“Except there come a falling away first” – in relation to the Abuse scandal in the Catholic Church

The verse above is from the Second Letter of St Paul to the Thessalonians Chapter 2 Verse 3.  It is in relation to the second coming of Christ and that that can’t happen “except there be a falling away first”.  King James Bible

In the Jerusalem Bible this is called the Great Revolt.  “It cannot happen until the Great Revolt has taken place…”

Jesus speaks of this in the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 24 Verse 10 “…many will fall away…”

How might people fall away?  Let’s have a look at the parable of the sower.

Matthew 13: 4-9  He said, ‘Imagine a sower going out to sow.  As he sowed, some seeds fell on the edge of the path, and the birds came and ate them up.  Others fell on the edge of the path, and the birds came and ate them up.  Others fell on patches of rock where they found little soil and sprang up straight away, because there was no depth of earth; but as soon as the sun came up they were scorched and, not having any roots, they withered away.   Others fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.  Others fell on rich soil and produced their crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.  Listen, anyone who has ears!’

And the explanation;

Matthew 13: 19-23  ‘You, therefore, are to hear the parable of the sower.  When anyone hears the word of the kingdom without understanding, the evil one comes and carries off what was sown in his heart: this is the man who received the seed on the edge of the path.  The one who received it on the patches of rock is the man who hears the word and welcomes it at once with joy.  But he has no root in him, he does not last; let some trial come, or some persecution on account of the word, and he falls away at once.  The one who received the seed in thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this world and the lure or riches choke the word and so he produces nothing.  And the one who hears the word and understands it; he is the one who yields a harvest and produces now a hundredfold, now sixty, now thirty.’

In Matthew 24 the “falling away” which Jesus mentions is in relation to persecution.

How else might people fall away?  How does this relate to the current abuse crisis in the Catholic Church?

People might fall away through disillusionment.   Something happens which leaves them very disappointed in the church or very hurt by it.  They might question why they are in this church at all.

People might fall away because there is a challenge to their faith which is just too much too bear.

People might fall away because the church has lost credibility.  They feel like the foundation under them has been taken away or shown to be irretrievably rotten.

People might feel they are being put in a position of defending the indefensible and walk away.

All these four things are consequences of the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.  We could be seeing that “falling away” which is a prelude to the very last days.

What might our response be?

This is a time to be sure and certain in our faith in Jesus Christ.  From the parable of the sower we want to deeply rooted in Christ to withstand all these things and heal the church and those damaged by it.  When we are speaking with others we should remember that it is Jesus we are presenting as Lord and Saviour and only secondarily the Church.  We do not defend the indefensible but continue to present Jesus to the world.  My personal take on this is that if after an encounter with Jesus a person wants to become a Catholic then that is a good thing, but if they want to go to some other church that is okay with me.  I’m not trying to be particularly ecumenical here just acknowledging the reality of those who proclaim that “Jesus Christ is Lord” in other churches.  All Christians who proclaim “Jesus Christ is Lord” can recognise each other without consciously practising ecumenism.

Having been on a personal journey through a number of other Churches, all of whom experienced scandals of one kind or another why do I remain with the Catholic Church. Answer – I love the mass.

If I can use a scripture at the risk of being misunderstood – In John’s Gospel Chapter 6, Jesus presents himself as the bread of life and says “If you do not eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink of his blood, you will not have life in you.”  Many find this teaching unacceptable and leave him.  He then says to the apostles, “What about you, do you want to go away too?”  Simon Peter answered,  “Lord, who shall we go to?  You have the message of eternal life.”

Now bearing in mind that Jesus is all truth, he is the one to stay with.

What might I say of a damaged Church?  Well, that the Church may be compromised but the message isn’t.  The Church has the message of eternal life and points to Jesus.  There is much work to do and it will be a long haul.  It is always much harder to build than it is to destroy.

On a flight to Portugal, to visit Fatima, on 11th May 2010 Pope Benedict XVI took questions from the media.  This was one of them;

Your holiness, what meaning do the Fatima apparitions have for us today?  In June 2000 when you presented the text of the third secret in the Vatican Press Office, a number of us and our former colleagues were present.  You were asked if the message could be extended, beyond the attack on John Paul II to other sufferings on the part of the popes.  Is it possible, to your mind, to include in that vision the sufferings of the Church today for the sins involving the sexual abuse of minors.

Here is an extract from Pope Benedict’s answer;

The Lord told us that the Church would constantly be suffering, in different ways, until the end of the world….  As for the new things which we can find in this message today, there is also the fact that attacks on the Pope and the Church come not only from without, but the sufferings of the Church come precisely from within the Church,  from the sin existing within the ChurchThis too is something we have always known, but today we are seeing it in a really terrifying way, that the greatest persecution of the Church comes not from her enemies without, but arises from sin within the Church, and that the Church thus has a deep need to relearn penance, to accept purification, to learn forgiveness on the one had, but also the need for justice, forgiveness does not replace justice.

Telling words, attacks on the Church from within and without.  Even Jesus experiences  this when Judas betrays him.

To close I would recommend reading Matthew 24.  We have been in the last days since Jesus’ resurrection.  Could we be at the beginning of the very last days?

Except there be a falling away

Also have a look at the Third Secret of Fatima.





The Catholic Church, the Abuse Scandal and the Miracle of Lazarus

For a while I have been wanting to write an article about male leadership and all the time there is this huge elephant in the room, the sexual abuse of children involving some Catholic priests, which only seems to get bigger as time passes.

I have heard Catholics say that it is very hard to be a Catholic at the moment in the light of all that has happened and the behaviour of the hierarchy in the way it has been dealt with or rather hidden these things.  I don’t want to get into the why or the how for this can seem to be defending the indefensible and that would never do.  Even though these crimes have been committed by a minority the effects are way  beyond the numbers.

To be honest none of my friends, family or work colleagues have given me a hard time about this and we have all agreed about how terrible this is.  Primarily to those who have been abused and secondarily to the church’s reputation.  The damage these manipulative individuals cause is immense and it is of little compensation to those affected that these paedophiles are storing a judgement up for themselves.  If I can take a liberty and paraphrase some scripture about harming children “it would be better for him to have a large millstone tied around his neck and be drowned in the sea.”  Matthew 18:6.

Trying to hide it or cover it up will only make matters worse for;

“He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts.”  1 Corinthians 4:5

St Paul is clear about what should be done in such cases;

“Expel the wicked man from among you.”  1 Corinthians 5:13.  Read all of chapter 5 for the complete context.

If the appropriate action is not taken God will shake the church to remove what is not of him.  Hebrews 12:25-29.  I believe we are seeing this.

Before this scandal within the Catholic church it seemed we were always hearing about wayward American evangelicals who had fallen bigtime.  There was a church where this had happened and the faithful were reeling under the effects of the scandal.  A visiting Christian gave them this prophetic word, ” I have a word for you.  It is the miracle of Lazarus.  (John 11:1-44)   God took something that was dead and stinking and brought it back to life again.  This is what God is going to do with your church”.  These words both contained hope and a stinging slap for what had happened.

Now I don’t feel that the Catholic church is a stinking corpse,  there are too many faithful people, lay and clergy, within it, but I am certain it is being shaken and what has been hidden is being revealed.

This has not been easy to write but I think it is important before going on with what I want to cover next.  It may not be popular and it may get me in trouble but I think the matter has to be addressed if we want to see the damage, both to individuals and to the church, repaired.



An Objection to the Doctrine of Purgatory

The case against Purgatory

A bible verse often quoted to refute the Doctrine of Purgatory is Luke 23: 39-43 The Crucifixion of Christ and the comments of the Good Thief.

One of the criminals hanging there abused him. “Are you not the Christ?” he said.  “Save yourself and us as well.”  But the other spoke up and rebuked him.  “Have you no fear at all?” he said.  “You got the same sentence as he did, but in our case we deserved it: we are paying for what we did.  But this man has done nothing wrong.  Jesus,” he said, “remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  “Indeed, I promise you,” he replied “today you will be with me in paradise.”

Because Jesus says to the good thief “today you will be with me in paradise”  there is no suggestion of any delay in the good thief entering heaven.  You may have thought that a criminal’s profession of faith at the last, i.e. a deathbed type confession, makes him a perfect candidate for purgatory.  No such delay is evident here.  “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

Looking at Jesus’ words here paradise is used rather than heaven.  Now while you would expect heaven to be paradise, is paradise heaven?

Another problem, indeed a biblical contradiction, is in Jesus saying, “Today you will be with me in paradise”, is that Jesus does not ascend to his Father until 40 days after the resurrection.  In John 20:17 (Jesus says to Mary of Magdala) “Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father.”

How can we resolve the issue of purgatory and the promise to the good thief and Jesus not having yet ascended to heaven?

A consideration of the word Paradise’ used in Luke 23: 43.  Why does Jesus use the word ‘Paradise’ (Greek transliteration – paradeiso) rather than the word ‘Heaven’ (Greek transliteration – ouranos)?

There are three occurrences of the word paradise in the New Testament;  Luke 23: 43 – Jesus to the good thief,  2 Corinthians 12:4 – Paul describes being caught up to paradise, Revelation 2:7 – Jesus refers to the tree of life which is in the paradise of God.

Jesus uses the word paradise twice, once in Luke 23: 43 and again in Rev 2: 7.  Jesus uses heaven many more times in all four gospels.  To illustrate here are some extracts from J.B. Smith’s Greek-English Concordance.



From Young’s Analytical Concordance we can see this again with an emphasis on the occurrences of the word heaven in Luke;



Note how in Luke 11: 2 the word heaven in the Lord’s prayer is from the Greek ouranos.

Strong’s Concordance gives a number to the Greek and Hebrew words used in the bible and this refers to a lexicon for a definition.  Then Paradise has the strong’s number 3857 and the definition –


and for heaven –


So overall then there are only three occurrences of the word paradise (paradeisos) in the New Testament and 284 for heaven (ouranos).  There is only one occurrence of paradise in the Gospel of Luke and 37 of heaven.  From the definitions we can see that paradise is described as a place of blessedness and heaven as the place where God dwells.

So now what.

Let’s look at another scripture, Luke 16: 19-31. The rich man and Lazarus.

Jesus is speaking,

‘There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day.  And at his gate there lay a poor man called Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.  Dogs even came and licked his sores.  Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to the bosom of Abraham.  The rich man also died and was buried.  In his torment in Hades he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off with Lazarus in his bosom.  So he cried out, “Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames”.  “My son,” Abraham replied “remember that during your life good things came your way, just as bad things came the way of Lazarus.  Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony.  But that is not all; between us and you a great gulf has been fixed, to stop anyone, if he wanted to, crossing from our side to yours, and to stop any crossing from your side to ours.”

The rich man replied, “Father, I beg you to send Lazarus to my father’s house, since I have five brothers, to give them warning so that they do not come to this place of torment too”.  “They have Moses and the prophets,” said Abraham “let them listen to them.”  “Ah no, father Abraham,” said the rich man “but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent.”  Then Abraham said to him, “If they will not listen either to Moses or the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead”.’


This scripture shows that, pre-resurrection, there are two places in hell (hades); one a place of comfort and the other a place of torment.  There is a chasm between them which cannot be crossed but each place is visible from the other.

The place where Lazarus is comforted, the bosom of Abraham, is a paradise, a place of comfort and blessing, but it is not heaven.  It is a place of waiting.  Waiting for what or rather who?  Those who have died in faith, pre-resurrection, await Jesus to set them free.

Now let’s have a look at the Apostle’s Creed and what the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) has to say.

The Apostle’s Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried;

He descended into hell; on the third day he rose from the dead;

He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.  I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.  Amen.

He descended into hell, on the third day he rose again.

CCC631 – Jesus ” descended into the lower parts of the earth.  He who descended is he who ascended far above all the heavens.”  (Ephesians 4:9-10)  The Apostle’s creed confesses in the same article Christ’s descent into hell and his Resurrection on the third day.

CCC632 – The frequent New Testament affirmations that Jesus was “raised from the dead” presuppose that the crucified one sojourned in the realm of the dead prior to his resurrection.  This was the first meaning given in the apostolic preaching to Christ’s descent into hell: that Jesus, like all men, experienced death and in his soul joined the others in the realm of the dead.  But he descended there as Saviour, proclaiming the good news to the spirits imprisoned there.

CCC633 – Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, “hell” – Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek – because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God.  Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into “Abraham’s bosom”  It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Saviour in Abraham’s bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell.  Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.

Also have a look at CCC634, 635 & 636, it’s all good.

CCC637 – In his human soul united in his divine person, the dead Christ went into the realm of the dead.  He opened heaven’s gates for the just who had gone before him.

This song from youtube gives an illustration of all this;


So there we have it.  “Today you will be with me in paradise”  refers to the place of waiting, “Abraham’s bosom” and it is a paradise but it is not heaven.  Those who were there, having died in faith, pre-resurrection, were released by Jesus to ascend to heaven.  Ever since, that part of hell has remained empty as heaven was opened to those who were waiting, those who have died in faith since, those who will die in faith in the future and those who are alive and in faith when he comes again.

As “Abraham’s bosom” was not heaven, neither was it purgatory.  Purgatory being that process of purification as we journey from earth to heaven.  As I heard the Baptist preacher David Pawson say, “My wife finds it hard to believe that one day her husband will be perfect.”  As David is now quite elderly this would suggest that this perfection is completed after death, and though he wouldn’t say so,  this is what Catholics call purgatory.




A Little Look at the Doctrine of Purgatory

I have often come across comments from non-Catholic theologians saying that the doctrine of purgatory is not biblical – but is this actually the case?

Some people seem to see it as a second chance or a back door into heaven.  This can’t be the case as there are only two categories of people; the saved and the damned.  As Jesus is the “way” (John 14:6) and the “door” (John 10:7 & 9), only thieves and robbers try to get in by any other way.

It is often described in terms which recall the mediaeval imagery of suffering as described in Dante’s “Divine Comedy” of three volumes; Inferno, Purgatory, Paradise.  A more modern view might see it as a “Wash and Brush-up” on the way to heaven which may be trivialising it somewhat.  Can we get beyond this imagery into a clearer view of what purgatory is?


Firstly – What does the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) say?

CCC1030 – All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

CCC1031 – The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.  The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent.  The tradition of the Church by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire (1 Cor 3:10-15, 1 Peter 1:7):

As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire.  He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor the age to come (Matt 12:31).  From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.  St Gregory the Great

So Purgatory is not a second chance or a back door, it is not a substitute for being saved.  Those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour in this life are saved and members of the Church Militant.  On entering the next life they remain saved whether in Purgatory, the Church Suffering, or Heaven, the Church Triumphant.

CCC954 – The three states of the Church.  “When the Lord comes in glory, and all his angels with him, death will be no more and all things will be subject to him.  But at this present time some of his disciples are pilgrims on earth.  Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory, contemplating ‘in full light, God himself triune and one, exactly as he is'”.

All of us, however, in varying degrees and in different ways share in the same charity towards God and our neighbours, and we all sing the one hymn of glory to our God.  All, indeed, who are of Christ and who have his Spirit form one Church and in Christ cleave together.  (Lumen Gentium 49)


CCC1032 (carrying on from CCC1031 above) – This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” (2 Maccabees 12:46).  From the beginning the Church has honoured the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.  The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead:

Let us help and commemorate them.  If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice (Job 1:5), why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation?  Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.  St John Chrysostom


Note – The scriptures used in the last part CCC1032,   are 2 Macc 12:46 and Job 1:5.  The quote from Maccabees is from one of the seven deutero-canonical (second canon) books of the Catholic bible.  These books are regarded as Scripture by the Catholic church to this day and they have some very important things in them.  They were removed from the Canon by the protestant reformers at the reformation when they were consigned to the Apocrypha (hidden) writings and not considered by them as Scripture.  The removal of 1 & 2 Maccabees leaves a period of 500 years of silence at the end of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).  The quote from Job is interesting as in its context Job is not regarded as foolish or misguided in what he is doing and nowhere else does it suggest that that might be the case.


A Consideration of the Scriptural Case for Purgatory

Often when something is not explicitly stated in Scripture I will look for a hint or a flavour to see if something is in keeping with the spirit of Scripture.   Initially I thought the Doctrine of Purgatory was one of those things.  On further examination, including the scriptures cited above, I believe there to be a much stronger biblical case for the Doctrine of Purgatory.

A book I was reading recently has a very good chapter on Purgatory.   The book is “Fatima, The Signs and Secrets” by Marianna Bartold, 2014, publisher KIC (Keeping it Catholic) Lapeer, MI,  ISBN 978-0-9862203-0-2,  Chapter 32. Purgatory – The Doctrine of God’s Mercy and Justice.

Chapter 32 cites the following Scriptures;

Matthew 5:48  “You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  I would also add from the beatitudes; Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart: they shall see God.

Matthew 19: 26 “…with God all things are possible.”

2 Maccabees 12:46  “It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they be loosed from their sins.”  Full passage 12: 38-46, worth a read.

Zechariah 13:9  “I will refine them as silver is refined, and I will try them as gold is tried.”

Also look at Malachi 2:2-3 which is eschatological in nature, “Who will be able to resist the day of his coming?  Who will remain standing when he appears?  For he is like the refiner’s fire and Fuller’s alkali.  He will take his seat as refiner and purifier, he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and then they will make the offering to the Lord as it should be made.”

When is the silver and gold ready?  When, after heating, the dross sinks to the bottom and the metal is revealed all shiny like a mirror.  When God can see his face in us, we’re done.  A very good description of Purgatory as a purifying fire.

Matthew 5:26  “I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you paid the last penny.”

But you will get out.

Matthew 12:32  “…but let anyone speak against the Holy Spirit and he will not be forgiven either in this world or the next.”

Applying some reverse logic or reverse thinking here means that there are things that can be forgiven in the next world.

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 – For the foundation, nobody can lay any other than the one which has already been laid, that is Jesus Christ.  On this foundation you can build in gold, silver and jewels, or in wood, grass and straw, but whatever the material the work of each builder is going to be clearly revealed when the day comes.  That day will begin with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  If his structure stands up to it, he will get his wages, if it is burnt down, he will be the loser, and though he is saved himself, it will be as one who has gone through fire.

The passage is essentially eschatological, end times, whether this is collectively at the second coming of Christ or individually if death comes to us before that event.  We will pass through a purifying fire and what is not of God will be burnt up and what is of God will remain.  This is where we look to Jesus Christ as the “author and finisher of our faith”, our model and our pattern.  We want to build with materials which will withstand the fire, not wood, grass or straw.

Revelation 19:7-8 – …“Alleluia!  The reign of  the Lord our God Almighty has begun; let us be glad and joyful and give praise to God, because this is the time for the marriage of the Lamb.  His bride is ready, and she has been able to dress herself in dazzling white linen, because her linen is made of the good deeds of the saints.”

This would seem to be something we can enter into now, doing good deeds.  The problem is that if we try to do this of ourselves, we will be too selective about the things we choose to do.  Don’t worry God has this covered.

Ephesians 2:10 – For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

We can enter into this being guided by the Spirit in such a way as we won’t even be aware that we are doing it.  Matthew 25: 31-46 – vs 37 “When did we do these things?” – My paraphrase and summary.

I also wonder if this clothing, the righteous deeds of the saints, is something we both contribute to and have a share in.  Just a thought.

One of the best descriptions of Purgatory I ever heard was from a visiting Baptist Preacher at the Bethel Mission, Plymouth in the 1970s.  He didn’t mention Purgatory but to my Catholic ears that’s what it sounded like.  He talked about an ongoing soul life with ongoing salvation and sanctification.  He chose the Scripture of the Wedding Feast in Matthew 22:1-14.  If I summarise, a king is preparing a wedding feast for his son.  Those who are invited make excuses not to come so the king sends out his servants to invite other people to the wedding.  These are all then enjoying the feast clad in wedding  garments.  The king notices there is one man not wearing a wedding garment.  when questioned he makes no answer and is then bound and thrown out.   The preacher said that the man had stood out because his clothes were ragged and burnt on passing through the fire of purification, taking the wedding feast in an eschatological sense.  That sounded like Purgatory to me.  If I take this a bit further, the wedding guests have been invited at the last minute and haven’t had time to obtain wedding garments.  The king has provided wedding garments which are hanging up in the changing room waiting for them, the changing room is Purgatory and the garments are the righteous deeds of the saints.  The man without a wedding garment has treated this provision with contempt and left his wedding garment on the peg.  His own “clothes” were unable to withstand the fire of purification and were burnt up.  He had tried to get in by some other way and had failed.  Of course one has to be careful not to push parables too far as the fit is never perfect.  I like the picture of God’s provision of salvation which is complete and there for us to enter into.

Scripture often talks about salvation using all three tenses, past (2 Timothy 1:9), present (1 Corinthians 1:18) and future (Romans 5:9-10).  That is to say I have been saved, I am being saved and I will be saved.



Where have we got to now – re. purgatory?

Purgatory is not a second chance or a back door into heaven.

It is not the destination but a process.  The destination is heaven.

Purgatory is described as a purifying fire removing all the dross and leaving the precious metal.  It removes all those things in us which are not of God, leaving those things which are.

Purgatory can be likened to a changing room where a fine wedding garment is awaiting us.

We don’t have to wait for Purgatory for purification.  It can start now through the sacraments.  Reconciliation to restore our relationship with God.  The Eucharist to feed us with the “Bread of Life” the body and the blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ giving us new life.  The Holy Spirit given to us at Baptism and Confirmation (we might describe this as a fresh anointing or release of the Holy Spirit in our lives) when we are commissioned for evangelism.  We can renew our commitment each day, take up our cross and follow Him, allowing Him to work within us by a conscious act of surrender to the will of God.  We can remember than when we succeed it is by His grace, when we fail we have recourse to the sacrament of reconciliation, so that we don’t become at all puffed up when we succeed or feel crushed when we fail.

We can contribute to the wedding garment – the righteous deeds of the saints, deeds which God has prepared in advance for us to do.

Purgatory is not a cop-out from being all of the things we are meant to be in Christ.  “Never mind, there’s always Purgatory”, should not be a default position.  As I read a while back, “Aim for heaven and miss and there is Purgatory, but aim for Purgatory and miss – then what.”

Neither should heaven be a destination for the Saints and Purgatory for us lesser mortals, for we are all called to be saints (small s) that is followers of Christ here and now on earth in the Church militant.  I repeat heaven is the destination, not Purgatory for that is a process even if it occurs in a place, the Church suffering, it is not the destination which is the Church triumphant.

Purgatory as a simple wash and brush-up doesn’t convey the thoroughness of the purification.  I can remember a car wash where the car was pulled through on a chain, it was cleaned outside, soaped, scrubbed, dried, waxed, buffed and then a whole army of men jumped in and cleaned the inside.  It was thoroughly cleaned.  If I was that car I would feel I had been put through the wringer, but the end result was more than worth it.

There is strong Scriptural evidence for the Doctrine of Purgatory, more evidence than just hints and flavours.


Why is this necessary?

Because even when we have confessed our sin and been forgiven, we may have previously enjoyed the sin.  This is called an attachment and it needs to be removed so that we can fully enjoy heaven and not spoil it.  We shouldn’t get too hung up about how long it takes, just remain confident that it will be done.  It makes me think of a line from “Away in a Manger” which says “and fit us for heaven to live with thee there”.


“A bride without spot or wrinkle”

Ephesians 5: 25-27  …Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

I would have to admit that even though Jesus has taken my sin and given me his righteousness, and is continuing to work in my life, I am still aware of having some spots and wrinkles.  Purgatory, this passing through a fire of purification, is therefore an assurance that all these spots and wrinkles will have been dealt with and removed before I take the place promised to me, through Jesus Christ, in heaven.

Philippians 1:6  “And so I am sure that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the Day of Christ Jesus.” 

So there you are, Claude’s armchair take on Purgatory.




RCIA 2018 Last Session ‘Encouraging Words’  

RCIA 2018 Last Session ‘Encouraging Words’             10th April 2018

Psalm 86, 11

Teach me your way, O Lord,

that I may walk in your truth;

give me an undivided heart to revere your name.


Coming before God with open hands so that God can take things out and put things in.

Ref)  Book – ‘As Bread that is Broken” by Peter van Breeman S.J.

1974, Dimension Books page p37



We have a promise;

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished …..  Paul’s letter to the Philippians 1:6

 For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.  Hebrews 3:14


 Our Daily Walk

What is good had been explained to you; this is what God asks of you; only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God.  Micah 6:8

 If we live our lives in the light, as He is in the light, we are in union with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.  1 John 1

 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7


 And what is faith?

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Hebrews 11:1


And so, to evangelism

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  1 Peter 3:15


And the source of our confidence;

Yes, God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone that believes in Him may not be lost but may have eternal life.  John 3:16


And when doubts come;

If your lips confess that Jesus is Lord and if you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, then you will be saved.  By believing from the heart you are made righteous; by confessing with your lips you are saved.  Romans 10:9-10

 No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.  1 Corinthians 12:3


A higher calling;

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  John 3:8


Baptism, Confirmation, Communion, New Life, Eternal Destiny

“I am telling you the truth,” replied Jesus, “that no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.   John 3:5


 The Call to Holiness

Pope Francis has just published an Apostolic Exhortation (An Apostolic Exhortation is published to encourage the faithful to live in a particular manner (greater conversion to Christ) or to do something of virtue.)

It is called ‘Gaudate et Exsultate’, (Rejoice and be Glad), it is on the call to holiness in todays world.  The document is available through –


as well as the Catholic Truth Society.

To get an idea of the flavour here’s a youtube clip;



 Reading – Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 6:10-17

 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His power.  Put on the whole armour of God, so that you may able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against all the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly places.  Therefore, take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.  Stand therefore, and fasten on the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness.  As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.  With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.


PrayerOur Father, Hail Mary, Glory be



Saint Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into Hell, Satan and all the other evil spirits, who prowl throughout the world, seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

(composed by Pope Leo X111, 1884AD)


And all God’s people said;

Amen, Alleluia, Praise the Lord



Reflection for Easter – The Great Gift of Salvation through Jesus Christ and what it cost Him.

You tube song – Graham Kendrick “Paid on the Nail”

“He paid what he thought you were worth.”

Let’s remember that this Free Gift of Salvation cost Jesus everything.

As it says in the song “When I survey the wondrous cross”;

Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Then there is the paradox of victory through an apparent defeat.

but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,  1 Corinthians 1:23

but not just crucified but crucified, dead, buried, sealed in the tomb, risen, ALIVE.

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.          I Corinthians 15:17

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  1 Corinthians 15:20.

Recommended reading 1 Corinthians Chapter 15.

Youtube song – Ishmael “King of Glory”


Christ is risen

He is risen indeed

RCIA – Perseverance

The Perseverance of the Saints (saints)

2 Timothy 4: 7,  “I have fought the good fight to the end,  I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith;”  (St Paul writing from prison in Rome)

Song – “Walk the talk” by Garth Hewitt

Let’s have a look at the cartoons, “Portrait of a Catholic” and our old friend – “Fred” on page 52 of the book “How to Survive being Married to a Catholic”.

What does this tell us about how we persevere in our ordinary Catholic lives?


What happened to the apostles? 


Apostle Mission Manner of Death
Peter Jerusalem, Samaria, Lydda, Jaffa, Caesarea,

Pontus, Galatia, Bithynia, Cappodocia,


Martyred in Rome, crucified AD 64
Andrew Jerusalem, Greece, Scythia, Epirus, Patras in Achaia Martyred in Achaia

Crucified AD 60

James Jerusalem, Spain? Martyred in Jerusalem

AD 44 beheaded by sword

John Jerusalem, Samaria, Parthia, Patmos, Ephesus Imprisonment , exile, torture under Domitian, escape

Lived to old age

Philip Jerusalem, Samaria, Azotus, Caesarea, Phrygia, Hierapolis Martyred, possibly crucified, in old age
Bartholomew Jerusalem, India, Armenia Martyred in Armenia, flayed alive and then beheaded
Thomas Jerusalem, Edessa, India Martyred in Malabar by spear, buried in Mylapor near Madras
Matthew Jerusalem, Persia, Parthia


Martyred by spear, sword or halberd
James son of Alphaeus Jerusalem Martyred, Sanhedrin sentenced him to death by stoning, was then clubbed to death
Simon the Zealot Jerusalem, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia Martyred in Persia, crucified or by sword
Jude Thaddaeus Jerusalem, Mesopotamia, Persia Martyred in Persia, clubbed to death
Matthias Jerusalem, Judaea, Greece, Cappodocia, Caspian Sea, Ethiopia? Martyred, death by axe or halberd


Paul (the apostle to the gentiles) undertook 3 missionary journeys around the ancient world, martyred by sword.




This puts paid to the idea that the apostles were out for personal gain because religion is “a money making racket” – as some would say.


But that’s enough about the men, what about the women.

 The first Christian women martyrs were St Perpetua and St Felicity who were martyred for their faith in Carthage in 203AD under the reign of the Roman Emperor Septimus Severus, who had forbidden fresh conversions to Christianity.  They died in the arena by the sword after wild animals had failed to kill them.


Cue for some Culture – you tube clip from the Opera “Dialogues des Carmelites”

This about a group of Carmelite nuns who refused to give up their vocation and were executed by guillotine during the Terror, a particularly bloody phase of the French revolution, in 1794.   Although fictionalised in the Opera “Dialogues des Carmelites” they did go to their deaths singing the “Salve Regina” and “Veni Creator Spiritus”.


Of course not all Saints were martyred and although in some parts of the world Christians are being killed for their faith, this may not happen to us.  It may be that the only persecution we will suffer is mild ridicule and indifference.

Then this happened;

BBC News 2.8.16

French priest funeral: Jacques Hamel mourned in Rouen

Thousands have attended the funeral in Rouen cathedral in Normandy of French priest Father Jacques Hamel, who was murdered in his church by Islamist extremists last week.

A public ceremony was led by the city’s archbishop, after which Father Hamel was to be interred in a private burial.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and senior Roman Catholic clerics attended the service.

Father Hamel was killed when two men stormed his church during Mass.

In the homily, Rouen Archbishop Dominique Lebrun said: “As brutal and unfair and horrible as Jacques’ death was, we have to look deep into our hearts to find the light.” He called for forgiveness, quoting the New Testament command to love your neighbours.

Shockwaves have reverberated across the world about this, such that the police in Scunthorpe have had discussions with local churches.  It is unlikely that such an event would happen here, but we could be regarded as a soft target.

It does come as a shock that this can happen in the west where previously the worst persecution we had to suffer as Christians was mild ridicule or  indifference.

For myself I would pray for the courage to proclaim that, “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”,  (Phillipians 2: 11 and Romans 10: 9-13), and to follow the way of love to the end, resisting the temptation to meet violence with violence.  Because we are called to be different and to make a difference.

Does this mean we are to be a push-over or a doormat?  No it doesn’t.  Jesus says to his disciples, “Remember, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves; so be cunning as serpents and yet as harmless as doves.”  Matthew 10: 16

And John says, “Our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active.”  1 John 3:18


St. Paul’s attitude to martyrdom is this;

Philippians 1: 20-26

In summary Paul is saying that though death means being with the Lord, he is prepared to live and remain here to help others.  So Paul is not seeking the martyr’s crown though he is aware it may come to him.


We can daily take up our cross and follow Jesus (Luke 9: 23) and accept whatever sacrifices are involved in that.  When we come to mass we offer those sacrifices, the sacrifice of the Christian life, alongside Jesus’s final and everlasting sacrifice.

“Pray brothers and sisters that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the almighty Father”

It seems totally amazing to me that we can do this as our sacrifice seems such a little thing compared with that of Jesus.



Song – youtube – “Selah”  People of the Cross


We are the People of the Cross.

We aren’t promised an easy time, but we are promised a blessed time and an eternal destination.


We pray for the Church across the world, for its steadfastness in the face of adversity.

For the constancy of its witness and its message in all circumstances.

For the presence of the Holy Spirit in all the believers bringing peace and courage.

For vocations to the priesthood and the religious life.

For us all to do our part, no matter how small for we are a missionary Church.

All this we ask through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.


Let us pray together the prayer of St Francis


Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;

Where there is hatred, let me show love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is discord, union;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy.

For thy mercy and truth’s sake:

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console,

To be understood as to understand,

To be loved as to love,


It is in giving that we receive,

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.


Final Blessing

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

May his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.

May he look upon you with kindness and give you his peace.

May almighty God bless you,

the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen






Drawing a Line and Reconnecting with our Baptism

From the Letter of St Paul to the Philippians Ch 3 vs 13;

…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,…

Within the Church there are a number of opportunities to draw a line and start afresh;

Each time we receive the sacrament of reconciliation.

Each time we come to mass.

When we take up our cross daily and follow Christ.

When we renew our Baptismal promises at the Easter vigil.



Renewal of Baptismal Promises

  1. Do you reject Satan?
    R. I do.
    V. And all his works?
    R. I do.
    V. And all his empty promises?
    R. I do.
    V. Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth?
    R. I do.
    V. Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?
    R. I do.
    V. Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?
    R. I do.
    V. God, the all-powerful Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has given us a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and forgiven all our sins. May he also keep us faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ for ever and ever.
    R. Amen.



13th March 2018

RCIA – Catholics and Mary (continued) Catholics and the Communion of Saints

Statue of Mary with Snake Underfoot

Do a web search for an image of Mary standing on a snake.

There are statues, and art work, showing Mary with a snake underfoot.

The inspiration for this image comes from the scripture Genesis 3: 15, when God punishes the serpent for deceiving Eve.

In many bibles this is translated as “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head and you will strike his heel.” NRSV

The he being Jesus, the offspring promised to the woman, who would crush the serpent’s head, by his victory on the cross.


I then found on many Catholic websites this verse quoted as

shewill crush the serpents head, which is achieved through her offspring Jesus.

The Douay-Rheims bible translating the Latin Bible, the Vulgate, of St Jerome, gives this verse as;  I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.”

 So, which is right?


Having a look at Bible Hub gives the Hebrew for the word he or she, given in the translation, transliteration hu, with the Strong’s number 1931.  In Strong’s Concordance and Lexicon this word is translated as he, she or it.


So, they are both right.

To bring things up to date the Jerusalem Bible translates the verse as; “I will make you enemies of each other: you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring. It will crush your head and you will strike its heel.”

 A footnote is also given with this explanation;

The Hebrew text, by proclaiming that the offspring of the serpent is henceforth at enmity with the woman’s descendants, opposes the human race to the devil and his ‘seed’, his posterity, and hints at ultimate victory: it is the first glimmer of salvation, the proto-evangelium.  The Greek version (Septuagint) has a masculine pronoun (‘he’ not ‘it’ will crush…), thus ascribing the victory not to the woman’s descendants in general but to one of her sons in particular: the words of the Greek version therefore express the messianic interpretation held by many of the Fathers.  The Latin version has a feminine pronoun (‘she’ will crush…) and since, in the messianic interpretation of our text, the Messiah and his Mother appear together, the pronoun has been taken to refer to Mary; this application has become current in the Church.

It then, would mean both, he and she, 

How can this be?

Remember that it is Mary’s ‘Yes’, in Luke 1: 38; “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me”, that makes this possible.

Alongside her Son, Jesus, Mary has crushed the serpents head.

Added to this, Jesus was promised to Adam and Eve and this allows me to make a bold claim that there is no religion older than Christianity.

That’s one guaranteed to get a discussion going.

It also explains why Jesus often calls his mother “woman” as this is the honorary title given in Genesis 3:15 where is says the  offspring of the woman, not the man (hinting at the virgin birth), will crush the serpent’s head.

Such little things often contain great truths.

The Church then sees Mary as having a redemptive role with her son, Jesus.  She is called co-redeemer meaning with or alongside, but not equal to, Jesus.  This is also contained in Genesis 3:15 as the pronoun used can be translated as he or she.


Holy Days and Feast Days
September 8: The Virgin Mary’s Nativity – Feast
December 8: Immaculate Conception – Holy Day
January 1: Holy Mary Mother of God – Holy Day
February 2: The Presentation of Our Lord – Feast
March 25: The Annunciation – Holy Day
March 31: The Visitation of the Virgin Mary – Feast
July 26: St Anna (Canada) – Feast
August 15: Assumption – Holy Day


The Communion of Saints

From the Apostles Creed;

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church,

the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.


Have a look at page 51 in the book, “How to Survive being Married to a Catholic” under the section “Why pray to the saints?”  Here’s what it says;

A Christian without a community is a contradiction in terms.  Christians are essentially a family of believers.  They become members of that family when they are baptised – and that is the original meaning of the word “saint”.  It simply meant “baptised”.  As time went on the word “saint” came to refer to those Christians who led lives of outstanding holiness and who were remembered and honoured after their deaths.

When Catholics talk about “the communion of saints” they are using the word “saint” in its original meaning.  They mean all the baptised – those who are alive now and those who have departed from this world and now live on with Christ.

Death does not destroy our union with Christians who have gone before us.  We remain members of one family because we all share the life of Christ.  That is why Catholics feel able to ask the saints in heaven to pray for them.


Catechism of the Catholic Church

ccc962 – “We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always attentive to our prayers”  (Paul VI, CPG – Credo of the People of God).


As baptised believers then, we are all saints with a small ‘s’.

How do some become Saints with a big ‘S’?


In the Catholic church if a particular individual was felt to have lived a particularly exemplary life, then some time after their death there may a move to have them declared a saint.  A local movement then may ask their priest to present this cause to the bishop and a number of steps follow;


  1. As soon as the cause is opened for consideration, the person is called a Servant of God.
  2. After the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints determines that they did indeed live a life of heroic virtue, they’re called Heroic virtue doesn’t mean that they were perfect or sinless, but that they worked aggressively to improve themselves spiritually and that they never gave up trying to be better and grow in holiness.
  3. After the Church establishes one miracle, their cause is presented to the pope to see whether he deems them worthy of being called This step is called beatification and is the next to last step.
  4. Another miracle and their cause is presented to the pope again for his judgment. If he determines that the evidence is clear and that contrary reports aren’t credible, he may initiate the canonization procedure.  If all goes well, they’ll probably be recognised as a Saint.

(from the book “Catholicism for Dummies)


Why does the Church do this?

ccc828 – By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hopes of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors.  “The saints have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult moments in the Church’s history.”   Indeed, “holiness is the hidden source and infallible measure of her apostolic activity and missionary zeal.”


The Saints are examples for us and an encouragement to us.


Their failings are often as instructive as their successes.

Saint Peter, who denied Christ three times, was often impulsive and put his foot in it, but went on to be the first pope and was martyred in Rome.

Saint Thomas who doubted that Jesus had risen from the dead, but became a saint.

James and John fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane, even though Jesus asked them to stay awake and pray with him, went on to become saints.

St Augustine (345-430AD) is his youth had enjoyed wine, women and song.  For 20 long years his saintly mother, St Monica, prayed for him, until one day, he and his son Adeodatus embraced the Christian faith, repented of their sins, got baptised, and entered the religious life.  He later became a bishop and finally a saint and doctor of the Church.

(also from Catholicism for Dummies)


Then there are personal favourites;

Some of mine are; St Joseph, St Peregrine, St Jude, St Francis of Assisi, St John of the Cross, St Maximillian Kolbe and Edith Stein.

Saint Maximillian Kolbe was a polish monk and priest who was sent to Auschwitz.  He swapped places with a man who was condemned to die with nine others as an example to deter escape attempts.  The ten were starved to death and Maximilian was finished off with a lethal injection.

Edith Stein – St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, was a German Jew who converted to Catholicism and became a nun.  She was arrested by the Nazis because of her Jewish background and refused a chance to escape, preferring to die with the other prisoners.

St Peregrine 1265-1345AD – a lay brother of the Order of Friar Servants of St Mary, he would have spent his days in prayer and manual labour and visiting the sick.  He suffered from varicose veins and one of his legs became ulcerated and then cancerous.  He was miraculously healed after leaving his sick bed to pray in front of the crucifix.  He fell asleep and dreamed of Jesus coming down from the cross.  He awoke and returned to his bed.  When the doctor came to see him the next morning he had been healed.  He continued to work among the sick and dying.  On his death there is a tradition that three people were healed after paying their respects at his coffin.  He was beatified in 1609 and canonised in 1726.  He is known as the Patron Saint of People with Cancer.



O God, in St Peregrine you gave us an outstanding example of faith and patience.  We humbly ask you that, by imitating him and by the help of his prayers, we will believe more fully in your healing help, bear the sufferings of this life without wavering, and come with joy to the peace of heaven.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.


RCIA – Catholics and Mary 27/2/18

Catholics and Mary

Have a look at page 51 of the book “How to Survive being Married to a Catholic”.

Here’s what it says about praying to Mary.

Why do Catholics pray to the mother of Jesus?  Why can’t they pray directly to God?

Catholics can, and do, pray directly to God.  They also address prayers to Mary, the mother of Jesus.  But they do not pray to Mary in the same way that they pray to God.  Prayer to God is worship, and worship can be offered to God alone.  Catholics do not worship Mary.  When they address her in prayer it is to ask her to pray to Jesus for them.  There’s nothing unusual about that.  We often ask our relatives or friends to pray for us.  Catholics, believe that, because of her special relationship to Jesus and the part she played in cooperating with God to make our salvation possible, Mary’s intercession is particularly valuable.

At the marriage feast at Cana (narrated in the second chapter of John’s Gospel) it was Mary who told Jesus, “They have no wine.”  And this prompted Jesus to work his first miracle.   In the same way, Catholics ask her to make their needs known to Jesus.

Catholics look upon Mary as their spiritual mother, but the honour they show her does not arise from her own merits but from the special relationship she has with Jesus, her son.[1]


I think this book presents this really well.


Mary in the bible


References to Mary by name taken from Young’s Analytical Concordance[2]



There are other references to the “mother of Jesus” which are found in;

Matthew 12: 46,  Mark 3: 31,  Luke 8: 20,  John 19: 25-27

There is an oblique reference in;  Luke 11:  27-28, where Jesus seems to be both drawing attention away from his mother, in a protective way, and blessing her at the same time.

The references to Mary by name take us through the Annunciation, the visitation, the birth of Jesus, the presentation, the early ministry of Jesus and with the apostles in the upper room on the day of Pentecost.

The references to Mary as mother of Jesus show her at the wedding feast in Cana, in Galilee and then in Jerusalem at the crucifixion.

Overall these references show that where Jesus is, Mary is often nearby.


Title – Mary, Mother of God

Catechism of the Catholic Church

ccc495 – Called in the Gospels “the mother of Jesus,” Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as “the mother mf my Lord.”  In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became he Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity.  Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly “Mother of God” (Theotokos).

The Visitation – Luke 1: 39-45

Mary set out at that time and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah.  She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth.  Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  She gave a loud cry and said, “Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord?  For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy.  Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

 So the title Mother of God is scriptural.

The prayer “Hail Mary” is scriptural drawing on the words of the angel Gabriel at the annunciation (Luke 1: 26-38) and of Elizabeth at the visitation (Luke 1: 39-45).

Hail Mary, full of grace.  The Lord is with thee.  Blessed art though 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.


I can remember having a conversation with a non-Catholic Christian in college that went something like this;

Him – How can Mary be the Mother of God?

Me – Are you saying that Jesus isn’t the Son of God?

Him – No, of course not.  I’m just saying how can Mary be the Mother of               God?

Me – Mary is Jesus’s Mother – right.

Him – Yes

Me – Jesus is the Son of God – right.

Him – Yes

Me – So Mary is the Mother of Jesus who is the Son of God.

Him – Yes

Me – So Mary is the Mother of God.

Him – (after a pause) Mary is the earthly mother of Jesus.

Me – Now you’ve just added an adjective.

Him – Words are important,

Me – In acknowledging Mary as the Mother of God, I an acknowledging

Jesus as Lord.  I sure you wouldn’t want me to be denying Christ.


And so on…..  We didn’t particularly agree but I think I got a concession.


Mary given to the Church, given to us

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of  Magdala.  Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, Woman this is your son.”  Then to the disciple he said, “This is your mother”.  And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home.

From the Gospel of John 19: 25-27.

I’ve always found John’s description of himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” a bit hard to take.  Is John claiming a position for himself which is above the other apostles?  No, we know that Jesus loves all his disciples and John uses this as a device to put us right there as these events are taking place.  So, at the cross Mary is given to us and we are given to Mary, our Mother.


 Hail Holy Queen

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, hail, our life, our sweetness and our hope.  To thee do we cry,  poor banished children of  Eve;  to thee do we send up our sighs,  mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.

Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us; and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb Jesus.

O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.


Pray for us O Holy Mother of God.


That we may be made worthy of the promise of Christ.


O God, whose only begotten Son, by his life, death and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life; grant we beseech thee, that meditating on these mysteries of the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may both imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ Our Lord.  Amen.


And there’s more……..


966 “Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.”506 The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians:

In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death.507

. . . she is our Mother in the order of grace

967 By her complete adherence to the Father’s will, to his Son’s redemptive work, and to every prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary is the Church’s model of faith and charity. Thus she is a “preeminent and . . . wholly unique member of the Church”; indeed, she is the “exemplary realization” (typus)508 of the Church.

968 Her role in relation to the Church and to all humanity goes still further. “In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the Savior’s work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace.”509

969 “This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfilment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation …. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.”510

506 LG 59; cf. Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus (1950): DS 3903; cf.  Rev 19:16.
507 Byzantine Liturgy, Troparion, Feast of the Dormition, August 15th.
508 LG 53; 63.
509 LG 61.
510 LG 62.


Note:  LG – Vatican 2 document “Lumen Gentium”


[1] How to Survive being Married to a Catholic, Redemptorist Publications, 1986 & 2007, p51

[2]  Robert Young, Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible, Lutterworth Press, Cambridge, 1989, p647


Sorting out the Marys


Here is the full list of bible references for all those Marys of the New Testament from Young’s Analytical Concordance.

There is;

Mary, the mother of Jesus

Mary Magdalene

Mary, mother of  James and Joses, the apostles

Mary, the wife of Clopas

Mary, sister of Martha in Bethany

Mary, mother of John Mark, nephew of Barnabas

Mary, a female believer in Rome who helped Paul




RCIA – Prayer 27/2/18

Catholics and Prayer



Prayer is talking to God, it is also listening to God.

Prayer is spending time with God.

At its heart prayer is a relationship.

Prayer is being open to God.


Let’s have a look at the cartoons “Catholics and Prayer” on pages 48-49 of the book “How to Survive being Married to a Catholic”.


Perhaps we can add other descriptions of what prayer is.

Prayer is………………..


Paul’s prayer from his letter to the Ephesians 3:14-21

This then is what I pray, kneeling before the Father, from whom every family, whether spiritual or natural takes its name:

Out of His infinite glory, may He give you the power through His Spirit for your hidden self to grow strong, so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love, you will with all the saints have strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth; until knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, you are filled with the utter fullness of God.

Glory be to Him whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine; glory be to Him from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever.  Amen.


Types of Prayer

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,  from the first letter of Saint Paul to Timothy Ch2: vs 1


  1. Supplication – Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.
    Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications
    . Psalm 130 vs 1-2.  Simply put this is a cry for mercy with a real sense of pouring                    yourself out before the Lord.  “Teach me your way, LORD; lead me in a straight path.”         Psalm 27 vs 11
  2. Prayers – we might think of all those set prayers which we like to use such as the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Glory be, and how these can be used as models to form our own prayers. This leads to worship which is the right relation between creature and creator.
  3. Intercessions – prayer for the community and for others, both at home and throughout the world. All those different situations that we can pray for and into.
  4. Thanksgiving and praise – thanking God for all he has done. Praise takes us out of ourselves and the narrowness of our own situations.  It brings us close to God and all the blessings he has for us.  Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Psalm 150 vs 6.


 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  Pauls letter to the Ephesians ch 1 vs 3.

How many blessings?  All of them


You may have noticed that Psalms can take us very easily into prayer and are used in the daily prayers of the church.  If you were to say a Psalm a day it would take you about 5 months to get through them as there are 150.



When our prayers don’t seem to be answered, we need to consider that “No” is also an answer.  It may mean that our prayer is at odds with the will of God and then we need to ask the Lord to teach us and show us his will.  We need to trust him.

Romans 8: 28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”


 From the “Penny Catechism”

  1. Who made you? God made me.
  2. Why did God make you? God made me to know him, love him and serve him in this world, and to be happy with him for ever in the next.



What does God want from us?

Micah 6: 8 “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.”


We have a measure of God’s will for us and so we can walk in it and pray in it.




In any situation it may seem that our prayers are such a little thing but we have to remember that we have a Great and Mighty God.  Prayer is both the least we can do and the greatest thing we can do.

St Paul tells us;

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Paul’s letter to the Ephesians ch 6 vs 12.


We can be “Prayer Warriors” adding our prayers to the mix for;

We are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  Paul’s letter to the Romans ch 8 vs 37.

“More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.”  From the poem Morte D’Arthur by Alfred Tennyson.


Time for another song from you tube

To God be the glory by Fanny Crosby