Friday, 31 December 2010

On the eve of a New Year

January saw a record number of people at the March for life in Washington DC. In February the Bishops of England and Wales had their ad limina visit in Rome and we can only imagine what the Holy Father discussed with them. In March A new children's book was published under Pope Benedict XVI's name."Gli Amici di Gesu" (The Friends of Jesus) In April more than 2 million people visited the shroud in Turin. In May the Pope travelled to  Fatima, in his own words, to tell Our Blessed Lady that he loved her.
In June the Holy Father spoke movingly to priests and seminarians gathered at the close of year for priests. Thank you for our priests.
In July the 400th anniversary of Caravaggio was celebrated - such wonderful art work of moments in the life of Christ.
In August Youth 2000 gathered  at Walsingham for 'Sanctuary' - adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and great catechesis  from fr Stan Fortuna. In September the wonderful and memorable visit of the Pope to the UK. In October the Chilean Miners were rescued, visibly thanking God as they emerged. In November Gaudi was beatified and his Sagrada Familia Church consecrated and in December we watch as the ordinariate unfolds before our eyes. Life as a Catholic family is never mundane. Let us continue to spread His good news in 2011
Happy New Year !

Friday, 24 December 2010

Light the Christmas candle, The Holy One is Born

Church doors are currently  opening for their Christmas Eve Vigils. Here in the NorthEast of England they begin to do this from 6.00 onwards - far too early in my opinion. Few churches now have Mass at midnight such as the one we attend in the Extrardinary Form. The emphasis of this Mass is on the eternal or Divine birth, whereas it is on the birth as man at the dawn Mass  and at the third Mass of Christmas,  His reappearance  as Judge at the end of time.
"O admirabel Commercium! O Wondrous Exchange! the Creator of the human race, taking to Himself a body and soul, deigned to be born of a Virgin and, appearing as Man but without human lineage, bestowed on us His Divinity" (Roman Breviary)
May the blessings of the Christ Child from his manger bed reach you and those you love and bring peace to your homes and families throughout the season and the coming year.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Today all four candles of the Advent wreath are lit

Today we light the fourth candle on our Advent wreath. The waiting is almost over. Little time left to prepare. Before the next Sunday Christmas is here. The Christ child in our midst. So few people today are aware of His coming. It is up to us to make Him known. Yesterday the Holy Family Guild spent some time singing carols in the Washington area of Newcastle. It was a perfect cold and frosty evening. Our small group of all ages wrapped up warm and carrying lanterns walked from house to house collecting for a local hospice. People listened, welcomed and thanked us. For many it might be their only experience of what Christmas truly means. So our thanks to the singers and our hosts who opened the doors to their lovely home and chapel to end our gathering with mulled wine, a bite to eat and afterwards evening prayers. St Nicholas couldn't attend this year but I'm sure we'll see him back again next year!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

It's still Advent!

It's the third week of Advent so NOT Christmas yet. The Rose candle was lit on Gaudete Sunday and starting tonight we can praise the names of Jesus in the O Antiphons leading to the vigil of the Nativity: Wisdom, Ruler of the House of Israel, Root of Jesse, Key of David, Rising Dawn, King of the Gentiles and Emmanuel. It's a great time to go carolling and keep the story of Christmas alive in our ever increasingly secular surroundings. This year here in the northeast of England it looks as though we may well have snow for our carolling event tomorrow.  Lovely! Wrap up warm, carry lanterns, song sheets if needed and at least a couple of strong voices. Collect for charity. Back indoors for mulled wine and mince pies. You can begin to feel a bit Christmassy! Take time to prepare your soul this week for the coming of the Christ child - Sacrament of Confession, spiritual reading , quiet prayer.

Friday, 10 December 2010

A week of feasts but it's still Advent!

The second week of Advent is ending. Its NOT Christmas yet! The Feast of the Immaculate Conception mid week is a lovely reminder of the Feast of the Nativity to come. How wonderful to have been kept pure from all eternity in order to carry, bear and mother God's son.
This week we also remember St Juan Diego and his encounter with Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of the unborn. Sweet smelling roses never before seen in the  New World, gathered up out of season and  falling from the tilma at the bishop's feet to reveal Mary's image.
Let us always pray for Mary's intercession on behalf of  mothers carrying their unborn children, nurturing them in their early days and continuing to make sacrifices.
Pro-life charities are surely worthy candidates of any Advent Alms efforts by families

Monday, 6 December 2010

Happy Feast of St Nicholas!

On this day in 343 AD Bishop Nicholas died in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church. He is the patron saint of children, the unmarried and sailors among others, due to many stories about his life. He was remodelled in Reformation times and somehow became a fat whiskered old man dressed in red called Santa Claus. Happily his tradition survives in many Eurpoean countries and Catholic families should begin to reclaim him as a figure who embodies the true spirit of the Christmas season - helping the needy, doing good to ones neighbour, sharing what we have with others. The tradition of children finding sweets or chocolate in their shoe (wrapped of course) on this day is one everyone will love.
The website has everything about him with stories and pictures, ideas for celebrating the feast and a shop where you can buy a kit for making a crosier!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

The Jesse Tree

So now you  hopefully have your Advent wreath in use at family prayers. It tells us when Jesus is coming. It doesn't tell us why he is coming. The Jesse Tree is a way to help children and adults get a better understanding of why. Jesse was the father of King David. The idea of the Jesse Tree comes from Isaiah 11:1-9, where God promises a discouraged nation that the glory they remember from David’s time will come again. They will have another king from Jesse’s family, in whose reign the whole earth will know God. The promise is fulfilled in Jesus.  The Jesse Tree is decorated with symbols reminding us  how God prepared the world for that kingdom. It celebrates the lineage of Jesus. It could be a real branch or a painted tree. Each day of Advent after reading  a Bible passage, a symbol made of cardboard or plasticene is placed on the tree to represent a person or event e.g.a rainbow for the Flood, a beautiful coloured coat for Joseph, a whale for Jonah or a lily for Mary. It is a teaching and learning tool and grows into an  Advent calendar. If you want more details regarding specific readings and symbols do please contact me by e mail. Happy Advent!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

A Family Advent

"The Christian family ...........should be called 'the domestic Church'"
(Familiaris Consortio, John Paul II, 1981)

The season of Advent has begun. It is NOT Christmas yet! It is time to prepare for the Coming of Christ at Christmas. There are many ways that families can do this during the season of Advent and at the same time build up their own Catholic family traditions and become the Church in miniature. Advent wreaths should be ready now and already in use at family prayers as well as at family meal times. One candle is already lit. As the season progresses and the rest of the candles are lit we see Jesus, the light of the world coming closer, as the light gets brighter. Families can write their own advent prayers and children can take turns to light the candle(s). The Advent wreath reminds us that this is a time to prepare spiritually for Christmas.

Monday, 29 November 2010

When Rome had snow in August

Todays November snow here in NE England reminded me of the story that Our Blessed Lady, herself, indicated in a dream to Pope Liberius where her great church (Santa Maria Maggiore) in Rome was to be built. She confirmed this by having snow fall on the site even though it was 5th August!
Each year at Mass on that day white rose petals fall from the ceileing to carpet the floor of the church. I have never been in Rome at that time of year but it must be a beautiful sight and one not to be missed. If families are in Rome at that time of year do let your children experience this - just one of those memories that provides a great teaching tool on miracles.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Joining with the Pope in praying for all unborn human life

Giving thanks for the gift of prayer for unborn human life, instigated by the Holy Father and with bishops worldwide taking up the invitation to encourage the laity to pray with them. Here in Newcastle, blanketed in snow and with temperatures ensuring it's not going to leave in a hurry Bishop Seamus Cunningham led a prayer vigil at St Mary's Cathedral. Joyful mysteries of the rosary, Benediction, hymns, adoration, prayerful petitions and a heartening pro-life homily I had thought I would never hear from an English Bishop.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Papal Vigil for Unborn Life

Pope Benedict XVI is calling on all Catholics to join in a Vigil for all unborn life, to be celebrated on Saturday November 27th. Find out where your nearest vigil is taking place. Here in Newcastle the vigil of prayer takes place before the Blessed Sacrament between 4pm and 5pm at St Mary's Cathedral.
The Vigil will include Scripture, Rosary for Life and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  Drop everything and GO If you are housebound or are unable to attend for some other reason, please PRAY at that time.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Pray the rosary for Catholics in Iraq

I am happily passing on this request from Robert Ritchie of America needs Fatima and urge you all to pray the rosary for this intention:

'60 Catholics were brutally murdered while attending Mass in a Catholic Church in Bagdad, Iraq. They are glorious martyrs.
 But 400,000 Catholics remain and are being persecuted for the faith. And we’re being asked to pray the Rosary to help them.
See this impassioned email I received from an Iraqi Catholic:
"I need help. I am Chaldean. We are Catholics from Iraq who are persecuted for our faith.As you may have heard, the Muslim extremists bombed a Church in Baghdad, killing 2 priests and 58 believers.
Is there anyway we can set up a rosary rally for Chaldeans? So all can join in? We need help. Please, I am begging you. I am begging you."
So please pray the Rosary on November 23rd for persecuted Catholics in Iraq. And tell everyone you know to please join in.'
The day is on Tuesday. The rosary is a powerful prayer. Do it!

Friday, 19 November 2010

Valuing priesthood

The chaplain of the Holy Family Guild in Hexham and Newcastle Diocese is Fr Michael Brown of St Mary of the Rosary, Forest Hall. Today he celebrates 22 years as a priest. We are thankful for the support he has given our group and grateful for the gift of his vocation. As Catholic families we value our priests for what they do both sacramentally and pastorally. We pray for them daily. We also adopt individual seminarians to support with prayer and provide a family link for those living away from their own homes during formation.
It is worth reading again Pope Benedict XVI's wonderful homily to 15,000 priests who had come to Rome to celebrate the close of the Year for Priests here

Thursday, 18 November 2010

A Significant Anniversary

The "Bible" of the Holy Family Guild is  "Familiaris Consortio" (The Christian Family in the Modern World) Pope John Paul II opened his 'Apostolic Exhortation' by noting positive and negative influences on family life. Families can counteract the negatives by affirming and respecting the full personhood of each individual family member. The family is invited,  "become what you are" - form a community of people bound together for life, serve life from its beginning in the womb until natural death, build up society and fulfill a role in the life of the church, by becoming a domestic church. The last section explores the pastoral outreach needed for types of family structures.
Holy Family Guild members are invited to reread sections of this document on a regular basis. New members are provided with a  copy of the document which is 30 years old next November. A day conference with keynote speakers is being planned to celebrate the anniversary of this important document for families. More information at a later date.


Monday, 15 November 2010

The Holy Family Guild is supported by contemplative prayer

Three contemplative orders are currently praying for us and initially sent us these messages:-
“Please be assured of our prayers and best wishes as you work for the good of Catholic families . How lovingly God looks upon your efforts to inculcate the values and doctrines of the True faith in society, for everything we do, however small, can be united to His will for the salvation of souls”
Sisters of Carmel
“You are in our Prayers”
Servants of the Holy Family, Colorado
“We are so happy to see how the Holy Family Guild is doing its best to keep the faith alive in England. We will all strongly support you through prayer and sacrifice”
Mother Mary Joseph of Jesus and  Sisters of Adoration Monastery, Kerala, India

Friday, 12 November 2010

What we do - family support

Just as the members of the first guilds were associated with almsgiving, care of the sick, burial of the dead and in providing Masses for the souls of deceased members, so our members assist one another both in spiritual and temporal necessities. We especially pray for one another.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Celebrating Feast of All Saints and Prayers for the Holy Souls

More than sixty people came along to The Sacred Heart and English Martyrs Church at Thornley last Sunday to celebrate the Feast of All Saints and pray for our Holy Souls. Both adults and children dressed up as saints. Notable were the family of Saint Therese, Mme Martin and four of her daughters as Carmelite nuns. Also represented were St Joseph, St Hedwig, St Thomas Aquinas and St Lucy among others. After the saints introduced themselves, Father Gary Dickson gave Benediction at which he spoke about the example of the saints and reminded us that we are all called to be saints. We then processed out of church, carrying candles, to the grotto, where votive candles were lit by representatives of each family to remember their deceased relatives. Father blessed the bonfire which was then lit and fireworks and sparklers followed.
Mulled wine, meaty burgers and sausages were enjoyed and afterwards ice cream and cookies. The small children had a storytime to end the day and many took away their coloured pictures of saints. A great alternative to the ghoulish costumes of Halloween or burning a Catholic Guy Fawkes!

Monday, 8 November 2010

Who we are and what we are!

We are a group of families who meet together regularly at ‘gatherings’. There we share social time, the family catechesis of the Church, prayer, liturgy and activities for children and young people which reflect the Church’s year. Our families have told us that these ‘gatherings’ are a lifeline for Catholic families who are grateful for one another's support in their struggle to live their faith in today’s world. We strive to always live by the teachings of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church 
 The early guilds were voluntary associations for religious, social, and commercial purposes. Guilds in England had a collective responsibility for the good conduct of their members and their mutual well being and therefore mirrored the role of the family in society.
The Holy Family Guild is an association of families under the patronage of the Holy Family operating in the spirit of those medieval guilds.