What Pope Leo XIII says about him
On August 15th, 1889, Pope Leo XIII issued an encyclical “On devotion to Joseph” (also called by its Latin name “Quamquam Pluries”). The context is the upheavals of the time, summed up as an age of lawlessness. “You know the times, in which we live; they are scarcely less deplorable for the Christian religion than the worst days, which in time past were most full of misery to the Church. We see faith, the root of all the Christian virtues, lessening in many souls; we see charity growing cold; the young generation daily growing in depravity of morals and views; the Church of Jesus Christ attacked on every side by open force or by craft; a relentless war waged against the Sovereign Pontiff; and the very foundations of religion undermined with a boldness which waxes daily in intensity. These things are, indeed, so much a matter of notoriety that it is needless for Us to expatiate on the depths to which society has sunk in these days, or on the designs which now agitate the minds of men. In circumstances so unhappy and troublesome, human remedies are insufficient, and it becomes necessary, as a sole resource, to beg for assistance from the Divine power.”
In such times, the Church took her flight to the intercession of the Virgin Mary. But the Pope now refers the Church to the patronage of St Joseph. In fact, he says, “and We regard it as most certain that this will be most pleasing to the Virgin herself.” Pope Leo XIII encourages us to make the devotion to St Joseph part of our regular devotions.
The devotion to Joseph and his dignity are based on the fact that he is the spouse of Mary and the father of Jesus. He, thereby, takes part in the dignity of Mary and Jesus. He “became the guardian, the administrator, and the legal defender of the divine house whose chief he was. And during the whole course of his life he fulfilled those charges and those duties”. He guards over the Christians, by virtue of his care of the Holy Family, with “paternal authority”.
Pope Leo XIII draws the analogy between Joseph of the Old Testament and Joseph of the New Testament. Joseph, the son of Jacob, guarded over the resources of Egypt to look after people during time of starvation. In the same way, Joseph of the New Testament, “should be regarded as the protector and defender of the Church, which is truly the house of the Lord and the kingdom of God on earth”. He is in every regard a remarkable example of a spouse, father and worker.
(It is not difficult to see just how applicable to our own time this letter of the Pope is.)
In conclusion the Pope offers a prayer to be said to St Joseph:
“To thee, O blessed Joseph, we have recourse in our affliction, and having implored the help of thy thrice holy Spouse, we now, with hearts filled with confidence, earnestly beg thee also to take us under thy protection. By that charity wherewith thou wert united to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, and by that fatherly love with which thou didst cherish the Child Jesus, we beseech thee and we humbly pray that thou wilt look down with gracious eye upon that inheritance which Jesus Christ purchased by His blood, and wilt succour us in our need by thy power and strength.
Defend, O most watchful guardian of the Holy Family, the chosen off-spring of Jesus Christ. Keep from us, O most loving Father, all blight of error and corruption. Aid us from on high, most valiant defender, in this conflict with the powers of darkness. And even as of old thou didst rescue the Child Jesus from the peril of His life, so now defend God’s Holy Church from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity. Shield us ever under thy patronage, that, following thine example and strengthened by thy help, we may live a holy life, die a happy death, and attain to everlasting bliss in Heaven. Amen.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
September 16, 2021
POPE PIUS IX: Declaration of Joseph as Patron of the
Universal Church, 8 December 1870
The following newsletter articles bring the words of the Popes on St Joseph. This one is the decree of the decision of Pope Pius IX to proclaim St Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church.
“As Almighty God appointed Joseph, son of the patriarch Jacob, over all the land of Egypt to save grain for the people, so when the fullness of time had come and He was about to send to earth His only-begotten Son, the Saviour of the world, He chose another Joseph, of whom the first had been the type and He made him the lord and chief of His household and possessions, the guardian of His choicest treasures.
Indeed, he had as his spouse, the Immaculate Virgin Mary, of whom was born by the Holy Spirit Jesus Christ our Lord, who deigned to be reputed of men as the son of Joseph and was subject to him.
Him whom countless kings and prophets had desired to see, Joseph not only saw bur conversed with, and embraced in paternal affection, and kissed. He most diligently reared Him whom the faithful were to receive as the bread that came down from heaven whereby they might obtain eternal life.
Because of this sublime dignity which God conferred on his most faithful servant, the Church has always most highly honoured and praised blessed
Joseph next to his spouse, the Virgin Mother of God, and has besought his intercession in times of trouble.
And now, therefore, when in these most troublesome times the Church is beset by enemies on every side and is weighed down by calamities so heavy that ungodly men assert that the gates of hell have at length prevailed against her, the venerable prelates of the whole Catholic world have presented to the Sovereign Pontiff their own petitions and those of the faithful committed to their charge paring that he would deign to constitute St Joseph Patron of the Church. And this time their prayer and desire were renewed by them even more earnestly at the Sacred Ecuenical Council of the Vatican.
Accordingly, it has now pleased our Most Holy Sovereign, Pope Pius IX, in order to entrust himself and all the faithful to the Patriarch St Joseph’s most powerful patronage, has chosen to comply with the prelates’ desire and has solemnly declared him Patron of the Catholic Church.
He has also ordered that his feast on March 19th be henceforth celebrated as a double of the first class without any Octave. However, because of Lent, he arranged moreover that a declaration this effect be promulgated through the present decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites on this day sacred to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, the most chaste Joseph’s Spouse. All things to the contrary notwithstanding.”
(transcribed by Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
September 10, 2021
THROUGH JOSEPH: what the Saints say about him
Joseph inspired many saints, and they showed what he meant to them. With his nature, he crept into their hearts. It was his natural characteristics of humility, hard work, and justice that make him such an appealing person. Joseph, as the head of the family of Nazareth, became the focus of all those who saw the importance of family life. Furthermore, Joseph was the one person who connected Jesus to the house of David, from where the Messiah came. The life of Jesus comes into perspective in the history of salvation through Joseph. He was a man of God, the husband of Mary and the father of Jesus. The Saints saw this, and they highlighted the man, Joseph, as they saw his role in their own lives.
Man of God: St John Henry Newman
“His was the title of father of the son of God, because he was the Spouse of Mary, ever Virgin. He was our Lord’s father, because Jesus ever yielded to him the obedience of a son. He was our Lord’s father, because to him were entrusted, and by him were faithfully fulfilled, the duties of a father, in protecting Him, giving Him a home, sustaining and rearing Him, and providing Him with a trade.”
Joseph, saint above the saints. St Gregory of Nanzianzen: “The Almighty has concentrated in St Joseph, as in a Sun of unrivalled lustre, the combined light and splendour of all the other saints.”
Holy Joseph: St John Henry Newman
“Holy Joseph”, because he “was sanctified even before he was born. “He is Holy Joseph, because his office of being spouse and protector of Mary, especially demanded sanctity. ” He is “Holy Joseph”, “because no other saint but he lived in such and so long intimacy and familiarity with the source of all holiness, Jesus, God incarnate, and Mary, the holiest of creatures.”
Admired by the angels: St Francis de Sales
“Truly, I doubt not that the angels, wondering and adoring, came thronging in countless multitudes to that poor workshop to admire the humility of him who guarded that dear and divine child, and laboured at his carpenter’s trade to support the son and the mother who were committed to his care.”
Mary and Joseph in union with God: St John Paul II
Whereas Adam and Eve were the source of evil which was unleashed on the world, Joseph and Mary are the summit from which holiness spreads all over the earth.”
Master of prayer and interior life: St Josemaria Escriva
“In human life, Joseph as Jesus’ teacher in their daily contact, full of refined affection, glad to deny himself to take better care of Jesus. Isn’t that reason enough for us to consider this just man, this holy patriarch, in whom the faith of the Old Covenant comes to full fruition, as a master of interior life? Interior life is nothing but continual and direct conversation with Christ, so as to become one with him. And Joseph can tell us many things about Jesus. Therefore, never neglect devotion to him – Ite ad Ioseph: “Go to Joseph” – as Christian tradition applies the words of the Old Testament (Gen 41: 55).
St Teresa of Avila: “Whoever fails to find a Master to teach him how to pray, should choose this glorious Saint, and he will not go astray.”
Doing the ordinary things well: St Joseph Marello
“St Joseph did not do the extraordinary things, but rather by the constant practice of ordinary and common virtues, he attained that sanctity which elevates him above all the other saints.”
Praised for his hard work: Pope Leo XIII
“Joseph, royal blood, united by marriage to the greatest and holiest of women, reputed the father of the Son of God, passed his life in labour, and won by the toil of the artisan the needful support of his family.
The duties of a father: St Alphonso Liguori: “The growth of Jesus in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man (Luke 2: 52) took place within the Holy Family under the eyes of St Joseph, who had the important task of ‘raising’ Jesus, that is, feeding Jesus, clothing, and educating him in the Law and in a trade, in keeping with the duties of a father.”
Guardian of the Church. St John Paul II:
“Inspired by the Gospel, the Fathers of the Church from the earliest centuries stressed that just as St Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, that is the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model.”
Deserving of our love: St Theresa of Avila
“Saint Joseph. One cannot love Jesus and Mary without loving the Holy Patriarch.
To love Mary, is to love Joseph: St Madeleine Sophie Barat. “A servant of Mary will have a tender devotion to St Joseph, and by his homage of respect and love, will endeavour to merit the protection of this great saint.”
Intercession of St Joseph: St Teresa of Avila
“Knowing by experience St Joseph’s astonishing influence with God, I would wish to persuade everyone to honour him with particular devotion, I have always seen those who honoured him in a special manner make progress in virtue, for this heavenly protector favours in a striking manner the spiritual advancement of souls who commend themselves to him.”
St Francis de Sales: “Nothing will be refused him, neither by Our Lady nor by his glorious Son.
What a great saint and example we have in Joseph. Who will, therefore, resist the encouragement to go to him, as Blessed Pius IX says: “Go to Joseph! Have recourse with special confidence to St Joseph, for his protection is most powerful, as he is the patron of the universal Church.”
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
September 02, 2021
Bible Month of September
Pharoah never knew what his words would mean when he said to the people, “Go to Joseph”. He referred to Joseph, the son of Jacob, who had been sold as a slave and carried off to Egypt. There he became influential because he could interpret the dreams of Pharoah. As his influence grew, he was put in charge of the economy. Then drought and famine struck the Egypt and the surrounding areas. However, this happened exactly as Joseph had predicted according to the dreams of Pharoah. Joseph made provision for this time and had large amounts of grain stored. People came from near and far to Egypt, including his ageing father and brothers. In a way only possible to God, it all fitted in a plan that Joseph had to be in Egypt to save His people.
“Go to Joseph!” This is Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth, the husband of Mary and father of Jesus. At a critical time, when Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit, the angel was sent to go to Joseph. A rescue of a different kind was needed. God needed a trustworthy man to take care of Mary in her condition to protect her and her Child. According to the law of the time, she could easily have been stoned to death. This was the moment for an upright man who would take care of her without interfering with God’s plan He had for Mary. The angel appeared to Joseph in a dream to ask him to take care of Mary and the Child. We are struck by the courage and bravery of Joseph. He became God’s plan of protection and care. He took the risk to see Mary with the eyes of the angel when she most needed protection.
Joseph stands on the threshold of the fulfillment of the prophecy of the birth of the Messiah. Via Joseph, Jesus was connected to the history of his people. Even more than that, he became connected to the house of David, from where the Messiah was prophesied to be born. The ancestors of Joseph became the family tree of Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew counts the ancestors as far back as Abraham, “our father in faith”, spanning the centuries to the Babylonian exile, and from the Babylonian exile to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem to fulfill the prophecy. It is not just history; it is history of salvation as God worked it out. All the lines of this history converge at the right time in Joseph who was a descendant of King David. Because of Joseph, Jesus the Child born in a stable in Bethlehem, was humbly venerated by the three kings from the East as the King whom they had found. They came to pay him homage. Through the obedient cooperation of Joseph, God’s plan to bring to affect the final stage of His plan of salvation could fall into place. People who lived in bondage of slavery due to sin could be rescued because the angel was mandated to “go to Joseph”.
Their hunger was for God to come to their rescue, for Emmanuel as prophesied by Isaiah. Joseph ensured that Emmanuel, God-with-us, was according to the prophecies. He is the point, in which all God’s attempts to save His people and bind them into an eternal covenant converged.
God, by choosing Joseph, could finally untie the knots, which He found prevented Him from putting His plan into place: the knots of disobedience (as in the case of Adam and Eve), idolatry, rejection, destructive behaviour, injustice, disloyalty, lack of faith and trust, and hypocrisy. All of these involved directly their relationship with God Who repeatedly and in many different ways attempted to lure them back into a covenant of love and loyalty. He wanted to be “I will be your God, and you will be my people”. Joseph was the perfect match for God. His faith and courage resembled that of Abraham. Such is his position in the history of salvation that the Gospel of Luke traces him back all the way to Adam, “the son of God” (Luke 3), in paradise.
Joseph is mostly portrayed as a man with the carpenter’s square and the lily. He was a man of work who gave a home to his family and provided for them. As a man of purity, it meant that there was nothing that could separate him from his total dedication to Mary and Jesus. There was nothing that could disturb his heart and will to be a servant of God. As the protector of the Holy Family, he becomes an example of the Church, who like Joseph “watches over the mysteries of salvation”.
Go to Joseph. That is what we want to do in September, which is Bible Month with a text for each day, which will help us to grasp the significance of this humble, just and loyal man in the life of Mary and Jesus. In doing so, we will be walking in the footsteps of God from the beginning to the birth of His Son. And Joseph, known for his obedience (Matth 2: 14.21), his justice (Matth 1: 19) and peace (Lk 2: 4-5), is our guide.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
August 27th 2021
SAINTS OF GOD, COME TO OUR AID
The month of August reads like a Who’ who in the history of the Church. It spans the time of the New Testament with saints like St Gamaliel and the Apostle St Bartholomew. We find saints from the Early Church like St Lawrence, saints from the Church Fathers like St Augustine, St Monica and Alipius are saints later like St Abel. And after, in the early Middle Ages, there are St Stephen of Hungary, St King Louis of France of the Crusades and St Albert from Sicily. For the eleventh century, the saint that stands head and shoulders above the others was St Bernard of Clairvaux, simply called the man of the century. From there we move to the troublesome years of King Henry VIII and the English Martyrs like Blessed Richard Bere. The seventeenth century refers us with Blessed Caspar and Mary Vaz to Japan, both martyrs, and to France with the great reformer and founder of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, St John Eudes; then to Africa (Madagascar to be precise) with Blessed Victoria in the nineteenth century and St Rose of Lima from Peru. And add to them the great priest St John Vianney in France. The twentieth century has its own crown of martyrs in African Blessed Caspar of Congo, St Maximilian Kolbe of Poland and St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (also known as Edith Stein). Then there is the saintly pope Pius X.
Every age “produced” its own saints. But the month of August, with the Assumption of Mary and Mary’s Crowning, is the one month that stands out above the others. And that cannot be coincidence. There is a message for us. Who are these saints? Every saint is God’s answer to a particular need of our time and the Church. The answer is not in theory, but in practice. It is the answer in person. The circumstances range from Christians being persecuted, or the Church seeking for a new way of life through renewal. There are saints who reflect the social care of the Church. Knowing more about them, is to make ourselves familiar with the Church itself in its best form – a caring, healing, evangelising and suffering Church, which is the manifestation of the life of Jesus Christ in every age. These saints are the women and men who took care of social needs or who stood up for the truth as proclaimed by the Church. In August we find the saints in every continent. It is particularly pleasant to see the saints of Africa included.
See the saint, and you see the Church in a particular time. But the saints transcend the immediate circumstances of their own lives to become examples of following Christ for all times. They show us the relevance of Christ for our time, and reflect his image then, now and in the future. And because they reveal Christ, they remain relevant. Every saint uncovers the life of Jesus Christ in a very particular way – Christ crucified, Christ caring, Christ teaching, Christ praying, Christ leading, Christ suffering, Christ risen.
Reading the biographies of the saints (hagiography) is most inspirational and a must for everyone who wants to see the work of the Holy Spirit throughout the history of Christianity. It will also motivate us to take an interest in them and the diversity of expressions of the life of Jesus Christ in every age. That is to say, they are Christus redivivus, Christ re-lived, or Christus Renatus (Christ re-born). Another way of saying it, alter Christus, the other Christ. Their lives are no different from ours, and the Holy Spirit is the same. It can accomplish the same that turned women and men into complete followers of Jesus Christ.
Through baptism we receive the Holy Spirit to embark on a course of holiness. One thing we abundantly realise: either aspire to be holy, or you will not be a Christian at all. There is no middle road. Compromise is to embrace average, and average commitment spirals downwards to disinterest, half measures and apathy. The interest in holiness lends credibility to the conviction that Jesus Christ is relevant to our lives, and to the presence of the living God in our lives. God speaks today, loud and clear, in the same way that He spoke in the time of the patriarchs, judges and prophets of old. He is active today as He was in the Early Church. He is the same God Whose love raised Jesus from the dead.
But Jesus Christ must be heard, seen and touched. And that happens in his followers and the community of the Church, his Body. They are the “fifth Gospel”, read and seen in real life. Where is God’s answer to the needs of our time? You and me! What is the need of our time? It is the heresy that “God is dead”. There is a noise drowning the voice of God. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to carve out of our lives within our life circumstances the new face of Jesus Christ that is today’s saint. It is the birth of the saint for our time: The everyday, “workday saint”(Joseph Kentenich). Touch base with Jesus Christ in your own life. Know that your Redeemer lives. Be a blessing to others. Do whatever you want, as though Jesus was doing it. The life of the Christian takes place at the coal face in everyday life where Jesus must be known.
Our saints in heaven continue their mission for us. They are an inspiring source of God dwelling with us. They are with us with their praise and prayers before the throne of God. To them we pray with the words of the funeral liturgy: Saints of God, come to our aid. Angels of the Lord, make haste to help us.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
August 19th 2021
SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION OF MARY INTO HEAVEN, PATRONESS OF SOUTH AFRICA.
This solemnity gains its significance due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Mary is the sign God has given His people in all times as a sign of hope and mercy. More than ever, we need her intercession and prayers. Christians, from early years, turned to Mary for help. That is where we find ourselves. She encourages us to remain hopeful and charitable.
One of the strong facets of Catholic life has always been charity. A whole array of groups, sodalities and organisations remains permanently involved in helping needy people in the name of the Church. On the broader level, there are many collections, such as the Lenten and Advent Appeal, through which the Church raises funds to follow Christ’s mandate to evangelise, educate and feed the poor. Charity work is the very sign that Christ’s preference for the poor has never lost any of its relevance and does reflect in the life of the Church.
In such an important time of our history, it is essential that we don’t lose focus of the crucial aspect of charity. Biblically speaking, our celebrations are acceptable and pleasing to God when they are first and foremost reflected in the care for the needy. Otherwise, it could go with us as in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, where the temple offerings are rejected by God, because there is no justice and no care for the widows, orphans and strangers. (Isaiah 1: 1-23) In other words, liturgical celebrations can be self-centred and not inclusive of others who are less fortunate. These celebrations are in danger of being beautiful and edifying, but they reflect more on ourselves than God. God-pleasing liturgy, God-pleasing celebrations of Holy Mass, have God’s approval when the celebrating community includes the celebration of social care, which is through charity. Liturgy, our religious celebrations, must show God’s care for others. Only then are they God-centred and God-pleasing.
Charity has many names and faces. What do we want to do as Good Shepherd Catholic Church? For a start, we want to highlight the feast day of Mary, our Mother who is the patron saint of South Africa. Assumed body and soul into heaven, she has at heart our cares and concerns. This feast day we want to honour her by the way we show our interest in charity as outreach to the poor.
Charity is physical. We must look after people in kind. They must get food on the table and buy electricity. May I encourage our parishioners to continue contributing so that we can reach out to others who have serious needs. It can be emotional. Maybe, this is the part that is being neglected most of the time. People need so much emotional support. Then there is the spiritual care. It is very hard for the sick person and their relatives to be without priestly ministry. Priests should be allowed to minister to the sick more freely. These are special times that they are not prepared for. They need special training and equipment to visit the sick, even in hospital, and learn how to serve the sick with the cooperation of the medical staff.
Important is that we remember that charity is one of the core functions of the Church in general, and of the parish in a particular sense. Every one of us is called upon to reach out to someone in need. In this way, Jesus’ love for the poor continues through the members of the Church.
Let us honour our Mother, Queen of heaven, Patroness of our country.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
August 13, 2021
Letter to my grandfather
Dear grandpaAs I have only known you of all my grandparents, I am addressing this letter to you. Unfortunately, all my other grandparents had passed on well before I was even born. Looking back now, you were not even that old when we first met. I still remember as if it was just the other day when you came to live with us. You already had a reputation of a very strict person. However, I never got to know that side of you. It appeared that you had mellowed a lot with age, and I got to see the soft side of you. You were so quiet that I often wondered if you could talk. You would sit for long hours on a little bench in front of the house, just staring. There was something mysterious about you. Yes, there were times that you did talk about your life, but it only made you more mysterious to me. I stood in awe of the things you had to say. You worked in the mines in Johannesburg, and many of the leads about your life seemed to come together in the city of gold. There was a certain brother, Hannes, who lived and worked there. But, also he was more a mystery than a real person to me. Sometimes I got the impression that you grew up in the then Orange Free State or even Basutoland as Lesotho was called then. All hints you gave us, which really led nowhere. You often spoke at great length about your time in Port Nolloth. That must have been the time when you got to work for Ovenstone. But I am getting ahead of myself. I clearly remember that you mentioned that you were the carriage driver for General Hertzog. But again, more than that we could not get out of you. It is just about impossible to follow your leads. And as it was in those days, children were not allowed to ask questions or probe just a little bit. What did it matter, anyway? There you were, day by day being part of our lives. The only times when you became really talkative and even jovial were the weekends. That was your time to take a dop. And you enjoyed it. However, even then you had your spells of melancholy. You would sing a song, no it was just a one-liner, “My heart is full of sorrows”. Your voice was sad, and you were not a great singer, anyway. Whatever it was that you drank, it did not enhance your musical skills. I cannot remember that I ever saw or heard you pray. But I sensed that you were a very devout person in your own way. I cannot even remember that you ever went to Church with us. It seems that the Catholic fervour of your son (my father) was instilled by his mother (your wife, Lilian). Yet, stories abounded of your generosity to the priests and nuns in Athlone when you worked for Ovenstone in Cape Town. You were a driver and brought them fish every week. You were a convert to the Catholic faith, primarily due to your very pious wife. It was alleged that you were short-tempered and not shy to fight, even with men much bigger than you.
How we all longed to know more about you and your family background. All of the information went with you into the grave. It seemed that not even your own children knew much about you. It did impress me that you could speak Xhosa and Sesotho. But again, where did you learn it? Once I visited a cousin of my mom who pulled a photo of you from the top of the wardrobe. She claimed it was you, wearing a red fez and that your name was Samsodien. Just more riddles.
In the end, dear grampa (for that is what we called you), what does it matter? The main thing is that I had you for quite a few years. I know that you loved me; in fact, my siblings claimed that I was your favourite. It is true that you gave me the nickname “perrekant” (priest), though you very sparingly used it. When we had visitors and had to share beds and rooms, I had to sleep in your room in your big bed. Until deep into the night you were drawing your pipe.
So, one day when we meet in the next world some pieces of the puzzle that your life is will be put together. For now, I just want to say thank you for all the sweets, the pocket money and the long walks on the beach with the dogs at the crack of dawn.
I owe you a visit in the cemetery to have a good yarn with you. I am not sure if I will learn anything new about you. The memories suffice to form a profile of you – deep in thought, quiet, pleasant, peaceful, patriarchal, slightly superstitious.
Thank you, grampa.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
July 22, 2021
GRANDPARENTS AND THE ELDERLY - their spiritual health in lockdown
So much thought is being given to the physical and mental health during the Coronavirus pandemic. And that is good. Too little thought is being given to the actual spiritual health of people. If that were the case, priests would be essential workers and frontline carers. My experience, albeit not so extensive as that of those working in the domain of physical health, tells me that the spiritual aspect is highly underrated, even disregarded. It does, however, surface in many ways. People want to go to Confession, they want to baptize their newly born babies, they want to get married and they want to attend Church on a Sunday. On the one hand, they know that they need the Church to dispense the grace of God in significant moments of their life such as birth and marriage. And then, of course, there is death. The lockdown has challenged our faith in a very serious manner It is difficult to see God’s hand in this terrifying time. There are others who are quick to point out that we have entered doomsday scenarios. There are even those who transmit messages from persons in heaven or who are visionaries. Some see this time as a call to repentance and punishment for humanity that has strayed far away from God. Be that as it may, it just highlights the fact that there is a vacuum that must be addressed. The elderly are already in the twilight of their lives. One can only imagine what the conspiracy theories and end of world “prophecies” are doing to damage their psyche and spiritual health.
The array of spiritual needs is as many as the emotional and mental needs. They all have a spiritual spin-off. This is in particular true in the case of the elderly. Their spiritual interests have often grown over the years and their mental health is closely tied up with the well-being of their families. Those who have a tendency to worry, just worry even more. Those who are anxious, are even more anxious. Those who are terrified of dying, are just more anxious. They need the comforting presence of the Church and the Sacraments. They are calling for the listening ear of the spiritual leader who is their priest. They want to know through the Church that God is present in our chaotic and turbulent times. They need the Church to help them make sense of what is going on around them and in their life. A priestly person is worth the world to any of our elderly parishioners. The topics range from the mundane to some very personal and existential ones. Time is never wasted on them.
Elderly persons have a tendency to take certain matters more seriously, particularly when it comes to their families. They have taken a keen interest in their children (whether married or not) and their grandchildren. Covid-19 poses a real threat to their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. They are only too aware of the fact that their bodies will never have the same capacity to combat a Covid-19 attack as when they were a few years younger. Covid-19 exposed their vulnerability and made them even more uncertain and insecure. Some forms of incapacitation arise with age. The memory is not what it used to be, and the hearing is far from its former sharpness. The eyes need the assistance of spectacles. Other physical deficiencies arise, such as high blood sugar, high cholesterol levels, the likeliness of different forms of cancer and heart disease. Given all of the above, more elderly people die from loneliness than people who die from an addiction.
All of us need the spiritual comfort and nurturing care of the Church. Even more so the elderly because they experience in an existential way the insecurity and uncertainty of life. It is important to help them talk about these experiences. Where possible, those who care for them, must alert their local priest or let them contact their priest. Lockdown had some very strange effects on people. Most have become more personal, more emotional, more caring and more spiritual. However, these important sources of strength have also become sources of survival. Especially the elderly person has had to learn how to cope alone. But it can also take a very heavy toll. It is not uncommon to hear an elderly person speak of seeing and hearing strange things in their homes. While I am not suggestion for a moment that they are losing their mental capacity, it is a matter that must be taken seriously. Living alone without any or much meaningful distraction can do strange things to the mind. Quite a few have even had to give up the comfort of their own home, to start all over in an old age home facility or in the home of family members, such as children. In that case, they have had to sacrifice their much-cherished personal freedom.
What can we do? Learn to understand them. There is nothing they experience, which you and I cannot relate to. Especially, everyone knows what fear and sickness mean. Become caring of elderly persons and those who are related to you, especially your grandparents. Be present to them. Bolster their trust in you. Be alert to what they say and do. Be their contact to God and pray with them. Make the contact for them with the local Church. Enable them to follow Church services on the internet or TV. Above all, pray with them. The human presence in prayer is invaluable. Show them how important their prayers are for you, your family and the country.
The quality of personal and social life is measured by the way we care for our most vulnerable citizens. They are the elderly and the children. Right now, let us ensure that our elderly are in God’s channels of grace.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
July 16, 2021
GRANDPARENTS AND THE ELDERLY - please handle with care
Who hasn’t seen it written on a box with the red sign of a wine glass: fragile, handle with care? I can’t think of a more apt description of attitude and behaviour towards our grandparents and elderly. Everything in mind and body tells them that their powers of concentration, physical fitness and independence are waning. This can even manifest itself in severe forms only too familiar to us. In everything, there is a sense of fragility around them. Needless to say, there are the robust ones but even they can’t bend so fast anymore, they can’t run as quickly, and they, too, feel the aches and pains of joints.
What images come to mind when I meditate on the lives of our elderly and grandparents? Of course, it all depends on how we experienced them. But allow me to generalise. There is the image of the anchor. Steadfast, tested by the storms of life, consistent, dependable. There is the image of the gold digger who, in the old-fashioned way, goes down to the river with his sieve. Sifting through the stones, he looks for the gold nuggets. The life of an elderly person must be carefully and knowingly mined to find the gold nuggets that make them so special and precious. Then there is the image of the oyster and the pearl. The inner organs of the shell are very soft and sensitive. They are protected on the inside of the two shells by a mantle. Sometimes, an irritant like a grain of sand comes between the shell and the mantle. The oyster reacts and secrets a liquid around the grain of sand to isolate it. Gradually, the liquid becomes hard and forms the iridescent body known as the pearl. The heart of an elderly person is such an oyster – full of pain and suffering. Somehow, they manage to become pearls in their hearts as they have learnt not to abandon or deny the pain, but to shape them into pearls.
The life story of an elderly person is a source that needs to be discovered because it encompasses so many experiences. We must approach them with an open heart that is willing to listen and learn. Very often, it is not necessary to talk too much. It is just a matter of giving time for reflection. We must not think that we should embellish or deny. Some of the memories will require of us to forgive because they are still hurting, even if the elderly person is no longer among us. However, such an exercise makes us more considerate, more compassionate, and in fact, more realistic towards life. No person is perfect, and the life of an elderly teaches us to live with imperfection. By the way, our turn will come one day!
There are some do’s and don’ts when dealing and living with the elderly.
- A person who by virtue of age is getting ready to meet God is very special. Imagine, you have the opportunity to be with such a person!
- Keep them in touch with the Church. Don’t wait until they die to receive the Sacraments.
- Pray with them.
- Never make them feel inadequate. They know it. Never make them feel stupid or inferior.
- Be patient. Patience is to be and live in their time. Frequently, they need more time to do things. In my time, everything must go faster. In their time, it is different.
- Allow them access to the grandchildren. It gives them so much joy, so why not let them see the grandchildren as often as possible. Grandchildren equally enjoy the company of the grandparents or an elderly aunt or uncle.
- Gather the family around them for special occasions such as birthdays.
- Fear can be a real factor in their lives. Your presence reassures them. Make them feel cared for.
- Praise them! Don’t leave it for the eulogy at their funeral.
- Thank them. In this way, you show them appreciation.
- Forgive them as often as is needed.
- Spend time with them. Make time with them special.
- They remind you that life is finite. Understand their fear of dying through kindness and gentleness.
- Show affection! They don’t want or need material things. However, they do want your heart.
- Learn the art of conversation with them. Talk! Listen.
- Don’t burden them with your problems.
- Know their language of love. In other words, learn what makes them feel happy, special and unique. And do it.
- Find time for the gold nuggets and the pearls. Reflection and conversation go a long way towards finding them.
- If they are short-tempered, forgetful or feel down, do all of the above anyway. And always remember, they are fragile. Handle them with care!
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig) July 09, 2021
JULY: the month of the elderly and grandparents
Pope Francis declared July 25 the World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly. It coincides, of course, with the feastday of St Joachim and St Anne, the grandparents of Jesus. We have no information about them, yet there is a deep devotion since early years to this elderly couple. More common is the devotion to Anne, Mary and Jesus as a group, particularly in the eastern part of Germany and neighbouring countries. The interest in Jesus and Mary naturally evoked the interest to go further back, especially in the Middle Ages when more attention was given to the human nature of Jesus.
Pope Francis has a very fine sense and touch to highlight grandparents and elderly persons. The life of an elderly person is very often overlooked. Yet such a person reflects tremendous diversity. Grandparents enjoy being close to their grandchildren to experience them. There is nothing more pleasurable for a grandparent than to hold in their arms the child of the next generation. Quite frequently, grandparents are being lumped together as old and beyond their expiry date, “old” being synonymous with “not much of use” anymore. However, life teaches a different reality. Most of the times grandparents double up as parents again to mind their grandchildren while their own children go to work, often interchanging between being primary carers and secondary carers. While they appreciate their grandchildren, it is a daunting task thrust upon them, when they have to actively start parenting all over again. Nevertheless, most grandparents would do their utmost to secure constant contact with their little ones.
Grandparents are often unique role models. Many persons tell stories of how their grandparents featured prominently in their lives. They acted as inspiration and encouragement. They truly are “grand” parents. Their life experience stands them in good stead. They spend time with their families and instill values of family life and togetherness. They become multi-facetted superheroes, featuring as play mates, cooks, taxi drivers, tutors, after school carers, money lenders (!) and maintenance workers. They are the link back to the past, and there is nothing better than a good story-telling grandparent, even though some stories are just too good to believe! But who would dare challenge them!
Sadly, there are elderly persons who struggle in their old age. Limitations and boundaries are far more obvious. The body cannot perform the same way; forgetfulness becomes more prevalent; illnesses related to age increase. Loneliness is a common lamentation one hears from them. Grandparents must even assume financial responsibility in many cases. Very often neglected by their children or having to carry the burden of helping them, they must share their meagre income, pension or SASSA grant. It is deplorable to see the suffering of the elderly when they should be sitting back to enjoy the last years of their lives. Instead, they must bear the brunt of a grown-up child who leans on them for emotional and financial support. Some of them cannot afford the luxury of retirement and remain working for as long as possible. The days of the core family of three generations under one roof are numbered and very often not realistic. Times and life circumstances have changed. Grandparents, if they can, prefer to be self-reliant and on their own rather than to live with their children. It doesn’t make matters easier when we consider that they are in the twilight of their lives. Elderly friends and family members die, which only deepens the sense of advancing towards their own end – never a comforting thought. Old age leaves its mark on their health. The body just cannot do the same and different forms of sickness related to old age can be a painful experience.
The life of a grandparent with all its knots and twists is very interesting. Grandparents must be encouraged to tell their tales. A life spanning more than sixty years is bound to be full of stories of fun, adventure, risks, failure, guts, love, forgiveness, pain and joy. We must get to know the stories of these heroes of our lives. They must be encouraged to tell these stories. My own grandfather wrapped his past in a cloud of mystery. He never spoke about himself, and we regret that he never did. When he did mention something, his life appeared even more mysterious. My mother and father, on the other hand, were very close to their grandchildren and especially my father was a great storyteller.
Though the feastday of Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus, falls on July 26 (Monday), the day of grandparents and elderly will be celebrated on Sunday, July 25. I encourage everyone to make this day very special. We have Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. So why not Grandparents’ Day? Grandparents are indispensable to our lives and society. For once, we should be making a fuss of them. One can only hope that this day will become a permanent feature in our Church calendar. The elderly are included so that we can show our appreciation.
Though superheroes they are vulnerable. Some manage to remain creative by joining social or Church groups. The able-bodied ones can pursue their hobbies. However, age takes its toll on their mental, physical and emotional health. Illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer’s deprive them of mobility, freedom, independence and dignity. Old age can be very painful. Our elderly deserve proper care, patience, tolerance and loads of love. The less they can do for themselves, the more dependent they become, which is never a pleasant experience for them. They need the closeness of their families rather than the distance of a nursing home. And even when in a home, they must remain part of the family.
Happy is the person who can ignite their torch for the future from the fire of grandparents and the elderly. God bless them.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
July 01, 2021
HOLY MASS: In Jesus we hope
Once I have read the saying, “If a man has no hope, he dies.” It has always fascinated me and upon testing it in many life situations, both of my own and of others, I must agree. Not that I have been brought to the brink of such despair, but it is easy to grasp its wisdom. This became totally plausible when I read the book of the Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning. Viktor Frankl was in the concentration camp in Auschwitz, exposed to the harshest of conditions and the severest brutality. He goes on to say that those inmates who had hope, survived. Those who lost hope, inevitably died. The power of hope is such that it can become the energy that keeps people going in the face of the most trying conditions. Hope means that a choice is still possible. It is the choice to assume an attitude in the face of any circumstances that life throws at us. That freedom to choose, according to Frankl, no one can take away.
We are going through extreme times since lockdown became effective last year. Yet, this time around there is a different ring in the voices I hear – there is fear. I have so often in past days heard the expression “it is scary” as the news of the death of loved ones pour in. We know that we can control the spread of the infections of Covid-19 but that is possible only if repeatedly we make the choice of attitude and responsibility. It is the responsibility to enable myself and others to remain safe. Even then, no one knows who will be infected, and when and how. That uncertainty has bred so much fear.
As that fear grows around us, we must act swiftly to gain control of ourselves. Fear is deadly. Still, we can make a choice. It is the choice to see ourselves in a different way. What is this choice? It is the vision of seeing ourselves in a new way. Or as Victor Hugo puts it, “Word which the finger of God has written on the brow of every man – hope.” In other words, hope is simply part and parcel of the very divine energy that is pumping through our body. To snuff this energy out, is to extinguish the light of hope. It is to succumb to despair.
In a collective way the closeness of death raised the questions about the vulnerability of life and the future of life after death. Both questions have become more and more like a massively overpowering force that knocks people flat. This is particularly visible at funerals. When the thread of faith is thin or missing, the sense of hopelessness is overwhelming.
As Christians, we celebrate Sunday and Sunday Eucharist. This is our time of hope and the renewal of our hope. The presence of God is reassuring us that we may trust in Him. Where He is, there is hope. This was the experience of the Israelite people in the Old Testament. Even in the most adverse circumstances and dangers, God has shown Himself as the God of rescue. Our trust in God rests upon these experiences that are so richly documented in Scripture. That hope in the Old Testament, that has become the hope in the coming Messiah, is fulfilled in Jesus, the beloved Son of God. As long as Jesus loved, there was hope. And through his Crucifixion when he died for us, we know that his love never ends. As long as we have faith in him, we have love and hope. That conviction allows us to say with 1 Cor 2:9, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”
The celebration of Holy Mass (Eucharist) is the commemoration of the hope Jesus gave us from the Last Supper with his disciples in the Upper Room. If we do that every time in memory of him, he is in our presence. If we do what he has done when he washed the feet of his disciples, we find service as the meaning in life. We celebrate in Holy Mass the victory of love, which becomes for us the responsibility to be and do likewise. The Resurrection of Jesus is at the core of Holy Mass. Paul says, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is void of content and your faith is empty too.”(1 Corinthians 15:17). The followers of Jesus celebrated the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup because Jesus had risen from the dead. In Holy Mass we celebrate our hope in a future life and the second coming of Christ. We apply ourselves with renewed vigour to this life because we have hope in life after death. The words of the German poet, Wolfgang Goethe, underpin this thought when he asserts, “Those who have no hope for a future life are already dead for the present one.” In other words, hope in the life hereafter commemorated and celebrated in Holy Mass makes us fit to live. Holy Mass releases us with a vision that empowers us to live in hope. It is our certainty in faith that we will take part in the eternal kingdom of God. And in view of the hardships of this present life it means with Revelations 21: 4: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” It is the great vision of our encounter with God, as Paul says, “Now all we can see of God is like a cloudy picture in a mirror. Later we will see him face to face.” (1 Cor 13: 12)
Such hope demands that we live as “servants of God” (1 Peter 2: 16). In discipleship with Jesus, we can give an account of our hope, as 1 Peter 3: 15 instructs us: “Venerate the Lord, that is, Christ, in your hearts. Should anyone ask you the reason for this hope of yours, be ever ready to reply.” The reason for our hope is love. Or in the words of Viktor Frankl: I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.
Sometimes that is all we have – hope. When the odds are stacked against us, we may still hope in the strength of the present Lord for whom nothing is impossible. Jesus’ parting message to his disciples was, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God and have faith in me.” (John 14: 1) Where Jesus is there is love. And where love is, there is hope. In the words of St Augustine: There is no love without hope, no hope without love, and neither hope nor love without
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
June 23, 2021
THE EUCHARIST IN THE CONTEXT OF THE FAMILY MEAL
Jesus arranged to celebrate the Passover meal with his disciples. It was a most unforgettable experience for them, as they later understood what their Master had done. They had a meal with Jesus, which became later known as the Last Supper. It was ritually connected to the slaughtering of the lambs to commemorate the passage from bondage to freedom. The element of sacrifice weighs heavily on the Last Supper as Jesus took bread, blessed it and said, “This is my body.” Having blessed the cup and shared it among his disciples, he said, “This is my blood”. Then he spoke those words that commit us to this day: “Do this in memory of me.”
However, it must not go unnoticed that Jesus did this in the context of a meal, for that is what the Passover was. How can this meal continue to live in our families? Let us consider for a moment what is important as an expression of family life. The first thing that comes to mind is the times when the family comes together to share a meal. From my own experience it is always a special time. It is so much different from everyone coming at their own time to eat and then disappear into their own room. The family meal is so central to the experience of what family life is about. There is that togetherness, the time to listen to each other, for talking (even arguing), the time to take notice of each other. Very often what happens at the table is a good gauge to assess the quality of family life. I would venture further and suggest that if a family is losing touch of each other, the best way to recover is to go back to the family table. And if things go wrong between the generations? Find out what is happening at the family table. It is and should be a moment when the family has that appointment with itself, away from any interference by cell phones, radio and television. If it is true that a family that prays together, stays together, it is equally true that a family that eats together stays together.
What does this have to do with the celebration of Holy Mass? In essence, it is the Eucharistic meal or the commemoration of the Last Supper. There is so much one can derive from it for our family life. There is Jesus, the head of his family of disciples to lead them in prayer and togetherness. Jesus gives them the example of sacrifice in his Body and Blood. He tells them to do “this in memory of me”. In the Gospel of John 13, Jesus puts on an apron and bends down to wash the feet of each of the disciples. What an astonishing gesture of humility and service. In fact, he goes on to say that they must follow his example and serve others in the same way. The first followers of Jesus understood the meaning of what he had done and met in their houses for the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup (1 Cor 11: 26).
Everything Jesus did was primed for the life of the family. We are what we are as people who come together to share a meal. Life, according to the celebration of Holy Mass, is meant to be a feast. Holy Mass is that feast where we receive the gift of Holy Communion. Sitting at the table of the Lord, which is the altar, we come together as his spiritual family to celebrate who we are as members of his Body, which is the Church. A feast needs careful preparation and the commitment to participate. Whoever is not willing to participate or is doing it begrudgingly, should rather stay away. They will just spoil the atmosphere or put a damper on it. We are who and what we are because we celebrate Holy Mass on Sunday. It takes time. We cannot rush through it. I am often dumbfounded by the question “Father, how long will it take”? And I think of Holy Mass I have celebrated, which took anything up to two hours and no one ever complained or even noticed the time. Celebrations with eagerness and participation are never long. A celebration like Holy Mass is the expression of life, the demonstration of identity, the confirmation of hope, the renewal of commitment to values, the renewed orientation to follow Jesus, and the commitment to care for each other. It is the celebration of salvation, in other words of the wholeness of life from birth to death.
And that is where can again touch base with the family meal. It is a moment of prayer, of thankfulness for the blessing of a roof over the head and food on the table, of being part of a family of love and care, and of living in solidarity with each other. The family meal is the noblest expression of family life. And it takes time. From Italy coming, there is the Slow Food Movement. It is trying to counter-act the meal as fast food. Eating fast food on a regular basis, disrupts family life. It reduces the meal to mere eating as a means of satisfying one’s hunger. There is no touch of communion with each other, of shared interests and experiences and of conversation. It is a far cry from the family meal as the moment of unity and togetherness. The Slow Food Movement wants us to see time as an important part of the family meal. It takes time, as all good and meaningful things do. It is an option for a healthy lifestyle because the food is cooked at home. This Movement started with the realisation that parents and children were drifting apart. The way we life our family life, in fact the way we have our meals can be an accurate reflection of the way we view and practice religion. In 1987 a movie called Babette’s Feast appeared. It showed two sisters in Denmark looking after the Church of their father. They were austere and demanded strictness of discipline. They were obsessed with pleasing an austere God and mistrusted any form of enjoyment, Babette, a refugee from Paris, was sent to work in their household. She conceived the idea of a feast, a well-planned family meal as an alternative. And what a difference and challenge it was to the whole Church! The meal implies joy, affection and care. This experience should reflect our image of God and our worship. God cannot be associated with gloom and misery. He is God of encouragement and fulfilment of life.
Like the Eucharist, family life includes pain and suffering, it knows everything about sacrifice. The family meal is a moment of shared pain and sacrifice, and of solidarity and strengthening. There is no better preparation for Holy Mass than the family that shares the meal. The connection between the table of the Lord and the table of the home is essential. The one effects the other, even if you live alone make it a festive moment. I remember a religious community who always reserves a place for an unexpected guest. In that guest, they say, Jesus comes to visit. Take the Eucharist as a festive occasion seriously by taking the family meal seriously.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
LORD TEACH US – IN HOLY MASS
In the Gospel of Luke, we have the verse “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11: 1). Jesus then proceeded to teach them the Our Father. We can shorten this request by taking the first part as everything that Jesus did with his disciples. He taught them. We take up the words of the disciples and say to Jesus, “Lord, teach us”. The legacy of Jesus is in the Upper Room with his disciples when he said after the breaking of bread and the blessing of the cup when he said, “Do this in memory of me.” (Mark 14: 22-25; Luke 22: 18-20; 1 Cor 11: 23-25) At the same time, it is the legacy of the washing of the feet when Jesus said, “I have given you an example.” The teacher leads by example: “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do as I have done to you.” (John 13: 14-15) These actions encapsulate the entire teaching of Jesus, both in word and gesture. The Upper Room is the school of Jesus. So many of the words of Jesus are about teaching us to find a way of life that will lead to the kingdom of his Father. He teaches us to believe, hope and love, to sacrifice, serve and follow. The celebration of Holy Eucharist becomes the ritual and re-enactment of the life and teaching of Our Lord.
- During Holy Mass he teaches us how important it is to forgive. In many and varied ways, Jesus insists upon forgiveness. In the parable of the man who sought forgiveness but refused to forgive the other servant is harshly judged. If you don’t forgive but received forgiveness, you will be dealt with severely. (Matth 18: 21-35) The ultimate form of forgiveness is the mercy of the Father of the prodigal son (Luke 15). The Psalm says, “A repentant heart, o Lord, you will not spurn.” (51: 17) Right at the beginning of Holy Mass, almost at the entrance before we enter fully into worship, we seek God’s forgiveness. We know we must forgive because our heart deserves peace. We know we must ask for forgiveness because we want to live in peace with God and neighbour.
- The essence of Eucharist is what the word means:
“Thanksgiving”. Jesus teaches us to count our blessings. The celebration of Eucharist is our saying thank you to God for the sacrifice and love of Jesus, His Son. He, Jesus, gives us the access to the unbreakable covenant with the Father through him, the Son, in the Holy Spirit. A grateful heart has the memories of the blessings. Jesus was perturbed when of the ten lepers whom he cured, only one returned to say thank you (Lk 17: 12-19). And he was, to crown it, a Samaritan, not the nine Jews who were members of the faith community of Jesus.
- Ask and you will receive, Jesus taught us. We have so much to ask. Let us not be proud to ask. This happens in the Prayers of the Faithful. But also, we who are with so many needs, must ask, seek and knock. (Matth 7: 7-11) It is an act of humility and demonstration of dependence. In asking we proclaim trust in God the Father who knows what we want even before we can ask Him. It is Him of Whom Jesus says that He sees us more important than the birds and lilies on the field. He knows every hair on our head. Yet, like children, we must learn to ask. (Matth 6: 26-34)
- “Hear, o Israel” (Deut 6: 4-9) Moses said to the people in the great assembly in Deuteronomy. When we hear the readings, we are taught that so important lesson: listen. To listen implies silence and putting oneself aside to pay attention to what is being said. Jesus could go to someone whose voice he picked from all the loud voices in the crowd. We listen to the word of God because it teaches us the truths of salvation, it warns and cautions us, it encourages and motivates, it strengthens and brings hope. And, in the very same way, we resolve to listen to others. Listen not to reply but to understand.
- Jesus said, “I have come to serve, not to be served.” (Matth 20: 28) He served to the shedding the last drop of his blood. To his disciples he said, “You must be the servant of all.” For that reason, he washed their feet. Do this as a memorial of me, that includes serving the way he did. He served until he shed the last drop of his blood on the Cross. Serving with love brings Jesus to others. Serving without love is to be a slave, with no real inner commitment and passion. The celebration of Eucharist is the Passover Meal of Jesus, the Paschal Lamb who sets us free with his blood. To serve requires a new approach to life – it is to seek the gain of the other, not personal gain. It is to give until it hurts. It is to go the extra mile (Matth 5: 41) All that happens before our very eyes in the gifts of the altar, the Body and Blood of Christ.
- Our Eucharist is praise of God. Jesus came to glorify the Father, and the Father glorifies the Son. (John 17: 1-5) We lift up our hearts to praise the greatness and wonders of God. Learn to praise again. It brings the best out of others and shows our appreciation of them. Praise affirms, uplifts and inspires. Praise shows maturity to observe what is good around us, regardless of us. In praise, we enjoy the presence of God and of others.
- Sacrifice is at the core of the life of Jesus. “I came that they may have life and have it in abundance.” (John 10: 10) He wants us to have the fulness of life, and is willing to give himself, like the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep (John 10). True commitment and love are the willingness to die for someone whom we love. Jesus did exactly that. He became the wheat grain that falls into the ground and dies, to sprout and give abundant fruit. (John 12: 24) We find life hard and relentless. We must sacrifice all the time. Sacrificing with Jesus is the key to saving others, just as his sacrifice saved us. The sooner we say yes to sacrifice, the better. It is part of life. And we see that on the altar.
- My peace be with you, Jesus teaches. The gift of the Risen Lord was “Peace be with you.” (John 20: 21) We are meant to be peacemakers, women and men who bring the peace of Jesus to others. When we wish each other peace during Holy Mass, it is the peace of Jesus we wish for the other.
- The Eucharist is to be at the table of the Lord. We cannot rush through this meal. It challenges us to slow down, to absorb what we are experiencing. We return to the roots of our life at the family table at home. To have a meal is the most human celebration of togetherness, unity and love.
When we attend Holy Mass, let us be mindful that we are sitting at the feet of the Teacher, in his school.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
June 9, 2021
THE GREAT MYSTERY OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST, AND THE NITTY GRITTY
The Eucharist is the climax of all worship. All the other prayers and devotions merely extend our worship and elaborate it in different forms. St Thomas Aquinas was in such awe of the Body and Blood of Christ that he said: “O precious and wonderful banquet, that brings us salvation and contains all sweetness. Could anything be of more intrinsic value?” He goes on to say that no other sacrament has greater healing power. “Through it sins are purged away, virtues are increased, and the soul is enriched with an abundance of every spiritual gift.” In this sacrament, we renew the “memory of that surpassing love for us which Christ revealed in his passion”.
If only we could find again the tremendous love of the Body and Blood of Christ and regain the deep reverence that we once had for it. It is, in fact, the celebration of every Sunday, which we are highlighting on this feast day. Every celebration of Holy Mass is the moment of reliving the Last Supper, which Jesus celebrated with his disciples. He took bread, said the blessing, broke it and said, “This is my Body.” Likewise, he took the cup, blessed it and said, “This is my Blood”. And ever since, there has not been a more important, a more lavish meal than the Eucharist. Because, here on the altar of Christ, we bless bread to become his Body; we bless wine to become his Blood. There is nothing that can compare to it.
Now for the nitty-gritty. Because it is in the mastering of those teeny-weeny things that we safeguard and express the great Mystery
- So, what is the nitty-gritty? I am getting ready to meet our God. It begins with our preparation. Make a fuss of Sunday. In other words, remove the notion that what you are going to do is a duty. Let Sunday be an exciting day. Use your imagination to make the day special. Every feast as an event needs time to prepare. It is no different when it comes to the celebration of Holy Mass. For any feast we carefully choose what we are going to wear. We make sure that we are on time. (Coming late is an insult to the hosts) We go in the right mood to celebrate.
- The thorny issue of clothing. The Eucharist is described as a banquet. It is every time a feast. Consequently, it deserves the attention afforded to a feast. At every funeral I observe how well dressed the people are, most of them in black. There is a festive elegance and seriousness. The same goes for weddings where the very clothes radiate joy. Why is that not the case of every celebration of Holy Mass? We are used to proper attire for different functions. Surely, that should also be the case for Sunday Holy Mass! Attire, as clothes proper for the occasion, is not just a form of dressing. It has to do with our ability to grasp the significance and wonder of the mystery that we are celebrating. There are certain parts of the world where we would not even be allowed to enter the Church if our attire is deemed inappropriate. Every little custom and tradition help to enhance in our younger ones the sense of awe for Jesus Christ in the Body and Blood. In case of doubt, the advice is: Dress up rather than down.
- Make it personal. Get the family to draw a name. Each one then prays at Holy Mass for that name. It can also be one name for someone who is special due to birthday, anniversary, baptism, sickness, etc. As family or individual members, come to Holy Mass with a special intention. Let the children bring something like a drawing, a flower or light a candle at the shrine of Mary. Bring an offering of food for the poor or place a monetary offering in the poor box.
- Go through the readings at home before Holy Mass. They sound familiar when they are read. It is difficult to focus on three readings alike. Choose a verse from a reading that is special to you. Memorize it. Wait for that verse to be read.
- Decide before Holy Mass what moment is going to be “my special moment”. The rituals and texts of Holy Mass are so rich and compact that it is difficult to internalize every moment. It helps to focus on a moment, which, in turn, helps to focus on the entire celebration.
- When you arrive at Church, be friendly. Greet people. See if there is someone whom you can help in some way or another.
- Upon entering the Church, kneel or bow properly before entering the pew. Remember: we worship with our body.
- Silence is an important part of Holy Mass. Once you enter, observe silence. Say a prayer and wait for Holy Mass to start. Take in the atmosphere in the Church. See the people around you. They are there for the same reason as you. Look at the flowers, the statues, Jesus on the Cross. Soak in the atmosphere before Holy Mass.
- Our worship is a dialogue between the priest in the person of Christ and the people. Hence, the responses are crucially important. These must be done clearly and eagerly. Sing! The music is many people one of the highlights of Holy Mass. The choirs lead the singing; they don’t replace our singing. If there is joyful singing, we worship better and the whole celebration is more attractive.
- Listen to the sermon. Try to get one special thought that speaks to you. Share that thought with others afterwards.
- If you are going to receive Holy Communion, make sure your hands are clean. Your hands will become the throne to receive the King of Kings. Approach the Holy Communion with focus and concentration. Make sure that no particles remain on your hands afterwards or that any fall on the floor. It is very disturbing to give someone Holy Communion on the hand when it is full of telephone numbers. True, Jesus was born in a stable. But we have the privilege of warm water and soap. Clean hands to receive the King of Kings! It is a sign of respect for Him who is coming into my soul to occupy it on his throne. When I receive Holy Communion on the hand, the hands should reflect the status of Jesus in my life as I fold one hand over the other in such a way that they make a crown for Him. Extra caution must prevail to make sure that particles don’t fall on the ground. These particles are so precious that the Orthodox Church called them “margarites”, Greek for “pearls”.
- At the end of Holy Mass, don’t rush out. Remain until the final hymn is sung to the end. It is a sign of belonging to the community. We don’t celebrate as individuals.
- Once outside, be friendly. Greet.
- Holy Mass is a meal. Do something special at table at home. Let the breakfast or lunch connect back to it by mentioning it in the prayer before eating. The sign of peace is again very appropriate now in the family.
- So, what is the nitty-gritty? I am getting ready to meet our God. It begins with our preparation. Make a fuss of Sunday. In other words, remove the notion that what you are going to do is a duty. Let Sunday be an exciting day. Use your imagination to make the day special. Every feast as an event needs time to prepare. It is no different when it comes to the celebration of Holy Mass. For any feast we carefully choose what we are going to wear. We make sure that we are on time. (Coming late is an insult to the hosts) We go in the right mood to celebrate.
Don’t try all of the above at once. Choose and apply.
May the nitty gritty help us experience awe for the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. May they make every celebration a “wow experience”.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
LOVE IN ACTION - one Bread, one Body
During this lockdown we need a gentle reminder of our pastoral plan Love in Action. The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ takes us back to the Upper Room with the Last Supper. There Jesus demonstrated what Love in Action means as sharing, loving, and serving. And this happens every time when we participate in the celebration of Holy Mass. All Love in Action begins in Holy Mass and returns to it. Whenever we do Love in Action, we honour the words of Jesus: “Do this in memory of me.”
The celebration of Holy Mass (Eucharist) is a constant reminder of who we are, where we come from and where are going. We are the universal community as the whole Church. We celebrate our origin in the unique (one and only) salvation deed of the Father in the life, death and Resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. This salvation deed becomes and remains effective in and through the power of the Holy Spirit. God’s Love in Action is Jesus Christ, His Son, the one and only High Priest, who surrendered to the Father to bring us salvation through the Holy Spirit. To say and practice Love in Action is to be in touch with the celebration of Holy Mass.
The celebration of Holy Mass is “eucharist” as our thanksgiving to the Father’s salvation for us. It is, at the same time, showing us what the world should become, namely gift and praise for the Creator, a universal community in the Body of Christ, a kingdom of justice, love and peace in the Holy Spirit. In other words, our pastoral project Love in Action is nothing but a common act of thanking God for our practical parish attempt to show in a small way what the Church and Christians at large are aspiring. We want to acknowledge God as the one Creator, live in a community called by Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit to work for the kingdom of God of truth, love, justice and peace.
The celebration of the Eucharist finds its origin in the words of Jesus “Do this in memory of me” (1 Corinthians 11: 24-25; Luke 22: 19). As such, it becomes the meal of the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the one cup, of the meal of the Lord and the Last Supper. Like the covenant people in Exodus who entered into the Covenant with God by eating the paschal lamb, so the new covenant people enter into their salvation by God, which was made possible by the redeeming deed of Christ on the Cross and his rising to the Father by the surrendering of the Spirit (John 19: 30) to the Father. Eucharist is not the bringing of an offering or sacrifice to God to please Him. Rather, we receive the fruit of the Cross as act of reconciliation of God. We are included in the selfless love of the Father for us, in His Son, through the Holy Spirit. We are also included by Christ in his obedient surrender to the Father. Through this celebration we become what we are: Church as communion (community) and we receive every time our mission to proclaim. There is only one sacrifice and Eucharist – that of Jesus Christ. The priest at Holy Mass does not bring a new sacrifice. He presides and shows that our salvation comes from Christ, the only Priest of the New Covenant (Letter to the Hebrews). Our Love in Action is in memory of Christ’s sacrifice, through whom we thank and praise the Father.
The gifts of bread and wine and our receiving of them symbolise also our unity in Christ Jesus. Whoever sits at the table of the Lord, becomes one with him and the whole communion of his Body, the Church. There is a sense of solidarity of the sisters and the brothers. In other words, it is here that we experience that the barriers and differences of men, women, different nationality and social status (Letter to the Galatians) no longer exist. In this regard, the celebration of Holy Mass is the constant reminder that we are one in the Father through the one sacrifice of Christ, in the one love of the Holy Spirit. Church, in this way, is the new people, far from discriminations on the grounds of outward appearances. Holy Mass is the celebration that we are on the way towards this unity in diversity and otherness. In our parish, we are journeying towards such unity, always stumbling and standing up to try again.
Holy Mass, as the source and culmination of the community and of the individual Christian, presupposes that they are already living the Eucharist and that their lives, hope and efforts are included in the celebration. The purpose struggles and pastoral efforts of our pastoral plan flow into the eucharistic celebration, which, in return strengthens and empowers them to go out and live in the world. The community becomes the communion with Christ, who binds all different forms of groups and organisations together into one.
When we view our programmes, which implement our pastoral plan “Love in Action”, we see that all of them must find their source and inspiration in the celebration of Holy Mass. Hospitality begins and returns to the table of the Lord; the house church finds its identity at Church and reflects the Church at home and in the suburb; healing takes place through forgiveness and reconciliation during Holy Mass and continues in daily life; and helping hands first experiences the charity of Christ, which, then, becomes practical in the outreach to those in need. In other words, the supreme act of Love in Action is the life, death and Resurrection of Christ as celebrated in Holy Mass. It is God’s gift to us.
In the celebration of Holy Mass, we find ourselves called, formed and sent to exercise “Love in Action”.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
May 28, 2021
Due for a new Pentecost with Covid-19
Sometimes it takes a long time to change old habits and develop new ones. It takes even longer for change when it comes to adopting new ideas. But then, suddenly something happens, which speeds up that process at breath-taking pace. Take, for example, the acute water shortage in the Western Cape just two years ago. There was the doomsday scenario of Cape Town running out of water. With the help of a massive awareness programme we changed the way we viewed water as a basic natural resource and complied with certain restrictions such as a two-minute shower. The success was tremendous and hopefully still has its mark on our awareness.
Why this long-winded introduction? The theme that is occupying us day and night all over the world is the Covid-19. Without going again into all the details of the effects, what really concerns me is an interpretation in faith. That, and only that, will ultimately satisfy us. Ideally, there has to be a kind of discernment that includes the widest range of believers to detect the movement of the Holy Spirit in their souls. That is where God speaks to us and His Church. Our liturgical feasts do centre our attention to be on a certain focus. Every feast is not just the cyclical repetition of an event in the history of salvation. In other words, it is not the same over and again. Rather, the feast occurs into our own time, against the backdrop of our personal, ecclesial and global circumstances. We commemorate and celebrate from the past to understand the present, to launch into the future. This, in fact, is the most exciting venture for our faith, because it will then always remain vibrant and relevant, believing in the God of life.
This time around it is Pentecost, that moment of the powerful descent of the Holy Spirit, significantly as fire. It is a moment of total transformation from fear to boldness, from anxiety to light-hearted joy, from muteness to eloquence, from puzzlement to understanding, from confusion to enlightenment, from apathy to excitement, from stagnation to creativity, from brokenness to healing. The devastating contrast was the Tower of Babel, symbol of confusion, decadence and ultimate fear. Pentecost is direct divine intervention. We experience the perversion of our Christian values, which are from within and outside. The battle to maintain our values is energy sapping, especially the value of an active faith in our families. Regrettably, we have become accustomed to a little bit of this and that when it comes to Church and Christ. We tend to celebrate average.
Covid-19 exposed us. It engulfed us into even more confusion and darkness, not just for the individual but for the global community. The conditions of lockdown eroded our normal parish community life, at times to a frustratingly low level. The spirit of minimalism (less is better) is easier than the spirit of maximalism, which tries in vain again and again to accomplish more, rather than less. It is the pitched battle between dull acceptance of the status quo and sacrifice to seek something more and different. On the information front, who dares to assert that they know the conclusive truth? There always seems to be another twist. Rather, truth appears to be a matter of choices: who do I believe is telling me the truth and what authority do I accredit with telling me the truth or, at least, enough for me to make up my own mind? The severe consequence of Covid-19 is death. Facing our mortality taught us the lesson that there is nothing permanent or eternal about ourselves and our own ventures. Everything has the mark of finality. And that awareness evokes fear and loss of purpose in life.
We and our time are ready for Pentecost – new Pentecost, new evangelisation. And that will largely depend on those who are willing to enter into a deeper, more personal and daring relationship with God as prerequisite for the Holy Spirit to do its work of total transformation in us. This will mean a more than average spirit of prayerfulness. The Holy Spirit, though in storm and fire, does its work in the silence of the soul. Prayer is the key to unravel God’s will and purpose for His Church. It is in prayer where the logic of God finds its way into our minds, which can be very different from our own wishes and plans. And by, that, I mean prayer that is contemplative, the prayer of the person who is in communion with God through the Holy Spirit. Next, we will need the spirit of sacrifice. Sacrifice is the reverse side of love. We know that the challenges are enormous. That doesn’t matter. That is just how things are today. Sacrifice is knowing that the Cross of Jesus is not spared those who follow him. And that awareness, too, is the work of the Holy Spirit. Working for the Gospel is hard work based on perseverance and consistency. Success is never guaranteed. What counts, though, is the certainty in faith of being in sync with God’s will for us. It is not even the size of the task that matters. Even the smallest of tasks, done for the greater glory of God, is a heroic act of faith. We need, next, the spirit of apostolate. In other words, of being and doing what the apostles did: becoming witnesses who live and work as though Christ is doing in us. No area of life can be excluded from the Gospel as the life-giving presence of Christ to erect the kingdom of truth, love and justice. Apostolate is the expression of solidarity with the Risen Lord in his attempt to bring the flock home to the Father. And that includes the fervour to see to the needs of those less privileged. Pentecost has the effect of wanting to care for others. Pentecost is to be immersed in the celebration of Eucharist. The Holy Spirit changes bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, where we become what we receive. Lastly, Pentecost is community. We need like-minded and like-believing people who are in communion with the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit, to form a bond of love with one another. To believe in the Holy Spirit is to know that a new world is arising out of the ruins of an old one.
Today everything favours the acceleration of the work of the Holy Spirit. Let us be part of its new creation. There is so much depth in the simple prayer: Come Holy Spirit and renew the face of the earth.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
May 20, 2021
He ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father: Jesus our constant
Our lives have had more zigzags during lockdown than I care to count. Just when we think we are getting out of the woods, there is something else. We are collectively holding our breath to see what is next. In all of this, there appears to be no constant. Covid-19 is a moving target, impossible to subdue. We continue to feel vulnerable. This experience is enhanced by the fact that obstacles are mounting as people attempt to come to grips with the boundaries enforced around them. Who doesn’t have a story to tell about uncertainty, insecurity and instability? And the end is not in sight. In fact, the horrific prospect of a third wave of infection is staring us in the face.
We are celebrating the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. As we look for ways of coping, let us not lose sight of the fact that lockdown is more than just the outward restrictions. It has a profound impact on our spiritual life if we are willing to seek for the underlying meaning of crisis. The life of Jesus is our most reliable constant. He touches us in different ways. For some, it is the experience of true love leading them to the altar to seal their commitment in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. For others, it is the birth of a child, signifying life that will continue. Yet for others, it was the experience of healing when death appeared to be imminent. For others, it was the experience of forgiveness. Some, and their numbers are increasing, recount the experience of death. Or that of loss of quality of life due to retrenchment. And let us not forget the tricksters who heartlessly exploit others for personal gain. It is sad to see a young family ending up on the street because they have placed their trust and money in someone to help them find accommodation. The life of Jesus is our constant: his homelessness, rejection, pain, emotional deprivation, suffering, loneliness and death. The other side of his life is equally evident: his feeding of people, welcoming of children, protecting of women, including of strangers and forgiveness of sinners.
Jesus is our constant, and that we can follow in his Ascension into heaven. Every moment of his life waited for this to happen - the return to the Father to sit at his right hand. He ascends into heaven not as an individual. He is the Son of God, the Good Shepherd, who leads us home where “there are many rooms in the Father’s house” (John 14: 2). He goes to the Father with each one of us and his body carries the signs of his agony and Crucifixion. He goes with our names inscribed in his heart. That is how we, too, ascend into heaven in, with and through Jesus Christ, and await his second coming to bring us all victoriously to the Father’s house. St Paul writes reassuringly in Philippians 3: 20: “But our homeland is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ”. Jesus Christ does not leave us alone here. “I shall not leave you as orphans; I will come to you in a little while.” (John 14: 18).
He is with us to the end of time when we will see the Father face to face (1 John 3:2) He sends us his Spirit, the Spirit of truth as his new presence with us to be free from anguish, fear and anxiety. As St Paul instructs us: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
Jesus is our constant. Though he ascends to the Father, leaving his disciples behind, he remains with them. He weaves a bond between heaven and earth. The two remain permanently interwoven. There is a ladder from earth leading into heaven. Every moment that we live in Christ is the ascent on that ladder, wrung by wrung, until we reach our destination at the end. The constant is the power of love poured out into the universe, the planet, the galaxies, the solar system, the planets, the earth. There is nothing that can stop the stream of love that is gushing forth stronger than ever since the Ascension of Jesus into heaven. It is so unstoppable that nothing can separate us from it. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (…) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 35-38)
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
May 11, 2021
Mother’s Day, as we know it in South Africa, has its origin in the United States of America. A woman, by the name of Anne Jarvis, introduced it. She never intended it to be commercialised to the extent it had become. In most Catholic countries Mother’s Day was celebrated around a feast day of Mary, the Mother of God. This is, for example, still the case in Argentina, where mothers are celebrated on the third Sunday of October, which used to be the day of Mary, the Mother of God. This feast day has since been moved to January 1, but the Argentinians have left their Mother’s Day on the third Sunday of October. Similarly, in Belgium Mother’s Day used to be on the Assumption of Mary. Clearly, there has been a close connection in the Catholic Church between Mother’s Day and Mary.
Mother’s Day is rated among the most important days in our calendar. Any other occasion or celebration gives way to it. Such is the prominence it enjoys in our minds and feelings. It is a day of spontaneous joy and gratitude. We show our love and affection for our mothers, acknowledging the position they have in our lives. As it is with all celebrations of this kind, wounds can open as we consider people who lost their moms or who grew up without them or have negative experiences. Stories of people searching for their moms are very moving. On this day, we include all mothers, alive or dead. Our emotions for them are the same, whether they are with us or not.
The Church holds motherhood in highest regard. She shows this primarily by the way she honours Mary as Mother. Equally, the Church sees herself in the role of a mother, giving spiritual birth to children, teaching and nourishing them. A caring Church follows the example of Mary, Mother of the Church, to make sure that she never distances herself from being at the side of the underprivileged, the sick, the dying and people in need. Through the sacraments, the Church attends to the salvation of people in different circumstances and phases of their lives. Mary was the Mother God Himself chose for Jesus, His Son. He considered her the most perfect mom. He placed His full trust in her to care for the most precious treasure of his heart, which was His Child.
Mother’s Day evokes memories of our own mothers. Countless are the episodes and anecdotes of their loving, disciplining and tough presence. My mom was not one to wait for my father to come home for a good spank. The wet dish cloth was readily available and generously used. All I can remember was that she was never malicious. Unforgettable is the dish with the chocolate icing, which we licked clean. Or the jerseys knitted and the special dishes. She could even make me drink cod liver oil in Winter as if it was Oros. Or the sacrifice of working long hours to help support the family. She never seemed to stop giving. It is all these simple memories, strung together, that make up a beautiful mosaic of a loving face that is imprinted in my heart. And I think that I am speaking for most of us. All our mothers, therefore, deserve to be remembered today in a special way.
The Bible shows us the motherly tenderness of God. My favourite verses are from Ps 139, which speak of the refined love and gentleness of God. Just imagine:
“You have formed me in my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.” Or: “Behind me and before, you hem me in and rest your hand upon me.” What can beat the following most touching relationship between God and me:
“Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. See, upon the palms of my hands I have written your name.” (Isaiah 49: 15-16)
Mary reflects to us, as she did to Jesus, the tenderness of God. For that reason, there is a tradition that says: “God could have made a more perfect Creation; but He could not have made a more perfect Mother for His Son.” We include Mary, the Mother of earth and heaven, in our Mother’s Day celebration.
Perhaps it is appropriate now also to mention a thought of Pope Francis in his encyclical “Laudato si” on the conservation of the planet: that the Earth is our mother. We pray for the careful loving treatment of Mother Earth who nourishes us.
To all mothers, happy and blessed Mother’s Day.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
May 07, 2021
The month of May sets a completely different tone for our prayer life. It is about Mary. T he tone is echoed by the past: Nothing is too much for Mary. We don’t mind going a bit overboard with our love for the Mother of Jesus. The reason, quite simply, is that she was destined by God to become the Mother of His Son. The changing moment in Mary’s life was when the Angel Gabriel appeared to her. She was to become the Mother of the Son of God! Unthinkable, unfathomable! Yet, there it is for us to read in the Gospel of Luke. Heaven held its breath as the young woman of Nazareth had all the freedom to give her reply. And she did, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to Your word.” That was the answer most pleasing to God Who had been struggling to find that answer since Adam and Eve in paradise, and afterwards. Mary’s mind and heart were set on the will of God. It was a moment of great triumph for the Father who sends His Son through the Holy Spirit. The Triune God acted into the life of the young woman of Nazareth. We have every reason to stand in awe of Mary’s faith, hope and love because she represents us in our feeble attempts to cooperate with God’s will. She made it possible for the Saviour to be born. All our devotion to her is nothing but the faint echo of God’s own way of seeing her. He immersed her into His plan, and she cooperated. She became the instrument for the Incarnation of the Son of God.
We find ourselves eager to express our love for Our Lady. This is all the more important during the lockdown that has been gnawing at our patience and deprived us of so many things we hold dear – the freedom of worship, movement and social interaction. Not to mention the loss so many have had to endure because of the death of loved ones or the erosion of their ability to fend for themselves through loss of income. It really is a time when we have every reason to cry out to the Mother of Jesus for her intercession. As at the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee, we implore her to say those life-changing words to her Son again into our time of helplessness: “They have no wine”, and “Do, whatever he tells you.” She knows there is hope where Jesus is.
The devotion to Mary is in our Catholic “DNA”. It comes as second nature and spontaneously. We are in sync with the Church and its teachings and move with the Church’s rhythm during the year, following the feast days of Mary and special times dedicated to her. One such time is the month of May. We attempt to pray with Mary to God, we allow ourselves to be guided by her to the mysteries of the life of her Son. We call on her to intercede the gifts of the Holy Spirit for the experience of Pentecost. Following her example, we become disciples of Jesus.
Our favourite forms of devotion come to the fore, among them the Rosary as the most eminent. It is the time when we raise our hearts to Mary with the Rosary. The repetition of the name of Mary, full of grace, swings with the heart’s desire to find some kind of appropriate expression for what we feel for her. And what better way than with the words of the Angel Gabriel. Novenas and prayers weave a crown of childlike love for the Queen of heaven. We know that no one who is attached to Mary, will ever be lost. We must make it a worthy exercise of consecrating our loved ones to Mary for her care and intercession.
Our children may not miss out. To find the way to Mary is to be on the most secure path to the heart of Jesus. They must see in us that bond to the Mother of Jesus so that they, too, may benefit from her motherly affection and example of discipleship. Let them find their own childlike ways of showing their love for Mary. It can be the recital of the Hail Mary, an altar of Mary at home, a pilgrimage to Mary in our parish church, lighting a candle, flowers and special deeds for Mary.
Let us not forget that the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima is on 13th May. Last year this time we prayed the Hail Mary as contributions to her spiritual bouquet. She is dear to us as Our Lady of Fatima. We want to honour her in a special way.
May we show her our love as she will show us her love – Jesus, her Son. “Full of grace” means full of Jesus, the Son of God, full of the Holy Spirit, full of The Father, full of care of others.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
April 29, 2021
Good Shepherd: guide to Love in Action
Good Shepherd is without a shadow of doubt one of the most significant images of Jesus Christ. He said so himself, “I am the good shepherd.” (John 10). Countless are the images of the Good Shepherd showing him always as a shepherd of care, love, wisdom and strength. During the lockdown we are more than ever aware how much we are in need so such a leader who has come to serve, not to be served. We must never lose sight of the fact that our Good Shepherd himself is out every moment to bring the lost sheep home, and to gather the flock in a safe place.
Looking back, our point of departure is that in faith we believe and trust that our “chief-of-staff” is Jesus, our Good Shepherd. Under his loving care, we grow. He endows us with his wisdom to understand, analyse, interpret and, from there, to make good decisions. It is with his strength that we focus, endure and persevere. He, the Good Shepherd, is loyal to us, even if we fail and fall. More importantly, he knows us by name. And as his flock, we are not just one among many – we are HIS FLOCK, the one he leads to pastures that are good. He, the Good Shepherd, takes us away from toxic pastures of bitterness, intolerance and prejudices to fresh and green pastures of openness, patience and understanding. It is our experience that if we remain close to him, he will nurture us in moments of tiredness; he will bandage the emotionally and spiritually wounded. And equally important, his leadership is one of correction and guidance. To know him as our Good Shepherd, is to feel relieved and comforted that he is in charge. Not all things are solved immediately, some can wait until such time that he shows us the way. We don’t have to rely on our own meagre strength and think that all depends on us.
Our awareness has grown that we have to apply ourselves all the time to keep the level of unity and love as high as possible. As much as we try, we also realise that it is first and foremost the work of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who calls us together and mentors our efforts. Our measure of dependence on him is also our measure of trust in his ability to lead his flock. It is the kind of dependence, which results from a very deep, personal attachment to the Good Shepherd who knows his own. In other words, the more we put him in the foreground, the less we will be anxious about our weaknesses, failures and boundaries. The Good Shepherd makes space for all of us to have “green pastures” of forgiveness and reconciliation. It is, ultimately, not our work but his leadership and wisdom, which shows us the way forward. The Good Shepherd brings us the reign of God and His kingdom of truth, justice and peace. Under his guidance we find ourselves as one people of God regardless of ethnic group or culture. His leadership and healing presence forms and changes us to become loving shepherds ourselves. He leads us to freedom from crippling prejudices through which we stray from him or cause others to stray. The Good Shepherd keeps us in the fold, which he leads to total unity and love, until we all see God face to face and praise Him with one voice. In summary, that is his Love and Action as recommendation for us.
The most outstanding Good Shepherd moment of the parish is always the celebration of Holy Mass. This celebration is the test of where we find ourselves. Are we a welcoming community, do we greet, do we at least exchange pleasantries, do we make one another sense that we are keen to be at Church? Every week one of the most touching moments for me at Holy Mass is when I walk down the centre aisle in procession with the altar servers. It strikes me: “these are people in Holy Mass who have all come to be with our Lord. They are the communion of believers with whom I am blessed to celebrate the Mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ.” The celebration of Holy Mass is our time with Christ, our Good Shepherd who is the Lamb of God, the one who out of love gave his life for us, the sheep, so that we may have life in abundance. It is the time where Christ gathers us to fulfil his petition to the Father, that we all be one.
We are his sheep; he is our Shepherd. His Shepherd Love, Loyalty and Wisdom becomes our duty. We, too, become shepherds. It is our shepherd duty to care, proclaim and worship. We are his sheep; he is our Shepherd. Our duty of care is by the way we look after our children and youth. We pray, that the Good Shepherd bless our youth and youth programme, Life teen, as well as all our children and teachers in the catechetical programme. We try to reach out to our men, so that they take over from the Good Shepherd to lead the parish by the way they serve and create spaces of love and care.
Our celebration of our feast day would be incomplete and short-sighted if we did not remember the wider Church and our country. We are part of the local Church, the Archdiocese of Cape Town, under the Shepherd leadership of the Archbishop. Equally important is our awareness of the universal Church under Pope Francis, the successor of Peter who received the instruction to “feed the sheep”. Shepherds are leaders of love, wisdom and authority who have the concerns and well-being of their flock as their first priority. They are willing to be like Jesus by giving themselves without reservation for the life of the people. “Life in Action” is possible where we foster the Church’s assurance of unity in our leaders. Equally, on our feast day we share the responsibility to pray and work for a country that is united in the love of the Good Shepherd.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
April 22, 2021
Loneliness has been a very common experience of the lockdown. Even for people with very busy schedules loneliness is a real problem. It is that feeling of emotional emptiness and of being totally alone that opens within such a person a deep, empty shaft. It is the experience of a huge abyss, of sadness and pain. Such moments can be very risky if they repeat themselves or last for a long time.
Loneliness is increasing, especially among the senior citizens. They feel abandoned by family and friends, and of being of useless since they no longer can be productive or of use to others. We find them everywhere: primarily in nursing homes, frail care centres and hospitals. Others are in their own homes where they hardly get a visit or a phone call. But they are not the only ones. Loneliness is a particularly painful and sad experience for those who have lost a loved one. For them it requires so much time for social adjustment as they seek to carve out their place in society again. Increasingly loneliness is an experience also of the younger generations. They have a deep desire to be connected, loved and valued. However, many of them don’t ever find their desire fulfilled.
Loneliness has become a symptom of our time and the kind of society we live in. The family gatherings of two or three generations were the best tonic against loneliness and the most effective way of experiencing the large social support system. The visits of friends without rush from one appointment to another have become rare. Spending time with a relative or friend, in fact “wasting” time is something of the past. We live in a world where everything is measured by “getting something done”. It has become the common sickness that we find it difficult to find time for ourselves. It’s a case of “all work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy.” Today the child with the cell phone around the clock and the TV is primed for loneliness one day.
What can we do about it? Firstly, we must remember that the way we care for life is on the line. We are social beings in need of contact, interaction and companionship. And the older we get, the more we feel the need to be secure and cared for. What was done spontaneously in the past, must be done purposefully today: the care for each other. The different generations must come together to share time and mutual appreciation. In addition, we must be conscious of the fact that there are people in our own neighborhood who want companionship. It is amazing to see how their eyes light up when someone visits. The real miracle of being loved and appreciated comes out when it is just about you, for the sake of you, and for nothing else. Life has become incredibly fast. We have to resist becoming small screws in the huge relentless machinery of time. In other words, we must learn to slow down. We must find the time to sit at table and enjoy each other’s company for the meal. We must find time again to play. We must learn again to live from within, to be in charge of our lives. Otherwise, we wake up one day and find ourselves with the feeling of being remote controlled by outward factors that make up our diaries for us. The most important thing in life is relationships. Relationships slow down life, prioritise our appointments and reset our true values.
Prayer is a wonderful way of combatting loneliness. Being in the presence of the Lord, and meditating on his loving presence, is to know that I am not alone. And let us not remember that he also experienced loneliness in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was sad to find his disciples asleep while he was undergoing the agony of the pain in his soul. And then that moment of extreme loneliness when he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” In prayer we discover the Lord Jesus who dwells in our souls.
Loneliness is challenging us. We must be aware that it is around us and we must learn to see it. Even in the happiest surroundings, people can be very lonely. We must learn again to share our time and love with others. The solutions are not alcohol, drugs and sexual relationships. The solution is the closeness of kind-hearted and generous people who make me feel wanted and valued. It begins with the fact that we see ourselves wanted and appreciated by the great and loving Triune God.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
April 15, 2021
Jesus is risen, alleluia – to be our love, peace and freedom
The message of Easter is peace and freedom. Peace enters us because we are receiving the most wonderful gift who is Christ, the Risen Lord. He dispels darkness and brings light. We are free as the children of God who cry out “Abba, Father”. Our freedom from sin comes through the Cross and Resurrection of Christ whose body still bears the marks of his wounds. We are free because through Jesus we have become children of the Father. This message is so appropriate for this time of uncertainty during the lockdown. Easter calls us back to the centre of our faith: Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. He is alive, and among us!
In fact, we have become an Easter people, those set free to live in peace with one another and the whole of Creation. In our Easter hymns and prayers, the praise of the entire universe and of all humankind echoes: alleluia, Christ is risen as he said. In these words, we celebrate peace and freedom for all, and everything created.
Easter is God demonstrating that love is stronger than hatred, and that forgiveness brings healing whereas revenge poisons the mind and soul. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is here to stay with us, though seated at the right hand of the Father. Through the Resurrection the Cross of Jesus has been erected as the sign of redemption for everyone. It is the sign of his all-conquering love and the generator of hope in times of darkness, despair, gloom and death. In other words, there is and will always be a new sunrise that is the Risen Christ, the Sun that will never set on the world.
Easter, though repeated year after year, is never the same. It is not just the commemoration of an historic event. In and through the Scripture and the Sacraments, the Resurrection of Christ takes place in our midst and within the context of our living conditions, both personal and societal. We celebrate Easter within our time of social, economic and political chaos. We note the presence and actions of evil forces that have beset our nation, attempting to put a stranglehold on our hope, unity, social cohesion and national identity. There is the growing awareness that somehow, we are at the crossroads of our history yet again.
Easter casts light over the darkness of our country. It reassures us that there is hope in victory because Christ has overcome such evil and replaced it with the trust in his redeeming love that brings unity. As his followers, Easter is the time when we must close ranks as warriors of the Risen Lord in prayer and sacrifices. Believing in the triumph of the forces of goodness over evil, it is the time to unite in prayer before the Lord of history, who has made himself part of our lives and destiny. It is through prayer that we acknowledge him as King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, who has, as the Alpha and Omega, the first and final say over the events of our time. As Easter Christians we know we have a powerful God, Whose Son brought salvation to the whole world. We call on Christ to galvanise our small numbers and weak efforts to become a mighty source of intercession for our country.
Our Easter faith is that Christ, risen from the dead, unites us to be one nation. In him we have the foundation to believe that nothing can take away our unity, as long as we continue to maintain that in and through his Cross all barriers of division have been overcome. It is our belief that in him, through him and with him there is “neither Jew, nor Greek, nor gentile, nor man, nor woman”. There is an equality among us, which Christ has given through his Resurrection from the dead to make us one people.
Our Easter hope gives us the confidence that Christ will take charge of current events in our country. The Risen Lord is our hope that confirms our trust in his power to change the course of events, no matter how destructive they may be.
Our Easter love shows itself as love for each and every one, and that when we look into the face of any person, it is the love of the Creator- and Redeemer-God that shows itself to us. Easter love, stronger than any form of prejudice, looks at the heart of woman and man. It is the form of love of the Good Samaritan who looks even after the one who is from a different place and social group.
Such Easter faith, hope and love are only possible as the work of the Holy Spirit, which the Risen Lord sends. It is the Holy Spirit, which makes us see the event of our time in a new light, which is the light of Christ, to make us united in hope and trust.
Easter is God’s amazing power over death to raise His Son to new life and manifest the love of the Father for the Son. As long as we believe in Easter, we shall take a keen interest in the social, economic and political events today. Easter turns our lives back to society to help change it in the light of the living Christ. Because the Risen Lord is the Son of God who took on flesh to come into the world to redeem.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
March 31, 2021
Easter: Baptised in the name of Jesus
During the Season of Lent, we heard about the significance of baptism. The purpose was to prepare for the renewal of our baptism promises during the Easter Vigil and on Easter Sunday. We remember that our baptism is the most outstanding moment when we were integrated into the life of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. To re-visit and re-discover this is a matter of grave concern as we find ourselves severely challenged in our faith practice during the lockdown. Our common interest is to bring our people that have been scattered now for over a year back to the fold of the Good Shepherd. Going back to our baptism can be the first of such an important undertaking. Baptism entails everything we are as Christians.
God lives in us, we have the name of Christ, “Christian” and we belong to the people of the covenant called the Church. Our whole life we spend to make this discovery, and to embrace it as the truth: God lives in us because through baptism we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, leaving a mark in our soul that can never be erased and a flame that will never be extinguished. He lives in us in the way that the life of Jesus Christ, his Cross and Resurrection, finds its way into our own lives for each one to realise: I am wonderfully redeemed to be an image of Christ.
Our baptism faith is that our Christian life is not about certain Church practices. It is about becoming a Christ-bearer and Christ-companion in the world. We bring Christ to the world, and we accompany Christ wherever we find him in the world, especially in other persons. It is our faith that the world will never be redeemed unless it passes through the Cross and Resurrection of Christ. It must take on the shape and features, yes, the face, of Christ. This happened already, as a kind of endless deposit of grace, in our baptism when each baptised person became Christ walking on earth.
From there, it stands to reason that the Church practices are an integral part of life. In other words, if I don’t go to Holy Mass on a Sunday, I should really miss it. I feel a deep desire for the union and communion with the Lord. It is not about feeling guilty because a rule of the Church has been broken. Rather, I dearly miss that dialogue and contact with my Lord, and the interaction with my sisters and brothers. If I haven’t prayed, I realise how much that conversation with God means to me because I miss it. And without it, I feel that my life, in the long run, is sliding backwards. If I do something wrong, then my conscience won’t let me rest because I instantly feel that I have let HIM down. And I miss having the harmony of love and goodness in our relationship. On the other hand, if I don’t miss those moments and that relationship, then something is seriously wrong. If I find out that I am quite comfortable not going to Mass or not working for the Church or not doing the right thing, then my faith has gone. If I don’t have a longing for the love and mercy and forgiveness of God, then I am no longer within His reach through faith. And that faith is my baptism faith – honest, true, personal and meaningful.
But God lives in us, and we live in Him. Through many hard experiences, and along by-ways we do come back to discover the truth of baptism in our lives – only in God will we find rest for our restless souls. Baptism has a spiritual-social meaning: all of us are God’s children; we are God’s “chosen race”. The words of St Paul to the Galatians 3: 27 are so significant for us: “All of you who have been baptised into Christ Jesus have clothed yourselves with him. There does not exist among you Jew or Greek, slave or freeman, male or female (or white, black, etc.). All are one in Christ.” The Christian community is the experience of this unity and the social experiment that ethnic diversity is God’s work of wisdom and beauty.
When we sing “Hallelujah” (meaning “Praise the Lord”) today, it is because we no longer can hold back the joy that Jesus was raised from the dead by His Father with the power of the Holy Spirit. And that is what baptism promises us: we can also place our hope in the victorious love of the Father who has enkindled in us a trusting faith in Him because His Son has redeemed us. “Hallelujah”, “Praise the Lord” is the chorus of all the baptised, both in heaven and on earth (Revelation 19) who have seen the victory of God over sin and death through Jesus Christ whom He raised from the dead.
When we renew our baptism promises, then every promise is a “Hallelujah” to the Risen Lord, Jesus our Saviour, in whose name we are baptised.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
March 31, 2021
Easter Triduum at Home
Most of us will be at home for the Easter Triduum, starting with Holy Thursday until Easter Sunday. The following suggestions are meant to make the celebrations at home more personal and engaged in the celebrations at Church. In these final days, we want to go with Jesus.
Come, let us go with him
This day has two parts: the first is the Blessing of the Oils by the bishop. The priests and bishop use these oils for anointing at baptisms, the anointing of the sick and Confirmation. The bishop anoints the priest with holy oil on the day of his ordination. When an altar is consecrated the bishop uses oil.
At the same Holy Mass of the Oils the priests renew their promises and pledge loyalty to their bishop.
Part two of Holy Thursday is the celebration of the Last Supper. This celebration, too, has two parts: the first part is the washing of the feet (which will be omitted this year at Church. However, you may still do it at home); the second part is the consecration of the bread and the wine.
You need for the celebration of today:
A bucket of water and a towel
Collect your petitions for Holy Mass
The table set for supper after Holy Mass
A loaf of bread, or rolls or a French loaf
Light the candle
Gather 5 minutes before the live streaming begins. Keep silence or sing an appropriate hymn.
After the Gospel follows the washing of feet. Wash the feet of each other. Remember, it is Jesus giving us an example of love and service. As family members, we are for each other.
Say a prayer for priests on this day when Jesus instituted the Eucharist and priesthood.
The family supper continues the Last Supper as a meal of family love and sacrifice.
Take the lighted candle to the family table, symbolizing the continuity of Last Supper and family supper
Bless the food
Take the loaf of bread and share it with each other.
Come, let us go with him
Part 1: Stations of the Cross
The Stations of the Cross will be live streamed from Church.
The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ (in the afternoon)
You will need:
A Crucifix, placed on your Prayer Table
Light a candle
Part 2: Celebration of the Passion of our Lord
The veneration of the Cross: use your Crucifix, either bowing or kissing.
Easter: Celebration of Light
You will need:
Easter Vigil or Easter Sunday
Light your candles for the renewal of the baptismal promises
Bless each other with Holy Water
Do an Easter egg hunt with the children.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
March 26, 2021
Year of St Joseph
It came as a surprise that Pope Francis announced a year in honour of St Joseph. Or was it a surprise? It definitely isn’t for the Catholic Church with its very long history and tendency to think in hundreds of years. 150 years ago, Blessed Pius IX proclaimed St Joseph as Patron Saint of the Universal Church. It is this anniversary, which inspired Pope Francis to open the Year of St Joseph on December 8, 2020. It will conclude on December 8, 2021. However, the surprise effect is undoubtedly there. St Joseph, the father of Jesus and husband of Mary, doesn’t feature all that prominently in the Church today. Yes, there are some devotions to him, but our good saint is not in the full awareness of the Church. And, perhaps, for that very reason, it was time to turn the spotlight on this remarkable man.
In times such as ours, the Church usually turns its attention to the saints for their intercession. This is also the case now with St Joseph. We need protection. And that is what features so well in the life of St Joseph. He was the one man in whose care God had placed Jesus and Mary. One cannot think of a greater responsibility. Both Jesus and Mary found themselves exposed to very difficult circumstances. Mary, she found herself pregnant with a child whom she conceived by the Holy Spirit. And later Jesus was right after his birth in Bethlehem threatened by Herod. In both cases, Mary and Jesus, Joseph stepped up to take responsibility for them. He protected them. Joseph took Mary as his wife and looked after her. Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt until after the death of Herod they could return to the safety of Nazareth.
The life of Joseph fits into God’s plan of salvation. He is the threshold between the Old and the New Testament. Salvation was to come from the House of David, of whom Joseph was a descendant. The Messiah is an offspring of David. Joseph was the open door for Jesus the Son of God to enter the history of David and his ancestors. Joseph had his own worries for Mary and Jesus. He was strengthened and re-assured by the Angel to take care of them. His entire life is about care, protection and guidance of his family in Nazareth. He is a man of God – obedient, accepting, courageous.
A true father of Jesus, he was the best role model for Jesus to experience the tenderness, wisdom and strength of human fatherhood. These experiences opened to him the understanding of God as his Father – a God of love, compassion and forgiveness. Truly human, Jesus found his relationship with God his Father rooted in his relationship with Joseph, his father.
The Church endeavours to honour this great saint and implore his intercession for us. We, that is the Archdiocese of Cape Town, will have a monthly devotion to St Joseph for nine months until December 8. It offers us the opportunity to re-enkindle our faith in Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God, as we revisit the childhood of Jesus through the eyes of Joseph. And so it should be that we learn to see Jesus and Mary with the eyes of Joseph, love them with his heart and think of them with his mind. Joseph had but one passion: the task he had been assigned to look after Mary and Jesus. He can be our pathway to relive the story of salvation through Jesus. Joseph had a special place in Mary’s heart. With her love we want to see and love Joseph. He had a special place in the heart of Jesus. With his love and respect for his father, we want to appreciate and love Joseph.
We feel that Joseph is one of us.
May he be our intercessor in this year dedicated to him.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
March 19, 2021
The Eucharist and the God-filled Christian
The Church owes its life and identity to the succession of the Apostles and the Bishops as their representatives. The succession of the Apostles takes us right back to the Upper Room with Jesus celebrating the Passover meal with his disciples. He instructed them: “Do this in memory of me”. The Passover meal renews and seals forever the covenant of God with His people. Our unity with the Holy Father and the bishops is our unity with Jesus at the Last Supper.
We stand today in the succession of the celebration of the Eucharist. Our Eucharist (Holy Mass) is in the direct succession of the Passover meal of Jesus in the Upper Room. For that reason, the Church was born from the Eucharist in the Upper Room, and for that reason, it celebrates its origin in Christ every time when the Eucharist is celebrated. Both aspects, the succession of the Apostles and the succession of the Eucharist, bring us into the succession of the love of God. It is “the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:37). This happened fully in the Passover meal in the Upper Room, in which Jesus left us a memorial of his Passion, death and Resurrection.
Therefore, the celebration of the Body and Blood of Christ is for us the living moment of the love of God in Christ Jesus for us. It is the dialogue of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit as the bond of love. The Son shows the love for the Father by sacrificing his life in obedience for the forgiveness of sins. The Father shows the love for His Son by raising him from the dead. From this moment, nothing will ever be able to stand between the love of God and us:
St Paul says: “For I am certain of this: neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, or height or depth, nor any created thing, can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 38-39)
If nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ, then our mood should be one of optimism. The presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is the powerful expression of the eternal God who does not leave His people alone. In a time of great disappointment due to dwindling Mass attendance and fewer priests, in a time of frustration and sense of loss during the lockdown, in a time of so many challenges to our faith and faith practice, we celebrate the Eucharist as the sacrament of God’s powerful presence in His Son. The celebration of the Eucharist is the manifestation of Christian optimism due to God who is forever present. It is Eucharistic optimism.
Our time is characterised by an increasing flight from God. The relevance of God has become absent in the lives of so many people. The awareness of sin is rapidly vanishing. Religion is regarded as an obstacle to personal freedom. What does Scripture tell us about such a time? Our time is ready for the greatest gift possible. It is an answer that cannot be partial because the problem is so complete. The greatest gift of the Holy Spirit for our time will be GOD and the God-filled person. We are on the eve of God coming to us, since He is the answer to the needs of our time. And that is the reason and content of our Christian optimism. In the meantime, we accept the means offered us by the Church – the celebration of the Eucharist as the visible love of God Who is present, and the devotion to Mary, the woman who once stood at the dawn of a new era of faith and who fearlessly takes up that position again. Endowed with the gift to combat the evil one, she stands her ground to bring God again to the world through the birth of her Son.
The celebration of Holy Mass (Eucharist) demands all our reverence and attention. It requires careful preparation, personal participation in the life of the community, respect for the Church and reverence at the moment of receiving Christ in Holy Communion. Because the Eucharistic Christ is the most precious gift we have in the history of the Church and today.
Moments of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament reflect the continuation of our praise of God and our petition for the Church and the world. The Church needs more people who spend time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
The life of the Eucharistic Christ continues in us, the Christians. There is no longer room for complacency. The Christian today has to be the one who experienced the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus. Without this experience, our faith will stagnate, it will be without passion for Christ and the Church. Whoever has a deep love for the Eucharist has a desire to give back to the Church. God is the answer for our time. And God seen in woman and man is a gift to our time.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
March 12, 2021
What has the lockdown done to our faith?
The news that we are back to level 1 is very heartening. We remember that we have been there before, only to be catapulted back to level 3 and adjusted level 3. Let us hope that we can keep it on level 1. There is much talk going on about a third wave of infection and more potent variants. However, for now, let us just breathe deeply and use the new freedom. What does that entail for us as Church? Well, the most relevant information is that we are allowed to have 100 persons at Church services, social distance permitting. The other important thing is that we will have enough time for the Easter Vigil without having to worry about an early curfew, which just about destroyed our Easter, Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations. We are even allowed to do our catechism lessons at Church whereby our priority still is the safety of the parents and the child. No one can be forced to attend or be discriminated when he or she prefers not to attend in person. In any case, so far, we have decided to be on the safe side and do our catechism classes online.
As we go along, there is a need to assess where we find ourselves as parish community. Certain questions must be asked, and only the parishioners can answer them. These questions pertain to the kind of parish we will return to once all the restrictions are lifted or when we may have a more open Church. The common observation is that by and large Sunday after Sunday we have almost the same people attending Holy Mass. And it is not as if they are occupying seats, which could have been taken by others. The reason is that most parishioners have still opted to stay at home. While it is the responsibility of each person to see to their health and safety, one may ask the question: why do so few parishioners venture back? Those over 60 and any person with an underlying condition have every right to be cautious. But we also have many young families, let alone young people who could easily use the opportunity of returning to Church. The essence and highlight of our Catholic Christian life is the celebration of Eucharist, the mystery of the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. In this celebration we enter into a personal dialogue with God, our Father, through the Holy Spirit. We experience what it means to be a community when we come together to worship. Health concerns aside, are we becoming too complacent because we have Holy Mass livestreamed into our homes? Is there the danger that this possibility is becoming a habit? It must be said, however, that many parishioners keep themselves conscious of Church belonging via their WhatsApp groups. That is, indeed, most praiseworthy. But where are our younger generations? Surely, this is the time when they can show up and demonstrate their personal interest in their belonging to the parish.
The Church needs an awakening after a long, long slumber during lockdown. It is so obvious that this is happening mainly around the sacraments of baptism and marriage. These sacraments signify certain, important biographical moments. We would like to see people taking an interest again in being Church. This has to do with the insight that Church is essentially also a communion of sisters and brothers called together by Jesus Christ. Being Church and belonging to it must again be a conscious decision. For us, Catholic Christians, it is so central to the expression of our faith that it is a sin to willingly stay away from Holy Mass on Sunday. Worshipping God is not just something minimal. It is the way we live as human beings and find purpose in life. It has to do with our hope, our relationships and our spiritual wellness. The wellbeing and future of the Church depends on a personal decision of each member. Church awakens in the hearts of its members!
What about the condition of our faith? The way we attend Holy Mass can serve as an indicator. Jesus had his own concerns about the faith of his people. The parable of the sower and the seed (Matthew 13: 1-23; Luke 8: 4-15; Mark 4: 1-20) recounts the different possibilities of our faith. This parable can be most helpful for us to gauge where we find ourselves in our faith. Are the seeds of our faith on the rocky ground, are they in shallow soil, are they among the thorns? In these three possibilities they don’t last long. The fourth one, the fertile soil, makes the seed yield abundant fruit. However, our faith is not just continuing in one condition. It can change all the time. Yes, even the seeds in fertile soil can become fruitless because the soil has become rocky, shallow or covered in thorns. In what condition is my faith right now? What do I do to make the seeds fruitful in fertile soil? Has my faith moved backwards to the other conditions? Has it become less strong, less fruitful? Or has it actually improved from the rocky ground to the fertile ground?
Our faith is a gift from God. But it needs nurturing. Jesus spelled it out in the parable of the sower and the seeds. Our capacity to receive God’s word depends on the kind of “soil” in our hearts. The seeds can be, however, also be lost or have very limited growth. Right now, we must ask ourselves the question: how receptive am I to God? What am I doing to grow in my receptivity to believe in Him?
The time of lockdown has been challenging in more than one way. Our faith practice and Church commitment, too, have been sorely tested. We can come out stronger and better if we renew our sense of discipleship. We are his disciples and missionaries today. Through us he continues to live and work, and his message of the kingdom of the Father remains relevant in the lives of people.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies March 2, 2021 (Bothasig)
The lockdown Church: more prophetic than sacramental
The time of lockdown threw all our usual understanding and experience of Church into total disarray. We were used to the “one-dimensional” Church, which is Church on a Sunday. At least, that was as far as our worship was concerned. With regards to catechesis, the disruption could not have been worse. Again, quite “one-dimensional”, we were used to the “drop off – pickup” model. This meant that parents dropped off their children and fetched them after the lesson. Of course, the lesson was at Church with a teacher. While the lesson was in progress, the parent or grandparent either went home or waited in the car park. As far as our care for the poor was concerned, we had a well-oiled machine. Members of the St Vincent de Paul Society bought the food, made up the parcels, and the recipients had their parcels delivered to their front door. Covid-19 changed that practice. Many members of our St Vincent de Paul Society and Helping Hands group were over 60 and justifiably cautious to go out.
It wasn’t just the way we do Church that changed. It was our understanding of Church in itself which came under scrutiny. Many people simply failed to adjust to new conditions and remained at loggerheads with the protocols and regulations. They were looking for possibilities to revert to “normal” circumstances. It is amazing what advice and suggestions they come up with. The most bizarre one is the so-called “drive by”. As the cars are filing past through the Church grounds, people remain in their cars to receive Holy Communion. This flies in the face of the understanding of Holy Mass as the communal celebration of the life, suffering, death and Resurrection of Christ, through which we become participants in his work of salvation. Anything else is total disregard for the dignity of the Eucharist. No part may be separated; the entire Holy Mass must be celebrated. Other suggestions attempt at looking for “loopholes” in the protocols and regulations. In the end, we have no choice but to abide by rules that are meant to maximise our safety.
What was the usual, traditional understanding of Church that was forced to radically change? Church was the Church of the Sacraments. That is so Catholic. Our Christianity is based on Jesus Christ the Principal Sacrament of God and the Church as the fundamental Sacrament dispensing the seven expressions of the life of Christ. The Coronavirus pandemic has robbed the Church of its sacramental activity, and that is a huge blow. The sick and dying were longing to see a priest, but to no avail. Visits not allowed! Communion to the home-bound – not allowed. Funerals under strict regulations only and with limited attendance. Holy Mass, depending on the level of lockdown, is see-sawing between more and less people in attendance. Worship is heavily curtailed by the exclusion of singing. Baptisms, weddings and even ordinations to the priesthood are subject to the same rules. Confirmations were difficult to arrange and restricted to the closest family members. The Sacrament is the glue in our Catholic Church. It is the way we do things. Or rather, the way the Sacrament conveys us the grace of Christ. The ritual of the Sacrament gives us the certainty in faith that Christ has acted in the Sacrament. The sacrament that made all this possible is the ordination of the priest. Lockdown meant that people, to a large extent, have had to come used to the fact that the priest was rather remote and equally restrained by the protocols and regulations of lockdown.
Deprived of this sacramental nature of being and acting Church, we have, willy-nilly to look again at the way we are Church. It emerged as a predominantly prophetic, collaborative communion with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is prophetic because it continues to uphold hope as our divine gift to face the challenges. Hope implies that we have purpose in this time, no matter what. It is the food of the soul amidst so much devastation of personal lives, economic existence and social life. Without hope, we die. Church is prophetic because it listens to its members to engage with them on how the Holy Spirit speaks through them. The prophetic Church does not have a blueprint in times that are forever changing and uncertain. However, what makes it constant and consistent is the conviction that God is taking it through very special times that need continuous discernment. By the grace of the Holy Spirit in a spirit of prayerfulness, God’s will is revealed. Together we, as Church, discern God’s will. In other words, being prophetic and becoming a Church of the Holy Spirit, makes it dynamic. Being dynamic is the equivalent of the Church that has become far more collaborative in this time. It depends on the willingness of our lay people to take up the cudgels and represent it at home and in different spaces of life. Church is communion. It is the community of the sisters and brothers in Christ, based on the one common dignity of the baptised who share the common priesthood of Christ. The deepest expression of the Church as communion is the celebration of Holy Eucharist.
As long as the lockdown continues, we must see it as an opportunity to look at the relevant dimensions of Church, such as domestic Church. The most important experience is the growing bond with Jesus Christ in the diverse aspects of life and that in him, we all are sisters and brothers.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies February (Bothasig)
February 24, 2021
Lent: A Season of Renewal
Lent is, indeed, is the time for reflection, improvement and direction. It is common experience that now and then we need time-out to see where we are and where we are heading. In fact, for most of the time it really is about pausing to think about ourselves, about what we are doing and about the world around us.
Just in recent weeks and days we have been overwhelmed by changes to our personal and social life due to the regulations of the Coronavirus pandemic. A sigh of relief is going around the country at the arrival of the vaccine. But even that gives us scant hope for major changes. How appropriate it is that Lent brings us the fresh air of hope.
Before we go over to the order of the day, it is important that we let the light of our faith into what is happening around us to re-affirm our conviction in the Lord of life and history. As Christians it should be our hallmark that we are alert to what is happening around us and relate them to our faith. It is not just about the politics and events of the day. Our faith is that God, in His own way and time, shows us His intervention. Hopefully, we come out purged from the evils, which have plagued, frustrated and depressed us for such a long time. Now, it is the time for re-building, a time for nation-consciousness, a time for solidarity with the entire nation. Those who believe know that prayer is a powerful force, which brings the strength of God and the healing power of the Cross of Christ into play.
Another factor, which has forced us to our knees is experience of the sickness and death of so many persons who were known to us. With all our scientific knowledge and technology, there is a simple, yet profound insight: what we need is the cure of the virus and healing within ourselves We are humbled to experience that we are vulnerable and insecure. On the positive side, we are achieving, what is so typical to human nature: hardship galvanises us. We become one. And that is exceptionally good.
The Season of Lent offers us ample opportunities to reflect on God’s role in our lives. To seek and find him is more important than any offerings or sacrifices. He is the source of our solidarity with each other in good times and in bad. The name of God is fully revealed to us through Jesus Christ, His Son. Through his loyalty to us and God, Jesus reveals that God is an incredible factor of life, a reality so real and tangible. From him we learn that God is about healing, forgiveness, peace, unity, happiness, social justice and truth. Jesus Christ is God’s solidarity with us, and His solidarity with the poor.
The fruitfulness of our Lent begins with our desire to have God in our lives.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
February 19, 2021
Lent: our sacred time
No sooner had we finished the Christmas Season than we find ourselves facing the most daunting and sacred time of the year: Lent. We don’t need much introduction to this time of the year. From personal experience and tradition every Catholic knows by now almost instinctively what is expected. The buzz words of the Church are prayer, penance, and charity. However, for many it is associated with sacrifice. There is hardly if no focus on Easter. The target is Good Friday! The suffering and death of Jesus casts a wide shadow over the whole Season of Lent. And so, we go through the gears – Ash Wednesday, then follows what we give up for Lent. Some might attempt to attend Holy Mass more frequently. Many will go to Confession. But for most of us, the main attention will be on the Stations of the Cross. For many Lent can prove to be a long and arduous time of experiencing the usual shortcomings of inconsistency, lack of discipline and perseverance as try our hardest to keep our Lent resolutions. For others, the afore-mentioned spiritual exercises are crutches that offer welcome support to struggle through the long time. There are others who make these very same exercises the highways to Calvary. They are familiar with the practices of spiritual exercises like the Rosary, novena, etc. Lent is merely a shift of focus.
Lent is a most sacred time when we re-calibrate our relationship with Jesus Christ. All too aware of his suffering and death for us, we are also aware of our sins and need for forgiveness. There is a certain force that draws us to Lent, which is deeply human: it is the awareness of sinful nature, of a life that is fragile and vulnerable, of a life that endures so much, of efforts falling short, of moral weakness and of expectations unfulfilled, and of the desire to be different and better. Many times, we will make the experience, which Jesus himself had to endure - being tempted by the Devil. We must, however, remember, that he can only tempt. I make the choices and decisions.
Lent is a time of cleansing. It begins with the change of our attention away from ourselves. The essence of Lent is to reaffirm our relationship with Jesus Christ. And this takes time and effort. Prayer, penance and fasting serve this purpose. The most important cleansing is that of the ego, which is self-centred and selfish. Where this attitude exists, grace cannot enter. The Holy Spirit cannot do its cleansing work, which presupposes a spirit of remorse and repentance. “Create a pure heart in me, God, put a steadfast spirit into me.” (Psalm 50) Prayer and repentance go hand in hand. They set the tone for a new God- and Christ-centred relationship. They are more important to God than all the sacrifices we can muster. The spiritual danger of sacrifices is that we think that God owes us something in return. “This is how much we do for You. Now reward us for it and grant our needs.” God was never impressed with such sacrifices. What counts before God more than anything else is the humble heart. “For you do not delight in sacrifices. (…) The true sacrifice is a broken spirit: a contrite and humble heart, O God, you will not refuse.” (Psalm 50) Lent is a time of cleansing of relationships. It has to do with the willingness to reconcile and be reconciled. The harbouring of anger and the unwillingness to forgive disempower Jesus on the Cross who died for the forgiveness of sins and “that all may be one” John 17). We block his power to forgive with anger, bitterness and aggression. Lent is a time of cleansing our relationship with God. It is a time of prayer and reflection. Basically, we must simplify our relationship with God. It is never, first and foremost, about the number of prayers. Rather, it is about the personal nature of our easy and simple conversation with Him. I am Your child; You are my Father. More than that I don’t have to say. That relationship needs the celebration of Holy Eucharist as the dialogue between God and us through the mystery of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ in his community of the Church. Holy Eucharist connects to the Covenant with God through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. We become part of the greatest network of personal, caring relationships. It is the moment of expressing and receiving the redeeming love and mercy of God. The celebration of the redeeming love of Christ for all of us makes us sensitive to glorify the Father by attending to the needs of our sisters and brothers. Thereby, we extend the love of Jesus, which alone pleases the Father.
Lent is the time to look beyond Calvary to the empty tomb of Jesus. Lent is merely the path to the horizon, on which the Cross of Calvary awaits us. But that very same Cross is turned towards the garden where Jesus was buried. From here the Father raised His Son to new life. His Resurrection is the victory of the Father’s love over death. The Resurrection of Jesus invites us to be thankful. Lent, leading up to Easter, is the time to count our blessings. Let us be grateful to God. It is the time to give God the benefit of the doubt that He is greater than destruction and chaos. The time of Covid-19 has made death for many of us a household word. How do we cope? There is no quick fix or cheap answer. But God does refer us to the death of His beloved Son through whom death is not the end but the door to new life. Grief and pain are not less but they receive a context of hope. It raises the expectation that love will embrace grief and prevail. It is the hope that grief through loss of a loved one goes through the pierced, wounded heart of Jesus where it finds its rightful place.
Let us begin Lent, our sacred time. Let us step out of our inner darkness into the sun to bask in the glory and mercy of God through Jesus, His Son.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies February 12, 2021 (Bothasig)