Friday, 13 October 2017
Churches or cultural clubs? Why a pagan festival like Onam is celebrated in churches, that too, cancelling catechism for children?
Wednesday, 16 August 2017
SUNDAY, 26 JANUARY 2014
Is the jamboree in the name of celebrating the feast of saints turning the attention away from our saviour Jesus Christ to saints?
Our former parish priest, Rev Fr Biju Kollamkunnel, narrated this story in one of the homilies.
When the father was serving in a Mumbai suburban parish many years ago, he used to conduct Novena for St Joseph every Wednesday. Parishioners and even outsiders used to throng the church on Wednesdays.
So far so good. However, the sad thing was that on week days only few people used to come for Holy Mass -- the re-presentation of the ultimate sacrifice on Calvary.
Intrigued by this no show for Holy Mass, the priest asked the parishioners, “Why you don’t come for Holy Mass?”
One parishioner replied, “This area is infested with robbers. They will attack us. That’s why we don’t come for the Mass.”
The priest refused to believe and continued, “but you come in large numbers for the Novena of St Joseph.” The parishioner said, “St Joseph will protect us from robbers.”
The priest nearly fell off the chair with that reply.
Is Jesus Christ not capable of protecting you from robbers? Shocking. Whom do you believe? Who is your Saviour? Saints or Jesus Christ?
The laity in the Catholic Church in India, Kerala to be precise, is still confused. Or shall we say ignorant? If that’s so, this ignorance is unpardonable and indefensible. Is the jamboree in the name of celebrating the feast days of saints in the Catholic church turning the attention away from our saviour Jesus Christ to saints? The festivities, illumination, fireworks and other embellishments on feast days of St Sebastian, St George, St Joseph, St Antony etc. are mind-boggling. In many parishes, celebrations have reached ridiculous levels with fireworks display, chariot processions and music bands adding to the cacophony. To top it all, commercialisation has added a new dimension to the celebrations in some places.
Of course, these saints are martyrs and torchbearers of faith, but the central figure is and must be Jesus Christ. He is Son of God and your Saviour. Saints can’t take that position.
Saints are good models of faith to emulate in this world. However, salvation comes through Jesus Christ. You often see a big crowd during the feast days of saints but Holy Mass, especially during week days, in many parishes witnesses only a thin attendance.
This writer agrees that feast of a saint is an occasion to celebrate, give respect and proclaim the faith. But we sometimes forget that these are solemn spiritual occasions. Over the years, feast celebrations have become more colorful and competitive with parishes trying to outdo each other in displaying money power and pomp. It has also become an occasion for drinking sessions in many places.
“The spiritual dimension of the feast is often lost in the eagerness to make the feasts colorful,” one Archbishop of Syro-Malabar Catholic church wrote in a letter to laity. Does Jesus Christ want all this? He’s looking inside your heart, your attitude and approach. What have you learnt from these saints? Have saints brought about any change in our thinking and lifestyle?
This writer was a witness to another incident that happened inside another Mumbai church. As usual, less than a dozen people were attending the Holy Mass. A big group of children, teachers and office-goers came inside the church to pay respect, venerate and pray in front of the statues of saints. Ignoring the Holy Mass, many of them started praying in front of the statues of saints and the priest celebrating the Mass got agitated and flared up. He stopped the Holy Mass and admonished the crowd gathered near the statue. “You don’t want Jesus Christ? Why are you running after saints when Holy Mass is being celebrated, where real God is present,” he reacted angrily. He restarted the Mass only after the crowd in front of the statues dispersed.
Aren’t they missing the woods for trees?
The Catholic bishops in Kerala often call for austere and more spiritual celebration of Church feasts, but their sage advices fall on deaf ears. “The feasts are becoming less spiritual and more pompous and commercial. We need to take corrective steps,” an Archbishop was quoted as saying.
We have to celebrate feasts of saints, but our celebrations should not become a show of money and pretentiousness. But celebrate them differently, in a spiritual atmosphere, to change our mindset.
Sunday, 14 May 2017
The number of Catholic parishes -- more so in Syro-Malabar Church -- which seem to have joined the mad race to build impressive edifices is increasing. In Kerala, every third church is under renovation or reconstruction. Saving the souls is now secondary. This is also at a time when people, even faithful, don't have roof over their heads, and struggling to keep both ends meet. Spending crores of rupees on opulent churches is an atrocious idea in a country like India where a sizeable number of people live below the poverty line. Remember what Acts 7:48-50 says: “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says: “‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things?’"
Often, rich people in the parish are roped in cleverly and they don't mind diverting part of the black money generated from their businesses for church construction. Yes, the sad part is that church authorities are after these people for big construction activities of the church. Parishioners are given specific amount as contribution for church construction. There was a complaint from auto rickshaw driver in Kerala who was unable to give his share of Rs 35,000 for church construction in his parish. The result was that his daughter's baptism was blocked until he cleared his dues. There was another complaint in North Kerala about overestimating the construction cost and money collected from poor people getting diverted to the pockets of some people.
The multi-crore new church in Edappalli, Kerala, had recently raised many eyebrows. “It is a sin before God if the money offered by faithful is used for luxury instead of utilising it for social welfare projects or to help the needy,” Cardinal George Alencherry said while consecrating the Rs 50 crore church.
While a section of people feel Cardinal could have prevented Edappalli parish from wasting Rs 50 crore on a new church building, there's also a demand that the Syro-Malabar Church should put a moratorium on building new churches. "Won’t it be right and proper, for the whole Church in India to declare a moratorium on new churches made of brick and mortar and concentrate on repairing and rebuilding ever so many domestic churches of flesh and blood going to pieces because of the too many unforeseen challenges facing families today," writes Dr James Kottoor, Editor-in-Chief in Church Citizens’ Voice (CCV).
Saturday, 4 March 2017
The Power of Spells
Spells can have power, according to Father Vincent Lampert, the designated exorcist for the archdiocese of Indianapolis since 2005 and also the pastor for St. Malachy in Indianapolis. “I think there’s power, but it’s not coming from God,” Father Lampert said. “Anyone who would dare say they want to challenge that God is in charge is using the power of evil as their own. They should realize that we can’t use the devil; the devil uses us. People can’t control it and the devil ends up using them for his own purposes.”
Spells, according to Father Lampert, only have an effect in people who are spiritually weak. If we are anchored in God, he said Scripture tells us we have nothing to fear. “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places,” (Ephesians 6:10-18).
Father Lampert pointed out that in Deuteronomy 18:10-12, using witchcraft is condemned as detestable to God. He has known a few people who derive a sense of power and make money from people paying to have spells cast. Hundreds of people have come to Father Lampert for help after spells were cast on them.
“You can’t stop someone from placing a curse, but as a Christian, if you are you praying to God and going to him, the curse will have no power,” Father Lampert said. For Catholics, he said going to Mass, receiving the Eucharist and going to Confession, is strong protection against evil. “Curses are effective when people are weak,” Father Lampert explained. “People are fearing devil more than trusting God.”
As for the call for those casting the spell, Father Lampert said they are relying on evil that feeds on anger and revenge. “The end result of all this for people will be to find themselves more deeply entangled with the devil,” he said. “Their lives will continue to spiral out of control because they do not have God as an anchor.”
Prayers for protection are very effective, according to Father Lampert, but we should not just be reactionary. “We should always be proactive in our faith and praying for our leaders—both civic and religious—as a normal part of our everyday action,” he said. “I would hate to think our faith is just reactionary. Scripture tells us to pray unceasingly.”
Coming out in the Open
Msgr. John Esseff, a priest for 63 years and an exorcist in the Diocese of Scranton, Pa. for over 40 years, said the face of the devil that is becoming more clearly seen in public. Previously, he said we saw more of what he calls an apathetic demon that appeals to the lower weaknesses of human nature such as the sexual revolution and all that comes with it.
“Then, came the apostate demon,” Msgr. Esseff said, “that denies the sacrificial nature of human life is possible. We are told we will never able to achieve this kind of holiness or goodness or unity—it just can’t be done,” he said. “This is a real apostasy; not just in politics but also in churches, convincing people that holiness is unattainable.”
Now, according to Msgr. Esseff, we are seeing the stage of the antichrist where the evil one is not afraid to show himself to humanity. Msgr. Esseff referred to Scripture: “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” (1 John 4: 2-3)
“It’s not Trump they are against but Jesus,” Msgr. Esseff said. “The devil is saying, ‘no way are you reigning in this country, we are coming out against you!’”
The spell is nothing to fear if our trust and our hope is in God, Msgr. Esseff said. “Anyone who would even begin to put God back into place is going to have the forces of hell against them,” he said. “Our Lady of Fatima has given us the key to deal with this: Increase prayer and reparation [such as making Five First Saturdays].
“It’s the Fatima message and it’s coming at this time of the 100th year anniversary much more clearly,” Msgr. Esseff said. “Our Lady warned us about it at Fatima where she said the final battle will be against marriage and the family. This is not about politics, it’s about God.”
Sunday, 18 December 2016
Sunday, 11 December 2016
Peace was shattered, not once, twice during Christmas season in Mumbai
By George Mathew
Wednesday, 23 November 2016
Pope Francis on Monday extended indefinitely to all Roman Catholic priests the power to forgive abortion, a right previously reserved for bishops or special confessors in most parts of the world.
Francis, who has made a more inclusive and forgiving Roman Catholic Church a characteristic of his papacy, made the announcement in a document known as an "apostolic letter" after Sunday's close of the Church's "Holy Year of Mercy".
He said he wanted to "restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life" but "there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with (God)".
Francis had already temporarily granted the power to all priests to give what is known as "sacramental absolution" for abortion during the Holy Year, from Dec. 8 to Nov. 20, but the solemn tone of his words in Monday's letter suggested that the change would last for at least the rest of his papacy.
In Roman Catholic teaching, abortion is such a serious sin that those who procure or perform it bring automatic excommunication on themselves as they are knowingly committing a sin the Church considers grave.
In the past, only a bishop or a designated special confessor could grant absolution for an abortion and lift excommunication.
Although bishops in some dioceses in developed countries such as the United States and Britain had already delegated this authority to parish priests, the old practice was still in effect in most of the world.
"Not only is this a change in Church policy, it changes Church law," said Father James Bretzke, a professor of moral theology at Boston College.
"I think it’s very significant in the context of Pope Francis’ theme of his pontificate, which is going to go down as the pontificate of mercy; he sees mercy as absolutely the key."
Thursday, 6 October 2016
During a May 24, 1987 visit to the sanctuary of Saint Michael the Archangel, John Paul II said, ” the battle against the devil which is the principal task of Michael the archangel, is still being fought today, because the devil is still alive and active in the world. The evil that surrounds us today, the disorders that plague our society, man’s inconsistency and brokenness are not only the results of original sin but also the result of Satan’s pervasive and dark action.”
According to the Catechism of Catholic Church, there are two types of exorcism: the sacrament of baptism, which is the only form of simple exorcism, and the sacramental reserved to exorcists, which is called solemn exorcism. (CCC 1673). How long does it take to free somebody from demons? It can range from minutes to several years, Fr Amorth’s book says, narrating several incidents of exorcisms.
Fr Amorth’s book says there can be many or few, but there’s always a chief, and he is always the first to be named. Generally, the evil one does not and cannot say holy names; he substitutes expressions such as “he” (referring to God or Jesus) or “she” (referring to our Lady). On other occasions, demons say “your Boss” or “your Lady” to indicate Jesus and Mary. If the possession is very strong and the demon is high ranking, then it is possible for them to say the name of God and Mary always followed by horrible blasphemies, the book says.
According to the book, children are very vulnerable, not because of personal fault, but because of their weaknesses. Many times when we exorcise an adult we discover that the demonic presence can be traced to early childhood, or even worse, to the moment of birth or even to their gestation.
Fr Amorth also spoke about different types of curses: black magic, curses, evil and eye and spells. “Curses invoke evil, and the origin of all evil is demonic. When curses are spoken with true perfidy, especially if there is a blood relationship between the one casts them and the accused, the outcome can be terrible,” the book says.
That said, the scarcity of exorcists clearly denotes a lack of interest on the part of episcopate in general. The first step, and the fundamental one, is to reawaken the awareness of bishops and priests, according to sound doctrine the Scripture, tradition, and the Magesterium have always transmitted.
Tuesday, 23 August 2016
Cardinal George Alencherry, the head of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in India, has slammed the practice of churches going in for noisy and pompous feast celebrations and appealed to the faithful to put curbs on fireworks, trade and cooking meals in church premises and turn feasts into occasions of simplicity and devotion.
Stating that it's time that traditional festivals were given a makeover, Cardinal Alencherry said in a statement that the faithful are unable to pray in peace and tranquillity amid firecrackers and loudspeaker announcements during festival days. "In an atmosphere of fireworks, band sets and mike announcements, people are unable to pray peacefully, communicate and grow in fellowship. Churches are arranging band sets, fireworks and mike announcements and colourful electric illumination to attract more people to the feast celebration. The increase and intensity of these things destroy the intention of feast celebrations. It seems the organisers are keen to increase the offerings or income from the feast celebration every year. The increase in offerings/ income seems to be the measure to determine the success of the feast," he said.
Cardinal George Alencherry's statement against noisy and pompous feast celebrations:
On July 28, the feast day of St Alphonsa, I got a chance to celebrate Raza Qurbana, the most holy form of Syro-Malabar Holy Mass, and give a sermon in Bharananganam (Kerala, India). The feast was being celebrated in a grand way. However, there was no drum and band procession. There was no elephant procession. There were no crackers and fireworks. But thousands of people were present on the occasion which was conducted in a spiritual atmosphere. Sermons, Holy Mass, sacrament of confession, visit to grave and rosary procession – the feast programme was conducted in an atmosphere that gives spiritual renewal to the faithful. Then some thoughts about feast celebrations came to my mind.
The absence of fireworks or band sets or the lack of colourful electric illumination did not trivialise or downgrade the importance of the feast celebration of St Alphonsa. On the contrary, it added more attraction to the spiritual ambience. I think all feast celebrations should have this beauty. The laity should be able to pray and deepen their faith during feast celebrations. Feasts should be spiritual celebrations. It should not be a display of materialistic world. I hope that feasts in all churches will be spiritual celebrations.
Feasts are very noisy these days. In an atmosphere of fireworks, band sets and loudspeaker announcements, people are unable to pray peacefully, communicate and grow in fellowship. Churches are arranging band sets, fireworks and mike announcements and colourful electric illumination to attract more people to the feast celebration. The increase and intensity of these things destroy the intention of feast celebrations. It seems the organisers are keen to increase the offerings or income from the feast celebration every year. The increase in offerings/ income seems to be the measure to determine the success of the feast!
The practice of cooking of food and food offering (Oottu nercha) on the feast location should be reconsidered. These things and other above-mentioned style of celebrations are actually eliminating the spirituality of feasts.
Small churches blindly follow the celebrations of a popular feast in a bigger church. The desire to project the miracle powers of saints, whose feasts are being celebrated, in an exaggerated manner is also increasing. The intercessory power of a saint is not something which should be advertised. Faithful get God’s grace through the intercession of saints. That doesn’t need any advertisement. Whoever receives that grace should inform others through self-inspiration. Artificial propaganda about the intercessory powers of a saint would always create a wrong notion. There are people who create new customs and practices to attract more people to feast celebrations.
Before urbanisation took roots, church premises were earlier used to buy essential items during feast occasions. It was a necessity during earlier years. At a time when urbanisation has become a reality and the number of super markets and malls has increased, it needs to be pondered whether church premises should be used for business activities. In order to attract more people, there is no justification to use the culture of consumerism. Jesus Christ chased away merchants and money-changers from Jerusalem church during the Passover festival. “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers,” says Mathew 21:13. He took the whip against the injustice done through business and money-changing. If an equivalent injustice happens in the church premises during a feast celebration, Jesus will oppose it.
It is seen that a major part of the offerings is require to meet the expenses of feast celebration. Is it justifiable to squander church offerings in such manner? When believers filled with piety and faith give offerings, shouldn’t it be used for worshiping God and charity work among poor people? Are people who are attracted by outward artificial programmes or genuine believers putting more offerings? As Jesus said, aren’t poor widows putting more money in church offering box? Aren’t these holy offerings being spent in an unholy manner? Feast celebrations are now becoming contradictions of piety. The journey from this contradiction to the right path is bumpy and difficult. For the smooth functioning of a parish, we have the good tradition of laity with good leadership style working with priests. This tradition should continue forever. However, some among the laity argue for outward celebrations stand for worldly things and oppose tooth and nail when priests and diocesan leaders put curbs. Such people put hurdles against reformation in feast celebrations. So church general body meeting, committees and spiritual organisations should think and deliberate for a proper formation of ideas.
It’s high time that feast celebrations got a new structure and character.
Neduvannoor parish in the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly recently collected money for feast celebrations but they decided to drop fireworks and used that money to construct houses for two poor families. Kunnapillyssery parish dropped fireworks in the last two years and used that money to distribute saplings. Kandanad parish has also adopted this practice. These practices are so good. Likewise, many parishes have strictly controlled over-spending and pompous celebrations and used that money for charitable purposes. If only all the churches follow this practice in an era when fireworks are leading to tragic accidents...
We should understand the incongruence in celebrating the feasts of saints, who are models of simplicity, in a lavish and pompous style. We should bring our lives to an experience in spiritual celebration through Jesus Christ and the models set by saints. What make our feast celebrations more meaningful are worship, sermons, processions with songs and prayers, cultural programmes giving messages about Christianity and charitable work aiding poor and marginalised people that will help in spiritual growth and leading a holy life.
We should reform the feast celebrations in line with the guidance and leadership of Pope Francis who exhorted the Catholic Church to follow a simple life. We should make feast celebrations as the pinnacle of a spiritual experience. We should make feast celebrations as Christian witnesses of good charitable purposes and as a social obligation. We should salvage feast celebrations from fireworks and pomp.
(Translated from Malayalam)
Sunday, 3 July 2016
By Sheena George
How do we treat our parents and grandparents, especially in their old ages? Are we treating them with love, care and affection when they grow old and frail? Well, if you visit some of the old-age homes, it’s crystal clear that many of us Christians mistreat our parents and grandparents, show a lack of respect and consideration for the elderly and fail to give them a dignified life.
This is abominable and a mortal sin. It's also a crime in many countries.
Even then, when it comes to mistreatment of parents and grandparents, developed and developing countries are all in the same boat. In developing countries like India, many sons and daughters dump their grandparents in some old age home. This mostly happens after the sons and daughters get a house and a decent bank balance or a good job in a foreign country. Then they consider old and sick parents as liabilities. In developed nations like the US and Europe, elders are abandoned by their kids, forcing them to fend for themselves. Children don’t show love, care and affection to their grandparents. Beware, hell is waiting for such sons and daughters who mistreat their parents and grandparents.
When we think about our father and mother, Mother Mary’s image flashes through one’s mind. On September 8, Christians (especially Syrian, Coptic and Ethiopian Orthodox churches) celebrate the Nativity of Mary, or Birth of the Virgin Mary. Just hours before His death on the cross in Calvary, Jesus called John and entrusted Mother Mary to his care, saying “this is your mother.”
Our Lord didn't abandon His mother. Jesus then told Mother Mary: "this is your son." There's a message here.
The biblical commandment that requires us to honour our parents, understood broadly, reminds us of the honour we must show to all elderly people. God associates a double promise with this commandment: “that you may have a long life” (Ex 20:12, Ephesians 6:2-3) and, the other, “that you might prosper” (Dt 5:16). In short, if you respect your parents and take care of them, you will live for a longer time. That’s a promise from God.
Pope Francis says the Bible reserves a severe warning for those who neglect or mistreat their parents (Ex 21:17; Leviticus 20:9). The same judgement applies today when parents, having become older and less useful, are marginalized to the point of abandonment. “It is a mortal sin to discard our elderly… the elderly are not aliens. We are them – in a short or in a long while we are inevitably them, even though we choose not to think about it. A society where the elderly are discarded carries within it the virus of death. If we do not learn to care for and respect our elderly, we will be treated in the same way,” Pope said recently.
And there are so many examples. “Even educated people from wealthy families abandon their elderly parents. This happens even in Christian families,” our parish priest said in one of his homilies.
A person who commits a mortal sin is one who knows that their sin is wrong, but still deliberately commits the sin anyway. This means that mortal sins are "premeditated" by the sinner and thus are truly a rejection of God’s law and love. He’s then willfully cutting off God’s grace.
This is like playing into the hands of devil. One day you will also grow old. Then the same fate may start haunting you. Your own children will then abandon you. History will repeat. So act wisely. Take care of your parents and elderly people. And assure a place in heaven..
We need old people who pray
Coptic tradition relates that Mary's father Joachim died when she was six years old and Anna when Mary was eight. Accordingly Jesus would not have met his grandparents. Still, in some parishes, the memorial of Anna and Joachim is celebrated as grandparents' day. Two years ago, Pope Francis, while in Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day, recalled the importance of parents and grandparents for the healthy upbringing of children and youth. "Mary grew up in the home of Joachim and Anne; she was surrounded by their love and faith: in their home she learned to listen to the Lord and to follow his will. Saints Joachim and Anne were part of a long chain of people who had transmitted their faith and love for God, expressed in the warmth and love of family life, down to Mary, who received the Son of God in her womb and who gave Him to the world, to us. How precious is the family as the privileged place for transmitting the faith," he said.
The commemoration of the feast of Saints Joachim and Anna can be an opportunity for us to thank for our grandparents, living or deceased, by recalling specific memories, gestures, or testimonies which have impacted our lives.
"I still carry with me, always, in my breviary, the words my grandmother consigned to me in writing on the day of my priestly ordination. I read them often and they do me good," Pope Francis said and added that "in our hectic world, the tranquility radiating from grandparents and the elderly is a great gift for the Church, it is a treasure."
Grandparents also have a duty at their old age. In one of his sermons, Pope reminded grandparents of their urgent apostolate to pray: "We need old people who pray because this is the very purpose of old age. The prayer of the elderly is a beautiful thing." Grandparents are important for family life, for passing on the human and religious heritage which is so essential for each and every society. They are also important for inter-generational exchanges and dialogue, especially within the context of the family.
Sunday, 10 April 2016
The rest is history. Charismatic Renewal is now strong in India with Kerala leading the way.
Pope John Paul II also supported the Renewal. John Paul II -- as well as then-Cardinal Ratzinger who is now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI -- acknowledged good aspects of the movement but emphasised that members must maintain their Catholic identity and communion with the Catholic Church. “I am convinced that this movement is a very important component of the entire renewal of the Church,” John Paul II said while speaking to a group of international leaders of the Renewal on December 11, 1979. “I can understand all these charisms. They are all part of the richness of the Lord. I am convinced that this movement is a sign of His action,” he said.
On November 30, 1990, the Pontifical Council for the Laity promulgated the decree which inaugurated the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships. Brian Smith of Brisbane, elected President of the Executive of the Fraternity, called the declaration the most significant event in the history of the charismatic renewal since the 1975 Holy Year international conference and the acknowledgment it received from Pope Paul VI at that time. "It is the first time that the Renewal has had formal, canonical recognition by the Vatican,” Smith said.
“At the heart of a world imbued with a rationalistic skepticism, a new experience of the Holy Spirit suddenly burst forth. And, since then, that experience has assumed a breadth of a worldwide Renewal movement. What the New Testament tells us about the charisms - which were seen as visible signs of the coming of the Spirit - is not just ancient history, over and done with, for it is once again becoming extremely topical,” Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote in the forward to a book by Cardinal Suenens, at that time the Pope's delegate to the Charismatic Renewal.
Catholic Church has not looked back after Vatican supported the movement. Priests from Syro-Malabar Catholic Church from Kerala are in the forefront of spreading Charismatic Renewal across the world.
“The charismatic renewal movement became the most formidable religious revival of the 20th century: a global phenomenon that had left almost no Christian community untouched by the time it began to taper off in the mid-1970s,” writes Molly Worthen, Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. “Protestants and Catholics who had always preferred calm and ‘respectable’ worship, who viewed Pentecostals as their embarrassing cousins, embraced Pentecostal practices like praying in tongues, divine healing, and surrendering physical control of their bodies to the Holy Spirit,” Worthen said.
The word "charismatic" comes from the Greek word for "gift." There are many charisms, and God distributes them differently to different people. 1 Corinthians 7:7 shows us that everyone "has a particular gift (charisma) from God, one of one kind and one of another."
Catechism of Catholic Church (CCC) says, “whether extraordinary or simple and humble, charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church, ordered as they are to her building up, to the good of men, and to the needs of the world.” Charisms are to be accepted with gratitude by the person who receives them and by all members of the Church as well. They are a wonderfully rich grace for the apostolic vitality and for the holiness of the entire Body of Christ, provided they really are genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit and are used in full conformity with authentic promptings of this same Spirit, that is, in keeping with charity, the true measure of all charisms, CCC says.
According to CCC, it is in this sense that discernment of charisms is always necessary. No charism is exempt from being referred and submitted to the Church's shepherds. "Their office (is) not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to what is good," so that all the diverse and complementary charisms work together "for the common good."
It’s all about shedding your old self and becoming a new person in Spirit. Ephesians 4:22-24 sys, “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
According to Italian author and journalist Alessandra Nucci, Pope Francis’ frequent mentions of the Holy Spirit -- whom he has described as someone who “annoys us” and “moves us, makes us walk, pushes the Church to move forward” -- as well as his unprecedentedly frequent references to the devil (rather than to a generic “evil”), indicate his affinity for the Charismatic Renewal. “The election of such a back-to-basics man as Supreme Pontiff provides us with an opportunity to look at the road traveled by the Charismatic Renewal and to “hold on to what is good” (1 Thess 5:21),” Nucci writes.
That said, it’s beyond any doubt that Charismatic Renewal, which started nearly 50 years ago, has brought about new hope and life in Spirit among millions of people across the world. We’re living witnesses to this great work of our Lord. This is a Fire that will last till the end of the world. It’s Pentacostal Fire.
References: 1. Crux Catholic Media; 2. Catechism of Catholic Church; 3. EWTN, USA; 4. Archives of Duquesne University; 5. Catholic Family News
Wednesday, 30 March 2016
In his remarks in Italian, the Pope said God's infinite mercy wipes away our sins like the dry cleaner eliminates the stains from our clothes. But “divine forgiveness is supremely effective,” Pope said. Unlike the dry cleaner, however, “it doesn’t hide the sin; it destroys it and cancels it… God eliminates our sin from its very roots – all of it.”
In his catechesis, Pope Francis reflected on the penitential prayer Psalm 51 from the Old Testament. In ancient Hebrew tradition, the Pope noted, the psalm refers to a penitent King David who, trusting in God’s mercy, humbly prays for forgiveness after he committed not simply “a small lie” but the great sins of adultery and murder.
Pope Francis invited those gathered in Saint Peter’s square to raise their hands if any among them had not sinned in his or her lifetime. He remarked that no one present had raised a hand and observed that “we are all sinners” and some people find themselves sinning over and over again.
Like a child who reaches up to his parents to lift him after a fall - noted the Pope, when we fall in sin, we can raise our hand to God who will pull us up. “God created man and woman to stand upright,” said the Pope. "It is beautiful to be forgive, but you too, if you want to be pardoned, you should also forgive. Forgive," he said.
In his continuing catechesis for the Holy Year of Mercy, Pope Francis said, "we now conclude our treatment of the Old Testament with a consideration of Psalm 51, the Miserere." This Psalm is traditionally seen as King David’s prayer for forgiveness following his sin with Bathsheba. Its opening words: “Have mercy on me, O God in your kindness”, are a moving confession of sin, repentance and confident hope in God’s merciful pardon. Together with a heartfelt plea to be cleansed and purified of his sin, the Psalmist sings the praise of God’s infinite justice and holiness. He asks for the forgiveness of his great sin but also for the gift of a pure heart and a steadfast spirit, so that, thus renewed, he may draw other sinners back to the way of righteousness. God’s forgiveness is the greatest sign of his infinite mercy. Through the prayers of Mary, Mother of Mercy, may we become ever more convincing witnesses to that divine mercy which forgives our sins, creates in us a new heart, and enables us to proclaim God’s reconciling love to the world.
Saturday, 12 March 2016
I know that many Christians all over the world, are really sad and upset over the present persecution of Christianity everywhere, especially in the Middle East, by the ISIS and in Africa by the Boko Haram. These two groups – with the support of many other Islamic terrorist groups – have proclaimed a “Jihad” (holy war) against Christianity and its followers. Christians are beheaded, shot, crucified, buried, burned alive and mutilated. Women and children are raped and abused. Thousands of Christians have fled their homes and their homeland, and they are now forced to live in various refugee camps in alien countries.
The other day a man asked me with much anger in his heart towards the present Christian persecution, “why don’t we go with weapons of mass destruction – like nuclear bombs and destroy these murderers?”
THE REASONS OF PERSECUTION
Dear brothers and sisters, we must know that Jesus our Lord had foretold that a day would come when His followers would be persecuted and killed by the enemies and that they would think that they would be worshipping God by doing so, “They will expel you from the synagogues; in fact the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God” (Jn 16: 2). In the following words He had also explained the reason for this persecution and killings, “They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me” (Jn 16: 3). While on earth Jesus had told His followers, “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you did not belong to the world and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you” (Jn 15: 18-21).
Hence the reasons of persecution are clear; it is because we Christians belong to Christ and to His Father, it is because we are chosen by Christ through His Spirit, it is because our aim in life is the Kingdom of heaven, it is because we try to live a holy life according to the commandments of God and the Church, “In fact, all who want to live religiously in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (II Tim 3: 12)
After the second Vatican Council, through various renewal movements, especially through the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, Christians all over the world were awakened to God’s call for a holy life; many indeed have committed themselves to Christ as authentic witnesses of His love. Through prayers, Sacramental life, and prayer groups Christianity is being renewed and strengthened. Surely Satan, the enemy, is enraged at the renewal and growth of Christianity and he is trying to use men and women from all religions to fight against Christians. He is sifting the church with his cunning plans and tactics (Eph 6: 10-18, 1 Pt 5:8).
WHAT MUST WE DO AT THIS MOMENT?
Jesus had already told that we are in the world like sheep amidst wolves and He had warned us not to be afraid of those who kill the body but to be afraid only of those who kill the soul and body in hell (Mt 10: 16, 26-27). It is not a time to be sad and depressed or to nurture a spirit of retaliation in the heart towards the enemies of Christianity. It is a time to rejoice and to be glad because the Lord is blessing all Christians through these sufferings. Every suffering in the Name of Jesus brings an abundance of blessings either for the individual or the society.
In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus said that Christian suffering is blessedness, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven” (Mt 5:10: 12). Also we see similar teaching by the first Pope Peter, “Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. If you are insulted for the Name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (I Pet 4:12: 14).
We know that those who are persecuted and killed are really saints and martyrs in heaven. It is about them that Jesus says, “ These are the ones who have survived the times of great distress, they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason they stand before God’s throne, and worship Him day and night in his temple. The one who sits on the throne will shelter them” ( Rev 7:14-15)
FORGIVE AND PRAY FOR THEM.
As authentic followers of Christ, at this moment, we Christians should be able to forgive our persecutors and murderers as our master, Jesus Himself, has taught us. We must put on the mind of Christ who forgave and prayed for His persecutors and murderers, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Lk 23: 34). We must pray that the Holy Spirit may open their hearts to know and to believe in Christ Jesus the only savior of the world and through Him, His and our Father in heaven.
Jesus has told us thus, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5: 44). St. Paul says, “Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse” (Rom 12: 14). Also he said not to retaliate or to take revenge, but go the extent of helping and feeding the enemy (Rom 12: 19-21).
I know that all over the world Christians are praying to the Lord for an ending of this persecution by the recital of rosaries, the way of the cross, the chaplet of the Divine Mercy, as well as offering Holy Masses along with fasting and penance. I heard that Christians in Kerala, although only a few in number are offering one hundred million way of the cross, rosaries and fasting for this purpose!!! Let us continue loving our enemies and praying for them so that one day the persecutors themselves may become God’s children and our brothers and sisters. Of course we need the power of the Holy Spirit to do this; but we must know that the Holy Spirit has been poured into our hearts through prayers and sacraments in the church (Rom 5:5).
CHRISTIANS SHOULD READ THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES!
“Watch carefully then how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord” (Eph 5: 15-17). Why does Jesus allow such a persecution on those who follow Him? I think Jesus is giving us a chance to examine our consciences to see if we are really living an authentic Christian life. Is it not true that many Christians have left their faith in Christ and His church and are living as pagans, atheists, communists and a few even have become antichrists denying Jesus and His Father and are working against Christianity (I Jn 2: 22)?
It is sad that there are baptized Christians amidst the ISIS and the Boko Haram! What is said in the books of Jeremiah and Isaiah are true of them, “Two evils have my people done: they have forsaken me, the source of living waters. They have dug themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that hold no water” (Jer 2: 13). “… the Lord speaks: sons have I raised a reared, but they have disowned me! An ox knows its owner, and an ass its master’s manger, but my people do not know me or understand me” (Is 1: 2-3).
Perhaps it is true that the power of Satan, who is a murderer and destroyer is more at work in the world today because of the involvement of Christians themselves in Satanism, freemasonry, esoteric and new age. The Christians who once called upon the name of Jesus, are calling on Satan now in temples, lodges and places dedicated to Satan! Is it not Christians who brought the culture of death to this world in the present days by promoting abortion and euthanasia? It is deplorable that many Christian countries have legalized them!!! It was prophesied by late pope Paul VI that if free license is given to kill the children in the mother’s womb, one day man will kill each other without law nor license. Yes this is happening now!!!
Do we, who grieve over the murderers of thousands of Christians by Boko Haram and ISIS, grieve and mourn over the millions and millions massacred in the mother’s wombs by the weapons of the doctors!!! It is a shame that Christians are breaking the law and values of morality by promoting free sex, homosexuality, pornography, divorce, etc. Jesus our Master, taught us ways and rules to live an upright life, but we who boast of the law dishonour God by breaking the law. Because of us the name of the Lord is reviled among the gentiles (Rom 2: 23-24). Indeed we are re-crucifying the Son of God and holding Him to contempt (Heb 6:6). The book of wisdom says, “A man is punished by the very things through which he sins” (Wis 11: 16).
St Peter said, “But let no one among you be made to suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evil doer or as an intriguer” (I Pet 4: 15). I think that reading the signs of the times in the light of the Word of God in the bible and the teachings of the church, Christians should repent of their own sins and failures and return to the Lord by a decision to follow the commandments of the Lord and the church. The Lord says, “Return to me and I will return to you” (Zac 1: 3). “We are being collapsed through our own sins, let us turn to the Lord and say, ‘forgive all iniquity’” (Hos 14: 2-3). Christians should live their identity; they are a people chosen by God – as Gods own people, as royal priests and a holy nation to bear witness to His love (I Pet 2 :9). St. Peter says, “For it is the will of God that by doing good you may silence the ignorance of foolish people” (I Pet 2: 15).
A WORD OF WISDOM TO THE ENEMIES OF CHRISTIANITY!
Let the enemies of the church know that Christianity is fire and if anyone blows the fire it will spread far and wide burning out all that is bad. The Roman Empire that tried to exterminate the maiden Christianity later became a Christian empire and even today Rome is the center of Christianity. Those who crucified Jesus the Son of God as a criminal thought that the story of this man who did signs and wonders ended with the crucifixion, but He became the superstar that attracted billions and billions all over the world. The whole world is divided into His followers and others. Christians don’t just believe in an institution called the church or its dogmas, but they are following a person who is Jesus Himself, the second person of the Holy Trinity who came to this world to conquer the world by love.
The power of the Risen Lord is radiating on every human being on earth, even on those who are his enemies. To every persecutor of Christianity Jesus is telling the same words He spoke to Saul, Paul of Tarsus, who tried to destroy the church by entering Christian houses and dragging out men and women to be persecuted and killed, “Why are you persecuting me. It is hard for you to kick against the goad” (Acts 8:3, 26: 14). Jesus Christ whose name is Emmanuel – God with us, promised His followers His living presence and protection saying, “I will be with you until the end of the world” (Mt 28: 20).
Christians will conquer the evil force of today by the power of the Blood of Christ and by the word of their testimony, the dragon of persecution will be crushed down and the power of the Risen Christ will be manifested by the conversions of the persecutors and murderers themselves like in the case of St. Paul (Rev 12: 11). The Christians will fight with the Lamb, who is Christ, and He will conquer the enemy, for He is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings and those with Him are called chosen and faithful (Rev 17: 14).
The church will rise again as powerful from the present crisis with the power of the Risen Lord in unity and sanctity. Christ is the center and focus of humanity and He will shine upon everyone and He will reign here on earth, and in His own time He will gather them to His kingdom in eternity (Rev 5: 10, 7: 17).
Jesus is Risen indeed, Hallelujah, He lives for ever and ever!!!!
(Fr. James Manjackal, the Founder-Director of the renowned MSFS retreat and renewal centre, Charis Bhavan, in Kerala is currently engaged in preaching retreats and renewal programmes in Europe, America and Gulf countries. His retreats have captured the hearts of many, especially the youth. For more information on his ministry and activities kindly log on to his website: www.jmanjackal.net)