[A Comment from Father Duncan McVicar SI] Father Kentenich felt called by God to lead the Church, with a prophetic voice, “to the new shore”. He once commented: “The Church should always be what it was at its beginning – the soul of the world’s culture. Don’t separate the Church from culture, and don’t separate the Church from the world! However, the Church should always be the soul of the world’s culture – even this confused and utterly secularised culture.” (8th December 1965)
Many were taken aback by the atmosphere created by some German bishops – including Cardinal Caspar and Cardinal Marx – regarding the burning issues within marriage and family doctrine and pastoral care in the lead-up to the Family Synod in Rome in October this year – amongst others. Pope Francis addressed the present-day crisis of marriage family in his challenging and passionate address to the international Schoenstatt Movement in Rome, after we celebrated the wonderful days of the Jubilee Year 2014. He spoke about the impact of a “throwaway culture” that reduces the covenant of marriage – which is the icon of Christ’s relationship to his Church – to a mere “association” within society, that should conform to modern-day expectations.
He encouraged the audience of Schoenstatt members from all over the world: “That the family is hit, that the family is knocked and that the family is debased as [how can this be] a way of association … Can everything be called a family? How many families are divided, how many marriages are broken, how much relativism there is in the concept of the Sacrament of Marriage. At present, from a sociological point of view and from the point of view of human values, as well as, in fact, of the Catholic Sacrament, of the Christian Sacrament, there is a crisis of the family, a crisis because it is hit from all sides and left very wounded!.. We are witnessing”, he notes, the “reduction of the Sacrament to a rite… the Sacrament is made a social event… [but] the social [dimension] covers the fundamental thing, which is union with God… What they are proposing is not marriage, it is an association, but it is not marriage! It is necessary to say things very clearly and we must say this!”
Continue reading “A Good Question: “How credible are you?””
Your are invited to plant a tree in the grounds of the Shrine in the Jubilee Year. Dennis Shevlan has a tree planting session on Saturday 14th March after the 12.00 noon Mass in the Shrine. Schoenstatt is now one hundred years old and some of the fruits of this lay movement of renewal in the Catholic Church are starting to show. Plant a tree for the next century! St Theresa of the Child Jesus once said: “In the heart of the Church, my Mother, let me be love.” Our Covenant of Love in Schoenstatt is a way for many to fulfil that mission – Our Mission is Love. Please come along with your family and plant a tree so that love will grow and many will be served by that love.
The end of one calendar year and the beginning of another is the perfect occasion to reflect on how well people have used the time and gifts God has given them — especially how well people have helped the poor, Pope Francis said. While God is eternal, time is important even to him, Pope Francis said during a prayer service New Year’s Eve in St. Peter’s Basilica. “He wanted to reveal himself and save us in history,” becoming human to demonstrate “his concrete love.” At the end of a year, like at the end of life, he said, the church teaches its members to make an examination of conscience, “remembering all that happened, thanking the Lord for all the good we received and were able to do and, at the same time, remembering where we were lacking and our sins. Give thanks and ask forgiveness.” While God created humanity to be his children, he said, original sin and its remnants continue to distance people from God, often making them slaves who follow “the voice of the Evil One.” God sent Jesus to ransom sinners from their slavery, the pope said, which gives rise to an essential question in one’s examination of conscience: “Do we live as children (of God) or as slaves?” “Do we live as people baptized in Christ, anointed by the Spirit, ransomed and free?” he asked. “Or do we live according to worldly logic: corrupt, doing what the devil wants us to believe is in our best interest?” Pope Francis told those gathered in the basilica that all people, even Christians, have “a tendency to resist freedom; we fear freedom and, paradoxically, we prefer slavery” although often people are not aware that that is what they are doing. “Freedom frightens us because it places time before us and, with it, the responsibility to live it well,” he said. “A nostalgia for slavery nests in our hearts because it appears more reassuring than freedom, which is much riskier.” Slavery focuses just on the moment, he said, making people forget their past, but also robbing them of hope for the future. “Slavery makes us believe that we cannot dream, fly or hope,” the pope said. The end of a year, he said, is a reminder that there will be a “final hour” and all people will be judged, particularly on how they used their freedom and how they cared for the poor. After the prayer service, despite the cold, Pope Francis went into St. Peter’s Square to pray before and view up close the Nativity scene. With hundreds of people huddled behind barricades, he spent about twenty minutes greeting the crowd, as well as offering a personal “Happy New Year” and handshake to the Italian police officers on duty.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it…He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-14)
Together with the shepherds we go to the stable in Bethlehem. There we are able to encounter God himself – God who became a defenceless little baby – a baby in swaddling clothes – in modern terminology, a baby in a nappy. Is this not an incredible miracle? Is this not a wonderful mystery of the creative love of God? The Father sends us his Son, to be born of a Virgin, and they wrapped him in a nappy. The One who is God from God, and light from light eternal, the One who is the focal point of human history – past, present and future – lies before us in a nappy! God in a nappy shows us the true nature of who God is. God is love. His love is full of compassion, full of mercy and wisdom. He loves us so much that the Son of God takes on our human condition and becomes like us. He grows like us, he is in need of love and affection like us, he is vulnerable like us. He will also suffer like us: God in a nappy, and one day God on a cross. God comes as a child to ensure that between him and us there are no barriers, no fears. Who would be afraid of a little child? He wants us to love him with all our hearts and with our own souls. The God of love only wants love. He wants to be hugged and cared for like a little child. God who becomes a child so that we can love him, invites us to come closer. Christmas is a time to allow that deep and personal encounter with the Lord to finally happen in our own lives. We long for intimacy with God. Is there a better moment to take this all-compassionate love seriously? It invites us to a never-ending union with him. Every newborn child awakens love. The Christ Child also awakens the power of love in the human heart. He conquers us completely with his love. This personal encounter with God changes our lives. We are forever changed. If we want to love the Saviour as he wants to be loved, if we want to let him enter our lives with no “buts” or “maybes”, if we want to truly become like him, we will always find him in the arms of his Mother Mary. In the covenant of love with her we may bow our heads in adoration before the miracle of Christmas – God in a nappy! It’s amazing!
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.” (Luke 2:8-14)
A old legend tells the story of a hidden bell that is completely silent throughout the year, but when Christmas comes this bell starts to ring out joyfully. Where is this bell hidden? It is hidden in our own hearts. Christmas is the time when many longings and hopes come to the surface again. These yearnings need to be fulfilled. The church bells call us and invite us: Come to Bethlehem and see what has truly happened there! When we set off and make our way to that little place of grace – our parish church, the shrine – what will we find? We will find the Saviour of the world in a manger. Are we free enough to leave everything else behind – our worries, our weaknesses, our troubles and distractions, our dependence on material things – and go to Bethlehem to be a part of this never-ending miracle? What is the miracle of the Holy Night? It is an answer to that continuous, desperate call of the human race since the beginning of time – the yearning for peace. We yearn for peace in our own hearts, because we are all so inwardly divided. We yearn for peace in our families, because there are often conflicts and hurts. We yearn for peace in every nation, in all the world, so that our children can grow up in security and have a future. The bells ring out a call of peace to men and women of good will, because tonight in the town of David, in Bethlehem, a Saviour has been born for us, a Child has been given to us! The Miracle of the Holy Night is the birthday of the Prince of peace in our world. It is also the birthday of the gift of peace itself. The peace that Christmas offers is a unique and lasting kind of peace. As the angels of heaven announced to shepherds in the fields that the Messiah had been born, they sang with one voice: “Glory to God in the Highest and peace to all people of good will!” (Luke 2:14). When will we have true and lasting peace? When we give God the glory, when we place God firmly in the centre of our lives. Whoever places the Lord at the centre, whoever has the freedom to detach himself or herself from everything that holds us back from truly loving God and our neighbour, will receive the gift of peace in their heart. This is the firm promise of Christmas. This is our prayer that we again bring to the Christ-Child in the manger: Give peace to our hearts, peace to our homes, peace to the whole world!
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)
Take some time to find a moment of inner peace, and pray: Blessed Mother Mary, we have given ourselves to you, and you have given yourself to us. We have made a covenant of love with you and you have made a covenant with us. From the depths of our hearts, we ask you: Care that our longing for the Lord will never decrease, and never be held back by slavery to possessions and material things. Break the chains that bind us here on earth. Help us to sing a hymn of love to the Lord, that echoes and re-echoes everywhere in our lives. Amen. (Joseph Kentenich)
A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham… and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. (Matthew 1:1,16)
If it’s true that each one of us is the “result” of God’s plan, it must also be true that Mary is the “most perfect result”, in fact the “masterpiece” of God’s love, wisdom, and power. In a unique way she is the “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17), that St Paul spoke about. She is the Woman who has “the touch of paradise” – redeemed from original sin, full of life. Mary, as the first of the Lord’s disciples, can show us in her life and faith what it means to follow Jesus. What are the experiences in Mary’s life than can give us strength on our journey? What gift could we ask for to help us prepare our hearts for Christmas?