Monthly Archives: December 2014

Christmas meditation on “Lessons from the manger”

The birth of Christ in the stable of Bethlehem has much to teach us. In this meditation we consider seven lessons Christ teaches us from the manger:

  1. Love
  2. Spiritual childhood
  3. Contemplation
  4. Humility
  5. Detachment from comforts
  6. Zeal for souls
  7. Peace and joy

Meditation on friendship with Christ

Jesus called the apostles his friends. He can say the same to each of us. It is a wonderful gift that the very eternal Son of God wants to be our friend. In this meditation we consider what this means and how we can grow in friendship with Christ. We pray about:

  • Christ’s invitation to us to be his friend
  • How we can love Jesus Christ
  • St Josemaria Escriva on friendship with Christ
  • Pope Francis on encountering Christ
  • Conversing with Christ in prayer
  • Getting to know Christ through Scripture
  • Finding Christ in the Eucharist
  • Talking with Christ in work and travel
  • Bringing Christ to others

Launch of “Journey into Truth”

We recently held a very successful launch of my DVD series and book on the Catholic faith “Journey into Truth“. I thought you might like to see this article on it from the website of the “Catholic Weekly”. I’ve added links to some web pages, which are not included in the original article.

New series offers answers to the search for meaning
 
Printable version
By Robert Hiini

26 November, 2014

Fr John Flader at the launch of Journey into Truth.

A new faith resource created by Fr John Flader of Question Time column fame has received glowing praise from some of Australia’s most senior bishops.

Journey into Truth, a DVD series and its accompanying book, were launched at the Catholic Adult Education Centre in Lidcome on 18 November by the Catholic Education Office’s director of religious education and evangelisation, Anthony Cleary.

Based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the series features Fr Flader delivering 24 half-hour talks on the creed, the sacraments, liturgy, morals and prayer, accompanied by illustrative and immersive visuals similar to Fr Robert Barron’s popular Catholicism series.

Originally put together with Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults groups in mind, the resource was recognised as having many more potential applications at its launch, including for both long-term and relatively new Catholics, as well as Catholic educators.

In the preface to the book, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, then the Bishop of Parramatta, said he “highly recommended” the resource, joining Archbishop Julian Porteous of Hobart, Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett of Lismore, and Bishop Peter Elliot, Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne in lauding the work.

“Anyone wanting to obtain “the full measure of knowledge of God” needs to study the Catholic faith, not just to assent to it”, Archbishop Fisher wrote.

“St Thomas thought God had made us curious: we always want to learn more; the more we know, the more we realise we don’t know. Faith aids our search for the truth about God, the universe, ourselves; it is a “taste of that knowledge which will make us happy in the life to come” and once you’ve got a taste for it you will want more!

“Fr Flader’s book, Journey into Truth, is a very good place to start.”

Growing in the faith was not just a journey, but a journey “into truth” and “not mere opinion or sentiments”, Fr Flader said at the launch.

“Our faith must rest on the solid foundation of truth, of the truths of faith. But truth is not only propositions to be believed. It is also, and especially, a person to be known and loved: Jesus Christ, ‘the way, the truth and the life’.”

The idea for the project came from Roman Vedat, director of its publisher, Arts Media Productions, and Michael Mendieta of Campion College who was working with Mr Vedat.

It was created in close collaboration with the then-director of Sydney’s catechumenate office, Cathy Dennis and benefited from the suggestions of the diocese of Parramatta’s current apostolic administrator and then-Vicar General, Fr Peter Williams.

Speaking to The Catholic Weekly earlier this week, Fr John Flader said the project had taken up “every spare minute” of his free time since 2011 writing and filming the scripts for the video.

Fifteen lessons in, Fr Flader and the small production team behind Journey into Truth decided they had discovered a better way of structuring the project and made the tough decision to start filming all over again.

Fr Flader said there was never any thought of giving up. “We weren’t tempted. We thought that this would do a lot of good,” he said. “Everybody is looking for God in the sense that the intellect is seeking truth: ultimate answers to ultimate questions like ‘where did the world come from?’; ‘is there life after death?’; and then the will seeks the good and longs for happiness.

“Everybody wants to be happy and the ultimate source of happiness is the infinite good, who is God,” Fr Flader said, describing that inbuilt longing, coupled with the series’ discussion of science and the world as “a bridge to the non-believer”.

Fr Flader said that while the series does shirk from discussing vexed moral issues such as adultery – in marriage and in the heart – and abortion, he was always mindful in his presentation of God’s love for sinners, and his ready forgiveness for those who seek it.

Journey into Truth book and DVDs are available from Catholic bookshops.

 

Preparing for Christmas with Our Lady

Now that we are in Advent, we want to prepare well for Christmas. A good way to do this is by the hand of Our Lady. After all, she too prepared for the birth of Christ. In this meditation we consider nine lessons Our Lady gives us about how to prepare for this great feast:

  • Avoiding sin and going to confession
  • Docility to the will of God
  • Charity with others
  • Spreading joy
  • Presence of God
  • Not complaining about hardship
  • Penance
  • Contemplation and meditation
  • Bringing Christ to others

The spirit of Advent

A fundamental aspect of the hope and expectation with which we prepare for the celebration of Christ’s birth in history and his second coming at the end of time is the spirit of penance. This is an aspect which is often overlooked. I recently answered a question on it in Catholic newspapers and here it is.

I know that Advent is a season of hope and expectation of the coming of Christ in history and at the end of time, but is it also a season of penance? We don’t hear much about this aspect, if indeed Advent is supposed to be a time of penance.

I agree that we don’t hear much about the penitential aspect of Advent, but we can be sure that it is still there in the mind of the Church.

This is seen most obviously in the colour purple, which is used for the vestments worn by the priest and for other decorations of the church. This colour is used in the two penitential seasons preceding the great feasts of the year: Lent preceding Easter and Advent preceding Christmas. On the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete, or Rejoice, Sunday, the colour may be rose, suggesting a lessening of the penitential aspect as we pass the halfway point in our Advent discipline.

Moreover, the Vatican’s Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (2002) says that Advent is a time of “conversion, to which the Liturgy at this time often refers, quoting the prophets, especially John the Baptist, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Mt 3:2; n. 96).

Indeed, it has been traditional in the Church since the beginning to have days or seasons of penance as a way of preparing for the big feasts. The history of Advent bears this out. In the fifth century Pope St Leo the Great called for fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays in the weeks leading up to Christmas. In 581 the Synod of Mac in present-day France called for fasting on the Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from November 11, the feast of St Martin of Tours, up to and including Christmas Eve, December 24.
When it was first celebrated, Advent began six Sundays before Christmas. The number was reduced to four by Pope St Gregory the Great (591-604). Some Eastern Rite Catholic Churches and the Eastern Orthodox Churches still celebrate a longer Advent, beginning on November 15, the day after they celebrate the feast of the Apostle Philip. Thus for them Advent, like Lent, has forty days and is sometimes referred to as the Little Lent. It is lived as a penitential season, known as the Nativity Fast or sometimes St Philip’s Fast, although the penance required is not as strict as that for Lent. In the Melkite Catholic Church the fast now begins on 10 December.

During this season the strict Eastern tradition requires abstinence from all creatures with a backbone, including mammals, birds and fish, and from all products made from these creatures, including milk, cheese, yogurt and eggs. In some traditions only one meal is allowed each day and this cannot be eaten before noon.

So it is clear that Advent is traditionally a penitential season like Lent. It is understandable that this should be the case. If we are to pray “Come, Lord Jesus”, as the liturgy invites us to do, we should make our soul more worthy to receive him. Like the Prodigal Son, we come before God in humility saying, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (Lk 15:21). This sense of unworthiness, which we rightly feel, leads to the desire to purify our soul from sin and the effects of sin by acts of penance. It is as if we are cleaning out the stable of our soul so that Our Lord can find it a more worthy dwelling place on Christmas Day when he comes. To this end it can be helpful to choose one or more of our usual Lenten penances to live during Advent. In this way we are reminded that we must deny ourselves in order to prepare well for Christmas.

In addition to acts of self-denial, it is good to make a greater effort in our spiritual life too through such acts as attending Mass more often, setting aside regular times for prayer, reading the Scriptures or some book about Advent or Christmas, etc. And of course we should practise more acts of charity and almsgiving, which are so much a part of the spirit of Christmas.

Also important in living this spirit of repentance is receiving the sacrament of Penance, the great sacrament of mercy and joy by which we are forgiven our sins by God. There can hardly be a “Happy Christmas” without being in the state of grace and being embraced by the Father.