Wednesday, 31 December 2014
Sunday, 28 December 2014
“The Heavenly and Earthly Trinities” by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo.
"Murillo, The Heavenly and Earthly Trinities, about 1675-1682 Photo © The National Gallery, London”.
Today id the feast of the Holy Family. The painting above is called the Heavenly and Earthly Trinities; and it has been painted in the sign of the Cross.
Looking vertically from the top downwards we see God, the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove and Jesus looking up to His Father in Heaven. That is the Heavenly Trinity.
Looking horizontaly from left to right we see the Virgin Mary, Jesus and His earthly father Joseph. The Earthly Trinity.
Four things of importance to note in this painting by Murillo. God in Heaven is looking down and blessing the Holy Family. Jesus responds to His Father by looking up to Heaven. Mary is looking at Jesus and perhaps thinking about the Son of God saving the world; whilst Joseph is looking at us, significant this, inviting us to join in the Holy Family.That is because we are part of the Holy Family through our own Faith and trust in the Lord.
Not much is known about Jesus’ childhood. The Bible records the story of His birth in Bethlehem, His presentation at the Temple in Jerusalem a few days later, and then the Holy Family went to live in Nazareth. Their home town. We don't know much more about Jesus' early days of His life; apart from when His parents found Him teaching in the Temple at the age of twelve or so.
We are left to wonder what He was like as a baby. Crawling on the ground and then taking His first hesitant steps. I wonder what His first words were when He spoke.
One thing for sure though. He was much loved by His earthly parents, who devoted themselves to His up-bringing, until He was ready to start His work on earth as His Father willed.
Like most parents, they must have wished many good things for Him as He grew up, even though they knew who He really was and what His mission in this world was to be.
Mary, however, carried an additional burden in her heart. She knew from those early days what was to happen. Simeon in the temple had told her: “… sorrow, like a sharp sword, will break your own heart”. Luke 2:35. Joseph was there to witness it all.
Can you imagine what they went through as parents? Knowing of the torture and Crucifixion which Christ would suffer.
And Mary, endured that pain even more as she followed her Son on the way to Calvary.
Yet … despite all that. Despite knowing well ahead what was to happen, despite witnessing the Crucifixion for herself, one thing must have sustained Mary and encouraged her throughout her ordeal: the sure knowledge that Jesus was/is the Son of God and that He will rise again from the dead.
That thought alone should help us when we too go through difficult times. No matter how difficult our situation we should hold on to the fact that our Lord, the one we profess to love and follow, is the Son of God. By His death and Resurrection He has conquered evil once and for all.
And no matter what our situation may be, we can assuredly turn to Mary, and seek her help in bearing the difficulties we go through.
Saturday, 20 December 2014
Friday, 19 December 2014
FATHER FRANCIS MAPLEThis Christmas we need to focus on the greatest reality there is - that God loves us so much that He gave us His only Son to free us from our sins! We need to be grateful for His love and respond to His love; and the best way to do that is by surrendering our life completely to Him, as He has surrendered Himself completely to us. How do we do this - by putting Him first in our daily lives? This means that we build our day around Him. We need to give Him quality time in our prayer life. As we meditate on His birth and see Mary holding her divine Child in her arms we can think of her saying, "Would you like to hold Him?" Then she hands Jesus to you and you get to hold the God of the universe in your arms. But we do not just stop there – we realise EVERY DAY we can hold Jesus in our arms when we receive Him in the Eucharist! To believe that Jesus, who is God, and who the Universe cannot even begin to contain, became a little baby for us and continues this humility in the Eucharist is amazing - What a gift He has given to us! How very blessed we are!
I also realize and appreciate that there are some who think Christmas is a hard time. You may be experiencing loneliness or illness, or you may be in sorrow because you have lost someone dear. You need to know that you are never alone! Jesus became one of us so that He could be near us! There is never a time when you need to feel that no one cares or that you have to go through your struggles alone - YOU ARE LOVED! This is what Christmas is about, and this needs to be our hope that brings us through the darkness.
Remember that no matter how dark the darkness is - it can never conquer the Light! Try this - go into a dark room and light a match or candle and watch just how the darkness flees from the power of the light. Jesus is that Light and He is inside of YOU! That is so true. Cling to this Truth, and know His power!
This Christmas let us pray for each other and accept the love of the Christ Child, and of Our Father who gave Him to us, our best Christmas present. Mary and Joseph, we thank you for the part you played in bringing Jesus to our world.
Daily Homilies from Father Francis Maple HERE
Sunday, 14 December 2014
Saturday, 13 December 2014
The chocolates are hand-made by the shop owner and his wife and three employees on the premises behind the shop. I remember once visiting their little workshop with a friend of mine, the shop-owner’s niece, and it was a marvelous experience seeing them make all these chocolates with so much care and passion.
Every so often they make different seasonal chocolates like rabbits and chocolate eggs at Easter, special selections on Mothers’ Day, or Christmas specialties.
One Christmas Eve we were in town late, just before going to Midnight Mass, and I decided to visit the shop to get something nice. I left the rest of the family to do some window-shopping and went there alone as a special surprise.
I’d intended to buy a chocolate Father Christmas just as they had in the picture in the shop window. Sadly all Fathers Christmas had been sold. Reindeers too! As well as Christmas tress or any Christmas decorations made of chocolate. In fact it is fair to say that the shop had sold out of any chocolate model relating to Christmas.
The shop assistant looked at me forlornly and suggested a selection from their wild animals’ series would make a good present. “They’ll look good in the Nativity scene beside the Christmas tree …” she said hopefully.
“Hardly …” I said somewhat dejected, “no one would believe that the three Wise Men came from the East on a turtle! It would have taken them ages to arrive. Or that shepherds watched their giraffes at night when the Angel appeared with Good News!”
“They are beautiful though …” she continued encouragingly.
“Yes … they are. But it’s not the same … a chocolate crocodile near the crib would frighten all the sheep away …”
I hesitated for a while. The animal models looked good enough to eat … in fact any chocolate is good enough to eat as far as I’m concerned, regardless of its shape. But this was not for me. This was a present and ideally I would have wanted a Father Christmas, or an Angel … a Christmas tree … it’s the festive shape of the chocolate that matters on this particular occasion. And a rhinoceros or a kangaroo is just not the right shape; even though it might taste just as good when you eat it.
After a lot of soul searching I decided to buy the giraffe. It was big and with such a long neck it meant there was even more chocolate for everyone to share.
“Could you gift wrap it please?” I asked.
As the shop assistant was wrapping my purchase I heard a little girl beside me say: “I want the giraffe … just like in the picture over there!”
“I’m sorry … the last giraffe has just been sold” replied the shop assistant to the girl’s mother.
I looked at their sad faces and knew how they felt.
Now … the right thing to do in such cases is to take my purchase and get out of the shop quickly before my conscience has had a chance to wake up.
But I’m stupid that way and somewhat slow … in my slowness I asked the assistant to sell the giraffe to the girl’s mother instead.
“We have some left-overs from our Halloween series” said the assistant to me after the other customers had gone, “I can let you have two for the price of one!”
That Christmas our Nativity scene was visited by Frankenstein’s monster and a zombie. And the sheep were not frightened at all.
Tasted good too!
Thursday, 11 December 2014
OK … let’s get ready for a biology lesson.
The human brain is not there for the sole purpose of keeping ones ears apart. It has a specific purpose all or its own.
Primarily, it is there to make us think – I know it has other functions too, so hands down all those who were about to correct me.
Where was I? Oh yes … the brain is there to make us think. Yet looking around the world these days one often finds many people under-using that particular function.
They make decisions based on instincts, feelings, opinions garnered from dubious sources such as magazines or flaky friends, or even as a reflex to the rumblings of their stomachs.
Decisions based on thinking, considering various view points, and pros and cons are a thing of the past and are often avoided because they involve … thinking.
One’s brain hurts too much for such exercise.
I remember years ago at work I had a big notice in my office with the word "THINK" printed in large letters. Its purpose was to encourage my team to come up with realistic, cost effective solutions to the problems we had to resolve - and by and large, it worked.
I'm sure some of you have experienced on the road many silly manoeuvres by other drivers, or pedestrians, which could have put them and others at risk. Or people at work trying to cut corners, or save time, and end up creating more work and difficulties than before.
Try visiting internet discussion forums and see how often people ask the most inane questions or seek advice to such basic issues which should come as second nature to anyone with a pea-sized brain like an ostrich's.
It makes you wonder how much thinking went into the process of considering the matter in the first place.
Watch the news on TV or read the papers and you'll discover many examples of half-baked ideas and ill-thought-out decisions made by people you would have thought would know better.
So … where is all this leading to? You might well ask.
Well … it is leading nowhere, unless we think about it, and resolve to use our brains more effectively.
Not that I am accusing you dear readers … no … it’s the others you know.
Let me give you just one example: I placed all my shopping on the conveyor belt in the supermarket for the check-out assistant to scan and total my bill. At the end of my shopping I put one of those dividers that separates my shopping from the one belonging to the customer behind me.
The check-out assistant picked the divider up and looked for the barcode indicating the price !!!
Exasparated ... I told her it was given free to customers.
She let me have the item !!!!!!!
Admittedly, she was young, probably her first day at work, perhaps not well trained, or ...
P.S. – If you think about it for a moment, I bet you can recognize an individual or two whose actions are not based on the same thinking process that you or I would use. I'd be glad to hear your stories.
Tuesday, 9 December 2014
Scientists have counted the number of heartbeats a mouse has in a lifetime and found a direct relationship with its size and weight. They then did the same with an elephant and found the relationship/ratio between the number of heartbeats and the size of the elephant to be the same as that of a mouse.
This means that all creatures have a number of given heartbeats in a lifetime commensurate with their weight and size.
A mouse being small and fast-running has a very fast heart beat. He therefore uses his allotted number of heartbeats quickly and dies in a matter of a few months.
The elephant on the other hand has a slower heartbeat per minute and lives much longer.
From this we deduce that humans too have a given number of heartbeats allocated to them at birth; give or take a few heartbeats either way.
And the faster we use our heartbeats the shorter our life would be.
This is a good reason why we should all be fat and sit in front of a TV with a large pizza rather than waste our heartbeats jogging, playing football or other sporting pursuits.
Another interesting fact about animals, or insects, involves crickets. You know, those little creatures who chirp incessantly throughout the night in summer.
Well, apparently the number of chirps they make per minute varies depending on the weather. The hotter it is the more chirps per minute; as many as forty or so chirps a minute in really hot steamy nights. But as the weather gets a little cooler the number of chirps a minute is less.
At a temperature of zero degrees centigrade the insect does not chirp at all because he is frozen solid out in the cold.
In England every year people gather for a worm catching contest. They go out in a field and tap the ground with sticks imitating the sound of rain. This excites the worms which come out of the ground and are quickly caught and put in a bucket. The winner is the person who catches most worms in a given period of time.
Last year no one caught any worms in the contest.
It rained all day and they held the contest in the local church hall and the worms could not dig through the concrete floor.
Women who wear perfume are more likely to be bitten by mosquitoes than those who do not. That’s because mosquitoes are attracted to the gentile scent of perfume.
The same does not apply however for men who wear after-shave. This is because men tend to use too much after-shave lotion and they smell like mature manure thus attracting flies instead.
Men who drink a lot, especially liquor such as whisky, rum, vodka and so on, tend to turn mosquitoes into alcoholics when they suck their blood.
An old friend of mine used to drink at least a half-bottle of whisky or rum a day. He lived to age 92 and when he died he was cremated. It took the fire brigade a week to put the flames out.
Sunday, 7 December 2014
John and Fiona were very distraught parents. They stayed behind in church after Mass and asked to see Father Ignatius.
He suggested they wait until everyone had gone, and eventually he came back in the church from the car park, having seen the last of the parishioners leave.
The couple were sitting up front next to the statue of Our Lord. Father Ignatius joined them and said jovially, “how are you both? And where is Lea today?”
“It’s about Lea that we want to talk about Father,” said Fiona.
“She doesn’t want to come to church any more,” added John, “she’s met some new friends and they’re leading her astray. She says church is boring … and she wants to do her own thing.”
“And you feel there’s nothing you can do about it …” continued the priest.
“That’s right Father, the more we argue with her the more she becomes stubborn.”
“That’s understandable,” said Father Ignatius gently, “parenting is not that easy despite what many people might think; and despite what the experts would tell you to do.
“In reality, there’s nothing you can do about it. Your daughter is old enough to do what she wants.
“As they grow up, children want their independence. Lea may get in with bad company, as you say; she may go totally off the rails, get into real trouble, and there’s very little a parent can do.
“I don’t mean to sound harsh, and I sympathize with you and what you must feel; but in reality we can only live our lives and not the lives of others.
“We may try to control other peoples’ behavior, through persuasion, pleading or downright force. But success depends on a number of factors and to a large extent the other person should be willing to alter their behavior to what you wish it to be.
“This isn’t helping much is it?” asked the priest quietly as he prepared them to understand the situation.
“Do you mean we do nothing?” asked Fiona holding back her tears.
“I didn’t say that …” continued Father Ignatius.
“I wonder how Mary and Joseph felt when they lost Jesus when He was twelve. They looked everywhere and were concerned about their young teenager.
“But in reality, they had no need to worry did they? Perhaps they should have trusted God a little more. Maybe they did, and I’m judging them too harshly …”
“What exactly are you saying Father?” asked John.
“Do you trust God?” was the direct reply from the gentle priest.
“Eh … yes, of course …” mumbled John.
“OK … let’s consider the facts … you say she met some new friends.”
“Yes … she’s left school now and she is at college. She’s made new friends there … they’re OK I suppose. But they’re not Christian and she feels she’s becoming independent by not going to church.”
“And does God know about this?” asked Father Ignatius.
The couple were stumped and said nothing. The priest continued.
“I suggest you let her be. If she doesn’t want to go to church, don’t make an issue of it!”
“But … it’s a mortal sin!” exclaimed Fiona.
“It’s her mortal sin … not yours,” said the priest, “Besides, let’s assume you can force her to get to church every Sunday, and she does attend against her wishes, and sits there fuming and cursing under her breath. Would that make you feel better? Would it be a bigger sin do you think, than not attending church at all?”
“So you’re advocating we do nothing? I’m surprised at you Father” said John getting a little angry.
Father Ignatius smiled.
“That’s the second time I’ve been asked whether I’m suggesting you do nothing; and I repeat, I did not say that.
“I suggest first of all that you trust God, and I mean really trust Him that He has a hold on this situation and He is in full control. Can you do that?”
They nodded silently.
“Good, then I suggest you don’t force her to come to church on Sunday. Or even mention it. Just come by yourselves as you always do.
“If you do so already, continue with your family prayers. Before meals, evening prayers or whatever prayers you say together as a family.
“She may or may not join you; leave it to her to decide.
“Lead by example. If you really trust in God you will hand over your daughter to His care. If you stumble and wobble and if your Faith falters you will set her a bad example; and you’ll give her proof that your own Faith is only skin deep.
“She is free to decide what she wants in her life. It’s a gift given to all of us by God. Not to be restricted or controlled by any one else; this is what you’d be doing, albeit with good intentions, if you force her to go to church.
“Pray for her, like you’ve never prayed before. Ask God to protect her, to guide her and to bless her.
“Praying is not doing nothing; it is the most positive action we can take.
“She may well return to God in due course, or she may never do so. It’s a risk we all have to take with our loved ones. But it is their choice to make, no matter how hard or how painful it is for us to watch and to accept.
“We can only live our lives, not that of others. Let us be a living example to others rather than pay lip service to it.
“I’ll visit your home perhaps a little more often than I usually do, and let us pray that God will one day soon welcome her back as He does any prodigal child.”