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.
(*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