Tag Archives: Pope John Paul II

Sacrament of joy


The parable of the prodigal son is mercy perosnified.

The sacrament of Penance is truly a sacrament of joy, a sacrament of mercy. In this meditation we use texts of Scripture, St John Paul II, Pope Francis and St John Vianney to consider how:

  • Christ gave the sacrament of penance  to the Church on the very evening of his Resurrection
  • The sacrament corresponds to deep-seated human needs
  • We obtain many benefits when we go to Confession
  • We do well to receive the sacrament frequently
  • We should do all we can to take others to Confession



The power of the rosary

Our Lady of the Rosary

Our Lady asked the children at Fatima in 1917 to pray the rosary each day. We would all do well to heed that request, if only because it pleases our Mother. But we benefit too from praying the rosary, which is a very powerful prayer. In this meditation we consider how:

  • The rosary arose out of popular piety.
  • Our Lady urged us to pray the rosary at Lourdes and Fatima.
  • Many Popes and saints have recommended the rosary.
  • The rosary is a powerful prayer which contributed to the conversion of heretics by St Dominic,  victory in the battle of Lepanto, the collapse of communist regimes in the 20th century and the conversion of sinners.

Meditation – Love for the Rosary

In 1883, Pope Leo XIII declared October the month of the Rosary. The Holy Rosary is a traditional prayer, going back at least a thousand years. It is a prayer we should say often and well. In this meditation we consider:

  • How the Rosary came to be
  • The recommendation of the Rosary by popes and saints
  • Why the Rosary is such a powerful prayer
  • Why the Rosary is such a rich prayer
  • The importance of the family Rosary
  • How we can say it better

God in the family

We all want to have a happy, united family but it is not always easy to make our desires a reality. In this meditation we consider the importance of the family for society and some practical ways of strengthening family life, following words of advice from Pope Francis. We will consider:

  • the importance of the family for society
  • how husband and wife can strengthen their relationship
  • the importance of welcoming Christ into the home
  • generosity in bringing children into the world
  • how children are a gift from God
  • the importance of teaching children to honour and respect their parents and each other

Meditation on the family in God’s plan

St John Paul II wrote that “The history of mankind, the history of salvation, passes by way of the family.”  In this meditation we reflect on the importance of the family in God’s plan and on how we can improve our family life so that we grow in holiness through it and help our children to do the same. We will consider:

  • Why family life is so important
  • How we can celebrate significant occasions together
  • How we can find God in the ordinary duties of family life
  • How husband and wife can grow in their relationship
  • How we can form our children humanly and spiritually
  • The importance of grandparents in the family

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

Meditation on formation for evangelisation

Recent Popes have been calling on the Church to carry out the new evangelisation – the passing on of the love and truth of Jesus Christ to the world. But in order to share our faith with others we must first know it and put it into practice. In this meditation we consider how we can come to know our faith better and live it out, so that we can communicate it more effectively to others. Among the points we consider are:

  • Christ spent time forming the apostles
  • We too need formation to carry out our mission of spreading the Gospel
  • Much depends on this formation: our own sanctification and happiness, and our ability to help others
  • This formation involves the spiritual, doctrinal, human and apostolic aspects
  • We can acquire this formation in a variety of ways, e.g., reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church and other books, attending talks, frequenting the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Penance, prayer, including the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and more…

The “hour” of Christ

At the wedding feast of Cana Jesus told his mother that his hour had not yet come. As he approaches his death on the Cross he reveals that his hour has come. What exactly is this “hour”? I post here a recent column of mine in answer to this question.

 The “hour” of Jesus appears frequently in the Gospel of John, the first time in the passage you cite at the wedding feast of Cana. When Mary tells Jesus that the wine has run out he answers: “My hour has not yet come” (Jn 2:4). Clearly his “hour” does not refer to the manifestation of his divinity in general, since he will manifest it moments later when he works his first miracle, changing water into wine.

The Greek word used for hour in most of these passages is ora, which is properly translated as hour. Another word Jesus uses is kairos, meaning more exactly time. For example, Jesus tells his disciples “Go to the feast yourselves; I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come” (Jn 7:8). Even though he uses a different word, it is clear that his meaning is very similar to that when he spoke to his mother at Cana.

Later in that same chapter, St John himself says: “So they sought to arrest him; but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come” (Jn 7:30). The same idea of no one arresting him because his hour had not yet come appears again in the next chapter (cf. Jn 8:20).

As his final Passover approaches and after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Jesus reveals something of the content of his hour when he tells his disciples: “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified” (Jn 12:23). A few lines later he clarifies it even further: “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name” (Jn 12:27-28). So his hour involves his own glorification but at the same time some element of suffering.

Pope John Paul II comments on this passage: “With these words Jesus reveals the inner drama that is oppressing his soul in view of his approaching sacrifice. He has the possibility of asking the Father that this terrible trial might pass. On the other hand, he does not wish to flee from this painful destiny: ‘For this purpose I have come’. He has come to offer the sacrifice that will bring salvation to humanity” (Address, 14 Jan. 1998).

The aspect of suffering is further borne out when Jesus compares his own hour to that of a woman in labour: “When a woman is in labour, she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she is delivered of the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a child is born into the world” (Jn 16:21). The hour of Jesus too involves pain but also new life. In his long priestly prayer in the Last Supper, Jesus repeats the idea of giving life. He says to the Father: “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him” (Jn 17:1).

What do we glean from all this? That Jesus’ hour involves his glorification brought about by his painful death on the cross and his Resurrection, through which he gives eternal life to all mankind. It is the culmination, the fulfilment of the whole purpose of his becoming man: to redeem us by his death and Resurrection. “For this purpose I have come to this hour.”

But, paradoxically, Jesus’ hour is also the hour of his enemies. He says to the chief priests and captains of the temple when they come to arrest him in the Garden of Gethsemane: “This is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Lk 22:53). In this hour, which is so crucial for mankind, the forces of darkness, of evil, of Satan rally together to do battle with God and somehow try to thwart his plan. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes it dramatically: “It is precisely in the Passion, when the mercy of Christ is about to vanquish it, that sin most clearly manifests its violence and its many forms: unbelief, murderous hatred, shunning and mockery by the leaders and the people, Pilate’s cowardice and the cruelty of the soldiers, Judas’ betrayal – so bitter to Jesus, Peter’s denial and the disciples’ flight. However, at the very hour of darkness, the hour of the prince of this world, the sacrifice of Christ secretly becomes the source from which the forgiveness of our sins will pour forth inexhaustibly” (CCC 1851).

We give thanks to Jesus for going through with his hour to free us from our sins.


The family Rosary

Saying the Rosary in the family is a great blessing but it is not always easy to do. This answer to a question on the family Rosary is from my book Question Time 1.

133. The family Rosary

When I was a child we prayed the Rosary every night after dinner in our family. Now that I am married I have occasionally tried to introduce the custom but my teenage children always seem to be out or wanting to study or watch television. I find that my friends have the same problem and we tend to give up trying. Is the family Rosary still encouraged by the Church or is it now regarded as outdated and no longer relevant? Is there any way to keep it alive?

You ask a very important question and I am sure there are many others who ask it. The Rosary is not something outdated. It has been part of the life of the Church for over 1000 years and many are the Popes who have blessed it and encouraged its use. Our Lady herself encouraged the praying of the Rosary at both Lourdes and Fatima, so it will never be outdated.

After all, in the Rosary we meditate on the life of Christ from his infancy, through his public life, to his passion, death and Resurrection. That practice will never go out of fashion, any more than will reading the Scriptures. Moreover, in the Rosary we honour Our Lady, telling her 50 times: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women…” Love for our heavenly Mother will never go out of fashion, any more than will love for our earthly mother.

Any prayers that are encouraged for individuals are especially encouraged for families, since prayer binds the family together. In these times, when there are so many pressures pulling families apart, family prayer takes on ever greater urgency.

Recent Popes have strongly encouraged the family Rosary. In 1974 Pope Paul VI wrote in his Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus: “The Rosary should be considered as one of the best and most efficacious prayers in common that the Christian family is invited to recite. We like to think, and sincerely hope, that when the family gathering becomes a time of prayer the Rosary is a frequent and favoured manner of praying. We are well aware that the changed conditions of life today do not make family gatherings easy, and that even when such a gathering is possible many circumstances make it difficult to turn it into an occasion of prayer. There is no doubt of the difficulty. But it is characteristic of the Christian in his manner of life not to give in to circumstances but to overcome them, not to succumb but to make an effort” (n. 54).

More recently, in 2002 Pope John Paul II encouraged the family Rosary in his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae: “As a prayer for peace, the Rosary is also, and always has been, a prayer of and for the family. At one time this prayer was particularly dear to Christian families, and it certainly brought them closer together. It is important not to lose this precious inheritance. We need to return to the practice of family prayer and prayer for families, continuing to use the Rosary” (n. 41).

He went on to say: “The family that prays together stays together. The Holy Rosary, by age-old tradition, has shown itself particularly effective as a prayer which brings the family together… Many of the problems facing contemporary families, especially in economically developed societies, result from their increasing difficulty in communicating. Families seldom manage to come together, and the rare occasions when they do are often taken up with watching television. To return to the recitation of the family Rosary means filling daily life with very different images, images of the mystery of salvation: the image of the Redeemer, the image of his most Blessed Mother. The family that recites the Rosary together reproduces something of the atmosphere of the household of Nazareth: its members place Jesus at the centre, they share his joys and sorrows, they place their needs and their plans in his hands, they draw from him the hope and the strength to go on” (n. 41).

In summary, it is a matter of not giving up. The family Rosary will be of great benefit, even if only a few are there to pray it together. The children should always be left free, and they may be invited to pray only a decade. On certain occasions – a serious illness, a death, a crisis – they can all be encouraged to pray together. It will do everyone much good. And we should not forget that a plenary indulgence is granted whenever the Rosary is prayed in the family.

The origin of the Rosary

Now that we are in October, which was declared the month of the Rosary by Pope Leo XIII in 1883, it is helpful to know how the Church came to have this popular devotion. Knowing how the Rosary developed over time will help us appreciate it more and say it better. This history of the Rosary is Question 131 in my book Question Time 1, published by Connor Court in 2012.

131. The origin of the Rosary        

One of my favourite prayers is the Rosary, which we have always said together in our family, both when I was growing up and now with my husband and children. Recently someone asked me where the Church got the Rosary and I was unsure of the answer. I remember something about Our Lady giving it to St Dominic. Is this true? I would be interested to know more about this.

The Rosary is one of those devotions that developed over time out of popular piety. Its origin can be traced back at least 1000 years to the custom of the lay faithful around the monasteries reciting 150 prayers, usually “Our Fathers”, in union with the monks, who were reciting the Divine Office with its 150 psalms. They would count the prayers on beads known then as Pater noster, “Our Father”, beads.

The substitution of the “Hail Mary” for the “Our Father” came around the eleventh century with the rise in popularity of the “Hail Mary”, especially in England. At that time the “Hail Mary” consisted only of the first part of the prayer, with the words of the Archangel and of Our Lady’s relative Elizabeth, up to “and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” The name “Jesus” was added later and an indulgence for its use was granted by Pope Urban IV in the thirteenth century. The last part of the prayer, beginning with “Holy Mary, Mother of God”, was added by Pope St Pius V in 1568.

In the twelfth century a variety of practices developed, with either 50 or 150 “Hail Marys” being recited, counted on seeds or grains threaded on a string in groups of 10. St Dominic in the thirteenth century did much to propagate the devotion, preaching it and using it in his fight against the Albigensians, a heretical sect in southern France, Italy and Spain. They rejected the sacraments, especially marriage, promoted sexual promiscuity and denied the Trinity. Blessed Alan de la Roche, O.P., tells how when St Dominic was discouraged by his lack of success in converting the heretics, Our Lady appeared to him and encouraged him to preach the Angelic Psalter, as the Rosary was then called by virtue of the words of the Angel with which the “Hail Mary” begins and the 150 psalms. When he did so he was singularly successful and he continued to pray the Rosary daily all his life and encouraged its use.

It seems that this devotion came to be called the “Rosary” from the beginning of the fourteenth century. The Latin name Rosarium, or “rose garden”, was applied to medieval love lyrics and hence to this love lyric to Mary.

At the beginning of the fourteenth century the 150 “Hail Marys” were divided into 15 decades of 10, each preceded by an “Our Father”. The meditation on the mysteries of the life of Christ and Mary would come later. Around 1400 at the Trier Charterhouse, Adolph of Essen composed a work entitled “The Small Rosary of the Blessed Lady”, in which he suggested meditating on the life of Jesus while reciting the prayers. Late in the fifteenth century Blessed Alan de la Roche composed 150 themes for meditation, and he advised meditating on the Incarnation during the first 50 “Hail Marys”, on the Passion during the second and on the Resurrection, Ascension and Glorification of Christ during the third, thus giving rise to the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious mysteries we know today.

In 1569 the Dominican Pope St Pius V standardised the Rosary in its present form. Following the decisive victory of the Christian navy over the Turks in the battle of Lepanto in 1571, which was attributed in great measure to the recitation of the Rosary, Pope Pius V instituted the feast of Our Lady of Victories on 7 October 1572, the first anniversary of the battle. The following year his successor changed the name of the feast to Our Lady of the Rosary.

In 1883 Pope Leo XIII ordered that the month of October be dedicated to the Holy Rosary. In 2002, the beloved Pope John Paul II added the Mysteries of Light, or Luminous Mysteries, which consider the public life of Christ.

More about the history and importance of the Rosary, quotes from Popes and saints encouraging its use, different ways of saying it and answers to objections to it can be found in my little booklet Understanding the Rosary, published by the Catholic Adult Education Centre in Sydney in 2008 and also by the Catholic Truth Society in London. Given the great benefits that have come from saying the Rosary over the years, especially in the family, its recitation is much to be encouraged.