Each First Thursday of the Month in Ireland, lay apostles are invited to join us via livestream for the lay apostles monthly prayer group in Bailieborough, Ireland at St. Anne’s Catholic Church. If Anne joins us then we often are able to publish her talk for each month on this page… In case you missed you are welcome to watch here.
My friends, sometimes in life it is good to stop and take stock of where we are and where we are headed. We’ve all, most likely, had someone say to us, “You are on the wrong track.” Sometimes we listen to people when they say this to us and sometimes we do not. And sometimes people are right when they say this to us and sometimes they are not right and we, ourselves, know best about what track we need to be on.
At any rate, for tonight, let us each consider, if only for a moment, what track we are on. As lay apostles, we want to be on a track which takes us to greater holiness and greater love.
St. Augustine said that as far as teaching is concerned, the love of God comes first. But as far as doing is concerned, the love of our neighbour comes first. He said, : love whoever is nearest to you and look inside you to see where that love is coming from; thus, as far as you are capable, you will see God.
Now in this apostolate, we confront the truth that we are called not only to look holy and to act holy but also to become holy. We accept that the commitment we have to Christ is a commitment to transformation. When we think of our faith, our Church, we should be thinking of words like Becoming, Growing, Changing. Are we growing in love? Becoming holier? Transforming in Christ?
Becoming holier is a funny thing. It is a bit like eating after going without food for a long time. If we are past hunger, we might feel disinterested in food, and yet, once we start eating we might say, “This tastes really good I was starving.”
Well, becoming holier is like that. We begin to work on it and then, we get a little holier and we realize that we need to get a LOT holier. Another way to say this is that when someone looks into a dark room it might look fairly clean. But when the blinds are put up and light is let into the room, it becomes apparent that the room needs dusting and tidying.
Yes, becoming holy is like that so if we see that there are areas where we need to be more loving then that is a good thing. And we accept that a daily commitment is necessary. We must keep up the hard work with a steady pace. An athlete who runs 3 miles per day cannot run 21 miles on Thursday and say he is done for the week. It doesn’t work that way. We have to work engage in transformation in Christ every day.
So we are taking stock. Considering what is important to us in our life.
I was recently reading about the American Indians. They had some beautiful traditions. One of them involves what they call a Medicine Bag, or a Sacred Bag. This is a little leather pouch that they wear around their necks. In it they keep things that remind them of what is important to them. Anything that represents what is most precious to them might be put in the bag. Their goal was and is to maintain personal harmony.
I read that American Indians, in their search for identity and direction, went on something called a Dream Quest, which reminds me of what we might call a retreat. And then they would find something that reminded them of their prayer on the Dream Quest and they would carry it with them in the bag. These medicine bags were often passed on to children or friends when they died. They took this very seriously. Why do I tell you this?
Because in this historical time, with all its noise, activity and distraction, we can easily get confused and lose sight of what is most helpful to us, most important to us or indeed, what we hold sacred. And when that happens, we are at risk of losing our dignity, our integrity and, certainly, our harmony.
My friends, Harmony is a beautiful word. It is defined in several ways. It is defined as agreement in action, opinion and feeling and it is also defined as congruity of parts to the whole. Yes, harmony is a beautiful word.
We, as Christians, must seek continually to be in harmony with the teachings of Jesus Christ. And that is why we take stock. We ask ourselves, are our actions, opinions and feelings coming into harmony with our beliefs? Is each part of our life congruous to our overall commitment to transformation in Christ? Are we making an effort to grow in love and become humble? What in us needs to change or adjust so that we can live in greater harmony with our Christian beliefs?
We think of the saints and we are inclined to study the magnificent things that God did through them. This is good in that it gives us wonder and we urgently need to hold on to all that gives us wonder. But it is important to remember that the saints were merely ordinary people through whom God did extraordinary things. And we, too, can become those through whom God does extraordinary things. Indeed, for renewal to take place, we must.
So let us take stock of what is precious to us. What helps us to stay on the right track? What do we LOVE about our faith? What feeds us? Consoles us? Just as we have all seen movements in the Church that we did not fit in with, we have also seen movements in the Church that were just right for us.
We need to share this information. Because people can mistakenly believe that because they do not fit in with one type of Catholic spirituality that they will not be comfortable with ANY type of Catholic spirituality. The truth is that we ALL fit in the Catholic Church. Because God is love. The Church is about love. The fact that flawed humanity does not always represent Christ accurately, meaning, that we all make mistakes while we try to represent Christ, does not change the fact that our faith is All about love for ALL of God’s children.
Why is it important to consider and identify what is precious and sacred to us? Because my friends, if we do not stay close to those things, we will risk getting off track. We will take the chance that our actions and feelings will be out of harmony with our beliefs. And then we will become unhappy and unable to give and receive love. And decisions in our lives made from disharmony might be risky decisions and might prompt questionable actions.
And just as we have expectations of life, to get an education, get a job, get a car, get married, have children….life is going to have expectations of us. People around us will get sick, die, reject us….or we might suffer illness, lose a job or relationship and at those times of suffering and grief, we are going to need to hold on to those things that are sacred to us. For example, we believe that Christ will never, ever leave us. To remember this, many of us wear crosses, so that we remember that we should never, ever leave Jesus.
Additionally, we must remember that God has enormous hopes in every one of us. God hopes that we will offer the world light, not darkness. We are loved infinitely! And so is every other person created by God. This is what we need to share.And that is why the Gospel message must be RE Presented in each time. The Gospel Message is meant to be a change agent. Some people look at the world and all they see is what is wrong. They will try to convince us that the world is a disaster. I urge you… consider, instead, that the world is a mission field in which we were each intended to serve.
Think about it. If you were sent out to a mission area in the world and everyone had clean water, plenty of food and a good prayer life. You would have to stop and ask yourself, what am I doing here? How am I relevant? What is my job? Right? Do we expect everyone to think like Christ and act like Christ? That would be a ridiculous expectation, my friends, because even we do not always think like Christ and act like Christ. Our first mission field is in the area of our own souls, which is why we are taking stock tonight of what we believe and what helps us to continue believing it.
When I hear people talking constantly about the devil and what he is influencing people to do, I wonder to myself…why do some Christians focus on the enemy of hope? Why would you? Don’t. Focus, instead, on the power of the priesthood, the impact of missionaries both at home and abroad and focus on what it is that is so important and moving to you that would wear it around your neck so that you would never forget it.
What is sacred to you? What is most important? What heals you? Feeds you? Sustains you?
My friends, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is wonder and awe in God’s presence. We must ask the Holy Spirit for this gift. Let’s think about it now. Where were you the last time you felt wonder and awe in God’s presence? Remember that moment. Perhaps we might find a little something that reminds us of that moment and put it where we can see it or even carry it with us. We must help ourselves to remember that moment when we feel afraid or discouraged because God is with us. He is real. God will never leave us. Ultimately, if we stay on this track of the lay apostolate in the Church, we will be helping Jesus Christ to bring the Gospel message of love and hope to others in the world who badly need it.
My friends, I thank God that we are together again. Fr Darragh and myself recently arrived home from America where we participated in the second Adult Faith Formation pilot program. This was very exciting, very invigorating. The lay apostles attending were urged to be active learners, taking responsibility for really engaging in the material as they determined which elements were most relevant to them.
We talked about the difference between active learning and passive learning. Active learning is an instructional approach in which students engage the material through reading, writing, talking, listening and reflecting.
Now, when people are passive leaners they generally sit and listen. That’s what we are doing now. But sometimes, people who are inclined to learn passively keep the material at a bit of a distance. They might retain enough to repeat it for a short time, but it does not really sink in or impact the person. Why is active learning different? Active learning places more responsibility on the student or the listener, than the teacher. The listener is encouraged to discuss what he has learned and explore how to apply it outside of the learning environment.
The learner is taught more about how to think than about what to think. For example, the teaching about dualistic thinking. We teach that we cannot view people as either good or bad. We were all created to do good and we all make mistakes, right? That is what I am talking about; teaching more about how to think than what to think.
Now, it occurs to me, Jesus Christ asked us to form prayer groups for many reasons. One of them must be to give us, lay apostles, a place to engage with what he is trying to teach us through the Volumes. We are, to a certain extent, doing this here tonight. We are trying to take what we have been given and apply it to our lives.
This is very important, because, for many of us, being Catholic can be quite a passive experience. By this I mean that we go to Mass, receive the graces in the sacraments and then we might be inclined to leave it there. But I believe, passionately, that we are called to do more, and I believe that the call to be co-responsible Catholics is the call to transform in Christ, personally, and become dynamic, active missionary people both in our Church and in the world.
Let’s look back for a moment. You may remember that in the apostolate we teach about apostles as messengers, envoys. We are people who represent someone else, namely, Jesus Christ. And to do this accurately, we must be disciples, meaning, people who study and learn from someone else, namely, Jesus Christ. Now, Jesus Christ has gone before us, so how do we learn from Him?
As Catholics, we learn through Scripture and Tradition in the Church. That means, for example, that we learn at Mass. Lay Apostles, I have to tell you that I have encountered Catholics who behave as though their whole role in the Church was to evaluate their priests. Does this sound familiar? Yes, we have all done it. I have heard a lot of critiquing and criticizing. I have heard priests being torn down, torn up and torn asunder. All of this with no awareness that we, the lay people, should be concentrating fiercely on our most important job, which is personal transformation in Christ.
I can say here today that I have learned something from every homily that I have ever heard. God had a message for me in every single one. The questions we have to ask ourselves are, “Are we listening? Are we willing to receive? Will we admit that we need to change?”
We learn from Jesus through Scripture. Let us take the verse, “The Lord takes delight in his people.” Well, if the Lord takes delight in His people, then so must we. Do we? Would the people closest to us say that we take delight in them?
My friends, I want to tell you a story about a tree. My husband and I planted it in a wet area of the grass so that it would soak up the moisture. One of us thought it would grow there and one of us did not think for a minute it would grow in this place. It was about four feet high when we put it in, with a few branches, a few beautiful branches with leaves. And the leaves were the most gorgeous purple Japanese elm leaves. The tree had the most extraordinary promise. It was beautiful.
Fifteen years later, I studied the tree again. The tree remained, four feet high, with the exact same branches extended in exactly the same position. I could say there had been no change but I would be lying. It had changed. There were no longer any leaves at all. It would seem that all hope had been extinguished for this tree. Its potential seemed killed off, defunct, utterly without hope of ever being achieved. Still…one of us refused to give up and move the tree, because, inexplicably, the tree remained alive.
Recently, I walked past the tree, inclined to turn my face away from the dreadful reality of its failure to thrive. Lo and behold, near the bottom of the trunk, not far from the earth, a branch extended with the most glorious purple leaves. I stopped in my tracks. There again, at last, was the essence of the little tree, the purpose, the potential reasserting itself into the created world of God.
I contemplated Christ in this. I contemplated God the Father and Creator. I knew the Holy Spirit was showing me something about trees, but also about each one of us, all of God’s children. My friends, this is how God views us all. We are so quick to give up hope about the people around us. We are so quick to judge and so slow to understand both our own wounds and the wounds of others. How many of us have been tempted to write people off when they have addictions? When they suffer from mental illness? When they get caught doing things that are against the law and they are sent to jail? When they hurt us?
How many of us are quick to write people off when they express themselves differently in our Catholic faith? We are a broad, diverse Church. How many of us write off family members who disagree with our opinions about politics, religion or even where a tree should be planted?
How many of us are tempted to write off ourselves… when we fail, when we struggle, when we do not reach the expectations that we have for ourselves, or that others impose on us?
The Lord takes delight in His people… when things are going well for them and when things are falling apart for them. The Lord takes delight in His people when they are flourishing or when they are frozen and paralyzed, either physically, emotionally, developmentally or spiritually. Until we get this, I mean really grasp this one concept, we are handicapped as Christians, because Jesus teaches us in Scripture that they will know we are Christians, meaning…they will recognize Christ… by our love, our delight.
I recently visited a prison for young women. I began to go through some exercises to help them evaluate their relationship with God, and to make sure they felt really safe and loved by Christ. Again…active learning. One of the exercises I can do with you now and many will recognize it. So, close your eyes. Think of something you did right in the last 24 hours, something that would please Jesus. Now, think of three more things you might have done in the past week, or even your whole life. Now open your eyes.
Hopefully you all came up with loads of things and we remember that the short recipe for becoming a saint is to think of all of the things we are getting right and do more of them. We know that the Lord takes delight in his people and what is urgently important is that you know that the Lord takes delight in YOU. That is the most important part of that.
Now, back to our young women in prison. I asked them, as I said, to think of one thing they had done right in the past 24 hours. They sat there. I could see by their faces that something was going wrong. I said, “How many here cannot think of one thing they have done that was pleasing to Jesus in the past 24 hours?” They raised their hands.
And so I saw the extent to which they had been distorted to themselves. I saw that their understanding of their core goodness had been all but obliterated by their experience in the criminal justice system. It was rather heart-breaking because many of us have broken the law, but not everyone gets caught. Do you know what I am saying? I said this to them. There is nothing just about the justice system at times.
I next quietly reminded them of their own goodness. I said, “Wait a minute. You cannot think of anything you have done right? When you came in, this young person was handing out pizza and every one of you made eye contact, smiled at him and said ‘Thank you’”. They were not only polite, they were kind. I said, “Everyone, raise your hand because you all did that right.” Through this I affirmed for them that they had indeed offered a pleasing gift to God and had done something right, not only in the last 24 hours but in the last hour.
Also, they had all listened with the utmost politeness to me when I spoke. And so I urged them to raise their hands again because I had experienced a warm welcome and that is not always the case.
Additionally, during the give and take, one young woman had begun to cry and another patted her back while another hugged her, comforting her. One young woman spoke about her struggle with an eating disorder. Another prisoner immediately offered to help. She said, “You can talk to me if you are struggling with this because I have experienced it and I have overcome it.” I concluded by observing that the only distinction I could make between a Christian community and being in the prison were the guards. I truly tell you that I have witnessed less compassion in some Catholic families, parishes and communities. I am not happy to say this but it is true. We are transforming, right? We will want to look honestly at the truth.
The Lord takes delight in his people. My friends, as apostles, let us be active learners in our faith. Let us begin transforming, again and again. Our Catechism teaches us that in the faith life, “He who climbs, never stops going from beginning to beginning through beginnings that have no end (CCC 2015).” Our Catechism is gorgeous.
Be active learners when you read Scripture, study the Catechism or go to Mass. Pay attention. Let us engage with the material later in the day. Let us engage with the homily from Sunday on Wednesday. Let us stay with it and try to master it.
We want to practice taking delight in the people around us, true delight, no matter what their circumstances. Search out the characteristics of the people you know and find the traits that delight Christ. The biggest gift you can give to people is to remember all of the things they did right. Think of all the people in your lives and remember all of things they did right. Do not put them under a microscope to pounce on them about all of the things they did wrong. We all get it wrong.
We want to focus on those wonderful elements that make up the essence of each individual. We want to tell the people we encounter what it is about them that delights us. People need this desperately. They need to know that Christ in you delights in them.
Now in the truth of the matter, not everyone on earth is going to reach their full potential. We have to accept that, especially as mothers and fathers, isn’t it true? We have to accept this. Not everyone is going to reach their full potential on earth. I do not think such a thing is even possible. But people will reach their full potential in heaven. So there is always hope. And if we celebrate what is wonderful about the people around us, then I believe that we will bring renewal, to the Church and to the whole world. That will be us doing our part. And remember, again, that we want to play our part in the Church before our time to do so passes.
How are you? I’m very happy that God has assembled us today and I have a few thoughts to share with you. Father Darragh and myself just arrived back from America this morning and so now we had a lot of sleep and I don’t ever prepare a talk, but I definitely want to talk to you about a few things.
We had a beautiful opportunity in America to go into a prison and share the apostolates words and works and concepts with some men prisoners and then with also two different groups of women and the reason the prisoners are so important to us in the apostolate is because every time I go to develop a teaching for the prisoners it becomes a teaching for all of us. Clearly, we’re all prisoners. But those prisoners incarcerated are very reflective of our wounds because the veneer has been stripped from them. The personas really have been rendered useless to them. They’re not fitting in, they’ve been removed from society and so it was powerful work.
Now, one of the first messages that we would have shared and that they needed badly was that the Lord takes delight in His people. And when we think of a newborn baby and this is what I told them and I’ll tell you when you were a newborn baby somebody looked at you and said, “She’s adorable” or “He’s adorable.” Jesus Christ views us as a newborn baby as adorable and Jesus Christ views each one of us today in the same way. And so truly we know for sure the Lord takes delight in His people.
Now, this gospel message we’re all wrestling with or trying to perfect in ourselves is about love and it’s about loving people when they look adorable and when they don’t look adorable. Jesus loves us each day and we have to receive that love in a true way because that’s all really we have to offer to others is love. And the question you want to say is the Lord takes delight in His people. Do I take delight in the Lord’s people and do I do it actively or do I do it not at all?
The Pharisees were all about the prescription of the love. They were all about being religious. They still are, but they’re not very good about being holy. You and I need to be different. Pope Francis has come in and he’s been a real game changer, hasn’t he? He’s come in and said, “Let’s kick it up a notch. Let’s reach in and really see what’s going on in our souls.
So now we say in our relationships in our families do we take the boxes? Have you ever met somebody who loved you like it was an obligation, somebody who’s taking the boxes, technically doing right like you know for a fact that they’re not loving you, they’re not taking delight in you. It’s the coldest feeling in the world and the way we have to treat people is that I can’t help loving you. That’s what they need to see in our eyes. They have to see us looking at them like you’re so adorable I can only love you. That’s how Christ views us.
Jesus has no trouble separated bad behavior of people from their essence from who they are. We need to be the same way and then, “Oh, I think you’re adorable. I love you. I can’t help and yes it’s my duty. Oh, yes and by the way I am committed to my duty.” Because honestly anything else where are we going with it? They don’t feel loved. They feel like we are a burden, loving us is like a hard job they have to do.
My friends, I saw it in the eyes of the prisoners and I hope that they receive something different from them. Now, in terms of the prisoners, okay so one of the things I asked the prisoners was I said. My friends, I said to them, “I recognize that there are many people outside far guiltier than you or had not been taken out of society and incarcerated. Because a lot of the things they have been put in jail for you and I have done, we just didn’t get caught and that is the truth even in terms of just driving offenses. Think about it. I mean, it’s true.”
I acknowledged to them that there is not a lot of justice in our justice system. It’s very painful for them that they’ve been treated unfairly and how many here are felt misunderstood. Okay. How many here have felt misjudged? How many here felt condemned when they didn’t do something wrong and they were blamed for it? Now you know how it feels to be a prisoner. You see we’re all prisoners and that’s how they feel.
I asked the prisoners. I said, “How many here prisoners have been betrayed by someone else,” and they all raised their hands. They all felt betrayed and if I were to ask you, how many here has felt betrayed by someone else so I would say everybody would raise their hand. But here’s where we need to push it a bit harder. How many here have betrayed someone else in their thoughts, in their actions or in their words, in front of them or behind their backs? Everyone in this room, church will put their hands up.
And that’s the piece my friends that the church is not going to advance as fast as she needs to until you and I can get in there and put up our hands and say, “I have been prejudice to somebody.” That’s true. Anything else, you know, we risk becoming like Pharisees.
Now, I think we’re doing great as an apostolate to kind of move ourselves in that direction, don’t you agree? We’re kind of trying to expose that for everyone so that they can understand themselves. One of the things that we, Father Darragh you have to mark me on the time.
Okay, one of the things that we offer as an apostolate is the formula and you’ve heard it from me and we gave this to the prisoners and that is yes I’ve committed this action. I’m an imperfect person. We are all together imperfect. Only God is perfect. We reject dualistic thinking. Dualistic thinking is our enemy. It’s saying, “That person has done a good thing. That person is good. That person has done a bad thing. That person is bad. I have done a good thing. I’m the best. I have done a bad thing. I’m the worst.” What’s the reality about our condition? We are all somewhere in the middle. You and I are the worst people in the world. They were not the best people in the world. Those holes have the reserve for God. He is the best. He is perfect. You and I are not.
Here’s my point. When we examine our conscience, this is where we’re going to really move the church forward. We’re going to add human development like the priests have human development. The lay people need it too, so that they can be co-responsible in a healthy manner, aware of their woundedness. So I committed this sin. This is my sin. I don’t just focus on the sin. I say, “Okay, why did I commit this sin? What was going on in my head and my heart when I committed this sin?” This is you doing your hard work. Take your responsibility, acknowledging where you’re hurt. “I was afraid that’s why I did it. I was afraid of being rejected and then I did this. I felt intensely vulnerable and then I did this. I was addicted and then I did this and this and this. I wanted to hurt somebody back and so I did this.”
We can’t be afraid of this. This is our truth, our reality. We don’t need to be afraid of the truth. Your conscience is your secret core and your sanctuary. This is what you’re doing in there. There’s nothing to be afraid of. So we offered that and one of the prisoners said to me, “But wait a minute, if I do that am I making excuses?” He said, “I want to make excuses for bad behavior,“ and that was lovely because he has about accountability and here’s what I would say to you, “Excusing your bad behavior looks like yeah I did it and I’ll tell you why I did it because she’s X, Y, and Z.” That’s excusing. “I was really angry and then I did this.” That’s understanding yourself. Do you see the difference?
If you acknowledge your humanity, you’ll have compassion for yourself as Jesus has compassion for you and you’ll get holier. Remember the formula for becoming a saint, look at everything you’re doing right and then do more of it. Your bad stuff, yup it’s there. You’re human being with wounds, but look at what you’re doing right and do more of it and look at where your soul. This is off the cuff and I don’t want to miss this.
Here look: The Parable of the Two Sons from Matthew, okay. There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard.” “I will not,” he answered. But later he changed his mind and went. Then, the father went to the other son and he said the same thing. The son answered, “I will Sir, sure,” but he didn’t go. Which of the two did what his father wanted? The people answered Jesus and they said, “The first one.” And the Lord said, “Truly I tell you the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you for John came to show you the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did believe him and even after you saw this you did not repent and believe him.”
Here’s what I want to say that’s important. The first I was like, “No, I don’t want to do it. Nope not me, I’m not doing it. That’s not me, I’m not doing it,” and then he went off and he did his hard work in his head and he said, “What’s the right thing to do? I will do it.” The second son said, “You bet, I’ll do it. I’m following the prescription. You’ve got nothing on me,” and then he didn’t do it. Where are we in that? If we pray, but we don’t have love, you know, if we’re following the prescription, but people don’t feel loved by us, then we have to look at it.
Now, I’ll conclude. Let’s see what were. Okay with this. So over Easter, the lent, I was praying the Stations of the Cross and I was looking at each Station of the Cross and I understand that the will of the Father is in each moment with us. The will of the Father is in each moment with us, which is have to paying attention and then we have to make the right decision. We have to decide for it even if it’s a struggle. So I look at the one station. Jesus has fallen to the ground. It was pictured that his face was in the dirt and so I said, “Lord, where is the action in this picture? Where is the will of the Father?” And my attention was drawn to the Lord’s face in the dirt. Now, I could see clearly. Could the Lord have chosen another path? Yes. Were there people who with whom he would have found an easier path? Yes. He could have been somewhere else being celebrated, being a big star. The will of the Father for him in that moment was with his face pressed in the dirt. Don’t think because things are going badly in your life or during times when you’re suffering, don’t think that you have necessarily abandoned the will of the Father because I can tell you each prisoner I looked at I was searching their faces, which changed as the talk went on and the will of the Father was being celebrated in each one because they were listening with their whole hearts and honestly examining themselves. There are difficult times for us, but just don’t be tempted to believe that you have abandoned the will of the Father because you’re suffering because it’s not true.
And in another one when you can see the Lord is dying on the cross and in the image I saw John and Mary. Where was the will of the Father? When someone dies, we have this big grief and we suffer, don’t we? Separation is tough for us, but I could see that the Lord was finished. The will of the Father was in John and Mary and for you and I people have come in. They have gone and that will never stop happening. We’ve got to take our place in the development of the church before as I’ve said our time to do so pass us. This is our time my friends. The time to get holier is now. So I love you. God bless you. We want to pray especially for our two young friends here, the two young men here who are sick and for their mom and dad because they need all of our prayers concentrating on them for courage and strength. God bless you.
(*no monthly talk but livestream of prayer group available here.
First Thursdays March 7th, 2013 (talk begins at 2 minutes 30 seconds)
(Text) First Thursdays Talk by Anne, March 2013
We find ourselves together in the liturgical season of Lent…
Once again, we thank God for allowing us to be together in the Liturgical season of Lent. We think of Lent as a time of penance and fasting. And this is good and appropriate, but why? Why is penance and fasting a good thing when it is appropriate?
I was praying about this. My mind went to sailors who crossed oceans for thousands of years before modern instrumentation like radar and satellites. Those early sailors relied on celestial navigation. Sometimes they still do. Studying the night sky was deeply important to them, even a matter of life and death. There is no deeper darkness than the darkness one encounters at sea on a boat, I am told. Yes, they no doubt concentrated fiercely as they studied the heavens.
Why did they study the night sky so intently? Was it so that they could see the location of the stars? Yes, but for what greater purpose? The sailors needed to know the location of the stars so they could take a fix or a read from the stars. They did this so they could determine, not the star’s location, but their own. The question was not, where are the stars tonight. The question was, where am I tonight? Through studying the stars, sailors could adjust their course when necessary. Often, they were simply reassured they were doing fine.
My friends, during Lent, it is good to ask our self that same question. Where are we in our journey of transformation? Are we on course? Or have we drifted off course? And if so, how? We determine this by studying Jesus. We must fix our gaze on Jesus Christ, and study our King every bit as intently as the early sailors studied the night sky. We then allow the Lord to act as our mirror, reflecting back to us our true condition. Where are we in our journey of transformation? Sometimes we study God, take a read, check ourselves and think, oh dear. I am off course. I must correct. Sometimes we study Christ, take a read and say, yes, I am on course, albeit imperfectly. Many times, it will be a bit of both. On-going course adjustments are a reality in the faith life and to think any differently is to be in denial.
The person on a true spiritual journey will be calm and disciplined in this spiritual navigation. He will be checking his position daily, perhaps each morning in his morning prayer, or perhaps each evening in an examination of conscience. Either way, each day, we must fix a time for prayer when there is silence and when Jesus gets to be the busy one. Please, dear apostles, try not to rush into prayer with an agenda. If we do, our prayer could become more of us trying to distract ourselves from pain, a smarting conscience, or even from the divine will.
If we enter prayer with no agenda, Jesus will be the King of us, the boss, the divine physician, the lover of the beloved. My friends, you are the beloved. Jesus adores you. He has high hopes for your healing and your development and your role in your family. He has high hopes for your role in the Church and in society. Jesus has such hopes. And it is really about His hopes, is it not? About His agenda, so sublime? So unimaginable for our human minds to consider? Please. Rest into your prayer time and give Jesus all of the space.
To be specific, you have each heard me say that we should give the Lord at least ten minutes of silent prayer a day. Well, is it possible that we could extend that time until Easter? Thirty minutes. Where we do nothing but sit with Christ. I think Jesus would love this! We could simply study the Crucifix and be interested in His wounds. We could park our own struggle for this short time and show compassion for what Jesus suffered. We could talk to the Lord in our hearts. There, we could receive the thoughts of Jesus about ourselves, and then, about others. How does Jesus hope we will love those around us each day? My friends, we should ask Him in contemplative prayer.
We have been given so much in the volumes. I think God hopes we will rest into these heavenly concepts with maturity. We do not read the Volumes like we read a newspaper or a magazine. We read them like the early sailors read the stars, concentrating fiercely. The question is not ‘what’s going to happen?’ The question is ‘where can I better adapt myself and my life for Christ? The question is, what does radical, passionate Christian love look like for me?’
I want to say, also, in the matter of adapting…we spend a great deal of time examining where we are getting it wrong and this is crucial, for certain. We have to acknowledge our sin. But…and this is a big but…this can develop into a bad habit of going into prayer with dread. Dread because the person is spending more time thinking about what they are getting wrong than what they are getting right. And they approach prayer with the attitude of “This is going to be unpleasant because I’ve made mistakes and I have these sins. Well, honestly, if it were any other way, my friends, you would be unusual. So perhaps we could take the drama out of our sinfulness and approach it another way.
I am suggesting that we each go into prayer with joy. The first thing we should do when we enter prayer is smile at Jesus. Smile, my friends, because I promise you, Jesus is smiling at you. He is grateful and happy that you are meeting Him in this mystical space that is prayer. We should smile with relief, like children, because we are close enough to God to pray! Possibly we came through a time when we were not close to God or when we did not pray. Some people have no relationship with Christ. Regardless of our condition, we are connected with heaven and with at least some of the truth about ourselves if we are praying. It’s true. Jesus is so happy to see you coming to pray, in any condition whatsoever.
Now, maybe we could do an experiment. I am suggesting an exercise. For at least three days, we must point out to ourselves, literally, list, all of the things we are trying to do right for God each day. We must celebrate in prayer, any goodness flowing from us into the world. Say, to Jesus, Lord, thank you that I have managed to contribute these good actions. My friends, I beg you to spend more time studying what you are doing right than what you are doing wrong. I believe this is where Jesus wants us to go. There is far too much self-hatred and self-condemnation. Remember I told you about a young woman? I asked her how she was doing spiritually. She said, “Well, I’m not perfect but the priest in confession said I was doing fine so I don’t worry about it. I just try my best. If the priest thinks I’m doing ok then I must be.” My friends, this is a healthy spiritual attitude.
If you do this experiment for three days, I believe God will be able to encourage you and I’m certain that Jesus wants to encourage you. And if we all have this calm and dignified attitude toward our humanity, then we will attract people back to the Church.
My friends, to be like Christ, we must focus on what is good in ourselves and others. To be like Christ we must focus on what is extraordinary about our Catholic Faith, at the parish level, the diocesan level and the international level. If we cannot look at the beauty of our Church, both locally and internationally and rejoice, then we are not looking at it accurately. Are there places where we can improve in our human representation of Christ and in the Church? Of course. There will always be. But think about this. If the cell is the first unit of life in the body, then the person is the first unit of life in the Church. So if we want to examine the health of the Church, we must look at each cell, or person. That means us!!! We are the Church. When I hear Catholics criticising The Church with arrogance, I am astonished at their blindness. Apostles, we must be different. We have been assembled to participate actively in the transforming grace available in this time. As individuals, united in love for Christ and His Church, we will impact positively wherever God has placed us. That is Renewal. And if all we accomplish this Lent is the realisation that we are very fragile indeed, then we will have experienced an encounter with truth that will take us a long way.
So please, for the next few days, let us each seek out all that we are doing right, not to be prideful, but to be comforted and reassured of our goodness. Be like those early sailors and study Christ, then take a read. What things are you doing that Jesus would also do? And then, maybe increase those actions. If we add a little more kindness, a little more patience, a little more charity to our days, then the mistakes will be crowded out.
Finally, we have lost our beautiful Pope Benedict to retirement. Thank God for his very crucial pontificate and for all that he contributed to a struggling period of Church history. Many of us began a novena on the day of the Holy Father’s retirement for the election and for the next Pope. And now we rejoice in God’s gift to us of Pope Francis. We will pray for him each day.
I’d like to end with a quote from Pope Benedict which I believe reflects heaven’s hope for God’s children on earth. This is from Pope Benedict’s first encyclical, God is love….“Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave.
This, dear apostles, is God’s greatest hope for us all, in every season.
First Thursdays Talk by Anne, February 7th 2013
(Text) First Thursdays Talk by Anne, February 2013
We are grateful to recieve Volume Five…
We are grateful to receive Volume Five into our library of Volumes. We are releasing Volume Five because we have been given permission by Bishop O’Reilly to do so. He is the rightful authority and we believe, given this, that this is the right time for all to receive it.
My friends, when you read Volume Five you will note that Volume Five is similar to a couple of the other Volumes in that it contains prophecy. When I read prophecy, I have two files in my head. File number one…this is something I should do something about. File number two, this is something I cannot control and there is nothing I need do about it, but it has been given to me for a purpose, therefore I will ponder it.
Both the Old Testament and the New Testament include a great deal of prophecy and our Tradition is filled with it. So we accept that prophecy plays a role in our faith life. In Volume Five, we included a new introduction which should help to clarify how we should receive prophecy.
And now we contemplate heaven’s desired impact on us. What is Jesus hoping? Well first let us look at what concerns Him. Let us focus tonight on unity in the Church because it seems clear that disunity in the Church is a grave risk.
This is a message from Jesus the Redeemer given on May 24, 2004. I am taking this opportunity to advise you about events that will come upon the world. (there we see it, the prophecy) In this way, as I have said, you will not be fearful because you will know that I have foretold these things and thus you will see that the hand of God is present.(here we see the why of the prophecy, so that we will not be fearful) I would like to talk about dissension in My one true Church. There is coming a time of even greater disobedience, when many more will turn away from My Church. This will create even more difficulties for the Holy Father, who seeks to retain unity, per My dictates. Rebellious souls often blame someone else for their disobedience and so it will be in this time. Children, many of you will see this occurring and you will see great divisions. In the time of confusion you must remain faithful to My Church. It is quite simple and you will not be misled because you will be following Me. Can you understand why it is so important to convert souls before this time of great confusion? If a soul is already following Me then he has practiced remaining true to the course in the face of challenges on the journey. Already My Church is struggling with a grave rebellion, which is like so many hands trying to pull it down into oblivion. This will never happen. Those attempting to do this not only rebel against My Church but against Me personally.
Now, lay apostles, we will each have a role to play in promoting unity. We need to think about our role. Remember that we owe fidelity at the parish level, the diocesan level and then at the international level. With regard to the parish level, I have heard, in recent days, of two parishes in two different countries where a priest had to leave because small groups of parishioners, less than five in each case, have made the priest’s lives so unbearable by harassment and slander that they could not remain in the parish. The shepherd, it seems, was run out by a few deeply troubled sheep. I am not surprised that these men, the priests, have encountered opposition. In following in the footsteps of Christ, this will be the way. What concerns me gravely is this. Where was the response? Where were the righteous ones? Why weren’t the priests better protected? It would seem that a few bullies got their way. Lay apostles, do not remain silent when a priest or bishop or leader in the Church is being attacked or bullied.
Some might say, well it’s confusing. He’s not perfect. But…what’s confusing about that? Who is? And nobody can withstand the vicious scrutiny of those who seek to pounce and distort. The really scary thing is that the ones making the trouble would probably say they are faithful to the Holy Father, even as they attack the priests who serve alongside him. The question I am asking us each to answer is this. Where is unity looking for my help? Where, in my life, should I be helping to secure or protect unity in the Church?
It will be good to remember that on some day, we will be called to add something to the fire that burns for unity. On one day, we might have to sacrifice our opinions to the fire. On another, our great ideas, and still on another day we might offer unity our grievances, bristling indignation and our pride. I promise you this…unity will ask for something from each of us. We must be willing to give generously, especially in our prayer groups, faith organisations and communities and obviously, our parishes.
When this happens for you, think of Peter in the Garden. He has a good idea. He draws his sword. It’s a no brainer to him. They’re putting their hands on Jesus with a bad intention. Jesus says, in summary, ‘No Peter. No fighting’. In itself, this is fine. Peter got the wrong end of the stick. It can happen to anyone. But then what? Well, possibly, Peter was baffled by the instruction. The only reasonable response in his mind was to defend Jesus and instead of being grateful, the Lord has reprimanded him, it would seem. His good idea is rejected. He might feel confused, maybe even humiliated or embarrassed. At that moment, he might have temporarily lost touch with his whole identity as a follower of the Lord and thought, ‘That was the wrong thing to do. I was right’.
Then Jesus is led to his death and Peter takes his stumble. He denies Christ. Three times. Ultimately, of course, our beloved St. Peter persevered even into crucifixion for Christ, but why did he stumble at that moment?
Is it possible that he took his eye off the North Star? The North Star in our spiritual life is this. Remain faithful. Do not abandon Jesus. Do not abandon His Church, meaning, obedience in spirit and action to our faith leaders. Our fidelity will be tested on some day and we must not stumble now when so many others have stumbled and left the Church or abandoned their role in the Church. In Volume Five Jesus states: when you see cynicism you may be sure that I am not directing the conversation. When souls criticise the Church and its leaders you must direct them to Me.
Remember last month’s talk. If someone approaches us and begins talking about a priest, we list the reasons we love and respect him. We start by stating the obvious which is…aren’t we lucky that he is remaining faithful in his ministry? Isn’t he to be commended for his fidelity?
When people criticise the Church we begin listing the reasons we love the Church. Remember? We love the Mass, the Gospel, the music, the windows, the new carpeting, the old carpeting. Start listing. If someone has been legitimately hurt by someone claiming to serve God, that is something different and we compassionately listen.
Back to Volume Five, St. Andrew states I experienced great trials for the Church. Many of us here (in heaven) shed blood for the Church. What we are watching now is not pleasant in that this Church we sacrificed our lives for with such conviction is barely defended. Never has there been such a time when the attacks strike into the very heart of God’s Church with only the barest of responses and sometimes, no reply at all. This is not moral courage, brothers and sisters. You must defend your Church.
This is very serious, my friends. Silence in the prayer life, yes. But no more silence in the face of attack against our faith leaders. We must follow their leadership and live obedience. In Ireland recently our Cardinal Sean Brady urged Catholics to turn out for a prayer vigil in support of life. A massive amount of people attended. Well done to us. That was a sign of great hope for Ireland.
With regard to unity, we reference for a moment the Diocesan priesthood. It is clear to me that the Lord is offering a very special and serious call to diocesan priests. The Lord is looking for them to hold unity for Him. If there is disunity in your diocese amongst the clergy or against the bishop, God’s children will be confused and unsafe. The sheep will be scattered. Be a priest who works tirelessly for unity in the diocese. The diocesan priesthood has never been a better place to serve God. Indeed, Jesus Christ is counting on each diocesan priest to protect and advance His goal by helping the laity to become co-responsible. If not the diocesan priests, then who is to bring this about? No. I’m afraid that without the commitment of the priests of each diocese, Renewal will be delayed.
And women of the Church, we must be willing to match the full life commitments made by priests in each diocese. This can be done in as many ways as life circumstances allow and clearly many women currently contribute their whole hearts and tireless service to the Church. But I believe that over and above an active and co-responsible laity, we must look forward to women serving the diocese even more directly and completely. It can be no other way. There should be a reciprocal and formalised feminine response of commitment to every Bishop in every diocese. The institutional Church craves the complementarity of the genders as a balm for the times. This can vary according to the culture and needs of each region, but it should be started in some fashion everywhere. Where women are formally received and committed to the diocese, God’s children can be cared for in ways that would not otherwise be possible.
People have said, “Volume Five is serious.” Well, I agree. We have to face our commitment to the Church and advance into it. Many people have suffered during this last ten year period. The best advice for us is this. Don’t look back anymore. Life isn’t like it used to be and perhaps it is not what we expected. Stay in the present day of service and keep working. We must make God’s goals our goals and keep our faces to the future. We conclude with words from St Andrew from Volume Five
A new, renewed Church will emerge on the other side of this travail. God will always triumph and it is good to remember this when you live in dark times. Brothers and sisters, this is your destination. Despite the rockiness of the road you will travel, you will ultimately see the Church triumphant.
End of Talk
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
815 What are these bonds of unity? Above all, charity “binds everything together in perfect harmony.”265 But the unity of the pilgrim Church is also assured by visible bonds of communion:
- profession of one faith received from the Apostles;
-common celebration of divine worship, especially of the sacraments;
- apostolic succession through the sacrament of Holy Orders, maintaining the fraternal concord of God’s family.266