On November 29 we begin the Novena of the Immaculate Conception to prepare us for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on the 8th of December. I would like to invite you to join us the Oblates to pray this Novena. For the Novena Prayers click the
We are still in disbelief about the death of Phillip Hughes whom Prime Minster Tony Abbot described as: “a young man living out his dreams.” Former England international Nick Compton told CNN his former friend had lived "life to the full."
My Dear Sisters and Brothers! At the beginning of the New Liturgical Year we hear from our Blessed Lord and encouragement: “Be on your guard, stay awake.” Be on your guard in the Bible means: Have your eyes wide open. Observe carefully. What we are hearing on this First Sunday of Advent isn’t like the road signs: “A microsleep can kill in seconds.” On the contrary it is a call to live our Christian life to the full. It is about recognising and accepting all the graces you have received through Jesus Christ, as St Paul says in our Second Reading. It is true that as humans we need our sleep, honestly we need it quite a lot, we sleep one-third of our life. However the question is how much we are awake with our eyes wide open during the remaining two-third of our life, how much attention we pay to the signs God gives us every day. The Lord does give us such signs. These signs, these graces don’t restrict our life enjoyment but rather give us a chance to live out the greatest human dreams; dreams about infinity, sense of purpose, joy, peace, love, friendship etc. The graces of God make us live our life to the full.
This Sunday the Church also begins the Year of the Consecrated Life. We, as a Catholic Community, will be reflecting and glorifying the Lord for the richness of the Consecrated Life in the Church. The richness is expressed not only by various habits the consecrated persons like nuns, religious Brothers and priests wear, but it is the expression of lives lived to the full.
A few days ago we read in our churches the Gospel of the poor widow who put two small coins in the treasury of Jerusalem Temple. Some people could start arguing whether she offered much or little but this argument doesn’t make sense as she offered everything. When the coins fell into the treasury she had nothing left to support herself, she had place herself totally in God’s hands. It could be said that the life treated her badly: she had lost her husband, probably her children too, she was left with only two little coins and she donated even those. Those two little coins meant survival but she chose life instead, the life which only God can give. Those two coins probably didn’t make much noise when they hit the other coins in the treasury but they still sound in our ears as we remember that poor woman. Her faith stops us to contemplate what it means living life to the full. It is about trusting the lord.
In the letter inaugurating the Year of the Consecrated life Pope Francis wrote that: “Religious should be men and women able to wake the world up.” You can wake up somebody drastically by making noise. I still remember doing my retreat in a monastery and falling out of bed at 3am when a monk started ringing the bell just outside the window of the room I was occupying. Sometimes we need such a wakeup call. However the most effective way of waking up the world is the dawn. There is no much noise made by the dawn but it does wake us up. In the Gospel Jesus Christ is described as the Rising Sun. The call to the religious life is the call to live life to the full in the light of our Blessed Lord who shines like he did on that mountain when he was transfigured. Let us also pray so that our young men and woman may have faith and courage to respond to the call of the Lord to be the ones who are to wake up the world by their total commitment to the Lord as nuns, brothers and religious priests.
Most of the religious men and women wear habits which have got various belts or cinctures, it is a reminder of what Jesus said in the Gospel: “Let your waist be girded and your lamps lit as you await the coming of your master.” When next time you see a nun or a brother or a religious priest wearing a habit may it remind you that they are not the only ones Jesus is coming for. He is coming for you too. So “Be on your guard, stay awake.”
Almighty and eternal God
Who granted to Francisco Esteban
and his martyred companions
the grace of giving their lives for Christ,
through a bloody oblation,
help us in our weakness,
so that through their intercession
and following their example,
we too might remain firm in our faith
and might be able to give our lives for others
through the "martyrdom of charity,"
according to the teaching
of St. Eugene de Mazenod;
and in this way,
we might be able to give witness to the world
about who Jesus Christ is.
We ask this through the intercession
of our Mother, Mary Immaculate,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
On November 28 we celebrate the memorial of Blessed Francisco Esteban and his companions. They were Spanish Oblates martyred during the civil war in 1926.
Before the war broke out they provided pastoral services in parishes in a Madrid suburb of about 82,000. The young Oblate scholastics (theology students), taught catechism, and the Oblate choir sang during liturgies in those parishes.
When the three-year civil war broke out the Oblate shared the fate of many Spanish Catholics being persecuted for their faith. Local revolutionary groups couldn’t stand that the Oblates made themselves so visible in their black cassocks and distinctive Oblate missionary crucifixes tucked into the front of their habits. Refusing to let the revolutionaries intimidate them, the Oblates calmly avoided responding to any provocations. They never participated in political activities but confined their efforts to their pastoral work day after day.
On July 22, 1936, the Oblate residence was attacked, 38 priests and scholastics were placed under guard while soldiers searched the premises. Finding a variety of religious items, including crucifixes, rosaries and vestments, they threw these items into a heap to be destroyed.
On July 24, seven Oblates were martyred, among them there was also a layman: CÁNDIDO CASTÁN SAN JOSÉ. On November 7, two more Oblates were shot. On Novemebr 28, thirteen Oblates were martyred. These men were made to suffer and were killed because they were Catholic priests and Brothers. To save themselves they only had to renounce their faith and deny their beliefs. What would it matter? Who would care? Why suffer so much? Why cause pain for their families?
In the suffering that led up to their execution before the death squads, they professed their faith in Jesus Christ, their love for the Catholic Church and for their missionary vocation. One of the martyrs, Publio RODRIGUEZ MOSLARES, 24 years old, had given his mother a small crucifix and told her: “Kiss it frequently, and whatever happens, remember that everything we suffer for Christ, no matter how great it seems, would be small compared to how much Christ loves us and suffered for us.” As they were executed they cried out their profession of faith: “Long live Christ the King!”
“It is believed that they died professing their faith and forgiving their executioners. We do know that none of the 22 Oblates, despite the psychological torture during their cruel captivity, was an apostate, nor denied his faith, nor denied having embraced his religious vocation. For this reason their families, their brother Oblates and the Christian people, knowing their faithfulness until death, have unanimously held them to be martyrs from the first instance.”
Postulation of the Cause
As the Church is preparing to begin the Year of the Consecrated Life this Sunday, I was blessed to give a retreat day to a community of religious men. Once again I was so humbled to get an insight into their commitment to the mission of the Church and their love for the people they serve. At the retreat we reflected on the letter issued by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life “Rejoice!” I am still overwhelmed by simple but striking words of Pope Francis from this Letter: "I want to share a message, and the message is joy. Wherever consecrated persons are, there must always be joy.” Pope Francis is speaking here from his own life experience as a consecrated person - Jesuit. Watching him it is obvious how much joy he has.
Prayer to Our Lady:
Star of the new evangelization, help us to shine in witnessing to communion, to service, to a generous and ardent faith, justice and love for the poor, so that the joy of the Gospel can reach to the ends of the earth and none of its margins are deprived of light. Mother of the living Gospel, source of joy for the little ones, pray for us. Amen. Hallelujah.
Our Christmas present has arrived earlier this year. It was a gift from Christ indeed as Br Sayyane took his final vows last Saturday. After a week-long spiritual retreat in the beautiful Gipsland region he returned full of energy and eagerness. It was uplifting to see this young man so excited about committing the rest of his life to Christ and the mission of evangelization.
After the Gospel was proclaimed, making Christ the Lord present amongst his people, the Church called Br Sayyane to the vows. For a long time Brother had been discerning the call to the religious life and eventually arrived at the decision to give his life to Christ, but to remind him and all those assembled in the church that the call comes from the Lord, not simply from a human decision, Brother Sayyane was called publicly to the vows and then before the Church community he responded by saying: “Present.” In this way he expressed his will to unite his whole life to Christ in the Oblate Institute.
During the most important events in the life of the Church we ask the intercession of the saints. After the homily, while Br Sayyane prostrated we all sang the Litany of the Saints asking the support of those beautiful people in heaven to pray for the Brother.
Once the Litany of the Saints was finished the most important moment came when Br Sayyane pronounced the vows of Poverty, Chastity, Obedience and perseverance for life.
By pronouncing the vows the person consecrates himself to Christ. It means that from now on every aspect of the new religious' life belongs to the Lord. That's why after the vows are made the superior who received the vows in the nave of the Oblates prays the consecration prayer which seals the commitment that was made.
As a visible sign of our oblate perpetual vows we are given the Oblate Crucifix.
In 1818, St Eugene de Mazenod wrote:
They will have no other distinguishing mark except that which is proper to their ministry, namely the image of the Crucified Lord. This crucifix will serve as the credentials of their embassy to the different peoples to whom they are sent. It will be a perpetual reminder to the missionaries themselves of the humility, patience, charity, modesty and of all the other virtues with which they are to carry out their most holy and sublime ministry.
The final ritual of the whole ceremony was the sign of peace and welcome exchanged by Br Sayyane and all Oblates present. It was an acknowledgment that with the final vows Br Sayyane has gained a new family: Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. It was our joy to welcome him to our religious family.
There was a young priest appointed to a parish. He wasn’t much older than some members of the youth group. Some of them started calling him by his name. But there was one young man who would always address the priest as: Father. After some time they became good friends but the young man continued calling him Father. When asked why he didn’t want to call him by his name, like most of other people did, he answered: “Look Father. I’ve got enough mates around me. But you are the only priest I know so well. It is important to me to have you in my life as a priest. I don’t want to spoil it.”
My Dear Sisters and Brothers!
Today’s Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe isn’t simply another title given to Jesus. He doesn’t need titles to be important and crucial to the past, present and future of the human kind but we need to remind ourselves who he is. When Pope Pius XI established this Feast Day in 1925 he didn’t invent anything new, the pope didn’t make it up. In the Bible we hear many times Jesus speak about his Kingdom. It was one of his most favourite topics. When asked by Pilate: “Are you a king?” Jesus answered: “Yes, I am a king. I was born for this, I came into this world for this: to bear witness to the truth.”
What the Holy Father reminded his contemporaries, and it applies to us too, is that faith dies when we start domesticating Jesus, when we make him our mate, when we simply place him among other inspiring figures of the human history. Why is it so important to have a profound approach to Jesus? Let me give you another story. It happened in a parish I used to work. We had a parish primary school there. One day I was in the school office when the principle walked in. I could tell she was shocked. She explained to us that she was called to the school playground to settle down a fight between a Kindergarten pupil and a year six student. Apparently the little child got upset and started kicking and punching the big boy who didn’t want to hit him back. When the Principle came into the scene and separated them, the kindergarten child started arguing and shouting at the Principal. She said: “He was talking to me as if I were his mate from the sandpit. No respect whatsoever.”
Let’s listen again to the beginning of the Gospel passage for this Solemnity: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. All nations will be assembled before him.” You and I will be there too. If we give Christ the Lord a profound worship and honour today we will have him as our true friend at the end. If we domesticate Jesus, if we reduce him to just one of many significant figures in the world we spoil this friendship with him. You have lots of people around you whom you can call mates let Jesus be your friend whom you, at the same time, acknowledge your Lord and Saviour. It doesn’t change anything for Jesus, he will not be less or more important by the way you treat him but it will make your faith grow stronger or die. What does it mean to have a profound warship and honour for Jesus? It means that when you feel that the challenges of being a Catholic are too big you pause and say to him: “My Lord and My God, it is difficult what you ask me to do but I trust that you tell me this because you want the best for me. Give me your grace, your Holy Spirit to accomplish what seems to me impossible or too difficult.”
As you could hear and read lately in newspapers, TV, the Internet etc. about the Synod on Family, showed some people who were discussing those moral issues in the way the Kindergarten child spoke with his Principal. There wasn’t much in the media about listening to what Jesus says, there wasn’t much talk that Christian understanding of the moral issues like divorces, same sex marriages etc comes from what God has revealed to us. Isn’t interesting that we laugh at a Kindergarten child thinking that he knew better than the Principal but at the same time it is “normal” when people question the wisdom of God.
So let’s go back to the relationship between you and your Saviour. It is the foundation of all the other relationships you may have. Lately I have heard and interesting interview with a psychologist who was discussing why people today are so into relationships, they speak so highly of them, they dream about having relationships but at the same time there is a crisis of relationships. The rate of broken marriages and families is skyrocketing; friendships don’t survive the test of time, etc. The psychologist, who wasn’t talking from a religious point of view, drew an interesting conclusion, he said that what people used to get from their faith in God, from their relationship with God now they except from their spouses, parents, friends, colleagues etc. They place unrealistic expectations on the human relationships they have.
My Dear Fellow believers! The psychologist finished saying that we should be realistic when it comes to relationships. I would draw a different conclusion from his presentations. Do you know what my conclusion is? “BE RELIGIOUS”, have a profound faith in Jesus. Don’t make Jesus your mate because then you will start making your human mates gods.
Only of Christ the Lord you can always expect to be forgiven and be given another chance.
Only of Christ the Lord you can always expect to be with you through all the days of your life here on earth and eternally in heaven. When it comes to people: some will choose to leave you, some will drift away finding somebody else more interesting, some will die, Christ will remain with you forever.
On November 21, the Church recalls the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Although this event isn’t recorded in the Scriptures it has been an ancient belief of the disciples of Jesus that Our Lady was offered to the Almighty as a young girl. Especially the Eastern Churches contemplate this mystery in a profound way. Among some stories surrounding the event there is one saying that when her parents brought her up to the temple in Jerusalem Mary was met by a priest who sensing the extraordinary grace filling the child walked her to the most sacred chamber of the Temple, the Holy of Holiest. Although no one can prove it but the story highlights that Our Lady was not only worthy to be there where the Presence of God dwelled she was to be the Holy of Holiest when the Only Begotten Son of God was incarnate in her womb. Today the Church marvels at the grace granted to Mary, the grace that united her with her Divine Son for ever.
The mystery of this event can be well explained by the term of oblation which in our Oblate Congregation is used to describe our vows of chastity, poverty, obedience and perseverance. Oblation signifies an action through which the Christian, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, gives himself to God. Even at the beginning of the Institute when it was still called Missionaries of Provence, the vows taken by the members were called Oblation. 20 years later when St Eugen went to Rome to ask the Pope to approve the Institute he changed the name to Missionaries Oblates of Mary Immaculate. One can say that the vows – Oblation gave the final name to the religious family founded by St Eugene de Mazenod. First the Missionaries lived their total surrender to God like Mary did, and then they sealed it with the new name: Oblates. They offered themselves to the Immaculate as they knew that Mary keeps nothing or nobody to herself but offers it all to her Son Jesus Christ.
We have just said good bye to the NET Mazenod. Those five young people gave a year of their life to minister to our Oblate Mazenod Collage here in Melbourne. It was obvious how much their ministry meant to the students and the staff of the school, it was also obvious how much of their heart the NET Team gave to their ministry here. However what we could witness here at St Mary’s, where those young people stayed, was the little Christian community they created. They were more they just a team of inspiring people, they were a taste of the Church. Through their common prayers and reflections every day, through their support for each other, through their common passion for Christ and the Church they were showing that being a Catholic isn’t a selfish and individualistic path through life but it is the path where others are your priority. We will miss them as they fit very well into our Oblate lifestyle at the Seminary. In them I could recognize a lot of our own Oblate spirituality, which focuses on Christ and builds up the Church, not an abstract Church but the Church with the faces of concrete people. It is also such an uplifting thing to see young people giving happily a year of their life to serve Christ and his Church. I am sure that wherever they go in the future they will take with them the graces of their time as NET Community. As they completed their ministry at the Mazenod Collage and returned to their families we see that with their absence there is not only more room in the seminary but that there is also more room in our hearts as they have enlarged them. It is sad to say a good by to friends but it our faith that tells us that they need to be a blessing to other people too. I am sure they will be such a blessing wherever they go.
A few families went to an amusement park. I guess they were trying to save some money because the children went on the ghost train while the parents didn’t. So as you can imagine there were lots of screams but one little boy didn’t utter a sound. He was just looking around very calmly. When they finished his cousins asked him: “What’s wrong with you? Weren’t you scared in there?” The little boys said: “I wasn’t because before we went on the ghost train my dad told me he would wait for me at the end.”
My Dear Sisters and Brothers!
You don’t need to go on the ghost train to face scary and frightening situations. People are frightened because of the Ebola virus, terrorism, cancer, stroke, natural disasters, economic turmoil, ageing, children going wild etc. and ultimately death. As if it were not enough we hear today in the Responsorial Psalm between readings: “O blessed are those who fear the Lord.” To go even further let’s recall what was recorded in the Book of Deuteronomy: “What does the Lord your God require of you? To fear the Lord your God.” The fear here has nothing to do with God frightening us like those animations you can see while on the ghost train do. The fear of God here can be compared to having in your hands the most beautiful and fragile, piece of art, something you admire, and something that mesmerizes you with its beauty. You are so glad to have it in your hands but at the same time you fear that you can drop it and break it. Let’s now apply it to God. You fear God when God is so beautiful, fascinating, important, and crucial to you that you want to have a relationship with him. You want to believe in God, and because of your faith you also realize that you can break that relationship very easy because of your unfaithfulness and your sins. This beautiful God is in heaven but what is beautiful of him even more is that he comes to us, that we can walk our life with him. That’s why the Book of Deuteronomy says: “What does the Lord your God require of you? To fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep his commandments.” In the Book of Proverbs we also read: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” It is the knowledge of what really matters in life: HAVING FAITH IN JESUS.
After Jesus’ death and Resurrection St John the Beloved Apostle of the Lord, the one who knew the heart of Jesus so well wanted the first Christians to get the fear of the Lord right, and to put deep in their hearts and minds that the fear of the Lord is all about admiration, love, fascination, commitment, attachment to the Lord, not being frighten of the Lord, he wrote to say that what we understand by fear cannot be applied to God: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears in not perfected in love.” Human fear focuses me on myself while fear of God focuses me on the Almighty.
The man from today’s Gospel who buried the talent feared his master because he was scared of punishment. That fear paralyzed him from engaging himself in multiplying of what he was given. That human fear he had stopped him from doing the will of the master. He wasn’t captivated by the beauty and kindness of the Lord who approached him with not only a gift but with trust he could multiply the gift.
To finish this homily I am not going to encourage you to go on the ghost train but to listen to the words taken from the Acts of the Apostles: “The disciples held steadfastly to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. And the fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the Apostles.”
As Christians, as Sons and Daughters of the Church we know who is waiting at the end of our life journey, we like that little boy say: “Our Lord said he would wait for us there.” That’s why we don’t need to fear things around us. That’s why we share our reason to be uplifted with those who are downhearted because of the situation and events around them.
Fr Daniel OMI
An Oblate Priest