Why we need vocal prayers

 "We need to use words so that we may remind ourselves to consider carefully what we are askng, not so that we may think we can instruct the Lord or prevail on him."

-St Augustinei, A Letter to Proba

The Sacraments (St Ephraem the Syrian)

  In your sacraments we welcome you every day and receive you in our bodies. Make us worthy to experience within us the resurrection for which we hope. By the grace of baptism we conceal within our bodies the treasure of your divine life. This treasure increases as we eat at the table of your sacraments. Let us rejoice in your grace. We have within us, Lord, a memorial of you, which we receive at your spiritual table; may we possess the full reality in the life to come.

  Let us appreciate the great beauty that is ours through the spiritual beauty that your immortal will arouses in our mortal nature.

(St Ephraem the Syrian)

Holy Spirit - Living Water

From the Instructions to Catechumens by St Cyril of Jerusalem
The living water of the Holy Spirit

The water I shall give him will become in him a fountain of living water, welling up into eternal life. This is a new kind of water, a living, leaping water, welling up for those who are worthy. But why did Christ call the grace of the Spirit water? Because all things are dependent on water; plants and animals have their origin in water. Water comes down from heaven as rain, and although it is always the same in itself, it produces many different effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation. It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but while remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it.
  In the same way the Holy Spirit, whose nature is always the same, simple and indivisible, apportions grace to each man as he wills. Like a dry tree which puts forth shoots when watered, the soul bears the fruit of holiness when repentance has made it worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit. Although the Spirit never changes, the effects of his action, by the will of God and in the name of Christ, are both many and marvellous.
  The Spirit makes one man a teacher of divine truth, inspires another to prophesy, gives another the power of casting out devils, enables another to interpret holy Scripture. The Spirit strengthens one man’s self-control, shows another how to help the poor, teaches another to fast and lead a life of asceticism, makes another oblivious to the needs of the body, trains another for martyrdom. His action is different in different people, but the Spirit himself is always the same. In each person, Scripture says, the Spirit reveals his presence in a particular way for the common good.
  The Spirit comes gently and makes himself known by his fragrance. He is not felt as a burden, for he is light, very light. Rays of light and knowledge stream before him as he approaches. The Spirit comes with the tenderness of a true friend and protector to save, to heal, to teach, to counsel, to strengthen, to console. The Spirit comes to enlighten the mind first of the one who receives him, and then, through him, the minds of others as well.
  As light strikes the eyes of a man who comes out of darkness into the sunshine and enables him to see clearly things he could not discern before, so light floods the soul of the man counted worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit and enables him to see things beyond the range of human vision, things hitherto undreamed of.

Tempter's techniques

 "In every person who lives unrepentant in sin, there lives a demon, as if in a house, who takes charge over everything within him.  When by the grace of God such a sinner comes to contrition over his sins, repents, and ceases to sin - the demon is cast out from him.  At first the demon does not disturb the one who has repented because, in the beginning, there is much fervor within him which burns demons like fire and repulses them like an arrow.  But then, when fervor begins to grow cold, the demon approaches from afar with its suggestions, throws in memories about former pleasures, and calls the person to them.  If the penitent does not take care, his sympathy will soon pass to a desire for sin.  If he does not come to his senses and return to his former state of soberness, a fall is not far off.  The inclination for sin and the decision to commit it are born from desire - the inner sin is ready, and the outward sin is only waiting for a convenient occasion.  When an occasion presents itself, the sin will be accomplished.  Then the demon will enter again and begin to drive a person from sin to sin even faster than before.  The Lord illustrated this with the story about the return of the demon into the clean, swept house."

(St. Theophan the Recluse)

Man without God is ...

- When *GOD* wanted to create *fish*, he spoke to the *sea*.
- When *GOD* wanted to create *trees*, he spoke to *earth*
- But when *GOD* wanted to create *man*, he turned to *HIMSELF*.
- So *GOD* said: *"Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. "* *Note.
- If you take a *fish out of the water, it will die*; and when you *remove a tree from the ground, it also dies*.
- Likewise, when *man* disconnects himself from *GOD, he dies*.
- GOD* is our *natural environment*. We were created to *live in HIS presence*.
- We must be connected to *HIM* because only with *HIM* does life exist.
- Let us remain *connected with GOD*.
- Let us remember that *water without fish is still water*, but *fish without water is nothing*.
- The *soil without the tree is still soil*, but the *tree without the soil is nothing*....

- *God* without *man is still God*, but *man without GOD is nothing*. 

-From FB post of Fr Abiyot Desaleng

Changing the world

 "When things change inside you,

things change around you."

(Fr Abiyot Desaleng)

Meditate before, during and after

  My brothers, you must realise that for us churchmen nothing is more necessary than meditation. We must meditate before, during and after everything we do. The prophet says: I will pray, and then I will understand. When you administer the sacraments, meditate on what you are doing. When you celebrate Mass, reflect on the sacrifice you are offering. When you pray the office, think about the words you are saying and the Lord to whom you are speaking. When you take care of your people, meditate on how the Lord’s blood has washed them clean so that all that you do becomes a work of love.

- St Charles Borromeo, Sermon

Be kind, now

 Proverbs 3:27-28

The Lord blesses the home of the virtuous

My son, do not refuse a kindness to anyone who begs it, if it is in your power to perform it.

Do not say to your neighbour, ‘Go away! Come another time! I will give it you tomorrow’, if you can do it now.

Ministers of Reconciliation

 "All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. "(II Corinthians 5:18)

God's will is the best

 "Nihil contíngere potest, quod Deus non velit. Quidquid autem ille vult, utcúmque nobis malum videátur, est tamen vere óptimum."

"Nothing can come but what God wills. And I am very sure that whatever that be, however bad it may seem, it shall indeed be the best."

-St Thomas More, Letter written in prison to his daughter Margaret

Pope Francis: three things priests should remember when hearing confession


Dear Brothers,

I am particularly glad, in this Season of Lent, to meet you on the occasion of the annual Course on the Internal Forum, organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary. I address a cordial greeting to Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Major Penitentiary, and I thank him for his courteous words. I thank him for the congratulations he offered me, but I would like to also share another anniversary: in addition to tomorrow’s, of the two years of my Pontificate, today marks the 57th year since I entered religious life. Pray for me! I greet the Regent, Msgr Krzysztof Nykiel, the Prelates, Officials and Staff of the Penitentiary, the Colleges of Ordinary and Extraordinary Confessors of the Papal Basilicas in Urbe, and all of you participants in the Course, which has as its pastoral aim that of helping new priests and candidates for Holy Orders to correctly administer the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Sacraments, as we know, are the locus of the closeness and the tenderness of God for mankind; they are the concrete way that God thought and wanted to come and meet us, to embrace us, without being ashamed of us and of our limitations.

Among the Sacraments, certainly Reconciliation renders present with particular efficacy the merciful face of God: it is constantly and ceaselessly made real and manifest. Let us never forget, both as penitents and confessors: there is no sin that God cannot forgive. None! Only that which is withheld from divine mercy cannot be forgiven, just as one who withdraws from the sun can be neither illuminated nor warmed.

In the light of this wondrous gift of God, I would like to highlight three exigencies: living the Sacrament as a means of educating in mercy; allowing yourself to learn from what we celebrate; safeguarding the supernatural gaze.

1. Living the Sacrament as a means of educating in mercy, means helping our brothers to experience human and Christian peace and understanding. Confession should not be “torture”, but everyone should leave the confessional with happiness in their hearts, with their faces radiating hope, albeit at times – we know – bathed in the tears of conversion and joy derived from it (cf. Ap. Exhort. Evangelii Gaudium, n. 44). The Sacrament, with all of the penitent’s actions, does not mean it should become a harsh, annoying and intrusive interrogation. On the contrary, it should be a liberating encounter, enriched with humanity, through which one can educate in mercy, which does not exclude but rather includes the just obligation to atone for, to the extent possible, the wrong committed. Thus the faithful will feel called to confess frequently, and will learn to do so in the best of ways, with that gentleness of soul that does so much good for the heart – also the heart of the confessor! In this way we priests enable the personal relationship with God to grow, so that his Kingdom of love and peace expands in hearts.

So often being merciful is confused with being a lenient confessor. But consider this: neither a lenient confessor nor a rigid confessor is merciful. Neither one. The first, because he says: “Go on, this is not a sin, go on, go!”. The other, because he says: “No, the law says...”. But neither of them treats the penitent as a brother, taking him by the hand and accompanying him in his conversion! One says: “Go, don’t worry, God forgives all. Go on, go!”. The other says: “No, the law says no”. The merciful one instead listens to him, forgives him, but carries his burden and accompanies him, because conversion, yes, has begun – perhaps – today, but it must continue with perseverance.... You carry his burden, as the Good Shepherd who goes in search of the lost sheep and carries it. But it must not be confused: this is very important. Mercy means carrying the burden of a brother or sister and helping them walk. Do not say “ah, no, go on, go!”, nor be rigid. This is very important. And who can do this? The confessor who prays, the confessor who weeps, the confessor who knows that he is more a sinner than the penitent, and if he himself has never done the bad thing that the penitent speaks of, it is but for the grace of God. Merciful is being close and accompanying the process of conversion.

2. It is precisely to you confessors that I say: let yourselves learn from the Sacrament of Reconciliation! Second point. How many times does it happen to us that hearing confessions edifies us! Brothers and sisters who live an authentic personal and ecclesial communion with the Lord and a sincere love for their brothers. Simple souls, souls poor in spirit, who abandon themselves totally to the Lord, who trust in the Church and, therefore, also in their confessor. Often, we are also called on to witness genuine miracles of conversion. People who for months, sometimes years have been under the dominion of sin and who, like the prodigal son, come to their senses and decide to arise and return to the the Father’s house (cf. Lk 15:18), to implore his forgiveness. How beautiful it is to welcome these contrite brothers and sisters with the sanctifying embrace of the merciful Father, who loves us so much and holds a feast for every child that returns to Him with all his/her heart!

How much we can learn from the conversion and from the repentance of our brothers and sisters! They urge us too to perform an examination of conscience: Do I, a priest, love the Lord as much as this elderly woman? Am I, a priest who was made a minister of his mercy, able to have the mercy that is in the heart of this penitent? Am I, a confessor, open to change, to conversion, like this penitent, at whose service I have been placed? So often these people edify us, they edify us.

3. When we hear the sacramental confessions of the faithful, we must always keep the inner gaze turned to Heaven, to the supernatural. We must above all rekindle in ourselves the awareness that no one is placed in this ministry through his own merit; nor through his theological or juridical expertise, nor through his human or psychological characteristics. We all were constituted ministers of reconciliation purely by the grace of God, freely and through love, indeed through mercy. I, who have done this and this and this, must now forgive.... I am reminded of that final passage of Ezekiel 16, when the Lord denounces, in very harsh words, the unfaithfulness of the people. But in the end He says: “I will forgive you and will place you above your sisters – the other peoples – to judge them, and you will be more important than them, and I will do this to shame you, so that you will be ashamed of what you have done”. The experience of shame: am I, in hearing this sin, this soul who regrets with such remorse or with such frailty of spirit, capable of being ashamed of my sins? This is a grace. We are ministers of mercy thanks to the mercy of God; we must never lose this supernatural gaze, which renders us truly humble, accepting and merciful toward every brother and sister who asks to confess. And if I have not done this, have not fallen into that awful sin or am not in prison, it is purely by the grace of God, only for this reason! Not by our own merit. And we must feel this at the moment of administering the Sacrament. The manner of listening to the admission of sins must also be supernatural: listen in a supernatural way, in a divine manner; respecting the dignity of each one’s personal history, so as to be able to understand what God wants from him or her. This is why the Church is called to “initiate her members – priests, religious and laity – into this ‘art of accompaniment’ which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other (cf. Ap. Exhort. Evangelii Gaudium, n. 169). Even the worst sinner who comes before God to ask forgiveness is “sacred ground”, and I too, who must forgive him in the name of God, can do things more loathsome than those that he has done. Each faithful penitent who approaches the confessional is “sacred ground”, sacred ground to “cultivate” with devotion, care and pastoral attention.

I hope, dear brothers, that you profit from this Lenten Season through personal conversion and by generously dedicating yourselves to hearing Confessions, in order that the People of God may arrive purified at the Paschal feast, which represents the definitive victory of Divine Mercy over all the evil in the world. Let us entrust ourselves to the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy and Refuge of Sinners. She knows how to help us, we sinners. I really like reading the Stories of St Alphonsus Mary de Liguori, and various chapters of his book, The Glories of Mary. These stories of Our Lady, who is ever the refuge of sinners and seeks the way for the Lord to forgive all. May she teach us this art. I heartily bless you. I ask you to please pray for me. Thank you.

We can all change and not be ‘buried’ by our past evil deeds - Pope Francis

Pope: We can all change and not be ‘buried’ by our past evil deeds

Pope Francis pens a preface to a book-interview with a former Mafioso who is now collaborating with Italy's justice system.

By Gianluca Biccini

“Never reduce another to his or her mistake,” writes Pope Francis, because making a mistake “is an episode, a segment of life, not its unique and definitive condition.” On the contrary, he says, “it is necessary to help each person, with love, to move beyond his error.”

The Pope makes this observation in the preface to Passiamo all'altra riva (“Let us pass to the other shore”; the title is taken from the Gospel of St Mark), a book-interview by Father Benito Giorgetta with Luigi Bonaventura, a former Mafioso now cooperating with the judiciary.

Published directly by the author through the Youcanprint platform, the 194-page book has the subtitle “Switching life? There is another shore to reach in each one of us” and is based on the intense activity of the Italian priest from Molise, the pastor of San Timoteo in Termoli, a volunteer in the Larino prison and head of the Iktus family home that houses prisoners on probation, semi-release, or in the care of social services.

With an afterword by Don Luigi Ciotti, founder of the association "Libera" which works against the abuses of the mafia throughout Italy, the work has an "added value" in the papal text that summarises the "frequent and striking magisterium" of Bergoglio "imbued with the message of God's mercy" towards prisoners, as explained by Don Benito.

Fraternal correction

Above all, Pope Francis emphasises the importance of "fraternal correction" as a "gesture of love for one's brother." This does not mean, he clarifies, "feeling superior or better, but helping and assisting the other person to overcome their difficulties, shouldering their problem because they are weak, fragile; and if your shoulder is not there, he will collapse."

Moreover, he adds, "to correct means 'to hold with': not to reproach others for their sins, but, by being their neighbour, to help them overcome them, walking together towards healing or towards its beginning." In fact, “the other will be healed because he has felt your love and has felt a longing to love.”

What is more, "if you leave the other in his error, without correcting him, you become co-responsible; if you do not help him this is tantamount to a failure to help"; like that of those who witness road accidents and pass by without stopping.

Sometimes, continues Pope Francis in his analysis, "one is almost afraid of being contaminated" by the wicked. Instead, "I must take an interest in them, take charge of them, do all I can to save them." How? The Pope lists a series of practical, concrete responses, as is his pastoral style.

“First of all, I must give them what they need. Immediately. Love them with sincerity and then suffer for the sins they commit. And then pray for them, because prayer makes me God's hand on them, the sign of His fatherly concern through my presence. The Holy Spirit will do the rest.”

In short, the Pope suggests, "one must take a first step", while "it is unworthy when a person looks down on another with an attitude of superiority."

"This finds a concrete example in the experience" of the interviewee, who has become, "with his courageous and risky choice a seed of hope sown in the furrows of a society caught up exclusively in its own affairs and its thousand commitments, distracted with respect to what really counts. But it is also a seed sown in the lands most affected by the scourge of the Mafia. Just as every seed receives rain and is fertilised and germinates, so the testimony of a man of the Mafia can take root in the consciences and sensibilities of those who want a society where there is room for the rights of the person, legality, and dignity recognised for all, especially the weakest, most fragile, discarded, and marginalised."

Glimmer of new life

At the same time, "Bonaventura's answers-testimonies are a rich exposition of the tormented life of a person who, indoctrinated and imbued with the Mafia, acted criminally; but they are also a glimmer of light and new life because, having abandoned the logic of abuse, Luigi opened up to a new vision."

Therefore, Pope Francis can conclude that "one can", indeed "one must change, not remaining buried by the evil done; one can always pass to the other shore even if the navigation is tiring and full of dangers. The important thing is not to feel alone but accompanied. Just as Jesus said," on the seashore “when He issued the invitation to the disciples, saying: ‘Let us go to the other shore’. He with them, together. Not alone!" 

No pain, no gain

"We are heirs of God and fellow-heirs of Christ, provided we share his sufferings so as to share his glory."

Romans 8:17

LET GOD EMBRACE YOU IN CONFESSION - Pope Francis (25 Mar 2022)

 (The consecration of Russia and Ukraine was done after the annual penitential service.)


Freedom according to the Old Testament

 In the book of Deuteronomy (30:19), the people of Israel are told: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live.” 

The book of Sirach or Ecclesiasticus (15:14-17) reiterates this point: “It was he who created man in the beginning, and he left him in the power of his own inclination. If you will, you can keep the commandments, and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice. He has placed before you fire and water: stretch out your hand for whichever you wish. Before a man are life and death, and whichever he chooses will be given to him.”