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.
This evening we gather together with the tremendous anticipation of all Christians. It is Advent. And we are an Advent people. So this period of the Liturgical Calendar for us is one where we attempt to concentrate fiercely on the fact that Christ is coming. That we are asked to have hope. That hope for us is both a Way and a way forward. The call to live from hope and to offer hope as an alternative to despair will always resound in our souls.
My friends, when we read in the news of the failures of mankind or when we examine our consciences and confront our own, sometimes painful, personal failures, hope can dim or even slip out of our grasp for a few moments. At those times, we look up, like the Magi, and keep moving. If we believe anything about mankind, it is that mankind requires both redemption and transformation. And redemption is there for us. And we are trying to transform in Christ.
I wonder what choices we are making regarding our minds this Advent. Perhaps, as an apostolate, we can make a collective decision to concentrate fiercely on hope, as a decision and as a discipline. If you are following the teachings we offer, you will know that we take exercising custody of our minds very seriously. We believe God wants this. In Jeremiah the Lord said: “I think thoughts of peace and not of affliction.”
We must all try to be alert to our thoughts and understand that if we are choosing negative thoughts, by default, meaning, if we do not reject negative thoughts in favour of hopeful, holy and happy thoughts, then we are actually choosing not to think thoughts of peace. As such we are actually choosing to think thoughts of affliction indirectly. This concept of taking custody of the mind is supported throughout Scripture.
St Paul urges us in Philippians Chapter four “ Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
My friends, there is such beauty all around us, in our imperfect relationships, our families, in our moments where we sit down with others and share a simple meal or a mutual conversation or a grief or one of the funniest things that ever happened to us. There is beauty, also, in the contemplation, not just of how things are in the world, but how they could be. And if we never contemplate anything but the failures of the past, how will we draw down from heaven its hopes for the future? Who will do that for God? We know that just as we hope in baby Jesus, Baby Jesus hopes in us. He hopes that we will quietly contemplate what he wants for the people around us.
As Christians, it is possible that our parents urged us to store up our treasures in heaven? But what does that mean? I remember trying to explain it myself to a child who then asked when he could count the money he had stored up in heaven. I said, “are you sure your treasure is money?” yes, He replied. “Yes. I think Gold money. Coins and things.” Ok. That was his known currency. But we know, more maturely, that God is love and our treasures stored are those moments where we either gave love or graciously received love. And how does that work at all?
Well, when we stop and listen to someone, we are putting some of our treasure into that person. When we apologise to someone for unkind or casual behaviour, we are showing them that we have reverence for them as a person and that they should have reverence for themselves. When we form another, suffer with another, cry with someone who is grieving, laugh, teach, learn respectfully, make someone a sandwich or a cup of tea….we are storing up treasures in heaven. You see, my friends, we can only truly store up treasure in heaven by offering it generously to the people around us. What have we been given? Are we hoarding it? Because we do not need to. God gives abundantly.
This Advent, let us all think thoughts of loveliness, generosity, joy and laughter. Let’s think thoughts of ultimate hope in heaven where prisoners will be freed and healed and our minds will not loop on tragedy, trauma and sadness. Focus on those happy moments in time where you did the right thing, in kindness, in temptation rejected, or when you make a choice to live with a little less so that someone suffering could have a little more. Compare down, to those who have been given less materially and feel blessed. Compare up, to those who have achieved virtues that you admire and strive to grow.
Think now of your favourite saint. Who is it? Picture him or her in your mind. What do you love about that saint? What is it that the saint is remembered for most in terms of holiness? Never mind what God did through the saint. Never mind the stories of ecstasies or visions, really, because those things are God being God. Consider your favourite saint in his or her humanity. Which virtue possessed by that saint would you like to have? Maybe it was kindness. Love of the poor. Gentleness.
Those virtuous dispositions did not just happen. The saints went after holiness. Many were known for being passionate and having tempestuous personalities. So we know that they had to discipline themselves and learn self-control. They practiced not getting it their way. Mother Teresa served the poor. Was she known for having houses full of material goods? No. She tried to live as simply as possible. She offered something for the sake of the virtue she wanted to possess. What virtue would we like to possess? What virtue does Baby Jesus hope that we will accept from Him? And what are we willing to offer in exchange for it? Our good ideas? Our leisure time? Our addictions? Some of our money? Perhaps a little fatigue or tiredness? Should we offer our self-hatred in exchange for celebrating our dignity, whatever our condition? Or…most exciting, should we let go of our negative thinking patterns in favour of hopeful, happy and heavenly thinking patterns?
My friends, the Magi followed a star. Let’s contemplate their experience. What sort of things might have gone through their minds? Maybe they asked themselves, is this hope flawed? Do you think they ever wondered if they were doing the wrong thing by following the star? Is it possible that in the daily discomfort of their journey, they had moments of doubt, fear, temptation and possibly, moments where they wondered if the whole thing would end in futility. What is the point of this, they might have fretted? My companions are annoying me or hurting my feelings. Will we have enough food? Are we bringing the right gifts? Will I make it to the end successfully? Or will it all end badly, in failure?
When the Magi were unsure, what might they have done? Well….I presume, they looked up. Yes. The star was still there. When the clouds came, they probably just kept going. Because they believed that behind the clouds the star remained fixed in the heavens. When they were tired they most likely rested, yes, no doubt and cared for their physical needs, too, but they kept moving, they journeyed, advancing toward their goal. They followed a star. And it took them, roughly to 31.701 degrees 30’ N and 34 degrees 45’ East.
Here is my point. There IS a destination for you. You ARE being lead. It IS real and heaven is with you, drawing you further into your future, toward the end of your life, when you will also gaze upon the form of the Christ Child. Look up, my friends, every day, all day. When your experience is that the clouds are covering the star, keep going. You will know what God needs you to do on the journey through study of your duty and also the circumstances and people around you. Who needs your help? What is your job in the day? Who will be positively impacted because you are living a hopeful life, filled with happy and peaceful thoughts to share with those around you?
If someone in your family is suffering, know that other families shared that cross and that some people will only recover in the next life. Still, we claim hope for them, for us and for others. If you have recovered from something, anything, assist others where you can. If you have been given a gift, share it, whether it be financial well-being, the ability to sing or play music or the gift of listening with kindness. The star is leading you, further and further into virtue.
Look up, my friends, often and regularly. Look up in the morning and pledge your allegiance. Look up in the evening and thank God for the day. Look up as you struggle and look up as you succeed. Look up when others need courage and when you need it yourself. God is with us. The Magi did the right thing by following the star. Their journey was righteous. And so is ours. We are being led.
A popular word with young people today is random. Everything is thought to be random. Just using the word random gives us relief from the dreadful fear that we have been abandoned by God. Because you see when we say it is random what we are really saying is it’s not personal. When we say something is random we say, it does not have to hurt as much as it does because it is all random. Random communicates lack of meaning or crisis of meaning and in this way the dart loses its sting, people think. Poor little children of God, who believe it is all random. But in this time, let the star remind us. There’s nothing random about it! We are being led. But we must be willing to follow.
A possible digression. Pope Francis is doing a great job. He is leading, like the star of Bethlehem. And people often make a claim of obedience. They say, I am faithful to the magisterium. I am faithful to the teachings of the Church. Well, that is good. We should all try to be. But there is another part of obedience and it is this. Are we willing to be led? To follow leadership? To move and develop in our thinking? Because if the Magi simply sat in a field admiring the star and making a god out of it, they would never have gotten to the manger. What am I saying? A true spirit of obedience is willing to be led, and to allow the Church herself to grow and develop, further and further into the layers of her teachings. Pope Francis is taking us to Baby Jesus. Do not doubt it.
My friends, look up. There is nothing random about our presence together in this Church, this apostolate, this historical period. Rather, I suggest to you that God has placed enormous hope in each of us, both individually and as a group. There is a plan. And no more than the Magi were led to a specific latitude and longitude we are each being lead to very specific duties and challenges and projects. We can do this, lay apostles. We have each other and we have God. We have all that we need. The future for us is certain, nothing random about it. The plan is distinct. And no more than the star was fixed in the heavens and brought the Magi to Bethlehem, if will bring us to God’s holy and hope-filled plan for our life and for this lovely apostolate. We simply have to keep moving.
Look up, my friends. We are being led.
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Good evening. We are so happy that God has brought us together once again. Tonight, we have the great joy and privilege of welcoming the image of Our Lady Queen of the Church. A more complete explanation on why we believe the Lord desires Mary to be known by this title is available at both the back of the Church and on our website. Now, I want to describe for you some of the components of the image and the related symbolism. This description is not in order of priority.
The icon, first of all, introduces Our Lady as Queen of the Church. Why do we believe the Lord is calling for the spread of both the title and the image?
The times prompt equality and dignity between men and women. In heaven, there is most assuredly this equality and dignity which we desire on earth but have yet to achieve. By offering the truth about Mary’s role in the Church, we will help, hopefully, to heal some people from a wound and direct us all to a model.
We know that the Church is developing over time. And we know that Our Lady is very important to us now because we so urgently need renewal in the Church.
The images of Jesus Christ the Returning King and Our Lady Queen of the Church are meant to be side by side to represent the complementarity of the genders. Our Catechism teaches that in creating man, male and female, God gives men and women an equal personal dignity. He wants this in the Church and out of the Church.
You will see that Our Lady’s right hand is in a similar teaching and instructing position as the Lord’s right hand in image of Jesus Christ the Returning King. Both the feminine and the masculine teach the truth, but often in different ways. We need both.
Her left hand supports the Church and the Church is seen as a humble, simple building. The doors are open, the windows also. There is transparency, and, we pray, humility. When I say Church, please do not think of only clergy. WE are ALL the Church. We need to be transparent about our beliefs and also our imperfection and our journey. The whole Church, in order to represent Jesus Christ accurately, needs more humility. All of us. Our Lady will help us with this and prompt us gently toward very humble service to the people around us.
The many bells on the roof represent the Church in every country. I saw, in a vision, on top of the Church, a bell for every country. Each was meant to ring out a distinct harmonious note. I saw that there were weeds coming up through the inside of the Church and they were interfering with the movement and function of the bells in various countries. In other countries the bell was ringing functionally and sounding the right note, meaning, the Church in that country was accurately representing heaven. In other countries, the Church was being misrepresented and therefore people could not see the beauty of our faith. Overall, the bells were not sounding together and creating the type of harmony that the Lord wants. I saw that it was Our Lady’s role to bring the bells into harmony, meaning, to restore and renew the Church in each country and to bring about consistency.
Now, consistency does not mean conformity. You can see in the lower left foreground that there are three sets of bells. These represent the Church in different countries and the colours are notably different. The subtle difference in the colours indicates the unique personality of the Church in each country. This is good. The Church in each country must transform into its highest representation of Church. We must contemplate ourselves as Catholics and also nationally so that we can express our unique selves in the international Church. The Irish Church will look a little different than the African Church and the Chinese Church will hold its beautiful Chinese expression and still function in the same way as the American Church only singing out a little differently. We have a great deal, always, to learn from each other.
We see our Lady indicating the bells on the top of the Church. It is her project to renew the Church in each country and she must be known in each country individually as the Queen of that Country.
Our Lord holds the sceptre of Kingship in the image of Jesus Christ the Returning King. Our Lady, through her humanity, offers us the truth that the Church on earth is incarnational and meant to be presented and represented daily through our human representation modelled after her spotless call. The fact that we imperfectly represent God’s perfection should not deter us from a spirited preaching of the Gospel message.
Our Lady, the Queen of the Church is issuing an invitation to all Catholics to return to the Sacramental life of the Church.
The diocesan structure of the Church is represented by the intricate and rich hem of her garment which encircles her mantle, just as the Church encircles the earth. The church is held in the hand of Mary, near her heart and offered to the world from the hand of a woman so that we can see that women are essential to the life and growth of the Church and impact profoundly how the Church is both presented to the world and viewed by the world. The Queen of the Church is inviting all women to emulate her strength and humility and she is asking men to protect and promote the role of women, in the Church, yes, and also in the world and, of infinite importance, in the family. We must advance together in unity or we will not advance.
Now, the diocesan structure of the Church is very important in this time. For renewal to take place quickly, it will have to happen more or less simultaneously in every diocese around the world. This is why lay apostles are urged to pray for their bishop and be part of their diocese in some way. Our children must know which diocese they come from and understand that they are part of something from heaven, here on earth.
Our Lady’s beautiful hands represent her humanity and the teaching of the Assumption that she was brought into heaven both body and soul. She sits on a silver throne, different to the Lords. This emphasises that she is separate from the Trinity, a created human being, simultaneously subordinate to God and elevated by God. While God created her immaculate for her role as the first tabernacle, Mary contributed an ongoing yes answer and made a choice to remain immaculate. In doing so, she enclosed herself in the divine will which is represented in the closure of the clasp of her belt with the silver fleur de lei, symbolising the Trinity. Her whole humanity and life were enclosed in service to the Church on earth.
Indeed, Mary is a living symbol of obedience and models for us the same call of obedience to the teachings and leadership of the magisterium of the church. She is directing us all to this obedience in a special way in this time.
On her silver crown there is a large blue stone, the most prominent. This represents her maternity, both human and through her human maternity to Jesus, divine. She was a human mother who nourished a little baby and she is a spiritual mot