Tuesday 26 April 2011

“Garden of the Soul”: Prayers of thanksgiving after Holy Communion

As promised in my last post, here are a few extracts from the prayers of thanksgiving after Holy Communion, from my Garden of the Soul:

O Lord Jesus Christ, my Creator and my Redeemer, my God and my all, whence is this to me that my Lord, and so great a Lord, Whom heaven and earth cannot contain, should come into this poor dwelling, this house of clay of my earthly habitation? Bow down thyself, with all thy powers, O my soul, to adore the Sovereign Majesty which hath vouchsafed to come to visit thee.

What return shall I make to Thee, O Lord, for all Thou hast done for me? Behold, when I had no being at all, Thou didst create me; and when I was gone away and lost in my sins, Thou didst redeem me by dying for me. All that I have, all that I am, is Thy gift; and now, after all Thy other favours, Thou hast given me Thyself: blessed be Thy Name for ever.

Bless, then, thy Lord, O my soul, and let all that is within thee praise and magnify His Name. Bless thy Lord, O my soul, and see that thou never forget all that He hath done for thee.

And now, Lord Jesus, I go from Thee for a while, but as I hope, not without Thee, Who art my comfort and the ultimate happiness of my soul …… To Thy love and protection I recommend myself anew …… May I be wholly employed in Thee and for Thee; and may Thy love be the end of all my thoughts, words and actions. Who livest and reignest for ever and ever. Amen.

I hope you have enjoyed these extracts from such lovely prayers. By these and other means, during the course of so many years, the faithful of every social and educational background participated with mind and heart in the Holy Sacrifice: the actuosa participatio of those times.

Monday 25 April 2011

"Garden of the Soul”: Praying our way through the Mass

As promised in my post last Thursday, here is a flavour of the beautiful Prayers at Mass, from my Garden of the Soul. The union between the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacrifice of Calvary is very much a feature of these extracts.

O merciful Father, who didst so love the world as to give up for our redemption Thy beloved Son; who, in obedience to Thee, and for us, sinners, humbled Himself even unto the death of the Cross, and continues to offer Himself daily, by the ministry of His priests, for the living and the dead, we humbly beseech Thee that, penetrated with a lively faith, we may always assist with the utmost devotion and reverence at the oblation of His most precious Body and Blood, which is made at Mass, and thereby be made partakers of the sacrifice which He consummated on Calvary.

It is in Thy name, O adorable Trinity, it is to honour Thee and to do Thee homage, that I assist at this most holy and august sacrifice. Permit me then, O Lord, to unite my intention with that of Thy minister now at the altar, in offering up this precious victim; and give me the same sentiments I should have had on Mount Calvary, had I been an eye-witness to that bloody sacrifice.

To Thou Thyself, O Lord, raise up my heart; inflame it with Thy love …… Let it rest in heaven, where Thou, my treasure, art, and on this altar also, where Thou art going to present Thyself to the eternal Father for our sake.

O Father of mercy, graciously receive this most holy sacrifice, which we offer to Thee by the hands of Thy priest, in union with that which Thy beloved Son offered to Thee during His whole life, at His last supper, and on the cross.

Come, O Lord Jesus; come, sweet Redeemer of the world; come quickly to accomplish a mystery, which is an abridgment of all Thy other miracles.
Thou art, O Lord Jesus, the true Pastor of our souls, who didst lay down Thy life for Thy flock. Thou art the Lamb of God, who didst die upon the cross to save us.

I adore Thy goodness and return Thee infinite thanks, O gracious Lord, for Thy inestimable favour and mercy in admitting me to be present this day at the great sacrifice, where Thou art both Priest and Victim.

I hope these extracts will give you a good impression of the stream of personal prayer, flowing with the progress of the Holy Sacrifice, that was available to the faithful as a matter of course in those days. I am accustomed to reading these prayers at almost every Mass, and even so I have found that selecting the extracts, and setting them out for my readers, has been a surprisingly affecting experience for me.

I plan to include in my next post some passages from the lovely prayers of thanksgiving after Holy Communion.

Picture from corjesusacratissimum.org, with thanks.

Saturday 23 April 2011

Easter greetings to all Catholic bloggers

A happy and blessed Easter to all who read this blog, and to all the Catholic bloggers who write such beautiful and inspiring things. It has meant a great deal to me to have discovered the Catholic blogosphere. Long may your good work continue.

Picture courtesy of kaylace.blogspot.com

Friday 22 April 2011

The Breaking of Bones

In so many respects it must have seemed the perfect time to strike at Jesus. Here they were on the brink of the Passover, with all those pilgrims who would see for themselves the degrading end of the man so many of them had hoped would be the great liberator of the nation. And yet, this being Passover, and the lambs ready to be slaughtered, wasn’t there some niggling thing about Jesus and a Lamb?

It was only three years or so since the days when John the Baptist had been preaching and baptising. The priests and the Pharisees must have received detailed reports of his teachings; some of them had been there to hear his words for themselves. And they might well have known that John had pointed to someone, and had said of him: “Behold the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world.” Did they suspect, or know, that he had been pointing to Jesus?

As Jesus and the thieves hung on their crosses, the leaders sent a request to Pilate for permission to have their legs broken. The reason they gave him, which in itself I don’t think we have any reason to doubt, was their desire to hasten the deaths so that the bodies would not be left hanging there during the solemn feast of Passover.

As most of us know, one of the requirements for the Passover lamb was that not one bone of its body was to be broken. Did the priests and Pharisees therefore have a second intention, an undeclared, and very deliberate one? If they could succeed in having Jesus’s legs broken, this would convince many, or perhaps all of His followers, that He could not possibly be the Lamb of God.

They received their permission. But in the case of Jesus, they were too late. He was dead. And not one bone of Him had been broken.

John 1:29 (above)
Ex 12:46: “You shall not break a bone of it”
Num 9:12: “They shall leave none of it until the morning, nor break a bone of it”
Ps 34:20: “He keeps all his bones; none of them is broken”

Thursday 21 April 2011

An old prayer book: “Garden of the Soul”

Many English-speaking Catholics of a certain age will remember two popular prayer books which formed the mainstay of the devotional life of thousands, if not millions, of our spiritual forbears. They were The Garden of the Soul and The Key of Heaven.

My Garden of the Soul was given to me by a neighbour when I was nine years old. It was published for adults, and I liked it better than the child’s prayer book I had received at the time of my first Holy Communion. The adult prayers were richer in their language and in their content. It is in no way a boast to say that these were perfectly within my capabilities.

To digress slightly: This gives me confidence in the intellectual capacity of the congregations who are about to experience the more dignified language, and the stronger doctrinal nourishment, of the corrected English translation of the Novus Ordo Mass. With varying degrees of effort, they will manage it very nicely indeed, and will, I am sure, find real spiritual benefit in it.

Since the implementation of Summorum Pontificum I have taken to expressing my actuosa participatio by accompanying the priest’s offering of the Holy Mass, whether in the Extraordinary Form or in the Novus Ordo, with my own silent reading of the Prayers for Mass in my old prayer book.

But how, you may ask, do I manage to cram my personal prayers into the spaces between one set of Novus Ordo congregational responses and the next? And surely my own silent reading must drown out, as it were, the priest’s own words, and thus the Mass that is taking place at that moment?

As to the first: I do my best, but I cannot usually manage to say them all. In any case, between the start of the Canon and the completion of the Consecration, I focus entirely on the priest. As to the second, the risk of drowning out the priest: I can’t say, in fact, that it feels like that. Those of us who pray the Rosary know what a challenge it is to keep our minds focused both on the words of the prayers and on the meditations. I speak from experience, as a person whose mind is inclined to drift off. When we get the balance right, all our mental activity seems to be filled with, and concentrated on, the Mysteries. It’s rather like that for me at Mass. My attention is filled, and very much in union with the priest’s own prayers.

This post is long enough for now, I think. In the next few days I hope to post a few extracts from the prayers, to give you a flavour of them.

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Woodchester's Poor Clares are moving from Gloucestershire to Devon

Here is some sad news from today's Gloucestershire Echo
Chapter closes on convent history as nuns leave area:

Nuns are preparing to leave an historic Gloucestershire convent after 150 years.
Dwindling numbers mean the enclosed order of Poor Clares is moving from South Woodchester to Devon.
Founded by 16 volunteers in a farmhouse in 1860, there was still a full complement of 30 sisters in 1950 but by 1980 there were 25 and by 2000, 14 nuns.
Today there are five.
The convent had an orphanage until 1921 and was well known for making altar breads, or communion wafers, for more than 200 churches and convents.
Abbess Sister Irene Joseph said moving away was not easy but the convent, near Stroud, was too large for the remaining nuns.
The group will move to another Poor Clare convent in Lynton.
"We feel we are called to a particular house," she said.
"There are 10 Poor Clare houses now and we are one big family.
"When I came here, the peace here was a calling from God. I thought I would end my days here.
"It is a huge wrench but I believe for some reason it is an intervention from God."
Sister Mary Therese was 24 when she arrived in 1950 as a novice and will turn 85 this year.
"I have always been happy here, even when I was miserable," she said. Parishioners are sad to see the sisters go.
"They don't go out to the world but they welcome the world in," said Deborah Everton-Wallach, who attends daily mass there.
"They have had a profound effect on my life – that they live a simple and fulfilling lives says something."
The future of grade II-listed building, set in 25 acres, is undecided.

How sad. But the large building they live in, with its typical Cotswolds complexity of design, must be a nightmare for just five nuns to maintain. A real burden, both financial and physical. It seems to have been a realistic and inevitable decision.

Photograph courtesy of geograph.org.uk

Tuesday 19 April 2011

God bless all who are being received this week

Amidst the greatness of Holy Week, we also have the particular joy of knowing that so many people are being received into the fullness of the Church during these days. Here in England, in addition to those who are joining within the various dioceses, a large number will become Catholics of the Anglican Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. May I wish them all the most wonderful blessings. There are great adventures ahead!

Friday 15 April 2011

The St Barnabas Society: £100,000 to Help Ordinariate Clergy

If you have a little money to spare in these straitened times, may I urge you to consider making a donation to The St Barnabas Society? The Ordinariate Portal has just reported that this fine charity has set aside £100,000 to help Anglican clergy who join the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

In the Society's own words:
The St Barnabas Society, a registered charity, operates in Great Britain and Ireland and exists to provide pastoral and financial help on behalf of the whole Catholic community to former clergy ministers and religious from other churches, who live in Great Britain and Ireland, and who have been led by faith and conscience to come into full communion with the Catholic Church.

The website provides a link for online donations for this most worthwhile cause. I should mention that the introductory text is slightly confusing. It refers to making an online payment “to your parish”, but if you click on the link you will see that in fact the payment goes direct to the St Barnabas Society.

Thursday 7 April 2011

Measuring God against Goodness

We all have our different ways of tackling the challenges people present to the idea of faith in God. The most usual challenge is surely the problem of evil. I imagine that more than a few of us have encountered this type of criticism from colleagues at work.

The usual form the challenge takes goes something like: “I can’t believe in a God – or a good God – Who would allow such things to happen.”

I think I must leave aside the question of the widely varying phenomena that are generally gathered together under the umbrella word of evil. These deserve a separate discussion. But even considered in its most simple and general terms, I don’t think there can be an all-encompassing and satisfying answer to this kind of question.

Sometimes, however, a little light can be shed on the subject, from an angle.

What is a person actually doing when he asks the “God and evil” question? He may not realise he’s doing it; but he is in fact saying that he believes in goodness. Not simply goodness, but Goodness as an absolute, as a yardstick against which he measures “God” – or his idea of God – and finds Him wanting. In his eyes, “God” falls short when compared with Goodness.

It is not a very great step from this realisation to a further insight: that the critic’s “God” is not the real God. It is a collection of ideas; it is not God at all. In fact, he is not looking high enough, towards what he instinctively knows is there, and acknowledges as the highest thing, and appeals to. The real God is that perfect Goodness in which he himself already believes.

Naturally this does not answer the great conundrum of why God Who is Goodness allows evil to happen. It leaves that hanging in the air, as a distressing mystery; a mystery, however, which is capable of examination in its various manifestations, and thus of a degree of understanding, however imperfect.