Holy Saturday 2014

Torch of The Faith News on Saturday 19 April 2014 - 11:17:54 | by admin

As we await the Holy Easter Vigil, we contemplate Our Lady of Sorrows in Her solitude.

The Blessed Virgin Mary suffers depths of sorrow that we cannot even imagine. This is so, because She is without Sin and is totally united to Jesus Christ. It is also because the One Who has died is Her Son. He is the God-Man. The most beautiful, innocent and perfect.

She has compassion on Her Son and on His Church which appears to be in the tomb in our times.

Our Lady has compassion on her children when all abandon them in the pain of their own grief and suffering.

Let us approach Her in prayer and gently ask for the permission and grace to enter into Her Holy Compassion this day.

Our Lady is also the great model of Faith found in the Gospels. Throughout the darkness of suffering, She continues to believe with hope.

Let us ask Her to increase our faith in Christ and His Resurrection, to deepen our hope for the resurrection of the Church and to obtain the grace of conversion to the Faith for all those we love.

Good Friday 2014

Torch of The Faith News on Friday 18 April 2014 - 11:46:38 | by admin

Christ, the Son of God, redeemed us with His Blood. Come let us adore Him (Invitatory Antiphon for Good Friday, Divine Office).

The Sacred Liturgy of the Catholic Church today is particularly solemn and takes us into the saving events of Christ's Passion and Death on Good Friday. This is also a day of Fasting and Abstinence.

By God's grace, working through His Church, we are given a particularly important opportunity today to enter into the mystery of God's unfathomable love for each and all of us.

Let us respond to His love by consoling Our Lord Jesus Christ in His Passion, turning our backs on sin, repenting and making a good confession and making acts of charity to others for love of Him.

(Please also remember that St. Faustina was asked by Jesus to prepare for the Feast of Divine Mercy with a Novena to the Divine Mercy which would begin on Good Friday. We invite you to prepare for this great feast, occuring on 27th April, with the daily recitation of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy - starting today).

A Blessed Good Friday to you all.

Holy Thursday 2014

Torch of The Faith News on Thursday 17 April 2014 - 16:19:40 | by admin

Jesus in Gethsemane: He had always loved those that were His, and now He showed the full extent of His love.

In the Jewish Pesach Seder meal, it is traditional for the youngest member of each family to ask, 'What makes this night different to all other nights?'

This night is indeed different.

It is the night on which Jesus Christ instituted the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacred Priesthood, that would offer It down through the ages until His glorious Second Coming.

One of the great mysteries of the Catholic Faith is the principle of anamnesis.

By this mystery, we are made present through the Sacred Liturgy to the actual saving events of Jesus Christ's Life, Death, Resurrection, Ascension into Heaven and sending of the Holy Spirit.

On this night of Holy Thursday, the Catholic Church enters into the Sacred Triduum; these three pivotal liturgies are the beating heart of the Church's liturgical year.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church recalls: 'Beginning with the Easter Triduum as its source of light, the new age of the Resurrection fills the whole liturgical year with its brilliance... Therefore Easter is not simply one feast among others, but the 'Feast of feasts,' the 'Solemnity of solemnities,' just as the Eucharist is the 'Sacrament of sacraments' (the Great Sacrament). St. Athanasius calls Easter 'the Great Sunday' and the Eastern churches call Holy Week the 'Great Week' (CCC 1168;1169).

On this night, the Mass of the Lord's Supper helps us enter into the actual institution by Christ of the Mass and the Priesthood. At the end of this Mass, the Blessed Sacrament - the Real Presence, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ - is processed to an Altar of Repose, adorned with candles, for silent veneration and prayer.

This awesome period of silence is one of the most sacred times each year when grace is so tangible it seems to thicken the air. In this time we are enabled to enter into the Lord's Hour in Gethsemane.

In this Hour, Jesus Christ makes that act of acceptance in His Human Will, in union with His Divine Will, to drink the chalice of suffering in order to save our souls. He gives us this great example of conforming our wills to that of God. 

In St. Matthew's Gospel 24:40, Jesus asks His disciples, who had fallen asleep while he prayed in Gethsemane, 'Could you not wait with me just one hour?' On this sacred night, we are enabled to enter into His Hour with Him and watch with Him in love.

What a grace-filled opportunity for Catholics to receive afresh - and respond in their hearts and wills to - these words from the Catechism of the Catholic Church: 'Jesus knew and loved us each and all during His life, His agony and His Passion, and He gave Himself up for each one of us: 'The Son of God... loved me and gave Himself for me' (Galatians 2:20). He has loved us all with a human heart. For this reason, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced by our sins and for our salvation (John 19:34), is quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that... love with which the divine Redeemer continually loves the eternal Father and all human beings without exception (CCC 478).
On this night, the Liturgy of the Catholic Church gives us a particularly important opportunity to receive this love anew and to respond to it. Don't miss the opportunity!   

21 Again!

Torch of The Faith News on Wednesday 16 April 2014 - 16:44:05 | by admin

Alan in the centre of his family after his reception into the Catholic Church - April 1993.

It is 21 years this week since I was received into the Catholic Church and since my 21st birthday. At 42, I have been a Catholic for half of my life.

Amongst the myriad things which grace worked with to move me to conversion, four stand out as foundational.

1. The Church is One, True, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.

As a Protestant, who already believed in and loved Jesus Christ as the Son of God, I came to see that the Church He founded had to have a visible lineage that could be traced back through history to Him. That is logical.

I also realized that, if this Church were founded by Him for the salvation of souls, and that He had promised to remain with it, and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it, then it had to be One, True, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic in its very essence.

I had also glimpsed the mystery of holiness in Her Liturgy and in a small group of elderly faithful who gathered at the church each week for Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, Novena to Our Lady, and Stations of the Cross.

Universality of belief was especially attractive after years in Protestant communities where each person had their own system of belief and practice.

2. Sacred Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium.
If the True Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, then it follows as a logical premise that the world of Christian Faith is wider than Scripture alone.

The Catholic Church existed before the writing of the New Testament. The Catholic Church was the context for the writing of the New Testament. And, the Catholic Church decided what constituted the canon of the New Testament.

It makes sense that the Sacred Scripture is a central aspect of Sacred Tradition, and that both need authoritative interpretation - an authority bestowed by Christ and assured by the Holy Spirit. Hence, the Magisterium.

In his book, The Catholic Church and Conversion, GK Chesterton reminds us that 'we do not only want a religion that is right where I am right, but that is right where I am wrong.' The Magisterium is a great blessing in that it transcends our limited, sinful and culture-bound understanding. What a blessing this is in an ever-changing world.

3. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and Real Presence.

It is a wonder that Protestants with a literal interpretation of the Bible, find themselves unable to receive the literal sense of Jesus' words: 'This is My Body... This is My Blood'... and the majestic sixth chapter of St. John's Gospel.

Attending Holy Mass as an observer for a couple of years prior to my conversion must have allowed graces to penetrate and saturate my being. In those days, I remember all the Masses I experienced as being very prayerful and reverent. I gradually went from refusing to genuflect/make the sign the cross to being physically and emotionally unable to do otherwise.

I know that on the night of Dad's reception into the Church, one year before Mum's and several years prior to mine, that I had looked at the Tabernacle and prayed simply: 'Lord, I've been taught that You were not there. If You are, please help me to accept it.'

As time went on, I was given a deep love for the Real Presence of Jesus Christ - Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity - in the Blessed Sacrament. Thanks be to God.
Canon Michael welcomes me into the Holy Catholic Church - Deo Gratias!

The late Canon Michael Culhane, who received Dad, Mum and I into the Church between 1989 and 1993, regularly preached on the Mass as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which makes present the One Sacrifice of Calvary. Once one accepts the authority of Christ's Church, then one is opened up to all Her mysteries. Having discovered the living source and summit of the Christian life, there really was nowhere else to go. Each town in the world can become like home when Jesus dwells in the Tabernacle.

As many years have progressed, these initial realizations have percolated so deeply into my personality - informing and forming it - that they are now almost unconsciously accepted and responded to.

4. The Maternal Protection of Our Lady.

Again, as the acceptance of Sacred Scripture and Tradition entered more deeply into my reasoning, I came to see how simple and wonderful was Christ's giving of His Mother to His Beloved disciple from the Cross. The words 'Behold your mother' suddenly had a new resonance. Our Lady truly is the surest and swiftest way to Jesus. The Rosary is a thoroughly Gospel-based prayer which can immerse us through Mary into Christ.

Here in April 2014, by God's grace, my initial Christocentric awareness has been broadened into the Trinitarian dimensions of our Faith. The mystery of the Blessed Trinity embraces and runs through every aspect of our Holy religion. To draw just one example from the above points, the Church is One because of Her founder Who established Her to reconcile all men by the power of the Cross, but She is also One because the Blessed Trinity is Her source and origin. The Holy Spirit also dwells in Her and sustains Her unity.

Events in recent years have broadened my understanding of Tradition. I think I used to focus more on this being to do with the dogmas and doctrines in a cerebral way. It is that, but I now also grasp more fully the inclusion of Sacred Liturgical Tradition and customs expressing the Deposit of Faith.

Indeed, studying the rich history of our culture has opened my eyes to the fact that the Catholic Church truly built Western Civilization.

I better appreciate the wonder of Christendom and the heights reached because of Christ's Church, and the model of the Christian family, in the fields of art, architecture, law, literature, music, science, social welfare, and an authentically human rights tradition.

I now grasp the fact that the Holy Mass was the very centre of this world, bringing unity to God and Man, the natural and the supernatural, the body and the soul, the heart and the mind, the individual and society, local society and the wider continent, work and leisure, the seasons and the liturgical calendar, health and sickness, the living and the dead.

The unities of this Eucharistic world were only sundered by much self-focus, violence and prolonged persecution. The tragic result of these tribulations, and the trajectory of events that they accelerated, means that today most people live and die without any awareness of their cultural and spiritual patrimony. They pass through life unaware of where they came from or where they go to. And come and go we all do. This is what the New Evangelization seeks to address.

The events of the 20th Century and these first decades of the 21st Century continue to affirm the truths of the Catholic Church. They give us a tangible demonstration of what man descends to - in all the fields highlighted above - without God and the unity of His Church.

I can see in my own life how the Church, as Christ's Mystical Body, has made me more fully human. This has been a fruit of the power of Her sacraments, teaching, prayer and moral community life.

When I slip away from these things, I really do become less fully myself. Sin is a negation of who I am and is more about me falling into who I am not. But with Christ's love, I become more truly who I am. It is the same for all Catholics who partake of Christ's divine life.

It must be said that the Church, at many levels, is presenting a less clear vision today of internal unity and truth than 21 years ago. This tragedy is occuring in part because the four pillars of the Faith, described in Acts 2:42, are being more and more ignored by people who dissent and seek easy compromise with the world.

Yet this too affirms the Absolute Truth of Catholic orthodoxy; the Truth is made more visible when presented and lived faithfully, and is obscured when the members of the Church prefer their own limited and sinful self-will. This obscuration is not the reality and when the reality is encountered again, it shows the obscuration for what it is. Grace works mysteriously to point each and all of us back to the fullness of Truth.

In a mysterious way, this helps us to see that the Truth is deeper than us. The Catholic religion is revealed to us, not created by us. We can even see what it is by comparing it to what it is not.

For example, the reverence of Liturgy, the purity of doctrine, the faithfulness to morality and shared Christian community, and the depth of truly Christian prayer, help Christ to shine through our parishes.

When these truths are ignored, we see a new church emerging, which is but a reflection of limited and sinful humanity. This will not be enough to nourish searching souls and already many souls are seeing beyond watered-down religion and seeking full beauty, goodness and truth. People are beginning to see beyond the lowly people's altars to the soaring beauty of the High-Altars; to see beyond the dissenting theologians to the lives of the saints; to awake from praying with clay to recovering praying with blessed beads; to grow out of 'Colours of Day' and into Canto Gregoriano; to prefer the Christ to the self.

The only thing that can sustain us is the religion God gave to us. My prayer is that all who read this will come to know and love Jesus Christ and to join the Church He founded and maintains for their salvation and sanctification.

Dear readers, I am 42 this week - or 21 again if you like! Please join me in thanking God for the grace of the Catholic Faith - this Pearl of Great Price. Let us pray for each other to cooperate with God's grace and grow in holiness and to thus persevere to and beyond the End.

Instaurare Omnia in Christo!

God bless - Alan.

Please Pray Today for the Hillsborough 96

Torch of The Faith News on Tuesday 15 April 2014 - 15:34:02 | by admin

Please pray for the 96 Liverpool fans who died at Hillsborough 25 years ago today.

At 3.06pm, the exact time of the disaster, our city will come to a standstill to honour the dead. Local churches will ring their bells 96 times, the barriers of both Mersey tunnels will be lowered, Lime Street train station will display photographs of the deceased on the main screen, and the city will mark a one-minute period of silence.

Scarves from every club in English football's top four divisions will be laid out, in the shape of the number 96, at Liverpool F.C.'s football ground at Anfield.

We invite readers to pray for those who died in this tragedy, which shook our city 25 years ago today. Please also pray for their family members who continue to fight for justice for the 96.

We will begin the Chaplet of Divine Mercy at 3pm for these intentions.    

The Transforming Witness of Christian Marriage

Torch of The Faith News on Monday 14 April 2014 - 11:28:42 | by admin

Mike Aquilina, Executive Vice Director of the St. Paul Centre for Biblical Theology, has given an inspiring presentation about the Sacrament of Marriage, on EWTN's Franciscan University Presents show.

Mr. Aquilina has worked on over 40 books dealing with Catholic history, doctrine and devotion. This knowledge has helped him in his latest research on the transforming witness of Christian marriage from the time of the Early Church; a witness which we need to recover today to bring our civilization back to God.

In a summary paper, Mr. Aquilina recalls that the early Catholic Church emerged in the context of a civilization which was collapsing through the widespread acceptance of abortion, abortifacients, infanticide and narcissistic selfishness. The cultural acceptance of these sins led to low fertility rates, high maternal mortality, a shortage of marriageable women, and an absence of familial care for the elderly. 

Mr. Aquilina writes: 'People had grown accustomed to unmoored, leisurely life, drifting from pleasure to pleasure, without the encumbrance of children... We face a similar crisis today. Christianity's critics say they want to promote a tolerant, welcoming, inclusive society. What they usually mean is a society that gives free reign to vice, lust and sin. But a growing number of people are dissatisfied with the societal consequences of these sins.'

Mr. Aquilina demonstrates how the Church in our time can draw again from the rich wisdom passed down from the Early Church to transform our present culture through the graces of the Sacrament of Matrimony.
'We Christians have answers... Christians created the first truly tolerant, welcoming, and all-inclusive society - with a remarkable social-welfare system. They did this because they, unlike their rulers, not only tolerated the poor and weak, and even loved them with human affection, but saw the least of the human family as the image of God, as Christ who must be welcomed, as angels requiring hospitality... from such reverence came true social security, true stability, and prosperity.'

In a key section of his presentation, Mike Aquilina made an inspiring call for Christian families to transform the present culture with the love of Jesus Christ.

Noting that Catholic married couples and their children have a vital part to play in the New Evangelization, Aquilina enthused: 'So much love is being poured into families through the grace of the Sacrament of Matrimony, we've got to open the floodgates and let that love flow into our neighbourhoods. That's what the early Christians did, that's how they evangelized the world and changed the culture and we can do the same thing today. God's arm has not been shortened.'

This is a great encouragement to Catholic families to build their domestic church in faithfulness to Jesus Christ and the Magisterium, and to spread the Faith from that solid base to those around them in charity.

A Blessed Palm Sunday to Our Readers!

Torch of The Faith News on Sunday 13 April 2014 - 22:30:51 | by admin

As the Church enters with Christ into the majesty of Holy Week - the week which changed the whole history of the world - we pray that this will be a time of great grace for all our readers.

On this Palm Sunday 2014, may each of us begin again to live and love in the Heart of Jesus Christ.

'I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ (Pope Francis - Evangelii Gaudium 3).'

US Bishops Back March for Marriage 2014

Torch of The Faith News on Friday 11 April 2014 - 14:13:56 | by admin

Several American organizations are collaborating to sponsor the second annual March for Marriage in Washington D.C.

The first march in 2013 gathered together almost 10,000 grassroots activists to demonstrate that the vast majority of Americans still stand for true marriage between one man and one woman.

March for Marriage declares that it is, 'poised to become an essential and indispensable vehicle for voicing the values of pro-marriage Americans in a way that cuts through the biased media-narrative and demands hearing in the halls of power.'

Bishop Richard Malone of the Diocese of Buffalo, in his role as Chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, has co-written a letter with Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco, to give the official support of the US Conference of Bishops to the March for Marriage 2014.

Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo.

The letter describes the event, which will take place in Washington D.C. on 19th June, as 'an ideal opportunity for participants to celebrate and give public witness to the unique meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman at a time when the religious liberties and conscience rights of those who promote and defend marriage are increasingly threatened.'

The bishops see the event as an opportunity for Christian witness and prayer as well as a chance to make a public stand with all people of good will in the defence of one of the key bedrocks of society.

As similar movements in France have had some impact in the defence of marriage - and as this weekend marks the second week since so-called same-sex 'marriage' began in England and Wales - it will be important for the UK Bishops to show similar leadership.

Please pray for the success of this growing movement to defend true marriage. As the two American bishops write in their letter: 'This is a critical time for marriage in our country, as marriage amendments are being struck down by federal courts and appeals of these decisions are being made.'

Let us pray to the Holy Family for the cause of true marriage and family life.

Staying Afloat on Peter's Barque

Torch of The Faith News on Thursday 10 April 2014 - 12:12:26 | by admin

Faithful Catholics are certainly having a rough ride as dark waves of apostasy sweep the decks of Peter's Barque.

Times such as these pose a particular kind of danger to sincere Catholics. The devil can gradually manipulate their perceptions in order to take their focus away from Our Lord Jesus Christ and onto the dark terrors of the storm.

Once disoriented, they become despondent, joyless and even bitter. It is not too far a step from this situation into sin.

In such a state, we are no longer a light of love and evangelization.

Sacred Scripture presents us with instructive events such as the account of the Calming of the Storm and the time when St. Peter walked across the water to Jesus.

In each case, all went well for the disciples when their focus remained on Christ. However, once their primary focus moved to the storm, the shipwreck of fear and despair threatened to overwhelm them.

This is not to say that we should ignore the dangers of the storm. That would be folly. However, it is a case of priorities; the good mariner takes into account the dangers and logistics of a voyage, but keeps his primary focus on reaching the destination.

It is a case of navigation rather than capitulation.

In these days leading into Holy Week, we could each profit from asking ourselves a question. Is my primary focus each day on Jesus Christ or on the problems threatening His Church, or even on my own problems?

It can be so easy - even addictive - to spend our free time reading through all the negative accounts on the internet. The same can be said of thinking about one's own trials. It is often not so easy to spend time receiving from the Word of God.

And yet, this is where the Prince of Peace can be encountered.

As Holy Week approaches, we invite our readers to receive afresh from the Word of God. Not as another burden to add to the duties of the day, but as a real chance to relax in God and to breath in the fresh air He offers.
Come to me, all you that labour, and are burdened,
and I will refresh you (Matthew 11:28).

God wants to speak to us and to nourish us with His Word.

At various times in our lives, we have found the Divine Office - the Liturgy of the Hours - of the Church to be a very helpful source of peace and consolation.

Of course, one does not pray the Office just to get a sense of peace, but to deepen one's union in God. Nevertheless, the Office has great capacity to maintain us in the kind of inner peace necessary to remain in Christ's Love and to reflect this to others.

Whilst priests and religious pray the whole Office as a key part of their calling; lay people are encouraged by the Church to partake in this sacrifice of praise as far as they are able.

As this is the liturgical prayer of the Church, it taps us into the enormous reservoir of grace won for us by Jesus Christ. The recitation of the Psalms plugs us into the rich tradition of the Church and God's chosen people.

Just to give one example of how the Office has helped us, we recently were finding ourselves overburdened by the raised and unopposed voices of dissent occuring in the UK in recent weeks.

Psalm 8 - in Saturday Morning Prayer of Week 4 - announces: 'Your majesty is praised above the heavens; on the lips of children and of babes you have found praise to foil your enemy, to silence the foe and the rebel.'

Being the revealed Word of God, a phrase like this can feed us throughout the day as a constant source of peace. It helps us to recall that grace is paramount. God is always in charge. His little ones praise Him. Their praise of Him will foil and silence His enemies more than any amount of clamour on our part.

Again, this is not to say that we should ignore dissent. But, rather that it should not take us away from the peace of Christ.

Praising Him each day can help us remain close to His love and peace. In this way, we can become the heralds of the Gospel.

As Holy Week approaches, you may find praying part of the Office - say Morning Prayer - to be helpful. Even a few planned minutes each day for silent prayer with the Lord and a passage from the Bible can help us to refocus on Him.

Then we can remember that it is His Church and He is still in charge.

As Psalm 8 also proclaims: 'How great is your name, O Lord our God, through all the earth!' 

May the peace of Christ sustain you each day.

Holy Father Promotes Chastity - Not Condoms - For Africa

Torch of The Faith News on Wednesday 09 April 2014 - 11:57:36 | by admin

His Holiness, Pope Francis, has promoted chastity as the authentic response to AIDS and other problems being faced on the African continent.

During this week's ad limina meeting in Rome, with bishops from Tanzania, His Holiness paid special tribute to church-workers, who 'strive diligently' to promote chastity in order to combat AIDS and to restore family life.

He also remarked: 'By promoting prayer, marital fidelity, monogamy, purity and humble service of one another within families, the Church continues to make an invaluable contribution to the social welfare of Tanzania.'

This is an important statement which runs counter to the ideology-driven 'aid' being pushed by many Western governments and to the dissenting approach employed by some Catholic charities.

The well documented history of CAFOD and the condom issue is one of the key reasons that we have not supported this charity for many years.

In relationship to catechesis on the dogmas and doctrines of the Faith, Pope Francis called the bishops to ensure that their catechists were provided with full formation, and a full grasp of Church teaching, to meet 'the challenges of superstition, aggressive sects, and secularism.'    

Of course, all of these themes easily translate to the work and needs of the Church in the Western hemisphere in these times.   

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