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."