Sunday, December 31, 2006

Sermon for Octave Sunday of Nativity 31.12.06

Sunday in Octave of Christmas 31.12.06 Innocence

One of the features of Christmas is the theme of innocence. The Child, the Mother, St Joseph, the humble shepherds, even the animals, the peaceful scene, plus our own sense of wanting to be better and wanting a better world – all adds up to an admiration for and desire for innocence.

We want to be delivered from evil in all its forms and taste the goodness of the Lord.

Innocence is good in itself because it is a freedom from evil.

Innocence is also very useful because it is a powerful weapon in getting the desired result.

When we pray for things to happen we have much more chance of having our prayer heard if we pray with pure hearts.

For example we cannot sincerely pray for world peace if we have war in our hearts.

Then also when our hearts are pure we are in communion with God and we are close to Him. We do not have to shout our requests across a chasm but can whisper in His ear.

Lile children on their father’s lap (Abba, Father).

So we ask the Lord (and Mary) to give us pure hearts, to take the sin out of our system, so that we can pray with the innocence of children.

Unless you become like little children you cannot enter the kingdom.

Child-like but not childish. The quality of children that we seek is their relative innocence. And their capacity to trust. They just assume that they will be looked after.

So we should trust God in the same way.

When we look at the world in all its complexity we might propose various solutions. More study, more dialogue, more education, more meetings, more troops, more spending…

but none of those could match innocence. Be childlike; be good; trust in your heavenly Father, come to Him with all your needs.

See how we labour to find worldly solutions for worldly problems. We make the problem through our sin, and then we try to relieve the problem through worldly ways. eg education on how not to get Aids.

When all we need is pure innocence to avoid getting into trouble in the first place and then to get out of trouble if we are in it.

Simple to understand, not easy to achieve. How to get to be pure when we have been otherwise.

Ask the Lord to make us so, to cleanse our hearts of malice, envy etc and our minds of worldliness in all its forms.

Need to make frequent and heartfelt Confessions, and serious purpose of amendment.

Humble ourselves before the Crib now and before God all the time.

Wonderfully simple that we can solve all our problems just by acknowledging we can’t solve them!

When we pray like this we are getting in touch with a great power, without obstructing it with needless complication. Not being naïve but very smart. Not neglecting responsibilities but approaching them in right way. Doing what God asks of us, after all.

Abba Father! Call on Him, and the more fervently we do that, the more trustingly, the more He will hear.

Go back to the start, halt at the crossroads, look well what path it was that served you long ago. That path follow…(Jer 6,16)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Sermon for Christmas 2006 (Day Mass)

Christmas 2006 Morning Mass. Total salvation

Jesus said to the messengers from John the Baptist: go and tell John what you see and hear – the deaf hear, the dumb speak, the blind have their sight restored etc

Signs of salvation. Are you the one to come? Jesus answers indirectly. Well, what does it look like?

Are these the signs of some ordinary person or does it look to you like salvation has been unleashed?

This was just the beginning. Restoring sight to a blind person is certainly a great thing, but that is just good for one person in one place. Jesus’ full plan was much grander than that.

He came to heal the whole person, going right to the root cause of the problem. And that is not that you can’t see or can’t walk, troublesome as that might be.

The root problem is sin, alienation from God. He came to heal that problem by reconciling us with God.

So that in our wounded humanity we would now be once more filled with the life of grace, would once more share in divine life.

This is a much more valuable healing than having sight restored. After all, if I was blind and then I could see – I would be happy for a while but then would be the same as everyone else – looking for meaning. I can see, but so what?

No, we need to be set right at the very deepest level of our being, and this means to be right with God, to receive His forgiveness and have His life in us.

Knowing who we are, where we are from, and where we are going.

This is a challenging level of healing because it might be further than we want to go.

We might be happy just to have our aches and pains removed and then left to live as before.

The Jews did not want to be saved beyond certain political changes – get rid of the Romans. Otherwise leave things be. Those who crucified Our Lord thought He was asking too much (or offering too much).

Thus it has been in every generation since. Help me, Lord, and then back off, please.

If we recognize Him for what He is, and what He wants, we will then both value His coming AND cooperate with it.

The Last Gospel is the main Gospel in this Mass – brought to a more prominent position.

He came to His own and His own did not receive Him.

They were so busy worrying about their aches and pains they did not see what was being offered to them.

To understand the scope of the salvation which is offered is a necessary part of receiving it. Many sell Christ short in all sorts of ways – just free bread, physical comfort, ticket to heaven, nice non-threatening religion, ethical teacher, another religion to go with all the others… but He is so much more and will never be understood unless given centre stage.

We must see further. We read that Gospel so often to remind ourselves that His own should have received Him.

And just in case we haven’t been receiving Him we can always start now.

If we do receive Him His salvation will take deeper hold in us and gradually extend to the whole world – which was always His plan. (also alluded to in the Last Gospel).

He came for the whole world but still it has not happened.

He needs people like us to receive Him so that progress can be made.

Enjoy your Christmas but don’t reduce it to just a nice day with family and friends. It is the key to the renewal of the whole world. Christmas is about Christ!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas Mass times at Holy Name

Christmas Mass times:

Sunday 24th Dec 9.30am
Midnight Mass 12.00am Monday 25th
Mass of the Day 9.30am Monday 25th.
Happy Christmas to all!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Sermon for 3rd Sunday of Advent 17.12.06

3rd Sunday of Advent 17.12.06 Getting out of prison

In the Hail Holy Queen we describe ourselves as ‘mourning and weeping in this vale of tears’.
In Psalm 23 we mention that we are walking in a ‘valley of darkness (or death)’.

St Paul describes this earthly life as an exile… we are exiled from our true home at present and we long to throw off this earthly tent. (2 Co 5)

There are other references to the same import. (Hebrews 11,15 hoping to reach our true home) Our true home is in heaven (Ph 3,20)

These are strong images and when we take them together we seem to be getting a message. We notice already that this earthly life is not always a bowl of roses. Now from the above references we can conclude that it is not meant to be a bowl of roses.

In a valley of tears, a valley of death, a land of exile… one can expect to be unhappy, at least to a certain extent.

Today we traditionally express reasons for our joy. We have just established why we are not joyful! In what way can we be joyful in a valley of darkness?

a) because there is a better place
b) and we are coming out of the valley and going towards this better place

Our present condition is temporary; we will not always be suffering like we are now, and we are looking forward to a future of unalloyed bliss.

This perfect happiness will arrive when we leave this state of exile; when we arrive in the place where there is no sadness or darkness, where every tear will be wiped away, our true home.

We are like prisoners chalking off each day on the wall and longing to be set free.

Many people allow themselves to despair in this life. They see the misery around them and their own misery, and they conclude that this is all there is. Some even go as far as killing themselves because they see no other way to escape the misery.

We who have faith, also have hope. We see the misery too but we are not overwhelmed by it. Because we also see the place where misery is no more, and we see there is a way to get there.

Reflecting on the limitations of this life actually will help us to find true joy.

The important thing is not to try to find all our happiness here. It cannot be done, so we should not try.

Many do try to build up an earthly paradise and they do it through money and power and status – and they end up in the grave. The psalms tell us this and they were written 3000 years ago! We can be slow learners.

We pass through this life like flowers, like grass on the roof. We bloom for a day and we are gone.

This could be depressing, but it really is the key to great joy, because we don’t want to stay here, remember. This is a prison. We want to get out of here and get to the place where there is real and permanent happiness.

Naturally, in a prison we try to make things as comfortable as possible. We decorate the cell, we take some recreation. So we live in nice houses and we play sport etc. But this is only peripheral to the main desire to get to freedom.

Our joy is that we are getting out of here soon. We make the best of it while we are here but we do not cling to it, nor to each other, as we wish each other speedy and safe passage to this better place – our true home.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sermon for 2nd Sunday of Advent 10.12.06

2nd Sunday of Advent 10.12.06 Repentance

What did you go out to see? Our Lord asks the people. This is not just any old prophet. This is someone bringing in a new era, a new state of things.

How much difference is there to being a Christian? What amount of change is required. When John preached repentance how much change was he asking for?
Is repentance a minimal adjustment or a major transformation?

You might think from the way some people talk that the only difference between being a Christian and being anything else is that the Christian goes to church for one hour a week.

The Christian has one hour less golf, or shopping, or dog obedience class but otherwise the two lives are exactly the same.

This is not how it is meant to work.

The Christian is one who is like Christ. Filled with His Spirit, overflowing with good works and transformed in his whole attitude.

It is inconceivable that the Christian could be the same as everyone else when we have received a whole new kind of life.

When it comes to repentance, we cannot just mean mentioning a couple of sins in confession, but otherwise everything is ok.

We are not comparing ourselves with our neighbours but with Christ.

If we are to compare ourselves with others we will come off well and will be able to say truly that we are not so bad.

But we belong to Christ and we draw our light from Him.

When we compare ourselves to Him we have to say we have not been so good at being ‘other Christs’.

So Repentance has to be a clean out of the whole system, and being drawn into the life of Christ.

We can say the same thing in two ways:

Repent, behave yourselves, keep the rules (and all true, too)

Or, Come to the water, receive the abundant love that is being offered to you.

We all would like to receive more love, but may not all want to change our lives.

In fact, though, the receiving of love will move us to change our lives. By that stage we will want to change and it will not be a burden.

Take Scrooge at Christmas. He was so transformed by his dreams that he wanted to be generous.

It was not just that he knew he had to change, but he wanted to. So the change was delightful to him.

Zacchaeus another example. He spontaneously wanted to give back four times as much as he had stolen, so great was his joy at discovering the new life.

Repentance is not a burden but a path to new joy.

but we need help to keep the vision of what is expected and what is possible.

We stop both too soon.

We have little faith and we do not expect God to work miracles.

We have low expectations of our own behaviour so we do not ask for or exercise the grace which enables higher things.

We settle for ‘one hour a week’ or ‘two hours a year’ for those who go only at Easter and Christmas, and call ourselves religious.

The invitation is there for us to break into a new layer of life, to discover the better air the other side of the fog. So we seek a deep and complete repentance. We will not try to minimise our response.

Let the grace of Christ carry us beyond minimalism or technical Christianity. Let Him change us on the inside so that we each become a new person in Christ.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Sermon for First Sunday of Advent 3.12.06

1st Sunday of Advent 3.12.06 Being ready

While praying in front of the tabernacle once, it occurred to me that I felt at peace to be in the Lord’s presence, but that if I were to die suddenly I would be afraid to meet Him face to face.

How could this be: that I would be at the same time at ease and not at ease in His presence?

It must be that I am in some degree of union with God but not yet complete union. There is love but there is also fear. As St John says: Perfect love casts out fear. I do not yet have perfect love for God. So I ask Him to bring me to that state of perfect love for Him.

Supposing I am on an aeroplane and suddenly the plane starts plunging towards the sea below. What would I do? Make an act of contrition; ask the Lord to have mercy on my soul.

If I tell the Lord I am sorry when my plane is plunging into the sea, why not tell Him I am sorry now?

It is fear of punishment that makes me sorry in that case. We want to reach a state of perfect contrition whereby we are sorry anyway, and do not need an emergency to bring on an expression of that sorrow.

So we come to one of the main themes of Advent: that in this season we should seek such a degree of union with God that we are ready to meet Him at any time, whether He comes in the third watch or the second… later or sooner.

That we will be so much at ease in His presence we will not care if we are alive or dead – it is all the same to us, so long as we have Him.

There is always the temptation for us to put off complete repentance till ‘the last minute’.

There is the (false) assumption that we will get more enjoyment out of life if we break a few rules, that sin is ‘the only way to enjoy oneself’.

But the truth, waiting to be discovered, is that the greatest source of enjoyment in this life is to live as closely as possible to God Himself.

To live a life of grace is to experience the full joy of being like a bird in flight, every part of our being working as it should; for the first time a round peg in a round hole.

This explains why the saints were such happy people, when to the world, they appeared to suffer so much, and miss out on so much of earth’s pleasures – but they had the one thing that matters, the pearl of great price.

The epistle refers to living in the daylight and not being dissipated with strong drink.

People sometimes seek refuge in drink as a way of numbing their sense of reality.

But when we discover what Reality is we seek it. We should be wearing T-shirts with ‘I love Reality’ written on them, because the true reality is Union with God and all the joy that comes with that.

The solution is not drugging ourselves against reality but entering it more fully.

Thus we seek a fuller union with God
– a union that will mean both more perfect contrition, and a greater desire to do His will.
-A union that will mean we are ready to be with Him, either in this life or the next;
that will enable us to discern His presence in time of plenty or poverty, full stomach or empty.

To be with Him is everything; to be without Him is unbearable.

This is what we seek in Advent – we seek God and He will not be slow in making Himself known to us.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Following is a letter from the Juventutem Acting President and Secretary encouraging all youth to support this Traditional event to form part of World Youth Day 2008 held in Sydney. For more information, please contact myself or the committee direct at:
Juventutem Australia Inc
PO Box 54
Caulfield South VIC 3162
Tel: (0404) 140 662
God Bless,

Dear Friend in Christ,

We are writing to inform you of a recent initiative within the traditional Latin Mass Community around the world, including Australia, called Juventutem. The name ‘Juventutem’ comes from Ps.42 in the opening prayers of the Roman Missal, “Introibo ad altare Dei, ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meum”, and was formed in France in 2004 in response to our late Holy Father John Paul II’s call to youth ” the Church needs genuine witnesses for the new evangelisation…the Church needs saints”, so that young people devoted to the Sacred Liturgy and the traditions of the Church could attend World Youth Day (WYD) as traditional pilgrims as well as being a daily and ongoing movement within the Church for the sanctification of our youth. This initiative calls us to be witnesses of the great heritage of our Faith, and the treasure that is the Latin liturgy, spreading this Faith and form of worship to our fellow young Catholics.

The first Juventutem delegation to attend WYD occurred last year in Cologne, Germany, where over 1,000 young people from France, Germany, England, Ireland, Spain, the United States and Australia gathered together at St. Antonius’ church in Dusseldorf, along with Cardinals and Bishops from many countries, including our own Cardinal Pell, to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Vespers and the Divine Office over a week. It was an outstanding success, the event receiving media attention, as well as new devotees to the Sacred Liturgy. We believe that the same response can occur here in Australia, in Sydney in 2008, which is also the year of the 20th anniversary of the Motu Proprio ‘Ecclesia Dei’. In the last year, we have received enthusiastic feedback from young people internationally, some of whom attended WYD with Juventutem last year, and many others who have heard about its successes from various sources; the internet, newspapers, religious journals and from their own parishes. Juventutem aims to foster a “new awareness” amongst these youth of the spiritual and liturgical heritage of the Church.

In order to achieve this, Juventutem Australia has been formed in the last year from pilgrims returning from WYD 2005 and is responsible for organizing the traditional Catholic programme in both Melbourne and Sydney in 2008. This event (Juventutem 2008) will be the largest gathering of young traditional Catholics in our nation’s history, and as you would expect significant costs are involved in it’s organization and planning. These include defraying travel and accommodation expenses of the many visiting clergy from overseas, providing transport, accommodation and catering for hundreds of young pilgrims, arranging support for each of the many language groups attending, as well as daily administration and communication expenses related to the project.

Juventutem Australia receives no funding from within Australia or internationally and is entirely dependant on the Latin Mass community for any financial support. We now require urgent assistance from our own community if we are to achieve any goals for WYD 2008 - primarily the organization of a full liturgical and pastoral programme comprising daily Solemn Mass, Divine Office and catechesis as well as workshops in Latin, Gregorian chant, and cultural excursions. Without such assistance, it will be impossible to stage this event in 2008 which young people from at least 20 countries are looking forward to attending.

Although we have made progress this year in promoting Juventutem within Australia and overseas, setting up a website, conducting surveys, obtaining support from Ecclesia Dei organizations, it is imperative we find funds to not only continue the complex preparations for 2008, but to continue to exist as a viable ongoing movement within the Australian community.

The Juventutem Australia Committee believe that such an important occasion will not only directly benefit Australia’s Catholic community, but also the communities of all those countries taking part. Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of Australia in May this year:

“More than an event, World Youth Day is a time of deep ecclesial renewal, especially among the young, the fruits of which will benefit the whole of your society”

Please visit
to make a donation. We are very grateful for any contribution you are able to make.

Please keep all the young people involved in Juventutem here and overseas in your prayers, as we will keep you in ours.

Thanking you in advance for your support, and with every good wish,

In Christo,

Miss Eve Woolven
Secretary, Juventutem Australia

Dr Chris Steward
Acting President, Juventutem Australia

Sermon for Last Sunday after Pentecost 26.11.06

Last Sunday of the year 26.11.06 (with First Communion)

Today we have the last and the first. The last Sunday of the year, and the first Holy Communion for seven children.

Understanding where we are supposed to finish is always a good place to start.

The last Sunday plus the season of Advent, with its emphasis on repentance and judgment, is a time of reminder for us to keep the last things in view. We are reminded that life is short, that the world is passing away, that we should be ready like wakeful bridesmaids or watchful servants to meet the Lord when He returns.

This is how we are supposed to be when we finish our lives. So how can we reach and maintain such a state?

By taking advantage of every source of grace we can receive in this earthly pilgrimage.

And the greatest source of grace we have available to us in this life is Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

This Sacrament is so important because it is no less than Jesus Christ Himself.

To receive Holy Communion is to receive all-of-God. We receive Him and everything good about Him.

If we receive Him worthily and as fully as we are able then we will be ready to die, and to live, ready to end our lives or continue them, ready for anything and everything.

To receive Him as fully as we are able. At the physical level it is easy to receive Our Lord in this Sacrament.

It is easy to digest one small host, and it may seem like no big deal. To those with little or no faith that is how it will appear.

But with the eyes of faith this small host is bigger than the whole universe. Because it contains what cannot be contained – the Mystery of God Himself, the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity.

Infinite reality packed into a very small space. How precious is one of these hosts.

To some it means nothing, to us everything.

But if what we receive is so great, how can we take it in? How can we grasp so much goodness in a way that we can translate into our everyday lives?

This is food that we enter, rather than food that enters us.

We enter the Mystery of God. We cannot contain Him, but He can easily contain us.

So we enter the goodness of God, like going into a large room, or an ocean and being immersed in that goodness.

It expresses itself in different ways at different times.

So Holy Communion might one time bring you comfort in a time of fear, or consolation in a time of grief, or wisdom in a time of searching, or love for your neighbour in a time of need.

Anything that is good might flow from this Sacrament when it is received worthily and with at least some amount of faith in the recipient.

Children, who are receiving Him for the first time today, you will enter the Mystery again and again. Like a room full of good things, you cannot take them all out with you at any one time, but you can go back for more each time.

So we need to receive the Lord repeatedly, because He is bigger than we are.

And for the adults, who have received Him many times – realize the momentousness of each Holy Communion – treat it like it is your First and your Last.

And doing this as often as we can through our lives, we are far more likely to be awake and watching when the Lord returns, or when our life ends.

We will have nourished ourselves on His goodness, having learned to live in communion with Him. Death and the end of the world will be no more than a change of address for us because we are already close to Him, and will rejoice to see Him face to face.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Sermon for 24th Sunday after Pentecost 19.11.06

24th Sunday after Pentecost 19.11.06 Leaven in the bread

We are to be the leaven in society.

If we cannot convert people directly we can at least influence the kind of world we have. We are helping to civilise and direct the world to the right end.

It is not easy to convert people, but we can at least put the truth in front of them by the way we speak and act.

A lot of our present struggle is whether the Church is leavening the world or the other way round.

Much of worldly thinking has infected the Church, eg feminism, syncretism of religions.

We have to be very clear that the Church is teacher of the world, and not the other way round.

Yes, we can learn from the world sometimes, but only as to detail, never as to basic belief and policy.

So, for example, if we have an atheist neighbour who is generous with his time and possessions, we can learn from him to be generous, but not to be an atheist.

So the Church beckons the world to come to Christ, come to the water and be saved.

The world says it doesn’t need to come anywhere. The Church in fact should move, relax its standards and apologize for past wrongs.

Then, with a vague blend of spiritual values all the world will live in peace.

But you can’t be in peace if you don’t have the basic link with truth.

Only Christ can save. There is only one God and only one Saviour.

This is the stunning simplicity of our belief.

So much more fashionable to believe in many gods without taking any of them very seriously.

This throws us back onto humanism. We decide for ourselves what is right - and we get it wrong.

If we don’t make Christ known the whole world will drown in its own ignorance. Darkness will prevail.

We must give the world what it needs. To know Christ; to come to full faith, baptism, eucharist, eternal life.

General goodwill is not enough. Tolerance is definitely not enough.

We ourselves have a lot to learn as we seek to be leaven.

In this sense the growth of the Church is in two ways: in holiness and in numbers.

We want to get bigger and we want to get better.

Certainly if we get the holiness right the numbers will rocket. It is only our lack of holiness that impedes our growth.

As the Church has always produced saints in every generation so there has been growth.
Imagine how much more that growth would be if more rank and file Catholics took the faith seriously.

If saints, instead of being one in a million, were one one in a hundred.

Why not? The grace is there; the truth is there.

Without holiness our growth in numbers will be just nominal (like higher population), but no real life.

We must get both right – be what we are supposed to be and we cannot help but get bigger.

The birds will fly to the tree when they see how safe and strong it is.

Or the nations will flock to Zion when they see how tall it is.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Tradelaide in Rex Magazine

Tradelaide blog has been featured in the new issue of Rex Magazine. If you would like to have a look, visit:

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sermon for 23rd Sunday after Pentecost 12.11.06

23rd Sunday after Pentecost 12.11.06 Total trust

The Gospel presents us with two different ways of asking Our Lord for help. One man insists on His personal attendance at the scene of the trouble; one woman is content to pray just by touching, without saying a word.

Both receive what they want. We sense that the woman’s faith is stronger than the man’s, but from both we learn again that Our Lord is willing to hear our prayers, and we should keep them coming.

Our Lord is pleased whenever He encounters above average faith. He commends this woman who touched His garment. He commends the centurion who trusted that Our Lord could heal from a distance. He commends the Canaanite woman who persisted in her prayers despite apparent rejection.

He tells us to be like the importunate widow who would not give up until the unjust judge gave her what she needed.

O we of little faith are more likely to give up too soon, or expect too little of Our Lord.

We can be too tentative in our prayer, not really expecting anything good to happen.

Why do we give up so easily? There are a couple of major barriers we need to get across.

1) Lack of trust. We are not convinced enough of God’s love for us, His closeness to us, or even (sometimes) His existence.

We allow our experience of suffering and disappointment to dent our trust in God. If He would allow me to go through suffering then is He really my friend?

So we either stop praying altogether or pray only half-heartedly and sporadically.

This does not express or engender faith. If we do not ask we do not receive, or not as much anyway.

2) Lack of knowledge of God’s will. Supposing we do still trust Him to a fairly high degree. The problem can then be that we do not know what He is planning; what is His will for the particular problem we confront.

We believe He has the power to do anything; we are just not sure what He wants to do in this case. For example, a prayer for the healing of someone with a terminal illness.

So we tend to be less forthright in asking than we would like – out of a kind of deference to God’s will. Yet He does want us to ask for things. Ask and you shall receive.

He wants us to discern His will and approach Him with confidence.

It is all a matter of trust. He wants us to get so close to Him that when we pray we are not shouting across a great canyon in the hope that He might hear us, but rather whispering in intimate confidence, knowing that He does hear us.

Look at Our Lady at Cana, and how she made that prayer. She approached Jesus quietly and confidently. She did not have to shout the prayer. She did not have to explain what she meant. She just put it before Him knowing that He would be in sympathy with her feelings on the matter.

So the miracle was worked. If we need a miracle this is how to ask for it. We don’t have to make a lot of noise, but just develop an enduring sense of trust.

Come close to Him every day, and every day closer than the one before.

We do not always know what He is going to do, but we do know that it will be something good.

In many ways the state of perfect trust in God is itself the answer to the prayer. When we love Him that much we are filled with His grace and that is really better than any earthly advantage we might otherwise be seeking.

Also when we do trust Him that much our prayer is going to work much better because it will be prayed in strong faith (like the woman, the centurion, Our Lady etc).

So to advance in trust, until we reach total trust. Any lack of trust can be part of our prayer: Lord, help my unbelief.

Any previous disappointment or disenchantment with Him: ask Him to heal it, to reassure us that He has never been absent from our sides.

Then, together, we draw close, and miracles will happen.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Sermon for wedding Steven and Louise 4.11.06

Steven Zollo and Louise Donohue 4.11.06

It is good to marry in the Church because here we are able to get to the source and meaning of what marriage really is.

In this place we are acknowledging that it is God Himself who has invented, established marriage.

Only if we go back to Him can we get the full picture, can we understand exactly what marriage is and what it requires.

Why did God invent marriage? To make His own love visible and tangible.

Being creatures of flesh we need physical reassurance. To be told that ‘God loves us’ is good, but it may seem a bit abstract or remote.

He knows that so He gives us love in forms we can understand and appreciate.

He uses human love to mediate His divine love.

There are many forms of human love but of them all marriage is the most intimate and the most intense.

So especially in marriage does Almighty God mediate His divine love to the couple, through each other.

The couple’s love for each other becomes a sign and a sharing in God’s love for each of them.

Their love and fidelity would demonstrate God’s much greater love and fidelity.

As well God has instituted marriage for new life. In this way new children will be born for His kingdom. He claims the children as His own.

Steven and Louise can do all this – with His help.

They know their need for His help and have committed themselves to seeking Him in preparation for this marriage.

They know also that it is not only today they must pray but every day. And we, as we pray for them, must not end the prayer with this wedding, but keep them in continuous prayer.

We pray for good fruit to come from this marriage.

The most obvious fruit of marriage is children, and we pray that they come.

Other fruits are things like stability for society, hospitality, service to the Church and community.

Steven and Louise, if you succeed you will be doing us all a favour. You will be establishing one place in this world where there is love and peace.

In a world where there is so much trouble and alienation, we will be able to point to your house and say, There is one place where love can be found, where God is enthroned.

So we pray that it be so, and God will bless you in every way.

We take the chance to pray for all marriages, for all who are married or who will marry, that they will grasp the plan of God in establishing marriage and will live by His will.

Marriage will make sense only when we include God in the picture.

May He continue to show His divine love through human love.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Sermon for 22nd Sunday after Pentecost 5.11.06

22nd Sunday after Pentecost 5.11.06 Purgatory

If a disaster struck and we were surrounded on all sides by sick and dying people, we would try to look after them, would we not?

The motivation in such a case would be the highly visible and audible suffering which we could not escape even if we wanted to.

We just could not ignore people lying all about us and moaning in pain.

What we are doing on All Souls Day, and whenever we pray for the dead, is precisely the same thing.

We are helping people who are helpless; people who are moaning in pain and in dire need of whatever help we can give.

It is not so easy to maintain the motivation in this case because we cannot see or hear their distress.

It is so easy to forget the dead – forget at least their distress . We remember those we love, but even then do we think to pray for them?

We might be more conscious of our own pain in missing them, but what of their pain as they experience the purifying fire of purgatory?

Part of the problem today is the assumption that many make of instant entry to heaven.

Read the funeral notices or go to a funeral and there will always be a very clear statement that the deceased person has gone to heaven and is already enjoying eternal bliss.

It may be so, but it is likely that most people would spend some time in Purgatory before they move on to Heaven.

And Purgatory, by all the teachings of the Church and the witness of the saints and mystics – is a painful place.

Yes there is the joy of knowing that salvation is assured, but there is also the intense pain of being purified from every sin and every kind of sin we have committed in life.

We see in all its clarity our own grubbiness in the light of God’s glory. It is, we can imagine, like being embarrassed or humiliated, only a hundred times worse than we have experienced on earth.

So there is pain in purgatory. We might think the dead do not need to worry because they will be released. But think if you were trapped in a ditch and people were passing by. You know eventually you will be released, but you are still suffering while you are in that position.

What if everyone said to you: Don’t worry, pal, someone will get you out one day – but noone actually did get you out and you were still there a hundred years later.

Some of the suffering souls must feel like that.

In the Church there has been a marked decrease in prayer for the dead – due in part to the assumption of an easy heaven, and in part due to a decline in any sort of prayer.

We must do our bit. We are surrounded on all sides by people in distress. It’s bad enough on earth but we have this other world where there may be millions of people trapped in the state of sin in which they died and they need us to pull them out of the ‘ditch’.

We don’t know who is in purgatory, and we are not sure whom we are helping with our prayers, but we do know we are helping someone, and that is enough motivation.

It is a work of mercy to pray for the dead and we may need someone to do the same for us.

(Though in our case we will take the lesson that we will try to be purified before we die, not after).

To keep the motivation just see in your mind that people are being relieved and released from pain when you pray for them, and the more you pray the more this is happening.

We can forget them because we cannot hear their cries, so we make a special effort to keep them always in mind.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

20th Sunday after Pentecost 22.10.06 Praying for rain (and other things)

Australia is in the grip of a drought. As people of faith we know what we have to do when we come across a crisis. Whatever practical steps we might take we must also and always pray. Pray to Almighty God to rain down His blessings on us.

Rain in particular is a natural thing to pray for because it symbolises so perfectly God’s bountiful mercy. The sacred scriptures often use rain as an image as well as a practical expression of God’s goodness.

Australia is a barren country anyway. From a Christian viewpoint we would say barren in two senses – not much rain and not much faith.

Drought is therefore not surprising if we understand the symbolism that God can withhold His blessings when a people does not pay Him proper attention.

The prophet Elijah had the power to close and open the heavens according to his judgment of the faith status of Israel. What would Elijah say about Australia in 2006?

Is God punishing Australia? Very likely.

What about the innocent people who are doing the right thing (in which number we hope to be considered)? It often happens that the innocent have to carry some of the burden of the guilty (look at world wars for example).

If we are innocent then drought (or any adversity) can be offered by us as atonement for the sins of the nation. We accept the suffering and pray that it will end as soon as possible and that all of us will learn the lesson as we turn to the living God.

So we pray for rain. Can I make it rain single-handed by the power of my faith? Can you? We are not Elijahs, but we can at least make things head in the right direction.

The more of us asking for the same thing in faith, and persistently, will make the thing more likely to happen.

Having been in rural parishes the amount of rainfall was always a major topic. It commonly happened that having come out of Mass where we prayed for rain someone would say, Oh well, we can’t do anything about it can we, Father? A kind of fatalism. What will be will be.

Can’t do anything about it? What do they think prayer is for? Yes we can do something about it. Faith not fatalism.

When we pray in faith for rain (or anything else) we are activating the grace and mercy of God to fall on us like rain (and in this case actual rain).

We don’t always know God’s will. If, for example, He is punishing Australia with this drought He may not wish to break it immediately. But we pray in that case that the need for punishment cease – that is, that Australians repent. And that in the meantime we bear well with the suffering, with the consolation of His grace.

In any case, whether we know what is going to happen or not, we just keep praying because praying will always improve the overall situation. It will bring us closer to God for one thing, and that is always of paramount importance.

The closer we are to Him the better everything else will work.

This is what Our Lord was conveying in today’s Gospel. It was not so much whether He would heal this person or that person. He had enough power to heal everyone.

What concerned Him more was that people did not have faith; did not love God; did not trust Him; would not draw close to Him in confidence.

With a living faith we come to Jesus with every need, large or small, and we entrust the outcome to Him. We trust in Him rather than the desired outcome.

Whether it rains or not God is still God, and the more we acknowledge that, the more likely it is to rain (or any other blessing to happen).

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sermon for 19th Sunday after Pentecost 15.10.06

19th Sunday after Pentecost 15.10.06 Reward and Punishment

The Gospel gives the double message of invitation to the banquet and then conformity once inside the banquet.

It shows forth a tension which is always present in Catholic life and preaching.

On the one hand we present the Good News of God’s mercy and the possibility of eternal life to all who want it, a free and abundant gift, lavished on all who receive it.

When we hear that we feel good but just when we start to have some vision of eternal bliss we hear the other message that we have to behave ourselves or the whole thing will be taken from us and we will be cast into the darkness!

So are we happy because of the promise or miserable because of the warning, or some mixture of the two?

Catholic preaching and teaching has always had to give due weight to both of these perspectives.

The carrot of eternal reward, and the stick of eternal punishment.

Many have strayed, either from assuming the reward is so easy to attain that it does not require any response; or from being so depressed at the thought of punishment that they accept it as inevitable. (The twin perils of Presumption and Despair)

We must sail in between these two extremes, and have a healthy hope of salvation (overcoming despair) but realizing we are not saved automatically having to ‘work out our salvation in fear and trembling’ (overcoming presumption).

This means, in terms of today’s parable, that we must first accept the invitation – instantly and gladly. Then we must do all that is required to stay in close union with God, working in the vineyard, persevering in holiness the rest of our lives.

Accept the invitation: It means to believe there is something better than this life and this world the way it is.

It means to look beyond earthly pleasures and ambitions for our ultimate fulfilment. We are looking to a banquet that will satisfy without making us feel bloated and weary, a banquet of eternal delights. Our appetite will always be active and at the same time will always be satisfied.

It means recognizing the Good News as the one piece of news that really does lift us above the normal dreary daily round. It takes us into a higher dimension, and so calls forth a radical response from us.

To accept the invitation to the banquet means we do not just turn up but actively and fully engage with all that it means.

And this leads to the second part; that having arrived here we must put on the wedding garment. We must conform to all that is expected of us as members of this new kingdom, discovering this new way of life.

This could sound like something tedious (you have to work for your keep), but in reality it is a delight to do the will of God, to discover in fulfilling our obligations that God is sweet to the taste and a delight to serve.

My yoke is easy and My burden light.

In practice we are probably a bit of both. We can move away from the fear of punishment and the emphasis thereon, as we take up the positive motivation of serving God out of love, and the reward that flows from that.

We can fear the devil like we fear a shark. I know I will not be eaten by a shark if I swim between the flags etc. So, I am aware of the devil but I will not let him get me.

While never forgetting the awful possibility of punishment, the knowledge of God and the blessed hope of reward will flood our souls and keep us on the right path. We shall, with St Paul, finish the race and claim an eternal wreath.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Sermon for 18th Sunday after Pentecost 8.10.06

18th Sunday after Pentecost 8.10.06 Forgiveness

Our Lord heals both body and soul as He raises the paralytic and forgives his sins.

It takes more authority and power to forgive sins than it does to heal the body. Any doctor can attempt healing and often succeed, but who can forgive sins?

Only God. Because all sin is an offence against Him He has the right to determine how to deal with that sin.

So Our Lord, demonstrating His divinity and His infinite authority tells this man he is forgiven, and so he is.

He demonstrates the power at work by raising the man’s body physically. He is made well again, all deformity removed.

So sin deforms the soul and needs to be removed.

We are ‘raised up’ from our sickbeds every time we experience the mercy of God.

Raised up in two senses: 1) that we are in better spiritual health and 2) that we are raised beyond the power of that sin to hurt us again – we will not (need not) commit that sin again.

It is one thing to receive mercy (not difficult). Quite another to ‘retain’ that mercy, so that we do not lose it and fall back into sin. This is much harder.

Easy to say we are sorry. Easy to be sorry. But so hard not to do it again.

How can we get stronger at retaining mercy, so that it works in our soul for healing and we become immune to that sin or tempation to which we have succumbed.

We say in the act of Contrition that we will not sin again. Yet when we go to Confession we are probably confessing the same sins over and over.

What went wrong? How can we fix the leak in the spiritual system that lets the grace escape and leaves us back where we were before?

The main thing is to believe that change is possible. We might think we are so weak that we will certainly commit the same sin again.

Yes we are weak, but someone else is strong. It is by the grace of God that we hope not to sin again. It is His strength we draw upon.

And it is something of an insult to Him to say that we cannot change when He Himself is changing us!

We are weak but we become less weak as we are exposed to His grace. What seemed impossible now becomes achievable.

We might have thought of Confession as a carwash where we clean the car but fully expect the car to get dirty again, and we come back next week, or month etc. There is no change to our behaviour; we just come back every week and get washed.

But Confession is not a carwash. It is more like going back to the factory where we are remodelled and made into a brand new car. I don’t wash the car; I get a new one each week!

The Sacrament of Confession is an encounter with the Son of God, the One who has power over both body and soul; the One who has authority and power to forgive, to raise up so there is no falling back.

Is it cruel of God to expect us to be perfect? No more than the doctor is cruel in trying to heal us. God can see that our sin is a deformity. He simply removes that deformity. How can it be cruel to make us into something better than before?

His mercy is curative as well as liberating. It is a complete cure. You will never even want to sin again once you open your heart to this mercy. And you will not sin again.

It may need more than one confession to get this right, but each confession is part of the process of total cure. Rise up, take up your mat and walk! Go, and sin no more!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Sermon for 17th Sunday after Pentecost 1.10.06

17th Sunday after Pentecost 1.10.06 Love God and neighbour

We have to love both God and neighbour. Hard to love either, because in God’s case He is invisible and in the neighbour’s case, he is visible!

With God we find Him abstract and difficult to connect with.

Yet we can work our way towards Him and find by various paths that He is loveable (literally adorable) and we love Him spontaneously.

Of course it is a strange thing to be commanded to love something, since love seems such a personal matter.

Imagine being commanded to love spinach! Love as just a feeling does not obey commands; it either goes that way or it doesn’t.

But love as an action can respond to command, and this is what is being referred to:

Love God means to do what He says, to act according to His will, to try to please Him.

To obey the command applicable to the present moment is one way to love Him and to discover how to love Him.

When we do the right thing we receive an insight into the mind/nature of God and we come to love what we discover. There is something intrinsically good about what we discover.

The only reason the whole world does not love God is that He is difficult to locate amidst all the noise and confusion.

So people give up the search and they say: He does not exist, or He does not matter, or He is ‘out there somewhere’, cold and remote.

No, we must do better than that. We must search like the lady in the Song of Songs, go through the streets till we find Him.

When we do we will experience great rapture as everything will then fall into place.

We will find, in the famous words of St.Augustine, that our hearts are made for Him and cannot rest until they come to rest in Him.

How do we find Him? By obedience and also by prayer and reflection.

Come to where He is. Ask Him to make Himself known, and He will.

We can find Him in the help He provides in everyday matters where we see the fruits of His love. He is the mysterious benefactor that sets up the world we live in, opens doors in advance of when we reach them.

It is He who provides the sunlight, the air you breathe, the clothes you wear, the ground you walk on, the family you were born into, the brains by which you can think, the many fascinating things which attract and interest you.

It is He who has been there from the beginning of your life and will still be there at the end. It is He who fills the whole universe with His being, knowing every particle of creation and what is happening with it.

Logically of course we can reason that if God made all the people and things we love, He must be greater than they are and must therefore be even more loveable.

So if you would rather go to the football or the beach than to Church, then just consider who invented football or who created the beach.

If we can find such a Being then we have everything else as well.

So, coming logically, practically, mystically, every possible way, we arrive at this Supreme Being who is Love.

We love Love because we cannot resist.

We are being commanded to do something we cannot help doing. It is like being commanded to breathe or eat.

Only in this case we have to search a little bit before it becomes so obvious.

Every person, no matter how unlikely it might seem at first, is called to love God, and is made for that purpose more than any other.

There is a magnetic pull drawing everyone to find this perfect Love. We must not resist that pull. It is our destiny, and if we do this we will also help others to find where they belong.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Sermon for 16th Sunday after Pentecost 24.9.06

16th Sunday after Pentecost 24.9.06 Pride

The sin of pride is said to be at the root of all others, and therefore the worst of sins. It is of all the sins the most obvious denial of God, of His existence, His reality, His importance.

The first sin ever committed was the sin of pride. Not the Original Sin - the one before that - the sin of Lucifer and the fallen angels.

They were creatures of great beauty, but they could not accept their creaturely status. They wanted to be gods to themselves. So they rebelled against the true God and have been suffering ever since.

The crucial issue is: can we accept that we are created beings, created by one greater than ourselves? Or must we think that we just came into existence on our own merit, by evolution or some other process?

The fallen angels were right about one thing: they were beautiful. God had made them so.

Part of their beautiful condition was that they had the gift of free will. They had that extra capacity to decide for or against God.

This is a gift from God, which offers extra dignity to those who receive it. God makes many things which are beautiful, like stars, planets, trees, rivers, animals… but these do not have any freedom to decide for or against Him. They must do simply what their role in nature is.

We have this extra quality. (Sometimes we wish we did not, so difficult is it to handle).

If we do decide for God it makes our glory greater and gives greater delight to Him.

If we decide against it makes us wretched and grieves Almighty God.

If we do a bit of both (which is what does happen) then we are in a confused state of hope and anguish (which is what we are).

In the Gospel today Our Lord calls us to be humble, to take the lowest place and let Him invite us higher.

Taking the lowest place means not asserting ourselves against Him. Not demanding, not complaining, not disputing – simply accepting and trusting whatever He deals us.

We have just enough intelligence and understanding to be dangerous. We are tempted to use our little bit of knowledge to challenge the infinite knowledge of God.

The stars and the trees have more sense than that. They do not argue.

But we are glad we have this knowledge and we give thanks to God for sharing His wisdom with us.

We just need a little extra wisdom so we will not get carried away with our own importance.

If we can get this right, stay humble, He will exalt us higher still.

Heaven is for those who can remember they are created beings, that they exist only because God keeps them in being; for those who have enough sense not to bite the hand that feeds them, or cut the rope to which they are clinging.

Hell is for the rest, for those who follow Lucifer’s example and want to argue the impossible, who are carried away by their own reflection in the mirror and say they also are gods.

This life and this world have become very tangled because of repeated sins of pride. God has allowed a great confusion to come upon the human race as part of our punishment. There is a way out of this confusion, and it is simple: Repent of your pride, and return to the bottom place at the table, and from there await further instructions!

May the Lord guide us all back to the simple obedience that He receives from the good angels and the rest of creation.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Pilgrimage Picnic in Adelaide

A Christus Rex Pilgrimage information picnic is being held on October 15 at Holy Name Church.

For more info, please visit:

Monday, September 18, 2006

Sermon for 15th Sunday after Pentecost 17.9.06

15th Sunday after Pentecost 17.9.06 Avoiding the death of mortal sin

Queen Blanche of Castile told her son, the future St. Louis IX of France (13th century), that she would rather see him dead at her feet than that he would commit one mortal sin.

A strange thing for a mother to say? Perhaps there are not many mothers who would be capable of making the same statement.

Yet it makes perfect sense, once we look at it in the light of truth.

Physical death is not such a disaster if the person dies in a state of grace. It becomes just a passageway to eternal life.

But mortal sin is the end of everything; it kills the life of the soul, the very centre of the person, and leads to eternal death.

Queen Blanche just saw this more clearly than most people do; so matter of factly passed this on to her son.

Today people put everything on physical health. If a baby is to be born, they will say: I don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl as long as it’s healthy.

Ever new regulations come out about physical safety, as more and more signs appear telling us where the exits are, where the assembly points are.

But where are the signs to say: Do not commit a mortal sin. Do not offend the living God. Do not destroy your soul.

When Our Lord restored the son of the widow to life, He was relieving that woman’s grief, but also giving us a symbol of His power over life and death.

He does not normally raise dead people back to life, not to this earthly life at least, but does often raise people back to life spiritually.

Every time He forgives sin He is raising back to life. We should rejoice in sin forgiven even more than we would rejoice if someone came back from the grave.

But we should also learn from the lesson, that sin is a deadly thing, to be avoided in future.

So let us say with Queen Blanche that it is better to die than to sin.

We can understand this as a concept, but how can it be so real to us that we would actually think this way?

We need help with our motivation. It is one thing to know the commandments and understand what they mean.

But to have such a revulsion for sin that we would rather die instead: this is something more.

For this we need the grace of God, to give us that extra motivation.

Here also the saints can help us. They could see clearly the personal dimension of sin, that it was not just breaking a rule, but actually wounding Christ in His crucified body, and also doing great damage to one’s own soul.

Imagine you are a bystander on the way to Calvary and Our Lord stumbles at your feet. Would you strike Him another blow, jeer at Him? Of course not. You would want to comfort Him.

Well, when faced with a chance to do good or evil, if we choose evil we are striking Him one more time, one more lash or nail for His flesh.

Think of it in such personal terms. Our sin is wounding another person, namely Jesus Christ - and we become less inclined to commit that sin.

Think of harming your own body, and you recoil from that. Well, if you sin you are doing worse.

We just need to be able to see this, to feel it. It is the truth but it is obscured from us because we are too much body and not enough spirit.

May the Lord Himself give us the grace to perceive what is really happening when we sin, and so help us stay alive in the soul. May Mary, in her Seven Sorrows, give us her vision of sin and holiness and we will never stray again.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sermon for 14th Sunday after Pentecost 10.9.06

14th Sunday after Pentecost 10.9.06 Seek first the Kingdom

People often ask Almighty God for certain things. Please do this, grant that, prevent something else.

Then we find that the prayer is not always granted as we had hoped. At which point many become discouraged and lose their faith in God – either He does not exist, or He does not care, they conclude.

The Gospel today (about the birds in the air and the lilies in the field) encourages us to trust in God for every need. Why worry, Our Lord asks, when it is plain that your Father is looking after you?

He encourages us to ask for what we need, but He also gives a vital clue. To get everything we need we have to seek first the kingdom of God.

This is an essential step which is often overlooked. Many just charge in and start asking for things.

As we learn from other areas of life: when faced with a puzzle or problem we have to get to the root of the problem to solve it.

If you are struggling to turn a key in a lock, for instance. It could be the wrong key, so you could be turning all night, but the door will not open. Sometimes things unravel suddenly and with great simplicity. Ever tried to untangle a knotted cord, and it seems hopeless, then suddenly it all falls open for you?

If we get the crucial knot, the key point of the problem the rest is easy. All of life is like that, including the spiritual life.

The key point is: if we want something from God we must give Him first place in our lives. This is what seeking the Kingdom means.

We may not want to do that, but unless we do, our prayers of request will bounce back unanswered.

Thy will be done, Thy kingdom come… We say it a million times; now we have to mean it.

We really have to make that act of trust that God knows what is best for us.

We then ask simply that He put into effect whatever He wills. Sometimes it will be the same as we want; sometimes different; but always the best thing.

His will is not something to be feared. Go back to the lilies of the field. God’s will is essentially simple and straightforward. He likes to bless His creatures to the fullest possible extent.

The only complication is that sometimes to give us a greater blessing He has to withhold a lesser one.

So, for example, He might withhold a physical cure for the sake of purifying us spiritually. Or He might prevent us from getting a particular job because He knows there is something better coming down the line.

Always He is seeing and working for what is best for us.

So when we give up praying in vexation we are both insulting Him and frustrating the solutions He is working out for us.

It’s no use trying any other remedy. Like the man who had lost his wallet outside but was looking for it inside because the light was better! He was never going to find it. We can turn the wrong key in the lock all night but we we will not get in.

So: we can be asking for the wrong thing – eg to be rich without any work - blank response.
We can be asking for the right thing but in the wrong way – eg world peace but without any effort to amend our own anger – blank response.
We can be asking for the right thing and in the right way – and still not get through, because other people are blocking the result eg conversion of a sinner, and the sinner does not want to know.

We have to keep praying – just fine tune these various points – and results will come.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Sermon for 13th Sunday after Pentecost 3.9.06

13th Sunday after Pentecost 3.9.06 Giving thanks

There is a story of a man who was on his deathbed, and when prompted to ask God’s forgiveness. The man snapped, ‘God! What did I ever do to Him?’

The man was suffering from self-pity and bitterness. In his mind it was God who should be apologizing to him. It was God who had allowed this sickness and was depriving the man of life.

Many have a similar attitude to Almighty God. They focus on the negative in their lives, and think of God in terms of blame. Why does God allow this or that to happen? Why did He not prevent it?

This is the beginning of hell. The whole essence of hell is ingratitude. A permanent grudge against God, for getting it wrong, for doing it wrong. I never asked to be created; I don’t like the world I am in; I should have better treatment etc etc etc.

In hell are the bitter. And the indifferent. People who could not care less. The sort of people who don’t see any need for ‘going to church’. Has God saved me? I didn’t know I needed saving. These people are in the beginning of hell, the place for the ungrateful, the unheeding, the couldn’t-care-lessers.

When all the time we should be in awe at how good God is to us and how lucky we are to be alive. The story of the ten lepers calls us to a true evaluation of our good fortune.

Knowing we need saving is the key. The nine lepers were closed to anything beyond their physical condition. The one leper knew beyond his physical healing. His gratitude opened up his soul to the deeper question of his whole relationship with God. So the nine stayed at the physical (non-spiritual) state, the beginning of hell. And the one leper was on his way to heaven.

Knowing we need saving. Grasping firstly how much trouble we are in because of our sins, and then grasping how lucky we are to be freed from sin and made sharers in the life of grace.

Many people do not grasp either; we must grasp both.

The ‘leprosy’ is the disfigurement of sin; being cleansed is our forgiveness.

It is the difference between heaven and hell, between eternal life filled with joy and gratitude, and eternal death filled with bitterness and indifference.

We are playing for the highest stakes. We need help from heaven to appreciate what we must do.

It is so easy to be buried in just the physical and material world around us. I am grateful for lunch because I am hungry and I can feel the hunger being satisfied. But forgiveness of sin? Not so easy to feel, especially if we have allowed our consciences to be blunted.

We need heavenly aid. We need grace. And we have it – right here in the Mass.

The Mass is amongst other things an act of Thanksgiving. Gratias agamus Domino Deo nostro… Dignum et justum est… Vere dignum et iustum est…

We offer the sacrifice of the Divine Victim in the hope of receiving mercy and salvation. At the same time as we do that we are giving thanks for past mercy received, for future mercy anticipated, and for the whole gracious disposition of God by which He is merciful.

The phrases ‘I can never thank you enough’ or ‘I’m eternally grateful’ take on literal truth in this case. An eternal blessing needs eternal gratitude.

The cherubim, seraphim, powers and virtues, angels and archangels lead us in this great act of thanksgiving.

We may not feel grateful at the personal level but we know we ought to be. No matter, taking part in this act (of the Mass) will make us grateful. We are swept up into a higher world, and we learn to feel at a deeper level.

Ungrateful brats we might have started out, but we are transformed into loving, faithful children. For all eternity.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Sermon for Feast of Assumption 15.8.06

Feast of the Assumption 15.8.06

Today we recall that Our Lady was taken into heaven body and soul at the moment of her death.

As the psalm says: You would not allow Your holy one to experience corruption. This applies to Our Lord but also by extension to Our Lady.

She lived a perfect, sinless life, so sin had no claim on her. She would not experience corruption, nor even delay in her entry to glory.

More beautiful in body than any person has ever been, resplendent in glory, she rises to heaven.

Not to leave us orphans, but to continue as our Mother, now bringing us to birth in the life of grace.

If sinlessness was the key to her glory then what of us who are so enmeshed in sin? Can we hope to share her glorious fate?

In proportion as we can break free from sin we will grow in grace, and grace is the life of God within us; which in turn translates into glory.

Our Lady was so fully alive because she was ‘full of grace’. The life of God was active in her and it was this life that enabled her to transcend death.

We are far from full of grace, but we can improve on how much grace we have, and we seek to do that.

We actually become more alive as we make progress in holiness. The progress is registered first in the soul; then the body.

Our bodies still must suffer decline and death, but we hope to bounce back from that and enjoy glory.

We will not be assumed straight into heaven, but we can increase the degree of glory our bodies will enjoy on the last day – by the way we live now.

So while we regret the ageing process and the gradual running down of the body, we can rejoice in the thought that we will eventually be glorious, and more so than at any point of our earthly life.

Our Lady can obtain for us the graces we need to live better lives. She has mastered the new life of grace and is privileged to share what she has.

God has entrusted to her the distribution of graces as she sees fit. She is truly Mother because she gives life.

So we ask her for more grace, more life, so we can heal the rift between soul and body; so we can live more clearly for the glory of God.
The great eternal picture is exciting. We long to finish our earthly pilgrimage. In the meantime, however, we must get on with the grinding daily tasks; getting the little things right so that bigger things can follow.

Remember: that every little victory for holiness will make us more alive and will increase our final degree of glory.

Our Lady can obtain for us the graces that we need. She is praying for us anyway, but if we actually go to her she can do more for us.

So we pray today, with special confidence, that she, Queen and Mother, will help us to love God more in our daily lives, and so prepare for final glory.

Sermon for 12th Sunday after Pentecost 27.8.06

12th Sunday after Pentecost 27.8.06 Other people

It is very easy to see other people as something of an interruption to the important business of life.

This was the problem facing the two passers-by who did not stop to help the injured man on the side of the road (Good Samaritan parable). No doubt they had other things on their minds.

In our hurry we can treat persons in an impersonal way. We can see the person as an object rather than a subject. If I am the sixth person in a checkout line and I wish the other five would hurry up, then I am seeing them as ‘objects’, needing to be removed. It is not a nice way to think.

Better if we can learn to see others as ‘subjects’, coming to see how they feel and think. One way we experience this is when we follow another person in a story. Think of some of the powerful books you have read, or films you have seen. Notice how you ‘identify’ with some of the characters.

For example, in ‘Roots’, we travel with Kunta Kinte through his childhood to the moment when he is captured by slave traders and then his brutal treatment; his anguish at being separated from his family and never seeing them again…

Or Macbeth. Even an evil character can arouse our sympathy. We trace his fall from grace, how one sin leads to another, and he gets worse. We wish he would take a different turn and come out of his dilemma. We are identifying with him.

In fact every person could be the subject of a book or film. It may be a dull story, we might initially think. But every person is a whole universe of desires, wishes, hopes, fears, joys, missed opportunities. Every person is interesting, even the bad ones. If we had the time and the energy we could come to be interested in that person as we do when watching a film.

This means that as we go about our busy daily lives all those people whizzing around us - although we don’t know many of them personally - we do register a sense of their importance.

And that is a major step in loving one’s neighbour, one of the primary commands we receive from the Lord.

We are far more likely to love our neighbour if we realize his importance. A man lying on the side of the road is not just an object, like a sack of potatoes. He is a subject, a human person with a soul, loved by God, and called to the kingdom of heaven.

How could we treat him with indifference once we realize that?

God Himself is not bound by our limits of time and opportunity. He does know each person intimately, to the number of hairs on their heads.

He knows us better than we know ourselves.

And He has an infinite and undying love for each person.

Other people are important to Him, so they must be important to me too.

My indifference to others is only because of my ignorance of what is really there. May the Lord open our eyes and hearts to the dignity and importance of each other person.

We then can offer the appropriate assistance to each other. The first need is always spiritual. We pray for mercy, the grace of repentance, that this person will know the mercy of God and come to salvation.

Then we can help in other ways - physically, or economically, or in whatever the situation requires. Ways of helping will emerge once we have overcome the initial lack of compassion. We learn to feel for others with the Heart of Christ. We learn to see the other person as God sees him.

People are not just so many black ants running about, but each one is a subject, either already - or called to be - a son of God. We must treat them accordingly.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Fr McCaffrey Ordination photos

Here is a link to some photos from the glorious occasion of Fr McCaffrey's Ordination to the Priesthood at St Francis Xavier Cathedral on the feast of St John the Baptist - June 24.

Sermon for 11th Sunday after Pentecost 20.8.06

11th Sunday after Pentecost 20.8.06 Receiving and Sending

Receive this salt, learning from it how to relish what is right and good…
Ephpheta, which is: Be open. To the sweet fragrance about you. (from Rite of Baptism) Ears, nose, mouth… the sense organs are being engaged so that they will be used to perceive the good things of God and to make Him known.

As you hear, proclaim. We take it in; we give it out.

There is a saying in the computer world: Garbage In, Garbage Out. If we don’t programme the computer properly the results will be useless.

There is a story of a young man who was in the company of an elderly religious brother. Something happened to upset the young man and he swore.He immediately apologized. The brother put this image before him: A rail cart of coal is travelling along and suddenly comes to a stop. Some of the coal falls out’. The point being that when startled what is in us will come out. We may be on our best behaviour but if the bad stuff is there it will come out. We need to have the right stuff inside us so even when taken off guard our response will be right and good.

What goes in must come out! The miracles of Our Lord in restoring sight and hearing and speech are signs of His blessing our sense organs so that we will use them properly. We will take in the right things and give out the right things.

So how do we regulate what we take in? Living in this media age, we are flooded with images and sounds, so we have to be very careful what we allow to come inside us.

What we watch on television, for example. Television and films are far more explicit than they used to be. Many Catholics still watch whatever is served up, without discriminating – watching things that would have shocked their grandparents; that might have shocked themselves thirty years ago.

The point is we don’t have to watch something just because it is on. Or even if ‘everyone’ is watching it. Each of us has the power and the duty to decide whether ‘I’ will watch this. If it is harmful, if it is an occasion of sin, then switch it off.

Many of you, I know, have thrown out the TV already. Others are trying to use it for just videos or programs you can control. Opinions will differ on how much is acceptable.

But it is better to err on the side of caution if in doubt. Some will argue we need to understand contemporary culture. Sure, but if we recognize slime we don’t have to wade through it to make sure it was slime.

We can have a fair idea what others are thinking without actually doing exactly what they do.

What we watch, what we read,what we listen to. It all has an effect. What ideas are we taking into our heads?

It is sometimes useful to read material which opposes the Church, like opinion pieces in the newspaper.

But we don’t want to do that to the point that it is shaking our faith. Many Catholics have lost their faith by mixing in the wrong company, by reading the wrong material.

There is much mocking of the Catholic faith, but to every criticism or question there are good answers.

If we read only the attack and not the defence there is a chance we could lose our own faith.

So we discern what we read, and whose conversations or speeches we listen to.

St.Paul says: Fill your minds with all that is good and holy (Ph 2,8).

We need good spiritual reading; good things to watch and listen to (tapes etc); good internet sites.

What we take in is what we give out. We can be good without being sanctimonious. It’s just a matter of balance.

We don’t have to mention ‘religion’ in every sentence, but if we are truly religious whatever we find to say will be good and it will be the best thing to say in that situation.

Explain things ‘agreeably and with a flavour of wit’(Colossians 4,5-6)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Pilgrim Statue comes to Adelaide

This statue is in Adelaide from this Wednesday night (16th August) to Saturday morning (19th August).
Wednesday night 7pm to Thursday 4pm at Newton;
Thursday night 7pm to Friday 9am at Vietnamese Church, South Terrace, Pooraka;
Friday morning to Saturday 9am Cathedral.
Anyone needing a miracle or two could do worse than visit this statue:

In 1951, Pope Pius XII remarked: "In 1946, we crowned Our Lady of Fatima as Queen of the World and the next year, through Her Pilgrim Statue, She set forth as though to claim Her dominion, and the favors She performs along the way are such that we can hardly believe what we are seeing with our eyes."
Physical cures attributed to the presence of the Statue have been documented many times. The changes in expression and coloration, and even the pose of the statue have been reported innumerable times. But, the important miracles are the spiritual cures and gifts Our Lady bestows. The sudden conversion of a stubborn heretic is a good example. Another important miracle is the enlightenment of someone who has resisted the idea of statues or the idea of praying to saints. The spiritual miracles are infinitely more valuable than the things we can see, touch, or measure.

TFP Vice President Thomas McKenna recently flew to Austria with the Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima aboard a Northwest flight. The crew could not have been happier to receive such a Thomas McKennaThroughout my life with the TFP, I have had the privilege of accompanying the International Pilgrim Statue several times. Because of the miraculous aspect of this statue and out of reverence for her, we always buy her a seat on the plane. She always travels on a seat next to the custodian in a soft padded cloth case so that she is well secured.Wherever she goes she attracts attention and inspires respect, devotion and, at times, real changes of heart. Often, as the crew finds out who she is, they insist she travel first class, an episode that is moving to witness.I must say that I only accompany the statue occasionally. Currently, the full-time custodian is Mr. Carl Malburg and the Pilgrim Virgin Committee coordinates the program. His wife, Rose Mary, does an excellent job of arranging venues for Our Lady around the world. She is booked more than a year in advance.During my most recent trip with her, I accompanied the statue to Austria this past July. This was an international TFP conference for university students from twelve countries. Having Our Blessed Mother’s pilgrim statue there was a great blessing.On the way over, I had a connection in Detroit. As I looked for my gate, two women asked if I could show them the statue. Though not Catholic, they were both very touched, and one of them asked me if it would be okay to say a prayer before the statue since she was trying to have a child. I told her this was a very special statue and to ask anything she wanted.In Amsterdam there was a two-hour wait, so I took the statue out of the case to say my prayers by her. When it was time to board, a question arose about the statue having a seat, so I entered the airplane last. The plane was full. As I made my way up the isle, I saw two empty seats by a businessman, and realized they were mine.Something about his demeanor told me he might be annoyed at being asked to move. But, as I drew near, his face broke out into a grin, then a huge smile. “The Madonna!” he exclaimed delighted as he jumped out of his seat. “How can I help you? This is fantastic! I can’t believe this, the Madonna is next to me here!”He then proceeded to tell me how he had noticed her in the airport and had been struck and moved. “Then I get on the airplane, and the Madonna is in the seat next to me!” he said, “I don’t think anything is a mere coincidence.” He said he was a Catholic, though not practicing regularly, and spent the rest of the trip telling me all about his life and asking questions about the Faith.Before landing in Vienna, two ladies in the seats in front of us turned around and apologized for eves dropping and asked if they could have a picture of the statue. In the end, my friend also asked for a picture and expressed his wish to return to the Faith.Many times Mary leads us out of trials but allows us to bear hardships.In my experience, whenever I escort the miraculous statue, things don’t always go smoothly, though everything works out in the end. The return flight from Austria to the States was such a trip.As I checked in, the European airlines were unfamiliar with the “extra seat” deal and some chaos ensued. What should have taken five minutes took almost an hour. Finally, things were squared away and I boarded the plane to Amsterdam. In Amsterdam there were more complications involving seating and a lot of lost time, but in the end it was all settled.On boarding, I was surprised as the stewardess directed the statue and me to the first class cabin. I hadn’t realized that they had booked the seats in first class.As I strapped the statue in, a stewardess asked, “Is that a cello?” “No,” I answered, “it is a statue of the Blessed Mother.” She was surprised and interested so I continued, “This is one of the most famous statues of the Roman Catholic Church and is here on pilgrimage. It’s a miraculous statue.” As I related the story, she was obviously touched and asked to see it. As opened the case, she was overwhelmed. She called five other stewardesses over and they were all very impressed. They asked all kinds of questions about the statue, Fatima and the apparitions, and noted what a blessing it was to have her on board.At one point, a seat was needed for an extra passenger. Seeing the statue, one of the ground managers said, “Let’s move this statue and put her in the closet so we can use that seat for the passenger.” Before I had time to say anything, three of the stewardesses converged on the man saying they would give up their seats for her and sit on the jump seats.As the flight was delayed for about an hour, most of the crew came over to see the statue. At one point, nine of them crammed in the small area asking questions. I asked for a flashlight, and as I shone it on the face of the statue, the beauty of her physiognomy struck them all. They all wanted pictures of her. They told me their stories and affirmed they felt consoled at seeing her. They said they wanted to help our Fatima campaign. The head of the crew told me he says his Rosary with his grandmother daily when he is home.Throughout the flight the crew often stopped by to visit and check if everything was all right. I told them if they wanted we could take a picture with the statue upon arrival and I would send them a copy. After the passengers disembarked, the captain, co-pilot and engineer also came back to see the statue. I took Our Lady to the front of the plane and removed her from the case for the picture. They couldn’t thank me enough for bringing the Pilgrim Statue on their airline and giving them the occasion and blessing to accompany her.As we bid farewell, they gave me a list with all their names and addresses and said they were looking forward to receiving information. A week after arriving home, I received this email from the captain which I think sums up Our Lady’s grace:Dear Tom:I just returned home from my trip with Northwest and showed my wife and boys the picture of Our Lady. I want to say thank you on behalf of my crew. Thank you again for staying after the flight to show us the statue. I have never seen anything that can compare to it and her face is still visible to me in my mind. The large photo was slightly damaged during my travel but it will be framed and placed in a prominent place in my home. I would be very interested in any info about how to have the statue in our parish. Thanks so much for the memory of this.Sincerely Yours,T. P.Northwest CaptainBack to the Miracles index

Sermon for Sunday 13th August 2006

10th Sunday after Pentecost Judging others.

Fr. Thoroughgood,

"Generally it is good to think of other people, but there is one time when it is a good thing not to think about others – and that is when we are confessing our own sin.

The parable of the Publican and Pharisee reminds us how easy it is to use the faults of others as an excuse for our own faults.

The reasoning goes: Because X is worse than I am (how do I know that anyway?) I am not such a bad fellow and therefore quite good really; therefore worthy of being saved.

No doubt other people do commit sins, but my task is to confess (and be genuinely contrite for) my own sins. At that moment I cannot be worried what others do; I must focus on what I do (or fail to do).

The publican did this and won favour with the Lord. It was his humility that carried the day. He was not saved because he was good but because he had the humility to admit he was bad.

So for a time we forget others and concentrate on self. When we do go back to thinking about others what must our attitude be to their faults?

The fact that others do have faults is one of our greatest crosses. So many of our own sins are caused by the sins of others which we allow to provoke us.

Our Lord tells us not to judge. This does not mean we are blind to the sins of others, but that our attitude to them should be one of mercy rather than judgment.

If another person is sinning I want mercy for that person the same as I want it for myself.

What do I gain if someone else goes to hell? Nothing. In fact I lose a lot because heaven is empty of one person who should have been there.

It may be that others are worse than we are, but the point is irrelevant. On judgment day it will do me no good to say, But Lord, there are worse people than me around…

It is just me standing before the throne of justice. What can I do but ask for mercy for my sins?

St.Paul tells us not to rejoice in the evils of others (1 Cor 13). We are tempted to do that because it can make us look better, but think of it in the analogy of the human body.

If my left leg is injured it would be a strange thing if my right leg was pleased about that! Yet this is exactly what we do if we gloat or exult on hearing of someone else’s misfortunes.

The only way we could be pleased about someone else’s suffering is if in some way it is God’s will for them and has corrective value. Even then we do not take an unholy delight in their suffering, but a sober acceptance that God knows what is needed. We are still sorry that anyone needs punishing.

We need to be aware of the faults that people can commit by way of warning and correcting – especially for people in authority such as priests and parents, teachers etc.

Here again we take no delight in giving correction, but are concerned only for the welfare of the other person.

For our own safety we may have to avoid certain people. For example, we would not mix with gangsters and assassins. But here again our greatest desire should be for the conversion of everyone to a life of holiness.

An ex-gangster is fine to mix with, and we want the Church to grow tenfold as sinners come to her ranks.

Is it unrealistic to expect people to change? Well, it happens every day that someone does. If we adopted a more merciful attitude and prayed more fervently for conversions of sinners it would happen in greater numbers."

Sunday, July 09, 2006


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