
The Garden represents the start of the Passion of Jesus. Here, just as any mortal man would do, He pleaded not to have to suffer. Here He saw all the sins of the world and realized that His Father required the suffering as a means of redemption. It has been said that seeing all the horror of sin in the world was the worst part of His passion. That, plus knowing that the weight of all those sins was on His shoulders. He, and no-one else, could save the world.
His dread of what was to come is conveyed to us in a description which we find difficult to comprehend. ‘And His sweat became as drops of blood running down upon the ground’. We never experience such dread but know that it has to be the highest form of fear to produce such a terrifying affect. His Father is not oblivious to the suffering of His Son. He sends an angel to comfort Him.
His agony is heightened by His loneliness. He hoped that Peter, James and John would watch with Him thereby helping to share some of the agony. But this was not to be. ‘Couldst thou not watch one hour?’
After his arrest He spends the night locked away in a filthy subterranean prison. There is no light and it has not been cleaned for years as it is only used for the worst criminals. His loneliness can be imagined by Psalm 87 ‘A prayer of the grievously afflicted.’
This was a Roman scourging and therefore did not have the limitation of the Jewish thirty-nine strokes. The whole idea of scourging was to weaken the victim so that death on the cross would be quicker. For scourging the victim was bound to a pillar and leather whips were used which contain pieces of bone or metal. These tear the skin causing profuse bleeding. As the scourging continues the original wounds are further opened up. The pain must have been appalling.
The Holy Shroud, which Our Lady of Medjugorje says is genuine, clearly shows marks from the scourging. Somewhere in the region of one hundred strokes were inflicted. The scourgers were careful not to attack the area of the heart. The victim was meant to die on the cross and not due to the scourging.
The Roman Soldiers had a game called ‘The King’s Game.’ This game was marked out on a paving in the Praetorium. Did the soldiers decide to play a ‘King’s Game’ with someone who claimed to be a king? “Let’s honour him and make fun of him. Let’s crown him using a crown of thorns.” Pontius Pilate had given them orders to scourge him so they wouldn’t worry at whatever other pain and indignities they could inflict. To them he was just a Jewish trouble-maker. They may have heard of some of his miracles but they now knew that these were false.............just rumours passed on by his followers to try and make people believe in him. The ‘crown’ might not have been just a circlet of thorns but a complete ‘helmet’ covering the whole head. The famous Palestinian thorny twigs ‘spina christi’ would have been used to make the crown.
So the only man ever to warrant being crowned as a King is crowned with thorns.
There are various ideas about the cross. Some suggest that Jesus carried the whole cross on which he was to be crucified. Others say that he carried only the cross piece and that the upright was already in place on Calvary. Whichever we accept, His journey to Calvary, in his weakened condition, must have been torturous. Constant pain with the cross wearing into his shoulders and pressing on the marks of the scourging. Yet more pain with the cross pressing on the crown of thorns thrusting them further into his head, skull and eyes. And even more pain as He falls several times. There must have trail of His blood all the way from the Praetorium to Calvary.
We know that He met his sorrowing Mother. What a meeting that must have been. They both knew that this moment must come and neither would deny God’s Will in what was happening. But that didn’t lessen the intensity of the pain which they both suffered.
As we meditate on this mystery it helps us to identify ourselves with Simon of Cyrene and Veronica. Simon reluctantly, and Veronica out of perfect charity, help Jesus on behalf of us all.
As He speaks to the weeping women is He also speaking to us? If we remain silent for a moment perhaps we will hear his words impressed on our minds, hearts and souls.
When Jesus reached Calvary he had to undergo the humility of being stripped. He would always have been a person of great modesty and this stripping would been a great embarrassment for Him.
There is a theory that ropes that tethered Jesus to the cross as he carried it were also intended to fasten him to the cross. But these ropes had to be undone for Simon to help Him. The theory states that it was because of this that nails were used to secure Jesus to the cross. Whether or not this theory is true there is no doubt that nails were used. In order to hold the weight of the body the nails would have been driven through the wrist and not through the hand.
When meditating on the crucifixion we should recall His howls of pain as the nails are driven through His hands and feet. The pain must have been excruciating...........indescribable agony.
Crucifixion caused death by suffocation. As the body sags forward the lungs can’t take in air so the victim has to press on his feet, causing terrible pain, in order to be able to breath. Eventually the victim becomes too weak to raise the body and the victim suffocates. Nevertheless from being crucified to actually dying could take several hours. Those crucified with Jesus were still alive and had to have their legs broken.
We can meditate on Mary standing at the foot of the cross sharing in the pain of her Son’s ignominious death. Simeon’s prophecy is now totally fulfilled.
The Seven Last Words from the Cross offer great opportunities for meditation:-
1. Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.
2. This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise.
3. Woman behold thy son. Son behold they Mother.
4. My God! My God! Why hast Thou forsaken me?
5. I thirst.
6. It is consummated.
7. Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit.
Several times before his Passion Jesus had told his Apostles that he would “die and rise again”. But they did not understand what he meant. Peter went so far as to chide him for saying these words only to receive the ultimate rebuke “get thee behind me Satan”.
Where did Jesus’ Spirit go during the time in the tomb? Was it with the souls awaiting the redemption or was it with the Father and Holy Spirit in heaven? When did the Redemption take place? Was it at the death of Jesus on the Cross or was it when he defeated death by rising from the tomb? So many questions which will only be answered when, after our earthly death, our souls reach the perfection to allow them into heaven.
It would seem that Jesus had possibly changed in appearance. The women who went to the tomb didn’t immediately recognize him and thought he was the gardener. Was their lack of recognition because they weren’t expecting to see him alive or had he taken on a different appearance? More questions to be answered later!
The important fact is that The Resurrection took place. Death had been defeated.
The place of the Ascension is on top of a hill overlooking Jerusalem. From here Jesus could survey places connected with his life on earth. The Temple where the Presentation took place. The same Temple where Mary and Joseph found him after three days frantic searching. The Garden of Ge thsemane where his Passion commenced. The various official Palaces and Roman Barracks where he had been tried, scourged, and crowned with thorns. Finally, Calvary, where he had obeyed his Father even to death........death on a Cross. All this can be seen from the place of the Ascension. What poignant memories this sight must have had for him.
St Luke tells us that Jesus’ last act on earth was to ‘lift up his hands and bless them’. ‘And he parted from them and was carried up into heaven’. St Luke continues ‘his Apostles worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God’
The joy at Jesus’ ascension must have been short lived. Soon the Apostles are afraid for their lives and lock themselves away in the Cenacle. The Pharisees would have recognized them and would have had no qualms at killing them to rid themselves of the last remnants of Jesus’ ministry. In the Cenacle they feel some degree of safety. It was here that Jesus changed bread into his body and wine into his blood. Perhaps they carried out the instruction to ‘do this in memory of me’. If so then this would be the first Mass which would enable the apostles to communicate with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus had told them that the Holy Spirit would come upon them but that this couldn’t happen till he had returned to the Father. How much of this had they remembered? Were they awaiting this wonderous happening or were they totally living in fear? We can imagine them secretly going out of the Cenacle to obtain provisions. Fear was the mainstay of their lives. Comes the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit descends on them in the form or tongues of fire. Filled with the Holy Spirit their courage returns and they go out to preach the Gospel.
The Venerable Mary of Agreda who was reputed to have been told by The Lord to write what he told her wrote the following regarding Our Lady’s Assumption:-
After the burial of Our Lady the apostles decided that they should keep watch over the tomb. On the third day after the most pure soul of Mary had taken possession of its glory, never to leave it, the Lord manifested to the Saints His Divine Will that His Holy Mother should return to earth resuscitate her sacred body and unite herself with it so that she might be body and soul in heaven seated at the right hand of her son. When the time for this wonder arrived Christ the Saviour Himself descended from heaven bringing with him, at his right hand, the soul of his blessed Mother and accompanied by many legions and Angels, the Patriarchs and the Prophets. At the command of the Lord the purest soul of Our Lady entered the body, reanimated it and raised it up, giving it a new life of immortality and glory. Then from the Sepulchre was started a most solemn procession, moving with celestial music through the regions of the air and towards heaven. The apostles who were, at that time, keeping their watch at the Sepulchre, witnessed this great wonder. Amid the glory the most blessed Mary arrived body and soul at the throne of the most Blessed Trinity and the Three Divine Persons received her on it with an embrace eternally indissoluble.
Regarding the Crowning of Our Lady Mary of Agreda states:-
After placing the most Blessed Mary on this exalted throne the Lord declared to the courtiers of heaven all the privileges she should enjoy in virtue of her participation in his Majesty. The eternal Father, speaking to his angels and saints said; “Our daughter Mary was chosen according to our pleasure from amongst all creatures. The first one to delight us, and who never fell from the title and position of a true daughter, such as we had given her in our divine mind; she has a claim on our dominion, which we shall recognize by crowning her as the legitimate and peerless lady and sovereign”. The incarnate word said; “To my true and natural Mother belong all the creatures which were created and redeemed by me; and all things over which I am king, she too shall be the legitimate and supreme Queen.” The Holy Ghost said; “Since she is called my beloved and chosen spouse, she deserves to be crowned as Queen for all eternity.” Having thus spoken the three divine persons placed upon the head of the most Blessed Mary a crown of such new splendour and value, that the like had been seen neither before nor after by any mere creature. At the same time a voice sounded from the throne saying; “My Beloved, chosen among creatures, our kingdom is thine; thou shalt be the lady and the sovereign of the seraphim, of all the ministering spirits, the angels and of the entire universe of creatures........thou hast humiliated thyself in thy own estimation to the lowest place; receive now the supreme dignity deserved by thee..... .....thou shalt be the Empress and Mistress of the militant church, its Protectress, its Advocate, its Mother and teacher. Grace shall be diffused in thy lips for obtaining all that thou wishest and ordainest in Heaven and on earth, and everywhere shall angels and men obey thee; because whatever is ours shall be thine, just as thou hast always been ours; and thou shalt reign with us forever.
Genesis. circa ???? - 17OOBC.
Creation. God creates the Universe and all in it including man and woman.
Main characters:- Adam, Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.
Message for our present times:- Go into any garden. Look at the grass and the trees. Look under any large stone and see the insect life which lives there. In all these things we are seeing God’s creation.
Exodus. circa 156O - 127OBC.
God works the ten miracles which allow the Israelites to leave Egypt. Then there was the great miracle of the parting of the Red Sea. Moses receives the Ten Commandments. Main character:- Moses.
Message for our present times:- Obey the Ten Commandments.
Leviticus. circa 127OBC.
This book explains the Rites, Ceremonies of the Levites who are chosen to be the Priests. It also contains rules regarding Feast Days, cleanliness & infectious diseases. Main character:- Aaron.
Message for our present time:- Respect and Obey the Holy Father, Bishops and priests.
Numbers. circa 1268BC.
This book covers thirty-eight years in the history of Israel. The title comes from the census (numbering) of those old enough for military service.
Main character:- Moses.
Message for our present times:- Patience when times are hard.
Deuteronomy. circa 123OBC.
This book records Moses’ farewell to Israel. The word ‘Deuteronomy’ signifies a ‘second law’. The book repeats the ordinances given on Mount Sinai with some other precepts not expressed before. The laws recorded in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers are brought together and applied specifically to the settled life in Canaan which is about to begin. Main characters:- Moses & Joshua.
Message for our present times:- Renew our faithfulness to the Church and the Ten Commandments.
Joshua. circa 125OBC.
The book is named after Moses’ successor. It narrates how, aided by God, Joshua, with the people of Israel, entered and conquered the Promised Land which was then divided by lot amongst the tribes. Main character:- Joshua. Message for our present times:- God will look after us if we remain faithful to him.
Judges. circa 122O - 1O7OBC.
This book contains the history of what passed under the Government of Judges who ruled Israel before they had Kings. Main characters:- Deborah & Samson.
Message for our present time:- Respect the
Ruth. circa 118OBC.
A beautiful story which took place during the time of the Judges. It describes how personal faith and love remained strong among the ordinary people. Its tells of the ancestors of David which in turn is the line of Joseph, Mary & Jesus. Main characters:- Ruth, Noemi and Booz.
Message for our present time:- Faithfulness.
First book of Samuel. 1O75 - 1O12BC.
This and the second book of Samuel, also known of The Second Book of Kings, provide a history of Israel from the end of the Judges to the last years of King David, the nations second and greatest king. The Israelites want to have a king. The twelve tribes acted individually there was no cohesion, (e.g. in times of battle) which a King would give them. Samuel explained the disadvantages of having a King but the people insist and God grants their wish.
Main characters:- Samuel, Saul & David.
Message for our present times:- Determination in adversity.
The Second Book of Samuel. 1O12 - 978BC.
The book relates times from the death of Saul to the end of David’s reign.
Main character:- David.
Message for our present times:- God’s forgiveness.
The First Book of Kings. 972 - 852BC.
Four centuries of Israelite history are covered by the next two books. They take us from the end of David’s reign, through Solomon’s reign and the rift between Israel and Judah to the fall of Israel and the destruction of Judah. Main characters:- Solomon, Four kings of Judah and Seven Kings of Israel.
Message for our present times:- If we keep faith with God then He will keep faith with us. (Too often the Jews disobeyed.)
The Second Book of Kings. 852 - 587BC.
Continues the story of the decline of Judah and Israel under their kings.
Main characters:- Sixteen Kings of Judah and Twelve Kings of Israel.
Message for our present times:- As above.
The First & Second Book of Chronicles. 54OBC.
These two books contain a summary of sacred history from Adam to the Babylonian exile in 536BC. The books were intended for those who returned after the exile to rebuild Jerusalem. They needed to be reminded that prosperity and well-being depended absolutely on faithfulness to God. Idolatry and neglect of God’s law always has and always will result in judgement and disaster. Main characters:- All the characters from previous Books.
Message for our present time:- Perseverance in obeying God’s laws.
The Book of Ezra. 539BC.
The Jews are allowed to return to their lands and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. Later Ezra, a wise man and a teacher, also returns. The Jews had started to intermarry with local people. Through the efforts of Ezra such intermarrying is stopped.
Main characters:- Ezra.
Message for our present time:- Obedience.
The Book of Nehemiah. 433BC.
This book is a continuation of the Book of Ezra. Nehemiah, who was the king of Persia’s cup-bearer, is allowed to return to Jerusalem to help with the rebuilding. The achievements of Ezra and Nehemiah are notable. Without their leadership it is doubtful whether a distinctive Jewish religion could have survived.
Main characters:- Ezra and Nehemiah.
Message for our present time:- Courage in adversity.
Book of Tobias.
Unwavering faith in God enables Tobias to be healed from blindness and his son is saved from an unpleasant death. Main characters:- Tobias and Archangel Raphael.
Message for our present times:- Accepting the word of God.
Book of Judith.
The Israelites are surrounded by the evil Holofernes. Judith, by her sublime faith, saves her people. A story of great heroism.
Main characters:- Judith and Holofernes.
Message for our times:- Spiritual courage.
The Book of Esther. 485BC.
Esther, an Israelite, is in captivity. She is made a Queen of the King of Persia. She knows of a plot to kill all of her people. With great courage she approaches the King and tells him of the plot. Her courage is rewarded and he listens to her plea. Thus she saves her people from annihilation. Main characters:- Esther, King Ahasuerus, Mordecai & Haman.
Message for our times:- Fasting is an acceptable prayer.
The Book of Job. 45OBC.
This book describes how sufferings here on earth can be used to increase our merit and enhance God’s glory. Main characters:- Job.
Message for our present times:- Patience in suffering.
The Book of Psalms.
Many of the psalms are believed to have been written by King David. They are prophetic and also relevant to our times. From the cross Jesus spoke the opening words of Psalm 22.
Message for our times:- A variety of messages depending on the
The Book of Proverbs.
This is a book of wise sayings, an oriental textbook, schooling young people in wise and right living, in what was right and wrong. ‘Proverbs’ apply the principles of God’s teaching to the whole of life, to relationships, home, work, justice, decisions, attitudes, reactions, everything we do and say and even think Message for our times:- Ever relevant sayings.
The Book of Ecclesiates. 25OBC.
This book is called ‘Ecclesiates’ or ‘The ‘Preacher’ because in it Solomon is represented as an excellent preacher, setting forth the vanity of the things of this world: to withdraw the hearts and affections of men from such empty joys. Message for our times:- Warning of our vanities.
The Canticle of Canticles.
This poem depicts the love-union between God and his people using the description of a Bridegroom and Bride. Message for our times:- A story of God’s love for us.
The Book of Wisdom.
The author is unknown but represents Solomon, the wise man of Israel, discoursing on wisdom, both divine and human. Message for our times:- Messages of Wisdom.
The Book of Ecclesiasticus.
This Book was customarily read in the Latin Church for the instructions of the catechumens. It was written in about 2OOBC by a native of Jerusalem called Jesus.
Message for our times:- Instructions in the Commandments
The Books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Barel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Michah, Nahum, Habakuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah & Malachi. 742 - 4OOBC.
Some of the prophets lived in the time of the Kings before the destruction of Jerusalem and the time of exile. They prophesied what was to come if the Israelites would not return to the worship of the one true God. Daniel and Nahum prophesied during their time in exile. Haggai and Zechariah prophesied after the return from exile. Malachi prophesied about four Hundred years before Christ.
Message for our times:- As the words of these prophets were relevant to the Old Testament so we should listen to God’s word which is now brought to us by His Mother at Lourdes, Fatima, Medjugorje etc.
The First Book of Machabees. 323 - 135BC.
The Books of Machabees are so called because they contain the history of the people of God under the command of Judas Machabeus and his brethren. The Books tell of the persecution of the Jews from 175BC to 135BC.
Main characters:- Mathathias, Judas, Eleazar & Jonathan.
Message for our times:- Courage to stand up for our faith.
The Second Book of Machabees. 323 - 164BC.
The Second Book is not a continuation of the history contained in the first book. It relates many of the same facts and adds others missing in the first book concerning the state of the Jews during persecution.
Main characters:- Judas, Eleazar & Antiochus.
Message for our times:- Courage in adversity.
96. A Silent Thank You.
One Lenten time, just before Easter, I went into Northern Canada to offer the Holy Week and Easter Services for a tribe who had no resident priest and who otherwise would not have had any services during that important time.
All went well and they obviously enjoyed the services and appreciated having a priest with them.
It was at the end of the final Mass that something very special happened. I went to the back of the church to bid everyone farewell. But instead of coming up to me, shaking my hand and speaking their thanks, each person stood silently in front of me and looked at me. When that person moved on the next would do the same. Their way of expressing thanks was to take away a memory picture of the one they wanted to thank. No words were adequate to express their thanks so they had evolved this silent way of generous appreciation.
For me it was very special...............very beautiful.
From Ronald Rolheiser. The Catholic Herald.
Going to the tabernacle the priest places the Sacred Host in his pyx and set out to visit the sick and house-bound in the Parish with Holy Communion.
Distant years ago I recall distinctly one house on my Holy Communion round. To be honest, it was a visit I would have preferred to have avoided!
In fact it was a flat high up on the third floor of a run-down tenement block. The knocker on the door always struck a hollow, cavernous echo from within because, as I discovered, there was little furniture and no carpets inside. After a long, long wait the door was tugged open by a wizened, grey-haired dirty-looking creature. “Oh, its you”, would be the matter of-fact, uninviting response from the old woman who would turn immediately and shuffle back from where she had emerged.
I followed, immediately overcome by the repugnant, nauseous odour which permeated the whole dwelling. Before I set eyes on my surroundings I was aware of a host of large bluebottles circumventing the nicotine-stained lampshade in the middle of the room. In one corner was a large un-made bed revealing soiled sheets. Cold ashes overflowed from the grate of the hearth in which a pyramid of used, crumpled food wrappers balanced precariously. Dust and grime coated the mantelpiece and sideboard and everything on them.
In the middle of the tarnished lino-floor was a scratched-marked rickety kitchen table. On is was a pile of torn-open junk mail and invoices and a leaking biro, a plate of unfinished and congealed baked beans, several chipped tannin-stained mugs of lifeless, half drunk cold tea, a butter-smeared knife balancing on top of a carton of crumb-infested margarine, rusty scissors and a dozen or so smaller grime-anchored items cluttering the rest of the table-top.
Delicately I unfolded the small starched white cloth trying to avoid the crumbs, tea stains and grease smears, transforming the table into a temporary altar, laying the silver pyx between the two flickering candles and crucifix.
The old lady huddled scowling with a look of menace from her grease-stained battered armchair not able to make the necessary responses to the prayers. In the midst of my outward show of piety I felt my stomach desiring to retch as my nostrils gathered in the odious sickening stench in the room.
Holding the white Host and aware of the chorus of flies above me I declared, “This is the Lamb of God......”
Soon I was out of that filthy room, through the door and away taking in rapid gulps of sweet, refreshing air. Every visit to the pitiable unwelcoming home was the same nauseous experience with thankful escape once my duty was done.
How similar is the state of my soul to that old woman’s home? How unwelcoming and squalid are the inner recesses of my life? How foul and festering are my sins?
Yet, Our Lord comes to see me again and again in Holy Communion! He wants to come despite the destitute and cold state of my soul.
Jesus stands at the door and knocks.
From Father Paul. The Crusader. June 1998.
a. To keep the Sundays and Holidays of Obligation, by hearing Mass.
b. To observe the appointed days of Fast and Abstinence.
(Ash Wednesday and Good Friday). c. To go to Confession at least once a year. d. To receive the Blessed Sacrament at least once a year, and that at Easter time. e. To contribute to the support of our pastors. f. Not to marry within certain degrees of kindred.
As Catholics we accept the Pope as the head of the Church. The Church’s ‘Infallibility’ can be understood from the words of Jesus “thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven”. Mark 15:18-19.
The Holy Mass is the New Covenant initiated by Jesus at the Last Supper where at the Priest’s words at the Consecration the Bread and Wind are changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus. Transubstantiation is our belief that the Bread and Wine become wholly the Body and Blood of Jesus and not just a symbol of His Body and Blood.
Confessing our sins to Jesus through a priest is explained in the Gospels; “Whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven. Whose sins you shall retain that are retained.” John 2O:23. These words of Jesus make it clear that we must confess to God through a priest. Only in that way can our sins be either forgiven or retained.
For many years God has sent Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to convey messages to us. This century alone Our Lady has appeared, in various places world-wide, over two hundred times. The best known are Lourdes, Fatima, Garabandal and Medjugorje. At the latter she has been appearing for the past twenty-four years (as at Oct. 2005). At every place of apparition Our Lady asks for Penance, Sacrifice, Fasting, and a greater love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Our Lady always has a Rosary with her and encourages the visionaries to pray the Rosary. Jesus’ perfect love for His Mother is evident in the way He repeatedly sends her to us to help us in our journey to paradise in Heaven. As He loves her so He wants us to love her as our Queen and Mother.
Our separated brethren sometimes misunderstand our use of statues of the Saints. These are just the same as family photographs which everyone have in their homes. They are no more than as reminder of those who we love. God allows the Saints to listen to our prayers and to petition Him on our behalf. We convey our love to God through the Saints who add their own love to our plea thereby enhancing our petitions.
Forgive everyone. Start with your enemy if you have one. If you can forgive him/her then forgiving everyone else will be easy. Make no exceptions however hard it may be. Forgiveness is the master-key to happiness.
In the same way that we must forgive everyone so we must love everyone especially our worst enemy. To help us to do this we must endeavour to see Jesus in everyone. We may have to work at this until it becomes automatic. How can we love someone who has been unkind to us? Firstly by unconditionally forgiving their unkindness and then excusing their lack of love for us. Perhaps they are having a bad day......or a bad month......or a bad year! Love must overcome any lack of love which we may receive.
Get to know Jesus personally. Speak to Him often. Do this especially when in front of the tabernacle. Don’t just genuflect to the Blessed Sacrament but say to Him “Hello Jesus”, “Goodbye Jesus”, “See you tomorrow Jesus” and don’t be afraid of saying it out loud. By this you will be overcoming doubts at the Real Presence and Jesus will love you for it.
Never let a day go by without accepting that death might come at any time. So when it does come you will be ready. It is not necessary or spiritually helpful to have a morbid attitude to death. Death is ‘Alleluia’ the end of our trial here on earth the time when we receive our eternal reward. Are we in a state of grace? Is there anyone with whom we need to make our peace? Have we recently gossiped about someone and need to ask God’s forgiveness? Before we close our eyes in sleep a Good Act of Contrition will ensure our safety
5. Make time for Prayer.
Conversing with God is a daily essential, a necessity, to our daily spiritual lives. We must find some time when we can shut out all else and concentrate on God.
Our approach to this will differ from person to person. Some are able to pray while they make their way to work, do the housework or go shopping. Others will find that impossible and need the absolute peace and quiet of night-time when there will be no interruptions from visitors or telephone calls. It helps to join a Prayer Group. Find out if there is one in your parish. If not, then there is sure to be one in a nearby parish. Even if you can only attend infrequently, become involved. Praying with others is extremely helpful. From it we learn ways of praying which we wouldn’t otherwise know about.
Until I read Tony Castle’s book ‘Gateway to the Trinity’ I knew nothing about Icons. Particularly I did not know of the great veneration which the Orthodox Church has for Icons. To me they had just been rather special pictures but no more than that.
In Chapter One of the book is the story of a young parish priest who is building a new church. From an Orthodox Monastery in England he commissioned an icon for the Lady Chapel. Suddenly, the official opening day of the church seemed to be upon him and he had not received the icon. Rather concerned he rang the monastery and spoke to the abbot. “I’ve been expecting delivery of the icon,” the parish priest said. “It is finished”, said the monk, “and we have been expecting you to call and collect it”. “I’ve been much too busy to get down to you”, replied the parish priest, “could you please pop it in the post to us”. There was a silence from the other end, then the abbot said, “An icon is a sacred object and we would never just pop it in the post”. The parish priest was lost for words, there was a pause, then the abbot added, “I suppose I could send Sister Thecla”. The priest was relieved to hear this suggestion and generously responded with. “Sister must stay for lunch”. There was another short patient silence, and the Orthodox monk replied, “Thank you Father, but Sister Thecla will be fasting while she is carrying the icon to you and returning”.
The morning arrived and the parish priest himself opened the door to Sister Thecla, who without a word, bowed her head, presented the parcel and in silence, withdrew.
From Tony Castle’s Book Gateway to the Trinity.
1O1. ONE SOLITARY LIFE
Here is a man
who was born of Jewish parents
a child of a peasant woman....
He never wrote a book.
He never held an office.
He never owned a home.
He never had a family.
He never travelled two hundred miles from where he was born.
He never did one the things that usually
he had no credentials but
While still a young man
the tide of popular opinion turned
His friends ran away.
One denied him....
He was publicly humiliated and crucified.
His executioners gambled for the only thing he owned - his coat.
When he was dead he was taken down and buried in a borrowed grave.
Twenty wide centuries have come and gone he is now the most famous single person ever to have lived.
Ultimately each and every man is left with the awesome mystery and
terrifying freedom of accepting or rejecting Jesus and what he claimed to be - the Son of God.
1O2. THE MARCHING SEASON. (Written Tuesday 14th July 1998)
We are just back from a few days in Stratford on Avon. We had only been there a couple of hours when I found myself sitting on a bench resting my aching knees while Christine went to an Information Bureau. I got into conversation with a lady also resting herself. It turned out that she was from Northern Ireland. It also turned out that she was a Roman Catholic so we could chat on common ground. She was surprised to learn that on the previous evening we had prayed for Northern Ireland at our Parish Prayer Meeting. She did not know that Catholics in England were interested in their fellow Northern Ireland brothers and sisters. She explained the ‘marching season’ problems that she has to live with. She sets out to go somewhere to find that the road is blocked with the police not allowing anyone through. All she can do is sit and wait and wait and wait. She said that they get used to this ‘waiting’ but why should they have to get used to it? She doesn’t mind the people marching if that is what they want to do. But wouldn’t it be better if they marched in fields or somewhere else where it wouldn’t effect everyone around? She has a friend who is a nurse. The nurse was on her way to work when she was stopped by a march. She was not allowed through...... .........she had to sit and wait and be late for work. We exchanged Christian names........hers is Eileen.......and I told her that I would pray for her. Even though our conversation only lasted about ten minutes it felt very special and I hope that praying for Eileen will help me to focus my mind on Northern Ireland and the problems for those who live there. Eileen told me that her holiday had just come to an end. Because of ‘the problems’ she was not looking forward to returning home. That is so very sad...........not wanting to go home.
Will you join me in praying for Eileen? She is about late thirties/early forties. redish hair (as you would expect with an Irish Colleen). A very vibrant person who only wants freedom to live her faith and her life without the restrictions which are mandatorily imposed upon her.
The rich industrialist from the North was horrified to find a Southern fisherman lying lazily by his boat, smoking a pipe.
“Why aren’t you out fishing?” said the industrialist.
“Because I have caught enough fish for the day,” said the fisherman.
“Why don’t you catch more than you need?” said the industrialist.
“What would I do with them?” asked the fisherman.
“You could earn more money” was the reply. “With that you could have a motor fixed to your boat. Then you could go into deeper waters and catch more fish. Then you could make enough money to buy nylon nets. These would bring you more fish and more money. Soon you would have enough money to own two boats........maybe even a fleet of boats. Then you could be a rich man like me”.
“What would I do then?” asked the fisherman.
“Then you could sit down and enjoy life,” said the industrialist.
“What do you think I’m doing right now?” said the contented fisherman.
104. Prayer for Vocations
Lord Jesus Christ, Shepherd of souls, who called the apostles to be fishers of men, raise up new apostles in your holy Church. Teach them that to serve you is to reign: to possess you is to possess all things. Kindle in the young hearts of your sons and daughters the fire of zeal for souls. Make them eager to spread your Kingdom on earth. Grant them, courage to follow you, who are the Way, the Truth and the Life; who live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.
Mary, Queen of the Clergy, pray for us. Help our students who are preparing for the priesthood.
The following true story was related to me by an elderly nun who heard it from the lips of the late Reverend Father Stanislaus SS.CC. One day many years ago, in a little town in Luxembourg, a Captain of the Forest Guards was in deep conversation with the butcher when an elderly woman entered the shop. The butcher broke off the conversation to ask the old woman what she wanted. She had come to beg for a little meat but had money. The Captain was amused at the conversation which ensued between the poor woman and the butcher. “Only a little meat but how much are you going to give me?”
“I’m sorry I have no money but I’ll hear Mass for you.”
Both the butcher and the Captain were good men but very indifferent about religion so they at once began to scoff at the old woman’s answer. “All right then,” said the butcher, “you go and hear Mass for me and when you come back I’ll give you as much meat as the Mass is worth.” The woman left the shop and returned later. She approached the counter and the butcher seeing her said, “All right then we’ll see.” He took a slip of paper and wrote on it ‘I heard Mass for you.’
He then placed the paper on the scales and a tiny bone on the other side but nothing happened. Next he placed a piece of meat instead of the bone but still the paper proved heavier. Both men were beginning to feel ashamed of their mockery but continued their game. A large piece of meat was placed on the balance, but still the paper held its own. The butcher, exasperated, examined the scales, but found they were all right. “What do you want my good woman, must I give you a whole leg of mutton?”
At this he placed the leg of mutton on the balance but the paper outweighed the meat. A larger piece of meat was put on, but again the weight remained on the side of the paper. This so impressed the butcher that he was converted, and promised to give the woman her daily ration of meat. As for the Captain he left the shop a changed man, and an ardent lover of daily Mass. Two of his sons became priests - one Jesuit - and the other a Father of the Sacred Heart.
Father Stanislaus finished by saying, “I am that Religious of the Sacred Heart, and the Captain was my father.
From that incident the Captain became a daily Mass goer and his children were trained to follow his example. Later, when his sons became priests, he advised them to say Mass well every day and never miss the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass through any fault of their own.
Story related by Sister M. Veronica Murphy.
In the beginning of the apparitions, the Gospa, (Our Blessed Lady) gave the visionaries very interesting insights concerning the realities of heaven and purgatory.
In heaven, the Saints have very personalized relationships of love. They know each other in the full light of God, soul to soul and they communicate in a way which is unknown here on earth. Each chosen one know who has prayed for them while on earth or while they suffered in purgatory. The Lord allows the elect and his benefactor to have an eternal and special relationship within the Mystical Body.
If today I say these simple words, “Father bless James who faces hardship”. James and I will have a kindred spirit of love in heaven, forever. These few words and the grace that they have poured out upon James will remain an inexhaustible source of wonder and joy in his heart, for his degrees of glory will have been increased by their grace.
When we are in heaven, we will know with accuracy the smallest sacrifice, the least prayer that someone has made or said for us (among men but also among angels). We will enjoy all kinds of favours from God and we will know who obtained them for us, how, when and at what expense! We will come to understand the astounding and infinite value of the least prayer.
The splendour of the Communion of Saints will unfold before our eyes.