Every time we say the creed, we note that Jesus “descended into hell.” Holy Saturday is the day that commemorates this event. What happened on this day, and how do we celebrate it? Here are 12 things you need to know.

1. What happened on the first Holy Saturday?

Here on earth, Jesus’ disciples mourned his death and, since it was a sabbath day, they rested.

Luke notes that the women returned home “and prepared spices and ointments. On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment” (Luke 23:56).

At the tomb, the guards that had been stationed there kept watch over the place to make sure that the disciples did not steal Jesus’ body.

Meanwhile . . .

2. What happened to Jesus while he was dead?

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

633 Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, “hell” – Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek – because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God.

Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the Redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into “Abraham’s bosom”:

“It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Saviour in Abraham’s bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell.”

Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.

634 “The gospel was preached even to the dead.” The descent into hell brings the Gospel message of salvation to complete fulfillment.

This is the last phase of Jesus’ messianic mission, a phase which is condensed in time but vast in its real significance: the spread of Christ’s redemptive work to all men of all times and all places, for all who are saved have been made sharers in the redemption.

3. How do we commemorate this day?

According to the main document governing the celebrations connected with Easter, Paschales Solemnitatis:

73. On Holy Saturday the Church is, as it were, at the Lord’s tomb, meditating on his passion and death, and on his descent into hell, and awaiting his resurrection with prayer and fasting.

It is highly recommended that on this day the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer be celebrated with the participation of the people (cf. n. 40).

Where this cannot be done, there should be some celebration of the Word of God, or some act of devotion suited to the mystery celebrated this day.

74. The image of Christ crucified or lying in the tomb, or the descent into hell, which mystery Holy Saturday recalls, as also an image of the sorrowful Virgin Mary can be placed in the church for the veneration of the faithful.

Fasting is also encouraged, but not required, on this day.

4. Are the sacraments celebrated?

For the most part, no. Paschales Solemnitatis explains:

75. On this day the Church abstains strictly from the celebration of the sacrifice of the Mass.

Holy Communion may only be given in the form of Viaticum.

The celebration of marriages is forbidden, as also the celebration of other sacraments, except those of Penance and the Anointing of the Sick.

The prohibition on saying Mass applies to the part of the day before the Easter Vigil Mass (see below). Baptism in danger of death is also permitted.

5. What is the Easter Vigil?

A vigil is the liturgical commemoration of a notable feast, held on the evening preceding the feast.

The term comes from the Latin word vigilia, which means “wakefulness,” and which came to be used when the faithful stayed awake to pray and do devotional exercises in anticipation of the feast.

Easter Vigil is the vigil held on the evening before Easter.

According to Paschales Solemnitatis.

80. From the very outset the Church has celebrated that annual Pasch, which is the solemnity of solemnities, above all by means of a night vigil.

For the resurrection of Christ is the foundation of our faith and hope, and through Baptism and Confirmation we are inserted into the Paschal Mystery of Christ, dying, buried, and raised with him, and with him we shall also reign.

The full meaning of Vigil is a waiting for the coming of the Lord.

6. When should Easter Vigil be celebrated?

Paschales Solemnitatis explains:

78. “The entire celebration of the Easter Vigil takes place at night. It should not begin before nightfall; it should end before daybreak on Sunday.”

This rule is to be taken according to its strictest sense. Reprehensible are those abuses and practices which have crept into many places in violation of this ruling, whereby the Easter Vigil is celebrated at the time of day that it is customary to celebrate anticipated Sunday Masses.

Those reasons which have been advanced in some quarters for the anticipation of the Easter Vigil, such as lack of public order, are not put forward in connection with Christmas night, nor other gatherings of various kinds.

7. What happens at the Easter Vigil?

According to Paschales Solemnitatis:

81. The order for the Easter Vigil is arranged so that

  • after the service of light and the Easter Proclamation (which is the first part of the Vigil),
  • Holy Church meditates on the wonderful works which the Lord God wrought for his people from the earliest times (the second part or Liturgy of the Word),
  • to the moment when, together with those new members reborn in Baptism (third part),
  • she is called to the table prepared by the Lord for his Church—the commemoration of his death and resurrection—until he comes (fourth part).

8. What happens during the service of light?
According to Paschales Solemnitatis:

82. . . . In so far as possible, a suitable place should be prepared outside the church for the blessing of the new fire, whose flames should be such that they genuinely dispel the darkness and light up the night.

The paschal candle should be prepared, which for effective symbolism must be made of wax, never be artificial, be renewed each year, be only one in number, and be of sufficiently large size so that it may evoke the truth that Christ is the light of the world. It is blessed with the signs and words prescribed in the Missal or by the Conference of Bishops.

83. The procession, by which the people enter the church, should be led by the light of the paschal candle alone. Just as the children of Israel were guided at night by a pillar of fire, so similarly, Christians follow the risen Christ. There is no reason why to each response “Thanks be to God” there should not be added some acclamation in honor of Christ.

The light from the paschal candle should be gradually passed to the candles which it is fitting that all present should hold in their hands, the electric lighting being switched off.

9. What happens during the Easter Proclamation?

According to Paschales Solemnitatis:

84. The deacon makes the Easter Proclamation which tells, by means of a great poetic text, the whole Easter mystery placed in the context of the economy of salvation.

In case of necessity, where there is no deacon, and the celebrating priest is unable to sing it, a cantor may do so.
The Bishops’ Conferences may adapt this proclamation by inserting into it acclamations from the people.

10. What happens during the Scripture readings?

According to Paschales Solemnitatis:

85. The readings from Sacred Scripture constitute the second part of the Vigil. They give an account of the outstanding deeds of the history of salvation, which the faithful are helped to meditate calmly upon by the singing of the responsorial psalm, by a silent pause and by the celebrant’s prayer.

The restored Order for the Vigil has seven readings from the Old Testament chosen from the Law and the Prophets, which are in use everywhere according to the most ancient tradition of East and West, and two readings from the New Testament, namely from the Apostle and from the Gospel.

Thus the Church, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets” explains Christ’s Paschal Mystery.

Consequently wherever this is possible, all the readings should be read so that the character of the Easter Vigil, which demands that it be somewhat prolonged, be respected at all costs.

Where, however, pastoral conditions require that the number of readings be reduced, there should be at least three readings from the Old Testament, taken from the Law and the Prophets; the reading from Exodus chapter 14 with its canticle must never be omitted.

87. After the readings from the Old Testament, the hymn “Gloria in excelsis” is sung, the bells are rung in accordance with local custom, the collect is recited, and the celebration moves on to the readings from the New Testament. An exhortation from the Apostle on Baptism as an insertion into Christ’s Paschal Mystery is read.

Then all stand and the priest intones the “Alleluia” three times, each time raising the pitch. The people repeat it after him.

If it is necessary, the psalmist or cantor may sing the “Alleluia,” which the people then take up as an acclamation to be interspersed between the verses of Psalm 117, so often cited by the Apostles in their Easter preaching.

Finally, the resurrection of the Lord is proclaimed from the Gospel as the high point of the whole Liturgy of the Word.

After the Gospel a homily is to be given, no matter how brief.

11. What happens during the baptismal liturgy?

According to Paschales Solemnitatis:

88. The third part of the Vigil is the baptismal liturgy. Christ’s passover and ours is now celebrated.

This is given full expression in those churches which have a baptismal font, and more so when the Christian initiation of adults is held, or at least the Baptism of infants.

Even if there are no candidates for Baptism, the blessing of baptismal water should still take place in parish churches. If this blessing does not take place at the baptismal font, but in the sanctuary, baptismal water should be carried afterwards to the baptistry there to be kept throughout the whole of paschal time.

Where there are neither candidates for Baptism nor any need to bless the font, Baptism should be commemorated by the blessing of water destined for sprinkling upon the people.

89. Next follows the renewal of baptismal promises, introduced by some words on the part of the celebrating priest.

The faithful reply to the questions put to them, standing and holding lighted candles in their hands. They are then sprinkled with water: in this way the gestures and words remind them of the Baptism they have received.

The celebrating priest sprinkles the people by passing through the main part of the church while all sing the antiphon “Vidi aquam” or another suitable song of a baptismal character.

12. What happens during the Eucharistic liturgy?

According to Paschales Solemnitatis:

90. The celebration of the Eucharist forms the fourth part of the Vigil and marks its high point, for it is in the fullest sense the Easter Sacrament, that is to say, the commemoration of the Sacrifice of the Cross and the presence of the risen Christ, the completion of Christian initiation, and the foretaste of the eternal pasch.

92. It is fitting that in the Communion of the Easter Vigil full expression be given to the symbolism of the Eucharist, namely by consuming the Eucharist under the species of both bread and wine. The local Ordinaries will consider the appropriateness of such a concession and its ramifications.

from ncregister.com

Posted on Ave Maria

 

Today, during this Holy Thursday of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, I would like to speak of two areas in which the Lord shows excess in mercy.  Based on his example, we also should not hesitate in showing excess.  The first area I am referring to is encounter; the second is God’s forgiveness, which shames us while also giving us dignity.

The first area where we see God showing excess in his ever-increasing mercy is that of encounter.  He gives himself completely and in such a way that every encounter leads to rejoicing.  In the parable of the Merciful Father we are astounded by the man who runs, deeply moved, to his son, and throws his arms around him; we see how he embraces his son, kisses him, puts a ring on his finger, and then gives him his sandals, thus showing that he is a son and not a servant.  Finally, he gives orders to everyone and organizes a party.  In contemplating with awe this superabundance of the Father’s joy that is freely and boundlessly expressed when his son returns, we should not be fearful of exaggerating our gratitude.  Our attitude should be that of the poor leper who, seeing himself healed, leaves his nine friends who go off to do what Jesus ordered, and goes back to kneel at the feet of the Lord, glorifying and thanking God aloud.

Mercy restores everything; it restores dignity to each person.  This is why effusive gratitude is the proper response: we have to go the party, to put on our best clothes, to cast off the rancour of the elder brother, to rejoice and give thanks…  Only in this way, participating fully in such rejoicing, is it possible to think straight, to ask for forgiveness, and see more clearly how to make up for the evil we have committed.  It would be good for us to ask ourselves: after going to confession, do I rejoice?  Or do I move on immediately to the next thing, as we would after going to the doctor, when we hear that the test results are not so bad and put them back in their envelope?  And when I give alms, do I give time to the person who receives them to express their gratitude, do I celebrate the smile and the blessings that the poor offer, or do I continue on in haste with my own affairs after tossing in a coin?

Magdalena washes Christ's feetThe second area in which we see how God exceeds in his ever greater mercy is forgiveness itself.   God does not only forgive incalculable debts, as he does to that servant who begs for mercy but is then miserly to his own debtor; he also enables us to move directly from the most shameful disgrace to the highest dignity without any intermediary stages.  The Lords allows the forgiven woman to wash his feet with her tears.  As soon as Simon confesses his sin and begs Jesus to send him away, the Lord raises him to be a fisher of men.  We, however, tend to separate these two attitudes: when we are ashamed of our sins, we hide ourselves and walk around with our heads down, like Adam and Eve; and when we are raised up to some dignity, we try to cover up our sins and take pleasure in being seen, almost showing off.

excerpt from Pope Francis’ Homily during the Chrism Mass, 24 March 2016

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As you enter into this retreat, recall that you bring with you your own private prayer trolley–your hopes and dreams, your fears and anxieties–for yourself and for those you love.

Click here to visit Pins of Light’s online retreat

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“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (cf. Lk 19:38), the crowd of Jerusalem exclaimed joyfully as they welcomed Jesus. We have made that enthusiasm our own: by waving our olive and palm branches we have expressed our praise and our joy, our desire to receive Jesus who comes to us. Just as he entered Jerusalem, so he desires to enter our cities and our lives. As he did in the Gospel, riding on a donkey, so too he comes to us in humility; he comes “in the name of the Lord”. Through the power of his divine love he forgives our sins and reconciles us to the Father and with ourselves.

Jesus is pleased with the crowd’s showing their affection for him. When the Pharisees ask him to silence the children and the others who are acclaiming him, he responds: “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Lk 19:40). Nothing could dampen their enthusiasm for Jesus’ entry. May nothing prevent us from finding in him the source of our joy, true joy, which abides and brings peace; for it is Jesus alone who saves us from the snares of sin, death, fear and sadness.

Today’s liturgy teaches us that the Lord has not saved us by his triumphal entry or by means of powerful miracles. The Apostle Paul, in the second reading, epitomizes in two verbs the path of redemption: Jesus “emptied” and “humbled” himself (Phil 2:7-8). These two verbs show the boundlessness of God’s love for us. Jesus emptied himself: he did not cling to the glory that was his as the Son of God, but became the Son of man in order to be in solidarity with us sinners in all things; yet he was without sin. Even more, he lived among us in “the condition of a servant” (v. 7); not of a king or a prince, but of a servant. Therefore he humbled himself, and the abyss of his humiliation, as Holy Week shows us, seems to be bottomless.

Jesus Washing Peter's Feet by Ford Madox BrownThe first sign of this love “without end” (Jn 13:1) is the washing of the feet. “The Lord and Master” (Jn 13:14) stoops to his disciples’ feet, as only servants would have done. He shows us by example that we need to allow his love to reach us, a love which bends down to us; we cannot do any less, we cannot love without letting ourselves be loved by him first, without experiencing his surprising tenderness and without accepting that true love consists in concrete service.

But this is only the beginning. The humiliation of Jesus reaches its utmost in the Passion: he is sold for thirty pieces of silver and betrayed by the kiss of a disciple whom he had chosen and called his friend. Nearly all the others flee and abandon him; Peter denies him three times in the courtyard of the temple. Humiliated in his spirit by mockery, insults and spitting, he suffers in his body terrible brutality: the blows, the scourging and the crown of thorns make his face unrecognizable. He also experiences shame and disgraceful condemnation by religious and political authorities: he is made into sin and considered to be unjust. Pilate then sends him to Herod, who in turn sends him to the Roman governor. Even as every form of justice is denied to him, Jesus also experiences in his own flesh indifference, since no one wishes to take responsibility for his fate. And I think of the many people, so many outcasts, so many asylum seekers, so many refugees, all of those for whose fate no one wishes to take responsibility. The crowd, who just a little earlier had acclaimed him, now changes their praise into a cry of accusation, even to the point of preferring that a murderer be released in his place. And so the hour of death on the cross arrives, that most painful form of shame reserved for traitors, slaves and the worst kind of criminals. But isolation, defamation and pain are not yet the full extent of his deprivation. To be totally in solidarity with us, he also experiences on the Cross the mysterious abandonment of the Father. In his abandonment, however, he prays and entrusts himself: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Lk 23:46). Hanging from the wood of the cross, beside derision he now confronts the last temptation: to come down from the Cross, to conquer evil by might and to show the face of a powerful and invincible God. Jesus, however, even here at the height of his annihilation, reveals the true face of God, which is mercy. He forgives those who are crucifying him, he opens the gates of paradise to the repentant thief and he touches the heart of the centurion. If the mystery of evil is unfathomable, then the reality of Love poured out through him is infinite, reaching even to the tomb and to hell. He takes upon himself all our pain that he may redeem it, bringing light to darkness, life to death, love to hatred.

God’s way of acting may seem so far removed from our own, that he was annihilated for our sake, while it seems difficult for us to even forget ourselves a little. He comes to save us; we are called to choose his way: the way of service, of giving, of forgetfulness of ourselves. Let us walk this path, pausing in these days to gaze upon the Crucifix; it is the “royal seat of God”. I invite you during this week to gaze often upon this “royal seat of God”, to learn about the humble love which saves and gives life, so that we may give up all selfishness, and the seeking of power and fame. By humbling himself, Jesus invites us to walk on his path. Let us turn our faces to him, let us ask for the grace to understand at least something of the mystery of his obliteration for our sake; and then, in silence, let us contemplate the mystery of this Week.

Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis, 20 March 2016 Palm Sunday

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(John 9: 1-41)

Once a blind man and a crossed eyed were starting a fight.  The blind shouted angrily, “Coward, come out of the dark and fight!”  The cross-eyed shouted back, “Unfair.  One at a time!”

Our gospel today is about blindness – the theme of light and darkness.  Fr. Mark Link wrote about theexperiences of blindness of two other men.  The first one is Jack Abbot, who spent all but one year of his life in reform schools and prisons since he was 12.  And about 15 of these years have been spent in solitary confinement.  One of his worst solitary experiences was the so-called “blackout” cell,which Abbott describes this way:

“It was in total darkness.  Not a crack of light entered the cell….  The darkness was so absolute it waslike being in ink.  The only light I saw was when I closed my eyes.  Then there was before me a vivid burst of brilliance, of color, like fireworks.  When I opened my eyes, it would vanish….  My eyes hungered for light, for color, the way someone’s dry mouth hunger for saliva.”

Another experience of blindness was that of a man named Evans.  After being blind for 51 years, Evens received sight through a surgery.  Describing how it felt to see for the first time, he says:

 “It’s the most amazing thing in the world….  I can’t wait to get up each day to see what I can see….  Everything is like a constant high.”

 

These two stories give us an insight into how the man born blind felt when Jesus gave him physical sight.  But in the Gospel, there is a more important miracle that takes place.  In the story of the blind man, John, the evangelist, describes for us how Jesus brings us to insight.  The blind man’s miracle of physical sight was nothing compared to the second miracle Jesus worked for him.  That was the miracle of spiritual sight, the gift of faith, which Jesus also gave him.  And it is this second miracle, the gift of faith that John stresses in today’s Gospel.

The first thing John implies is that the gift of faith takes place gradually, not all at once.  John describes the miracle as taking place in three stages.  The first stage comes, when some people ask the blind man about his cure.  The blind man replies, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’  So, I went there and washed and was able to see.”  And so the blind man’s first perception of Jesus is that he is a man – a remarkable man, but just a man.

 The second stage in the blind man’s gift of spiritual sight comes, when the Pharisees interrogated him.  They ask, “What do you have to say about [Jesus], since he opened your eyes?”

The man replies, “He is a prophet.”  The blind man’s answer reveals a growth in his understanding of Jesus.  His spiritual vision of Jesus takes a giant leap forward.  The more he thinks about what happened, the more convinced the blind man becomes that Jesus must be more than just another man.  He must be a man of God, a prophet!

This brings us to the third stage of the blind man’s perception of Jesus.  Later on in the day, the blind man meets Jesus face-to-face.  Remember, Jesus was no longer around when the man returned with his sight after washing in the pool of Siloam.  Now, Jesus looks into the man’s eyes and says, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

The man answers, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”

Jesus responds, “You have seen him and the one speaking with you is he.”

“I do believe, Lord,” the man replies, and he falls on his knees before Jesus.

And so the man’s spiritual vision of Jesus takes its final leap forward.
He perceives Jesus to be more than a man.
He perceives Jesus to be more than a prophet.
He perceives Jesus to be the Lord,
before whom “every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”

And so the man’s spiritual sight, his gift of faith, is far more miraculous than his gift of physical sight.

This brings us to the question:  What does the cure of the blind man’s gift of faith in Jesus say to us?  There is a similarity between us and the man born blind.

It is that our gift of faith in Jesus did not come all at once either.  It too came gradually, by stages.  For example, when we were small, the first picture we had of Jesus was that of a man – a remarkable man, but still only a man.

As we grew olderour perception of Jesus also grew.  And our perception of Jesus continues to grow, even to this day, regardless of how old we are.

One of the exciting things about Jesus is that the older we get, the more we learn about him.  And the more we learn about him, the more remarkable he becomes.

In other relationships it’s usually just the opposite.  The more we learn about a person, the more we become aware of his or her shortcomings.  With Jesus the opposite is true.  The more we learn about Jesus, the more exciting and the more glorious he becomes.

Let us close with these thoughts about our Lord and Savior from Fr. Mark Link, S.J.:

Jesus comes to each one of us
As he came to people in biblical times.
He comes as a remarkable man.

He speaks the same three words to us

That he spoke to people in biblical times:
“Come, follow me.”

And if we follow him,
As did the people in biblical times,
Jesus will reveal himself to us step by step.
Then some morning,
When the sun rises in the sky,
We too will eventually come to see
What they saw.
Then we too will fall on our knees
Before Jesus and say to him,

“We believe, Lord!

We believe you are the Son of God!”

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Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle asks the faithful to feed the hungry children as their concrete act of charity in this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, in his Pastoral Letter for Ash Wednesday, February 10.

He proposes this act to be done in particular through, Fast2Feed, the Hapag-Asa Feeding program of Pondo ng Pinoy of the Archdiocese of Manila and its suffragan dioceses, which provides not only supplemental feeding but also early childhood education and livelihood and skills training for parents.

The Cardinal reports that last year, donations provided more than 21,000 malnourished and undernourished children in the Pondo ng Pinoy member dioceses with warm and nutritious meals every day for six months. The program’s goal for this year is to feed 25,000 children.

The Fast2Feed program asks people to fast and donate the money that would otherwise be spent for food to Hapag-Asa. Donations can be made through Fast2Feed envelopes distributed in parishes, and the envelopes may be offered during the Mass, or turned over to the parish office, or donors may deposit their donations in designation banks.

Ash Wednesday signals the start of Lent, the season for Catholic Christians especially to do good works, fast and pray. And with the Jubilee of Mercy being observed by the Universal Church, Lent should be a particular occasion to “heed Pope Francis’ call to practice mercy through concrete acts of charity.”

“It only takes Php1,200 or ten pesos a day to bring back a hungry and malnourished child to a healthy state in six months. Let us make a difference in their lives by fasting and donating whatever we save to Hapag-Asa. Let us FAST2FEED,” the Cardinal said.

Please call 632-1001 to 03 or visit  www.hapagasafeeding.com for more details.  God bless.

Posted on Ave Maria

 

The Word of God, at the start of the Lenten journey, addresses two invitations to the Church and to each of us.

The first is that of St Paul: “be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). It is not simply good fatherly advice, neither is it just a suggestion; it is a bona fide supplication on Christ’s behalf: “We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (ibid.). Why does he make such a solemn and earnest appeal? Because Christ knows how fragile and sinful we are, he knows the weakness of our heart. He immediately sees it wounded by the evil we have committed. He knows how much we need forgiveness, he knows that it is important for us to feel loved in order to do good. We cannot do it alone: this is why the Apostle does not tell us to do something but to allow ourselves to be reconciled with God, to let him forgive us, with trust, because “God is greater than our hearts” (1 Jn 3:20). He conquers sin and lifts us out of misery, if we let him. It is up to us to acknowledge that we need mercy. This is the first step on the Christian path; it entails entering through the open door which is Christ, where he, the Saviour, awaits us and offers us a new and joyful life.

There may be a few obstacles, which close the door of the heart. There is the temptation to lock the doors, or to live with our sin, minimizing it, always justifying it, thinking we are no worse than others; this, however, is how the locks of the soul are closed and we remain shut inside, prisoners of evil. Another obstacle is the shame of opening the secret door of the heart. Shame, in reality, is a good symptom, because it shows that we want to break away from evil; however, it must never be transformed into apprehension or fear. There is a third pitfall, that of distancing ourselves from the door: it happens when we hide in our misery, when we ruminate constantly, connecting it to negative things, until sinking into the darkest repositories of the soul. Then we even become kindred with the sorrow that we do not want, we become discouraged and we are weaker in the face of temptations. This happens because we bide alone with ourselves, closing ourselves off and avoiding the light; while the Lord’s grace alone frees us. Therefore let us be reconciled, let us listen to Jesus who says to those who are weary and oppressed: “Come to me” (Mt 11:28). Not to dwell within themselves, but to go to him! Comfort and peace are there.

At this celebration the Missionaries of Mercy are present, to receive the mandate to be signs and instruments of God’s forgiveness. Dear brothers, may you help to open the doors of hearts, to overcome shame, not to avoid the light. May your hands bless and lift up brothers and sisters with paternity; through you may the gaze and the hands of God rest on his children and heal them of their wounds!

There is a second invitation of God, who says, through the prophet Joel: “return to me with all your heart” (2:12). If we need to return it is because we have distanced ourselves. It is the mystery of sin: we have distanced ourselves from God, from others, from ourselves. It is not difficult to realize this: we all see how we struggle to truly trust in God, to entrust ourselves to him as Father, without fear; as it is challenging to love others, rather than thinking badly of them; how it costs us to do our true good, while we are attracted and seduced by so many material realities, which disappear and in the end leave us impoverished. Alongside this history of sin, Jesus inaugurated a history of salvation. The Gospel which opens Lent calls us to be protagonists, embracing three remedies, three medicines which heal us from sin (cf. Mt 6:1-6, 16-18).

In the first place is prayer, an expression of openness and trust in the Lord: it is the personal encounter with him, which shortens the distances created by sin. Praying means saying: “I am not self-sufficient, I need You, You are my life and my salvation”. In the second place is charity, in order to overcome our lack of involvement with regard to others. True love, in fact, is not an outward act, it is not giving something in a paternalistic way in order to assuage the conscience, but to accept those who are in need of our time, our friendship, our help. It means living to serve, overcoming the temptation to satisfy ourselves. In the third place isfasting, penance, in order to free ourselves from dependencies regarding what is passing, and to train ourselves to be more sensitive and merciful. It is an invitation to simplicity and to sharing: to take something from our table and from our assets in order to once again find the true benefit of freedom.

“Return to me” — says the Lord — “return with all your heart”: not only with a few outward deeds, but from the depths of our selves. Indeed, Jesus calls us to live prayer, charity and penance with consistency and authenticity, overcoming hypocrisy. May Lent be a beneficial time to “prune” falseness, worldliness, indifference: so as not to think that everything is fine if I am fine; so as to understand that what counts is not approval, the search for success or consensus, but the cleansing of the heart and of life; so as to find again our Christian identity, namely, the love that serves, not the selfishness that serves us. Let us embark on the journey together, as Church, by receiving Ashes — we too will become ashes — and keeping our gaze fixed on the Crucifix. He, loving us, invites us to be reconciled with God and to return to him, in order to find ourselves again.

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
Ash Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Posted on Pope Francis Support

 

The words of the Prophet Isaiah – addressed to the Holy City of Jerusalem – are also meant for us. They call us to rise and go forth, to leave behind all that keeps us self-enclosed, to go out from ourselves and to recognize the splendour of the light which illumines our lives: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (60:1). That “light” is the glory of the Lord. The Church cannot illude herself into thinking that she shines with her own light. Saint Ambrose expresses this nicely by presenting the moon as a metaphor for the Church: “The moon is in fact the Church… [she] shines not with her own light, but with the light of Christ. She draws her brightness from the Sun of Justice, and so she can say: ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me’” (Hexaemeron, IV, 8, 32). Christ is the true light shining in the darkness. To the extent that the Church remains anchored in him, to the extent that she lets herself be illumined by him, she is able to bring light into the lives of individuals and peoples. For this reason the Fathers of the Church saw in her the mysterium lunae.

We need this light from on high if we are to respond in a way worthy of the vocation we have received. To proclaim the Gospel of Christ is not simply one option among many, nor is it a profession. For the Church, to be missionary does not mean to proselytize: for the Church to be missionary means to give expression to her very nature, which is to receive God’s light and then to reflect it. This is her service. There is no other way. Mission is her vocation; to shine Christ’s light is her service. How many people look to us for this missionary commitment, because they need Christ. They need to know the face of the Father.

The Magi mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew are a living witness to the fact that the seeds of truth are present everywhere, for they are the gift of the Creator, who calls all people to acknowledge him as good and faithful Father. The Magi represent the men and woman throughout the world who are welcomed into the house of God. Before Jesus, all divisions of race, language and culture disappear: in that Child, all humanity discovers its unity. The Church has the task of seeing and showing ever more clearly the desire for God which is present in the heart of every man and woman. This is the service of the Church, with the light that she reflects: to draw out the desire for God present in every heart. Like the Magi, countless people, in our own day, have a “restless heart” which continues to seek without finding sure answers – it is the restlessness of the Holy Spirit that stirs in hearts. They too are looking for a star to show them the path to Bethlehem.

How many stars there are in the sky! And yet the Magi followed a new and different star, which for them shone all the more brightly. They had long peered into the great book of the heavens, seeking an answer to their questions – they had restless hearts –, and at long last the light appeared. That star changed them. It made them leave their daily concerns behind and set out immediately on a journey. They listened to a voice deep within, which led them to follow that light. It was the voice of the Holy Spirit, who works in all people. The star guided them, until they found the King of the Jews in a humble dwelling in Bethlehem.

All this has something to say to us today. We do well to repeat the question asked by the Magi: “Where is the child who has been born the King of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage” (Mt 2:2). We are impelled, especially in an age like our own, to seek the signs which God offers us, realizing that great effort is needed to interpret them and thus to understand his will. We are challenged to go to Bethlehem, to find the Child and his Mother. Let us follow the light which God offers us – that tiny light. The hymn in the breviary poetically tells us that the Magi lumen requirunt lumine – that tiny light. The light which streams from the face of Christ, full of mercy and fidelity. And once we have found him, let us worship him with all our heart, and present him with our gifts: our freedom, our understanding and our love. True wisdom lies concealed in the face of this Child. It is here, in the simplicity of Bethlehem, that the life of the Church is summed up. For here is the wellspring of that light which draws to itself every individual in the world and guides the journey of the peoples along the path of peace.

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Posted on Pope Francis Support

 

Mary, Virgin and Mother,
you who, moved by the Holy Spirit,
welcomed the word of life in the depths of your humble faith:
as you gave yourself completely to the Eternal One,
help us to say our own “yes” to the urgent call, as pressing as ever,
to proclaim the good news of Jesus.
Filled with Christ’s presence, you brought joy to John the Baptist,
making him exult in the womb of his mother.
Brimming over with joy, you sang of the great things done by God.
Standing at the foot of the cross with unyielding faith,
you received the joyful comfort of the resurrection,
and joined the disciples in awaiting the Spirit
so that the evangelizing Church might be born.
Obtain for us now a new ardor born of the resurrection,
that we may bring to all the Gospel of life which triumphs over death.
Give us a holy courage to seek new paths,
that the gift of unfading beauty may reach every man and woman.
Virgin of listening and contemplation,
Mother of love, Bride of the eternal wedding feast,
pray for the Church, whose pure icon you are,
that she may never be closed in on herself
or lose her passion for establishing God’s kingdom.
Star of the new evangelization,
help us to bear radiant witness to communion,
service, ardent and generous faith, justice and love of the poor,
that the joy of the Gospel may reach to the ends of the earth,
illuminating even the fringes of our world.

Mother of the living Gospel,
wellspring of happiness for God’s little ones,
pray for us.
Amen.
Alleluia!

from carmelites.net

Posted on Ave Maria

 

mini-nativity-kate-cosgrove

Let us open our hearts to receive the grace of this day, which is Christ himself. Jesus is the radiant “day” which has dawned on the horizon of humanity. A day of mercy, in which God our Father has revealed his great tenderness to the entire world. A day of light, which dispels the darkness of fear and anxiety. A day of peace, which makes for encounter, dialogue and, above all, reconciliation. A day of joy: a “great joy” for the poor, the lowly and for all the people (cf. Lk 2:10).

On this day, Jesus, the Saviour is born of the Virgin Mary. The Crib makes us see the “sign” which God has given us: “a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12). Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, may we too set out to see this sign, this event which is renewed yearly in the Church. Christmas is an event which is renewed in every family, parish and community which receives the love of God made incarnate in Jesus Christ. Like Mary, the Church shows to everyone the “sign” of God: the Child whom she bore in her womb and to whom she gave birth, yet who is the Son of the Most High, since he “is of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1:20). He is truly the Saviour, for he is the Lamb of God who takes upon himself the sin of the world (cf. Jn 1:29). With the shepherds, let us bow down before the Lamb, let us worship God’s goodness made flesh, and let us allow tears of repentance to fill our eyes and cleanse our hearts. This is something we all need!

He alone, he alone can save us. Only God’s mercy can free humanity from the many forms of evil, at times monstrous evil, which selfishness spawns in our midst. The grace of God can convert hearts and offer mankind a way out of humanly insoluble situations.

Where God is born, hope is born. He brings hope. Where God is born, peace is born. And where peace is born, there is no longer room for hatred and for war. Yet precisely where the incarnate Son of God came into the world, tensions and violence persist, and peace remains a gift to be implored and built. May Israelis and Palestinians resume direct dialogue and reach an agreement which will enable the two peoples to live together in harmony, ending a conflict which has long set them at odds, with grave repercussions for the entire region.

We pray to the Lord that the agreement reached in the United Nations may succeed in halting as quickly as possible the clash of arms in Syria and in remedying the extremely grave humanitarian situation of its suffering people. It is likewise urgent that the agreement on Libya be supported by all, so as to overcome the grave divisions and violence afflicting the country. May the attention of the international community be unanimously directed to ending the atrocities which in those countries, as well as in Iraq, Libya, Yemen and sub-Saharan Africa, even now reap numerous victims, cause immense suffering and do not even spare the historical and cultural patrimony of entire peoples. My thoughts also turn to those affected by brutal acts of terrorism, particularly the recent massacres which took place in Egyptian airspace, in Beirut, Paris, Bamako and Tunis.

To our brothers and sisters who in many parts of the world are being persecuted for their faith, may the Child Jesus grant consolation and strength. They are our martyrs of today.

We also pray for peace and concord among the peoples of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and South Sudan, that dialogue may lead to a strengthened common commitment to the building of civil societies animated by a sincere spirit of reconciliation and of mutual understanding.

May Christmas also bring true peace to Ukraine, offer comfort to those suffering from the effects of the conflict, and inspire willingness to carry out the agreements made to restore concord in the entire country.

May the joy of this day illumine the efforts of the Colombian people so that, inspired by hope, they may continue their commitment to working for the desired peace.

Where God is born, hope is born; and where hope is born, persons regain their dignity. Yet even today great numbers of men and woman are deprived of their human dignity and, like the child Jesus, suffer cold, poverty, and rejection. May our closeness today be felt by those who are most vulnerable, especially child soldiers, women who suffer violence, and the victims of human trafficking and the drug trade.

Nor may our encouragement be lacking to all those fleeing extreme poverty or war, travelling all too often in inhumane conditions and not infrequently at the risk of their lives. May God repay all those, both individuals and states, who generously work to provide assistance and welcome to the numerous migrants and refugees, helping them to build a dignified future for themselves and for their dear ones, and to be integrated in the societies which receive them.

On this festal day may the Lord grant renewed hope to all those who lack employment – and they are so many!; may he sustain the commitment of those with public responsibilities in political and economic life, that they may work to pursue the common good and to protect the dignity of every human life.

Where God is born, mercy flourishes. Mercy is the most precious gift which God gives us, especially during this Jubilee year in which we are called to discover that tender love of our heavenly Father for each of us. May the Lord enable prisoners in particular to experience his merciful love, which heals wounds and triumphs over evil.

Today, then, let us together rejoice in the day of our salvation. As we contemplate the Crib, let us gaze on the open arms of Jesus, which show us the merciful embrace of God, as we hear the cries of the Child who whispers to us: “for my brethren and companions’ sake, I will say: Peace be within you” (Ps 121[122]:8).

“URBI ET ORBI” MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
Friday, 25 December 2015

Posted on Pope Francis Support

 

Locutions to the World

The beginning locutions are very special; focusing on the Fatima Vision (released by the Vatican (June 2000).

Concerning Private Revelations: These are private revelations and there is no need to believe them. If these revelations help your faith, then receive them. If not, you can set them aside. We are called to believe only public revelations.

The locutions are posted twice a week. Visit their site at www.locutions.org.

Ave Maria Online Magazine
Extravagant displays of devotion to Mary gets curtailed as world culture emphasizes the rational, scientific and technological aspects of life. There seems to be no more time for the more affective expressions of religion.

  Then, after a while, people get fed up with the absolutely rational and logical culture, and rediscover religion and the affective part of the human soul and its needs.

  And Mary is one of those.

Pledge to pray the rosary
For Our Lady of Fatima
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Love and support for Pope Francis
The Church is certainly a human and historical institution with all that entails, yet her nature is not essentially political but spiritual: the Church is the People of God, Holy People of God making its way to encounter Jesus Christ. Only from this perspective can a satisfactory account be given of the Church's life and activity.

  Christ is the Church's Pastor, but his presence in history passes through the freedom of human beings; from their midst one is chosen to serve as his Vicar, the successor of the Apostle Peter.

  Yet Christ remains the center, not the Sucessor of Peter: Christ, Christ is the centre.

Pledge 3 Hail Marys for Pope Francis
3 Hail Marys for Pope Francis
Offer up 3 Hail Marys for Pope Francis today

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A Million Roses for the World
A gift of love, faith and goodwill from the people of the Philippines. Pope Pius IX once said: “Give me an army praying a million rosaries a day and we will conquer the world.” We are not out to conquer the world…but to save it for God to whom it rightly belongs.

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