In this Gospel the Church teaches us something of the Passion of Our Lord. About this time of the year a certain part of the world is going crazy with carnival (Mardi Gras); people imagine it great fun when they put on masks, dance, and walk about in processions. But the Church wishes her children to think of the Passion of Our Lord, and on these days she asks them to be more zealous and fervent.
Sin is the cause of the Passion of Our Lord; we crucify Our Lord again and make Him an object of mockery. We have not the same customs here that exist in Europe at carnival time, but by degrees they are creeping in here, too; let us consider the great damage it does to the young people of those countries, and draw from it a lesson which will be very useful to us. We can also judge from it what would be the consequence of following similar indulgences at any time of the year. These applications can be made to our picnics, moonlight excursions, and dances (movies, TV, Internet, plays, rock concerts, and immoral books, comics in today’s world).
On the approach of the carnival the Church redoubles her prayers, and puts on the garb of penance, because so many sins are committed; for this reason, too, the saints of the Church, the friends of God, do more penance that God may be kind to the people who are indulging in these excesses. St. Francis de Sales used to call the carnival days hours of pain and grief to the Church. What disorders, dissoluteness, unlawful relaxations are committed in those days! St. Vincent Ferrer used to think of the approach of those days with horror, for, with unbounded license, people would commit sin after sin without giving themselves time to think. St. Catharine of Sienna was accustomed to cry out with groans, "Oh, what an unhappy time! what a diabolical time!" Day and night she would invoke Our Lord. When the carnival is open you may well say that heaven is closed. The reprehensible things about the carnival are things that are considered dangerous at all times, such as masquerade balls and theatres. St. John Chrysostom considered the theatre the worst place, where the vilest spiritual diseases may be contracted. St. Augustine called the theatre of his day the pomp of Satan. St. Cyprian speaking of it says it is the innovation of the devil; apply all this to picnics and balls too.
Now, my good young people, whom would you rather believe; would you rather believe your own passions that drag you into considering these things small matters; would you rather believe our modern, loose Christians, who consider the theatre the school of virtue? Or would you not rather believe those great doctors whom I have quoted, who studied much, and who were enlightened by almighty God? You will say that you always criticize the title of a play (or movie or TV program etc.) before you see it. That is nonsense; you know that the name of these do not give a clue as to whether it is moral or not. What about masquerade balls, rock concerts or prom night? The dance is one of the greatest occasions of evil, especially for young people. A youth that loves the ball-room will sooner or later fall into grave sin.
"He who jokes with the devil," says St. Peter Chrysologus, "cannot reign with Christ." St. John Chrysostom declared vehemently against dancing; he says it is the innovation of the devil, and those who engage in it cannot escape the snares of the devil. All the saints have said the same thing. During these days of the carnival, especially, let us not form part of the world that has gone crazy, we may say. There is no objection to modest recreation nor to simple enjoyments. Endeavor to compensate Our Lord Jesus for so many sins committed during this time. With great love, visit a church where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, pray, and receive from Him spiritual joy of which the world knows nothing. In this way you will not put your salvation in jeopardy nor will you, as often happens, ruin the health of the body, as is frequently the case. I myself have seen on the last days of the carnival a funeral procession, and on asking for whom such display was made, was told that it was the funeral of a youth of sixteen years. A few days previously he had taken part in the carnival procession; he had gone to the theatre and to a masked ball. Here he had become overheated, caught cold, contracted pneumonia, and in a few days died. Had he obeyed his parents, had he been reasonable in his enjoyments, he might have saved his life.
But let us return to the Gospel; while Jesus was in the vicinity of Jericho, a poor blind man who sat by the wayside begging, hearing the approach of a great crowd, asked what this might be. They told him that the Great Prophet, the Son of David, was passing by. Then he raised his voice as high as he could, and cried out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me." Can you not easily see in this poor blind man the figure of a poor sinner? How terrible is the blindness of sinners! They know that by sinning they lose God, that God who created them and redeemed them; they know that they have lost the right to heaven; they sin frequently and without any remorse. What blindness thus to insult almighty God, in whose presence they commit these sins; that God who could annihilate them or could at any moment precipitate them into the flames of hell! Sometimes, by the grace of God, the blind sinners open their eyes to the real state of their souls; they see their misery and their danger, and return to God while it is yet time, and break the chains that hold them bound to the servitude of the devil.
Then they ask themselves: Who is this Jesus who is passing by? The truth will suddenly shine on their souls. This is the Savior of souls, the healer of the blind and of all diseases, especially of the soul. Then in earnest they will raise their voices to Our Lord and cry out in humility and compunction of heart, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me." But you know that the world does not like these exhibitions of piety, the fashionable world does not want to be disturbed by these cries. The passions so natural to our frailty and increased by indulgence, are urged on by the devil, who gives us occasions of sin. Our old companions who continue in their evil course would like us to do the same; these lay their hands on the mouth of the sinner that he may not cry out, and tell him that he should be ashamed to make such an outcry. This is the inner voice that we feel; the voice of conscience that admonishes us and the voice of the body that speaks of enjoyments that are the death of the soul. How the sinner hates to be disturbed by these contending claims! The good voice is hated by the sinner, and he tries to silence it.
Again he shuts his eyes and listens to the wicked voice, so that joyously and carelessly he goes on sinning. He has abused once more the grace of the voice of God speaking to his soul. Sinners become ashamed of having ever been modest and pure in word and action, ashamed of ever having loved God, and ridicule the holy maxims of the Gospel. What blindness and perversity this is! Should any of my hearers be of the number of those who have been blind, let them arouse themselves by prayer, and then the grace of light will also come to them. How tearfully and sadly St. Augustine describes these dreadful days of his own blindness, "I went from one disorder to another, from one precipice to another, like one that was blind."
When Jesus heard His name called in that strong way, He stopped, and gave orders that they should bring the poor man to Him. "What wilt thou that I should do for thee?" asked Our Lord with the most loving condescension. "Ah, Lord, you see what I need. I am a miserable blind man, give me the light of my eyes." What a beautiful prayer, how short, how affectionate it was, what great good it accomplished. This same petition we too should continually make. "Lord, that I may see."
This spiritual blindness, ignorance, and darkness must be removed; we must be able to see clearly. Give me intelligence, that I may know things rightly, that I may from my earliest days know the wickedness of sin, for now in my blindness it looks so attractive and so beautiful. Lord, make me see the great danger there is in the world, that I may be on my guard and not fall a willing prey to the wiles of Satan. Lord, let me know what company I must avoid, let me see the foolishness of thinking much of riches, excepting in so far as I may be able to use them for the good of others. It is vanity to indulge the appetites of the flesh and to desire that which, if consented to, will bring upon me great punishment. Let me, O Lord, see the vanity of wishing for a long life; give me the grace to be contented with a short one and so to labor during it that I may enjoy the heavenly sight of paradise.
The good Lord answered the prayer of the blind man, saying, "Thy faith has cured thee," and immediately the eyes of the blind man received their sight. Filled with joy he followed Our Lord, giving Him praise, and all the people who saw the great miracle also gave praise to God. See, my young people, what grateful recognition you owe to almighty God for the corporal and spiritual light of your body and soul. How often has God given the power of vision to your soul! You certainly remember the darkness in which your soul was cast when you fell into mortal sin.
Bodily blindness may bring some good to the soul, for then we cannot see the dangerous occasions which might lead us into sin; the alluring aspect of the objects of our passions cannot be seen by us, and hence cannot excite our imagination; but the blindness of the soul gives the devil power over us. As soon as God enlightened your soul you saw the dangerous situation in which you were. He stretched out His hands to raise you up, and what appeared to you so beautiful and attractive now looked so hideous that you were terrified, and willingly fled from it. What a great grace this was to you! He made you know what was good, and gave you grace to love it. Thank almighty God for these spiritual gifts, praise Him for being so good to you. We cannot sufficiently appreciate what God has done for us in giving understanding and light to our soul; but we will know it when, after witnessing the damnation of many souls, we will at last find ourselves in heaven.
In today’s Epistle St. Paul tells of his shipwrecks and dangers in the sea, all the torments he endured for the Name of Christ. What then is the lesson to be taken from the life of a man whose life was filled with such suffering for the name of Christ?
Without doubt when considering the life of St. Paul, one would immediately see a man who believed in the power of prayer. The fact is St. Paul was very diligent in prayer. His exhortation to the church at Ephesus was, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereupon with all perseverance and supplication for all saints (Ep 6;18)”.
One can see the example of perseverance in prayer, as St. Paul prayed over and again regarding the thorn in the flesh. We can hear in his prayer the echoes of Jesus’ words. “My grace is sufficient for thee: for power is made perfect in infirmity. Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”
The end result of persecution and imprisonment produced a man concerned with growing stronger spiritually. This is certainly one of the great desires that every one of us would have. The need to mature and grow stronger in faith with each passing day. St. Paul’s reproach of the church at Corinth was about the matter of their failure to grow spiritually.
So especially this time of awaiting for Lent we need to be aware of the importance of prayer.
St. Francis de Sales tell us the benefit of prayer. Prayer brings our mind into the brightness of divine light, and exposes our will to the warmth of divine love. Nothing else can so purge our mind from its ignorance and our will from its depraved affections. It is a blessed fountain which, as it flows, revives our good desires and causes them to bring forth fruit, washes away the stains of infirmity from our soul and calms the passions of our heart.
To pray, the Catechism tells us, is to adore God, to thank him for his goodness, to ask his graces and the pardon of our sins to raise our hearts to him and enter into communion with him. This definition is correct. If prayer is necessary for salvation, then what is true prayer?
The majority of people for better or worse, do not fight against God, but they do not actively desire God’s love in any way. Many virtuous and cultured people want to live uprightly, socially correct, without God or religion. Many among them can justly be called wise according to the world. These persons do not deny God or despise those who pray. Nevertheless it is obvious that they experience nothing but intense emptiness when they kneel before an altar. To say for example that God is present in a special way on an altar sounds childish to them.
Today’s Gospel mentions different types of people who receive the seed of the divine word. They can be compared to the hard ground, to the stony soil, to the earth choked with thorns. They certainly understand how to live, but they fail to face the most fundamental questions, such as “Where have I come from and where am I going? Why is there evil? What is there after this life?”
St. Paul says “Though this outer human nature of ours may be falling into decay, at the same time our inner human nature is renewed day by day. And a secret awakening awaits us. What kind of shock will awaken these souls? Unexpected happiness or misfortune? Or the word of God fervently uttered by the lips of a saint? Or even perhaps exercises suitable for well-known ascetics but beyond the reach of ordinary people?
The answer is clear. It is none of these things. Our souls are waiting for God. Only God can reveal himself. But is he just the one who lives in the heavens and who govern humanity as absolute master? If it were so, Christ’s incarnation would be in vain. The eternal and infinite God assumed all of human existence with all its weakness and frailty out of love for each human person. Assuredly, this surpassed all understanding and yet it is this God who at this very moment, continues to pursue and to challenge each one of us interiorly by knocking on the door of our minds. To listen to this call is itself pre-prayer. We need to prepare the good ground with a good and upright heart, hearing the word of Jesus, keep it and bring forth fruit in patience.
And so leaving this dull existence, the soul awakes and allows its prayer to rejoice in song as it winds its way to heaven.
In the book of Revelation (3:20) we read “Listen, I am waiting at the door knocking. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you and you with me."
We need to respond to his invitation to stay with Him.
The prayer of Jesus continues still today. In the Eucharistic Liturgy, Christ the High Priest offers to the Father his redeeming sacrifice. He offers it in communion with his body which is the Church. Every prayer of ours is raised to the Father through Christ our Lord. It is this prayer of Christ which sustains all our prayers, those spoken and those in the heart.
Dear Faithful, let us continue to prepare the good ground, ready to receive His Divine word. Amen
A sermon originally given by Canon Raphael Ueda, a priest of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest
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Mass for Septuagesima will take place tomorrow (Sunday 12th February) at St Francis of Assisi Church, Llay Chain, LL12 0NT starting at 1230pm
All very welcome!
From the THE LITURGICAL YEAR by DOM PROSPER GUÉRANGER
The Season of Septuagesima comprises the three weeks immediately preceding Lent. It forms one of the principal divisions of the Liturgical Year, and is itself divided into three parts, each part corresponding to a week: the first is called Septuagesima; the second, Sexagesima; the third, Quinquagesima.
All three are named from their numerical reference to Lent, which, in the language of the Church, is called Quadragesima, - that is, Forty, - because the great Feast of Easter is prepared for by tile holy exercises of Forty Days. The words Quinquagesima, Sexagesima, and Septuagesima, tell us of the same great Solemnity as looming in the distance, and as being the great object towards which the Church would have us now begin to turn all our thoughts, and desires, and devotion.
Now, the Feast of Easter must be prepared for by a forty-days’ recollectedness and penance. Those forty-days are one of the principal Seasons of the Liturgical Year, and one of the most powerful means employed by the Church for exciting in the hearts of her children the spirit of their Christian vocation. It is of the utmost importance, that such a Season of penance should produce its work in our souls, - the renovation of the whole spiritual life. The Church, therefore, has instituted a preparation for the holy time of Lent. She gives us the three weeks of Septuagesima, during which she withdraws us, as much as may be, from the noisy distractions of the world, in order that our hearts may be the more readily impressed by the solemn warning she is to give us, at the commencement of Lent, by marking our foreheads with ashes.
This prelude to the holy season of Lent was not known in the early ages of Christianity: its institution would seem to have originated in the Greek Church. The practice of this Church being never to fast on Saturdays, the number of fasting-days in Lent, besides the six Sundays of Lent, (on which, by universal custom, the Faithful never fasted,) there were also the six Saturdays, which the Greeks would never allow to be observed as days of fasting: so that their Lent was short, by twelve days, of the Forty spent by our Saviour in the Desert. To make up the deficiency, they were obliged to begin their Lent so many days earlier.
Why, from this day until Easter, does the Church omit in her service all joyful canticles, alleluias, and the Gloria in excelsis, etc?
To help us prepare for the serious time of penance and sorrow that arrives with Lent proper; to remind us sinners of the grievousness of his errors, and to exhort him to penance.
So the priest appears at the altar in violet, the colour of penance, and the front of the altar is covered with a violet curtain. To arouse our sorrow for our sins, and show the need of repentance, the Church in the name of all mankind at the Introit cries with David: The groans of death surrounded me, the sorrows of hell encompassed me: and in my affliction I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice from his holy temple. (Ps. 27, 5-7) I will love thee, O Lord, my strength; the Lord is my firmament, and my refuge, and my deliverer. (Ps. 27:2-3) Glory be to the Father, etc.
The pre-lenten season of Septuagesima is one of the genuine treasures of the traditional liturgy of Christianity's 1st and 2nd millennia - now virtually lost in the reform of the late 1960s - but preserved in the Extraordinary Form.
Mass of Ages is the quarterly magazine of the Latin Mass Society. It contains reports on our many activities across the country, national and international news of Traditional Catholic events, feature articles on different aspects of traditional Faith and culture, and opinions and views on developments in the Catholic Church.
The spring 2017 edition is now available. Leading articles feature Buckfast Abbey, The Old Mass and Children, a round-up of an extraordinary Christmas for the Traditional Mass and Gregory Hogan reports on plans to open a new Catholic academy in the Diocese of Portsmouth. These, together with the usual features, a wealth of news, reviews and reports all show how love of the Traditional Mass is growing around the country.
As Buckfast Abbey is preparing to celebrate a thousand years of monasticism on the site, Maurice Quinn, (LMS Local Representative for Devon) looks at its history and current work.
Also in this issue of Mass of Ages, Peter Clarke, LMS Local Representative for the Isle of Wight, reports on a very successful Day of Recollection held at St Mary’s Ryde in early January.
Paul Waddington visits a landmark on the Wirral – the 1930s Shrine Church of SS Peter & Paul and St Philomena and Alberto Carosa reports on the Holy Father’s recent visit to Sweden.
Our regular columnists:
• Lone Veiler looks at science fiction
• Caroline Shaw provides a meditation on the Mass in her reflection on the Ghent Masterpiece
• Mary O’Regan reflects on marriage
• Fr Bede Row asks, “Do we still believe in theologians?”
All this, and much more, shows that Traditional Catholicism is alive, growing and enjoyed by more and more people throughout England and Wales.
Thanks to the cooperation of priests in whose parishes the Traditional Mass is celebrated, Mass of Ages is available from more than ninety cathedrals and churches around the country. Copies are available at Holywell, Buckley, Llay and Wrexham Cathedral in this diocese.
If you do not live near one of these but would like a copy of the magazine, we would be very happy to send one from the the main LMS office at 11-13 Macklin St, London, WC2B 5NH. However, due to the high cost of postage, we do ask that you cover the cost of postage.
A new Mass has started to be said weekly at the Carmelite Monastery, 12 Grosvenor Place, Prenton, Birkenhead CH43 1UA.
Celebrated by the Canons of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, it is a Low Mass said each Thursday at 7.45am.
In addition, during February, a Mass will take place each Sunday at 3pm
The theme for today’s Holy Mass considers a question that we all ask, “Where does evil come from?” O God, “didst thou not sow good seed in Thy field” of this world? “Whence then hath it cockle?” (Gospel).
The answer to this comes from God, “An enemy hath done this.” Hence, when we cry for the rooting out of evildoers to ourselves or to the Church, it would be well to study the remaining verses of this Gospel.
The Epistle also indicates how to conquer the cockle of evil with the good seed of patience , brotherly love, persevering prayer and constant union with Jesus, Who knows “how to keep His family in goodness” (Prayer) through the Sacrifice of the Mass (Secret) and the graces of the Eucharist (Postcommunion). The way to solve the problem of evil in and around you is to “let the word of Christ (that is the good seed) dwell in you abundantly” (Epistle).
The 5th February is Feast of St. Agatha V. M., Patroness of Sicily, who refused to give up her purity to the Procurator of the city of Catania or her executioner in about 250. St. Agatha said, “O Lord Jesus Christ, my well-beloved Master, I than Thee for enabling me to resist the tortures of the executioners. Grant me, Lord, the happiness o attaining to Thy unfailing glory.” More than once, St. Agatha’s veil has been placed in the path of flowing lava which stopped flow and saved the town. St. Agatha’s name is mentioned in the Canon of the Mass, and a slight bow is made by the priest at its mention. Whilst the 1962 rubrics of the Mass exclude commemoration of the Feast in the Sunday Mass, we can commend our prayers to St. Agatha for help to turn back the evil of immorality threatening our country and Europe as well.
Oremus pro Pontifice nostro Francisco: Dominus conservet eum, et vivificet eum, et beatum faciat eum in terra, et non tradat eum in animam inimicorum eius.
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui facis mirabilia magna solus: praetende super famulos tuos, et super congregationes illis commissas, spiritum gratiae salutaris; et, ut in veritate tibi complaceant, perpetuum eis rorem tuae benedictionis infunde.
Kevin Jones is the local representative for the Latin Mass Society in Wrexham Diocese. Any views expressed neither represent those of the Latin Mass Society or the Diocese of Wrexham.