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Year of Mercy – The “Spirit of the Immaculata”


by Fr Duncan McVicar on 13/11/2016

As we now approach the end of the special Year of Mercy, it is so important that we learn to understand our Lady and in a much more humane way, and to think about in much simpler and ordinary way. God has asked to be the Mother of all the Faithful, and he gave her a motherly heart and the eyes of a mother. If human mothers are able to achieve wonderful things out of love for their children and remain faithful to them no matter what, how much more should we be able to claim this for our heavenly Mother! For this reason, we can say with Saint Herman: “Turn your eyes of mercy towards us”. We honour our Blessed Mother as the Immaculate Conception in the teaching of the Church. Her purity can also become for us a great gift of mercy. She can instil in our lives and hearts the true spirit of the “Immaculata”. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says: “Blessed the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8) when we see God, what will we see? We will see a God who is full of love and mercy, and whose constant care for us simply never ends. We will see a God who is a loving Father, who wants to open the “floodgates” of mercy in our lives. However, we can turn this round and also say, “Blessed are those who see God, then they will be pure of heart”. Every Christian is called to live a chaste life, a pure life. The more we embrace the pure atmosphere of our Lady, then the more chance we have that we will also see God. The more we draw closer to God, and the more we cultivate a dialogue of love with him, then the more we will understand and be able to live out the lifestyle of purity. The more we see God in everyone and then everything, the more we speak to him every day in a dialogue of love, the more we are willing to do sacrifices every day from God, then the more we will be in possession of purity in our own lives. Our Lady reveals to us the new image of God, that is so important particularly for our modern-day times, God is not the God, firstly, of justice, or vengeance or punishment. He is, before anything else, the God of an endless love and boundless mercy. Father Kentenich spoke extensively about the “spirit of the Immaculata”: The spirit of purity is sometimes called the “spirit of the Immaculate Heart” or the “Immaculata-Spirit”. How do we live our lives, how do we develop a lifestyle that makes sure that an atmosphere of purity or a genuine and healthy spirit of purity really is present in our homes and lives? The spirit of the immaculate heart, or the spirit of purity should always be somewhere in our lives. It shouldn’t only be an atmosphere in our own homes, it should also be an atmosphere in ourselves.  It is a question of lifestyle. If we allow this type of spirit to grow in us, and we reach out for the chaste life, then we will make the right choices and we will have a sure foundation to see things in the right way, and understand things in the right way. It is very important that each one of us develops a spirit of purity in their own lives. We have to find ways that we can be responsible for ourselves and fully responsible for our own life choices and for our growth in the faith. We are speaking about the need for a concrete training in purity. What is faith? It is finding God in everything and in everyone. Another way to describe this is “making everything a window to God” In other words, I can “see through” people as if they were a window and discover God in them, I can “see through” everything that there is and see God there – present and active. The basis of our understanding of ourselves and creation can be described in the image of a “window”. Everything and everyone on this earth is, without exception, a “window” to God. This means, that we should be able to “see-through” things and people and events and also our own feelings and even our own bodies, and see God. In other words, we try to understand ourselves and our own desires in the way that God sees them and in the way that God thinks about them. All creation has a value in itself. but it also has a symbolic value. If we want to lead people to a life to faith, it has to become our constant task, to refer always to the symbolic value of things. This includes, in a special way, the deeper meaning of sex and sexuality. Everything and everyone should be “transparent”–so that we can see God and worship God. If we apply this to our training for purity, then this means that anything to do with sexuality, or our bodies, or the understanding of our bodies or our sexual desires should all become a “window” to God. Without this basic understanding of the true meaning of sexuality, and how sexuality plays a part in our spiritual and religious lives, then everything we say about purity or leading a chaste life will not be understood fully, and will not be seen as a positive value. If we can “see-through” everyone and everything – including sexuality – then this means that we look deeper, and that we actually seek a deeper understanding. All of creation – and of course, sexuality in a special way – has a symbolic value, and a symbolic meaning. If we are going to have a successful training in chastity, then it is always going to be a continuous issue, to help ourselves and others see the symbolic value of things, and also to see the symbolic value of sexuality. God uses everything and everyone to reach us. God uses everything and everyone to draw us to himself. God uses everything and everyone to share his Trinitarian life with us. It is as if all of creation is reaching out to us and leading us to God. It is as if all of creation is a messenger from God. There is nothing in creation that doesn’t lead us to God, if we see and embrace the symbolic value. God also wants to draw us closer to himself in our sexual lives. Our sexual life is not separate from God or from this reality. God draws us closer to himself through our sexuality for this reason, we must find ways to understand our sexuality in this light. We have to find ways to make our bodies, sex, and our sexual desires a “window” to God – transparent for God. Everything and everyone points to the Creator. Our sexuality also points to God if we understand it in the right way. Everyone and everything is God’s gift of love to each one of us. And this means that sex, our bodies and our sexual desires are also a gift of love from God. In them, and in all these things, God tries to prove his unconditional love for us. And when God shows us his love what does he expect in return? He expects our response of love, our answer of love. If we see everything in the light of faith, then we will understand that God’s gifts of love and God’s proofs of love are waiting for our loving response in return. Training in purity then begins with “seeing through” our sexuality and finding God. Let us turn to Mary Immaculate and say: “Mary, conceived with sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!”

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Year of Mercy – Praising the Mother of Mercy


by Fr Duncan McVicar on 21/10/2016

All the mercy that our Blessed Mother reveals in herself, is a reflection of God’s mercy. Mary reflects God’s mercy, but she also inspires us to be merciful. If you and I truly want to be like Christ today and be as merciful as Christ is, then we have to become a truly Marian personality – someone who tries every day to love our Lady and to imitate her. Very often, when we speak about God’s mercy, we don’t have to try and always brings something new, very often just filling the known and traditional truths with value again and making them vibrant and relevant, can be a great source of spiritual nourishment and strength. One of the oldest prayers that we pray or sing on a regular basis is, without doubt, the “Salve Regina” – the “Hail Holy Queen”. The prayer was probably written in the 11th century, by a monk on the island of Reichenau, called St Herman Contractus (the term “contractus” probably refers to a severe disability). He was the son of Count Wolverad II von Altshausen. Being a cripple from birth (hence the surname Contractus) he was powerless to move without assistance, and it was only by the greatest effort that he was able to read and write; but he was so highly gifted intellectually, that when he was but seven years of age his parents confided him to the learned Abbot Berno, on the island of Reichenau. His iron will overcame all obstacles, and it was not long before his brilliant attainments made him a shining light in the most diversified branches of learning. Students soon flocked to him from all parts, attracted not only by the fame of his scholarship, but also by his sincere faith and his loving personality. In the first part of this wonderful prayer, Our Lady is addressed by using different attributes; “Hail holy Queen, Mother of mercy, hail our life, our sweetness, and our hope”. The Blessed Mother is revealed here in all her dignity as the Mother of God and the Mother of the King of the universe. In the second part of the prayer, our own personal guilt is described, along with our constant need for atonement and mercy. When we address Our Lady as the Mother of mercy, then we are describing her as a woman who is full of grace, and also a woman who is the Mother of Mercy itself – Jesus Christ. The Church teaches that Mary reflects God in a most powerful way. In fact, there is no one closer to God than she is. When we speak about God, and speak about his innermost attributes, then we speak about love and about mercy. For this reason, Our Lady reflects in a special way the same attributes of love and of mercy. If we wish to be merciful, then it means that when we see a need in others, there is an inner motivation in us to do something about it. In the prayer, we ask our Blessed Lady to “turn her eyes of mercy towards us”. How could we describe the eyes of our Lady. What do the eyes of a Mother look like? One way to answer this question is to have a look at the book of Tobit in the Old Testament. Beginning in the 4th chapter until 11th, we have a fantastic description of Tobias and his father and mother. Tobias has been guided by an angel to travel to a foreign land, a faraway land, and that he will find his future wife there. He has to go to Media, but he doesn’t know how to get there, so God sends him the Archangel Raphael to guide him and be his protector and companion, although Tobias doesn’t realise that he is an angel. Tobias speaks with his father and his mother and arranges with them that in a certain time he would return. However, the time is past already. And his mother becomes more and more restless and worried. So what does she do? She constantly opens the door and looks out, she leaves the door open to see if there is any sign of him. Near to their house was a small hill, and the mother climbs the hill everyday to try get a better view if her son is coming home. “Before he went out to start his journey, he kissed his father and mother. Tobit then said to him, “Have a safe journey.” But his mother began to weep, and said to Tobit, “Why is it that you have sent my child away? Is he not the staff of our hand as he goes in and out before us? Tobit said to her, “Do not worry; our child will leave in good health and return to us in good health. Your eyes will see him on the day when he returns to you in good health. Say no more! Do not fear for them, my sister. For a good angel will accompany him; his journey will be successful, and he will come back in good health.” Tobit 5:18-22) You see this is a wonderful description of the “eyes” of a mother. And through this story, we can imagine what Our Lady’s eyes must be like. Her eyes are looking out for us all the time. She also wants to know, like the mother of Tobias: “where is my child? Is my child okay? Is my child in any danger?” And the eyes of a mother will never completely be at peace until she knows where her child is, and also reassures herself that everything is fine. We see here, how mercy works. Mercy from Our Lady means that we are in need of mercy – that we are to a certain degree helpless. Sometimes we are physically helpless and sometimes we are spiritually helpless. For this reason the eyes of Mary, our Mother always look upon us, looking out for us, searching for us.Yes, Mother Mary, turn your eyes of mercy towards us…

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October Day at the Shrine


by Fr. Bryan Cunningham on 11/10/2016

Welcome to our October Day at the Shrine on Sunday 16th October starting at 1.00pm with Mass at 5.00pm.The theme of our day is “Merciful like the Father” We will have the opportunity to pass through the Door of Mercy at the Shrine and pray for ourselves and all those dear to us.Fr Pushpa and Fr Bryan will give an input. There will be a children’s programme organised by Sharron Walsh and a programme for Teenagers run by Gabrieilla Ostmeier.  We look forward to seeing you for this day of Pilgrimage.Please bring donations of non-perishable foodstuffs for our food bank and we are interested in collecting warm gloves, socks and wooly hats.

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Love for Love – Loyalty for Loyalty


by Fr Duncan McVicar on 30/10/2015

We received the sad and unexpected news yesterday that Christine Beale, a member of the Institute of Our Lady of Schoenstatt, passed away in her sleep yesterday. Christine came over with her family from South Africa a few years ago and made her home here in the south of England. She was a very active member of her Schoenstatt Institute and worked tirelessly in her local Parish Community. Christine, particularly in the last years, suffered greatly with health issues, but never lost her tremendous sense of humour and fun. Please remember her in your thoughts and prayers at the Shrine and remember her sister-in-law Collette and her nephews and nieces who will miss her greatly. She loved to the end and remained loyal to her Covenant of Love to the end. May she rest in peace and rise in glory!

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Homewards to the Father


by Fr Duncan McVicar on 29/10/2015

We received the sad news yesterday, that Ron Bradbury, from the earliest times of Schoenstatt in England, passed away in the early hours of 28th October. He died peacefully after suffering a stroke a few weeks ago. Ron, along with Margaret, was a great and constant support to Schoenstatt from the beginning and worked tirelessly at the Schoenstatt House in Oldham and at the new Pastoral Centre in Bolton. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him. Margaret and the family have requested that Ron’s Requiem take place at the Shrine and the burial will be in St Joseph’s Cemetery, Moston, Manchester. The date and details have not been released as yet. Please day a prayer for Ron and his family and light a candle for a very faithful and generous man, who took his Covenant of Love with our Mother Thrice Admirable seriously and lived it to the full. May he rest in peace and rise in glory!

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October Day Pilgrimage to the Shrine


by Fr. Bryan Cunningham on 13/10/2015

Welcome to the Day of Pilgrimage at the Shrine on Sunday October 18th . Our Programme starts at 1.00pm and we conclude with Holy Mass at 5.30pm. There will be a keynote address, workshops and a children’s programme. We will take time for prayer and refreshments will be available from our café. There will also be a book stall. Please bring a donation for our food-bank. We look forward to welcoming all your family and encourage you to invite a friend to join us on the day.

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Taste and See Family Mass at the Shrine


by Fr. Bryan Cunningham on 06/10/2015

You are invited to the Taste and See Family Mass on Sunday 11th October at 3.30pm. Family is at the centre of interest both in the Church and the world. Pope Francis has just returned from the World Conference for Families in Philadelphia and is now with the members of the General Synod on the mission and life of the family today. Throughout this year we have looked at the mission of the family in order to become a family fully alive.

Pertinent to this mission is that family means that  mother and father work together to create a space of love in which their children can grow. Working together as man and woman and using the complementing gifts and talents which fathers and mothers have, spouses and  parents create a world in miniature for their relationship to each other and fertile ground for their children to grow in love and happiness.

Mass will be at 3.030pm. Afterward Paul and Clare and big sister, Jessica, invite you to a shared meal to celebrate the Baptism of Lucy Martha Lyddieth Barnes. Please invite your friends to come and join us. Remember to bring donations for our food-bank. These are passed on to the Brothers of Charity to assist those in need.

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