This Sunday, November 29, we begin the Novena before the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of The Blessed Virgin Mary. St Eugene de Mazenod chose the Immaculate Virgin as the Patroness and the model of the religious Institute he founded and which he called Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. In the coming days leading to the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception which we will have on December 8, I would like to invite you to join the Oblates across the world and the whole Church to prepare ourselves to celebrate the great mystery of Mary's preservation from the original sin. The prayers you will find by clicking
Why do we have windows in our houses? To get sunlight, to get fresh air etc. In the Gospel of John Jesus speaking of heaven as the house of his Father uses the images familiar to his fellow Israelites from our first reading where Jeremiah spoke about the House of Israel and House of Judah. Although it is not about physical buildings let’s imagine the kingdom of heaven as a house. Would windows be needed there? The Book of the Revelation says that God is the light there, that there is no need for any other source of light. So what about windows in heaven? Let me give you this situation: A few weeks ago I was doing my daily walk when I noticed a Christmas tree in a house. It was only the end of October. But the point is because of the window in the house I could see the display. If we speak about windows in heaven we mean something that gives us an insight, a spiritual glimpse of what is there. As you know there are many religions in the world, but if we focus on what Jesus Christ has told us about heaven, what is the insight, the spiritual glimpse that is uniquely Christian? It is the mystery of the Most Blessed Trinity; that the God we believe in is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
My Dear Sisters and Brothers! This year we have in the Church the Year of the Consecrated Life, the time given us to ponder on what is the essence of life of the women and men, from various religious orders, who take the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. They undertake various ministries for the benefit of the Church and the wider society but the essence is that each religious order or congregation is like a window which gives us an insight into the mystery of Christ. Next year, on January 25, it will be 200 years since St Eugene de Mazenod and his five companions established the first community of missionaries who eventually developed into Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. The “window”, the insight into the mystery of God, which St Eugene de Mazenod wanted his Oblates to provide the Church with is precisely to expose that our God is the community of Divine Persons. That’s why community life is the crucial part of our Oblate life. We don’t live and minister on our own. St Eugene insisted on that. In those first years which followed January 25, 1816, when the Oblates were founded, there were big demands on missionaries in France, but those first five Oblates didn’t go to five different parishes to preach, even if, in this way, they could cover more area. On the contrary they would go together, as a community, even to small and poor places. In this way they would witness to God who is the Community of Divine Persons. If we know this we won’t be surprised that the first companion of St Eugene was Fr Henry Tempier, who was not a gifted preacher but he was a holy man and strongly committed to community life.
But as you know the Trinity is a huge topic, so what is a particular “window”, a particular insight St Eugene wanted to contribute to the Church by founding the Oblates?
If we are still in our architecture imagination, let me ask you this question: “Why do we have the door in the Church?” To get into the Church? What about this: To get out of the Church into the world with the message of the Gospel. Jesus Christ is the One who came from heaven with Good News to shape us into the likeness of the community of the Trinity.
When I was walking by that house in Melbourne with the Christmas tree already done I just shook my head and I kept walking. When we get a glimpse of heaven, the glimpse transforms us into what we see. That was the glimpse St Eugene wanted to offer the Church so badly damaged in his time, as if he was saying: “Don’t lick your wounds. Don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Don’t dream about better times but remember the basics. Our God is the Divine Community which reaches out. That’s what we are called to be.”
The first Oblate House established in Aix in 1816 is attached to a little church. Do you know what the title of the church is? The church of Mission. I have never come across any other church under such name but as I look at the main door to the church of Mission in Aix I can see St Eugene and our first missionaries walking out of the church to evangelize the towns and villages of the Southern France.
To finish I would like to leave you with anther image. It is the image of Our Lady, the Star of the New Evangelization. The image was made at the request of John Paul II. I would like to dedicate this image to the young people of your parish: Mary is holding Jesus very closely. It indicates her love and commitment to the Lord. But notice where she is standing. She is standing in the door. You can say that it is the door of your parish church. However before she steps out she turns to you. If you look into her eyes you can read that she is silently asking you: Will you join me to take my Son Jesus Christ out there, to those who don’t know him yet?
On November 28 the Church venerates the 22 Oblate Martyrs of Spain. It marks that 27th of November 1936 when the Oblate Provincial of Spain and 12 of his companions were martyred.
During the persecution of the Church in Spain from 1936 to 1939 nearly 7000 bishops, priests and religious were martyred. Among those who sacrificed their lives for Christ and his Church there were 22 Oblates: priests, brothers and scholastics. They lived in the Oblate formation house where the young men were preparing to become missionaries. Although the anti-religious riots in the city were becoming more and more frightening the Oblates continued their community life centered on prayer, study and pastoral activities in the neighborhood. However that quiet life style, which was exclusively religious, became an issue for the communist revolutionaries who eventually on July 22, 1936 attacked the Oblate house. The Oblates were put under arrest while the house was searched for some alleged weapons. The only “weapons” found on the premises were Bibles and other spiritual books, rosaries, crucifixes, religious statues and pictures. Those were thrown into a pile to be burnt. 38 Oblates were locked in their dining room and guarded as if they were dangerous criminals. Two days later, on July 24, 1936 the first seven of them were to crown their life with martyrdom:
Juan Antonio Peréz Mayo, priest and professor, age 29.
Manuel Gutiérrez Martín, scholastic, age 23.
Cecilio Vega Domínguez, scholastic, age 23.
Juan Pedro Cotillo Fernández, scholastic, age 22.
Pascual Aláez Medina, scholastic, age 19.
Francisco Polvorinos Gómez, scholastic, age 26.
Justo González Lorente, scholastic, age 21.
On the same day the orders came to release the remaining religious. They scattered among their friends and relatives. However a few months later they were hunted down and imprisoned again. The coming November was to be the time of their Calvary.
On November 7, 1936 two Oblates were executed:
José Vega Riaño, priest and formator, age 32
Serviliano Riaño Herrero, scholastic, age 30,
On November 28, 1936; 13 more Oblates were to follow the path of the confreres.
Francisco Esteban Lacal, Provincial Superior, age 48.
Vicente Blanco Guadilla, Local Superior, age 54.
Gregorio Escobar García, recently ordained priest age 24.
Juan José Caballero Rodríguez, scholastic, age 24.
Publio Rodríguez Moslares, scholastic brother, age 24.
Justo Gil Pardo, deacon, age 26.
Ángel Francisco Bocos Hernández, brother, age 54.
Marcelino Sánchez Fernández, brother, age 26.
José Guerra Andrés, scholastic, age 22.
Daniel Gómez Lucas, scholastic, age 20.
Justo Fernández González, scholastic, age 18.
Clemente Rodríguez Tejerina, scholastic, age 18.
Eleuterio Prado Villarroel, brother, age 21.
The gravedigger made the following statement regarding the day: “I am completely convinced that on November 28, 1936, a priest or a religious asked the militia if he could say goodbye to all his companions and give them absolution, something he was allowed to do. Once he had finished, he said these words in a loud voice: “We know that you are killing us because we are Catholics and religious. That we are. My companions and I forgive you from the bottom of our hearts. Long live Christ the King!”” There were also members of other religious congregations, but from what this witness has told us, it was the Provincial of the Oblates who said this.
Scholastic Clemente Rodríguez Tejerina, 18 years old, said to his sister some days before his martyrdom: “We are in danger and we fear that we will be separated; we encourage each other. But even if we have to die, I am ready, and I am sure that God will give us the strength that we need to be faithful.” He was only 18 at that time but his faith had already ripened.
Three out of 22 Oblates were under 20 years of age, 14 were in their twenties.
Prayer through the intercession of the Oblate Martyrs of Spain
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. Amen.
In the course of my studies of the French Catholicism in the seventeenth and eighteenth century I came across testimonies of some people who wrote about their conversion to the Catholic Faith. Among them there were Protestants, Jews and Muslims who wrote most beautiful accounts of them embracing the Catholicism. What would be your guess who they wrote their conversion stories to?.... They wrote to the department who, back then, was charged by the King with granting French citizenship. At that time to be a French national one had to be a Catholic. It also meant that if a person who wasn’t a citizen died his or her property wouldn’t be inherited by the children but would go to the Crown. With such information you start being a bit suspicious when you read those conversion stories.
My Dear Sisters and Brothers! Can you remember the year when the Queen ascended to the throne? It was 1952, though she was crowned in 1953. The Solemnity of Jesus Christ the King we hold today was established in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. Does it mean that this year we are having the ninetieth anniversary of Jesus’ as King? Not at all. When Jesus was questioned by Pilate he answered: “I am the King” but even that moment wasn’t the beginning of his reign. When the wise men, following the star, came to Jerusalem they asked the Herod and his court: “Where is the new born King of Jews?” The person whom the Wise Men so desperately wanted to see stood before the Pilate who blinded by the magnificence of his Cesar from Rome couldn’t recognize in the humble man brought to him for a trial the true and everlasting King. In the conversation with Pilate Our Blessed Lord stated: “If my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent me being surrendered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this kind.” It is the kingdom where the King gives his life for his people. This great solemnity we have today also shows us that Jesus Kingdom grows not by conversions driven by some useful approaches when one could benefit socially, politically or financially from following Christ.
At the beginning I mentioned the situation in the Royal France. Into that society, highly Catholic but also superficially Catholic, St Eugene de Mazenod was born. Then he was to live through times as exciting as ours here in Australia. The French people were changing their political systems, from monarchy to Republic, then from Republic to monarchy and again from monarchy to republic, nearly as often as our Prime Ministers are changed. However the Founder of the Oblates discovered that God’s Kingdom cannot be forced upon people or to have people lured to it.
Let me ask you another question? How many of you were born outside Australia? Another question? How many of you come to Australia because you came to love Queen Elisabeth and wanted to live under her authority?
St Eugene was very clear when he invited his first collaborators to join him. He knew that only if the people can discover the truth about Jesus they can surrender their lives to him.
When I study the life and writing of St Eugene I link his vision to what the Bible speaks about prophets. The Jews, for whom prophets were so crucial for their religion, had actually three different words to say that someone was a prophet. Two of them would refer to people who had some knowledge given them by God to explain to others the meaning of contemporary happenings. However the third word, that the one I love, means boiling water. A prophet would be descried as boiling water. When I came across this for the first time I thought of the times when we had old-fashioned kettles to boil water for tea. They wouldn’t stop automatically but the lid would be jumping up and down. It looked as if the water was trying to jump out of the kettle. That’s how Eugene understood evangelization, not simply converting others but firstly giving to others faith and God’s love you cannot contain within yourself.
My Dear friends! We are so desperate to have new missionaries but let’s think, hope and pray big. Let us pray for new candidates for the priesthood and religious life who are so committed and passionate about Jesus that they are like boiling water.
Maybe next time you boil you boring automatic kettle you can say a prayer for new vocations.
Since the new English translation of the Roman Missal was introduced some years ago I have learnt that it is not prudent to go up to the altar to celebrate Eucharist without checking the prayers first. Otherwise it is easy to stumble upon a word which is not used in our daily language. I think that it is a good thing as it assists us not to get too used to the sacred liturgy.
Among those new words thee is also a word which has made a big come back to the language of the Mass: oblation. It is easy to detect that as Oblate of Mary Immaculate I am a great enthusiast of the word oblation. In my religious institute it has been always used to describe the vows which we take. It can be explained as a gift or offering but oblation gives it a more profound meaning as it highlights that it is total without keeping anything to myself. It is well expressed in the Third Eucharistic Prayer:
Look, we pray, upon the oblation of your Church, and, recognizing the sacrificial Victim by whose death you willed to reconcile us to yourself, grant that we, who are nourished by the Body and Blood of your Son, and filled with his Holy Spirit, may become one body, one spirit in Christ.
This week there is a day (November 21) dedicated to our Blessed Mother. The day is called the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Although we don’t have this event recorded in the Bible but Church under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit has given us this celebration which reveals how closely Mary was united with the plans of God. This week feast day recalls the day when Mary as a child was presented in the Jerusalem Temple by her parents. In this act she was given to God. Her presentation or oblation in the Temple signifies her total commitment to the will of God to be fulfilled in her. Mary didn’t give to God some left overs but she gave her whole life. In her we discover that what is given to God as an oblation is the source of joy and the happiness of the giver, whom we can describe as an OBLATE. Now I don’t simply mean a member of our Oblate Congregation but every Christian who doesn’t keep for God some left offers of his or her life but they present to God their whole life.
in Some weeks ago I saw a man walking up and down a street carrying a sign where it was written: “God says: the time is near. Repent!” I was very tempted to ask him what he wanted to achieve: to give hope or to frighten the people in the CBD. However what frightened me was that I could get stuck for an hour listening to his talk about the cataclysm coming soon upon us.
My Dear Sisters and Brothers! The Gospel for this Sunday begins with the description of apocalyptic events preceding the coming of Our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ at the end of time. However in this terrifying image of those events there is also an image of the fig tree awaking to new life and sprouting new foliage.
Can you recall a catastrophic event from the Bible? Something you could tell right now. If I am correct most of us would tell the story of the Great Flood, wouldn’t we? Can you remember what gave new hope to Noah and his folks in the ark when they were surrounded by the vastness of flood and contemplating the severity of distraction around them? It was a dove bringing a fresh little twig of olive tree, the sign that there was still future for them in the world that was destroyed.
Today we are feeling shattered, as extend of the destruction caused by evil hatred unfolds in the Capital of France. Although thousands of kilometres from our doorsteps it does make us question how secure our own homes are here, how secure our loved ones traveling at the moment are, what kind of future we have. The events like in Paris face us with brevity, fragility and unpredictability of our lives.
The words from today’s Gospel Jesus uttered while standing on the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem and particularly the magnificent Temple there. The Jesus’ talk, we hear in our churches, was triggered by the people who drew his attention to the beauty, magnificence and physical solidness of that building. Jesus however looking at what was the essence of life for them is predicting the destruction of the place. And he was so right. Before a generation passed, within 30 years the Temple was destroyed. Some could say: He was God, why didn’t he stop the cataclysm? Some could ask today: Why didn’t God stop the mad men in Paris? However watching with unbelief the scenes from France, probably in the same way the Jews were watching the destruction of their holy city Jerusalem and its Temple, I see an extra image coming from the Words of Our Lord: the image of the fig tree starting sprouting. The tree I am talking is the one which grew on the Calvary, the tree which was to be an execution tool but instead it has become the tree of life as the Bible teaches us. On that tree evil people killed the Giver of life, God’s only Son but on that tree life appeared, as our Salvation began. As people of faith we see in all tragic events the sign of hope because God's word cannot mislead us. Lots of us would like to make sense of such events like those in Paris. The ultimate sense can be reached only by holding fast to our faith that God is greater then the evil that threatens us.
My Dear Friends! We don’t say that it was will of God for those Parisians to be killed. However it reminds us that devil is real. As St Peter says: “Be alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
I would like to invite you to turn your prayers to the Archangel Michael mentioned in our first reading, the great prince who stands up for us. The Church has always sought the protection of the Archangel in the fight against devil. Let us turn to this great protector of God’s people now as we pray:
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do You, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the Divine Power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.
During the Last Synod on Family Pope Francis canonised Louis Martin and Marie Zelie Martin. They have been the first married couple canonised together. Usually they are identified as the parents of St Therese of Child Jesus, who has been such a deer saint to many people, not only Catholics. However there is more into their story then the fact that one of their daughters has become such a popular saint. What I find striking in their lives is that they both started with similar dreams. As young man Louis was deeply committed to his Catholic Faith. He was a man of prayer and meditation. That’s why he thought that his vocation was to enter a monastery. Actually he did it. He went to the Swiss Alps to join Carthusians there. They have been known for being the strictest religious order in the Catholic Church. However the wise abbot of the monastery discerned very quickly that this pious and prayerful young man hadn’t been called to the religious life.
Marie Zelie Guerin, who was eight years younger, entertained the thought to be a nun like her sister. She approached the Daughters of Charity, who were committed to caring for the sick, to accept her as a postulant. As she had seen in herself drawn to life of prayer and service she thought that the Lord was calling her to the convent. It didn’t take long for the Mother Superior to discern that the pious young lady had a different vocation.
We may think similarly that if someone is religious, prayerful, profoundly interested in the Faith the person shows the signs of a religious vocation. Of course it can be the case but the newest saints raised to the glory of the altars provide us with an insight much needed for our Church and our society as well. Deep faith and seriousness in prayer life are crucial, even essential, for those who are to be married and have children.
Saints Louis and Marie Zelie are a great gift for our contemporary Church. Their canonisation shows a forgotten aspect of the marriage, that the husband and wife support each other to become saints. Louis and Marie experienced lots of hardships. Four of their nine children died at the early age. Four times that saintly couple had to make their way to the local cemetery to bury their children. Then Marie, at the age of 47 died of the breast cancer. Hard life but filled with life and faith. I have written of their faith already. Now to finish it is worth writing of their mutual love. We have nearly 250 letters they exchanged during their married life. It doesn’t mean that they were separated for a long time. No, most of the time they lived together but during those brief trips when they weren’t together they would write to each other. Isn’t a powerful expression of their marriage spirituality? Probably they are not only the first married couple canonised but they are also the first saints whose love letters have been studied to prove their holiness. I pray for all husbands and wives so that they may see in their mutual love the path to the summit of holiness.
A few days ago Pope Francis ordained a new bishop in Rome. One of the rites during such celebration is placing an episcopal ring on the finger of the new bishop. Before Pope Francis place the ring of the bishop he paused for a moment, looked at him and said: “Before this ring, there were the bonds of your mum and dad, the rings they exchanged on their wedding day. As you receive you bishop ring remember that in your ministry you must defend the family.”
Below there a picture of the relicts of St. Therese of Lisieux and her Mum and Dad. At rear a relict of St Therese in a vessel marked by a rose, as well as the relics of her holy parents Louis and Zelie Martin, characterized by lilies. In the centre there are the wedding rings which remind us of the holiness of the marriage between a man and a woman.
God of eternal love, You give us Saint Louis and Zélie Martin,
the parents of St. Thérèse, as an example of holiness in marriage.
They remained faithful to You and Your commandments
in all the duties and trials of life.
They desired to raise their children to become saints.
May their prayers and example
help Christian family life to blossom in our world today.
If it be your will, grant us the grace we now ask of You,
through the intercession of Saint Louis and Zélie Martin.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A couple of people from St Vincent de Paul society were aware of a family struggling to make the ends meet so they brought them some food to. The mother was most grateful. She took the supplies but asked the visitors to wait a few minutes. Then she returned and handed them a bag saying: “A few houses up the street there is a struggling family. Could you give them half of what you have brought for us? They really need it.”
My Dear Sisters and Brothers! The Word of God given to us this Sunday is saturated with poverty. We are told of the stories of two widows. The widows God is putting before our eyes this Sunday show us something challenging: poverty doesn’t need to make people selfish, thinking only of themselves. On the contrary the widows from the Bible and the woman I told you of were still paying attention to the needs of others. St John Paul II while he was still a cardinal said: “A poor means is usually the richest as it has the human heart for its source. One need to reach to that heart otherwise a rich means is poor. It doesn’t make an impact.” What did the widow from our first reading have? “A handful of flour in a jar and a little oil just enough to make a small scone.” What did the widow from the Gospel have? “Two small coins, which were an equivalent of a penny.” What did the woman from the story I told you have? Some food brought her by St Vincent de Paul people. They all had very little but at the same time they had very rich hearts, their hearts were generous. That’s why they have made their way to the Bible as their stories have become God’s stories. In a very powerful way God has spoken to us through their simple lives.
Let me take you to the Temple in Jerusalem where it all took place. In the Temple there was a section where there were 13 big jars for donations. 12 were together while the thirteenth was kind of separated. To help you to visualise the scene imagine me, as a priest, standing next to one of the twelve jars and let’s say Mr John Smith making a donation. What would happen next would be me yelling: “Mr John Smith has donated 10,000 dollars and has requested to pray for a successful business trip to Egypt!!!”
The thirteenth jar was lonely. The people who placed their donations there wouldn’t have them advertised and even more, they weren’t expecting anything from God for their offerings either. If the Jews had 12 jars for those “noisy” donations and only one for inconspicuous donations it means that most of the people were keen on that “advertisement”. Now, in the crowd of people and donation’s noises our poor widow comes and she places two small coins. The whole world missed that but not Jesus. He not only saw it but he also evaluated the value of the donation on the basis of her heart intention. As I said at the beginning the Bible stories for this Sunday are saturated with poverty but as we read in another passage of the Holy Scriptures: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” Our Blessed Lord came into this world not with armies of angels carrying food supplies. He came as a poor man but with the heart that was so generous that he gave up all his blood on the cross, not only a few drops. All his blood was poured out to save us, to make our hears according to his Sacred Heart loving so much that they don’t calculate the cost.
My Dear Friends! Let me finish with a story from my life. When I took my final vows as a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate my parents gave me a gift. It was a golden rosary ring which was made of the wedding ring of my mum. I loved it but one day I had this thought: “What should I do if a poor person asked me for help? Would I give the ring to the poor fellow?” In my head I started making all sorts of excuses, like: “It is a special ring, it is part of the history of my family etc.” Even if the excuses were valid I wasn’t comfortable. Do you know how the situation was sorted out? A couple days later I lost the ring. However I saw in that God helping me to free my heart from something, even as special and precious as that ring, that could stop me from being open to the needs of others.
In order to become an abbot at the age of 12 one needed to come from aristocratic family, in order to become a cardinal at the age of 21 one needed to have a pope for his uncle, in order to die at the age of 46 as a great reformer of one of the biggest dioceses in the Catholic world one needed grace of God and a constant commitment to the episcopal ministry. This is the story of today’s saint – Charles Borromeo. Born in sixteenth century to a noble Italian family was already seen for a great career. It was how his life started. As a teenager he became an abbot, as a young man he was made a cardinal. There was no much vocation story in that business, it was very financial path. Those titles gave the young man a high income to support his high class life style. However in the midst of the balls and hunting games God’s grace had reached the cardinal. His decision to commit himself to be a bishop who actually serves his people shocked everyone including his own diocese of Milan. When he arrived in the diocese he was the first bishop in 80 years to reside in Milan. However those who hoped they were going to have a good entertainment in the bishop’s house got greatly disappointed. Charles wasn’t interested in balls and hunting games. His interest was in brining Jesus Christ into the lives of the people of the local Church where he was bishop. Inspired by the Council of Trent, which he himself brought to a happy conclusion due to his organisation skills, he had thrown himself into implementing the decisions of the Council Fathers. He was the first bishop to open a seminary to educate and form the future clergy. He convoked nearly 20 local synods to promote the reform of the Church. However he was accessible to his people. The noble man was their bishop in such a way that even the beggars from the streets didn’t feel any social distance between them and the cardinal archbishop of Millan. He had completely transformed the image of a bishop people had in their minds. He was their shepherd not a ruler. He guided them to Jesus Christ whom he never lost from his sight.
One could only wander that so much was achieved in such a short life. However St Charles has left us a great example of how much grace of God can accomplish in the person who unselfishly gives life to the Lord.
St Charles was also a beloved patron for our Founder, St Eugene de Mazend, who at the baptism was given names of Charles Joseph Eugene. In his life St Eugene was not only inspired by the pastoral commitment of the Italian cardinal but also he lived in deep devotion to the saint. In fact when the Missionaries of Provence founded by Eugene de Mazenod in 1825 opened the first house outside the region of Provence Eugene changed the name of the Congregation to the Oblates of St Charles. It lasted only a few months as during his visit to Rome to have the Congregation approved Eugene changed the name to the Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate. However in the Oblate tradition there has been always a devotion to the great reformer of the Church in the time of the Protestant Reformation.
Saint Charles Borromeo was also the patron of John Paul II who was given the name of the Italian saint at his baptism.
A new tragedy has been reported as the Russian Airbus aircraft went down in the Egyptian desert. More than two hundred people died. If you followed the news you have seen the images of the distressed relatives and friends gathered at the Saint Petersburg Airport in Russia. Why did they gather there? Because the flight was Saint Petersburg-bound. When it took off in Egypt it was to arrive in Saint Petersburg. Those distressed relatives and friends at the airport there are a painful symbol of where those 224 killed should have arrived.
My Dear Sisters and Brothers! Today we look into the world to come as we honour, as we have heard in our first reading, “a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language, standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands.” Who are they? All Saints. However even among us gathered here are different ways of looking into the world to come. Some of us may be looking into heaven with tears in the eyes like those who are mourning their families in Russia right now. Some may look into heaven with hope and great longing to see the Lord face to face. Some may be doubtful that what lays there can be better than what they have already here on earth. Some may be afraid of leaving behind their loved ones. Some may even think that the world of All Saints is a fairy story; that the life of each of us ends when we die. Some may be afraid to stand before the Lord as we are aware of our sins and unfaithfulness to his word. Have I exhausted all possible ways of looking into heaven? If I missed your case you can add it to my sermon quietly in your heart right now. That’s why for all of us this day of All Saints is like an open door, which we are not walking through yet, but it gives us a glimpse of what awaits us there.
Today as some are mourning their loved ones I would like to focus on the third beatitude from the Gospel: “Happy those who mourn.” I am sure that it wouldn’t be easy to say it to the people at Saint Petersburg right now, would it be? So what is Jesus talking about? He talks about a particular kind of mourning which comes from the realisation that I have lost touch with God. It is mourning which is triggered by seeing my sins which separate me from the Lord. It is like the mourning of the Jews when they saw their beautiful and sacred city of Jerusalem destroyed by the enemies and they realised that it had happened because of their sins, because they broke their faith in God. In the midst of such mourning we find our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ who says: “They shall be comforted” not by words but by having the Lord embracing them. In heaven there is no refugee camp, because entering heaven we enter the kingdom where… Who is the king there? God, your and my Father. Entering kingdom of heaven washed by the Blood of his Son and our Brother Jesus Christ we enter our inheritance. Not something we have deserved but something we have been called to; because God wants us there with him.
As I reflect on this scene described by the beloved Apostle of Jesus, St John: “I saw a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language, standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands” I think that I am not far from the truth when I believe that they are there waiting for me to come; because since my life kicked off I am heaven-bound. I am very grateful to the Church for opening for me that door to heaven today to see a huge number of people, and God of course, he is the most important in today’s feast day, waiting for my save arrival. I hope a similar sentiment is in your heart right now too.
Fr Daniel OMI
An Oblate Priest