2 November 2023

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Categories: Homilies / Messages

“…listen to his voice! Harden not your hearts” (Psalm 95.8)

These words are in fact from the responsorial psalm on 10 September 2023, the day our diocese celebrated Catholic Education Sunday. Whether we are a student or an educator, a parent or a parishioner, they remind us whose voice must ultimately matter to us: the Lord’s.
From the Homily by Rev Fr Adrian Danker, on 10 Sept 2023.

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16 December 2021

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Tags: Educators, Parents, Students

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Categories: Homilies / Messages, Reflections

Happy New Liturgical Year! Advent marks a new year in the Catholic Church. This is an important time of spiritual preparation for Christmas. Just as we prepare for the glorious joy of Easter with Lenten fasting and penance, so do we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ with the quiet contemplation of Advent.

“Advent” is derived from the Latin ad venio, “to come”. This liturgical season anticipates the Adventus Domini, the coming of the Lord. The sublime secret is that Christ is already here: He has been present in Mary’s womb since the Annunciation on 25 March.

Pope Benedict XVI taught us in his book Dogma and Preaching:

“Advent” does not mean “expectation,” as some may think. It is a translation of the Greek word parousia which means “presence” or, more accurately, “arrival,”, i.e., the beginning of a presence. In antiquity the word was a technical term for the presence of a king or ruler and also for the god being worshipped, who bestows his parousia on his devotees for a time.“Advent,” then, means a presence begun, the presence being that of God. Advent reminds us, therefore, of two things: first, that God’s presence in the world has already begun, that He is present though in a hidden manner; second, that His presence has only begun and is not yet full and complete, that it is in a state of development, of becoming and progressing toward its full form.

His presence has already begun, and we, the faithful, are the ones through whom He wishes to be present in the world. Through our faith, hope, and love He wants his light to shine over and over again in the night of the world.

That night is “today” whenever the “Word” becomes “flesh” or genuine human reality. The Christ child comes in a real sense whenever human beings act out of authentic love for the Lord.

 

Advent is also a time in which we call to mind Christ’s Second Coming and prepare our hearts to receive Him at the end of days. We look forward to the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come, with the restoration of all creation ending our exile in this vale of tears. Various Advent traditions include the Jesse tree, which traces salvation history through Jesus’ genealogy; the Advent calendar, with a surprise for each day we count down to Christmas; and the Advent wreath, with candles representing Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. Does your family practise any of these traditions? They can be both a fun and prayerful way to anticipate the magnificent celebration of Christ’s birth.

A beautiful Advent prayer is the St Andrew Christmas Novena, which encapsulates a deep longing for God’s arrival in the dark night of a world in need of a Saviour, a world hungering for Love. This Advent, let us be open to God’s quiet presence amidst the hustle and bustle of life, making room for Him to be born in our hearts so that we may bear Him to every person we meet, irradiating their lives with joy.

 

St Andrew Christmas Novena

Hail, and blessed be the hour and moment
at which the Son of God was born of a most pure Virgin
at a stable at midnight in Bethlehem in the piercing cold.
At that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee,
to hear my prayers and grant my desires.
(Mention your intentions here)
Through Jesus Christ and His most Blessed Mother. Amen.

8 October 2021

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Tags: Educators, Parents, Students

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Categories: Homilies / Messages, Reflections

In school, teachers often repeat learning points so that they will sink into our heads and hopefully surface when required. As we study at home, we memorise and exercise knowledge through repetition. This also applies to muscle memory, as exemplified in the 1984 movie The Karate Kid. Musicians, dancers and athletes train for hours, going through the same motions over and over again, until they perfect their performances. Acquiring basic life skills like cooking, riding a bicycle or driving a car also entails repetition, until the actions and knowledge involved become second nature.

The same principle applies in the spiritual life. In Jewish custom, ancient prayers like the Psalms are recited every day. Catholic monks and nuns continued this tradition through reciting the Divine Office eight times a day, praying all 150 Psalms every week in the Middle Ages. As laypeople were mostly illiterate and could not learn the psalms, they began to pray 150 Hail Mary‘s in honour of the Incarnation (based on Luke 1:28 and Luke 1:42), interspersed with the Our Father and Glory Be to the Holy Trinity. These are said while contemplating the principle events in the lives of Jesus and Mary. The Rosary is a thoroughly scriptural prayer.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus cautioned us not to pray “vain repetitions as the Gentiles do” (Matthew 6:7). He was an observant Jew and would certainly have memorised the Psalms through many days of prayer; indeed, He quotes them while dying on the cross. In this Gospel, He was warning His disciples against the superstitious ways of the pagans, whose idea of prayer and sacrifice was simply to appease their capricious gods by saying the “right” words, regardless of their inner dispositions.

 

Jesus goes on to teach His disciples to repeat His personal prayer, which we know as the Our Father or the Lord’s Prayer. In this prayer, we address God intimately, identifying ourselves as His children. The Our Father contains the four cardinal points of prayer: adoration, supplication, repentance and thanksgiving. By reciting this prayer with sincerity, we learn how to speak with God the Father as Jesus does; we are drawn into the divine life of the Holy Trinity. This simple prayer is so rich that the early Church Father Origen wrote a whole treatise on it.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen reflected on the Rosary:

‘The beautiful truth is that there is no repetition in, “I love you.” Because there is a new moment of time, another point in space, the words do not mean the same as they did at another time or space.

Love is never monotonous in the uniformity of its expression. The mind is infinitely variable in its language, but the heart is not. The heart of a man, in the face of the woman he loves, is too poor to translate the infinity of his affection into a different word. So the heart takes one expression, “I love you,” and in saying it over and over again, it never repeats. It is the only real news in the universe. That is what we do when we say the Rosary, we are saying to God, the Trinity, to the Incarnate Saviour, to the Blessed Mother: “I love you, I love you, I love you.”

Each time it means something different because, at each decade, our mind is moving to a new demonstration of the Saviour’s love.’

This month of October is the Month of the Holy Rosary. Even if you cannot commit to five decades a day – which takes about fifteen to twenty minutes – try meditating on one decade a day, perhaps while travelling to school. St Louis de Monfort suggested: “In each mystery, after the word Jesus, add a word to recall and honour the particular mystery. For example: Jesus incarnateJesus sanctifying, etc. as it is indicated at each decade.”

As St Josemaría Escrivá said: “Blessed be that monotony of Hail Mary’s which purifies the monotony of your sins!” The Dominican friar Lacordaire observed: “For Christians, the first of books is the Gospel and the Rosary is actually the abridgement of the Gospel.” Deepen your relationship with God and His mother with this timeless prayer.

27 September 2021

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Tags: Educators, Parents, Students

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Categories: Homilies / Messages, Reflections

September is the month of Our Lady of Sorrows, whose feast was celebrated on the 15th of this month, the day after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Mother Mary, the first disciple of Christ from the moment He was incarnated in her womb, is the pre-eminent example of compassion, the ability to suffer with another person. Her Immaculate Heart was pierced by the sharp sword of sorrow as she watched her only son, her beloved God, suffer and die on Calvary.

Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen wrote in Calvary and the Mass:

“Have you ever remarked that practically every traditional representation of the Crucifixion always pictures Magdalene on her knees at the foot of the crucifix? But you have never yet seen an image of the Blessed Mother prostrate. John was there and he tells in his Gospel that she stood. He saw her stand. But why did she stand? She stood to be of service to us. She stood to be our minister, our Mother.

If Mary could have prostrated herself at that moment as Magdalene did, if she could have only wept, her sorrow would have had an outlet. The sorrow that cries is never the sorrow that breaks the heart. It is the heart that can find no outlet in the fountain of tears which cracks; it is the heart that cannot have an emotional break-down that breaks. And all that sorrow was part of our purchase price paid by our Co-Redemptrix, Mary the Mother of God!”

Today is the feast of St Vincent de Paul, a saint who also exemplifies compassion, known for his charitable works. Vincent’s father paid for his education by selling the family’s oxen. His father believed that a good ecclesiastical career would enable Vincent to be financially independent and help support his family.

Educated by Franciscan friars in France, the young Fr de Paul was captured by pirates and sold into slavery (like St Patrick). His third owner had forsaken Catholicism, but Fr de Paul brought him back to the faith; they fled by night over the sea to France, from whence Fr de Paul accompanied a cardinal to Rome. From there, in 1609 Fr de Paul was chosen to go on a secret mission to the court of Henry IV, King of France. That’s when he met Queen Marguerite and became her almoner, that is, a chaplain who is in charge of distributing money to the poor.

In 1617, Fr de Paul established confraternities of charity for the spiritual and physical relief of the poor and sick of each parish. From these, with the help of St. Louise de Marillac, came the Daughters of Charity, “whose convent is the sickroom, whose chapel is the parish church, whose cloister is the streets of the city.”

Fr de Paul organised the rich women of Paris to collect funds for his missionary projects, founded several hospitals, collected relief funds for the victims of war and ransomed over 1,200 galley slaves from North Africa. Fr de Paul reflected:

“It is not sufficient for me to love God if I do not love my neighbour. I belong to God and to the poor. God loves the poor, and consequently He loves those who have an affection for the poor. For when we love anyone very much, we also love his friends.”

The Daughters of Charity were long renowned for their work in orphanages, homes for the aged, and hospitals. They were the first active Order created for women and their particular style of dress reflected the clothes worn by peasant women in St. Vincent’s native Normandy. Yet their most important contribution, perhaps, is the fact that they were among the first professional nurses. Until Florence Nightingale came around with the Red Cross, nursing was strictly an occupation that was left to women religious and others who could share in their work. In this, the Daughters of Charity were truly pioneers.

Here is a description of them:

The Daughter of Charity is one of the sights of Paris, the city of her birth. She is more omnipresent than the gendarme. In her billowing blue gown and white headdress she walks the boulevards, the back streets, the alleys. She descends into the depths of the metro and climbs to the heights of the garret.

She is never without the huge market basket slung over one arm, and packed with the foods and medicines of her trade, nor the black cotton protect her starched white linen from the sudden rain. She moves ceaselessly, silently, seemingly unaware of the bustle and roar about her, seeking her quarry; and her quarry is always the same: the poor, the hungry poor, the sick poor, the evil poor – but always poor.

Her convent is the house of the sick, her cell the chamber of suffering, her chapel the parish church, her cloister the streets of the city or the wards of the hospital; obedience is her enclosure, the fear of God her grate, and modesty her veil.

May we learn from St Vincent de Paul and his Daughters of Charity to be truly compassionate disciples of Christ, bearing love for every person. As the hymn to his compatriot Father Nicholas Barré says:

“Touch many hearts to follow in your footsteps
To dedicate their lives to youth and poor
Drawn by the Lord to make Christ known and loved
Fill us with zeal, humility and faith
Pure love and strength and courage without fear
To keep your spirit alive in our hearts.”

Such compassion is the fruit of a truly Catholic education.