Friday, 19 March 2010

Happy St Joseph's Day!

From St Bernardine of Siena's sermon in today's Office of Readings:

"What then is Joseph’s position in the whole Church of Christ? Is he not a man chosen and set apart? Through him and, yes, under him, Christ was fittingly and honourably introduced into the world. Holy Church in its entirety is indebted to the Virgin Mother because through her it was judged worthy to receive Christ. But after her we undoubtedly owe special gratitude and reverence to Saint Joseph.

In him the Old Testament finds its fitting close. He brought the noble line of patriarchs and prophets to its promised fulfilment. What the divine goodness had offered as a promise to them, he held in his arms."

Friday, 12 March 2010

Acolyte Retreat

Tomorrow the third year go away on a weekend pre-Acolyte retreat to Mount St Bernard's abbey. The ministry of Acolyte, which we receive in the summer, is a ministry of assisting the priest and deacon in the celebration of Mass, and acting as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist where the need arises. We went to Mount St Bernard's for our Lecorate retreat last year and had a great time - the Cistercian abbey is situated in a beautiful part of Leicestershire, and it is inspiring to see the self-sufficiency of the monks, who keep cows, chickens and bees among other things as a way of earning their living. Oh, and of course they get up at 3.30 in the morning to pray Vigils! Let's see if we can make it to that (though I at least plan on going back to bed afterward...).

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

True Humanity

I referred in a previous post to Pope Benedict's recent 'lection divina' to the priests of Rome, in which he reflects on the nature of the priesthood in the light of the Letter to the Hebrews. In one point during the meditation he touches on the Church's anthropology, her understanding of what it is to be human:
'[...] the priest must be man, human in all senses. [...] the question of "what man is" is obscured by the event of sin that hurt human nature even to the quick. Thus people say: "he lied" "it is human"; "he stole" "it is human"; but this is not really being human. Human means being generous, being good, being a just person, it means true prudence and wisdom.'

Sin never makes us more human, as the Pope emphasises, but rather it makes us less human. How can this be so? Well, we must understand humanity in the Thomistic sense as having a nature and purpose given it by God. What are we here for? To know, love and serve God, and to be happy with Him. If we are sinning therefore - not knowing, loving or serving God - we are falling short of our natural purpose, and therefore falling short of our humanity.

There is indeed another common understanding of human than the one used to excuse sin. People often say as a compliment of a person that 'he is a true human being', meaning, he has a heart, he understands people, he is compassionate. This is what the saints were, themselves examples of true humanity, not staid and boring and plasticine like some depictions of them in convenional art, but radiating the beautiful life of God which we are all called to share in. Maybe we can keep this in mind as we persevere in our lenten penances, knowing that the closer we come to God the more free we are to be who we were really created to be.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Kalendarium of Karol Wojtyla

Sorry for the lull in the Daily Julian; she's kind of in third heaven at the moment and it's hard finding a snippet that will be readily understandable in a post!
On another note, I bought a bargain book the other day in St Paul's bookshop: The Making of the Pope of the Millenium: Kalendarium of the life of Karol Wojtyla. It is a chronologically ordered collection of the Pope's own words or writings, other's testimonies about him, and biographical facts of his life in an 800 page tome that gives some very interesting insights into his personality and spiritual journey. As the extracts are fairly brief, it is a book that one can easily dip in and out of. And it's only £10. Bargain!

In one extract from a letter just after he was ordained, Fr Karol said of the priesthood (after apologising for his inability to see the friend to whom he was writing):

"... a priest should be present in life in general, a hidden, driving force. Yes, despite all appearances, that is the main duty of the priesthood. Hidden forces usually produce the strongest actions."

Friday, 5 March 2010

The Reward of Suffering

From Julian of Norwich, Chapter 48:

"I saw without any doubt that just as, on the one hand, our perversity results in pain, shame and sorrow for us here on earth, so, on the other hand, grace produces in far greater measure heaven's consolation, praise and bliss - so much so that when we come to receive the sweet reward that grace has won for us we shall thank and bless God, endlessly rejoicing that we endured suffering. It is part of the nature of this blessed love that in God we shall have knowledge that we should never have known if we had not first suffered."

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Empty Prayer is the Best Kind

A gem from Julian of Norwich, Chapter 41:

"Our prayer makes our Lord very glad and happy. He expects it and wants to have it because it is his holy will to make us, by his grace, as like him in the way we feel as we are like him in our basic nature. Therefore he says, "Pray inwardly, from the heart, even when you have no taste for it; it is good for you - yes, even when you feel nothing, and see nothing, and think you just cannot do it. For in those dry, empty, sick and weak times your prayer is most pleasing to me, though you think it has added little enough to your life. This is true for all your believing prayer.

...God accepts the good intentions and effort of his servants - regardless of our feelings."

How true it is that we often come to prayer reluctant, or distracted, or without feeling much of anything. We do not often see the fruit of our prayers in a tangible way. But if we persevere in prayer then surely one day we will come before the Lord as in the parable of the Last Judgment , and he will remind us of the many occasions we have spent with Him. We might say, 'When, Lord, did I spend so much time with you?' And he will say, 'All those times you gave yourself to me in prayer, though you thought it a waste of time and came away from it feeling no closer to me than before you prayed. But I was listening to you, and speaking to you.' Likewise, if we fail to persevere in prayer, the Lord will say to us that he does not know us. To our remonstrance that we have led a good Christian life, he will reply, 'There were many opportunities for you you to spend time with me in conversation, and every time you told yourself that there were other things to do, that I would understand, that there would be time later. As I result you were a stranger who never let me come to know you.' May we be able to look back and say that we did indeed give time to God, that we were friends of God.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Repentance, Compassion, Longing for God

Sorry for the lack of a post yesterday... I'm in London with less internet access for the week. Here's the reflection from Julian of Norwich for today:

"But just as it seems we are about to be forsaken and cast off - which is, after all, what our sin deserves - with the tenderest love, our Lord keeps hold of us. In this way we learn humility, and because of this we are lifted up high in God's sight, by his grace, and know a very deep repentance, compassion, and true longing for God. Then suddenly we are delivered from sin and pain and raised to bliss and made equal to the great saints!

By repentance we are made clean; by compassion we are made ready; by true longing for God we are made fit for him. As I see it, it is by these three steps that a soul can enter into heaven - I mean those who are sinners on earth who are going to be saved. Every sinful soul must be healed by these medicines. Yet though God has healed him, God still sees his wounds. But now they are wounds no longer: they are trophies. Everything is turned upside down."

Chapter 39

Today at the Mass I attended in London, the priest spoke of compassion, in relation to the Gospel, as an ability to 'suffer with' Christ - not the state of being nice to people or have nice feelings. We have to share the passion of Christ with Him, and then share it with others, by seeing his passion in their own difficulties. Pope Benedict's recent Lenten lectio divina to the priests in Rome speaks of how the priesthood of Christ was rooted in his ability to have compassion for mankind as their mediator to God. As the Letter to the Hebrews says, he interceded for men with 'tears and groans', and we see this when he wept for Lazarus at the tomb, or begged forgiveness to the Father for the soldiers who nailed him to the cross.