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St. Maria Goretti, Martyr

By | News, Saints

St. Maria Goretti, Martyr (1890 - 1902)

Maria Goretti was the third of seven children of a poor peasant family living near Corinaldo in the province of Ancona in Italy; owing to extreme poverty the family later migrated to a village near Anzio.

In order to make ends meet, Maria’s father entered into partnership with a man called Serenelli, and shared a house with him and his two sons, one of whom was called Alessandro. Her father died in 1900, when Maria was ten.

Maria impressed everyone with her radiant purity. She was naturally pious, kind, and helpful. She was also outstandingly beautiful – and Alessandro Serenelli was an outstandingly passionate and undisciplined man. She resisted his attentions, which only made her the more desirable, and narrowly managed to escape a serious sexual assault, which he made her keep secret by means of threats of murder.

A month later Alessandro arranged things so that he would be alone in the house with Maria; and he had a dagger. She tried to resist, begging him to have care for his immortal soul, but he thrust a handkerchief into her mouth to prevent her from crying out, tied her up, and threatened her with the dagger. She could, the theologians say, have consented then, with no danger to her soul; but her love of purity was too great. Alessandro, enraged, stabbed her fourteen times.

She did not die, though her entrails were hanging out from one of her abdominal wounds. She was taken to hospital, seven miles of bad road in a horse-drawn ambulance, and was operated on for more than two hours. She lived for twenty hours more, became a Child of Mary, received the Last Sacrament, and specifically forgave her murderer. She died in the afternoon of 6 July 1902, at the age of eleven years, eight months, and twenty days.

Alessandro narrowly escaped being lynched, and was tried and sentenced to thirty years’ penal servitude with hard labour. For the first seven years or so he maintained a cynical and defiant attitude, but he repented, and dreams of Maria herself figured largely in his repentance. He remained in prison for another twenty years where he continued to repent.

Maria was beatified in 1927. Alessandro was released in 1928; and he and Maria’s mother received Communion side by side on Christmas Day 1937, and they spent Christmas together.

Maria was canonized in 1950. Her mother was present at the ceremony, the first time this has ever happened. Some people say that Alessandro was there too, others not; but it is certain that he spent his last years in a Capuchin monastery: he died in 1970.

Nowadays, being pure, being a virgin is often ridiculed, not valued.  In a world increasingly sexualised, both in lifestyles and through the media, where the ponorpgraphy has become a multi-billion pound industry, the Church shines out as a light saying: this is not how God intended things to be! There is another way; the way of purity, the way of true inner peace, the way of love!

St. Elizabeth of Portugal

By | News, Saints

St. Elizabeth of Portugal (1271 - 1336)

She was the daughter of King Pedro III of Aragón and was named after her great-aunt, St. Elizabeth of Hungary. She was married to King Dinis of Portugal, by whom she had two children. She set up hospitals, orphanages, and other institutions, patiently endured her husband’s infidelities and provided for the education of his illegitimate children, and acted as peacemaker in the quarrelsome and complicated politics of the time.

On her husband’s death in 1325 she retired from public affairs and devoted herself to prayer and the service of the poor. Throughout her life she was faithful and regular in prayer, and daily recited the Liturgy of the Hours.

In 1336 her son, by now King Afonso IV of Portugal, went to war against King Alfónso XI of Castile. Elizabeth followed the Portuguese army on the field in an effort to bring about peace. She succeeded, but the effort killed her.

The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem

By | News, Pastoral Groups

For many, the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre appear to be annual cape wearing participants of the Corpus Christi procession. For others, the Knights are an ancient, irrelevant remnant of a past age of the Catholic Church. Some see the local members turn up at some masses to help out in collecting money for the Holy sites in Palestine and Israel. However, the less known story is that these cape wearing Catholics form part of a vital lay order of the Church tasked with great responsibility.

The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem (EOHSJ) can trace its origins, through tradition, to the First Crusade (1099). However, documented evidence suggests that the first investiture of Knights at the Holy Sepulchre dates back to 1336. Since then, successive Popes have promoted, guided and helped form the EOHSJ into what it is today. That is, an international Roman Catholic lay order of men and women (thirty-thousand strong), recognised in Canon Law, under the protection of the Holy Father led by a Council of lay and ordained persons under the leadership of Edwin Cardinal O’Brien (the Grand Master).

There are many cultural and social activities within which the EOHSJ is involved. Unfortunately, most of these charitable works do not make it into our local news feeds. For instance, did you know that the Good Friday Collection, carried out locally in Gibraltar by our Knights and Dames (Confrères and Consoeurs) is a worldwide event? 65% of the total collected in this one collection goes to the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land for the upkeep of the Holy Places. The remaining 35% goes to the Congregation for Oriental Church Projects to aid Christians from Ukraine to Iraq (Eastern Europe to Mesopotamia). The EOHSJ also fund education, cultural and social works in Jordan, Palestine, Israel and Cyprus. Hospitals, Universities, and Schools, under our patronage and direction, are ecumenical and open to persons of all faiths. (For more information on the projects, please see: http://project.lpj.org)

Nevertheless, the EOHSJ is not just a collector of funds to help the upkeep of buildings (even though these buildings are of immense importance to followers of Jesus Christ). The EOHSJ is directly involved in the promotion of charitable works (humanitarian support), the building of bridges between diverse communities and the help of people, Christians and other persons of other faiths, in the Holy Land and beyond. The members of worldwide Lieutenancies and delegations that are guided by the Grand Master and the Council, also follow a devout Christian spiritual life. Each member is charged with following in the footsteps of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. As such, Confrères and Consoeurs are expected to dedicate time to prayer and the Sacraments, thus becoming active members of their respective diocese and parish Communities.

For more information about who we are and what we do please visit: http://www.oessh.va

Know Your Saints – June

By | News, Saints, Teaching

St. Aloysius Gonzaga (1568 - 1591)

St Aloysius was the eldest son of a Mantuan nobleman, and was intended by his father to be a soldier. Aloysius, on the other hand, had determined to be a missionary, and even to die for his faith.

He renounced his birthright in favour of his brother and at the age of 16 became a Jesuit novice in Rome, living the same life of severe austerity and penance that he had followed even when serving in the courts of dukes and princes. In 1591 an epidemic of plague broke out in Rome, and the Jesuits opened a hospital to care for the sick. Aloysius, still a novice, worked hard in the hospital until he himself caught the plague. He did not recover; but, his determination to die for the faith having been fulfilled, died at midnight on the 20th of June with the name of Jesus on his lips.

Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, Martyrs

St. John Fisher (1469 – 1535)

He was born in Beverley, in Yorkshire, in 1469. He studied theology at the University of Cambridge, and had a successful career there, finally becoming chancellor of the University and bishop of Rochester: unusually for the time, he paid a great deal of attention to the welfare of his diocese.

He wrote much against the errors and corruption into which the Church had fallen, and was a friend and supporter of great humanists such as Erasmus of Rotterdam; but he was greatly opposed to Lutheranism, both in its doctrine and in its ideas of reform.

He supported the validity of King Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and for this he was briefly imprisoned. When the King had divorced Catherine, married Anne Boleyn, and constituted himself the supreme Head of the Church in England, John Fisher refused to assent. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London on a charge of treason, and on 22 June 1535, a month after having been made a Cardinal by the Pope, he was executed. He was so ill and weak that he had to be carried in a chair to the place of execution.

He was the only bishop to oppose Henry VIII’s actions, on the grounds that they were a repudiation of papal authority, but even so he avoided direct confrontation with the other bishops, not holding himself up as a hero or boasting of his coming martyrdom: I condemn no other man’s conscience: their conscience may save them, and mine must save me. We should remember, in all the controversies in which we engage, to treat our opponents as if they were acting in good faith, even if they seem to us to be acting out of spite or self-interest.

__

St Thomas More (1477 – 1535)

He was born in London, the son of a judge, and himself became an eminent lawyer. He married twice, and had four children. He was a humanist and a reformer, and his book, Utopia, depicting a society regulated by the natural virtues, is still read today.

Thomas More was a close friend of King Henry VIII. As a judge, he was famous for his incorruptibility and impartiality, and he was made Lord Chancellor – the highest legal position in England – in 1529.

When Henry VIII demanded a divorce from Catherine of Aragon, Thomas More opposed him. He resigned the chancellorship in 1532 and retired from public life; but he could not retire from his reputation, and so it was demanded that he take an oath to support the Act of Succession, which effectively repudiated papal religious authority. He refused, and was imprisoned in the Tower of London. After the execution of John Fisher, he was tried on the charge of high treason for denying the King’s supreme headship of the Church, found guilty, and sentenced to death. He went to his execution, on 6 July 1535, with a clear conscience and a light heart; he told the spectators that he was still “the king’s good servant – but God’s first,” and carefully adjusted his beard before he was beheaded.

He wrote a number of devotional works, some of the best of them while in prison awaiting trial. He fought his fight without acrimony, telling his judges that he wished that “we may yet hereafter in Heaven merrily all meet together to everlasting salvation.”

Birthday of St. john the Baptist

Apart from Mary and Joseph, John the Baptist is the only saint in the calendar who has two feasts to himself. One, in August, celebrates his death, and one, in June, celebrates his birth. And this is as it should be, for as Christ himself said, John was the greatest of the sons of men.

The greatest, but also the most tragic. A prophet from before his birth, leaping in the womb to announce the coming of the incarnate God, his task was to proclaim the fulfilment of all prophecies – and thus his own obsolescence. And he did it: with unequalled courage he spread the news that he, the greatest of all men, was the least in the kingdom of heaven. His disciples, and the devil, would have preferred him to fight, to build his sect, to defeat this upstart whom he himself had baptized, to seize his place in history. But he did not – and so, rightly, he has his place, and he has glory in heaven.

We envy the great and the talented, and sometimes we think that they themselves are beyond envy. But when they come across someone with greater gifts, as one day most of them will, they will see for the first time what it means to feel like us. Let us pray that they, like John the Baptist, may pass that test.

St. Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (370 - 444)

Alexandria was the largest city in the ancient world. Rather like Los Angeles, it was a sprawling mixture of races and creeds; and it was a byword for the violence of its sectarian politics, whether of Greeks against Jews or of orthodox Christians against heretics. Cyril began his career as a worthy follower of this tradition. He succeeded his uncle as bishop of Alexandria in 412, and promptly solved a number of outstanding problems by closing the churches of the Novatian heretics and expelling the Jews from the city. This caused trouble and led to an ongoing quarrel with the Imperial governor of the city and to murderous riots. It is not for this part of his life that St Cyril is celebrated.

In 428, Nestorius, the new Patriarch of Constantinople (and hence one of the most important bishops in the world) made statements that could be interpreted as denying the divinity of Christ. The dual nature – human and divine – has always been hard for us to accept or understand, and if it seems easy it is only because we have not thought about it properly. Those who dislike problems have had two responses: to deny the human nature of Christ or to deny his divinity: and either leads to disaster, since both deny the Incarnation and hence the divinisation of human nature.

Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr

Irenaeus was born in Smyrna, in Asia Minor (now Izmir in Turkey) and emigrated to Lyons, in France, where he eventually became the bishop. It is not known for certain whether he was martyred or died a natural death.

Whenever we take up a Bible we touch Irenaeus’s work, for he played a decisive role in fixing the canon of the New Testament. It is easy for us, now, to think of Scripture – and the New Testament in particular – as the basis of the Church, and harder to remember that it was the Church that had to decide, early on, what was scriptural and what was not.

Before Irenaeus, there was vague general agreement on what scripture was, but a system based on this kind of common consent was too weak. As people meditated on the intolerable event of the Redemption, dissensions and heresies inevitably arose, and reference to scripture was the obvious way of trying to settle what the truth really was. But in the absence of an agreed canon of scripture it was all too easy to attack one’s opponent’s arguments by saying that his texts were corrupt or unscriptural; and easy, too, to do a little fine-tuning of texts on one’s own behalf.

So Irenaeus went through all the books of the New Testament, and all the candidates (such as the magical pseudo-Gospels, and the entertaining and uplifting novel the Shepherd of Hermas). He did not simply accept or reject each book, because his enemies could have said that he was doing it to bolster his own arguments: he gave reasons for and against the canonicity of each book. Irenaeus’s canon of scripture is very nearly the modern one (he does not quote from three of the short universal epistles), but more important is the fact that he started the tradition of biblical scholarship.

Irenaeus had to fight against the Gnostics, who believed that the world was irredeemably wicked, and against the Valentinians, who claimed to be possessors of a secret tradition that had never been written down but passed from master to disciple through the ages. This pessimism and this arcane élitism remain with us even today, and each generation must renew the fight against them. Let us pray for the inspiration of St Irenaeus in our battle.

Ss. Peter and Paul

St Peter (died 64 A.D.).

He was appointed by Jesus Christ as the first Pope (Matthew 16: 13-20):

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples,

‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’  

And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’  

He said to them, ’But who do you say that I am?’  

Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah] the Son of the living God.’  

And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.  

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock  I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

________

St. Paul (died c. 62-64 A.D.)

Saul in Hebrew or Paul in Latin (since he was also a Roman Citizen) was born in Tarsus (now in Turkey). He was a leading pharisee who persecuted the early Christians until his conversion. We read an account of this in Acts 9:3-9:

“Now as he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him. And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him,

‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’

And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’

And he said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting;  but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’

 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.  Saul arose from the ground; and when his eyes were opened, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank’.

After his dramatic conversion, he became a tireless missionary who through his writings, gave shape to the Church’s doctrine in an unparalleled way. Of the 27 books in the New Testament, 13 are attributed to Paul (7 were actually dictated by him), and approximately half of another, Acts of the Apostles, deals with Paul’s life and works. Thus, about half of the New Testament stems from Paul and the people whom he influenced.

First Martyrs of the See of Rome

The First Martyrs of the See of Rome

When the city of Rome had been devastated by fire in the year 64, the Emperor Nero launched a persecution against the Christians, who were thrown to the wild beasts in the arena or soaked in tar and used as living torches. Their deaths are documented in the writings of the Roman historian Tacitus and in Pope St Clement’s letter to the Corinthians. Their feast was celebrated the day after the feast of Saints Peter and Paul.

Do not be lost in a ‘virtual world’

By | News, Vatican

“Do not be lost in a 'virtual world', but live reality”

Pope Francis

At a recent General Audience, Pope Francis said he was worried that youth are too enmeshed in a virtual world of cell phones and other technology, separated, in particular, from the real human contact experienced by performing works of mercy.

Answering a question about youth during a visit with the people of the Diocese of Rome, the Pope said that the works of mercy “help young people so much,” because they them to be grounded in “concreteness” and to “enter into a social relationship.”

“It worries me that they communicate and live in the virtual world,” he said, noting that on a recent visit with youth, instead of extending their hands when they saw him, they “greeted” him with their phones held up, taking photos and selfies.

“Their reality is that… not human contact. This is serious,” he continued. “We have to make young people ‘land’ in the real world. Touch reality. Without destroying the good things the virtual world can have,” because some things are needed, he acknowledged.

The Pope said that young “had courage to speak” and “really wanted to speak seriously”. They need to find their voice in our society, not one that is virtual -an illusion-, but human, active and real.

Growing in Understanding

By | News, Teaching

The Saxum Institute began in 2017 as a Catholic catechetical institute. The Cornerstone Bookshop works in collaboration with the Institute and stocks all the books that are required by the courses they have to offer. The courses cover a range of topics that are fundamental to Christianity and are ordered towards a deeper understanding and living out of the Christian life. These courses are announced through this website and everyone is welcome to enrol.

The Cornerstone Bookshop, in collaboration with The Saxum Institute, stocks many books by Professor Dr. SCOTT HAHN. Hahn is a renowned and incredibly gifted author, who is totally committed to the teaching mission of the Church and is faithful to her Magisterium (the Church’s official teaching). Therefore, his books have the advantage that their content will faithfully reflect the mind of the Church. An exceptionally popular speaker and teacher, Dr. Hahn has delivered numerous talks nationally and internationally on a wide variety of topics related to Sacred Scripture and the Catholic faith. His talks and publications have been effective in helping thousands to (re)embrace the Catholic faith. He is the founder and president of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and is currently a professor of biblical theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, U.S.A., both of which enjoy strong links with The Saxum Institute in Gibraltar.

Books available in the Book shop

  • A Father Who Keeps His Promises by Scott Hahn PB
  • The Fourth Cup by Scott Hahn HB
  • First Comes Love by Scott Hahn PB
  • The Creed: Professing the Faith Through the Ages by Scott Hahn
  • The Lamb’s Supper by Scott Hahn
  • Swear to God by Scott Hahn
  • Signs of Life by Scott Hahn
  • The First Society by Scott Hahn
  • Politicizing the Bible by Scott Hahn
  • Kinship by Covenant by Scott Hahn
  • Letter and Spirit by Scott Hahn
  • Consuming the Word by Scott Hahn HB
  • Rome Sweet Home by Scott Hahn PB
  • Covenant and Communion by Scott Hahn
  • Evangelizing Catholics by Scott Hahn
  • Angels and Saints by Scott Hahn
  • Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace by Scott Hahn
  • The Case for Jesus: The Biblical and Historical Evidence for Christ by Brant Pitre and Robert Barron
  • Jesus the Bridegroom: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Brant Pitre
  • Jesus and the Last Supper by Brant Pitre
  • Before Church and State by Andrew W Jones

The Holy Spirit according to St. Basil the Great

By | News, Teaching

From the treatise On the Holy Spirit by Saint Basil the Great, Bishop and Doctor of the Church:

The titles given to the Holy Spirit must surely stir the soul of anyone who hears them, and make him realise that they speak of nothing less than the supreme Being. Is he not called the Spirit of God, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, the steadfast Spirit, the guiding Spirit? But his principal and most personal title is the Holy Spirit.

To the Spirit all creatures turn in their need for sanctification; all living things seek him according to their ability. His breath empowers each to achieve its own natural end.

The Spirit is the source of holiness, a spiritual light, and he offers his own light to every mind to help it in its search for truth. By nature the Spirit is beyond the reach of our mind, but we can know him by his goodness. The power of the Spirit fills the whole universe, but he gives himself only to those who are worthy, acting in each according to the measure of his faith.

Simple in himself, the Spirit is manifold in his mighty works. The whole of his being is present to each individual; the whole of his being is present everywhere. Though shared in by many, he remains unchanged; his self giving is no loss to himself. Like the sunshine, which permeates all the atmosphere, spreading over land and sea, and yet is enjoyed by each person as though it were for him alone, so the Spirit pours forth his grace in full measure, sufficient for all, and yet is present as though exclusively to everyone who can receive him. To all creatures that share in him he gives a delight limited only by their own nature, not by his ability to give.

The Spirit raises our hearts to heaven, guides the steps of the weak, and brings to perfection those who are making progress. He enlightens those who have been cleansed from every stain of sin and makes them spiritual by communion with himself.

As clear, transparent substances become very bright when sunlight falls on them and shine with a new radiance, so also souls in whom the Spirit shines become spiritual themselves and a source of grace for others.

From the Spirit comes foreknowledge of the future, understanding of the mysteries of faith, insight into the hidden meaning of Scripture, and other special gifts. Through the Spirit we become citizens of heaven, we enter into eternal happiness, and abide in God. Through the Spirit we acquire a likeness to God; indeed, we attain what is beyond our most sublime aspirations – we become God.

Know Your Saints

By | News, Saints, Teaching

Tuesday 22nd May: Saint Rita of Cascia (1377 - 1447)

She was born near Cascia, in Umbria in Italy. She was married at the age of 12 despite her frequently repeated wish to become a nun. Her husband was rich, quick-tempered and immoral and had many enemies. She endured his insults, abuse and infidelities for 18 years and bore him two sons, who grew to be like him.

Towards the end of his life she helped to convert her husband to a more pious way of life, but he was stabbed to death by his enemies not long afterwards. He repented before he died and was reconciled to the Church.

Her sons planned to avenge their father’s death. When Rita’s pleas were unavailing, she prayed that God should take their lives if that was the only way to preserve them from the sin of murder. They died of natural causes a year later.

Rita asked to join the convent of St Mary Magdalen at Cascia. She was rejected for being a widow, since the convent was for virgins only, and later given the impossible task of reconciling her family with her husband’s murderers. She carried out the task and was allowed to enter the convent at the age of 36. She remained there until her death at the age of 70.

She is widely honoured as a patron saint of impossible or lost causes.

Friday 25th May: Pope St Gregory VII (1020 - 1085)

He was born in Tuscany and given the name Hildebrand. He became a monk, and assisted several successive Popes in reforming and purifying the Church. He was elected pope in 1073 and took the name of Gregory VII.

He fought single-mindedly to free the Church from harmful influences and dependence on the state. This brought him into conflict with the Emperor Henry IV, who was excommunicated by Gregory, then submitted to him, then changed his mind and besieged and captured Rome. Gregory was “rescued” by the Norman Robert Guiscard, who captured Rome amid scenes of appalling violence, and Gregory had to flee to Salerno, where he died.

Friday 25th May: Saint Mary Magdalen of Pazzi (1566 - 1607)

She was a Carmelite nun who led a hidden life of prayer and self-denial, praying especially for the reform of the Church and the conversion of the whole world. She guided her fellow sisters along the path to perfection. She was granted many spiritual gifts by God.

St Bede the Venerable (673 - 735), Doctor of the Church

He was born in the north of England, near the monastery of Wearmouth. He joined that monastery, and spent all his life there or at Jarrow, teaching and writing.

He was the outstanding ecclesiastical author of his time. He wrote commentaries on Scripture; an ecclesiastical history of the English people, which is a unique and irreplaceable resource for much of early English history; and the first martyrology (collection of saints’ lives) to be compiled on historical principles. He was also the first known writer of English prose, though this has not survived.

He died at Jarrow on 25 May 735: he taught and worked until the last moments of his life, which are narrated by Cuthbert in today’s Office of Readings. He is venerated as the “light of the Church” in the Dark Ages, and as a forerunner of the 8th and 9th century renaissance of the Western Church.

Saturday 26th: Saint Philip Neri (1515 - 1595)

He was born in Florence in 1515. At the age of eighteen he went to Rome, and earned his living as a tutor. He undertook much-needed charitable work among the young men of the city, and started a brotherhood to help the sick poor and pilgrims.

He was advised that he could do more good as a priest, and was ordained in 1551. He built an oratory over the church of San Girolamo, where he invented services, consisting of spiritual readings and hymns, which were the origin of the oratorio (tradition is a good thing; but innovation also has its place). He continued to serve the young men of Rome, rich and poor alike, with religious discussions and by organising charitable enterprises. He had a particular care for the young students at the English College in Rome, studying for a missionary life and probable martyrdom in England.

He inspired other clergy to emulate him, and formed them into the Congregation of the Oratory. Oratorian foundations still flourish in many countries today. He died in Rome in 1595.

St Philip Neri was an enemy of solemnity and conventionality. When some of his more pompous penitents made their confession to him (he was famous as a confessor) he imposed salutary and deflating penances on them, such as walking through the streets of Rome carrying his cat (he was very fond of cats). When a novice showed signs of excessive seriousness, Philip stood on his head in front of him, to make him laugh. When people looked up to him too much, he did something ridiculous so that they should not respect someone who was no wiser – and no less sinful – than they were. In every case there was an excellent point to his pranks: to combat pride, or melancholy, or hero-worship.

Laughter is not much heard in churches: perhaps that is to be expected… but outside church, Christians should laugh more than anyone else – laugh from sheer joy, that God bothered to make us, and that he continues to love us despite the idiots we are. Everyone is a sinner, but Christians are sinners redeemed – an undeserved rescue that we make even less deserved by everything we do. It is too serious a matter to be serious about: all we can reasonably do is rejoice.

Very many of the saints, not just St Philip, have an abiding terror of being looked up to. For they know their imperfections better than anyone else, and being revered by other people is doubly bad. It is bad for the others, who should be revering God instead, and for themselves, because they might be tempted to believe their own image and believe themselves to be worthy.

We are not saints yet, but we, too, should beware. Uprightness and virtue do have their rewards, in self-respect and in respect from others, and it is easy to find ourselves aiming for the result rather than the cause. Let us aim for joy, rather than respectability. Let us make fools of ourselves from time to time, and thus see ourselves, for a moment, as the all-wise God sees us.

Pentecost

By | News, Teaching

Jesus promised us He would send the Holy Spirit after His Resurrection. St. Luke tells us what happened:

“When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God”. (Luke 24: 50 – 53).

Nine days later, the disciples were gathered together in the Upper Room

united in constant prayer, with Mary the Mother of Jesus, when the Holy Spirit came down upon them: “And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability” (Acts 2: 1 – 31). And so… the Catholic Church was born.

The word itself comes from the Greek word for “fiftieth” (pentecoste), indicating that Pentecost is the fiftieth day after Easter Sunday. It is from this period, between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Sunday, that we derive the concept of the Novena (nine days of prayer): as Acts tell us, Mary and the Apostles prayed together “continuously” for these nine days. For this reason, traditionally, the Church prays a Novena to the Holy Spirit in the days before Pentecost.

There will be a Novena at 19:30, Cathedral of St. Mary the Crowned, organized by the Catholic Charismatic Renewal from Friday 11th to Saturday 19th May, preached during Holy Mass by Fr. Jonathan

May is the Month of Mary

By | News, Teaching, Vatican

On April 29, 1965, the second year of his pontificate, Blessed Paul VI wrote his encyclical (meaning, a letter the Pope sends throughout the world) “MENSE MAIO” (the Month of May), on prayers during May for the preservation of world peace.

The Second Vatican Council was meeting in Rome with the aim, as the Holy Father explained:
“to adapt herself, in a suitable way, to the needs of our day. On the success of this endeavour will depend, for a long time to come, the future of Christ’s spouse and the fate of many souls. It is indeed a great moment which God has injected into the life of the Church and the history of the world” (n. 4).

The Pope wrote:

“The month of May is … a month which the piety of the faithful has long dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God. Our heart rejoices at the thought of the moving tribute of faith and love which will soon be paid to the Queen of Heaven in every corner of the earth. For this is the month during which Christians, in their churches and their homes, offer the Virgin Mother more fervent and loving acts of homage and veneration; and it is the month in which a greater abundance of God’s merciful gifts comes down to us from our Mother’s throne. We are delighted and consoled by this pious custom associated with the month of May, which pays honour to the Blessed Virgin and brings such rich benefits to the Christian people” (nn. 1-2).

The Encyclical was written in the aftermath of two horrible world wars —with all their macabre, insane loss of life— in the wake of so much instability and poverty left behind in many regions. The nuclear age was fast threatening to end humanity as we know it. The ‘cold war’ was freezing international relations. Although a man was about to step on the Moon, ushering in the digital age, this was also a period when science was claiming to have finally killed the need for God. Religion was often derided in Marxian terms, as das Opium des Volkes (often translated as: “Religion is the opium of the masses”). After the recent centuries of scientific and ideological revolution, religion was being pushed more and more into the private sphere, something only for the superstitious and unenlightened. Now humankind had come of age! There was no longer any need to invent and rely on those silly myths of the type propagated in the Bible and unscientifically expounded by blind devotees. And so, the age of indifference and scepticism, gave way to our current age of relativism and individualism.

Perhaps, as in every challenge humanity faces, paradoxically, the need for the spiritual seems to have become stronger than before. The promise of the irrelevance and absence of ‘religion’ in a ‘new age’, has been eclipsed by an almost explosion of a whole industry of self-awareness, self-help, mindfulness and alternative therapies to the historic old hat, supposedly opiate, institutional, collective varieties. Religion, in an intensely individualistic new age, has become rather à-la-carte; a supermarket experience of choice. For a Catholic with a sense of 2,000 years of history, we’ve seen similar eclectic trends become all the rage but only for a while, many times before! But why keep bringing Mary into the picture?

The simple answer, is that is precisely what God did! At the Annunciation, when the Angel Gabriel brought God’s personal invitation to Mary, to become mother of the incarnate Messiah, God-made-flesh, Mary was brought into the scene of the Mystery of God’s redemptive plan: to save us all from perdition, from being lost for ever.

As St. Paul taught, due to the Fall, when Original Sin came into the world through Adam and Eve, our first parents (for more on this, including evolution, read Pius XII’s Encyclical Humani generis , we became ‘dead in sin’, no longer able to walk freely in our relationship with God (see: Romans 5, 12 -21). We utterly ‘were lost’” (see: Ephesians 2:1-10), but Christ Jesus came to our rescue, bringing us back into the Father’s loving embrace.

Why do we Catholic honour Mary?

Because God did! The Angel Gabriel was sent with this message for the world and for her: “Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with you!”. Mary knew that her whole life was about to change from that moment onwards, and readily said “Yes!” to God, becoming forever “the handmaid of the Lord”, consecrated to doing His will in all things. For this reasons, as Mary herself prophesied: “all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48). It is therefore not only Catholics who honour her in this way, calling her blessed, but every Christian who acknowledges the gift of God’s Word-made-flesh in His humble servant Mary.

So… in this Month of Mary, we are conscious of our need for Christ. “It is right and just, our duty and our salvation” (a phrase often heard at the prefaces to the Eucharistic Prayer at Holy Mass), to acknowledge Him as Lord and so, to open wide the doors of our hearts to Him. Mary continues to do as she did on that day of the Annunciation: she gives birth to Christ in our hearts. We pray, that during the month of May, our blessed Mother will gently bring us closer to her Son, Jesus, the Saviour. In not dissimilar circumstances to our current situation, on 19th  July 1830, our Lady appeared to St. Catherine Labouré (at her convent in Rue du Bac, Paris, France). She desired to bring spiritual consolation to her children, warning that “times are evil in France and in the world”, and left us the gift of the so-called ‘Miraculous Medal’ so beloved to many by Catholics everywhere. On it we can read —and during this month of Mary make our own— those words of prayer and childlike confidence: Ô Marie, conçue sans péché, priez pour nous qui avons recours à vous,

“O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee”.

The European Union is in Danger

By | News

The President of the Federation of Catholic Family Associations in Europe (FAFCE), Antoine Renard, has warned that the  European Union is ignoring the “disastrous” population trends,  which will result in a “demographic winter” unless urgent action is taken now.

According to him, “today’s individualistic civilisation is leading to catastrophe…. [There is] ideological resistance to the very idea of families”.

In a recent interview, he explained that “survey evidence shows young people want lasting relationships and children. But they’re not starting families because they don’t feel safe to”. There is an urgent need for governments across Europe to put the family at the centre of national policies.

Average EU birth rates have fallen to 1.5 per cent, well below replacement levels, while about one million abortions are carried out each year in Europe alone, where fertility is declining and infertility treatments have soared over the past decade.

Mr. Renard laments that there is “absolutely no reaction” when FAFCE has raised demographic issues with government ministers. Instead, he is repeatedly assured by European Union officials that immigration would resolve population decline.  While it may be true that immigration is necessary, this should not be seen solely as an economic solution and ignore its social and cultural consequences. Unless, he reiterates, we continue raising children and provide incentives for young people to have them, our own families will simply disappear.

FAFCE says that its campaigns over Europe’s demographic crisis, it is being side-lined, despite past  European Parliament resolutions and international human rights commitments.  “FAFCE calls on leaders of the  EU and its member states to raise awareness about this demographic winter… and to implement a policy that recognises the unique,  fundamental and irreplaceable  position of the family in  society”. Official Eu data  forecasts showed that 85% of  Italians would have no  experience of brothers, sisters or  cousins by 2050!

FAFCE’s  is supported by the Pope. It was founded in 1997, acknowledged by the Council of Europe as a Non Governmental Organisation with a participatory status. The General secretariat is based in Brussels. FAFCE works both towards the institutions of the European Union and the Council of Europe. It ensures a political representation for family interests from a catholic perspective, on the basis of the Catholic Church’s Social and Family teaching as well as of the testimony of faith and experiential knowledge of Christians in Church and in society. As an umbrella organisation, it serves as a European liaison platform for exchange of experiences of pastoral care of the family and family policy issues for its members. Our member associations provide important catholic expertise and contacts on the national and local levels. FAFCE is the only European family organisation that explicitly refers to the social teaching of the Catholic Church.

For more information, visit their website: http://www.fafce.org/index.php?lang=en&Itemid=148

Our Lady of Europe

By | Churches, News

On the 5th May each year, we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Europe at the Shrine where an ancient statue is honoured in her name. This devotion goes back to over 700 years ago. On 31st May 1979 Pope St. John Paul II approved Our Blessed Lady as the Principal Patroness of the Diocese of Gibraltar, under the title of Our Lady of Europe.

The annual Diocesan Procession of Our Lady of Europe will take place on Wednesday 23rd May at 6:30 p.m.  The procession will be as usual, from St. Bernard’s Church to the Shrine. On arrival the Eucharistic celebration will take place.

For more information, please contact Mgr. Azzopardi at St. Theresa’s who is also the Rector of the Shrine and is organizing this procession.

May Our Lady of Europe intercede of us, Her children.