01 INTRODUCTION | 02 GOD, OUR FATHER | 03 SIN | 04 DEATH AND JUDGMENT | 05 HEAVEN AND HELL | 06 JESUS CHRIST | 07 THE BIRTH OF JESUS | 08 PROCLAIMING THE KINGDOM | 09 THE LAST SUPPER | 10 THE CROSS | 11 OUR LADY. RESURRECTION | 12 THE NEW ADVOCATE
Outside Rome, along the Via Appia, one of the most ancient of roads, there is a church called the Quo Vadis. The chapel was built in the 17th century by Cardinal Barberini. The story goes that St Peter, fleeing from Rome by Via Appia, met his Master and asked Jesus "Domine, quo vadis?" (Lord, where are you going?). And the Lord replied, "Venio iterum crufigi" (I go to be crucified again).
If we make good use of these moments of prayer, of speaking face to face with our Lord, we, too, will meet him, and perhaps he will ask us "Quo vadis?" Where are you going? What are you looking for? What are you running after?
Because we are on a journey, and if the journey is to make any sense, if there is to be any sense in the steps we take, we need to have a direction. "Quo vadis?" Where are you going?
In fact, we are faced with three questions: Where do I come from? Where am I going? How do I get there? These are questions we ask in our daily life. They are questions we periodically ask in any human undertaking. They are questions we also have to ask ourselves in the spiritual life. And we know there is One who knows the answers. And it is before Him that we kneel today, to ask him for light to examine ourselves. "My Lord and my God, I firmly believe that You are here--that you see me, that you hear me, that you are speaking to me."
For the moment, we have left behind our pursuits, our burdensome cares, and have set aside this time to be with our Lord. When Pope John Paul II was asked how he prayed, he said he prayed just like any ordinary Christian--he speaks and he listens. "But the most important part is what one hears."
Many people ask: "Father, can I really hear God?" "How do I know if what I hear is from God?"
God speaks to us in many ways, and often speaks by giving light to our minds. He enlightens us. So let us sit beside Him, and focus, for now, on what he would like to tell us. It is for his light that our mind yearns, it is for his goodness that our heart thirsts.
Psalm 42 sings:
1 As a hart longs for flowing streams,
so longs my soul for thee, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and behold the face of God?
3 My tears have been my food day and night,
while men say to me continually, "Where is your God?"
4 These things I remember, as I pour out my soul ...
Pope John Paul II tells us:
"Pause before the tabernacle by yourself,
for no special reason, even without saying a thing,
simply remaining in his presence,
contemplating the supreme gesture of love
contained in the consecrated Bread."
"In the Eucharist, Christ makes himself all things to everyone, to make us one in him;
then he sends us out to witness to his love to our brothers and sisters."
"Look for Jesus.
Seek his presence in your lives
and strive to know him ever more intimately.
Do not be afraid to make yourselves known to him."
"Bring your questions and fears to the Lord,
for in him you will discover life's true meaning
and your own vocation in this world."
THE SEARCH FOR TRUTH
Saint Augustine once said (Confessions, X, 23, 33): "I have met many who wanted to deceive, but none who wanted to be deceived." When we want to know where we came from, where we are going, how we are to get there, we would not want to be deceived. We would not want to be deceived about the path we are taking. In this single sentence, Saint Augustine proves that every man has a desire for the truth; no one wants to be deceived; no one wants to be sold fool's gold.
SAINT AUGUSTINE'S PRAYER
Lord Jesus, let me know myself and know You,
And desire nothing save only You.
Let me hate myself and love You.
Let me do everything for the sake of You.
Let me humble myself and exalt You.
Let me think of nothing except You.
Let me die to myself and live in You.
Let me accept whatever happens as from You.
Let me banish self and follow You,
And ever desire to follow You.
Let me fly from myself and take refuge in You,
That I may deserve to be defended by You.
Let me fear for myself, let me fear You,
And let me be among those who are chosen by You.
Let me distrust myself and put my trust in You.
Let me be willing to obey for the sake of You.
Let me cling to nothing save only to You,
And let me be poor because of You.
Look upon me, that I may love You.
Call me that I may see You,
And for ever enjoy You. Amen.
WHAT TO DO?
In the Foreword of The Way, St Josemaría writes:
Read these counsels slowly.
Pause to meditate their meaning.
They are things that I whisper in your ear,
as a friend, as a brother, as a father.
We shall speak intimately; and God will be listening to us.
I am going to tell you nothing new.
I shall only stir your memory
so that some thought may arise and strike you:
and so your life will improve
and you will set out along the way of prayer and of Love.
And in the end you will become a soul of worth.
Mary, my Mother, Mother of Good Counsel, Seat of Wisdom, help me to make good use of this time of prayer, this time of examination. Intercede for me, so that I may be receptive to the action of the Holy Spirit, so that I may open the eyes of my soul to his light, so that I may bend my will before his power and strength.
IT WAS VERY GOOD AND IT IS VERY GOOD STILL
1* IN the beginning God created* the heavens and the earth.
2 The earth was without form and void,
and darkness was upon the face of the deep;
and the Spirit* of God was moving over the face of the waters.
3 And God said, "Let there be light";
and there was light.
4 And God saw that the light was good ...
26* Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness;
and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea,
and over the birds of the air,
and over the cattle,
and over all the earth,
and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth."
27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
28 And God blessed them,
and God said to them,
"Be fruitful and multiply,
and fill the earth and subdue it;
and have dominion over the fish of the sea
and over the birds of the air
and over every living thing that moves upon the earth."
31 And God saw everything that he had made,
and behold, it was very good. (Gen 1:1-4,26-27,31)
A little girl who lived in a remote part of the country was receiving her first Bible instruction at the hands of her elderly grandmother, and the old lady was reading the child the story of the creation. After the story had been finished the little girl seemed lost in thought.
"Well, dear," said the grandmother, "what do you think of it?"
"Oh, I love it! It's so exciting," exclaimed the youngster. "You never know what God is going to do next!"
(Anthony Castle, More Quips, Quotes and Anecdotes, p 356)
CHILDREN'S LETTERS TO GOD
"Dear God, In school they told us what You do. Who does it when You are on vacation?" --Jane
"Dear God, I didn't think orange went with purple until I saw the sunset you made on Tuesday. That was cool!" --Eugene
"Dear God, Did you mean for the giraffe to look like that or was it an accident?" --Norma
"Dear God, I think about You sometimes even when I'm not praying." --Elliott
GOD IS NOT ONLY CREATOR AND LORD. HE IS OUR DAD!
In his first letter, Saint John (I Jn 3:1) says,
"See what love the Father has given us,
that we should be called children of God; and so we are."
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
Yet, O LORD, you are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?
And not one of them is forgotten before God.
7* Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered.
Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.
WHAT CHILDREN OF GOD DO
Saint Luke (6:35-38) tells us:
35* But love your enemies,
and do good,
and lend, expecting nothing in return; *
and your reward will be great,
and you will be sons of the Most High;
for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish.
36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
37* "Judge not, and you will not be judged;
condemn not, and you will not be condemned;
forgive, and you will be forgiven;
38* give, and it will be given to you;
good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over,
will be put into your lap.
For the measure you give will be the measure you get back."
1* "Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them;
for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
2 "Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you,
as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets,
that they may be praised by men.
Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
3 But when you give alms,
do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
4* so that your alms may be in secret;
and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
HOW THE CHILDREN OF GOD PRAY
St Matthew 7:7-11
7* "Ask, and it will be given you;
seek, and you will find;
knock, and it will be opened to you.
8 For every one who asks receives,
and he who seeks finds,
and to him who knocks it will be opened.
9 Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?
10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?
11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your Father who is in heaven
give good things to those who ask him!
5* "And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites;
for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners,
that they may be seen by men.
Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
6 But when you pray,
go into your room and shut the door
and pray to your Father who is in secret;
and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
THE JOY OF CHILDREN
Pope John Paul II teaches:
"Listen with gratitude and wonder to the amazing revelation of Jesus: 'The Father loves you!' (cf. Jn. 16:27). These are the words I entrust to you. Receive the love that God first gives you (cf. 1 Jn. 4:19). Hold fast to this certainty, the only one that can give meaning, strength and joy to life: his love will never leave you, his covenant of peace will never be removed from you (cf. Is. 54:10). He has stamped your name on the palms of his hands (cf. Is 49:16)."
1 I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and be glad.
8* O taste and see that the LORD is good!
Happy is the man who takes refuge in him!
Holy Mary, beloved Daughter of God the Father, your whole life was one of complete trust and abandonment in the hands of the Father. You trusted in his wisdom, his goodness, his power. Teach us to abandon ourselves as well. Teach us to live as faithful and loving children, of such a loving and merciful Father.
We all are taught that God is good. Why is there evil?
THE FALL OF ADAM AND EVE
The third chapter of the book of Genesis begins thus:
1* Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the LORD God had made.
He said to the woman,
"Did God say, 'You shall not eat of any tree of the garden'?"
2 And the woman said to the serpent,
"We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden;
3 but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden,
neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'"
4* But the serpent said to the woman,
"You will not die.
5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened,
and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food,
and that it was a delight to the eyes,
and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,
she took of its fruit and ate;
and she also gave some to her husband,
and he ate.
7 Then the eyes of both were opened,
and they knew that they were naked;
and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.
8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day,
and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God
among the trees of the garden.
9 But the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?"
19* For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners,
so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous.
20* Law came in, to increase the trespass;
but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,
In the Mass, we acknowledge: "I confess to Almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault..." Curiously enough, the English version does not translate "nimis", which means "exceedingly".
St Augustine once said: "God has created me with free will. If I have sinned, I have sinned... I, not fate, not chance, not the devil."
The book of Jeremiah transmits God's message (2:13):
13 Two evils have my people done:
they have forsaken me, the source of living waters;
They have dug themselves cisterns, broken cisterns,
that hold no water. ...
20 Long ago you broke your yoke, you tore off your bonds.
"I will not serve," you said. (NAB)
Mrs Brown was shocked to learn that her son had told a lie. Taking the youngster aside for a heart-to-heart talk, she graphically explained the consequences of falsehood:
"A tall black man with red fiery eyes and two sharp horns grabs little boys who tell lies and carries them off at night. He takes them to Mars where they have to work in a dark canyon for 50 years! Now," she concluded, "you won't tell a lie again, will you, dear?"
"No, Mum," replied her son, gravely. "You tell better ones."
RUPTURE WITH GOD HAS LED TO RUPTURE WITH OTHERS
In Reconciliatio et Poenitentia (no 15), Pope John Paul II writes:
In the biblical narratives mentioned above, man's rupture with God leads tragically to divisions between brothers.
In the description of the "first sin," the rupture with Yahweh simultaneously breaks the bond of friendship that had united the human family. Thus the subsequent pages of Genesis show us the man and the woman as it were pointing an accusing finger at each other.(Genesis 3:12) Later we have the brother hating his brother and finally taking his life.(Genesis 4:2-16)
JESUS CHRIST CAME FOR SINNERS LIKE US
Matthew (9:12 & 13) says:
12 But when he heard it, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
13* Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.'
For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."
So you think you're okay? Sorry, then. Jesus Christ did not come for you.
The book of Proverbs (20:9) and Qohelet/Ecclesiasticus (7:21) say:
9 Who can say, "I have made my heart clean; I am pure from my sin"?
20 Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.
(NAB: "yet there is no man on earth so just as to do good and never sin.")
St John (I Jn 5:16-17) talks about sin that kills the life of the soulL
16 If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask,
and God * will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal.
There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that.
17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal.
TEMPTATIONS TO SIN--SCANDAL
1* And he said to his disciples,
"Temptations to sin * are sure to come;
but woe to him by whom they come!
2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung round his neck
and he were cast into the sea,
than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.
A PRAYER FOR FORGIVENESS
Psalm 25 prays thus:
1 To thee, O LORD,
I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, in thee I trust, let me not be put to shame;
let not my enemies exult over me.
4 Make me to know thy ways, O LORD;
teach me thy paths.
5 Lead me in thy truth, and teach me,
for thou art the God of my salvation;
for thee I wait all the day long.
6 Be mindful of thy mercy, O LORD,
and of thy steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
7 Remember not the sins of my youth,
or my transgressions;
according to thy steadfast love remember me,
for thy goodness' sake, O LORD!
8 Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
9 He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
11 For thy name's sake, O LORD,
pardon my guilt, for it is great.
Mary, my Mother, you are the Refuge of Sinners. Help us in our daily struggle, come to our aid. Help us to begin as many times as needed. Teach us to love God more and more, so as to learn true sorrow for sins.
DEATH IS INEVITABLE
Once the prophet Isaiah was sent to prophesy to Hezekiah, king of Judah (Is 38:1):
Thus says the LORD: Set your house in order; for you shall die.
We need to become familiar with this thought, we need to remind ourselves of it, so that we can set our house in order, so that we can prepare our soul to cross the threshold of the other life.
Unlike Hezekiah, however, many of us will not get any warning. Our Lord told his apostles (Lk 12:40):
40 You also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an unexpected hour.
Only if we don't have faith, only if we give too much importance to the things of the world that we will dread death. We dread our physical deterioration, we dread our extinction, we dread being forgotten.
MAXIMISING THE TIME WE HAVE ON HAND
Someone once asked St Francis of Assisi what he would do if he were suddenly to learn that he was to die at sunset that die. When he was asked this question, he was hoeing his garden. St Francis replied, "What will I do if I learned that I was going to die at sunset? I would finish hoeing my garden."
In a meeting of devils, they were discussing better ways of pulling more people down to hell. 1st solution: tell them there is no God. No, the others said. That's old stuff. It doesn't work anymore. 2nd solution: Tell them there is no devil. No, the others said. People have become too wise for that. 3rd solution: Tell them there is no hurry.
If we make use of the time God gives us everyday, when the moment comes, there will be no complaint, no fear, no anxiety, because if we had always been waiting for him, we will not be afraid to welcome him when he comes. John Paul II's last words were: "Let me go to the house of the Father."
Father Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen writes (Divine Intimacy, p 280)
Although death is the last, it is not the only coming of the Lord in the life of a Christian; it is preceded by many other comings whose special purpose is to prepare us for this last. Death will then be for us in the fullest sense a coming of grace. From the moment of our baptism until the end of our life, we experience a continual succession of comings or visits from our Lord; each Sacrament we receive, each inspiration, each increase of grace is a divine visit to the soul, by means of which God always possesses it more and more, dwelling in it more fully and intimately. One who has never hesitated to open his heart to all these visits from our Lord, who has followed all the impulses of grace with docility, has nothing to fear from this last coming. Then the words of Jesus will sound sweetly in his ears: "Well done, good and faithful servant ... enter into the joy of thy Lord" (Mt 25:21).
St Francis de Sales has left us this prayer of acceptance of death:
O Jesus, from this moment I wish to employ all my powers in accepting all the circumstances and pains of my death; from this moment I desire to accept death in the place, hour, and manner in which it may please You to send it. I know very well that I must suffer and be ground by the teeth of tribulations, sorrows, privations, desolations, and sufferings in order to become bread worthy to serve at Your celestial banquet, O Christ, on the day of the general resurrection. I well know that if the grain of wheat does not fall into the ground and die, it brings no fruit; therefore, with all my heart, I accept the annihilation of death in order to become a new man, no longer mortal and corruptible, but immortal and glorious.
Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required;
and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more.
Do we think we have many gifts, many talents? Then much will be required of us! Because those talents were not give to us for our glory, but for God's. He will ask a strict accounting of how we have made use of these gifts.
Psalm 139 [NAB]
1 O LORD, you have probed me, you know me:
2 you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar.
3 My travels and my rest you mark; with all my ways you are familiar.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue, LORD, you know it all.
7 Where can I hide from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee?
8 If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in Sheol, you are there too.
23 Probe me, God, know my heart; try me, know my concerns.
24 See if my way is crooked, then lead me in the ancient paths.
Prayer to Saint Joseph for a happy death
O BLESSED JOSEPH, who yielded up thy last breath in the arms
of Jesus and Mary, obtain for me this grace, O holy Joseph,
that I may breathe forth my soul in praise, saying in spirit,
if I am unable to do so in words:
"Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I give Thee my heart and my soul."
LESSONS FROM LUKE
23* And some one said to him,
"Lord, will those who are saved be few?"
And he said to them,
24 "Strive to enter by the narrow door;
for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.
25* When once the householder has risen up and shut the door,
you will begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying,
'Lord, open to us.'
He will answer you, 'I do not know where you come from.'
26* Then you will begin to say,
'We ate and drank in your presence,
and you taught in our streets.'
27 But he will say, 'I tell you, I do not know where you come from;
depart from me, all you workers of iniquity!'
28* There you will weep and gnash your teeth,
when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God
and you yourselves thrust out.
29 And men will come
from east and west, and from north and south,
and sit at table in the kingdom of God.
30* And behold,
some are last who will be first,
and some are first who will be last."
Matthew 13 teaches us about the eternal frustration of hell and that it is the product of our free choice:
41* The Son of man will send his angels,
and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers,
42* and throw them into the furnace of fire;
there men will weep and gnash their teeth.
43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.
He who has ears, let him hear.
MANY MANSIONS IN HEAVEN
In the Last Supper, our Lord reassured his apostles and consoled them (though he knew they were not yet strong enough to stay with him) (Jn 14):
1 "Let not your hearts be troubled;
believe * in God, believe also in me.
2* In my Father's house are many rooms;
if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
3 And when I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come again and will take you to myself,
that where I am you may be also.
4 And you know the way where I am going." *
5* Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going;
how can we know the way?"
6* Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life;
no one comes to the Father, but by me.
WHY HEAVEN WILL BE INFINITE FUN (ESPECIALLY FOR CHILDREN)
Psalm 16 says:
11 ... in thy presence there is fulness of joy,
in thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.
Peter Kreeft explains (Everything You Wanted to Know About Heaven, p 49)
Why won't we be bored in heaven?
Because we are with God, and God is infinite. We never come to the end of exploring him. He is new every day.
16* They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more;
the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.
17* For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of living water;
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
This last line is an echo of Isaiah 25:
8* He will swallow up death for ever,
and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth.
St Thomas Aquinas, in his Exposition on the Creed, writes:
Eternal life is the perfect fulfillment of desire, because each of the blessed will have more than he desired or hoped for. In this life, no one can fulfill his desires, nor can any creature satisfy a man's craving. God alone satisfies and infinitely surpasses man's desires, which therefore can never rest except in God. "You have made us, O Lord, for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you." (Confessions, 1) Since in heaven the saints possess God, it is evident that their desires are satisfied and their glory exceeds their expectations.
Thus if we desire pleasure, there will be supreme and most perfect delight....
Fr John Hardon writes that in heaven:
Our desire for pleasure will be perfectly fulfilled because we shall possess God, who is our sovereign Good.
Our desire for honor will be supremely achieved because all possible honor will be there.
Our desire for knowledge will be complete because in heaven we shall know the natures of all things. We shall know all truth and whatsoever we wish to know, we shall know. We shall possess whatever we wish to possess, together with eternal life.
Our desire for security will also be achieved, unlike the situation in this world. here on earth there is no assured security. The more one has, and the higher one's position, the more reason there is to fear, and the more a person wants. But in life eternal, there is neither sorrow, nor toil, nor fear.
Our desire for pleasant companionship will be experienced in the company of all the blessed. Each person in heaven will share with others whatever he has, and all will love one another and rejoice in the happiness of everyone else. Thus the joy and gladness of each one will be as great as the joy of all.
IT IS WORTH ALL THE TROUBLE
This is why St Josemaria would repeatedly say: Vale la pena! Vale la pena! (It is worth while!)
The saints were--and still are--truly the wisest people who lived on earth. They knew which investment would give generous returns, returns which will last on and on and on.....
Words of wisdom from St Bernard
Take away self-will, and there will no longer be any hell.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, Gate of Heaven, Help of Christians and Queen of all Saints! Intercede for us! Pray for your children, that we may be made worthy of Christ's promise of heaven, of never-ending joy and happiness.
HE BECAME MAN
Jesus Christ is not a mythical figure. He actually existed. Saint Luke (2:1-7) gives us the historical landmarks for his birth:
1* In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus
that all the world should be enrolled.
2 This was the first enrollment,
when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
3 And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city.
4* And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth,
to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem,
because he was of the house and lineage of David,
5 to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
6 And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered.
7 And she gave birth to her first-born son
and wrapped him in swaddling cloths,
and laid him in a manger,
because there was no place for them in the inn.
Jesus matured as a man. We, too, need to mature. It is the work of a lifetime. St Luke tells us (2:52):
52* And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, * and in favor with God and man.
LOVING THE WORLD WITH PASSION
It is part of being Christian to "love the world passionately", in the words of Saint Josemaria Escriva.
Love for the world, for God's creation, includes a healthy curiosity to learn. Pope John Paul's personal secretary for some years Monsignor Tran Ngoc Thu affirms:
He dedicates a full hour every day to his personal reading. He reads the last hour before he goes to bed, that is, from 10:00 to 11:00 PM. He reads the books or articles he has set aside during the day. This Pope is, indeed, a good listener.
Every Tuesday he invites five or six professors in different fields - theology, philosophy, sociology, politics, culture or science. For an hour and a half, from 12:00 to 1:30 PM, the experts (who are expected to be well prepared) speak, then proceed to lunch with the Pope.
During his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, the Holy Father devotes even more time to such intellectual encounters. Each summer he invites a total of 15 experts from different fields to be his guests for the entire season. Thus, at different times of the morning, afternoon, and evening, and at meals, he can discuss with them at his leisure and be informed of the latest developments, in physics, for instance, or nuclear weapons - or even unidentified flying objects.
PRAYER TO THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS
Divine Jesus, You have said, "Ask and you shall receive; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you." Behold me kneeling at Your feet, filled with a lively faith and confidence in the promises dictated by Your Sacred Heart to Saint Margaret Mary. I come to ask this favor: Mention your request).
To whom can I turn if not to You, Whose Heart is the source of all graces and merits? Where should I seek if not in the treasure which contains all the riches of Your kindness and mercy? Where should I knock if not at the door through which God gives Himself to us and through which we go to God? I have recourse to You, Heart of Jesus. In You I find consolation when afflicted, protection when persecuted, strength when burdened with trials, and light in doubt and darkness.
Dear Jesus, I firmly believe that You can grant me the grace I implore, even though it should require a miracle. You have only to will it and my prayer will be granted. I admit that I am most unworthy of Your favors, but this is not a reason for me to be discouraged. You are the God of mercy, and You will not refuse a contrite heart. Cast upon me a look of mercy, I beg of You, and Your kind Heart will find in my miseries and weakness a reason for granting my prayer.
Sacred Heart, whatever may be Your decision with regard to my request, I will never stop adoring, loving, praising, and serving You. My Jesus, be pleased to accept this my act of perfect resignation to the decrees of Your adorable Heart, which I sincerely desire may be fulfilled in and by me and all Your creatures forever.
Grant me the grace for which I humbly implore You through the Immaculate Heart of Your most sorrowful Mother. You entrusted me to her as her child, and her prayers are all-powerful with You. Amen.
St Margaret Mary Alacoque's prayer goes:
Lord Jesus, Let my heart never rest until it finds You, who are its center, its love, and its happiness. By the wound in Your heart pardon the sins that I have committed whether out of malice or out of evil desires. Place my weak heart in Your own divine Heart, continually under Your protection and guidance, so that I may persevere in doing good and in fleeing evil until my last breath. Amen.
LATE HAVE I LOVED YOU
St Augustine prayed thus (Confessions):
Late have I loved you,
O Beauty ever ancient, ever new,
late have I loved you!
You were within me, but I was outside,
and it was there that I searched for you.
In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created.
You were with me, but I was not with you.
Created things kept me from you;
yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all.
You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness.
You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness.
You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath
and now I pant for you.
I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more.
You touched me, and I burned for your peace.
LESSONS OF FAITH
St Matthew (1:18-25) narrates:
18* Now the birth of Jesus Christ * took place in this way.
When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph,
before they came together
she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit;
19 and her husband Joseph,
being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame,
resolved to send her away.
20 But as he considered this,
behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying,
"Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife,
for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit;
21* she will bear a son,
and you shall call his name Jesus,
for he will save his people from their sins."
22 All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23* "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and his name shall be called Emmanuel" (which means, God with us).
24 When Joseph woke from sleep,
he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him;
he took his wife,
25 but knew her not until she had borne a son;
and he called his name Jesus.
On three other occasions, Joseph receives instructions and he obeys quickly and promptly, thus fulfilling what had been foretold by the prophets. St Matthew (2:13-15, 19-23) tells us:
13 Now when they had departed,
behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream
and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother,
and flee to Egypt,
and remain there till I tell you;
for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him."
14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night,
and departed to Egypt,
15* and remained there until the death of Herod.
This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet,
"Out of Egypt have I called my son."
19* But when Herod died,
behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying,
20 "Rise, take the child and his mother,
and go to the land of Israel,
for those who sought the child's life are dead."
21 And he rose and took the child and his mother,
and went to the land of Israel.
22 But when he heard that Archelaus reigned over Judea in place of his father Herod,
he was afraid to go there,
and being warned in a dream
he withdrew to the district of Galilee.
23* And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth,
that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled,
"He shall be called a Nazarene."
Jesus Christ's birth was first revealed to very simple and lowly people (Lk 2:8-16)
8 And in that region there were shepherds out in the field,
keeping watch over their flock by night.
9* And an angel of the Lord appeared to them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were filled with fear.
10 And the angel said to them,
"Be not afraid;
for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people;
11* for to you is born this day in the city of David
a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
12* And this will be a sign for you:
you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths
and lying in a manger."
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14* "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!" *
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven,
the shepherds said to one another,
"Let us go over to Bethlehem
and see this thing that has happened,
which the Lord has made known to us."
16 And they went with haste,
and found Mary and Joseph,
and the babe lying in a manger.
Humility means accepting both the good news and the bad news about ourselves.
In 2004, Fr Raniero Cantalamessa celebrated his 25 years as Preacher of the Papal Household. In an interview with him over Vatican Radio, he spoke of the humility of Pope John Paul II:
The fact that the Pope finds time to listen to the preaching of a simple priest of the Church is an example of extraordinary humility.
I remember that at one time he was not present on two Fridays, because he was on a trip to Central America. When he returned, at the end of my preaching he moved away from the secretaries and came to apologize to me for missing two sermons
I will never forget the first time I preached in St. Peter's, and I realized that I had to speak very slowly because my voice reverberated and there was a very strong echo. But by speaking slowly, my preaching lasted 10 minutes longer than foreseen. The prefect of the Pontifical Household was worried, with good reason, and every now and then looked at his watch.
The next day, as he himself recounted, the Pope called him after the session and told him affably that when someone speaks to us in the name of God we must not look at our watch.
This is an aspect of the Pope that has impressed my greatly; it would seem he is never in a hurry. Despite everything the Pope has to do and all the problems he has to address, when he is with someone he exists only for that person.
Once I was caught in Rome's traffic and, despite the driver's efforts, we arrived a quarter of an hour late for the preaching. To tell the truth, some cardinals were impatient and waiting at the door. The Pope, instead, was tranquil in his chapel, praying the rosary, showing no sign of impatience for my delay.
Most loving Jesus, by Your sublime and beautiful virtues of humility, obedience, poverty, modesty, charity, patience, and gentleness, You blessed with peace and happiness the family which You chose on earth. In Your mercy look upon my family. We belong to You, for we have received Your many blessings over many years and we entrust ourselves to Your loving care.
Mary, dearest Mother, to your intercession we have recourse, knowing that your Divine Son will hear your prayers. Glorious patriarch, Saint Joseph, help us by your powerful prayers and offer our prayers to Jesus through Mary’s hands.
Lord Jesus Christ, being subject to Mary and Joseph, You sanctified family life by Your beautiful virtues. Grant that we, with the help of Mary and Joseph, may be taught by the example of Your holy Family, and may after death enjoy its everlasting companionship.
Lord Jesus, help us ever to follow the example of Your holy Family, that in the hour of our death Your glorious Virgin Mother together with Saint Joseph may come to meet us, and we may be worthy to be received by You into the everlasting joys of heaven. You live and reign forever. Amen.(From EWTN Novena to the Holy Family)
BEARERS OF GOOD NEWS
St Luke (2:15-18) narrates details of our Lord's birth:
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven,
the shepherds said to one another,
"Let us go over to Bethlehem
and see this thing that has happened,
which the Lord has made known to us."
16 And they went with haste,
and found Mary and Joseph,
and the babe lying in a manger.
17 And when they saw it
they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child;
18 and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.
19* But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God
for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
In his letter to the Romans (13:14-15), St Paul preaches:
13* For, "every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved."
14 But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed?
And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?
And how are they to hear without a preacher?
15* And how can men preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!"
FRIENDSHIP AND TRUST
When he went to Zimbabwe in 1988, John Paul II explained in the homily of 12 September:
The best apostles to youth will often be young people themselves, young men and women who rejoice in their faith in Christ and who know the importance of daily prayer. And married couples whose love for one another has been sealed in the Sacrament of Matrimony and built up in daily sacrifice are best able to help other husbands and wives to enter more fully into the mystery of Christ’s love for the Church.
THE LORD OF THE HARVEST
In his visit to Munich, Altotting and Regensburg (9-14 September 2006), Pope Benedict XVI said during the Vespers with religious and seminarians of Bavaria:
[T]he Lord has a plan for each of us, he calls each one of us by name. Our task is to learn how to listen, to perceive his call, to be courageous and faithful in following him and, when all is said and done, to be found trustworthy servants who have used well the gifts given us.
We know that the Lord seeks labourers for his harvest. He himself said as much: "The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest" (Mt 9:37-38). That is why we are gathered here: to make this urgent request to the Lord of the harvest. God's harvest is indeed great, and it needs labourers: ... But there is a lack of people willing to become labourers for God's harvest. Today it is as then, when the Lord was moved with pity for the crowds which seemed like sheep without a shepherd - people who probably knew how to do many things, but found it hard to make sense of their lives. Lord, look upon our troubled times, which need preachers of the Gospel, witnesses to you, persons who can point the way towards 'life in abundance'! Look upon our world and feel pity once more! Look upon our world and send us labourers! With this petition we knock on God's door; but with the same petition the Lord is also knocking on the doors of our own heart. Lord do you want me? Is it not perhaps too big for me? Am I too small for this? "Do not be afraid", the Angel said to Mary. "Do not fear: I have called you by name", God says through the Prophet Isaiah (43:1) to us - to each of us.
In his account of the call of the Twelve, he says: "Jesus appointed twelve to be with him and to be sent out" (3:14). To be with Jesus and, being sent, to go out to meet people - these two things belong together and together they are the heart of a vocation, of the priesthood. To be with him and to be sent out - the two are inseparable. Only one who is "with him" comes to know him and can truly proclaim him. And anyone who has been with him cannot keep to himself what he has found; instead, he has to pass it on. Such was the case with Andrew, who told his brother Simon: "We have found the Messiah"(Jn 1:41). And the Evangelist adds: "He brought Simon to Jesus" (Jn 1:42).
Pope Gregory the Great, in one of his homilies, once said that God’s angels, however far afield they go on their missions, always move in God. They remain always with him. And while speaking about the angels, Saint Gregory thought also of bishops and priests: wherever they go, they should always "be with him". We know this from experience: whenever priests, because of their many duties, allot less and less time to being with the Lord, they eventually lose, for all their often heroic activity, the inner strength that sustains them. Their activity ends up as an empty activism. To be with Christ - how does this come about? Well, the first and most important thing for the priest is his daily Mass, always celebrated with deep interior participation. If we celebrate Mass truly as men of prayer, if we unite our words and our activities to the Word that precedes us and let them be shaped by the Eucharistic celebration, if in Communion we let ourselves truly be embraced by him and receive him - then we are being with him.
The Liturgy of the Hours is another fundamental way of being with Christ: here we pray as people conscious of our need to speak with God, while lifting up all those others who have neither the time nor the ability to pray in this way. If our Eucharistic celebration and the Liturgy of the Hours are to remain meaningful, we need to devote ourselves constantly anew to the spiritual reading of sacred Scripture; not only to be able to decipher and explain words from the distant past, but to discover the word of comfort that the Lord is now speaking to me, the Lord who challenges me by this word. Only in this way will we be capable of bringing the inspired Word to the men and women of our time as the contemporary and living Word of God.
Eucharistic adoration is an essential way of being with the Lord. Thanks to Bishop Schraml, Altotting now has a new "treasury". Where once the treasures of the past were kept, precious historical and religious items, there is now a place for the Church's true treasure: the permanent presence of the Lord in his Sacrament. In one of his parables the Lord speaks of a treasure hidden in the field; whoever finds it sells all he has in order to buy that field, because the hidden treasure is more valuable than anything else. The hidden treasure, the good greater than any other good, is the Kingdom of God - it is Jesus himself, the Kingdom in person. In the sacred Host, he is present, the true treasure, always waiting for us. Only by adoring this presence do we learn how to receive him properly - we learn the reality of communion, we learn the Eucharistic celebration from the inside. Here I would like to quote some fine words of Saint Edith Stein, Co-Patroness of Europe, who wrote in one of her letters: "The Lord is present in the tabernacle in his divinity and his humanity. He is not there for himself, but for us: for it is his joy to be with us. He knows that we, being as we are, need to have him personally near. As a result, anyone with normal thoughts and feelings will naturally be drawn to spend time with him, whenever possible and as much as possible" (Gesammelte Werke VII, 136ff.). Let us love being with the Lord! There we can speak with him about everything. We can offer him our petitions, our concerns, our troubles. Our joys. Our gratitude, our disappointments, our needs and our aspirations. There we can also constantly ask him: "Lord send labourers into your harvest! Help me to be a good worker in your vineyard!"
Here in this Basilica, our thoughts turn to Mary, who lived her life fully "with Jesus" and consequently was, and continues to be, close to all men and women. The many votive plaques are a concrete sign of this. Let us think of Mary's holy mother, Saint Anne, and with her let us also think of the importance of mothers and fathers, of grandmothers and grandfathers, and the importance of the family as an environment of life and prayer, where we learn to pray and where vocations are able to develop.
Luke (22:14-15) has left us a record of Jesus' sentiments at the Last Supper:
14* And when the hour came, he sat at table, and the apostles with him.
15* And he said to them,
"I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer.
(Note: in Greek, "earnestly desired" is "Epithymia epethymesa"; in Latin "Desiderio desideravi". Hence, it is sometimes translated as "I have desired with a great desire", or "I have desired and desired", or "I have longed and longed".)
St John (13:1), likewise tells us:
1* Now before the feast of the Passover,
when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father,
having loved his own who were in the world,
he loved them to the end.
JOHN PAUL II'S EXAMPLE
In an interview with Inside the Vatican, Pope John Paul II's Papal secretary, Monsignor Vincent Tran Ngoc Thu (he served as John Paul's personal secretary for more than eight years, from January 1988 to February 1996) affirmed:
The foundation of this Pope's spiritual life, in my opinion, is the Mass. In his entire life he has never missed a daily Mass, even when he was sick. Whenever he is hospitalized in Rome's Gemelli Clinic, he has his own small private altar installed beside his sick bed. A priest comes to celebrate the liturgy, and the Pope, lying in bed in his vestments, surrounded by doctors, nurses, and visitors, assists as concelebrant. The Pope speaks the words of Consecration and gives the final Blessing.
The spiritual intensity with which the Holy Father prays and assists at daily Mass every morning carries him through each day. That is the greatest strength of his pontificate. I have been able to ascertain this from my close daily contact with His Holiness. The Pope remains serene and tranquil because he has established a communion with the Lord from the very first moment of his day.
The Holy Father rises every day at 5:30 AM, one hour earlier than his secretaries. He goes to his private chapel to prepare himself in prayer for the day's activities. One half hour before Mass, he gives directions to the sisters of the Papal Household. He thinks of everything - flowers for the altar, special remembrances. The papal secretaries arrange the daily Mass-book. When others arrive, they find the Holy Father already kneeling in prayer.
THE BLESSED SACRAMENT
When he was Archbishop of Cracow, Wojtyla had a desk in the chapel, and he wrote his pastoral letters before the Holy Eucharist, asking the Lord's counsel for every text he composed. Once a cardinal told me that during the last Conclave, every time a participating cardinal entered the Sistine Chapel, even in deepest night, he would find Wojtyla in one corner, kneeling in prayer.
The doors of our offices and of the Pope's private chapel remain open day and night; thus I have observed that the Holy Father kneels before the Eucharist each time he descends for his 11:00 AM audiences, and also when he returns. This type of devotion has been a lesson for us, his secretaries, and we also genuflect each time we pass the papal chapel.
It is this spiritual power which renders John Paul II fearless before every task and every person. After living with this Pope for over eight years, I fully understand why he exclaimed "Be not afraid!" in the first message of his pontificate.
The Pope is profoundly devoted to the Holy Eucharist, to the Virgin Mary and to St. Peter. I was always moved, even after many years, to find the Pope praying in his chambers. He enters his chapel and kneels down on the ground rather than on his kneeling-stool. Sometimes he supports himself with both arms and his head upon the altar.
He takes this position to show his total, filial faith in the Lord. I have often found him praying in that position.
THE GIFT OF CHARITY
When we are truly united to the vine who is Christ, the fruit of charity--the first fruit of the Spirit--shows clearly in our lives.
Monsignor Vincent Tran Ngoc Thu (he served as John Paul's personal secretary for more than eight years, from January 1988 to February 1996) affirmed:
He is very sensitive towards others' feelings and is always very respectful. To give an idea of this, I should mention that the Holy Father has two telephones, one on his office desk and one in his bedroom, in order to contact us for any necessity. Nevertheless, during the entire eight years in which I have worked as John Paul II's private secretary, he never once called me. If he needed something, he came to me in person. He often came to our offices just to ask for paper or pencils. He never raised his voice. We never experienced an outburst of bad temper. And he always asks sincerely how we are. He is a very paternal Pope.
Mary, our Mother. Pope John Paul II called you the Woman of the Eucharist. You gave Jesus the body which he offers up. And you offer yourself with him. Help us to prepare ourselves to be offered on the altar as well. Teach us to worship Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Teach us receive Him worthily in Holy Communion.
Part of John's records of our Lord's words in the Last Supper goes (16:32-33):
32* The hour is coming, indeed it has come,
when you will be scattered,
every man to his home,
and will leave me alone;
yet I am not alone,
for the Father is with me.
33* I have said this to you,
that in me you may have peace.
In the world you have tribulation;
but be of good cheer,
I have overcome the world."
The following is from Saint Francis de Sales
The everlasting God has in His wisdom foreseen from eternity the cross that He now presents to you as a gift from His inmost heart. This cross He now sends you He has considered with His all-knowing eyes, understood with His divine mind, tested with His wise justice, warmed with loving arms and weighed with His own hands to see that it be not one inch too large and not one ounce too heavy for you. He has blessed it with His holy Name, anointed it with His consolation, taken one last glance at you and your courage, and then sent it to you from heaven, a special greeting from God to you, an alms of the all-merciful love of God.
Monsignor Tran Ngoc Thu says of Pope John Paul:
The Pope confesses every week. The Pope's confessor is an elderly Polish monsignor who comes on Saturdays, or if the Pope is abroad, the following Friday. John Paul II is very rigorous concerning his spiritual duties. He makes the Stations of the Cross once a week, fasts on the appointed days, and recites the Rosary daily. During the annual Curia retreat, he listens to the Meditations and takes notes on every sermon.
THE WITNESS OF THE SAINTS
On 3 April 2006, the first anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI gave a stirring homily to the crowd in St Peter's Square:
In the First Reading from the Book of Wisdom, we were reminded of the eternal destiny that awaits the righteous: a destiny of superabundant happiness, an incomparable reward for the sufferings and trials they faced during their lives. "God tested them and found them worthy of himself; like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them" (Wis 3: 5-6).
The term "burnt offering" refers to the sacrifice in which the victim was entirely burned, consumed by the flames; consequently, it was a sign of total offering to God. This biblical expression reminds us of the mission of John Paul II, who made his life a gift to God and to the Church and, especially in the celebration of the Eucharist, lived out the sacrificial dimension of his priesthood.
Among the invocations dear to him was one that comes from the "Litanie di Gesu Cristo Sacerdote e Vittima" that he chose to place at the end of his book, Gift and Mystery, published on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the Priesthood. (cf. pp. 113-116): "Iesu, Pontifex qui tradidisti temetipsum Deo oblationem et hostiam - Jesus, High Priest who gave yourself to God as offering and victim, have mercy on us".
How frequently did he repeat this invocation! It expresses clearly the profoundly priestly character of his whole life. He never made a mystery of his desire to become increasingly one with Christ the Priest through the Eucharistic Sacrifice, a source of tireless apostolic dedication.
It was faith, of course, that was at the root of this total offering of himself. In the Second Reading that we have just heard, St Peter too uses the image of the gold tested by fire and applies it to faith (cf. I Pt 1: 7). In fact, in life's difficulties it is especially the quality of the faith of each one of us that is tried and tested: its firmness, its purity, its consistency with life. Well, the late Pontiff, whom God had endowed with multiple human and spiritual gifts, in passing through the crucible of apostolic labours and sickness, appeared more and more as a "rock" of faith.
To those who had the opportunity to be close to him, that firm and forthright faith was almost tangible. If it impressed the circle of his collaborators, it did not fail during his long Pontificate to spread its beneficial influence throughout the Church in a crescendo that reached its highest point in the last months and days of his life.
It was a convinced, strong and authentic faith - free of the fears and compromises that have infected the hearts of so many people -, thanks partly to his many Apostolic Pilgrimages in every part of the world, and especially thanks to that last "journey", his agony and his death.
The Gospel passage that has just been proclaimed helps us to understand another aspect of his human and religious personality. We might say that among the Apostles, he, the Successor of Peter, supremely imitated John the "beloved disciple", who stood under the Cross with Mary at the moment of the Redeemer's abandonment and death.
The evangelist relates that Jesus, when he saw them standing near, entrusted the one to the other: "Woman, behold, your son!"... "Behold, your mother!" (Jn 19: 26-27). The dying Lord's words were particularly dear to John Paul II. Like the Apostle and Evangelist, he too wanted to take Mary into his home: "et ex illa hora accepit eam discipulus in sua" (Jn 19: 27).
The expression "accepit eam in sua" is singularly compact. It indicates John's decision to make Mary share in his own life, so as to experience that whoever opens his heart to Mary is actually accepted by her and becomes her own. The motto that stands out in the coat of arms of the Pontificate of Pope John Paul II, Totus tuus, sums up this spiritual and mystical experience well, in a life completely oriented to Christ through Mary: "ad Iesum per Mariam".
Saint Francis de Sales gives us this prayer
O my God ... I thank you and I praise you for accomplishing your holy and all-lovable will without any regard for mine.
With my whole heart, in spite of my heart, do I receive this cross I feared so much!
It is the cross of Your choice, the cross of Your love. I venerate it; nor for anything in the world would I wish that it had not come, since You willed it.
I keep it with gratitude and with joy, as I do everything that comes from Your hand; and I shall strive to carry it without letting it drag, with all the respect and all the affection which Your works deserve. Amen.
STABAT MATER IUXTA CRUCEM
Stabat Mater Dolorosa is considered one of the seven greatest Latin hymns of all time. It is based upon the prophecy of Simeon that a sword was to pierce the heart of Our Lord's mother, Mary (Lk2:35).
At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.
Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
All His bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword had pass'd.
Oh, how sad and sore distress'd
Was that Mother highly blest
Of the sole-begotten One!
Christ above in torment hangs;
She beneath beholds the pangs
Of her dying glorious Son.
Is there one who would not weep,
Whelm'd in miseries so deep
Christ's dear Mother to behold?
Can the human heart refrain
From partaking in her pain,
In that Mother's pain untold?
Bruis'd, derided, curs'd, defil'd,
She beheld her tender child
All with bloody scourges rent.
For the sins of His own nation,
Saw Him hang in desolation,
Till His spirit forth He sent.
O thou Mother! fount of love!
Touch my spirit from above;
Make my heart with thine accord.
Make me feel as thou hast felt;
Make my soul to glow and melt
With the love of Christ our Lord.
Holy Mother! pierce me through;
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Saviour crucified.
Let me share with thee His pain,
Who for all my sins was slain,
Who for me in torments died.
Let me mingle tears with thee,
Mourning Him who mourn'd for me,
All the days that I may live.
By the cross with thee to stay,
There with thee to weep and pray,
Is all I ask of thee to give.
Virgin of all virgins best,
Listen to my fond request
Let me share thy grief divine.
Let me, to my latest breath,
In my body bear the death
Of that dying Son of thine.
Wounded with His every wound,
Steep my soul till it hath swoon'd
In His very blood away.
Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
Lest in flames I burn and die,
In His awful Judgment day.
Christ, when Thou shalt call me hence,
Be Thy Mother my defence,
Be Thy cross my victory.
While my body here decays,
May my soul Thy goodness praise,
Safe in Paradise with Thee.
BEHOLD YOUR MOTHER!
John, in chapter 19 of his gospel, relates:
25* ... But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother,
>and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
26* When Jesus saw his mother,
and the disciple whom he loved standing near,
he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!"
27 Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!"
And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
Speaking of Pope John Paul II's devotion to the Blessed Virgin, the Pope's Papal Secretary Monsignor Tran Ngoc Thu said:
It is true, he has a special devotion to the Virgin Mary. Wojtyla wrote his doctoral thesis on St. John of the Cross. He studied the writings of Louis M. Grignon de Monfort (from whom he took his bishop's motto "Totus Tuus"), St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Bernard, all "Marian" saints who deeply influenced his thought and faith. Once, around 11:30 AM, we realized that the Holy Father had not left for his 11:00 audiences. We found him in the hall, gazing intently, with his hands crossed on his chest, at an image of the Madonna on the wall. At that moment he seemed a little child gazing lovingly at his mother.
Another time, around 6:30 PM on an extremely cold December evening, we received a telephone call from an important person in a foreign government. We always requested 20 minutes for the Poe to return a call; but this time we looked everywhere and could not locate him. In desperation, I went up to the outside terrace and found him, kneeling before a small altar with an image of the Madonna of Fatima, her head covered in a black shawl. I told him: "Your Holiness, there is an extremely important call for you." The Pope continued to pray - in the cold and wind. These moments, when the Pope has a strong need for prayer, are not infrequent. Furthermore, I have seen that when he writes encyclicals or sermons, there is always a small invocation to the Mother of God in one of the margins.
HE HAS RISEN AS HE SAID
St Mark (15:1-3) narrates:
1* * And when the sabbath was past,
Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome,
bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.
2 And very early on the first day of the week
they went to the tomb when the sun had risen.
3 And they were saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?"
4 And looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back; --it was very large.
St John (20:1-9) tells us:
1* Now on the first day of the week
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark,
and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.
2 So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple,
the one whom Jesus loved,
and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him."
3* Peter then came out with the other disciple,
and they went toward the tomb.
4 They both ran,
but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first;
5 and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there,
but he did not go in.
6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb;
he saw the linen cloths lying,
7 and the napkin, which had been on his head,
not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself.
8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in,
and he saw and believed;
9* for as yet they did not know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
John records our Lord's words at the Last Supper where he speaks about a new Advocate (14:16-17). An advocate is defined as one whose profession is to plead cases in a court of justice, a technical term from Roman law.
16* And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor,
to be with you for ever,
17 even the Spirit of truth,
whom the world cannot receive,
because it neither sees him nor knows him;
you know him,
for he dwells with you,
and will be in you.
18 "I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you.
THE SPIRIT REVEALED
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us:
But the Spirit is the last of the persons of the Holy Trinity to be revealed. St. Gregory of Nazianzus, the Theologian, explains this progression in terms of the pedagogy of divine "condescension":The Old Testament proclaimed the Father clearly, but the Son more obscurely. The New Testament revealed the Son and gave us a glimpse of the divinity of the Spirit. Now the Spirit dwells among us and grants us a clearer vision of himself. It was not prudent, when the divinity of the Father had not yet been confessed, to proclaim the Son openly and, when the divinity of the Son was not yet admitted, to add the Holy Spirit as an extra burden, to speak somewhat daringly. . . .
Where can we find the Holy Spirit? The Catechism also teaches us:
The Church, a communion living in the faith of the apostles which she transmits, is the place where we know the Holy Spirit:
HOLY SPIRIT, GIVER OF GIFTS
The prophet Isaiah enumerates the gifts of the Holy Spirit (11:2-3)
2* And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. 3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
The letter to the Galatians tell us that the twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit are charity (or love), joy, peace, patience, benignity (or kindness), goodness, longanimity (or long suffering), mildness, faith, modesty, continency, and chastity. (cf Gal 5:22-23)
COME, HOLY SPIRIT!
Come, Holy Spirit, come,
and from your celestial home
shed a ray of light divine.
Come, Father of the poor,
Come, source of all our store.
Come, within our bosoms shine.
You, of comforters best;
You the soul's most welcome guest.
Sweet refreshment here below.
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
O most Blessed Light Divine,
shine within these hearts of thine,
and our inmost being fill.
Where you are not, man has naught.
Nothing good in deed or thought
Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away.
Bend the stubborn heart and will.
Melt the frozen, warm the chill.
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore.
And confess you, evermore.
In Your sev'nfold gift descend.
Give us virtue's sure reward.
Give us your salvation, Lord.
Give us joys that never end. Amen. Alleluia.