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Preparing for Lent

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Will you listen to the call to come Home?

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If you don’t already know – next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the first of 40 days spent by Christians who make choices and changes to their lives that spring-cleans their souls: they may rethink their  role in their parish; pray,fast and give alms and make interior adjustments to turn their hearts firmly towards the Lord. 

If you are a resting Catholic, perhaps this is a good opportunity to consider joining the parish closest to you, and introduce yourself to the priest there. Make the decision to join an RCIA class to get reunited with truth of our Faith.Just go to Mass and be part of the wonderful ritual of listening, looking and learning. Search for the Lord in the Liturgy and reunite yourself to Him in prayer. Even better, make arrangements to attend Reconciliation before going to Mass, and experience the forgiveness, mercy and love of God though this beautiful Sacrament.

COMMITMENT-Staying loyal to what you said you were going to do.

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Taking inspiration from St. Joseph’s, New Malden’s web page, I agree with the importance of our Witness as Christians and our commitment as Baptised, involved lay faithful. It’s all about commitment , being committed to our journey as disciples of the Lord and remaining committed to the tenets of the Faith.

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In the first few centuries of the Church’s existence, evangelisation was crucial to its survival. Living in a pagan culture Christians had to live their Faith in a very intentional way. To admit one was a Christian,was to risk persecution, so Church members had to be passionate about their commitment. Then, in the fourth century, Emperor Constantine made Christianity the religion of the Holy Roman Empire. Suddenly, being a Christian became not just accepted, but fashionable.

Today, our experience as Christians is not far from those who lived so long ago in a pagan world. Today, being Christian means you ‘re a bit ‘otherwise’ to put it politely.Today we need to be living our Faith in a very intentional way. Today we have to know the reasons for believing and wanting to be Christian if we are to stand a remote chance of survival amongst secular free-thinkers.This is most especially true if we profess to be Catholic Christians.

It wasn’t until the Second Vatican Council in the 1960′s that Pope Paul VI began to call for a “new evangelisation” — and not just by clergy and religious, but by all Catholics. Blessed John Paul II said that to evangelize, you have to be evangelised; that evangelisation is an encounter with the ‘living Spirit;’ that sharing faith has got to become normal, a natural part of life.

 If someone says they like to connect with nature and the spiritual by walking along the beach, most Catholics today would probably say, “Good for you,” but would not go a step further and share how their own faith helps them connect with God. People are reluctant to push their beliefs on other people. We have to be convinced there’s something worth sharing. Many ‘catholics’ don’t really know their Faith at all, and other than just admitting to being ‘catholic’do not attend Mass or receive the Sacraments.

They have not sought to understand the reasons that lay behind our dedicated attendance at Mass every week;our observance of prayer and fasting on Fridays; our need to  receive Holy Communion or to receive absolution through regular attendance at Reconciliation. If you find yourself to be one of these ‘catholics’, I urge you to find out more about the reasons why we do what we do as Catholic Christians. The answers will open up a new way of thinking about Jesus and His love for you. Enquire about courses at your parish. Attend an RCIA group and learn about your gift of the Faith with new converts. JUST ASK.

The process of becoming a disciple involves three components: proclamation, conversion, and service and mission. I believe that resistance by Catholics to evangelise is  because the front-end piece of evangelisation deals with conversion: making Jesus Lord of our life. It calls for a radical change if we’re going to embrace this mission. Catholics do tend to be good at teaching prayers to children, making sure they’re educated in the faith and — simply living their lives, so that others may see them as good people and be attracted to what beliefs lead to that lifestyle.However, when it comes to sharing their faith and inviting others to participate in it, Catholics don’t fare as well.

So, in what ways can we show our commitment to sharing the Good News as Catholics? A few suggestions:-

  1. Mention that you have attended Mass over the week-end over sandwiches at lunchtime on Monday, and go further, sharing something about the readings or the Gospel that opened up a new insight to the Scriptures for you.
  2. Share anecdotes about your parish priest and his dedication to his flock. How does he show you  the love of Jesus through his words and actions?
  3. Invite ‘resting catholics’ to an early morning Mass, or just any Mass.
  4. Invite them to come along and visit a group at your parish.
  5. Share the news about the acts of social care and justice that your parish supports: eg’ St. Joseph’s parish supports the local food bank and our parishioners donated one tonne of food last month alone.’ This might open up new avenues of discussion leading back to our Faith, to understand why we’re helping the poor, what moral values and social teachings lead the Church to be a voice for the voiceless.
  6. Take an extra parish newsletter to share with someone and leave it with them.
  7. Share good Catholic literature written by Blessed John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedicte XVI, Scott Hahn. There is an abundance of choice.
  8. If you are a God-parent, make time to remain in your God-child’s life for the long haul, not just on the day of their Baptism. Find new ways of doing this.
  9. Create a family shrine at home with the crucifixes, pictures, and statues received at Baptisms and Confirmations. These speak volumes about your Faith and how you live it without having to say a word.
  10. Start a book club that reads Catholic literature and encourage members to bring a friend.

For inspiration and spiritual uplifting, pop into St. Joseph’s for Mass, or take a look at its vibrant and informative website.

St. Joseph’s New Malden, has embarked on a  Year of Renewal in 2014 which  builds on the recently ended Year of Faith, and is proposed as a Parish Year of Faith in Action  leading into a Year of Re-Dedication (2014-15) and a Year of Mission (2015-16) I’m looking forward to the next three years with anticipation. Want to join me on this promising new journey?

Image@worksbyfath.org

Image@worksbyfath.org

Saturday 8th February: – A day with Mary

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See  here for details for what promises to be a day of Blessings and spiritual growth through Our Lady.

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Mary of the Gael: a remarkable woman of her times.

St Bridget of Ireland

St Brigid of Kildare

Her parents were baptized by St. Patrick, with whom she developed a close friendship. According to legend, her father was Dubhthach, an Irish chieftain of Lienster, and her mother, Brocca, was a slave at his court.

Even as a young girl she clearly showed an interest in the religious life and took the veil in her youth from St. Macaille at Croghan and probably was professed by St. Mel of Armagh, who is believed to have conferred abbatial authority on her.

She settled at the foot of Croghan Hill for a time and about the year 468, followed Mel to Meath. About the year 470 she founded a double monastery at Kildare and was Abbess of the convent, the first in Ireland. The foundation developed into a centre of learning and spirituality, and around it grew up the Cathedral city of Kildare.The cathedral continued to serve the people of Kildare down the centuries, though after the Reformation it gradually fell into disrepair and by 1641 it was totally ruined following the Confederate Wars. It was fully restored in the 19th century. In recent years undergone some further restoration.

Image@http://archiseek.com/2010/1223-st-brigids-cathedral-kildare-co-kildare/#.UuzH_D1_t8E

Cathedral of Kildare image@ http://archiseek.com/2010/1223-st-brigids-cathedral-kildare-co-kildare/#.UuzH_D1_t8E

The foundation developed into a centre of learning and spirituality, and around it grew up the Cathedral  city of Kildare. She founded a school of art at Kildare and its illuminated manuscripts became famous, notably the Book of Kildare, which was praised as one of the finest of all illuminated Irish manuscripts before its disappearance three centuries ago.The Book of Kildare is also known by the name of The Four Gospels of St. Brigid.It contains the Four Gospels according to St. Jerome, and almost every page is illustrated by drawings illuminated with a variety of brilliant colours.

 

Brigid was one of the most remarkable women of her times, and despite the numerous legendary, extravagant, and even fantastic miracles attributed to her, there is no doubt that her extraordinary spirituality, boundless charity, and compassion for those in distress were real.

She died at Kildare on February 1.She is buried at Downpatrick with St. Columba and St. Patrick, with whom she is the patron of Ireland. Her name is sometimes Bridget and Bride. Her feast day is February 1.

 

 

The act that touches the depth of our existence.

Dove, Jesus's Baptism Detail  By: Giusto De' Menabuoi

Dove, Jesus’s Baptism Detail
By: Giusto De’ Menabuoi

(From Catholic.org :- Bold type my emphasis.)

At his public audience on January 8, the first general audience of the calendar year, Pope Francis inaugurated a new series of catechetical talks, devoted to the sacraments.

Noting that the coming Sunday will be the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the Pope spoke on the importance of Baptism, which “grafts us to Christ and his Church.”

Baptism, the Pope emphasized, is “not a mere formality,” but “an act that touches the depth of our existence.” He strongly encouraged the faithful to learn the date of their Baptism, and celebrate that day each year. He observed that in the absence of some such celebration, “We end up considering it merely as an event that took place in the past – and not even by our will, but rather by that of our parents.”

Baptism makes the faithful “bearers of new hope,” the Pope continued, and that vocation should be lived out every day. He added that Baptism is a gift that we receive through someone else, since each Christian is baptized by another person in “an act of brotherhood, an act of affiliation to the Church.”

I have highlighted the main parts to the piece above. The phrase that stands out for me is ‘….not by our will, but rather by that of our parents’. The other statements contain a depth of meaning that continues to unfold for me as an adult Christian. Which sentence jumps out at you?

Baptism is a huge and pivotal milestone in anyone’s life, regardless of when you are Baptised. It is deemed to be so important  that my parents (probably urged on by my grandmother) wasted little time in having me Baptised - Grafting me to Christ and His Church. Parents only want the best for their children. To do what’s right. I know this because this is how we feel as parents, and we made the very same choice for our children.

Baptism is a sacrament which accomplishes several things, the first of which is the remission of sin, both original sin and actual sin—only original sin in the case of infants and young children, since they are incapable of actual sin; and both original and actual sin in the case of older persons. Holy Baptism holds the first place among the Sacraments, because it is the door of the spiritual life; for by it we are made members of Christ and incorporated with the Church.

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(From the Catechism of the Catholic Church)

1213 Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua),and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: “Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.”

1214 This sacrament is called Baptism, after the central rite by which it is carried out: to baptize (Greek baptizein) means to “plunge” or “immerse”; the “plunge” into the water symbolizes the catechumen’s burial into Christ’s death, from which he rises up by resurrection with him, as “a new creature.”

1215 This sacrament is also called “the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit,” for it signifies and actually brings about the birth of water and the Spirit without which no one “can enter the kingdom of God.”

1216 “This bath is called enlightenment, because those who receive this [catechetical] instruction are enlightened in their understanding
. . . .” Having received in Baptism the Word, “the true light that enlightens every man,” the person baptized has been “enlightened,” he becomes a “son of light,” indeed, he becomes “light” himself:

Baptism is God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift….We call it gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal, and most precious gift. It is called gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own; grace since it is given even to the guilty; Baptism because sin is buried in the water; anointing for it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed; enlightenment because it radiates light; clothing since it veils our shame; bath because it washes; and seal as it is our guard and the sign of God’s Lordship.

1229 From the time of the apostles, becoming a Christian has been accomplished by a journey and initiation in several stages. This journey can be covered rapidly or slowly, but certain essential elements will always have to be present: proclamation of the Word, acceptance of the Gospel entailing conversion, profession of faith, Baptism itself, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and admission to Eucharistic communion.

1230 This initiation has varied greatly through the centuries according to circumstances. In the first centuries of the Church, Christian initiation saw considerable development. A long period of catechumenate included a series of preparatory rites, which were liturgical landmarks along the path of catechumenal preparation and culminated in the celebration of the sacraments of Christian initiation.

1231 Where infant Baptism has become the form in which this sacrament is usually celebrated, it has become a single act encapsulating the preparatory stages of Christian initiation in a very abridged way. By its very nature infant Baptism requires a post-baptismal catechumenate. Not only is there a need for instruction after Baptism, but also for the necessary flowering of baptismal grace in personal growth. the catechism has its proper place here.

1232 The second Vatican Council restored for the Latin Church “the catechumenate for adults, comprising several distinct steps.” The rites for these stages are to be found in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). The Council also gives permission that: “In mission countries, in addition to what is furnished by the Christian tradition, those elements of initiation rites may be admitted which are already in use among some peoples insofar as they can be adapted to the Christian ritual.”

1233 Today in all the rites, Latin and Eastern, the Christian initiation of adults begins with their entry into the catechumenate and reaches its culmination in a single celebration of the three sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. In the Eastern rites the Christian initiation of infants also begins with Baptism followed immediately by Confirmation and the Eucharist, while in the Roman rite it is followed by years of catechesis before being completed later by Confirmati.

I sourced two family celebrations of Holy Baptism from way-back-when:-

Claire and Dawn

Dawn, Godmother to my sister Claire, wearing a mantilla in the 70′s. A beautifully serene photo.

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This, a picture of my brother-in-law’s Baptism which took place in 1959.I think this one’s particularly fetching of Richard, delineating a proud and upright sense of formality by the adults with an interesting take on the baby’s position during Baptism.

Anyone got Baptism pics to share that tells a story?

A new pathway to peace.

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For many years have I used the Rosary to meditate on the life of Our Lord, particularly during Lent and during the months of November- The month of the Rosary, and in May – The month of Our Lady.

Until ten days ago I hadn’t experienced the intense consolation one receives from meditating on the different parts of Christ’s life. I’d always listened to those who have only praise for this method of prayer, feeling at a loose end because I didn’t feel the same way. Ten days ago we received a call from South Africa to say that my mother was on her deathbed. I had been praying the Rosary during November, so when I thought immediately of praying the Rosary  I assumed it was just a knee-jerk reaction to pick up the beads again. I could not have been more wrong.

I lit a candle and earnestly prayed the Joyful Mystery: -

1. The Annunciation of the Lord to Mary

2. The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth

3. The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ

4. The Presentation of our Lord

5. Finding Jesus in the Temple at age 12

I prayed the Creed with an intensity I had never known before. I prayed about my Faith. About what I believe from the depths of my being. It took on a new meaning for me. While in prayer I began to feel a deep sense of hope, as I grasped the enormity of what God has done for me, and more importantly, for my mother at this critical juncture of her life on earth. God sent His only Son for our Salvation, in order for us to have Life after death.

And so  each day since then have I prayed the Rosary and received much consolation and reassurance in return. Read here to learn how to pray the Rosary if you haven’t done so before.

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Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared– whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima — she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ.

Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ “not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done.”
The great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: “The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love.

We Remember.

The month of November’s focus on the Holy Souls encourages us to do two things:

  1. To remember, of our charity, to pray for the souls in Purgatory, and hopefully give them a helping hand towards paradise
  2. To reflect on the end of our own life and the Four Last Things, and consider the current state of our own souls in relation to this.

Our modern, western culture doesn’t like to think about death. There is a tendency to sanitise it, or to divert the focus away from the issue (consider how common it is when reporting the death of a famous person, or when giving an address at a funeral, to cut as quickly as possible to some entertaining anecdote from their life) or just to pretend it doesn’t exist (I was struck by the absurdity of a charity’s use of the slogan ‘No Child Born to Die’ – surely that is the one certainty we have; hopefully they will have a reasonably good ‘innings’ between the two events, but death is definitely going to happen at some point: our death is even more certain than our birth).
Ignoring death isn’t a healthy thing: if we don’t think about the future, then we are unlikely to prepare for it. This doesn’t, of course, mean we should become preoccupied with death. Life is good and worth living, but we can live it in a way that works towards the next step, and will very likely have a better and more enjoyable life if we do this.

As it is the month for praying for those who have died before us, there couldn’t be a more poignant  mark in the year than that of Remembrance Sunday. From the end of October the Poppy sellers are out (they are in fact, members of the Royal British Legion) and these bright little flowers seem to pop up every as symbols of Remembrance, solidarity and hope. The poppy is an instantly recognisable symbol of respect for those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice in conflicts past and present. As the nation’s custodian of Remembrance, the Legion is committed to helping everyone understand the importance of Remembrance, so those sacrifices are never forgotten.

Remembrance Sunday, the second Sunday in November, is the day traditionally put aside to remember all those who have given their lives for the peace and freedom we enjoy today. On this day people across the nation pause to reflect on the sacrifices made by our brave Service men and women at 11am on the 11th of November of every year. For two minutes it feels as if the whole world the world goes quiet as we figuratively join hands in unison to pray for these soldiers. It is duly afforded the rich pomp and ceremony it deserves. I am always moved to tears by the nation’s solidarity in the sincere and stoic observance of this day.

The Royal British Legion is the UK’s leading Service charity. They provide practical care, advice and support to serving members of the Armed Forces, veterans of all ages and their families.

John McCrae’s ‘In Flanders Fields’ remains to this day one of the most memorable war poems ever written.  It is a lasting legacy of the terrible battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow    
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

One of the most asked questions is: why poppies? The answer is simple: poppies only flower in rooted up soil.  Their seeds can lie on the ground for years and years, and only when someone roots up the ground, they will sprout.  There was enough rooted up soil on the battlefield of the Western Front; in fact the whole front consisted of churned up soil.  So in May 1915, when McCrae wrote his poem, around him poppies blossomed like no one had ever seen before.

The opening line of the beautiful hymn ‘Abide with Me’  alludes to Luke 24:29, “Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent”:

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word,
But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.

Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings;
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea.
Come, Friend of sinners, thus abide with me.

Thou on my head in early youth didst smile,
And though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee.
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

 

 

It is right to celebrate!

all-saints-day-poland

Happy All Saints day!

Pope Benedict XVI said,  ” The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness.”  

We are all called to be the best we can be in Christ. Let our brightest light shine. We are called to holiness, closeness to God.  The Saints who precede us reached ‘greatness’ in their own unique way.

Recently, I visited the execution site of St’s Thomas More and John Fisher just outside the London Tower on Tower Hill where they were martyred for their Catholic faith. They died not knowing of their greatness in living their Faith with such tenacity.  It is right to celebrate their lives and to remember their sacrifice.

Image@1catholicsalmon

Image@1catholicsalmon
This is the plaque which includes their names, fixed to the spot where they were beheaded,

John Fisher by Hans Holbein. The Stapleton Collection

Thomas More by Hans Holbein

Hans Holbein the Younger. Sir Thomas More.
© Frick Collection, New York

Read here for details about these two prominent English Saints.

Adoration with Pope Francis.

Each one of us is a co-worker of Christ - we must labor hard to carry Him to the hearts where He has not yet been known and loved...But, unless we have Jesus, we cannot give Him; that is why we need the Eucharist. Spend as much time as possible in front of the Blessed Sacrament and He will fill you with His strength and His power. - Blessed Mother Teresa

Each one of us is a co-worker of Christ – we must labor hard to carry Him to the hearts where He has not yet been known and loved…But, unless we have Jesus, we cannot give Him; that is why we need the Eucharist. Spend as much time as possible in front of the Blessed Sacrament and He will fill you with His strength and His power. – Blessed Mother Teresa

On Sunday June 2, 2013 at 5 pm Rome time, Pope Francis will preside at a special hour of Eucharistic adoration in St Peter’s Square in Rome on the afternoon of the Feast of Corpus Christi. The feast of Corpus Christi celebrates the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist.
adoration_pope-francis

This year the Pope has added a special theme to this day : “One Lord, One Faith”, to testify to the deep unity that characterizes it. “It will be an event, occurring for the first time in the history of the Church, which is why we can describe it as ‘historical’, says Archbishop Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization. The cathedrals of the world will be synchronized with Rome and will, for an hour, be in communion with the Pope in Eucharistic adoration.

The Archbishop says there has been an incredible response to this initiative, going beyond the cathedrals and involving episcopal conferences, parishes, lay associations, and religious congregations, especially cloistered ones.”

Because the Year of Faith is meant “to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist, which is the summit towards which the activity of the Church is directed and also the source from which all its power flows” the Pope has asked that this initiative be extended to as many parishes as possible throughout the world.

Pope Francis has two intentions for this one hour which are: 

“For the Church spread throughout the world and united today in the adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist as a sign of unity.

May the Lord make her ever more obedient to hearing His Word in order to stand before the world ‘ever more beautiful, without stain or blemish, but holy and blameless.’

That through her faithful announcement, the Word that saves may still resonate as the bearer of mercy and may increase love to give full meaning to pain and suffering, giving back joy and serenity.”

Pope Francis’ second intention is:

“For those around the world who still suffer slavery and who are victims of war, human trafficking, drug running, and slave labour.
For the children and women who are suffering from every type of violence. May their silent scream for help be heard by a vigilant Church so that, gazing upon the crucified Christ, she may not forget the many brothers and sisters who are left at the mercy of violence.

For all those who find themselves in economically precarious situations, above all for the unemployed, the elderly, migrants, the homeless, prisoners, and those who experience marginalization.

That the Church’s prayer and its active nearness give them comfort and assistance in hope and strength and courage in defending human dignity.”

Further information can be found on the Year of Faith website, at www.annusfidei.va. 

Fresco, San Marco, Florence- scene from the Last Supper.

Fresco, San Marco, Florence- scene from the Last Supper.

 

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