Sunday, 26 May 2013

Consecration of the Parish to Our Lady, on the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, Shaftesbury

Today, I'm going to consecrate the parish to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I'm doing this now for a number of reasons: first, because it’s May, which is her month; second, because it’s something I should have already done during my 6 years here (even though I'm sure other parish priests have done this before me, it should be done and re-done, renewed); but, third, most directly, I'm doing this in union with Pope Francis who many of you will have read recently consecrated his papacy and re-consecrated the Church to Our Lady in the month of May -on the recent feast of Our Lady of Fatima.
I’m sure we all recall the image of him, the very first day of his papacy, directly going to the Church of St Mary Major to lay flowers at her shrine.

But what is a Marian consecration? How does it benefit us? and, how might it relate to today's feast of the Trinity?

A consecration is when something is dedicated to something. In a Marian consecration we dedicate ourselves to her. We offer her our lives, and all that is part of them: our hopes and fears, joys and sufferings, our good deeds, the crosses we carry –everything, we consecrate it all to her. The practice of doing this, of giving ourselves to Our Lady, is both ancient and new.
It’s new because it regained a new impetus after the call for this in the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima in 1917, and the fact that Pope Francis had his consecration made for him in Fatima on that feast day is a reminder of that. We might also think of the motto of Pope John Paul II, “Totus Tuus” (‘All Yours’) –which meant “All Mary’s”.
But it’s also ancient. The phrase of John Paul II was a quote from a Saint Louis Marie de Montfort who is particularly known for the articulation of the meaning of consecrations and Marian consecrations. And we’ll be using a text adapted from him in a few minutes in our consecration.

The consecration prayer of St Louis de Montfort refers us back to an original consecration, the consecration that was made of us in our baptism. In that consecration God consecrated us to Himself. In that consecration, by the action of the Holy Spirit, we were conformed to the image of the Son, and became adopted children of the Father. When we, ourselves, make a prayer of consecration what this does is re-new and deepen that original consecration, it expresses our choice and desire to live out that consecration.

But who is the one who can best help us be consecrated to God? Surely, the one who was herself most perfectly consecrated to God, namely, Our Lady. On today’s feast of the Trinity we might recall how she was chosen before all time to be the Immaculate Mother of the Divine Son; made so by the power of the Holy Spirit whose spouse she was; and we can recall how all this made her the most perfect daughter of the Eternal Father. She was chosen and consecrated in this role not just for her sake, or for God’s sake alone, but for OUR sake, that God might enter our world through her, that we might become united to Him through the union of the human and Divine that occurred within her consecrated womb.

She is the one who was given to us as OUR mother too, “behold your mother”, said Jesus as He hung on the Cross for us, and saw His loving mother there at His feet. And now, she is the loving and powerful mother who looks out for us from heaven. And when we give ourselves into her hands we give ourselves into the hands of one who loves us more than we love ourselves; one who, as the Mother of Divine Wisdom, knows best what to do with what we offer her –our deeds, our prayers, our merits; one who will most effectively direct all things to the One Triune God to whom she herself was so beautifully consecrated.
So, who helps us grow in our consecration to God, well, as Pope Francis put it this month when he was recently leading the Rosary, “Our Lady is the mother who helps Christians grow

So, in a few moments, in the conclusion of the bidding prayers, I will pray as your parish priest, consecrating the parish to her, that she will be our mother and lead us to God. And at the conclusion of that prayer I’ll invite you to join in the consecration words: renewing your baptismal consecration, making it your own, all through the hands of the one who was consecrated to God for our sake.

Consecration of our Parish
of the Most Holy Name and St Edward, King and Martyr, Shaftesbury 25th-26th May 2013
To the Immaculate Heart of Mary
in union of Pope Francis (on 13th May 2013)

The first part of said by the parish priest, the second by the whole congregation
Priest, kneeling before the Lady Altar:
O Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Queen of Heaven and Earth,
and our tender Mother,
in accordance with your ardent wish made known at Fatima,
and in union with Pope Francis’s consecration to you
of himself, his papacy, and the Church,
I consecrate to your Immaculate Heart:
and this parish entrusted to my care,
I consecrate and commit to you all the members of this parish,
beginning with the weakest:
the unborn, the sick, the disabled, and the elderly.
I commit to you our families, our children, our young people,
the single and the widowed.
I pray especially for dysfunctional, hurt and broken families,
for those seeking meaning in life but failing to find it;
for the unemployed, the lonely and the desperate.
I pray for those who are away from the parish,
and are distant from the Church.
Holy Mother, by your powerful intercession,
obtain for us all the graces we need,
And call down the Holy Spirit, your spouse,
to heal and sustain us,
To lead and conform us to the image of Christ your Son.

Please join me in saying together:

We, the parishioners of St Edward’s,
renew and ratify today in your hands,
O Immaculate Mother,
the vows of our Baptism.
We renounce forever Satan,
all his works,
and all his empty promises.
We give ourselves entirely to Jesus Christ,
to be more faithful to Him
than we have ever been before.
In the presence of all the heavenly hosts
we choose you this day,
for our Mother.
We deliver and consecrate to you,
our bodies and souls,
our goods, both interior and exterior,
and even the value of all our good actions,
past, present and future;
that you will dispose of them as you know best,
for the greater glory of God,
in time and in eternity.

Adapted from St. Louis De Montfort's Consecration

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Old Sermon link this week

There is no sermon this week because we have a letter from Bishop Budd.

The link to a sermon I gave on Our Lady and the Holy Spirit in 2008 is here:

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Old sermon link for this week

We have a mission appeal from a visiting priest so there is no sermon text this week.

But you could look at my sermon from three years ago for this feast:

Sunday, 5 May 2013

6th Sunday of Easter, Year C, Shaftesbury

Acts 15:1-2.22-29
I want, today, to say a few words about the Acts of the Apostles.

As you may well have noticed, this Eastertide and every Eastertide the first reading at Mass is taken, all through the season, from the book 'The Acts of the Apostles'. It describes what the Apostles did after Jesus had ascended into heaven. It describes how they spread the Gospel of the Lord's Resurrection all across the known world. Starting from Jerusalem, and ending, very symbolically, in Rome, the centre of the Roman Empire, the centre of the then known world. They had lived with Him, seen His ministry, heard His preaching, watched Him suffer and die on the Cross. And then, to their surprise, had seen Him after He rose from the dead. Their encounter with the risen Lord transformed them and He sent them out to “make disciples of the nations”(Mt 28:19), and everywhere they went they established the Church. And as the Church spread she encountered various issues, as we've heard this week: needing to decide how to deal with all the converts from paganism, i.e. whether they needed to be circumcised.

The simple point I wish to draw your attention to today, however, is the SPEED with which all this happened -the speed with which the early Church spread. Because this is one of the signs, one of the proofs, that the Church is of God and not just a human institution. Yes, she is made up of humans. But the life within her, what makes her truly what she is, is the grace and power of God. And one of the signs of this is the speed with which God established her initial growth. This speed was so remarkable that it is a proof that the founder of the Church is who he claimed to be, namely proof that Jesus is God. As the First Vatican Council taught in 1870AD, this is one of the "motives of credibility" for believing in Him: "The Church itself, by its marvellous a vast and perpetual motive of credibility, and an irrefragable witness of its own Divine legation." First Vatican Council, De Fide Catholica, c.iii.)

The early Church had a great many things against her. She faced persecution by both the Jewish authorities in Palestine and the Roman imperial forces elsewhere. She faced ridicule from the sophisticated Greek philosophers for following an unsophisticated Galilean preacher, and, worse still to the Greeks, preaching not only the ‘resurrection’ of this man but of ALL men (whereas Greek philosophy sought to escape the captivity of the body -as they saw it). She taught an unpatriotic rejection of the national pagan gods. Perhaps toughest of all, she taught a demanding moral and sexual code to a permissive pagan world. And, unlike some religions, she taught peace and did not seek to spread herself by warfare. For all these reasons human expectations would have said she would fail.

Yet, on her first day, at Pentecost, 3000 were added to her number. In the lifetime of the apostles she spread throughout Asia and to Rome. By the mid-second century St Justin could observe that, "There is no race of men, whether barbarians or Greeks, among whom prayers are not offed through the name of the crucified Christ". And by the year 313AD in the Edict of Milan, even the emperor himself submitted to the faith.

How did this happen? Not by the work of men. But by the grace of God.
And, as we hear the Acts of the Apostles read to us through this Easter season, let us recall and give thanks for the power of God being manifested in this way.