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Ascension Intimacy

posted May 25, 2017, 10:09 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated May 25, 2017, 10:09 PM ]

Fr Anthony Charanghat

The event of the Ascension in the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles states a cloud took Jesus from the sight of the disciples. In Luke's gospel, the narrative of the Ascension tells us that the disciples went back to Jerusalem, filled with joy. So what is so joyful about the disappearance of Jesus? It is the celebration of the Intimacy of the Ascension! 

One might have thought that absence should be a cause for sorrow. Having completed His work on earth, He is going home, back to the Father. But the Father has never been absent. God's home is everywhere. Jesus did not make a journey back to God, as if to some other planet in the firmament. Perhaps it would be better to think of the disappearance of Jesus as part of our homecoming. 

The disciples had been at home with Jesus. They had shared His company, supped with Him, walked with Him to Jerusalem, and witnessed His death and Resurrection. He had been their companion, the centre of the community. But Jesus must disappear, if they are to be not just with Him, but to be at home in Him. 

With the Ascension and Pentecost, Jesus is transformed from being someone with whom the disciples are at home. Instead, He becomes their home. They used to be with His body. Now they are becoming His body, as we are the Body of Christ. They have to lose Him, paradoxically, if they are to discover this new intimacy of the Ascension. 

Actually, the story of salvation has been of God's slow disappearance. At the beginning, God walks in 'the cool of the day' in the garden. But after the fall, God comes to Abraham and Sarah in fire and smoke in the night, and then as three mysterious strangers needing food. He wrestles with Jacob. By the time we get to Moses, we have only a voice from a burning bush. Then with the establishment of the Kingdom of David, God is seen no more. 

He speaks through the voices of the prophets. Finally, he appears in an ordinary man who dies on a cross and shouts out, "O God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" In His Ascension, He disappears altogether, slowly disappearing from our sight. 

But this is so that we may become more intimate. We do not look 'at' God, so much as 'with' God. Most of us will have to live through moments, in which traditional and oppressive images of God as the celestial policeman, the accuser of sins, the eternal parking attendant waiting to catch us, have to fade and disappear. 

It can be very frightening and painful to be called upon to persist in faith, in the protection and the glorious victory of a meek and compassionate God. As we grow older, we may lose some of our sentimental notions of God as a comforting presence, or Jesus as our friend. We may feel tempted to tumble out of belief, and feel despondent that the world has no meaning. But we will have to wait until God gives Himself more intimately than we could have guessed. 

Like the disciples, we must rejoice at the disappearance of our wrong images of Jesus. St Augustine famously said that "God is closer to us than we are to ourselves. For behold, you were within me, and I was outside; and I sought you outside. You were with me, and I was not with you." 

Ascension is all part of our coming home to God, or God's making His home in us. To fully celebrate the mystery of the Ascension, we need to let go some of the oppressive images of God that we have, so that we may discover Him in the intimacy of His glorious Risen Body at the very heart of our existence.

Cardinal celebrates Eucharist at Karjat Shrine to mark Fatima Centennial

posted May 18, 2017, 10:50 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated May 18, 2017, 10:51 PM ]

The Archbishop of Bombay, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, presided at the Eucharist of the Centenary Celebrations of the Apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, to celebrate the canonisation of two of the shepherd children - Jacinta and Francisco (the youngest, non-martyred canonised saints of the Catholic Church) at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima at Karjat (in the archdiocese of Bombay), where more than 3,000 Catholics converged. 

The Centenary Celebrations on May 13, 2017 - a day dedicated to praying for Peace - began with pilgrims praying the Rosary and the 'unfurling of the flag', as a symbol of raising our petitions to the Lord in prayer. A hymn sung as the flag was unfurled gave the message and purpose to all devotees for coming from distant places to this remote area at Karjat. 

During the Eucharist, the Archbishop of Bombay blessed the new altar of the Shrine. Cardinal Oswald Gracias also renewed the Act of Consecration of the Archdiocese of Bombay to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. "Let us live the message of Fatima. Pray for peace and make sacrifices emphasising the power of prayer," the Cardinal urged the faithful. 

In his homily, Cardinal Gracias said: "At Fatima, the Blessed Virgin spoke of the World War. Wars continue today, in different forms and dangers, turmoil, upheaval and violence all over the world. Wars are also in our personal lives, in the struggle between good and evil. For this, it is important to pray, pray for peace." 

According to Cardinal Gracias, "in families there is a growing need to pray." Therefore, he invited all to "pray the Rosary in families, praying for peace in our homes, in family relations and in the world." 

The Centenary Celebrations included the celebration of the canonisation of the two visionaries, Francisco and Jacinta, the first holy children who were not martyrs. The relics of Francisco and Jacinta (brought officially to the Fatima Shrine, Karjat two months ago from Portugal) were incensed by Cardinal Oswald Gracias at the conclusion of the Eucharist, and the relics were solemnly exposed for veneration. 

"This shrine is envisioned as a place for 'peace' and a house of prayer, which is the need of the hour," Fr Fernandes said. "The devotees [of Mary] are encouraged to spend time to relax from their busy state of life." The priest said Our Lady of Fatima is so popular because her message "is so simple, but loaded with tremendous power. Her message was a call to achieve peace through mercy. Mother Mary was attributed an additional title in the Loreto litany 'Mary, Queen of Peace,' just seven days prior to her apparition at Fatima. Mother Mary has shown that peace in the world can be attained only through acts of mercy." 

"The distinguishing characteristic of a shrine is that it is a place of pilgrimage," Fr Fernandes said. "A number of people come to Fatima Church as pilgrims, and today the Shrine of our Lady of Fatima is one of the more famous shrines, and is sometimes referred to as the Fatima of the East," the Rector explained. 

"It is a great joy that our local people embraced this centenary. The shrine of Fatima at Karjat is placed in the midst of a non-Christian locality. Importantly, non-Christians have welcomed this devotion, and this devotion has fostered interfaith relations," said Fr Calistus. 

(A report on the Eucharistic Celebration at Fatima Shrine, Karjat by Nirmala Carvalho)

Canonisation at Fatima Centennial Celebrations

posted May 11, 2017, 11:22 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated May 11, 2017, 11:22 PM ]

Fr Anthony Charanghat

The Holy Father in a preambulatory reflection on the forthcoming centennial celebrations of the Fatima Apparitions on May 13 invites us to focus our attention to ‘Our Lady’. It is at this shrine of Fatima, where a hundred years ago the Madonna appeared to the three little shepherds, Christians from all over the world will congregate to relive the encounter of these young visionaries with Our Lady and experience the grace that inspired their love for Jesus.

Pope Francis said, “Mary introduced the little seers to the intimate knowledge of Trinitarian love and led them to savour God as the most beautiful reality of human existence. Beyond every other goal may there always be this: knowing and loving Christ – as the apostle Paul would say – trying to conform increasingly to Him unto the total gift of self.”

In a concrete sense, He called upon priests, to progress without tiring, in their Christian, priestly, pastoral, and cultural formation. He continued, “whatever your academic specialization, your first concern always remains that of growing on the path of priestly consecration, through the loving experience of God: an intimate and faithful God, as Blessed Francisco and Jacinta and the Servant of God Lucia felt Him to be.”

He exhorted pilgrims who would be visiting Fatima to contemplate the humble yet glorious lives of these children, and feel drawn to entrust themselves, to the care of the same Master. We always pray for this in the most ancient Latin antiphon to Our Lady: ‘Subtuum praesidium confugimus, Sancta Dei Genitrix’. It invites us to seek shelter under the mantle of a mother who takes us by the hand and teaches us to grow in the love of Christ and in fraternal communion.

He say's the gaze of the Mother of God has accompanied the supplications of those who approach the altar and urges us, "to Look to her and let her look upon you, because she is your Mother and loves you greatly; let her look upon you, to learn how to be more humble and also more courageous in following the Word of God; to welcome the embrace of her Son Jesus and, strengthened by this friendship, to love every person following the example and the measure of the Heart of Christ, to which Our Lady of Fatima commits us to find love, hope and peace in her."

On the occasion of our pilgrimage to the Shrine of Fatima, we must look at our Mother, who is in God’s heart. The mystery of this girl from Nazareth is not extraneous to us. "It is not a question of “She is there and we are here”. No, we are connected. In effect, God turns His loving gaze (Lk, 1:48) also to every man and every woman, calling them by name and surname! His gaze of love rests upon each one of us," he elaborates.

The relationship with Our Lady helps us to have a good relationship with the Church: both of them are Mothers. We must therefore cultivate the filial relationship with Our Lady because, if this is missing, there is something of the orphan in the heart. But in moments of difficulty a child always goes to his mother. And the Word of God teaches us to be like children, weaned in the arms of the mother.

The Holy Father prays that the centennial celebration of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, may teach us to believe, worship, hope and love like Blessed Francisco and Jacinta, and the Servant of God Lucia the canonisation of the former two will be the crowing glory of this joyous occasion.

(A synopsis of Pope Francis reflections of the Fatima Apparitions)

Centennial Message of Fatima Apparitions

posted May 4, 2017, 11:22 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated May 4, 2017, 11:23 PM ]

The year 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady to the three shepherd children at Fatima, Portugal, where the Blessed Mother appeared once each month from May 13 until October 13, 1917. The message of Fatima highlights many central truths and devotions of the Catholic faith: the Trinity, the Eucharist, penance, the Rosary and sacrifices for the conversion of sinners. There is special emphasis on the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which is a refuge of maternal love for us all, and a sure path that leads us to God. In the end, Mary's Immaculate Heart will triumph, because Mary is full of God's grace and is all pure. She has the heart of a mother who cares for her children, and wishes them to be saved by her divine Son, Jesus. 

Although 2017 marks the centenary year, the Fatima apparitions began with the three apparitions of the Angel of Peace (also called the Angel of Portugal) in 1916, and extended beyond 1917, with subsequent apparitions given to Sr Lucia dos Santos in Pontevedra, Spain (1925-1927) and Tuy, Spain (1929). 

May 13 was the day of the first Fatima apparition of 1917, and May 13, 1981, was the day when St John Paul II survived an attempt on his life in St Peter's Square. John Paul II credited his survival to the intervention of Our Lady of Fatima. The assassin's bullet that narrowly missed killing the Pope is now inserted in a crown of Our Lady housed at the Fatima shrine. 

It is estimated that some 4-5 million people visit Fatima each year, and more are expected for the centennial year, including a visit by Pope Francis, who plans to travel to Portugal to celebrate the 100-year anniversary. The apparitions of Fatima are a significant event of the Catholic Church, not only because of their importance for many persons and their wide spreading throughout the world, but also because of their close bond with the Gospel message, the intensity with which the apparitions mark the experience of faith of many Catholics, and the prophetic extent of its calls. The Church confirmed that these apparitions are a credible and valid proposal for the fulfilment of a Christian life. 

Indeed, the message of Fatima is eloquent to believers of all time. It does not remain caught in a time wrap; it projects instead dynamism in our present, and opens horizons of faith for the future of human history. As Fatima events are a call for humanity of our time, the centennial celebration also wants to become an instrument of this up-to-date call. Therefore, it's not just a historic date we shall mark, which relegated it to a time of the past. 

The pilgrimage of Pope Benedict XVI at Cova da Iria in May 2010, following the pilgrimages of his predecessors, shows us in a way, that in the message of Fatima, there is a set of elements that can develop the message into a vehicle of evangelisation, a path to conversion and to Jesus Christ. In this sense, this celebration should contribute to deepen and update this message; it should provide a contribution to the renewal and strengthening of faith, and it should be a help to spiritual growth of the people of God. 

Therefore, the celebration of this centennial is, first of all and above all, a pastoral project that focuses on the spiritual nature and reflection of faith. The aspects of cultural or social context are also present in these commemorations, but always in the perspective of mission: they are a privileged way to reach those who are emotionally away from the Church, they are an expression of the faith that is celebrated, and they are the Christian accomplishment of human realities. 

(Extracts from the article of Dr Robert Fastiggi, OSV Newsweekly)

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