Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be always acceptable in your sight our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

Today is one of those interesting days in the lectionary where there are a lot of choices regarding the readings for Mass. As usual my message this morning is going to be on the gospel however I had to make a choice. Both of the reading options today focus on the same event in the life of Christ and are in fact from the same section of the Gospel of Luke; the difference is that one is 18 verses long and the other 3. I have chosen the latter for today and whilst it may be easy to assume I have done this to make my job easier that’s not the case. Rather, I want to focus on the core of the message today as it relates to the Feast of the Holy Family and I today I think that is better served by the short reading.

For those of you who haven’t heard or read the Gospel for today I’d like to share it with you (Luke 2:22; 39,40):

When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
they took him up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord.

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions
of the law of the Lord,
they returned to Galilee,
to their own town of Nazareth.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom;
and the favor of God was upon him.

As I already mentioned this is a very short reading, one of the shortest Gospel readings I’ve ever encountered for Mass; however in its short few verses it is full of such grace and a message that all of us with our own families should heed.

Throughout the history of the Church the Fathers and other believers have gone to a great effort to preserve for us the memory of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her role in the life of Christ, the Church and our Salvation. I have been asked many times by people outside of the Catholic faith why we do this, why we focus on the Blessed Virgin and why she is so important to us.  For me the answer is rather simple, the Blessed Virgin was the first Christian, she was the first person upon the face of the Earth to welcome the mission of the Messiah who would be born of her womb. As such, her yes and her entire life are the perfect model for what it is to be a Christian. If we, as individual followers of Christ were to model our lives on that of the Blessed Mother we could be assured that we would be following the path laid out by Christ that leads to eternal life within the beatific vision. However, today, I want to take this one step further.

Since the dawn of time God has highlighted for us that we are made to be social beings; we humans are made to exist in units called families. Adam was not created alone to walk the Earth but was rather given a companion and this expanded into family life after the fall and the birth of Cain and Abel. And so it is with us today, and just as God has given us a great witness in Mary of the life we should lead as followers of Christ, so he has given us an example of what our lives as families following the Gospel path should be; the very Holy Family themselves, Jesus, Joseph and Mary.

Now I’m sure some of you are wondering why on earth I chose the short reading to highlight how the Holy Family is a model for us in our own family lives, it says so little. You’re right, when it comes to sheer volume of words the Gospel reading today doesn’t seem to say much at all. However, if we stop and contemplate the meaning behind the events recorded we can see clear message for how our lives as Christian families should be.

Firstly, the reading begins with Mary and Joseph taking Jesus to the Temple to be dedicated and for Mary to be purified. This tradition is something that continued throughout many of the branches of Catholic Christianity but has somewhat fallen by the wayside in the West. Traditionally 40 days after the birth of a child mother and baby would come to Church and receive special blessings. Now to many this may seem archaic and may imply that the mother was not clean and worthy without the blessing; however, this is far from the truth. Rather, this event marks a special witness to the joy that the congregation feels over the birth of another Christian soul; it gives them the opportunity to welcome mother and child with open living arms and gives the family the chance to welcome the Church and Christ into their newly expanded family.

So what can we take from this? What message and model do we see in these actions for ourselves? The Holy Family, by following the precepts of the Law of Moses show us that if each and every one of us are going to be followers of Christ we need to ensure that He is at the centre of our family. It is not the Father or the Mother, or the Children who should stand as the focus of family life but rather the redeemer. If we place Jesus and his precepts within the centre of our family life our family will be a happier and stronger place. Now this doesn’t need to mean that our every thought and word is only about Church or Jesus; rather it means that we should always make Christ a part of our daily lives. As a family we should pray together often, we should attend Mass or other worship services together and above all we should always be comfortable talking of Christ and our faith with each other. If we as families can do this, just like the Holy Family, we will be blessed in the sight of God and I’m sure we will be happier and healthier individually and corporately.

To me, the second half of the reading is a curious thing; it tells us that the Holy Family went home and that Jesus become strong, wise and found favour with God. So, does this mean that Jesus wasn’t always wise, strong and in God’s favour?

This is an interesting question as it would be easy to entertain these thoughts from these words. However, I think the Gospel writer had a deeper meaning in mind here. Right now we are in the middle of the celebration of Christmas, those twelve days where we celebrate the incarnation, God becoming man. And I think it is this that the Gospel is hinting at. These words don’t indicate the Jesus was a simple human who through growth and development became our redeemer, rather, I think it is being highlighted for us that though God himself descended from heaven in total perfection He still emptied himself and subjected himself to normal growth and development to witness to us that in Jesus we have a something unique, that we have a redeemer who is at once both totally God and totally man; this is the beauty and mystery of the incarnation.

So this Christmas Season as we contemplate the birth of the Christ Child and the mystery that is the incarnation I want us all to remember the importance of our families and the role that we play in the Church, in society and in fostering love. It is my humble and constant prayer that all Christian family will but Christ at their centre and foster a life of faith and devotion so that all may return to our Heavenly Father when this mortal life is through.

Let us pray:

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, in you we contemplate the splendour of true love, to you we turn with trust.

Holy Family of Nazareth, grant that our families too may be places of communion and prayer, authentic schools of the Gospel and small domestic Churches.

Holy Family of Nazareth, may families never again experience violence, rejection and division: may all who have been hurt or scandalized find ready comfort and healing.

Holy Family of Nazareth, may…[we ever be] mindful of the sacredness and inviolability of the family, and its beauty in God’s plan.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, graciously hear our prayer. Amen.

(Prayer written by Pope Francis)

Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Giotto_-_Scrovegni_-_-07-_-_The_Birth_of_the_VirginMay the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be always acceptable to you O Lord, our God and our Creator. Amen.

Today, I want to start by expressing a special gratitude that I feel towards our Blessed Mother. She stands as a special example to me of the life that I should lead as a Christian; a life of total willing submission to the will of God. Something that I pray that I, and all of us, may live up to in some small way.

Today is a very unique day in the Church calendar, not only because it is a day that we celebrate the life and work of the Blessed Mother but also because it is one of only three birthdays celebrated on the Church year. The other two births that we celebrate are those of John the Baptist and our Saviour Jesus Christ. It should be evident immediately as to why we celebrate Christ’s birth, that event that heralded to opening of salvation to mankind. However, why do we celebrate the birth of both the Blessed Mother and John the Baptist?

The traditions of the Church hold that all three of these individuals, The Saviour, The Blessed Mother and John the Baptist were both born without the mark of original sin. Jesus Christ, being God himself in human form could not sin and so was obviously free from the sin of our first parents in Eden goes without question. Which leaves us to ask why are our Blessed Mother and John the Baptist also considered to be have saved from original sin? Consider the mission of these two individuals. Of all of those found within the Bible these two figures stand as central to the saving mission of Christ, John the Baptist as the herald of the coming Saviour and the Blessed Mother as the willing vessel of the God-Man Christ, the very Mother of God. I like to think that God looked upon these two great individuals and the mission that they would have to undertake and knew that he could strengthen them by removing the mark of original sin from their births.

At this point I am sure that some of you are sitting there thinking, “If today is about the Blessed Mothers birth, then why was the Gospel about the birth of Christ?”

I am sure that the answers for this are many and varied; however in my mind I take the view that the Scriptures are silent on the life of Mary before her betrothal to Joseph. For information surrounding the early life of the Blessed Mother we need to look to works outside the scriptures such as the Gospel of the Nativity of Mary (translated from the Hebrew by St. Jerome, A.D. 340-420), the Protevangelium of St. James (dated to ca. A.D. 125) or the writings and visions of various mystics throughout the life of the Church. While these works may be of benefit to the faithful they are not works sanctioned by the Church and so are not appropriate for reading here within our sacred rites. For this reason, the Church chooses to offer us a portion of scripture that brings to our minds the significance of the Blessed Virgin in the economy of salvation and just why it is important for us to celebrate and venerate her whenever we can and by doing so, give glory and honour to God in His great works.

I imagine that throughout her entire life the Blessed Mother was being prepared by God to accept the call that he would give to her through the Archangel Gabriel. Can you imagine being a young, engaged woman having an angel of God come to them and announce that they would bear the Son of God? What an awesome and overwhelming experience! I’m not sure how I would react, but I get the feeling I would be brought to my knees and made a quivering mess…is this what happened to Mary though? It certainly wasn’t she boldy accepted the will of the Lord for her life and prepared to receive the Son of God within her sacred womb.

Can you imagine being St Joseph her betrothed? He gets told that his fiancée is pregnant and that the child is God’s! I know that I would have found it hard to believe; I would have doubted and suspected my fiancée of being unfaithful. Is this what Joseph did? Today’s Gospel reminds us that it sure was! The reading indicates that Joseph thought that the Blessed Mother was guilty of a grave crime and was prepared to cancel their engagement by divorce; it was only the intervention of an Angle that changed his mind.

Can you see the difference in St Joseph and the Blessed Mother’s responses to God’s message? Mary’s was a willing and unwavering yes while St Joseph’s was one of doubt and fear. There is something supernatural about Mary’s response. And it is this response that indicates to me the unique place that Mary holds in the economy of salvation, it points us to the truth of her freedom from Original Sin and the extra strength that she had from a life of preparation by and devotion to God. It is for this reason that I look to Mary as my Mother, why I pray for her counsel and her intercession, why I ask for her blessings on my endeavours, and why I strive to live a life lead by the example of her life. I want to be able to stand before the judgement seat and be able to see that I was guided by the most holy mortal person to ever walk upon the earth, that I strove to not only honour them but to emulate their life as best I could.

It is my prayer that we may all look to the Most Holy Blessed Virgin Mary as our guide and example. As Catholics we should be able to boldly proclaim that we hold the ancient faith of the early Church concerning Mary, we should boldly proclaim her as not just a woman but as the very Theotokos, the Mother God!

Let us pray a prayer written by St Anselm in honour of the Nativity of the Blessed Mother:

Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O sacred Virgin; give me strength against thine enemies, and against the enemy of the whole human race. Give me strength humbly to pray to thee. Give me strength to praise thee in prayer with all my powers, through the merits of thy most sacred nativity, which for the entire Christian world was a birth of joy, the hope and solace of its life.

When thou wast born, O most holy Virgin, then was the world made light.

Happy is thy stock, holy thy root, and blessed thy fruit, for thou alone as a virgin, filled with the Holy Spirit, didst merit to conceive thy God, as a virgin to bear Thy God, as a virgin to bring Him forth, and after His birth to remain a virgin.

Have mercy therefore upon me a sinner, and give me aid, O Lady, so that just as thy nativity, glorious from the seed of Abraham, sprung from the tribe of Juda, illustrious from the stock of David, didst announce joy to the entire world, so may it fill me with true joy and cleanse me from every sin.

Pray for me, O Virgin most prudent, that the gladsome joys of thy most helpful nativity may put a cloak over all my sins.

O holy Mother of God, flowering as the lily, pray to thy sweet Son for me, a wretched sinner. Amen

An Ordination and A New Direction!

It is with great joy and many thanks to our Father above that we announce the ordination of our very own Br. Brenden to the Order of Deacon.

20170730_103015The Ordination took place a week ago at the Kholo Gardens Church at the hands of Archbishop David Leet of our sister Church the Reformed Old Catholic Church.

With the announcement of this most glorious event comes a partner announcement of a change for what was the Oratory of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary.  The Oratory has not ceased to exist but has taken its place as the worship space for a broader organisation named the House of St. Agnes of Montepulciano.

During his ministry discernment and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Rev. Br. Brenden has come to the realisation that he is being called to renew the contemplative tradition within the Dominican Family as expressed in the Order of Preachers, Independent.

20170730_111208The House of St Agnes is a re-interpretation of the mission of the contemplative sisters founded by Saint Dominic. As such the House will focus on prayer before the Lord as the means to enable the preaching and teaching mission of the Order. This does not mean that Br. Brenden will become silent or enclosed, but rather that he will endeavour to embody the spirit and ethos of Dominican contemplation in all that he does and re-introduce the concept of the Dominican Contemplative to the contemporary, independent expressions of the Dominican Family.

So watch this space as the life of the House of Saint Agnes of Montepulciano develops and as this new and exciting ministry finds its place within the life of the broader Church and Order of Preachers, Independent.

Wednesday in the Second Week of Easter

Listen to “Wednesday in the Second Week of Easter” on Spreaker.

TWDU LogoHi and welcome to The Word Down Under; I’m Brother Brenden coming to you from the Oratory of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary a ministry of the Unified Old Catholic Church in Australia.

I want to start by apologising for the lateness of this week’s message. For those of you who follow the Oratory, the Church or I on Facebook will know I’ve been unwell lately and have only just started to get back into the swing of things. I also want to send a big thank you to all of those who have been praying for my health, I’m confident that God has heard those prayers and I’m on the mend.

The reading from the Gospel for today is a short one by comparison with those we’ve seen lately but despite its length its message is a strong one. If you want to follow along the reading is found in the Gospel of John, Chapter 3 beginning at verse 21: Continue reading “Wednesday in the Second Week of Easter”

Wednesday in the Octave of Easter

Listen to “E2: Wednesday in the Octave of Easter” on Spreaker.

TWDU LogoHello and welcome to what’s the first instalment of The Word Down Under on Unified Old Catholic Church Radio! I’m Brother Brenden coming to you from the Oratory of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary a ministry of the Unified Old Catholic Church in Australia.

I’m sure that the last week has been a busy one for many of us; in fact it’s often considered the busiest in the Church calendar. I know that many of my friends were not only busy with Church but had a week full of family and fun. I really hope that each and every one of you listening today had a really blessed Holy Week. Personally I was very lucky as I got to spend the start of Holy Week on Holidays relaxing away from home. I returned on Good Friday and was lucky enough to spend time with my family and loved ones.

Continue reading “Wednesday in the Octave of Easter”

Where’s your focus this Easter?

TWDU LogoHi, I’m Brother Brenden and I want to thank you for joining me for the first of what will be a weekly Word from Down Under brought to you by the Oratory of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary a ministry of the Unified Old Catholic Church.

In the life of the Church today’s referred to as the Wednesday in Holy Week. For Christians this week is the holiest of the year as it contains the most significant events in our history, the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These events are significant not only for Christians, but for all of humanity, as through them the way is open for all of us to be restored to a full relationship with God, to have our wrongs forgiven and one day receive our reward if we accept and follow Christ.

Continue reading “Where’s your focus this Easter?”

Be Prepared for a Life of Miracles!

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be always acceptable to you O Lord, our God and our Redeemer.
Today is a most blessed day for those of us who find ourselves with the Catholic branch of the Christian family; on this day Churches of both the East and the West celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation. Today, all of the Catholic work can forget the divisions amongst us and come together to celebrate the visit of the Archangel to the Blessed Virgin Mary and her humble submission to God’s will.

Continue reading “Be Prepared for a Life of Miracles!”