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Let light shine

lent

Preparing for Lent

379367_10152568033505584_164046746_n

‘Become a Christian ever anew’

Image@ignatiuspressfacebook

Image@ignatiuspressfacebook

Have new eyes…

Stand out from the crowd

Stand out from the crowd

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.

Marcel Proust (1871 – 1922)
During Lent, let’s look at situations and the people we meet with ‘new eyes’ so that we may grow and change to become that little bit more as the person God wants us to be.

Lent AGAIN! Believe it or not.

‘…Then, in a rare gesture and sign of respect, the bishops removed their mitres.’

Pope Benedict – still teaching!

At his last public Mass as Pope, Benedict XVI showed both his generous humanity and his commitment to liturgical integrity. From theAssociated Press:

Smiling and clearly moved, Benedict responded, “Grazie. Now let us return to prayer” — his words bringing to an end several minutes of thundering applause. Then, in a rare gesture and sign of respect, the bishops removed their mitres.

The Pope is no fan of applause at Mass, because it reveals a focus on man rather than the God who is to be worshipped at Mass. Nevertheless, he acknowledged the need of the faithful assembled to make a gesture of gratitude and affection, given the short notice leading up to what has become his last public Mass. Still, when he judged the time ripe, he called them all back to God.

Thus the bishops’ gesture is all the more striking: a profound sign of respect that did not disturb the theocentric ambience of worship. Clever bishops.

And then, his teaching…

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Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin the liturgical time of Lent, forty days that prepare us for the celebration of Holy Easter, it is a time of particular commitment in our spiritual journey. The number forty occurs several times in the Bible. In particular, it recalls the forty years that the Israelites wandered in the wilderness: a long period of formation to become the people of God, but also a long period in which the temptation to be unfaithful to the covenant with the Lord was always present. Forty were also the days of the Prophet Elijah’s journey to reach the Mount of God, Horeb; as well as the time that Jesus spent in the desert before beginning his public life and where he was tempted by the devil. In this Catechesis I would like to dwell on this moment of earthly life of the Son of God, which we will read of in the Gospel this Sunday.

First of all, the desert, where Jesus withdrew to, is the place of silence, of poverty, where man is deprived of material support and is placed in front of the fundamental questions of life, where he is pushed to towards the essentials in life and for this very reason it becomes easier for him to find God. But the desert is also a place of death, because where there is no water there is no life, and it is a place of solitude where man feels temptation more intensely. Jesus goes into the desert, and there is tempted to leave the path indicated by God the Father to follow other easier and worldly paths (cf. Lk 4:1-13). So he takes on our temptations and carries our misery, to conquer evil and open up the path to God, the path of conversion.

In reflecting on the temptations Jesus is subjected to in the desert we are invited, each one of us, to respond to one fundamental question: what is truly important in our lives? In the first temptation the devil offers to change a stone into bread to sate Jesus’ hunger. Jesus replies that the man also lives by bread but not by bread alone: ​​without a response to the hunger for truth, hunger for God, man can not be saved (cf. vv. 3-4). In the second, the devil offers Jesus the path of power: he leads him up on high and gives him dominion over the world, but this is not the path of God: Jesus clearly understands that it is not earthly power that saves the world, but the power of the Cross, humility, love (cf. vv. 5-8). In the third, the devil suggests Jesus throw himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple of Jerusalem and be saved by God through his angels, that is, to do something sensational to test God, but the answer is that God is not an object on which to impose our conditions: He is the Lord of all (cf. vv. 9-12). What is the core of the three temptations that Jesus is subjected to? It is the proposal to exploit God, to use Him for his own interests, for his own glory and success. So, in essence, to put himself in the place of God, removing Him from his own existence and making him seem superfluous. Everyone should then ask: what is the role God in my life? Is He the Lord or am I?

Overcoming the temptation to place God in submission to oneself and one’s own interests or to put Him in a corner and converting oneself to the proper order of priorities, giving God the first place, is a journey that every Christian must undergo. “Conversion”, an invitation that we will hear many times in Lent, means following Jesus in so that his Gospel is a real life guide, it means allowing God transform us, no longer thinking that we are the only protagonists of our existence, recognizing that we are creatures who depend on God, His love, and that only by “losing” our life in Him can we truly have it. This means making our choices in the light of the Word of God. Today we can no longer be Christians as a simple consequence of the fact that we live in a society that has Christian roots: even those born to a Christian family and formed in the faith must, each and every day, renew the choice to be a Christian, to give God first place, before the temptations continuously suggested by a secularized culture, before the criticism of many of our contemporaries.

The tests which modern society subjects Christians to, in fact, are many, and affect the personal and social life. It is not easy to be faithful to Christian marriage, practice mercy in everyday life, leave space for prayer and inner silence, it is not easy to publicly oppose choices that many take for granted, such as abortion in the event of an unwanted pregnancy, euthanasia in case of serious illness, or the selection of embryos to prevent hereditary diseases. The temptation to set aside one’s faith is always present and conversion becomes a response to God which must be confirmed several times throughout one’s life.

The major conversions like that of St. Paul on the road to Damascus, or St. Augustine, are an example and stimulus, but also in our time when the sense of the sacred is eclipsed, God’s grace is at work and works wonders in life of many people. The Lord never gets tired of knocking at the door of man in social and cultural contexts that seem engulfed by secularization, as was the case for the Russian Orthodox Pavel Florensky. After acompletely agnostic education, to the point he felt an outright hostility towards religious teachings taught in school, the scientist Florensky came to exclaim: “No, you can not live without God”, and to change his life completely, so much so he became a monk.

I also think the figure of Etty Hillesum, a young Dutch woman of Jewish origin who died in Auschwitz. Initially far from God, she found Him looking deep inside herself and wrote: “There is a well very deep inside of me. And God is in that well. Sometimes I can reach Him, more often He is covered by stone and sand: then God is buried. We must dig Him up again “(Diary, 97). In her scattered and restless life, she finds God in the middle of the great tragedy of the twentieth century, the Shoah. This young fragile and dissatisfied woman, transfigured by faith, becomes a woman full of love and inner peace, able to say: “I live in constant intimacy with God.”

The ability to oppose the ideological blandishments of her time to choose the search for truth and open herself up to the discovery of faith is evidenced by another woman of our time, the American Dorothy Day. In her autobiography, she confesses openly to having given in to the temptation that everything could be solved with politics, adhering to the Marxist proposal: “I wanted to be with the protesters, go to jail, write, influence others and leave my dreams to the world. How much ambition and how much searching for myself in all this!”. The journey towards faith in such a secularized environment was particularly difficult, but Grace acts nonetheless, as she points out: “It is certain that I felt the need to go to church more often, to kneel, to bow my head in prayer. A blind instinct, one might say, because I was not conscious of praying. But I went, I slipped into the atmosphere of prayer … “. God guided her to a conscious adherence to the Church, in a lifetime spent dedicated to the underprivileged.

In our time there are no few conversions understood as the return of those who, after a Christian education, perhaps a superficial one, moved away from the faith for years and then rediscovered Christ and his Gospel. In the Book of Revelation we read: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me”(3, 20). Our inner person must prepare to be visited by God, and for this reason we should allow ourselves be invaded by illusions, by appearances, by material things.

In this time of Lent, in the Year of the faith, we renew our commitment to the process of conversion, to overcoming the tendency to close in on ourselves and instead, to making room for God, looking at our daily reality with His eyes. The alternative between being wrapped up in our egoism and being open to the love of God and others, we could say corresponds to the alternatives to the temptations of Jesus: the alternative, that is, between human power and love of the Cross, between a redemption seen only in material well-being and redemption as the work of God, to whom we give primacy in our lives. Conversion means not closing in on ourselves in the pursuit of success, prestige, position, but making sure that each and every day, in the small things, truth, faith in God and love become most important.

Text via Vatican Radio translation.

 

Pondering Ash Wednesday.

Image@http://juventutembristol.blogspot.co.uk

Image@http://juventutembristol.blogspot.co.uk

‘Remember, you are dust and unto dust you shall return’ [Ash Wednesday liturgy]

Julian Falat, Ash Wednesday

Julian Falat,
Ash Wednesday

 

image@http://www.jucoolimages.com/ash_wednesday.php

image@http://www.jucoolimages.com/ash_wednesday.php

 

Interesting Facts About Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. It is a day when we reflect on our own mortality and the need for repentance because the end can come at any time. The ash cross that we receive on our forehead is a physical reminder that we will someday return back to ash. During this day, Catholics are placed into a proper mindset for the Lenten Season. While preparing for Easter, Catholics purify the body and soul through fasting, abstinence, prayer, confession, and works of mercy. In other words, mortification and penance. The focus on our own mortality during Ash Wednesday sets us up for a good Lent that is then counter balanced by the celebration of Christ’s triumph over death at Easter.

 

Shrove Tuesday.

shrove Tuesday

The long build up to Easter is called Lent. The day before Lent begins is called Shrove Tuesday. ‘Shrove’ means being forgiven for wrong-doings. It happens on a different date each year depending on when Easter is. This year Shrove Tuesday is on 12 February, 2013.

Another name for Shrove Tuesday is Pancake Day. Long ago this was a day for feasting and having a good time. People would go to church to confess the bad things they had done and would be ‘shriven’ or forgiven before the start of Lent. Since rich foods such as eggs were forbidden during Lent, one way of using them up would be to make pancakes.

Background and Symbols

According to Christian tradition, Lent commemorates the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness so observant Christians marked this event by fasting. Many people used ingredients, such as eggs and milk, to prepare pancakes on Shrove Tuesday prior to the fasting period. Pancake races have been held in England for more than 500 years. Some sources suggest that they may have started in 1445.

One old English custom associated with Pancake Day was the annual pancake grease at London’s Westminster where schoolboys would fight for pancakes to gain monetary awards. Another tradition was Mischief Night, where some people would go into houses in disguise and ask for pancakes.

Many people still make pancakes on Shrove Tuesday and in some parts of the UK people run in pancake races. This custom grew up because of the legend which dates from well over 500 years ago in 1445. On Shrove Tuesday one woman was still making her pancakes as the church bells rang out. Rather than be late she took her frying pan and pancake with her.

One of the most famous pancake races is held in Olney, Buckinghamshire. The race has been held for hundreds of years. Competitors need to be women over 18 years of age who must wear a skirt, an apron and head covering. They have to toss their pancake on the start line and again at the finish to prove they haven’t lost it.

In France and the United States Pancake day is called Mardi Gras which means ‘Fat’ or ‘Grease Tuesday’.

A perfect choice.

I found this on the blog http://rcspiritualdirection.com. What a fantastic idea!

Fasting and Abstinence

I have been looking into the meaning of fasting and came across the  definitions of fasting and abstinence:

Fasting is concerned with the quantity of food eaten and so must be distinguished from abstinence. The law is that on fast days only one full meal may be taken. Fasting is only imposed on those over 21 and under 59, but severe work, whether manual or mental, sickness or debility excuse from obligation (see your parish priest for dispensations). Collations may normally be taken on fast days if they do not add up to a second meal.

Abstinence refers to the refraining from eating flesh-meat or soup made from meat, and to be distinguished from fasting, with which it may be combined. Abstinence is normally obligatory for all who have completed their seventh year, on specific days of the Church year(From the Catholic Dictionary)

The Bishops of England and Wales released this official statement on fasting and abstinence in May of 2011. Herewith the full statement:

”By the practice of penance every Catholic identifies with Christ in his death on the cross. We do so in prayer, through uniting the sufferings and sacrifices in our lives with those of Christ’s passion; in fasting, by dying to self in order to be close to Christ; in almsgiving, by demonstrating our solidarity with the sufferings of Christ in those in need. All three forms of penance form a vital part of Christian living. When this is visible in the public arena, then it is also an important act of witness.Every Friday is set aside by the Church as a special day of penance, for it is the day of the death of our Lord.      

 The law of the Church requires Catholics to abstain from meat on Fridays, or some other form of food, or to observe some other form of penance laid down by the Bishops’ Conference.The Bishops wish to re-establish the practice of Friday penance in the lives of the faithful as a clear and distinctive mark of their own Catholic identity. They recognise that the best habits are those which are acquired as part of a common resolve and common witness. It is important that all the faithful be united in a common celebration of Friday penance.Respectful of this, and in accordance with the mind of the whole Church, the Bishops’ Conference wishes to remind all Catholics in England and Wales of the obligation of Friday Penance.      

The Bishops have decided to re-establish the practice that this should be fulfilled by abstaining from meat. Those who cannot or choose not to eat meat as part of their normal diet should abstain from some other food of which they regularly partake. This is to come into effect from Friday 16 September 2011 when we will mark the anniversary of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom.Many may wish to go beyond this simple act of common witness and mark each Friday with a time of prayer and further self-sacrifice. In all these ways we unite our sacrifices to the sacrifice of Christ, who gave up his very life for our salvation.  

What has now happened has been gathering momentum ever since the pope’s visit to Britain. It will be recalled that during the papal afterglow some very surprising people started to recommend the restoration of the Friday fast. Bishop Kieran Conroy, for instance, argued that abstaining from meat on Friday “…. was one of the most obvious signs of Catholic identity, apart from going to Mass. It determined the diet in places like prison and hospital, and was something that Catholics were instinctively conscious of: we knew that we couldn’t have meat like everybody else that day, and it was a source of a sort of pride – it marked us out as different”.

Many Catholics were taught as children to “give up something” for Lent. The sacrifices in Lent are really penance, in the same spirit as the Ninehvites that repented at the preaching of Jonah. Throughout our history, Christians have found prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to be an important part of repentance and renewal. Many Christians now add something during Lent rather than giving up something, either to address personal habits that need work or to add some outreach to others in need. It is not necessary to “give up something” but it would be a tragedy to do nothing.

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