Monday, 10 June 2013

Adoring God and warding off evil

Encouraging people to true discipleship of Christ is a challenge for every parish priest. Many people come to Mass on Sunday and no more. It is a struggle persuading people to come to extra devotions, weekday Mass, prayer groups or even parish social events. We are all familiar with the hardy and faithful parishioners who support everything, and the majority who somehow do not find the time.

I don't berate people for this - after all the ones who actually come to Mass are the good guys, there are plenty who should be there and are not. However we do want to try to introduce people to a deeper life of faith. In some circles this might be referred to as a personal relationship with Jesus, in others true devotion or some other more traditional term. The language does not matter so much: we want people to make the step from formal attendance at Sunday Mass to a living faith which transforms their lives.

For the past few years, we have had the Forty Hours devotion at Blackfen and I have come to love it as a powerful blessing for the parish. This year I tried to encourage people by saying that everyone in the parish should come, even if only for five minutes. I think this worked: of course people who come for five minutes stay longer or come for one of the Masses, benefiting from the beautiful music and ceremonies that are taken care of by my generous and faithful team of servers and singers.

We follow the traditional Clementine rules for the Forty Hours and therefore have the full Litany of the Saints after the opening and closing Masses. At the opening Mass, the Litany is sung after the procession of the Blessed Sacrament, while at the closing Mass, the Litany takes place before the procession. In addition to invoking the prayers of the Saints for all of us individually and for the parish and the Church as a whole, this devotion is also a powerful means of protection from evil, including the evil spirits (who do actually exist.)

The demons, in my experience, often work not so much by spectacular phenomena as by sowing discord among good people, causing arguments in families, and destroying friendships among those who are working for good in the Church. Hence I often encourage people, in the confessional or in sermons, to do small deliberate acts of charity. In secular terms, these are sometimes referred to as "random acts of kindness." That's great, but as Catholics, we can make these acts non-random and supernatural. By consciously determining to do something kind, with the motive of the love of God, we can do a great deal to confound the spiteful and petty work of the devil.

Adoring the Lord, truly present in His body, blood, soul and divinity in the Blessed Sacrament, and invoking the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the holy angels and the saints, we are fortified to make our own relationships more holy, more charitable, and more fruitful. And that is the start of making the world a better place.

Photo credit: Mulier Fortis
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