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Thursday, 28 February 2013

Blog Update

Hi everyone,

I hope you have been using this time of Lent to reflect and spend more time praying, fasting and giving alms. Do have a read of my parish priest's reflections on Lent as they are very inspiring and can offer some concrete and practical suggestions on how to carry out the "praying, fasting and almsgiving" this Lent. Don't forget that you aren't meant to forget it all once Lent is over, but cherish it more, and develop it.

I am sorry that Emily and I have been so busy with so much going on in our lives at the moment that neither of us have really posted all that much on the blog. Both of us are currently working on some exciting posts, so hopefully by Holy Week, or just after Easter, there will be some new content for you to reflect on and give us some feedback on. We really do appreciate any comments and suggestions, and don't forget we have the prayer requests page for you to use as well.

God Bless and Peace in Christ, We will keep you in prayer as always,

Kim Lee
Foundress
The Vocation Operation

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Religious' Prayers and Sayings - Ven. Mary Ward

Ven. Mary Ward: "Only fear to fear too much"

We often forget that we are in the special care of Our Lord and Our Lady, who are watching over us very carefully, with all the angels and saints. Often when we go through difficulties, in our trials and troubles, we think that the Lord has forsaken us, we think, "How could He, the God we know to be omniscient, omnipotent, benign, ever loving and ever merciful let such a horrible thing happen to me?", and it's true to say that we are only human and that it is very easy to fall into that trap, if I may call it a 'trap'. Mary Ward used the phrase: "Only fear to fear too much" - we so easily forget that God knows all and is always with us that we start getting scared of what might happen to us, or the consequences of what has happened to us, and we forget to trust God and turn to Him in our troubles. In everything, turn to the Lord and trust Him, and know that we are not to be ignorant of His presence. Make sure you always take the time to pray, to see God in others, and to remind yourself that God is there. Receive the sacraments regularly as they will strengthen you - as long as you allow them to. In being fearful, we are not fully aware, or mindful of God and our vocation. We become focused on our fears, on what might happen, and end up anticipating dangerously inaccurate, even irrelevant outcomes, such that we cannot and must not be able to fully discern properly what God is calling us to do at any particular moment in time. That is why I think it is important that we remember to trust in God and not be consumed with fear, for in fear, we can never find peace. My spiritual Father said this to me, "When a message is from God it's always accompanied by peace" - it is essential that you know that, so that when you are discerning whether something has been part of God's will, or just the free will of a person tempted by Satan and carrying that out, you know.

Let me know if you have any further thoughts on this matter.

God Bless,
Kim Lee

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Update: Kim's Story

A lot has happened since I last posted. Things really have been moving quiet swiftly, and sometimes I wonder if I am living in a dream. It is only just over a month before I will be received into the Church and be able to fully participate in the Mass and receive the Eucharist. I've wanted this for such a long time that I sometimes question why I want it all so much. I had some doubts recently that were completely thrown out the window by my confirmation sponsor, who questioned me on my relationship with the Lord and helped me to find that the reason I am doing this is because I truly love the Lord with all my heart and want to give my life wholly over to Him, and that I trust He will guide me. I still don't know what I really want in my heart regarding the Religious Life - I still need to spend more time exploring that path, and I have been looking into various retreats and spending time with the sisters of different congregations to see where that leads. Some initial contact has been made a community I had not been in touch with before, and so we will see what comes of that contact. Only time will tell what God wants from me. Sometimes I think it's a rather scary thing to give your whole life over to God, but then there is a peace in my heart which allows me to trust Him with my life, knowing that I could never come to any harm while in His hands. But lately, I've been struggling with a few things, and I ask for your prayers for a personal intention. Thank you, and God Bless.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Thoughts on Lent (from my parish priest)

Below are the thoughts of my parish priest on the Gospel. I wanted to share them with you because they are very moving, and have reminded me of a number of things I was taught as a child, but had forgotten. I hope they remind you of the importance of this Lenten observance too.

Thoughts of Gospel 49
Lent 2013
This week's reflections will be a few thoughts on how to live the Lenten season.
Prayer, fasting, alms giving
The Church traditionally says there are 3 things we ought to "do" during lent. Putting stress on the word "do". We emphasize very often the interior dimension. That lent is about attitudes, ideas and intentions. In the traditional practice of the Church, lent is about doing things. Things that involve the body as much as the mind. That involve the exterior of your life as much as the interior.
There is a very Catholic principle that goes like this..... what your body does your soul will follow. We like to give bodily expression to spiritual movement, acting out with our whole person the conversion process. That’s why we love pilgrimages, going on our knees to pray, sign of the cross, rosary; that engages the body, mind and will, we love "smells and bells" as we say because they awaken the body and lead the soul into the divine.
Take pilgrimages for example; lent is all about conversion, "metanoia" in the Greek of the Gospel, "beyond the mind"; to go beyond the present way the mind perceives, to change the way we see things. To travel to a place of pilgrimage... (Bible full of pilgrimages...Abraham leaves his home and sets off...Moses journeys to the promised land, Mary to Hill Country to visit her cousin Elizabeth, Jesus to Jerusalem....)....is to mimic the arduousness of the spiritual path, the soul follows the lead....
The 3 great practices of lent are prayer, fasting and alms giving. Lets look at each one in turn.
Prayer has been defined in all sorts of ways over the centuries. There are many many different ways of practicing prayer.
Prayer is a conscious and disciplined accessing of the center. Jesus Christ wants to be the center of your life. That power around which all of your talents, abilities, your powers revolve. Jesus says I want to live in you, I want to be your life, your mind, your will. To pray, is to access that center. To become aware of it. To live in it, to be open to it in a conscious and disciplined way. Lent the Church says is a great time for this practice of prayer.
Here are some very practical things; The Jesus prayer.... its a very ancient prayer form and very simple. Its roots are biblical. It flourished especially in the East, in the monasteries of the Byzantine Church. The Jesus prayer unfolds this way. As you breath in deeply you say "Lord Jesus Christ Son of God" and then as you breath out you say "Have mercy on me a sinner". Notice please how it involves the mind, you are thinking about Christ, you are thinking about sin, about forgiveness. It involves the will, the desire and it involves the body. As you breathe in you fill your lungs, you are signaling to your body, that you are filling your life up with Jesus Christ, you breathe Him in. Then as you breathe out, "have mercy on me a sinner". You are breathing out all the negative spirits in your life. You are breathing out sin, negativity. If you read the book "The way of the pilgrim", its a very short little book. It’s all about a young man who discovered the Jesus prayer. And it changes his life. He was leafing through the bible on day and he found St Paul's invitation to pray constantly. And he wondered what that meant. So he sought out various spiritual masters. Until he finally came to someone who finally explained to him what it meant. He said it means you should practice the Jesus prayer. "Lord Jesus Christ Son of God. have mercy on me a sinner". How many times ? Hundreds of times. Thousands of times. As you make your way through the day, maybe pausing and very consciously saying it in a very focused way. But let that prayer seep into your bones. Let it seep into your lungs, your body, your mind. And what this young man discovered was that his whole life changed as he let the Jesus Prayer work its way through his whole being.
The beauty of the Jesus Prayer is that you can pray it in a very concentrated way, you can spend an hour in the morning, in the evening with this prayer. Sit before the Blessed Sacrament and pray it. Or you can pray it for a minute, maybe in the midst of a very busy hectic day. Facing though decisions, take a minute, take 30 seconds and pray this prayer. Lets say you are caught in traffic, you can give yourself over to frustration or you can give yourself over to prayer, to access the deep center. To make contact with Jesus Christ.
The second great practice of lent is fasting. Jesus himself fasted for 40 days in the desert. It’s an ancient and powerful spiritual practice. Why do we fast ? Because we have a hunger for God. Which is the deepest hunger. We`re meant to feel that hunger, to access it so that it can direct us towards God. What's the danger ? (and every spiritual master East and West recognizes this), the danger is that if we allow the superficial hungers of our lives to dominate, we never reach the deep hunger.
Thomas Merton once said that the hungers for food, for drink and for shelter, for sex are like children because they are insistent, they are immediate, they want satisfaction now. The way a little kid does, give me this now, therefore these desires can dominate the soul very quickly if we let them. Fasting is a way of disciplining those desires. Quieting those desires. Not responding immediately to them so that the deep desire, the deep thirst and hunger might emerge. Unless you fast you might never even realize how hungry you are for God.
How about some practical suggestions...the Church tells us clearly to follow certain dieting recommendations during the Lenten season, abstaining from meat on Fridays, having certain days of fast, these really aren`t all that stringent and Catholics are encouraged to follow them. But maybe we could try skipping a meal once a week during lent, and taking the money you would have spent in that meal and giving it to the poor. Or skipping a meal and during that time pray the rosary. To substitute the hunger and thirst for God, in a conscious way, for the hunger and thirst for food and drink.
But here's the thing, don't simply do it as a kind of masochistic self-punishment. "I'm fasting from this meal and now I'm miserable....I'm not smoking and that’s making me crazy" ...... rather feel that hunger, that need, that lack, and then treat it as a kind of sacrament of your divine hunger. Feel that hunger and say "Lord I know this is symbolic for me of the hunger and thirst for you".... feel that as you fast.
The 3rd practice, the one that’s often the most overlooked; alms-giving. During lent we are encouraged to give alms to the poor. Because we are members of a body. The Church is not a club, a society, not a collection of like-minded people. The Church is a body. We participate in Christ, we are the cells and molecules of his body. What that means of course is that we are connected one to another. Just as the organs of a body are interconnected. If the liver has a problem its the whole body's problem. The lungs have a problem...the whole body is affected. So we Christians say and believe that if you have a problem, that’s my problem too. Because we are connected. If someone in the far corner of the world is hungry, is thirsty or alone or afraid, I can't say; "that’s their problem". That’s our problem. We give alms because we are connected to each other.
How do you give alms ? Here are some concrete suggestions..... as a kid in Ireland we used to have a poor box, the "trocaire box" as we'd call it. During lent put a poor box next to your door and then every time you leave during lent, put something in that box. It could be 50 cents, 1 dollar, 10 dollars...whatever, and encourage your family to do it too. Knowing that each time there is somebody in the body of Christ who needs it.
Another ancient practice is to set an extra place at your table, at dinner. To remind you of that person in the body of Christ, who is starving. Who doesn't have enough to eat. And then take the money you would have spent to prepare that meal, put that in the poor box.
Here is one that’s very difficult....St John Chrysostom said that "If you have 2 shirts in your closet, one belongs to you and the other belongs to the man who has no shirt. If you have 2 cloaks in your closet, one belongs to you and one to the man who has no cloak". Go into your closet this lent, we all have more clothes than we actually need. Find something in there that you don't need, and give it to someone in the body of Christ who has far greater need of this than I do.
This lent forget about fussy introspection, ask not am I happy ? Ask; am I giving, doing, caring, follow the Gospel's recommendation and do 3 things....pray, fast and give alms.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

"Same-Sex Marriage" - Catholic Church Teachings


I think this is a really useful set of information to have about Marriage, and some of the things that the Church teaches about Marriage. You should also remember that what "God has joined together, man must not separate, and for this reason, a man leaves his family and joins with his wife, and the two become one." It would not be right for a man and a man, or a woman and a woman to be married, as this goes against natural law, and the purpose of Marriage - one of the most important aspects is procreation, of which a man cannot do with another man, nor a woman with another woman. Marriage is one of the seven sacraments. Sacraments are an extension of the Incarnation, communicating Christ's divinity into our own human nature, and thus our whole human being, and so it would be wrong to change the meaning of true marriage, since it would defy the sacramental aspect of it, since Jesus was born of Mary, who was betrothed to Joseph, a man, and not another woman, and we should take this as the example for our lives, to live in union with Jesus.

SOURCE

"And God created man to His own image: to the image of God He created him: male and female He created them. And God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it.'" (Genesis 1:27-28)

Who made marriage?
God made marriage and the laws concerning marriage.

When did God make marriage?
When He created Adam and Eve.

Why did God make marriage?
For two purposes:
  1. For bringing children into the world and rearing them...
  2. For the mutual help of the husband and wife.
How do you know the first purpose of marriage is children?
The Bible says so:
"Increase and multiply." (Gen. 1:28) "I will therefore that the younger should marry, bear children, be mistresses of families." (1 Timothy 5:14)
Does not common sense show that the first purpose of marriage is children?
Yes, the very differences, both physical and mental, between man and woman show the first purpose of marriage to be the bringing of children into the world. A woman's body is made for the bearing and nursing of children; whereas, a man's body is stronger so that he can protect his family and give them food and shelter. A woman is kinder, more sympathetic, more emotional than man. She needs these qualities to care for and instruct her children.

How do you know that mutual love and help are the second purpose of marriage?
The Bible says so:
"And the Lord God said: It is not good for man to be alone: let us make him a help like unto himself...  Then the Lord God cast a deep sleep upon Adam: and when he was fast asleep, he took one of his ribs, and filled up flesh for it. And the Lord God build the rib which he took from Adam into a woman: and brought her to Adam." (Gen. 2:18, 21-22)
Does not common sense indicate this too?
Yes, common sense shows that men and women are incomplete without one another but find their physical and spiritual completion in marriage.

What is the purpose of sexual pleasure?
To attract husband and wife to have children and to foster love for each other.

Who are the only ones that may enjoy sexual pleasure?
Husband and wife who are validly married to each other.
"But I say to the unmarried, and to the widows:  It is good for them if they so continue, even as I.  But if they do not contain themselves, let them marry.  For it is better to marry than to be burnt." (1 Corinthians 7:8-9)
How many wives did God create for Adam?
Only one wife; God wanted this marriage to be the model for all marriages -- one man and one woman.
"Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife:  and they shall be two in one flesh."    (Genesis 2:24)
How long does God intend husband and wife to stay together?
Until the death of one of the partners.
"A woman is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband die, she is at liberty:  let her marry to whom she will; only in the Lord."                    (1 Corinthians 7:39)
Why does God command husband and wife to stay together until death?
Because the lifetime welfare of the children and of the married couple themselves requires that they be permanently united. Divine law requires the couple to stay together until death, even if they have no children.  In special cases separation is permitted, but the bond of marriage remains.

What is a valid marriage?
A union that is a real marriage in the eyes of God and therefore can be broken only by death.  No power on earth, therefore, can break a valid marriage.  
"What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder." (Mark 10:9).
This includes the civil government.

What is an invalid marriage?
A union that was never a marriage in the eyes of God.  A couple invalidly married must either separate or have the marriage made valid. Otherwise they are living in adultery or fornication.
"Neither fornicators... nor adulterers... shall possess the kingdom of God."   (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
What is necessary for a valid marriage?    
  1. A single man and a single woman
  2. Who are of age
  3. Free to marry
  4. Capable of sexual intercourse
  5. Who intend to live together
  6. Who intend to be faithful to each other until the death of one of them
  7. Who intend to have a family
  8. Who are in no other way prohibited by the law of God from marrying. For example, it is forbidden to marry close relatives, such as uncles, aunts, nieces or nephews.
Did God make these laws only for Catholics?
No, all human beings have to obey these laws. However, Catholics are also bound by Church laws. For example, a Catholic cannot marry validly except in the presence of a priest and two witnesses (unless there is a special dispensation from the local bishop for a particular case and that for a sufficiently grave reason).

Does the state have authority to change God's laws?
No.  God's law comes before man's law. But the State can make laws requiring a license and registration, and concerning health, property rights, and so on, as long as these laws are not against God's laws.

Can men and women find real happiness in marriage?
Yes, if they follow God's plan for marriage.
"Happy is the husband of a good wife:  for the number of his years is double.  A virtuous woman rejoiceth her husband and shall fulfill the years of his life in peace.  A good wife is a good portion, she shall be given in the portion of them that fear God, to a man for his good deeds.  Rich or poor, if his heart is good, his countenance shall be cheerful at all times."    (Ecclesiasticus 26:1-4)
What is the greatest source of happiness in marriage?
Raising children in the fear and love of God. Court records show fewer marriage breakups among couples with large families.

PRACTICAL POINTS: All laws, both human and divine, are made for the good of society. Once in a while, a law will work a hardship on an individual, and this is sometimes true of God's laws on marriage.  But you marry "for better or for worse."  Therefore, if through no fault of yours, your married life is unhappy, or if your partner has left you, or if you find God's laws hard to observe, ask God for the strength to do His will; ask your crucified Savior for the courage to carry your cross. The Sacrament of Matrimony gives married people special graces to live their lives according to God's laws.  In any case, God made no exceptions to His laws on marriage; to break them for any reason is a serious sin. Do not try to judge whether your marriage or anybody else's is valid or invalid.  That can be done only by one who is skilled in the knowledge of these laws.  The priest who is instructing you will tell you whether your marriage is valid or not. An "annulment" is not the dissolving of an existing marriage, but rather a declaration that a real marriage never existed in the eyes of God on account of some dire defect or impediment that was present at the time the couple exchanged their vows.  For example, if one of the two parties did not intend to enter a permanent union until death, no marriage would take place, despite the appearances. An annulment is more properly termed a "declaration of nullity."

Fr. C. Vaillancourt

This is a very excellent video, short and simple yet very powerful.



Some Resources
We already have a page for resources on the sacrament on marriage, these resources relate specifically to the issue of "same-sex marriage" (I put it in quotation marks because of course such a thing does not and cannot exist.)

Homosexuality - Catholic Answers

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Community Spotlight: Apostolic Sisters of the Community of St John (International Provinces)

Order: Community of St John (Apostolic Sisters)

Founder: Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe OP (R.I.P.)

Gender: Female

Apostolate: Their work is varied: children,  youth and campus ministry, retreats for families, hospitality, parish ministry, education, ministry in nursing homes, visits to the poor and homebound.

Eligibility: Unknown (I will find out and get back to you on this!)

Formation:
The Stages of the Sisters' Formation
  • The first stage is postulancy which is usually done in a House of Formation of the Community; it lasts between 6 to 12 months.
  • The second stage is the Novitiate which lasts between 2 years to 2 1/2 years. It is during this time that the Novice receives the habit.
  • The third stage is temporary profession which lasts for at least 4 years. During these years the Sister continues her formation and she also spends some years in an Apostolic Priory.
  • At the end of her temporary vows, if the Sister is accepted by the Community, she pronounces her perpetual vows (until death).
Vows: Chastity, Obedience, Poverty (More info. on vows)

Practices:
Typical Weekday in a House of Formation

6:15Silent Prayer
7:00Lauds
7:30 Breakfast
8:00 Lectio Divina
8:45Fraternal
services
9:15Classes or
personal study
11:15Sext & Mass
Thanksgiving
1:00Lunch
Rosary
Manual work
4:30  Class
5:30Vespers
6:00 Holy Hour
7:00Dinner
8:15Compline


History:
Founded in France in 1984 by Fr. Marie Dominique Philippe, the Congregation of the Apostolic Sisters of Saint John is the third branch of the Family of St. John. It is a Roman Catholic religious institute with a monastic spirit and an apostolic mission. It was recognized by the Bishop of Autun (Burgundy, France) as an institute of diocesan right in 1993.
Today there are 17 priories throughout the world.

Recommended: 'Follow the Lamb' ('Wherever He Goes')

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Community Spotlight: Sisters of Life




Order: Sisters of Life
Gender: Female
Apostolate: Pregnancy help, education and retreats, evangelisation, post-abortion healing
Eligibility: Unknown
Formation: Nine months postulancy, two year novitiate, five years temporary vows
Vows: Poverty, chastity and obedience as well as a fourth vow to protect and enhance the sacredness of all human life
Practices: Eucharistic Holy Hour, Rosary, 45 minutes of meditation, Vespers. One day a week and one Sunday a month are spent as prayer days.
History: Found here

Recommended:
Links - gives links to various pro-life organisations
Volunteer Opportunities
News
Visitation Co-Workers of Life