Friday, 30 December 2011

Believe it or not it's still Christmas!

The secular world starts Christmas as soon as it possibly can with no thought of Advent or any spiritual preparations for the coming of Our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Now that the big day has been and gone they are desperate to bring it to an end! Easter Eggs have already replaced chocolate Santas in the shops, trees are seen already in rubbish or recycling bins and the general public wonder why our cards are still on show and our tree lights continue to shine.
For Christian/Catholic families Christmas Day is only the start of the celebration. Please keep alive the twelve days of Christmas. The wise men edge ever nearer to their place in our crib scenes. Each day offers an opportunity to sing carols, exchange small gifts, offer hospitality and above all live the message of Christmas. Not one card or bauble should be cleared away before twelfth night! And of course on the Feast of the Epiphany we should bless our homes for the year ahead. I will post more on this later.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Unto us a Child is born

Wishing all my readers a Happy and Holy Christmas Season.
May the Christ Child bring peace to our hearts, our families and our world.

 (design copyright)

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Bringing the Christmas message with Carols

Members and friends of the Holy Family Guild gathered in a small village in Tyne and Wear and walked singing carols from house to house and even stopped in at the village pub. We collected for a local hospice but the main aim of the event was to spread the Christmas message in the form of carols. In so doing we were also keeping alive a tradition which goes back centuries in Europe and then Britain and which we read about in the novels of Thomas Hardy, Kenneth Grahame and Louisa May Alcott among others. After the cold frosty evening kept us moving briskly, we returned for mulled wine, mince pies  and cake. Then the children had a visit from St Nicholas before we prayed together in the familychapel. NOW it must be nearly Christmas!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Believe it or not it's still NOT Christmas!

Yes we are still in the season of Advent - preparation for the coming of our Saviour. Many schools are already on holiday, Christmas trees and decorations are everywhere you look, panic has set in in the shopping centres and carols are playing on every radio station's not Christmas yet! We still have one week.
Tomorrow the Holy Family Guild will meet for their annual gathering singing carols around a local village to raise funds for a hospice. The children who come will meet St Nicholas and we will have prayers together. Use the last week of Advent wisely in preparing. Not just preparing all those practical things that must be finalised but set aside time for prayer, a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, an extra Mass and most especially the Sacrament of Confession. Just as your house should be clean to receive the decorations, so our souls should be spruced up to welcome the Christ child. Only then can we feel worthy to truly celebrate the Christmas Season. So be patient.... make the most of the last week of Advent.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Advent - a time for spiritual preparation

Advent is such a lovely time for families, especially those with young children. It is important that we keep Advent special for them. It is not Christmas yet and somehow we should battle against the commercialism of the modern day Christmas to explain and act out Advent. We prepare our hearts and souls first and foremost to welcome the Word made flesh. It is a time of prayer, small sacrifices, sacramental confession, giving, reading from the Bible.
In doing some of this we can also prepare practically - we can read from the Bible in order to produce a Jesse tree with children (see my post for 2010), we can fill a shoebox to go to children in poorer countries and pray for whoever will receive it throughout Advent, we can have a jar at home to fill with money left from small sacrifices which can then go to a worthwhile cause. We should of course mark Advent with a table wreath and/or calendar, aquaint ourselves with the Christmas story by preparing a crib and maybe involve children in making Christmas cards and decorations to go up when Christmas does arrive! If children are in school they may be in a nativity play and Christmas inevitably does arrive sooner than it should but try to keep the season of Advent first at home. It will be so important for them to take this tradition forward when they are parents. Happy Advent!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

And finally!

"But the Church firmly believes that human life, even if weak or suffering, is always a splendid gift of God's goodness." ( #30 FC)
"When couples, by means of recourse to contraception, separate these two meanings (unitive and procreative) that God the Creator has inscribed in the being of man and woman and in the dynamism of their sexual communion, they act as 'arbiters' of the divine plan and they manipulate and degrade human sexuality" (#32 FC)
"parents have been appointed by God himself as the first and principal educators of their children and their right is completely inalienable" (#40 FC)

There is so much more in this document of value. Why not read it or reread it during Advent?
Also please feel able to comment on your favourite section for our planned publication

Friday, 25 November 2011

And some more!

""When marriage is not esteemed, neither can consecrated virginity or celibacy exist; when human sexuality is not regarded as a great value given by the Creator, the renunciation of it for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven loses its meaning" (#16 FC)
"To bear witness to the inestimable value of the indissolubility and fidelity of marriage is one of the most precious and most urgent tasks of Christian couples in our time" (#20 FC)
"The Christian family....can and should be called the 'domestic Church'" (#21FC)
"Family communion can only be preserved and perfected through a great spirit of sacrifice" (#21 FC)

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Continuing dip into Familiaris Consortio!

"In this sacrifice there is entirely revealed that plan which God has imprinted on the humanity of man and woman since their creation; the marriage of baptized persons thus becomes a real symbol of that new and eternal covenant sanctioned in the blood of Christ" (#13 FC)
"Spouses are therefore the permanent reminder to the Church of what happened on the Cross; they are for one another and for the children witnesses to the salvation in which the sacrament makes them sharers" (#13 FC)
"When they become parents, spouses receive from God the gift of a new responsibility. Their parental love is called to become for the children the visible sign of the very love of God" (#14 FC)

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Continuing the Birthday celebrations of Familiaris Consortio!

"Willed by God in the very act of creation, marriage and the family are interiorly ordained to fulfillment in Christ and have need of his graces in order to be healed from the wounds of sin and restored to their beginning, that is, to full understanding and the full realization of God's plan." (#3 FC)
"Modern culture must be led to a more profoundly restored covenant with divine Wisdom. Every man is given a share of such Wisdom through the creating act of God. And it is only in faithfulness to this covenant that the families of today will be in a position to influence positively the building of a more just and fraternal world." (#8 FC)
"The institution of an interior requirement of the covenant of conjugal love which is publicly affirmed as unique and exclusive, in order to live in complete fidelity to the plan of God, the Creator. A person's freedom, far from being restricted by this fidelity is secured against every form of subjectivism or relativism and is made a sharer in creative Wisdom." (#11 FC)

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Happy 30th Birthday Familiaris Consortio!

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope John Paul II, 'Familiaris Consortio' (The Christian Family in the Modern World) For members of the Holy Family Guild this is a very important document. Whilst rereading it today I couldn't help but ponder how its content  might have changed society over the past 30 years if it had even been embraced by all Catholic families, not to mention Christian families, Bishops and lawmakers.
Sad that this anniversary has not been better marked in the Catholic world I intend to blog several important sections from it over the coming days. I also invite readers to comment on their favourite or most meaningful paragraph for inclusion in a publication to mark today's landmark.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

All Saints Bonfire and BBQ 2011

More than 30 people representing 8 families met together at the Sacred Heart and English Martyrs Church in Thornley, Co. Durham to celebrate the Feasts of All Saints and All Souls and provide an alternative focus to the now commercialised and paganised festival of Halloween and the anti-Catholic roots of Guy Fawkes. It gave children an opportunity to dress up as one of the real heroes of our faith and enjoy a fire and fireworks alongside other Catholic children. Our numbers were swelled further by parishioners who came along to watch the saints parade, which this year as last year, now includes adults in costume. Through the dressed characters we heard the words of SS Cosmos and Damien, St Juan Diego, St Veronica, St Longinus and Clare of the Cross, St Bernadette, two Blessed Jacintas of Fatima and Blessed Junipero Serra among others. We also had benediction, a talk on the family by Father Gary Dickson, a procession to the Grotto to honour the Holy Souls followed by fun around the fire, mulled wine, delicious burgers and a variety of desserts. I hope we brought back a little of the spirit of Catholic England when these would have been widely celebrated major feast days. Judging by the comments from many of those attending, they are grateful that even a small number are keeping such traditions alive. It certainly pleased me to see that a family who moved out of the area a few years ago had introduced a similar celebration in their home and neighborhood. I include the photo of their children among those from our day. Thank you once again to those parents who put so much effort into preparing for this day and making it such a special time for children especially, as well as a day that is valued by the adults.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Saints or Spooks?

As we approach Halloween (All Hallow's Eve) the Holy Family Guild is again preparing its alternative celebration. No skeletons, vampires or zombies but martyrs, saints and real role models for our children. It is important that they become acquainted with the saints and learn how to be saintly. It is also important for them to become aware of the Church Triumphant and its relationship to the Church Militant and the Church Suffering. So we celebrate with a parade of saints (children and adults taking on the role and costume of a saint) and then after Benediction we walk in procession to honour the Holy Souls in purgatory. At a grotto we light candles to remember our dead, then the fire is blessed and lit and finally everyone enjoys fireworks and a tasty BBQ. This cleverly combines Halloween (with less scary and often very inventive costumes) and November 5th, Guy Fawkes, which, Catholics, shouldn't really celebrate! Children have a huge amount of fun and do not feel left out when friends tell of their Halloween or Guy Fawkes expeditions.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

'Wicked', the musical

On a recent trip to the capital my husband and I took in the musical, ‘Wicked’. It is billed as the untold story of the Witches of Oz. And so we meet Elphaba the misunderstood girl with emerald green skin and Galinda the beautiful and popular blonde. They become unlikely friends as well as rivals in love. The plot begins before and continues after Dorothy’s arrival from Kansas and apparently (although I haven’t read it) is based on a 1995 novel by Gregory Maguire.
Any way we both loved it. The sets and costumes were stunning, it was very funny in places and the songs were exhilarating if not memorable. Most of all there was a lot to consider: how people relate to one another, what being wicked actually means and can good come from evil. Especially of note was the way the plot was so cleverly entwined into the story of The Wizard of Oz and the friends Dorothy makes on arriving there. It would be wrong to say anything more of the plot and risk spoiling it for future audiences who also may not have read the book on which it is based, so suffice it to say that it is a show that can be genuinely enjoyed by families with children of all ages.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Holiday Reading

It is customary for me and most of my family to include books in our holiday luggage. I presume it's the same for many people but not our youngest son, now 20. He, much to our dismay, seems rarely to have experienced that complete delight and absorption with the written word such that a book could only be put aside for essential sleep! So as he watched my husband and I pack ten books between us for a five week holiday in California he remarked, "why spend so much on a holiday just to read books in a different place"!
       I struggled with my first book and put it aside twice to indulge firstly in a biography of St Catherine of Siena from our daughter's bookshelf and then again while relaxing in a rented cabin in the Redwoods where I discovered among the owners possessions, the book 'The Shack' by William P. Young. I was riveted and read the whole book in record time.
       Following the abduction of his very young daughter, Mack struggles to see a loving heavenly father. Receiving a mysterious letter inviting him back to the shack (the place where 'Missy's dress was found) he encounters God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in their three persons. Through many conversations he finds personal healing and more.         Beautifully written with some wonderful insights into our relationship with the Trinity and their relationships with one another it gave much food for thought. As a novel there may well be theological errors but I feel it has much to offer those in pain from a great suffering or those experiencing continuous little sufferings.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Welcome and unwelcome mail

It's always good to come home to mail especially if there are items of interest and no bills! Having been away 5 weeks there was quite a pile waiting. Among the best items were the Association of Catholic Women magazine, a request for petitions to take to Fatima, two wedding invitations and my salary cheque!
I also recieved an item of hate mail, beautifully addressed to me via an organisation for Natural Family Planning with whom I teach, inside a lovely shiny card which held a selection of pencilled Bible verses and alongside them, in pen, various expletives (the sort used by those with a vocabulary shortage). Anonymous of course. What was the sender hoping to achieve I wonder? S/he may have been perturbed by the result - rememberance in my night prayers!
I was rather more disappointed not to find a single letter or postcard. People (and I include myself) are becoming so used to fast text and e mail messaging that actual handwriting is becoming a dying art.
While on holiday I did manage to write 3 long and newsfilled letters (one of them in French) and sent several postcards. I just think people still like to find these in their mail - only if the messages are friendly!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Family Holidays

As school terms draw to a close, families are preparing to head off in great numbers on their annual holiday. For young growing families one of the biggest factors in deciding on the destination is probably the financial budget.
This would be true for Catholic families as much as any other. But there are other factors to be considered. Don’t neglect extended family and friends.
We were lucky to have family and friends in the USA and so each year before our youngest was two (and therefore had to pay for an airline seat!) we took a long summer break in Massachussetts and Florida. Despite flight costs we had few other expenses. In fact we were treated right royally. Our children forged friendships which still exist today.
In between years we stayed with my brother in Lincoln, mother-in-law just outside London, took a road trip in Ireland, and even ventured with a tent across the Channel to Brittany and Normandy. We did two house swaps, one with a family in Grenoble and on two occasions with a Spanish family from Jerez. And so our children experienced different cultures at a young age.
With all holidays we concentrated on outdoor activities as far as possible whether it was park, garden or beach. It was a total escape, before the days of internet, mobile text messages etc, without TV, radio or newspaper.
If possible we made the holiday a pilgrimage, always seeking out a local shrine. So it was that we came to visit Lourdes, Lisieux, La Salette, Beauraing, Knock and literally stumbled upon St Anne d’Auray.
In 1986 we did a walking pilgrimage to Fatima from Portsmouth, in an organised group with two back up vehicles. It covered a three week period and was the experience of a lifetime!
In later years due to limited budget camping prevailed and then we discovered Torreciudad, a Marian shrine in Northern Spain operated by Opus Dei. Nearby is a village set up by Spanish families and we had the chance to rent a house here. Would that we had discovered it when our children were small! It proved to be a perfect holiday destination in every respect.
Now children are grown and this summer will see our youngest at World Youth Day in Madrid while we will be in California visiting our daughter, husband and family.
We have happy memories of family holidays – treasure yours and, above all, keep safe this summer. Prayers for all travellers by road, rail, sea and air this summer.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Pope Benedict XV1's Landmark

In honour of the Pope's 60th Anniversary of his priestly ordination on June 29th, the HFG has put together a spiritual bouquet as a gift which comprises:

Rosaries: 50

Novena of Masses & Holy Communions: 1

Mass & Holy Communion: 12

Chaplets of Divine Mercy: 5
Special Prayers: 1

Adoration:2 hours

EF Mass & Holy Communion: 6

Suffering offered: Hip pain; emotional pain

Benediction: 5

Litany of the Holy name of Jesus: 1

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Father's Day and Precious Priests

I was saddened to learn that Father John Corapi has decided to leave active public ministry as a priest. I do not believe I can comment further except to say that we have lost another priest at a time when each one is sorely needed. Let us pray for Father John Corapi. Let us pray for all priests. Let us pray for those who are discerning a  vocation to the Priesthood and for those currently in training in seminaries. Priests need to know they are loved  and supported by the laity. Does your priest know how precious he is? Does he know how much you value his ministry? Tell him! Pray for him and wish him a Happy Father's Day today!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Pray for your Father

As we approach Father’s Day I am very aware that mine has a particularly rough deal
at the moment. At 94 he broke his hip three days after my mother died and several weeks later had hip replacement surgery. He recovered marvellously from that however due to subsequent medical negligence and further hospitalisations (unconnected to his surgery) he is not back to normal so to speak and indeed in all likelihood never will be.

He is lost without my mum to care for. She kept him right and, although he was caring for her in the last years of her life, she helped him on a day to day basis. They had celebrated a Golden Wedding and were seven years past their Diamond Anniversary. They kept each other alive; each afraid to leave the other to face life alone. Well it’s my dad who is doing that now and she could have been such a support to him. All of a sudden things he could easily have coped with have become huge problems. I am so grateful for the time I have had both my parents but it is very hard when sickness takes such a toll.

Let us pray for an appreciation of all fathers, living and deceased.
Let us pray for those who are living as widowers.
Let us pray for the fathers of our children.
Let us pray for fathers who are struggling at this time with their role, their health, their employment, their retirement, their youth or their old age.
Prayer to Saint Joseph for Fathers
Saint Joseph, guardian of Jesus and chaste husband of Mary, you passed your life in loving fulfillment of duty. You supported the holy family of Nazareth with the work of your hands. Kindly protect those who trustingly come to you. You know their aspirations, their hardships, their hopes. They look to you because they know you will understand and protect them. You too knew trial, labour and weariness. But amid the worries of material life, your soul was full of deep peace and sang out in true joy through intimacy with God's Son entrusted to you and with Mary, his tender Mother. Assure those you protect that they do not labour alone. Teach them to find Jesus near them and to watch over Him faithfully as you have done. Amen.
(Pope John XXIII)

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Jesu Mount or Jesmond Photos

We had a beautiful day for our pilgrimage across the Town Moor to Our Lady's Shrine at Jesmond, posted about earlier. Here are a few pictures of the picturesque ruined chapel and the Holy Well.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

To Jesu Mount in May

To follow on from my previous blog, this being the month of May when we honour Our Blessed Lady as the Mother of our God and our heavenly mother, we are making a pilgrimage today to our local shrine, St Mary's Chapel and Well at Jesmond.
St Mary's Chapel at 'Jesu Mount' was regarded as one of the most important shrines in Christendom in medieval times. The reason for this veneration was due to the fact that evidence of the enactment of healing miracles at St Mary's Well had been received and accepted by the Pope in Rome. It was held that Jesus at the request of the Virgin Mary, had perforemed miracles between AD1125 and AD1250 at the Well, which was in a wooded hollow, a short distance to the west of the chapel. The chapel was built in the mid 12th century. It has been suggested that the Lords of Jesmond brought relics from the Holy Land to the chapel which caused it to become the object of pilgrimages. Pilgrim Street in Newcastle City centre is so named because the pilgrims would lodge there on their way to St Mary's at Jesmond. In 1428 the Chapel was partly ruined and Pope Martin requested that it should be repaired. He announced,
"To all the faithful, relaxation during ten years of one year and forty days of enjoined penance, to penitents who, on the principle feast of the year and of the dedication of the below mentioned church, visit and give alms for the repair and conservation of the chapel of St Mary, Jesmond, in the Diocese of Durham to which resorts a multitude on account of divers miracles wrought through the merits of St Mary the Virgin whose buildings are very ruinous"
(Thanks to my husband for this local historical research)
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus, Holy Mary, Mother of God pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death, Amen

Sunday, 22 May 2011

'The Way' - Pilgrimage Memories

The Camino, a collection of ancient medieval pilgrimage routes which weave through France and Spain and converge on the shrine of St James at Compostela, is the subject of a recently released film starring Martin Sheen and directed by his son, Emilio Estevez, who also has a cameo part in the film.
Although we have travelled by plane to Santiago as a couple, my husband would have loved to walk the Camino.Now with a disabling knee injury preventing long bouts of walking this was a great alternative way to experience this particular pilgrimage. And we were not disappointed - beautiful Spanish vistas, close up views of Pamplona, Burgos and other towns, atmospheric shots like a candlelit cloister adapted for pilgrims to sleep in pepper the film. Sheen begins the Camino as a somewhat reluctant pilgrim and we also meet three others with their own individual reasons for walking the way. As we see the Botafumeiroa, the huge, famous thurible swinging to and fro above the high altar, in the closing scenes of the film, we know that pilgrimage does us good!
The film brought back memories for us. It was so reminiscent of a pilgrimage we made from Santander to Fatima with our two young daughters. We remembered the many and varied people we met on pilgrimage, the hardships and trials, the high spots and the sense of achievement on reaching a goal, both physical and spiritual. 
Families should go on Pilgrimage. There are many options around the world, but don't forget to look closer to home - in the UK there are many ancient routes and shrines and families could even create their own! 
In May the Holy Family Guild walk to a ruined medieval shrine of Our Lady at Jesmond in Newcastle. We walk across the Town Moor, through a local park and residential streets as we make our way, praying the rosary and adding hymns and a litany  when we arrive. It takes about an hour but it is a wonderful way to introduce young children especially to the idea of pilgrimage. Go to see the film if you wish but more importantly 'become a pilgrim'!

Monday, 2 May 2011

Blessed John Paul II

I do not intend to further fuel discussion as to whether the Beatification of John Paul II should have occured now or at all. Pope Benedict XVI knew what was happening. To paraphrase 'I wanted to start the process soon. The fact that it has come to fruition today is because the Lord so willed it'
We trust in the Lord and thank Blessed John Paul II for one of his many gifts to the Church, Familiaris Consortio, the 'Bible' of the Holy Family Guild, surely due for a reread in this, its 30th year.

Friday, 29 April 2011

The Easter Octave and a Royal Wedding!

Christ is Indeed Risen! We were privileged to be at an Easter vigil in Manchester, sharing the joy of a family of seven as they came into the Church under the Ordinariate. Then it was home to share more of the joy of the Risen Lord with our own family. Today we witnessed the joyous wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton along with most of the nation and many others around the world.
After quoting from St Catherine of Siena, whose feast day it is, "Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire”, the Anglican Bishop of London outlined the blueprint for the goal of marriage,
“A spiritual life grows as love finds its centre beyond ourselves. Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life in which we discover this; the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed. In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life.”
The fullness of life is eternity with God. Married couples love, work and pray to bring their spouses to heaven. Awesome and scary!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Sharing the Triduum with children

It is important to bring the Triduum to life for children growing in the faith. When our children were small and not so small (in fact we still do a lot of this even though our youngest is almost 20!) we started on Holy Thursday with our family passover meal, reading at table the Bible story of the plagues and the Israelites escape from Egypt from Exodus then the story of the Last Supper. We'd eat lamb, unleavened bread, bitter herbs and roast egg etc and in the centre of the table, a chalice and more unleavened bread to use for acting out the words of Jesus at the Last Supper. After Mass we'd stay to watch (the time increased with age!) at the altar of repose. When we got home the house was silent. Reading and quiet talking only was allowed. We always had appropriate religious pictures placed on the wall.
On Good Friday we always went and still go to Stations of the Cross as well as the Service at 3pm. Again this is a quiet day although in recent years we have introduced watching the Passion of the Christ or other devotional programme. Between visits to church today the children make an Easter garden in the rockery and prepare the tomb. We place one of our crucifixes there and two home made crosses either side. The figure of Jesus is carefully removed from the cross, wrapped in white material and laid in the tomb after we return from the 3 o'clock service. On our table is a piece of thorn branch formed into a circle. We are fasting and abstaining and our evening meal together is a simple fish pie.
Holy Saturday is the most difficult of the Triduum we found. We know Jesus is at work and yet for children he is lying quietly in the tomb. Morning prayer is a must, either as a family or in church if this is offered. The purple ribbons we have had on our religious pictures and statues for the whole of lent are removed. Children are encouraged to spring clean their rooms worthy to greet the Risen Lord and Easter biscuits are made - I found a lamb shaped cutter which is much more appropriate than bunnies or even eggs. Later today parents can roll the stone from the easter garden, removing the figure of Jesus and leaving the white linen along with a small Easter egg for children to find on Easter Sunday morning along with other eggs left here and there in the garden (wrapped of course!) and/or inside the house. While children are in bed the house should be transformed - vases of daffodils, white ribbon to replace the purple and  at least one decorated Easter candle. They should know when they awake that Jesus has risen. If they have followed a Lenten pathway (see earlier post) it should have an Easter message added. Don't say good morning today, say 'Christ is Risen' Children respond with 'He is Risen Indeed' and/or 'Alleluia' If the family has been to the Easter Vigil then the celebrations can start after that. And what a celebration it should be! 

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Evidence of the Passion

 My mind goes back a year, to Turin where I had gone with my husband to see the shroud. Exposed usually only once or twice a century, it wasn’t due an airing until 2025 but the Bishop of Turin had asked Benedict XVI for permission to put the shroud on display in 2010 and the Holy Father agreed!
We flew to the city, duly got our tickets and queued to view. Having seen pictures in books I was not really prepared for the clarity of the image. A few moments close to the burial cloth of Jesus - so moving, so intimate, but so little time available. Happily the following day at an early morning Mass in the Cathedral we were given a longer and unexpected opportunity, before Mass began, to go once again up to the shroud and venerate its Holy image. The wounds of the Passion and the horrors of crucifixion there to see, the trickles of blood, the marks of the scourging and the nails, the cap of thorns, the heart pierced through for our sins. What better way to begin Passiontide than by meditating on this evidence of Jesus’ suffering.

Friday, 1 April 2011

A Lenten Pathway

At the half way point of Lent our prayer, fasting and almsgiving should be well established in whatever form. We are on our journey to Easter, a pathway of learning about ourselves and exploring ways to renew our old self in time for Easter and its grace.
When children are small (and not so small!) it can really help to make a pathway. A large piece of paper, a path which twists and turns and is divided into squares for each day, maps out their personal  journey. So each child has their own pathway. At the end of the path we see the Holy Eucharist (Maundy Thursday), Calvary (Good Friday) and finally the empty tomb. Along the way and written on each day are little reminders, daily activities, deeds, gestures, prayers e.g. help mummy lay the table, put my toys away, do my homework without having to be told, say a prayer for grandma, don't eat between meals, no sweets today, write a letter to a lonely person, help a younger sibling, get up willingly. Children can make these up with help. As the child completes these, the squares are coloured in, usually in Lenten colours. Feastdays, however, can be coloured brightly and expressed with a symbol (a green shamrock for St Patrick and a lily for the Annunciation) and do not need a penitential exercise. On Holy Saturday the child can decorate the pathway with daffodils, Easter eggs and frolicking lambs. Parents can write something like 'well done - Christ is Risen Alleluia!' on each child's completed journey.
Ah how I'd love to be still a child!

Friday, 25 March 2011

The witness of a Northern Saint

(St. Margaret of York)
Imagine you are a convert from Protestantism, happily married with three children and you help your husband run his business. You are practising your faith, praying every day for more than an hour, fasting four times a week and going to Mass and confession regularly – and all this under the Catholic suppression of Queen Elizabeth 1

You risk your life helping and concealing priests, the penalty for which is death. You send your son to Douai, France for Catholic schooling. For this, and because a secret hiding place was found, you are arrested and, because you refuse to plead, you are pressed to death, sandwiched between a rock and a wooden slab while weights are dropped upon you.
Such was the example of the life of St Margaret Clitherow – faithful Catholic mother, wife and martyr.

Saint Margaret of York.

Pray for us.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

St Joseph's Joys and Sorrows

Today being the Solemnity of St Joseph, my mind wandered to Spain and to the beautiful setting of the Shrine at Torreciudad. There, running up the rise towards the Basilica, you will find the Way of the Joys and Sorrows of St Joseph. Until walking this several years ago I had never really meditated on the person of St Joseph and his role in the Holy Family. The Joys and Sorrows are:
     The Doubt of St Joseph (Matt 1:19)         The Message of the Angel (Matt 1:20)
     The Poverty of Jesus Birth (Luke 2:7)   2     The Birth of the Saviour (Luke 2:10-11)
     The Circumcision (Luke 2:21)               3    The Holy Name of Jesus (Matt 1:25)
     The Prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:34)    4    The effects of the Redemption (Luke 2:38)
     The Flight into Egypt (Matt 2:14)          5   The overthrow of the idols of Egypt (Is 19:1)
     The Return from Egypt (Matt 2:22)       6      Life at Nazareth (Luke 2:39)
     The loss of the Child Jesus (Luke 2:45) 7     The finding in the Temple (Luke 2:46)
 What an example for fathers! A man who trusted God in all the sad, worrying, bewildering, frightening and frantic moments that all families experience and how, through it all, he was able to be a faithful guardian, a loving husband, a courageous protector, dependable and ever obedient. 
  Let us pray today for all fathers and for all Josephs especially The Holy Father

Wednesday, 16 March 2011


In view of recent events in Japan I decided to reread my book about the 1973 Apparitions of Our Lady  in Akita to Sr. Agnes Sasagawa. They began with rays of light emanating from the tabernacle so that Sr Agnes fell prostrate before it. Then came the stigmata and finally the spoken messages of Our Lady and the weeping statue. All of these signs and spiritual happenings are a timely reminder for us to pray our Rosary daily. We should pray for peace and  for the conversion of sinners. Also offer sacrifices and do penance in  reparation for our sins and the sins of the whole world. What better time than Lent to renew our efforts in this?

Monday, 7 March 2011

Dinkies or Family Life?

Just been away on an art course this past weekend. Very enjoyable and part of my CPD (continued professional development). On the course was a married couple, two 'dinkies'. I think they are the first I have ever met though I believe they are a common breed. This couple had retired early, very early, and could do so (they were happy to relay to the small group) because they had made a conscious decision not to have any children. So as Double Income No Kids (dinkies) they were now living their dream, playing art and presumably had plenty of money to do that. Momentarily I felt a little envious - they looked young and very relaxed and were doing what they wanted themselves. But it was only a moment's thought. Even in secular terms what does this teach about hope, lineage, the meaning of life? It is to focus in on the here and now. There is a sadness here and I felt sad for them.It is not a look forward to eternity.  Yes, God sometimes wills a couple to remain childless, but to choose it as a married couple is to live selfishly. Marriage is about family. The husband,the wife, the child; love = new life - this  mirrors  the Trinity. The family = the image and likeness of God.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Natural Family Planning and other expertise.

Tonight my husband and I taught part one of an NFP course at home. It is a while since we've had any customers! Once we had discovered, early in our marriage, the wonderful benefits of NFP, physically, spiritually and emotionally, we were determined to out this secret and we are still busy with that work! This information should be a marriage requirement for Catholic engaged couples. It is, in a handful of American dioceses but not in the UK. Once couples have come to an awareness of their gift of fertility and are confidently using the Sympto Thermal Method (the only one incidentally which teaches all symptoms) their next question is always 'why did we not hear about this in our Catholic school/marriage preparation class?' Isn't this criminal? - why are our bishops not guiding their flocks in this important area,the best way  to strengthen marriages?
Our families in the Holy Family Guild share their expertise. Our members comprise lawyers, breastfeeding counsellors, financial advisors, theologians, academics, bankers, home schoolers as well as NFP teachers and much more!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

The Bronte Family

Having just posted about the suffering in families we found ourselves at the Parsonage Museum, Haworth contemplating information about the Bronte family.
In 1812 Patrick Bronte, married Maria Branwell. They had 6 children and in 1820 he was given the the curacy of Haworth Parish Church. A year later Maria died from uterine cancer, aged 38. Her sister came to live at the Parsonage to care for the children.
In May 1825 Maria, their eldest child, died of tuberculosis, aged 12 and in the following month Elizabeth died aged 11.
Branwell Bronte, the only son died in 1848, aged 31. He had lived with an alcohol and opium addiction.'I do not weep from a sense of bereavement,' Charlotte wrote about him, 'but for the wreck of talent, the ruin of promise, the untimely dreary extinction of what might have been a burning and a shining light.'
Three months later, Emily died, aged 30. The following year Anne died, aged 29
Charlotte married in 1854 and died in March 1855, aged 38, pregnant with her first child.
Patrick died in 1861, aged 84. He had outlived his wife and all of his children - a lifetime of personal tragedy. 
Charlotte, Emily and Anne have all written literary maserpieces although they published under pseudonyms. Branwell had once been a promising artist. So much sadness to bear and yet by the standards of the day they they lived longer than many others and their names live on because of what they managed to do and how they lived as a family, even for the short time they had each other. In the words of Charlotte, "But life is a battle: may we all be enabled to fight it well!"

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Families suffer

By virtue of being a family we are opened up and exposed  to all manner of pain, grief, and fear. In a different way to those who are single, married people with children generally fear for others. God tests us as we become involved with one another, share responsibilities with one another and on many occasions feel helpless for one another. Watching children make choices can  be difficult. Even with faith, watching one's children or one's spouse suffer or die must be traumatic.  Having a family is leaving oneself open to suffering and as Catholic families our refuge must be the Lord.
Let us pray for all our families experiencing the loss of a loved one, serious illness among its members, difficulties with children, loss of work or financial worries.
As a guild we pray for one another and help one another practically and emotionally. Boy, do we sometimes need it!

Friday, 11 February 2011

Pause for Death

I haven't posted for 3 weeks due to the death of my mother. A pause for death so to speak. And after all that's what death is, not an end or a beginning but a pause, a transition from one state to another. Our lives are gifted by God, we make of them what we can and then we return to God. And, as my mother discovered, the timing is willed by Him. For a few years of very poor health and any obvious quality of life she often wondered why 'God did not want her yet.' To those who knew her she certainly seemed to be living her purgatory before our eyes. Her husband of 67 years constantly cared for her. As a non Catholic he had accompanied her faithfully to Church every Sunday and holy day since their marriage and my guess is that my mother's prolongued illness and the sacrifice it required from my father will in some mysterious way help him when he faces his Maker. God bless him and may my mother rest in peace. Let us pray for the sick and dying and those who care for them.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Young People are our Future

Still sharing information about what we do as a guild.
Holy Family Guild families support one another in the preparation of their children for the  sacraments
Holy Family Guild runs youth retreats for 10-13’s and 14-18’s.
Holy Family Guild young people travel to Youth Pilgrimages including WYD to witness to their faith together and show solidarity with the Holy Father and the teachings of Christ

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Back to the Holy Family Guild and what we do

We offer 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 are families on pilgrimage
Mindful of our lifelong pilgrimage on the road to heaven, families have regular pilgrimages to Holy Island, Jesmond and Chartres as well as to other places of pilgrimage throughout the year
We are families having fun
Our families share picnics, celebrations, BBQ’s, Carol Singing and much more together. Faith shared is fun for everyone and especially children.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011


My awards go to:-
The Evangelium Course from the CTS for its faithfulness

The Christian Martyrs murdered while at Mass in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation for their witness

The Romeike Family who are homeschooling in the U.S because their own German government wouldn’t allow them to do so in their homeland

The film ‘Of Gods and Men’

A speech by the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in which he urged Russians to have more children to avoid a demographic crisis

Aid to the Church in Need, a charity you can always trust.

Two young women beginning their vocations, Amy in the USA and Clara in the UK

My parents, married for 67 years

The spiritual guide, ‘Magnificat’ and those responsible for its publication.

Father Kevin Gallagher, a faithful priest of the Hexham and Newcastle Diocese who died in May