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A Christian Life Programme

Contents

Description Brief Introduction Part 1 Who is Jesus Christ? Part 2 What it means to be a Christian Part 3 Loving God Part 4 Loving Neighbour Part 5 Repentance and Faith Part 6 The Christian Family Part 7 Strengthening the Christian Family Recommended Reading Plan of Life

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Cover: The Light of the World (by Holman Hunt)

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Brief Introduction This Christian Life Programme is created for all those that have an interest in Jesus Christ and his life. It assumes that the reader has some knowledge of the Life of Christ and it tries to present Christianity as a practical way of living. Part of the intention is to present a Plan of Life. Simple everyday things that can put us in the presence of God. In this case it does not cover in detail such maters as Christian Doctrine, preparation for becoming a Christian and preparation for receiving the sacraments. In short it is but a small commentary on what is a very large subject. It has been prepared by ordinary Christians (laity) that want to live out their Christian vocation in the everyday ordinary circumstances of life. Another part of the intention is to give encouragement and help to those that want to follow Jesus. Accordingly it does not present all the possibilities of living a Christian life (even if this is possible) but relies on the experiences of those that believe and want to build on that believe based on the experience of other ordinary Christian folk. One of the experiences which most of us encounter is that being a Christian is too difficult we set the bar at absolute perfection and of course we find it difficult to make the first jump, the bar is too high. No! the starting point is wherever it is for that individual with all of the imperfections that this starting point may have. Being a Christian is a life time challenge and perfection cannot be achieved over night. We may well have encountered questions from friends, colleagues and acquaintances concerning certain aspects of doctrine that they have difficulty in accepting believe and they get bogged down on this or some other doctrine and consequently never start out on the Christian path. The answer is we all have to start where we can and if we have some doubts about some aspects of doctrine we need to pray that Jesus will enlighten us as St Therese says At the hour of our death, in the twinkling of an eye, He will cause rich fruits to ripen on the tree of your soul. One of the misconceptions about being a Christian is that we have to be full of goodness and purity otherwise we are not pure enough to be Christians. Whilst perfection is the goal it is a life time of work in its achievement. The story of the harsh ships captain puts things into perspective. He was considered a cruel man by the crew but every time the ship docked he attended Mass. Someone asked him why he was so cruel but went to church. His answer was that he had so far not killed anybody and but for the going to church and receiving the sacraments he may well have. Being a Christian did not make him perfect but it did reduce the level of his cruelness. In the words of Thomas OKempis He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness says Our Lord. In these words Christ counsels us to follow His life and way if we desire true enlightenment and freedom from all blindness of heart. Let the life of Jesus Christ, then, be our first consideration ".

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Part 1 Who is Jesus Christ

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Part 1 WHO IS JESUS CHRIST? Introduction. As Christians, we derive our identity from a person, one whom we can be truly proud of. He is truly impressive. Millions today claim to be his followers, almost 2,000 years after his death. Countless numbers have been martyred for their faith in him. The book about him, the Bible, is easily the No. 1 best seller of all time.

It is this person who won for us our salvation, who restored us to our relationship with God. In him we can have a full and a new life. Thus, realizing the importance of this person to us, we want to know him more fully. And so we ask: "Who is Jesus Christ?" The uniqueness of Jesus. Having been born and raised as Christians, we take for granted our conviction that Jesus is the Son of God. But this was not so for his contemporaries. They found it hard to accept that he was not just an ordinary person (Mk 6:3). Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joseph, and Jude, and Simon? are not also his sisters here with us? And they were scandalized in regard of him. What we want to know is whether there is any reason not to put Jesus on the same level as Buddha, Confucius, Lao-Tze, Socrates or other wise men. Was Jesus more than just a great religious man or moral teacher? History is full of men who have claimed that they came from God, or that they were gods, or that they bore messages from God. Even the person who this very day founded a new religion. How is Jesus different from them all? Three things that make Jesus an absolutely unique figure in human history: He was pronounced and his coming was expected. Because of Old Testament prophecies, people for a long time were waiting for the messiah, which saw its fulfilment in Jesus. Once he appeared on the scene, he struck history with such impact that he split it in two, dividing it into two periods: BC and AD. Every other person who came into this world came into it to live. Jesus came into the world to die. His death was the goal and fulfilment of his life.

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Some details about his life. Jesus was a young carpenter in Nazareth. For three years he became an itinerant preacher. He was never more than 100 miles from his home. He had never been into cities with a population larger than 50,000. Within 3 years of preaching he was dead, murdered in Jerusalem on the fringes of the Roman empire. He was crucified for stirring up the people. By right he should simply have faded into complete oblivion. Instead, he is surely the most famous, honoured, and best loved person who ever walked the earth. What was he like? A very attractive personality. Warm, personal, dynamic. A major attraction of the times. People are constantly amazed at his teaching and works. Mk 9:14. And presently all the people, seeing Jesus, were astonished and struck with fear: and running to him, they saluted him. Strong in mind and body. He outwitted the leaders of his day in discussion as a boy of twelve, and later as a man who did not have their educational advantages. He was able to fast for 40 days. Down to earth. Not a romantic or a dreamer. Courageous. A magnetic leader. He summoned Simon and Andrew (Mk 1: 16-18), And passing by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother, casting nets into the sea for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them: Come after me; and I will make you to become fishers of men. And immediately leaving their nets, they followed Him. James and John (Mk 1:20), And going on from thence a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who also were mending their nets in the ship. And forthwith he called them. And leaving their father Zebedee in the ship with his hired men, they followed him and Levi (Mk 2:14), And when he was passing by, he saw Levi, the son of Alpheus, sitting at the receipt of custom; and he saith to him: Follow me. And rising up, he followed him. All of them followed him immediately. A man of extraordinary authority. He broke long standing traditions for the sake of a higher righteousness. He healed the disabled and the sick. He gave orders to nature which were obeyed. Not confused or unsure of himself or of his mission. He resisted the desire of his followers to make him a political king. He rebuked Peter for standing in the way of his fulfilling the mission given by the Father. Mt 16:21-23. From that time Jesus began to shew to his disciples, that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the ancients and scribes and chief priests, and be put to death, and the third day rise again. And Peter taking him, began to rebuke him, saying: Lord, be it far from thee, this shall not be unto thee. Who turning, said to Peter: Go behind me, Satan, thou art a scandal unto me: because thou savourest not the things that are of God, but the things that are of men.

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Very human. He showed tenderness and personal concern. He experienced anger and grief (Mk 3:5), And looking round about on them with anger, being grieved for the blindness of their hearts, he saith to the man: Stretch forth thy hand. And he stretched it forth: and his hand was restored unto him. Love (Mk 10:21), And Jesus, looking on him, loved him and said to him: One thing is wanting unto thee. Go, sell whatsoever thou hast and give to the poor: and thou shalt have treasure in heaven. And come, follow me. Compassion (Mk 1:41), And Jesus, having compassion on him, stretched forth his hand and touching him saith to him: I will. Be thou made clean. Sadness (Mk 14:34). And he saith to them: My soul is sorrowful even unto death. Stay you here and watch. Jesus' claim to be God. Jesus is totally unique from any other personality and so is clearly worth knowing. But is there more to him? Is Jesus worthy to be the centre of my life? This is a question we have to answer. There is something more to Jesus than to any other person. He is worth paying more attention to than any other man. BECAUSE HE IS GOD. Perfect God and perfect man. How do we know he is God? By his miracles? Miracles only show that God is working through a person. A man could work miracles and not be God. Jn 14:12. Otherwise believe for the very works' sake. Amen, amen, I say to you, he that believeth in me, the works that I do, he also shall do: and greater than these shall he do. So how do we know? The answer simply is that Jesus himself told us so. Time and again throughout his public ministry, Jesus claimed to be God. Mk 14:61-62. But he held his peace and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him and said to him: Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed God?. And Jesus said to him: I am. And you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of the power of God and coming with the clouds of heaven. In Gospel of St. John, Jesus again speaks of his divinity. Jn 12:45, And he that seeth me, seeth him that sent me. 10:30, I and the Father are one. 8:58. Jesus said to them: Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham was made, I AM. Jesus' claim to divinity is a far different claim than Buddha or Confucius or Mohammed ever made. None of them ever claimed to be God. Quote from C. S. Lewis. "On the one side clear, definite, moral teaching. On the other, claims which, if not true, are those of a megalomaniac, compared with whom Hitler was the most sane and humble of men. There is no half way house, and there is no parallel in other religions. If you had gone to Buddha and asked him, 'Are you the son of Bramah?', he would have said, 'My son, you are still in the vale of illusion'. If you had gone to Socrates and asked, 'Are you Zeus?', he would have laughed at you. If you would have gone to Mohammed and asked, 'Are you Allah?', he would first have rent his

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clothes then cut your head off. If you had asked Confucius, 'Are you heaven?', I think he would have probably replied, 'Remarks which are not in accordance with nature are in bad taste'. The idea of a great moral teacher saying what Christ said is out of the question. In my opinion, the only person who can say that sort of thing is either God or a complete lunatic suffering from that form of delusion which undermines the whole mind of man" Also, Jesus claimed that he could forgive sin. Story of the paralytic at Capernaum. Mk 2:312. Quote C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity. "Now unless the speaker is God, this is really so preposterous as to be comic. We can all understand how a man forgives offences against himself. You tread on my toe and I forgive you, you steal my money and I forgive you. But what should we make of a man, himself not robbed and not trodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on other men's toes and stealing other men's money? Asinine fatuity is the kindest description we should give of his conduct. Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offences. This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin. In the mouth of any speaker who is not God, these words would imply what I can only regard as a silliness and conceit unrivaled by any other character in history". False, Deluded, or Lord. Jesus' claim to be God must be either true or false. If false, then we have two and only two alternatives. Either he knew it was false, in which case he would be a liar, or he did not know it was false, in which case he would be a deluded. Could Jesus have lied? If he lied, then he would have been deliberately deceiving his followers. But not only would he have been a liar, he would also be a hypocrite, because he told others to be honest, whatever the cost. Could he have been a demon, because he told others to trust him for their eternal destiny. If he could not back up his claims and knew it, then he was unspeakably evil. A fool, because it was his claim to being God that led to his crucifixion. But we need only look at his person, his words and his work to conclude that he could not have been a liar. We can see his moral purity, dignity, sound intellect, air of truth. Consider his character that is so original, consistent, perfect, high above human greatness. He carried out a plan of unparalleled beneficence, moral magnitude and sublimely, and sacrificed his own life for it. Would he die for a lie? The results of his life and teachings have been lives changed for the better, thieves made honest, hateful individuals becoming channels of love, etc. Such a man cannot be a liar. Could Jesus have been a lunatic or deluded?

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In Jesus we do not see any abnormalities or imbalance that usually go along with being deranged. In fact, his poise and composure would be amazing if he was insane. He spoke some of the most profound sayings ever recorded. Such a man cannot be a lunatic. If not a liar or a lunatic, the only alternative left to us is that Jesus did speak the truth. He was, and is, the Son of God as he claimed. Throughout scripture, we can read about a number of Jesus' contemporaries coming to the realization that he was God. Simon Peter. Mt 16:13-16. And Jesus came into the quarters of Cesarea Philippi: and he asked his disciples, saying: Whom do men say that the Son of man is?. But they said: Some John the Baptist, and other some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets. Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am?. Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. Martha. Jn 11:27. She saith to him: Yea, Lord, I have believed that thou art Christ, the Son of the living God, who art come into this world. Nathanael. Jn 1:49. Nathanael answered him and said: Rabbi: Thou art the Son of God. Thou art the King of Israel. Thomas. Jn 20:27-28. Then he said to Thomas: Put in thy finger hither and see my hands. And bring hither the hand and put it into my side. And be not faithless, but believing. Thomas answered and said to him: My Lord and my God. The centurion. Mt 27:54. Now the centurion and they that were with him watching Jesus, having seen the earthquake and the things that were done, were sore afraid, saying: Indeed this was the Son of God. Even the evil spirits. Mt 8:29, And behold they cried out, saying: What have we to do with thee, Jesus Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time? Mk 1:24, Saying: What have we to do with thee, Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us? I know who thou art, the Holy One of God. Mk 3:11-12, And the unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him: and they cried, saying: Thou art the Son of God. And he strictly charged them that they should not make him known. Lk 4:41. And devils went out from many, crying out and saying: Thou art the son of God. And rebuking them he suffered them not to speak; for they knew that he was Christ. God confirmed Jesus' claim. As many as there were who accepted the divinity of Jesus, there were also others who refused to accept him. How can we have confirmation of Jesus' divinity? God Himself confirmed it. In the miracle of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Jn 11:41-42. They took therefore the stone away. And Jesus lifting up his eyes, said: Father, I give thee thanks that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people who stand about have I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. In this miracle Jesus was giving a demonstration concerning His divinity. To the Jews, God alone was the one who had the prerogative to give life or to take away life. But the most conclusive proof is Jesus' own resurrection from the dead. The tombs of other great religious founders of all the great world religions are still with us. Only Jesus' tomb is empty.

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Conclusion. Jesus is a man whose words and life demand a response from us. He is making claims that affect us. If he is not God, then we should have nothing to do with him, because we do not want to be followers of a liar or a lunatic. But if he is God, then we should seriously consider him. Our response will have eternal consequences. For the believer he or she loses nothing. To go through life believing in Jesus provides us with unique and lasting experiences and opportunities. When we are called to leave this life we will again meet Jesus but this time face to face. Say as the non believers claim this will never happen then we have lost noting. On the other hand say we are right the non believer has lost everything, the opportunity to know Jesus in this life and the loss of eternal life in paradise.

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Part 2 What it Means to be a Christian

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Part 2 What it means to be a Christian Opening Sharing is at the heart of being a Christian along with loving and believing in Jesus Christ. Sharing the experiences of the Gospel, Jesus own words and our faith. Each and everyone of us are on the same journey some say on the top deck of a Clapham omnibus guided by Almighty God. God will never give up on us and if we persevere each and every day we shall become true friends of Jesus Christ. Fundamentally its a privilege to be a Christian and for which we should be eternally grateful. Misconceptions or incomplete notions about Christianity Religious System There are many misconceptions about Christianity. One of the misconceptions about Christianity is that it is merely a religious system, a set of religious practices, rules to be followed and matters of habit rather than the experiences of faith. A presence at Mass once a week, going to holy communion once a year, abstaining from meat at the prescribed times and fasting as well as observing all the other rules and regulations of the church, dont necessarily bring us closer Christ and such observances are only part of being a Christian. It is often the case that we care very much about whether or not we have observed the required abstentions before receiving holy communion but at the same time our hearts and minds are far from (some say a million miles away) witnessing the real presence of Jesus Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist and thinking about receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ. In being overly concerned with the rules of the Church without having the intention of Glorifying Jesus Christ we are not fulfilling our role as Christians. And so brothers and sisters merely observing the rules of the Church does not in itself make us Christians. But obeying the rules for the love and glorification of Jesus Christ certainly does help to make us Christians. Moral System Another misconception or incomplete notion is that Christianity is a moral system. Christianity embraces the highest of moral codes but Christianity is not a moral system. Many non Christians also observe high moral standards and on this subject Christians may have little to teach non Christians. It is not enough to claim on the one hand to be a Christian but to show by our actions and words that we are no different from non Christians. All around us must be able to recognise that there is something special about us. In all things we are the representatives of Jesus Christ and should act accordingly.

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What do we mean when we talk about morals. We mean being honest, truthful, loyal, being generous, treasuring peace, refusing to harm others, supporting friends, relatives and acquaintances etc. These morals are also observed outside of Christianity. However being a Christian requires much more than conforming to a moral system. We need to have faith in believing in Jesus and to have Jesus always in mind, offering all of our faults, difficulties and the good things to Jesus. People should be able to recognise in us that this person knows the life of Jesus Christ. Humanitarian System A Christian is sometimes equated to a humanist someone who is good and kind and friendly. To the humanist the world is basically good, a place to be admired for its beauty, the resources of which are to be enjoyed. Man himself is essentially or potentially good, separated from the rest of the created world by his reason. The humanist cause finds its way in trying to correct abuses of privilege, fighting for democracy, placing man first in all things, stressing the dignity of man and respect for the individual. Of course as a Christian we also share many of the hopes of the humanist, but a significant difference between someone who is first and foremost a humanist and someone who is a Christian is that a Christian believes that he needs the help and grace of God to make things good. A humanist does not necessarily share this view but believes that man has it within himself to overcome evil. Escape from the realities Another common misconception about Christianity is that it is an escape from the realities of life. The misconception is that Christianity is a dream world of make believe, the opium of the poor. Christianity is not about escaping reality but actively participating in all aspects of life, accepting the joys as well as the sorrows of life for the sake of Jesus Christ. Jesus in his own words tells us in the gospel of St. Luke "If anyone wants to come with me ,he must forget self, take up his cross every day and follow me". St. John again reminds us in his letter that our love should not be just words and talk ;it must be true love, which shows itself in action". Being a Christian is the opposite of escaping from realities, we have to be optimistic and positive in our attitude towards God and our lives. Using the circumstances of everyday life to move closer to Jesus. Its not easy to escape reality in following the path that Jesus has set for us such as being followers of Christ, taking care of family, being blessings not burdens to all those around us including our friends, our brothers and sisters in Christ and the Church and last but not least to be active Christians. What then is Christianity The essence of Christianity is union with God at every level of our being. St. Therese of Lisieux considered by some as the greatest saint of modern times summed up what being a Christian really means when shortly before she died she explained that her little way to heaven "is the way of spiritual childhood and the way of trust and absolute self surrender to Jesus Christ". In one of her prayers she again offers inspiration on this subject when she prays "O my God I offer thee all my actions of this day for the

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intentions and for the glory of the sacred heart of Jesus". Her book the The Story of a Soul provides an insight into what it means to be a Christian. Covering such topics as the Christian family, preparation for the sacraments, devotions, pilgrimages and her own little way to Heaven. Being a Christian means always trying to imitate Jesus Christ. Jesus himself says to us in the gospel of St. Matthew "You must be perfect just as your Father in heaven is perfect". Thomas A'Kempis in his compelling book" Imitation of Christ" constantly reminds us of how we are wholly dependent on Jesus for our eventual salvation. He writes this for our inspiration " He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness says Our Lord. In these words Christ counsels us to follow His life and way if we want true enlightenment and freedom from all blindness of heart. Let the life of Jesus Christ, then be our first consideration. The teaching of Jesus far transcends all the teachings of the Saints, and whosoever has His spirit will discover concealed in it heavenly manna. But many people although they often hear the Gospel, feel little desire to follow it, because they lack the spirit of Christ. Whoever desires to understand and take delight in the words of Christ must strive to conform his whole life to Him". The penny catechism definition of being a Christian is "to serve God in this life and to be with him forever in the next". What makes us Christian is our loving, personal relationship with God and our whole life should become an expression of this relationship. As Christians we know that our lives are full of things passing we are called upon to pray for things eternal. Some Important Truths a) One important truth about our being a Christian is that it is a relationship initiated by God not by ourselves . God has chosen us, we have not chosen God by ourselves. St. Paul makes this very clear to us in his letter to the Ephesians when he writes "For it is by God's grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the results of your own efforts, but God's gift so no one can boast about it". b) Another is that when we are truly converted as Christians we take on a new life as St. Paul explains to us in his letter to the Galatians when he writes "So far as the law is concerned however, I am dead killed by the law itself, in order that I might live for God. I have been put to death with Christ on his cross, so that it is no longer I that live, but it is Christ who lives in me. This life that I live now, I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave his life for me". c) Another truth is that we share in the eternal life of Christ. Our life does not end with physical death. In Revelations it says " He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away ". Some of the Practical Implications of being a Christian are:

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Trust We can trust in God our Father to help us in every way to achieve salvation. Jesus in the gospel of St. Matthew tells us "Would any of you who are fathers give your son a stone when he asked for bread? Or would you give him a snake when he asks for fish? Bad as you are, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more then will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him". Worrying In being a Christian we ought to stop worrying. Jesus reminds us in the parable of the Rich Fool, the futility of worry, when the man told himself I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, where I will store my corn and all my other goods. Then I will say to myself lucky man ! You have all the good things you need for many years. Take life easy, eat, drink, and enjoy yourself! But God said to him " You fool ! this very night you will have to give up your life; then who will get all these things you have kept for yourself? And Jesus concluded, this is how it is with those who pile up riches for themselves but are not rich in God's sight". Brothers and Sisters We are all brothers and sisters in God's Christian family. There are real opportunities to demonstrate this brother and sisterhood as we move on to join or form prayer groups, bible study groups, lay societies and associations, they abound in our communities. There is the chance to share our time, our joys our sorrows, and common interest in Jesus Christ. Most of us don't find this opportunity for sharing anywhere else. Peace and Joy It is our faith in Jesus Christ that gives us our identity as Christians. This faith should create for us Peace and Joy in spite of all our circumstances. We should be experiencing in our lives Joy, Hope, Trust and Peace if we are truly followers of Jesus Christ and his teachings. St. Paul in his letter to the Hebrews says " Keep your lives free from love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, never will I leave you, never will I forsake you". So we say with confidence "The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can man do to me". The Challenge And so brothers and sisters the challenge of being a Christian is to give your life to God, to live for God and God's plan according to his will. It is important to keep this in mind because God is the source of Christianity. And Jesus words of 2000 years ago have the same meaning today. His truths are enduring and unchanging. They cannot be reduced or watered down to suit man's fancy and convenience. We have to take the word of God as it is and base our life on it. In this we are reminded by St. Paul's letter to the Colossians "You are the people of God; he loved you and chose you for his own. So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against

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someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you. And to all these qualities add love, which binds all things together in perfect unity. The peace that Christ gives is to guide you in the decisions you make; for it is to this peace that God has called you together in the one body. And be thankful. Christ's message in all it's richness must live in your hearts. Teach and instruct each other with all wisdom. Sing psalms, hymns and sacred songs; sing to God with thanksgiving in your hearts. Everything you do or say, then, should be done in the name of Lord Jesus, as you give thanks through him to God the Father. St. James, in his epistle poses the question of whether it is enough to be a good and religious person ? When he says " Take the case, my brothers, of someone who has never done a single good act but claims he has faith. Will that faith save him ? If one of the Brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, I wish you well, keep yourself warm and eat plenty, without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that? Faith is like that, if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead". What good is faith if it does not lead us to reach out to others and to share with others what we have ? Is faith enough, is it really following Jesus, to only sympathise with and to pray for those in need. It does not matter how strong our faith is , it does not matter how much theology or biblical knowledge we have or how orthodox we are , it does not matter how many Masses we attend or how many rosaries we pray or other prayers we say. If we do not reach out in action and share what we have with those who do not have, whether their need be material, emotional or spiritual, then we have not become true followers of Jesus. To be a Christian is not just to concentrate on ourselves but to find our path to Paradise by entering fully into the mainstream of human living, to become part of it through loving and sharing and building, everyday and at every opportunity. We must ask God what do you want of me? Our faith, our prayers, our devotions, our knowledge, using our talents and gifts must produce concrete examples of loving God and loving neighbour. Maybe this is a good point to consider as Christians what our ultimate aim is which is "to serve God in this life and to be with him forever in the next". This may also be a good point at which to reflect on the last four things. Death, Judgement, Heaven or Hell. There is basically no escape whatever our beliefs as reminded by the story of a man in a Damascus Inn where he met Death. In trying to escape he travelled night and day across the desert to Samaria, feeling tired he stopped at an oasis for water and again met Death. I was also surprised to see you in Damascus said Death it was always to be in Samaria. We can share the prayer " May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts; let the message of Christ find a home with you".

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Part 3 Loving God

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The Christian Ideal Loving God and Loving Neighbour Loving God Introduction Loving God together with loving Neighbour, form the core of Christian life. These are the two most important aspects that identify us as true Christians and followers of Christ. Loving God and loving our neighbour make us a royal race set apart. This is what Jesus wants us to be and we repeat these words very often at Mass. We must all learn to get beyond the words and thoughts and try by the Grace of God to practice what we say we believe in. We cannot be true friends of Jesus if we wilfully ignore his commandments. Jesus in the Gospel of St. Mark, says in response to a teacher of the law "The most important commandment is this " Hear ,O Israel the Lord our God ,the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength". The second is this :"Love your neighbour as yourself." There is no commandment greater than these". Loving God is a Commandment its not a nice to have or do. With all our heart Loving God with all our heart is not necessarily an emotional kind of love. It is loving God with all our will. In loving God with all our heart we are not talking about love that is carnal, or based natural inclinations, self will, hope of repayment, or feelings or emotions which are changeable. Jesus call to love is based on a commitment, a decision to love. It is to express things in actions and deeds. St Therese of Lisieux who is ranked by some as the greatest Saint of modern times, says of love "How sweet is the way of love! True one may fail and be unfaithful to grace, but love knows how to draw profit from everything, and quickly consumes whatever may be displeasing to Our Lord, leaving in the heart only a deep and humble peace. Love shows itself by deeds"There is but one thing to be done here below: to love Jesus, and to save souls for Him that He may be more loved. We must not let slip the smallest opportunity of giving him joy. We must not refuse Him anything St. Paul's says in his letter to the Corinthians "I may be able to speak the languages of men and even angels, but if I have no love, my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clanging bell. I may have the gift of inspired preaching; I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have all the faith needed to move mountains but if I have no love, I am nothing. I may give away everything I have, and even give up my body to be burnt, but if I have no love, this does me no good". "Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; Love is not ill mannered or selfish or irritable; Love does not keep record of wrongs; Love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. Loves never gives up; and its faith , hope, and patience never fail. Love is eternal. Loving God with all our hearts means putting the Lord first in our lives. This requires a basic decision from us to obey him through our obedience of the commandments. It requires the

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development of a personal relationship with Him built up through prayer and regularly receiving the Blessed Sacrament. We cannot hope to love God if we do not talk to him regularly and get to know him. As a Jesuit priest said just before he died "We must always have Him as our companion. Even though we at times reject Him, He is ever knocking at the doors of our hearts. His hope is to enter, live there with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and fill every tiny corner of our soul". So we love God with all our heart when when we choose what we believe God is asking of us, rather than just doing our own thing. With all our soul Then, loving God with all our soul. In the Old Testament the soul carries a meaning of life, it is integral to our physical existence and without a soul we are dead. And so to love God with all our soul is to love God with all our being, giving our lives to Christ. It is the supernatural aspect of our belief in God. The soul is the inner essence of our being or personality it's who we are . It's our conscience, our inner self, our identity. It's how we define who we are. It's our will, where we make our decisions and choices. The choices and decisions we make ultimately come back to our soul back to who we are and what we're made of. And then the decisions we make in life one after another become a series of choices, decisions put together in an ongoing pattern to determine our lifestyle and behavior. So, to love God with all your soul means that you will love him in the way you live, in the choices you make, in the behavior and lifestyle you adopt. With all our mind Loving God with all our minds denotes committed service. It is something we do rather than feel. St. John in his epistle tells us " My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action". In a practical way we love and serve God by trying to keep our minds uncluttered and striving for holiness. Whenever an evil thought enters our mind we try to immediately dismiss it and not to dwell on it asking Jesus to help us. We must endeavour always to use our minds according to God's truths and not according to the ways of the world. In this case we can often ask ourselves what does God want us to do in a particular set of circumstances. We will always get a positive response and that it will be the right thing to do in those circumstances. We should spend our working and recreational day thinking about God. This is a very useful exercise, the results of which are incalculable with regard to our goal of loving God. We can share the experiences of a 17th century Monk called Brother Lawrence, who in his monastery kitchen discovered an overwhelming delight in God's presence." A little perseverance, he said, was needed at first to form the habit of conversing all the time with God and referring all actions to him. However after a little care one felt stirred by his love without any trouble. We ought to act very simply with God, he advises speaking familiarly with Him, and asking for help in situations as they arise. God would not fail to give His help as he had often experienced. Thoughts he said spoil

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everything. All evil begins there. We must take care to set them aside as soon as we observe them not necessary for the moment or for our salvation, so that we can begin again our conversation with God, wherein is our only good ". We must try to as hard as it may be to have presence of God throughout the day. Trying to blot out all unpleasant distractions as soon as they arise. Praying short prayers through the day. Praying the Angelus at noon time. Avoiding gossip and slanderous conversations. Offering our work and everything we do to the glory of God. Offering as mortifications all of the unpleasant things that happen to us throughout the day. We must also use our minds actively for God's purposes, in this, God is also asking us to keep his commandments as a practical demonstration of our love. Our catechism says that love is the most fundamental of our passions, which is aroused by the attraction of good. Love causes a desire for the absent good and the hope of obtaining it , this passion is satisfied in the pleasure and joy of the good possessed With all our strength Loving God with all our strength means keeping faith throughout our lives. Attending to the little everyday things of life. This means our time, money, energy, possessions, gifts, talents and abilities. St. Therese offers this advice. If it be His will that throughout your life you should feel repugnance to suffering and humiliation-if He permits all the flowers of your desires and your goodwill to fall to the ground without any fruit appearing, do not worry. At the hour of our death, in the twinkling of an eye, He will cause rich fruits to ripen on the tree of your soul. We give our time in prayer, by daily reading of the scripture, attending Mass perhaps even on week days if we have the opportunity. By being active in the community these are all examples of giving time to God. Giving our money means being generous to Church, family, friends, and those need. When we talk about giving back our gifts, talents and abilities, we are following Jesus parable of the Three Servants in which the Master entrusted five, three and one talents to the servants according to their abilities and he was very disappointed by the servant that did not use the one talent to gain benefit. God has given each and everyone of us gifts and talents which he wants us to use for the benefit of the community. God said in the parable to the servant who used the talents " well done you good and faithful servant, you have been faithful in managing small amounts, so I will put you in charge of large amounts. Come on in and share my happiness ". The Saints of our Church are wonderful examples of using their talents and being trusted by God. They have a strong love of God and we could learn from them on how to follow their examples. Reading the Lives of the Saints can also assist in trying to perfect our love of God. One day nobody can predict when God is going to ask an account of all of us on how we have used the time, money, energy, possessions, gifts and abilities, He has blessed us with and so we must prepare ourselves so that we can give a good answer and receive His invitation to come in and share His happiness. Jesus our model in loving God

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In all these matters we must have in mind that our prime example in loving God is Jesus Christ. And when we think of this we can be reminded by Thomas 'A Kempis in his book The Imitation of Christ and the quotation from this book as follows Keep constantly in mind the saying The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. Strive to withdraw your heart from love of visible things and direct your affections to things invisible. For those who follow only their own inclinations defile their conscience, and lose the grace of God. In St. John's gospel Jesus says " My food is to obey the will of the one who sent me and to finish the work he gave me to do ". With these words we too can have in mind the dedication and mission of Jesus Christ. In St. Luke's gospel we are reminded of the human nature of Jesus when he prays " Father if you will take this cup of suffering away from me. Not my will however but your will be done ". Even under considerable pressure Jesus is obedient unto death. In St. Mark's gospel we have an example of Jesus in prayer. " Very early the next morning, long before daylight, Jesus got up and left the house. He went out of town to a lonely place, where he prayed ". Again in the gospel of St. Matthew we see that Jesus always made time for prayer." After sending the people away, he went up a hill by himself to pray ". The Challenge Loving God is not as vague and impractical as you may think. Loving God involves specific, actions, as well as decisions and personal commitments from each and everyone of us. We demonstrate our love by our actions. We can hope to perfect this by a Plan of Life. You cannot love God if you do not know him. You cannot know him if you do not talk to him and read his sacred scripture. To know God is to love Him. Jesus has showed us the way to true Christian love by his words and example as recorded in the Bible. In the words of another great saint of the church, St. Augustine. "We cannot win our crown unless we overcome, and we cannot overcome unless we enter the contest and there is no contest unless we have an adversary and the challenge our adversary brings." The hope is that we come to a little more awareness of the importance of God's commandment to love Him with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength.

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Part 4 Loving Neighbour

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The Christian Ideal Loving God and Loving Neighbour Loving Neighbour Introduction Loving our neighbour, together with loving God, are fundamental Christian values. In the case of loving neighbour Jesus is presenting us with a real challenge as it is not always easy to follow this commandment. Nevertheless it has to form part of our Christian life. Our hope is that Jesus does not count our failures but our sees our struggle. When we hear of people whose needs are desperate, we sometimes wonder what Governments or charities could do to help. Its common that we first ask what are others doing to help, Governments, charities, the rich if the need be money. Its sometimes the case that we do not see a role for us to play but only roles for others.? The apostle St. John makes very clear our obligations in his first letter when he says: "We love, because God first loved us. If someone says he loves God, but hates his brother, he is a liar for he cannot love God, whom he has not seen, if he does not love his brother, whom he has seen. The command that Christ has given us is this :whoever loves God must love his brother also". This is at the very heart of Christian values and beliefs. It is synonymous with the truth that we are all God's children and equal in the eyes of Almighty God. At this point we have to consider two things. Who is our neighbour and what do we mean by love. Our neighbour is basically anyone who needs our help. The people who live around us, those who we share the Mass with, our colleagues, friends, acquaintances, strangers in a word basically everyone. The form of love mentioned here is not necessarily a love based on emotions and feelings. Its possible that in many situations we do not necessarily like that person who in the particular circumstances we are faced with has become our neighbour. The main aspect of our love is that we do not wish anyone any harm and we want to help save souls including our own. Of course there are other forms of love but we have to start somewhere with an understandable form of love and one that we may find we can aspire to. Father Bede Jarrett in his book Meditations for Lay Folk writes: All lay folk must be included, for upon each lies the obligation of doing what each can for her or his neighbours soul. None are exempt. To love one's neighbour as a commandment of God. The concept of loving one's neighbour is not some nice altruistic concept made up by well meaning men and women. It is a call from Jesus Christ himself. Again our obligations are made very clear to us when Jesus tells us in the gospel of St. Mark: The most important commandment is this ,Listen Israel !The Lord our God is the only Lord. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second most important commandment is this

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:Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no other commandment more important than these two. Jesus also makes this commandment very clear in the gospel of St. Matthew when he says: " You have heard that it was said, 'Love your friends, hate your enemies.' But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may become the sons of your father in heaven. For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike , and gives rain to those who do good and to those to who do evil. Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that! And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary ? Even pagans do that you must be perfect just as your Father in heaven is perfect. Again we go back to the question who then is our neighbour in the gospel of St. Luke when Jesus answers a teacher of the law in the parable of the Good Samaritan. There was once a man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when robbers attacked him ,stripped him ,and beat him up leaving him half dead. It so happened that a priest was going down that road, but when he saw the man, he walked on by, on the other side. In the same way a Levite also came along, went over and looked at the man ,and then walked on by on the other side of the road. But a Samaritan who was travelling that way came upon the man, and when he saw him, his heart was filled with pity. He went over to him, poured oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own animal and took him to an Inn, where he took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the Innkeeper." Take care of him, he told the Innkeeper and when I come back this way I will pay you what ever else you spend on him. And Jesus concluded, in your opinion which of these three acted like a neighbour towards the man attacked by robbers? The teacher of the law answered, "The one who was kind to him. "Jesus replied, "You go, then, and do the same." We have all experienced Good Samaritans in our lives. On one occasion a long time ago the car broke down on a desert track in the Namibian Desert. It was at sun set with darkness falling on us and the nearest town circa 100 km away. Nothing but sand all around us. After about an hour and nothing to do, no tools, no experience to deal with the situation we can hear the noise of an vehicle coming towards us, at first just a faint sound but very soon we can see the headlights of the oncoming pickup truck over loaded with passengers. The driver stops comes over to see what is wrong then goes back to collect some tools and immediately gets to work on repairing the car with hardly a word spoken and no money changing hands, he fixes the car, wishes us well and like ships in the night we vanish from each other. The sad thing is we forgot to pray for our Samaritan and those around him. God bless him wherever he is, almost certainly he is not still in this life as he was in middle age some 35 years ago. It's not easy. We need God's wisdom. For many of us it is not easy or natural to love everyone. Some would even say impossible at first sight. And it is impossible if we rely on our own abilities or inclinations. We can only love all of our neighbours by the grace of God. And how do we obtain God's grace? We obtain it through asking for it in daily prayer, regular attendance at Mass, and regularly receiving the

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holy sacraments as well as learning from the Lives of the Saints who are good examples of loving God and other people. St. Therese, St. Alphonsus, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Augustine, St. John Bosco, and St. Vincent de Paul for example. In the case of St. Vincent de Paul he was the friend of the poor, monarchs and bishops alike. He was not born a Saint. This man who has become an example of love and compassion for millions over the past 300 years, admitted that by nature he was rough and cross. It was the grace of God that made him tender, loving and always concerned for the needs of others. He inspired the French writer, lawyer and professor Antoine-Frdric Ozanam and others to found the St. Vincent de Paul Society. At his death in 1853 there were 2000 members. Today there are 700,000 members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society in a 142 countries dedicated to helping the poor and saving souls. See how the ripple of helping neighbour multiplies. In the case of St. John Bosco he was once asked by a British Prime Minister how he controlled the boys under his charge. He answered by encouraging the boys to receive the Blessed Sacrament every day. St. Catharine of Siena tells us that we have a distinct obligation to help our neighbour, so that if this help be withheld we are guilty of sin. She notes, for example, that in the 18 th Psalm when we pray to be spared from the sins of others we are really supposing that the sins of others may be our own very fault, and that it is quite possible that God will judge us not only for what we have done but also what others through us have committed. Thus upon us rests the responsibility of countless others, of all those upon whose lives, either directly or, indirectly, our influence is brought to bear' God's love contrasted with the world's idea of love As mentioned before the love we are talking about here is not carnal, or based on natural inclinations, self will, emotions and feelings. Jesus call to love starts with the common good in mind and ends in doing all things for the sake of Jesus and the glory of God. What does God mean by love, what is he telling us to do? In the gospel of St. Matthew's Jesus tells us: The King will say to those on his right, come you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go and visit you. "The King will reply, I tell you the truth, Whatever you do for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine you do to me". Jesus also was very clear to his disciples in the gospel of St. John when he said to the disciples:

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"My commandment is this; love one another, just as I love you. The greatest love a person can have for his friends is to give his life for them. And you are my friends if you do what I command you". God is also asking us to keep his commandments as a practical demonstration of our love. Another demonstration of love is to put the wishes of others before self and we often experience this in family life where our spouse puts the needs of the family and others first. Many find God's meaning of love through their family and service to the community. In all this we should not choose the people we must love. All men and women in need of our help are our neighbours. How do we love in everyday life. In St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians defines love as this "Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; Love is not ill mannered or selfish or irritable; Love does not keep record of wrongs; Love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. Loves never gives up; and its faith , hope, and patience never fail. Love is eternal. St. Therese in her "little way to heaven" explains to us how she came to love her neighbour. As she meditated on the words of Jesus "Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friend." She writes: As I meditated on these divine words, I understood how imperfect was the love I bore my sisters in religion, and that I did not love them as Our Lord does. Now I know that true charity consists in bearing all my neighbours defects, in not being surprised at mistakes, but in being edified at the smallest virtues. From all this I conclude that I ought to seek the companionship of those Sisters for whom I feel a natural aversion, and try to be their good Samaritan. It frequently needs only a word or a smile to impart fresh life to a despondent soul. Yet it is not merely in the hope of bringing consolation that I wish to be kind ;if it were, I should soon be discouraged, for often well intentioned words are totally misunderstood. Consequently, in order that I may lose neither time nor labour, I try to act solely to please Our Lord. In the writings of a 15th century mystic, Thomas A Kempis in his book "The Imitation of Christ Thomas writes: "Turn your eyes upon yourself and beware of judging what others do. In judging others a man often goes astray, and easily sins; but in judging and examining himself he often toils fruitfully. Try hard to be patient in tolerating other's faults and infirmities of whatsoever kind, because all of us have much which must be tolerated by others. Thomas goes on to explain that it is obvious how seldom we assess our neighbour as we assess ourselves. If all men were perfect, what then should we have to tolerate from others for God's sake". We have to learn to avoid disliking others, looking down on all those less fortunate than us and those that we maybe inclined to despise. All of these traits go against the wishes of Jesus Christ.

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It has been said that "Neighbours as mirrors reflect us. The passage goes on to explain our death will be an echo of our lives. What we see that is disagreeable and evil in our neighbours is usually the reflection of what we are ourselves. And what we see that is agreeable and good in our neighbours is usually a reflection of what we are". Father Bede Jarrett writes that If every Catholic were a credit to her or his religion and openly professed the whole round of faith, the evil of the world would be cowed. The Challenge Nobody says it is easy to be a Christian but the challenge is in the struggle and what the struggle brings. The starting point is not as one aristocrat did trying to hunt tigers in the corridors of his palace. This may be considered as aiming high and a challenge which most certainly will never be achieved, wasting our time, possibly our lives. The starting point is dealing with the everyday small things of life and bearing small fruits which over the span of a life time can add up to a substantial amount of fruit.

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Part 5 Repentance and Faith

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REPENTANCE and FAITH Introduction Christianity is initiated by God. It is one of God's mysteries why we have been given God's grace to be Christians, followers of Christ. Jesus makes this clear to us in the gospel of St. John when he says You did not choose me ,I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, that endures. And so the Father will give you what ever you ask for in my name. God extends his invitation to us to follow the life of Jesus Christ and so earn for ourselves the crown of eternal life. This invitation has been with us as long as we have known about Almighty God. For most of us the invitation is not something that is new. We therefore need to respond to this invitation cheerfully and with good hearts. If we received an invitation from someone we considered very important, most of us would take great care in responding to the invitation, we would not want there to be any mistakes made. So how much more care should we take when the invitation is from Jesus Christ himself. In fact our response requires amongst other things repentance, that means reforming our lives and faith which entails belief in the Gospel. Have faith in Him and the message he brings. Repentance Repentance and Faith go together they are linked by an umbilical cord. Each is inadequate without the other. What do we understand by repentance. In this context we mean several things. Firstly the word Repentance comes from the Greek word Metanoia meaning change of mind. It means turning away from evil, sin, wrong doing avoiding trying to run our own lives and thus ignoring the help of God. A good means of being truly repentant is to make a good confession. It is in the confessional box that we bear our souls to Christ and to man and thus become the humble of heart that Almighty God is seeking in us. A story is told about St. Jerome, that one night while praying, the Infant Jesus appeared to him and asked St. Jerome "what will you give me on my birthday". The Saint, replied I will give you my heart. Yes, but give me more. I'll give you all the prayers and affections of my heart. That is good, but I want something more than that. I give you all that I have and all that I am. This gift I already have and there is something more I still desire. I have nothing. What can I give you, who are God? Jerome give me your sins that I may pardon them all in the tenderness of My love. God is infinitely merciful and it is incumbent on all of us that we humble ourselves before Almighty God in the sacrament of confession. We must be truly sorry for our sins, for the hurt it has caused Jesus Christ and the harm it has done to others and have a firm purpose of amendment. It is important to remember this because we are often tempted for various reasons to be sorry for consequences of sin rather than the sin itself. Every time we commit a mortal sin we cause great suffering to Jesus. We must make a conscious effort to put our lives in order. In all this we make a grave mistake if we think we can do this through our own efforts. We can do nothing worthwhile and meaningful in the eyes of God without his grace which we receive through regular prayer and receiving the sacraments as often as possible.

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In Repentance as with Faith we must not rely on feelings. Our feelings are constantly changing, always blowing hot and cold. No, we must depend on God's grace and the strength we draw from it. If we are really serious about wanting a lasting and loving relationship with God, we ought to be specific about the sins we renounce. We should calmly recall our sins, in what we have done with the full knowledge and full consent against Gods commandments. In our confessions we should straightforward, honest, open, concise, and to the point. Sin together with ignorance separates us from Jesus and the love of God. In Friends of God St. Josemaria writes: You well know the obligations of your Christian way of life; they will lead you safely and surely to sanctity. You have also been forewarned about the difficulties, or practically all of them, because you can already get a rough idea of them at the beginning of the road. Now I wish to emphasise that you must let yourselves be helped and guided by a spiritual director, to whom you can confide all your holy ambitions and the daily problems affecting your interior life, the failures you may suffer and the victories. If, alas, one falls, one must get up at once. With God's help, which will never be lacking if the proper means are used, one must seek to arrive at repentance as quickly as possible, to be humbly sincere and to make amends so that the momentary failure is transformed is into a great victory for Jesus Christ. You should also get into the habit of taking the battle to areas that are far removed from the main walls of the fortress. We cannot go about doing balancing acts on the very frontiers of evil. We have to be firm in avoiding the indirect voluntary. We must reject even the tiniest failure to love God, and we must strive to develop a regular and fruitful Christian apostolate, which will have holy purity both as a necessary foundation and also as one of its most characteristic fruits. We ought as well to fill all our time with intense and responsible work, in which we seek God's presence, because we must never forget that we have been bought at a great price and that we are temples of the Holy Spirit. What other advice do I have for you? Well, simply to do what the Christians who have really tried to follow Christ have always done, and to use the same means employed by the first men who felt prompted to follow Jesus: developing a close relationship with Our Lord in the Eucharist, a childlike recourse to the Blessed Virgin, humility, temperance, mortification of the senses ('it is not good to look at what it is not licit to desire,' was St Gregory the Great warning) and penance. You might well tell me that all this is nothing but a summary of the whole Christian life. The fact is that purity, which is love, cannot be separated from the essence of our faith, which is charity, a constant falling in love with God, who created and redeemed us, and who is constantly taking us by the hand, even though time and again we may not even notice it. He cannot abandon us. 'Sion said: "The Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me." Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness to the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.' Don't these words fill you with immense joy?

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In Christ is Passing By the Saint writes: A Christian's struggle must be unceasing, for interior life consists in beginning and beginning again. This prevents us from proudly thinking that we are perfect already. It is inevitable that we should meet difficulties on our way. If we did not come up against obstacles, we would not be creatures of flesh and blood. We will always have passions which pull us downwards; we will always have to defend ourselves against more or less self-defeating urges. We should not be surprised to find, in our body and soul, the needle of pride, sensuality, envy, laziness and the desire to dominate others. This is a fact of life, proven by our personal experience. It is the point of departure and the normal context for winning in this intimate sport, this race toward our Father's house. St Paul says: "That is how I run, intent on winning; that is how I fight, not beating the air. I treat my body hard and make it obey me for, having preached to others, I do not want to be disqualified." To begin or sustain this conflict a Christian should not wait for external signs or nice inner feelings. Interior life does not consist in feelings but in divine grace, willingness and love. All the disciples were quite capable of following Christ on the day of his triumph in Jerusalem, but almost all of them left him at the shameful hour of the cross. If you are really going to love, you have to be strong and loyal; your heart has to be firmly anchored in faith, hope and charity. Only people who are inconstant and superficial change the object of their love from one day to the next: that's not love at all, it's the pursuit of selfishness. When love exists there is a kind of wholeness a capacity for self-giving, sacrifice and renunciation. In the midst of that self-denial, along with painful difficulties, we find joy and happiness, a joy which nothing and no one can take away from us. In this adventure of love we should not be depressed by our falls, not even by serious falls, if we go to God in the sacrament of penance contrite and resolved to improve. A Christian is not a neurotic collector of good behaviour reports. Jesus Christ our Lord was moved as much by Peter's repentance after his fall as by John's innocence and faithfulness. Jesus understands our weakness and draw us to himself on an inclined plane. He wants us to make an effort to climb a little each day. He seeks us out, just as he did the disciples of Emmaus, whom he went out to meet. He sought Thomas, showed himself to him and made him touch with his fingers the open wounds in his hands and side. Jesus Christ is always waiting for us to return to him; he knows our weakness. Faith In St. Paul's letter to the Hebrews we have that inspired definition of faith "To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see. "St. Paul goes on to tell us that "It was by their faith that the people of ancient times won God's approval". And the same is true for us. It is by our faith that we shall be saved. What does this mean? well amongst

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other things it means believing that Jesus came to be our personal saviour. God knows each and everyone of us, He knows what is in our hearts and he has given us the means to grow in faith by his grace, through prayer and the blessed sacraments. Faith is not just a feeling or wishful thinking or taking a blind leap into the unknown. If our faith is based on feelings and the like, it will always be changing, never constant. We cannot trust our feelings but we can trust the grace of God. We can take concrete and practical steps in keeping faith such as daily prayer, visit to the Blessed Sacrament, going to Mass as often as possible receiving the sacraments regularly, practising presence of God, daily mortifications, spiritual reading, praying the rosary and fellowship. St. Paul goes on to further define faith: By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. 5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a re-warder of them that diligently seek him. 7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. 8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. 11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. 13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. 15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. 16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. 17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. 20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. 21 By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones. 23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king's commandment. 24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; 25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; 26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. 27 By faith he forsook

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Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. 28 Through faith he kept the Passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them. 29 By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days. 31 By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace. 32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: St. Josemaria defines faith in Friends of God as: Faith is a supernatural virtue which disposes our intelligence to give assent to the truths of revelation, to say Yes to Christ, who has brought us full knowledge of the Blessed Trinity's plan for our salvation. 'In old days, God spoke to our fathers in many ways and by many means, through the prophets; now at last in these times, he has spoken to us through his Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things, through whom also he created this world of time; a Son who is the splendour of his glory and the figure of his substance; all things depend, for their support, on his word of power. Now, making atonement for our sins, he has taken his place on high, at the right hand of God's majesty.' If we turn now to St Mark we will find he tells us about another blind man being cured. As Jesus 'was leaving Jericho, with his disciples and a great multitude, Bartimaeus, the blind man, Timaeus' son, was sitting there by the wayside, begging'. Hearing the commotion the crowd was making, the blind man asked, 'What is happening?' They told him, 'It is Jesus of Nazareth.' At this his soul was so fired with faith in Christ that he cried out, 'Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.' Don't you too feel the same urge to cry out? You who also are waiting at the side of the way, of this highway of life that is so very short? You who need more light, you who need more grace to make up your mind to seek holiness? Don't you feel an urgent need to cry out, 'Jesus, son of David, have pity on me?' What a beautiful aspiration for you to repeat again and again! I recommend you to meditate slowly on the events preceding the miracle, to help you keep this fundamental idea clearly engraved upon your minds: what a world of difference there is between the merciful Heart of Jesus and our own poor hearts! This thought will help you at all times, and especially in the hour of trial and temptation, and also when the time comes to be generous in the little duties you have, or in moments when heroism is called for. 'Many of them rebuked him, telling him to be silent. As people have done to you, when you sensed that Jesus was passing your way. Your heart beat faster and you too began to cry out, prompted by an intimate longing. Then your friends, the need to do the done thing, the easy life, your surroundings, all conspired to tell you: 'Keep quiet, don't cry out. Who are you to be calling Jesus? Don't bother him.' But poor Bartimaeus would not listen to them. He cried out all the more: 'Son of David, have pity on me.' Our Lord, who had heard him right from the beginning, let him persevere in his prayer. He does the same with you. Jesus hears our cries from the very first, but he waits. He wants us to be convinced that we need him. He wants us to beseech him, to persist, like the blind man waiting by the road from Jericho. 'Let

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us imitate him. Even if God does not immediately give us what we ask, even if many people try to put us off our prayers, let us still go on praying.' Consequences of Repentance and Faith The consequences of repentance and faith are salvation from sin, Satan, death, forgiveness, eternal life with God. Thomas A'Kempis writes in Imitation of Christ: "Always keep in mind your last end, and how you will stand before the just Judge from whom nothing is hid ,who cannot be influenced by bribes and excuses, and who judges with justice. O wretched and foolish sinner, who tremble before the anger of man, how will you answer to God, who knows all your sins? Why do you not prepare yourself against the Day of Judgement, when no advocate can defend you or excuse you but each man will be hard put to answer for himself? While you live, your labour is profitable and your tears acceptable, for sorrow both cleanses the soul and makes peace with God" Through repentance and faith we enter into a new life in the Holy Spirit. "He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness says Our Lord. In these words Christ counsels us to follow his life and way if we desire true enlightenment and freedom from all blindness of heart. Let the life of Jesus Christ, then be our first consideration".

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Part 6 The Christian Family

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The Christian Family Opening The Christian Family is at he very centre of Christianity and affords each and every one the opportunity to strive for sainthood which is necessary if we wish to live with God in the life to come. For most of us our main opportunity for sanctity is through the family. It is very important as parents to be a good example to our children. If they see that we are kind, gentle, patient tolerant and loving, practising the virtues, our children will most probably grow up to be the same or even better. If on the other hand they see temper, impatience, lack of generosity and lack of affection, they will likely be adversely affected by these traits that they witness. God's plan for families: The family is to be the basic unit of society. The catechism states: The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. In the procreation and education of children it reflects the Fathers work of creation. It is called to partake of the prayer and sacrifice of Christ. Daily prayer and the reading of the Word of God strengthen it in charity. The Christian family has an evangelizing and missionary task. The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society. The family is according to God's will is to be the basic unit of society and this is confirmed at the very start of the Bible in Genesis 1: 27-28." So God created human beings, making them to be like himself. He created man and female, blessed them, and said, Have many children so that your descendants will live all over the earth and bring it under their control." Genesis also explains that after the creation " but for the man himself no suitable partner was found. The LORD God then put the man into a deep sleep and, while he slept, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the flesh over the place. The rib he had taken out of the man the LORD God built up into a woman, and he brought her to the man. The man said: 'This one at last is bone from my bones, flesh from my flesh! She shall be called woman, for from man was she taken.' That is why a man leaves his father and mother and attachs himself to his wife, and the two become one. A man and a woman united in marriage, together with their children, form a family. This institution is prior to any recognition by public authority, which has an obligation

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to recognize it. It should be considered the normal reference point by which the different forms of family relationship are to be evaluated. In creating man and woman, God instituted the human family and endowed it with its fundamental constitution. Its members are persons equal in dignity. For the common good of its members and of society, the family necessarily has manifold responsibilities, rights, and duties. A Place for Teaching and Training Children The training ground for children, in the way they are liable to grow up and the values that they will adopt throughout their adult live is the family. They will in the main model themselves on their parents, grand parents, older brother and sisters. For many, whether or not they survive as faithful followers of Jesus Christ will depend on the example set by their parents. Jesus tells us in the gospel of St. Mark " If anyone should cause one of these little ones to lose faith in me, it would be better for that person to have a large millstone tied round his neck and thrown into the sea ". A Place for Transmitting wisdom and values of life The family acts as the primary source for passing on wisdom, knowledge and the experiences of life. This is a good opportunity to teach by the example of loving God and loving neighbour. The family is the place for your children to witness the profound effect that Jesus Christ has in your lives and how you are trying to make him the centre of your lives. Again the family is an ideal place to learn to pray together and also to learn the lessons of the Word of God through the scriptures. It is supposed that several of Jesus parables are inspired by things he remembered the Blessed Virgin Mary doing such as mending old clothes making bread and cleaning the house. The catechism states: The family should live in such a way that its members learn to care and take responsibility for the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped, and the poor. There are many families who are at times incapable of providing this help. It devolves then on other persons, other families, and, in a subsidiary way, society to provide for their needs: Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world. A Place for training Leaders The church as society in general is always in need of leaders. Those generous beings who despite the difficulties say yes to God and the needs of society in undertaking to be servants of us all. Servants who in fact are the leaders of us all. Without such leadership we cannot progress and develop our full potential. There must always be individuals who say yes. It is within the confines of the family that the qualities of leadership are nurtured and developed. A Church There are many examples we know of as role models for Christian Family life such as two of the most inspirational. One is the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. No talk on the

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Christian Family could be complete without reference to them. Of course they are the ultimate in Christian living. Although factually we know so little about their lives. Nevertheless there is sufficient in the New Testament to give us endless food for meditation and reflection on good Christian family life. Another family many find inspirational is the family of St. Therese of Lisieux called by Pope Pius X, himself a saint as "The greatest saint of modern times". St. Therese wrote this " God granted me the favour of opening my intelligence at an early age and imprinting childhood recollections deeply on my memory. Jesus in His love willed perhaps, that I know the matchless mother he had given me, but whom His hand hastened to crown in Heaven". St. Therese was only four and half years old when her mother died yet she remembered her mother clearly for the rest of her life; she acknowledged the influence she had on her during those early years. She goes on to say "that God gave me a father and mother more worthy of Heaven than of earth." I think that this is a marvellous thought for children to have of their parents. St. Therese's family experienced many of the joys and sorrows that we also experience. There were a couple of child deaths in the family their was also financial failure but despite their trials and tribulations they were a happy family full of joy and hope and devoted to God and devoted to their neighbour. Parent's, in particular circumstances Fathers to be priests of their families St. Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians " Wives submit to husbands as to the Lord. For a husband has authority over his wife just as Christ has authority over the Church. And Christ is himself the saviour of the Church, His body. And so wives must submit completely to their husbands just as the Church submits itself to Christ. Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved his Church and gave his life for it. He did this to dedicate the church to God by his word, after making it clean by washing it in water, in order to present the church to himself in all it's beauty, pure and faultless without spot or wrinkle or any imperfection. Men ought to love their wives just as they love their own bodies. A man who loves his wife loves himself, no one ever hates his own body . Instead he feeds it and takes care of it, just as Christ does the Church. For we are members of his body. As the scripture says, " For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and unite with his wife, and the two will become one. There is a deep secret truth revealed in this scripture which I understand as applying to Christ and the Church. But it also applies to you. Every husband must love his wife as himself, and every wife must respect her husband ". St. Paul goes on to say " Children it is your Christian duty to obey your parents, for this is the right thing to do. Respect your father and mother is the first commandment that has a promise added so that all may go well with you, and you may live a long time in the land. Parents do not treat your children in such a way as to make them angry. Instead, bring them up with Christian discipline and instruction ". Saint Paul sets out his letter to assist in there being happiness in marriage and family life. We have to recognize things can be the other way around. Wives are often the inspiration for love of Jesus and a spiritual as well as material well being. In fact both parents look after the material and spiritual needs of the family according to their state and supernatural outlook on life.

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Fathers as far as possible should set out the daily routine in their families in respect of communal prayer time , they should determine the routine for regular attendance at Mass, ensuring that all are properly prepared. Fathers again where possible should take the a lead in the religious education of their families ensuring that the children are properly instructed and prepared to receive the sacraments of penance, holy communion and confirmation along with mother, the father should be active and conscientious in the religious life of the family. God's plan for families is not happening because: God has lost his central place in the family. Most of us are too pre-occupied with the things of this world and have little time for God. Families don't pray together any more, they never say grace regularly thanking God for their daily food. God is seldom discussed in the families. The Bible if there is one in the family is seldom opened by any member of the family. It is not surprising then that there are so many problems being encountered by families who are trying to live without the help of God. The family is also losing it's importance. You don't find those strong bonds that used to unite families so common any more. There is less respect within families and all the rivalries that exist outside families are also common within families. There is little love for God in many families and little love left for even close relatives. The things of this world have tremendous pull on most of us, such as, enjoyment through drinking, eating, a 101 forms of entertainment, making money, expending tremendous time and energy on all manner of things which are nothing to do with God and saving our souls and putting order in our lives. There is literally almost no time or inclination for loving God. Thomas A Kempis puts this very well in Imitation of Christ when he says " For some cling so closely to this world that although by working and begging they can hardly win the bare necessities, they would yet willingly to live here for ever if it were possible, caring nothing for the Kingdom of God. Thomas goes on to say " How crazy and lacking in faith are such people, who are so deeply engrossed in earthly affairs that they care nothing but for material things. These unhappy wretches will at length know to their sorrow how vile and worthless were the things that they loved". The reason for the problems of the separation of the family from God is that the family is under threat from evil forces. The devil is very real and active in all our lives. It is the devil that is keeping us away from God with all of his bribes of this world at the expense of the world to come. We should not under estimate the power of evil forces that surround us on all fronts. St. Paul's advice for spiritual warfare is given in Ephesians 6:10-20. "Put on God's armour so as to be able to resist the devil's tactics. Stand your ground, with truth buckled round your waist, and integrity for a breastplate. Wearing shoes on your feet for the eagerness to spread the gospel of peace and always carrying the shield of faith so that you can use it to put out the burning arrows of the evil one. And then you must accept salvation from God to be your helmet and receive the word of God from the

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Spirit to use as a sword. Do all this in prayer, asking For God's help. Pray on every occasion, as the Spirit leads". What to do ? Firstly we can make a decision in our family that we want God's plan to work. We need to invest our time and resources and give our attention to building a strong Christian Family by loving God and neighbour. Families need to pray together. Give God sometime in our otherwise busy lives. Give to God the prime time not the leftover time. Make the sacrifice of saying family prayers when you would otherwise be watching your favourite TV programme. In a few words Practice Presence of God and Divine Filiation throughout the day. Parents should take steps to assume full responsibility for the spiritual as well as the material needs of the family. A pre requisite for this is to pray regularly and sincerely for Gods help and guidance. You cannot achieve any of these things without the grace of God. Make an effort to attend Mass more often and receive the sacraments of penance and holy communion as often as possible. If you do all these things you will surely succeed. Take positive steps to learn more about God's vision for your family, Ask God " what do you want from me ". Read the word of God in the bible . Pray to the Holy Spirit that He will open up your minds and hearts to receive God's message. Seek the companionship of other Christian families that share your concerns about family life and want to grow in faith and love of God as a families. It is within the family that we have the opportunities to do God's will and to show Him our love and sometimes sacrifices. Being a spouse and a parent is a selfless role. We should always be willing to help each other in the house no matter how small or unpleasant the task. It is performing the small acts of life with great heart that we are in an almost constant state of presence of God and pleasing God. We should be willing to share our time with the family no matter what the outside pressures to the contrary are. If we invest our time in work and attain a high position and are well respected for our abilities but have neglected our family in the process then we have failed in life. Sharing time with our spouse and children does in most cases require us to stop doing something else such as reading the newspaper or watching TV or entertaining our friends. Many of us find this difficult because these activities have more or less become habits of our life and are very hard to break. Nevertheless we should break the habits that tend to separate our time from the family. The rewards of doing this are incalculable in terms of grace and sanctity. Another aspect of our sharing within the family is that we should plan our leisure activities. We should have a proper sense of purpose with regard to the weekend and longer breaks that come our way. If we do not plan then the family will waste their precious time together and most likely go off in different and unsatisfying ways. As parents we should endeavour to make life as interesting as possible for our family. We can do this by bringing little gifts for our spouse and children when we arrive home, by

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immediately taking part in the activities of the house, joining in with the chores, the children's homework, having time for discussion. There are many wonderful examples for us to follow such as our own parents. Maybe we can try to do better than them and by the grace of God our children may do better than us. The alternative if we do not try to create a loving, generous, selfless family life and commitment is to waste a very precious opportunity that has been given to us by God. And so our families should epitomise the Christian ideals of loving God and loving neighbour by being full of happiness, love affection, generosity and being positive and constructive towards God and life. What does the catechism say? Abstracts from 2201 to 2233. The family must be helped and defended by appropriate social measures. Where families cannot fulfill their responsibilities, other social bodies have the duty of helping them and of supporting the institution of the family. Following the principle of subsidiarity, larger communities should take care not to usurp the familys prerogatives or interfere in its life. The importance of the family for the life and wellbeing of society entails a particular responsibility for society to support and strengthen marriage and the family. Civil authority should consider it a grave duty to acknowledge the true nature of marriage and the family, to protect and foster them, to safeguard public morality, and promote domestic prosperity. The political community has a duty to honor the family, to assist it, and to ensure especially: the freedom to establish a family, have children, and bring them up in keeping with the familys own moral and religious convictions; the protection of the stability of the marriage bond and the institution of the family; the freedom to profess ones faith, to hand it on, and raise ones children in it, with the necessary means and institutions; the right to private property, to free enterprise, to obtain work and housing, and the right to emigrate; in keeping with the countrys institutions, the right to medical care, assistance for the aged, and family benefits; the protection of security and health, especially with respect to dangers like drugs, pornography, alcoholism, etc.; the freedom to form associations with other families and so to have representation before civil authority.

Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in selfdenial, sound judgment, and selfmasterythe preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should

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teach their children to subordinate the material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.31 Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them:

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Part 7 Strengthening the Christian Family

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STRENGTHENING CHRISTIAN FAMILY LIFE Introduction Part of our mission in life is to help our family and others to progressively get nearer to God in Jesus Christ. An important aspect of this mission is the strength and stability of our own family lives. We need to persevere in trying to ensure that our own family is stable, reliable and can reach out to other families as a means of supporting each other in our struggle to know and love the life of Jesus. The Family is the Basic Unit of Society. Families are an important aspect in determining the sort of society we live in. Many of us are witnessing that today's society is moving away from God not nearer. Why is this? It is because God is absent from the lives of a lot families. When this happens, it is man made values that govern the conduct and attitude of society. Our mission should be to strengthen our ties with Jesus and place Him at the centre of society where he belongs. The main mission in our lives must be centred on leading our spouse and our children to Jesus Christ. If we fail in this, how can we help others? Father Bede Jarrett in writing about the duties of parents says I must impress my mind with the seriousness of my position and the extreme responsibilities that these duties of parenthood impose on me. Besides, in my failure or neglect, not only is my own soul at stake and brought to ruin, but precisely because of my parenthood I may drag others with me in my fall. He also makes an interesting observation concerning the duties of children The very purpose for which I was created was to serve God with all the individual faculties, such as they are, with which He endowed me. Now if I allow myself to be overridden by any other, motive I may do more work in the world, but not such as I alone can contribute. My personality has been lost, and the account I render is not for my talent, but for another's. Ways of Strengthening Family Life Understanding better the meaning of our commitment to our spouse. Marriage is a relationship of commitment and service in all the circumstances of life. It is not a relationship based solely emotion, feeling and physical attraction. It is based on love. It is a selfless state not a selfish state. St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians defines the word LOVE as I may speak in tongues of men or of angels, but if I have no love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 I may have the gift of prophecy and the knowledge of every hidden truth; I may have faith enough to move mountains; but if I have no love, I am nothing 3 I may give all I possess to the needy, I may give my body to be burnt, but if I have no love, I gain nothing by it. 4 Love is patient and kind. Love envies no one, is never boastful, never conceited 5 never rude; love is never selfish, never quick to take offence. Love keeps no score of wrongs 6 takes no pleasure in the sins of others, but delights in the truth.

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7 There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope, its endurance. 8 Love will never come to an end. Prophecies will cease; tongues of ecstasy will fall silent; knowledge will vanish. 9 For our knowledge and our prophecy alike are partial, 10 and the partial vanishes when wholeness comes". St. Paul also defines the relationship of marriage as a commitment to serve in his letter to the Philippians " 3 Leave no room for selfish ambition and vanity, but humbly reckon others better than yourselves. 4 Look to each other's interests and not merely to your own. 5 Take to heart among yourselves what you find in Christ Jesus: 6 'He was in the form of God; yet he laid no claim to equality with God, 7 but made himself nothing, assuming the form of a slave. Bearing the human likeness, 8 sharing the human lot, he humbled himself, and was obedient, even to the point of death, death on a cross ". In order to better understand this commitment we need recognise that our marriage is God's plan for us. It is our vocation in life. We need to be very aware of God at the centre of our lives and to turn to Him in all the difficulties of life. St. Matthew in his Gospel records Jesus as saying " Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light". Live more fully the principles of Christian personal relationships. At the heart of our married state is our brother and sister relationship. This relationship should manifest itself in our daily living. We should act reasonably towards each other, we should set time aside for each other on a regular basis and we should have the desire to serve each other as Christ is the serves His church. Here we have to know the life of Christ and try to imitate it between each other and towards our children. Our commitment to each other is once and for all. We prove ourselves in God's eyes by our unconditional love and service for each other. Make the home the centre of family life. The relationship between parents and children is sometimes much weaker than it should be. This can happen because we ignore one of the greatest aspects of our married vocation, in that we do not help form a lasting relationship between God and our children. If we ignore the spiritual life of our children we it will be difficult to be able to face our Lord at the end of our lives. We should ensure that they know and love God at the earliest opportunity and that responsibility lies with us. We should not pass on this responsibility to others. We have to make time for our children and treat our family as our priority in life. We have to pass on our values to our children.

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Another reason why our children might not relate in the best of ways to their parents is that the home is no longer the centre of learning and lacks activities that both children and parents can share in. Families need to make time for each other. It is very important in family life that routines are established such as regular meal times when the whole family come together. We should also plan our church activities, going to the same church at the same time every week. We also need to plan our leisure time so that we have an activity that the whole family can share in every weekend. It is very important to plan these things and not to let them happen by chance. All of these things help to bring certainty and security into the family. Above all we should be able to share our experiences with Jesus in the home. Interact with Christian families. Parent child interaction has reduced and so has interaction between generations outside the home reduced. Christian families should find ways to share their lives with one another. This should not be difficult but it does require a certain amount of effort. Join other families on Sunday School Outings. Be prepared to organise them. Get involved in church activities. Join the Sunday School, be a catechist or give other service. Involve the children. Hold prayer meetings in the home where all are invited to join in. Make the prayer meetings a fun thing for the children. Allow them space and time to play as well as pray. Let the elder children take care of the smaller children. This should provide many opportunities to share our family lives together. In this way we serve God and neighbour. Exercise greater control over the family use of media. Intrusion of the media in the home. Reduce the amount of time watching television. Spend the time saved for prayer, reading, learning and recreational activities. Monitor and control what comes into the home. All parents must exercise judgement on the sort of comics, books, music, radio and television within the home. Making quality time for each other. Reduce the amount of time spent on the internet.

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Share meal times together. This is a good opportunity for all to talk about their day, the good and the not so good. Develop Christian peer environment for young people. Encourage our children to mix with other Christian children, in say, serving the community. Serving each other, sharing the love of Christ together. Learning the life of Christ together. Christian children need other like minded children to develop fully as committed Christians. Become pastors of our children. Children copy their parents example and so form their character whether that be a good character or bad. Children are the mirror of their parents. Therefore we have to set a good example. We should teach our children to relate properly to others. The goal as mentioned earlier is to bring our children to God. Everything else we do for our children is secondary to this aim. God has entrusted this mission to parents and we cannot allow ourselves to fail by ignorance, comfort seeking, lukewarmness which is an ally of the enemy and other barriers the devil puts in our way. St. Matthew in his gospel records Jesus as saying " And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea". Prayer is essential. A family who pray together stay together. When you are invited by say the Legion of Mary to share in reciting the rosary, accept the invitation and take the children along maybe invite the legionnaires into your home. In the end, God will ask each of us if we have made it easier or harder for our spouse to get to Heaven? Have we been a blessing or burden in our family life and relations with others? Hopefully we can answer this question positively and constructively. Nature and Characteristics of Family St. Josemaria writes the following in the Forge concerning the nature and characteristics of family: 689. You should be full of wonder at the goodness of Father God. Are you not filled with joy to know that your home, your family, your country, which you love, so much are the raw material which you must sanctify? 690. My daughter you have set up a home. I like to remind you that you women-as you well know-to have a great strength which you know how to enfold within-a special gentleness so that it is not noticed. With that strength you can make your husband

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and children instruments of God, or demons. You will make them instruments of God he counting on your help. 691. I am moved that the Apostle should call Christian marriage sacramentum magnum a great sacrament. From this too, I deduce the enormous importance of the task of parents. You share in the creative power of God: that is why human love is holy, good and noble. It is a gladness of heart which God-in his loving providence-wants others to freely give up. Each child that God grants you is a wonderful blessing from Him: Dont be afraid of more children. 692. In conversations I have had with so many married couples, I tell them often that while both they and their children are alive, they should help them to be saints while being well aware that one of us will be a saint on earth. All we will do is struggle, struggle, struggle. And I also tell them: you Christian mothers and fathers are a great spiritual motors sending the strength of God to your own ones, strength for that struggle, strength to win, strength to be saints. 'Dont let them down.! 693. Don't be afraid of loving others, for His sake: and dont worry about loving your own people even more, provided that no matter how much you love them, you love Him a million more time.

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Recommended Reading

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Recommended Reading The following are a very small sample of reading material that in some cases have changed many lives and brought them closer to the Way, the Truth and the Life of Jesus Christ. These books represent ideal reading for every practising Christian. In the case of the Bible it is essential reading and in the case of Imitation of Christ it is near essential reading The Holy Bible The Four Gospels should be read and re read. The have God for their author, and contain His revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ. The One Year Bible This book is in fact the Bible but split into daily readings of the Old and New Testament and after 365 days the reader has completed reading or praying the Bible. The Daily Missal - the daily Gospel In Conversation with God ( a commentary on the daily Gospel by Francis Fernandez) Author Francis Fernandez-Carvajal makes generous use of the writings of the great saints as he brings you focused and moving meditations on themes taken from the Mass readings for that day, the liturgical season, and more. This work is rich and extensive enough to serve as your spiritual reading for a lifetime, as it helps you relate the particulars of the message of Christ to the ordinary circumstances of your day. Imitation of Christ (suggest the translation by Leo Sherley-Price) The Imitation of Christ takes first place among books on the spiritual life. The daily reading of a page or two of this book cannot be too highly recommended. It would be impossible to estimate the wide and profound influence that this wonderful little book has exercised throughout Christendom for over five hundred years. After the Bible itself, no other work can compare with its profound wisdom, clarity of thought, and converting power. Christians of such widely differing period and outlook as S. Thomas More and General Gordon, S. Ignatius Loyola and John Wesley, S. Francis Xavier and Dr Johnson, are but a few of the thousands who have acknowledged their debt to this golden work. Butlers Lives of the Saints Butler's great work, The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints ("Butler's Lives"), the result of thirty years study (first published in four volumes, London, 17561759), has passed through many editions and translations (best edition, including valuable notes, Dublin, 12 vols. 17791780). It is a popular and compendious reproduction of the Acta Sanctorum, exhibiting great industry and research, and is in all respects the best compendium of Acta in English. Catechism of the Catholic Church Part of a quotation from Pope John Paul:

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This Catechism confirms its purpose of being presented as a full, complete exposition of Catholic doctrine, enabling everyone to know what the Church professes, celebrates, lives, and prays in her daily life. At the same time it draws attention to the eager desire of all to make their contribution so that the Christian faith, whose essential and necessary elements are summarized in the Catechism, can be presented to the people of our day in the most suitable way possible. The Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux (translation by John Beevers) Saint Therese of Lisieux is a Saint whom one should meet early in ones reading. The Story of a Soul (l'Histoire d'une me) is the autobiography of Thrse of Lisieux. It was first published on September 30, 1898, a year to the day after her death from tuberculosis at the age of 24, on September 30, 1897. "The greatest saint of modern times. This famous statement of Pope Pius Xhimself a great saintwas prophetic. When he paid Therese Martin this extraordinary tribute, she had not yet even been beatified. But in a few brief years Catholics the world over were echoing his words. That an unknown French girl, born only yesterday in 1873, could in a mere half century have become one of the best-loved saints in the Church is a phenomenon that cannot be explained in purely human terms. It is unique in the history of modern Christianity, a prodigy of divine grace. A Short History of the Catholic Church by J.Derek Holmes and Bernard W. Bickers The Church of Jesus Christ is a thoroughly unique phenomenon, which can be studied from all kinds of perspectives, and which has been evolving for two millennia by forces ranging from true re-birth to politics, demagogy or personal greed. It is truly amazing therefore that Holmes and Bickers manage to give a continuously fascinating record of that history without cluttering the pages with names and numbers. A Short History of the Catholic Church covers the period from New Testament times unto the election of John Paul II, and does so in 300 pages (that's roughly 6 years and 7 months per page). The result of this roller coaster ride through history is a clear view on the general evolution of the church, much rather than on specific issues or people. Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis De Sales Introduction to the Devout Life is one of the best of all books for the beginner in spiritual education. Another St. Francis De Sales book is The Love of God is a world classic. Do I need to go into full-time ministry to live a truly Christian life? Am I really a Christian if I'm not out preaching the gospel in dangerous places where people have never heard of Christ? Can secular work benefit the kingdom of God? All Christians struggle to discern God's call on their life, but God does call all to live a Christ-centered life. Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis of Sales attempts to help Christians discern what it means to be a child of God in a secular world. We can glorify God in a secular world, and be a testimony to the world of God's abounding grace and love. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola edited by Robert Blackhouse The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, (composed from 1522-1524) are a set of Christian meditations, prayers and mental exercises, divided into four thematic 'weeks' of

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variable length, designed to be carried out over a period of 28 to 30 days. [1] They were composed with the intention of helping the retreatant to discern Jesus in his life, leading then to a personal commitment to follow him. Though the underlying spiritual outlook is Catholic, the exercises are often made nowadays by non-Catholics The Practice of the Presence of God by Bother Lawrence (translation by E.M.Blaiklock) Brother Lawrence is one of the most admired and imitated sons of the Catholic church. He worked for a time as a soldier before entering the Discalced Carmelite Prior in Paris. Lawrence was uneducated, and so had to enter the monastery as a layman. He worked in the kitchens and as a cobbler there for the remainder of his life. Lawrence is known for his devotion and ability to bring God into every aspect of his life. His classic Christian work, Practice of the Presence of God, details how to gain that constant and comforting connection to God. Readers have treasured this short and easy book for centuries because of Lawrence's honest advice and his obvious passion for spiritual matters. The Cloud of Unknowing (translation by Halcyon Backhouse) Some things never change, including the human need to connect with our creator. Prayer and meditation on the divine are techniques that have been used for millennia to grow in the knowledge of God. Cloud of Unknowing documents techniques used by the medieval monastic community to build and maintain that contemplative knowledge of God. Scholars date the anonymous authorship of Cloud of Unknowing to 1375, during the height of European monasticism. Written as a primer for the young monastic, the work is instructional, but does not have an austere didactic tone. Rather, the work embraces the reader with a maternal call to grow closer to God through meditation and prayer. A History of the Society of Jesus by William V.Bangert, S.J. Fr. Bangert's book is, quite simply, the most comprehensive and up-to-date one-volume history of the Jesuits in any language. In a reliable, scholarly, and documented narrative, the author tells the story of the Jesuits from their founding in 1540 up to recent times. The footnotes and extensive bibliography furnish leads to the most important books and periodicals for further study of the various periods or topics treated in this volume. Since its publication, this book has been translated into several languages. This presentation of the history of the Society of Jesus is basically chronological, but at the same time it keeps in view the ever-changing ecclesiastical, political, social, and cultural contexts within which the Jesuits carried on their lives and activities. The Way, the Forge, the Furrow (Daily thoughts to ponder) by Saint Josemaria Escriva Founder of Opus Dei Saint Josemaria is another Saint one should meet early in ones spiritual formation. (The Way from the author's preface:) "Read these counsels slowly. Pause to meditate on these thoughts. They are things that I whisper in your ear-confiding them-as a friend, as a brother, as a father. And they are being heard by God. I won't tell you anything new. I will only stir your memory, so that some thought will arise and strike you; and so you will better your life and set out along ways of prayer and of Love. And in the end you will be a more worthy soul."

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The book follows the interior itinerary of a Christian as he seeks an ever closer identification with Christ. "The Forge accompanies the soul on the path of its sanctification, from the moment one's Christian vocation is first glimpsed right to the final light of eternity" (Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, Foreword). (from author's prologue:) "My friend and reader, let me help your soul contemplate the human virtues, for grace builds upon nature. But don't forget that these considerations of mine, though they may seem very human to you, must be priestly as well, since I have written them for you and for myself-I have put them into practice too-before God. I ask our Lord that these pages may be of use for us. May we profit by them and be moved by them to leave behind us in our life a deep and fertile 'furrow', left by our deeds." Christ is Passing By and Friends of God (36 homilies) by Saint Josemaria Escriva Christ Is Passing By collects 18 homilies given by St. Josemaria between 1951 and 1971, on the occasion of various liturgical feast days. The guiding thread is divine filiation, and the universal call to holiness entailed by this reality. Other important themes are the sanctification of ordinary work, contemplation in the midst of the world, and unity of life. Friends of God first published in 1977, this is the first posthumous work of St. Josemaria. Collecting in one volume 18 homilies given between 1941-68, the book seeks to lead the reader to a deeper friendship with the "God who is close to us." Meditation for Lay Folk by Father Bede Jarrett It is felt that a book of meditation for the use of layfolk is a necessity of our times This is a book for anyone and is made up several short commentaries of practical Christian life. Meditation is essential for all Christian if they really want to live out their vocation to become Saints. This is a book to help all to get started. .

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Plan of Life

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Plan of Life The outline presented below is intended to bring us closer to Jesus and is practiced by many Christians in all walks of life. For the beginner it is not a question of practising them all , the choice is there. But the experience is that it the practice grows on people and at some stage their day their life is not complete without prayer, reading, and the Blessed Sacrament. In all things it is at Gods Pace. Daily Attending Mass, receiving Holy Communion, thanks giving after Mass, daily prayer, meditation, visit to the Blessed Sacrament, recitation of the Rosary, spiritual reading (say the part of New Testament or part some other Spiritual Book), examination of conscience. It may be that we attend a church service every Sunday in which case the advice is to attend more church services more often and slowly this becomes a way of life full of the presence of Jesus, his gifts and strength which are necessary to support us through life. Each time it is an encounter with God as well as a privilege. Prayer is a necessity for the Christian and can be described as the lifting of the heart and mind to God. Its another encounter with Jesus, a chance to talk to Him about our worries and concerns, our plans for apostolate and our needs whether they be material or spiritual. all have there own way of praying and at times when we find this difficult ask our Guardian Angel to pray with us and on our behalf. As to the daily examination of conscience, two species must be distinguished, the general and the particular. The former aims at the correction of all kinds of faults, the latter at the avoidance of some particular fault or the acquisition of some particular virtue. For the general examination a good method is laid down by St. Ignatius of Loyola in his "Spiritual Exercises". It contains five points. In the first point we thank God for the benefits received; in the second we ask grace to know and correct our faults; in the third we pass in review the successive hours of the day, noting what faults we have committed in deed, word, thought, or omission; in the fourth we ask God's pardon; in the fifth we purpose amendment. Of the particular examination of conscience St. Ignatius is generally considered as the author, or at least as the first who reduced it to system and promoted its practice among the faithful. It concentrates one's attention on some one fault or virtue. On rising in the morning we resolve to avoid a certain fault during the day, or to perform certain acts of particular virtue. About noon we consider how often we have committed that fault, or practised that virtue; we mark the number in a booklet prepared for the purpose, and we renew our resolution for the rest of the day. At night we examine and mark again, and make resolutions for the following day. We thus act like careful businessmen who watch for a while a special portion of their mercantile transactions to see where losses come in or where greater gain may be secured. St. Ignatius further suggests that we impose upon ourselves some penance for every one of the faults committed and that we compare the numbers marked each time with those of the preceding day, the total sum at the end of the week with that of the preceding week, etc. Weekly sacramental confession, special prayer to the Virgin Mary on Saturdays.

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Monthly

Attending a recollection.

This is an opportunity to in with others to think about the past month and whether it went according to plan or was there something missing, something that should have been done but was not and to think about our relation with Jesus what resolutions. The recollection set out here is guided by a talk by a Priest followed by a short interval to meet and chat with the others at the recollection and then followed by another short talk ending in Benediction. The talks by the Priest concern the everyday aspects of live and advice on how we can best deal with the circumstances we encounter. Yearly Attending a Retreat

In Luke 10:41-42, Jesus spoke to Martha: "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary." We, like Martha, feel somewhat troubled in recent weeks with the endless bad news stories, miserable predictions and political turmoil. We can lose sight of the true meaning of life and the fact that, as Christians, our friendship with Christ should be the central focus of our existence. We badly need a break from the rat race and the unrelenting demands on our limited energies to focus on our relationship with God and God's unique plan for each of us. The purpose of the retreat is it "helps men and women to follow the Gospel in their daily lives and to direct their ordinary work and family activities to God". Its an opportunity to deepen our friendship with God and to grow in the spiritual strength needed to deal with the challenges of our daily lives. To Make a Good Retreat, David Chandler observes that whatever the reasons a person might think he had for coming on retreat, those reasons might be very different to those of God. God's reasons are "vastly" and "infinitely" above our own. God can use the unique circumstances of our lives to draw us closer to him. On retreat, our main aim is to grow in God's love - to seek a personal relationship with Christ, the one person who will never let us down or betray our trust. What happens on a retreat? There are several periods of guided prayer in, attending Mass and ample opportunity to go to Confession in an atmosphere of serenity and calm, the priest being in no hurry as he administered the sacrament and gave valuable advice and spiritual direction. There were talks on various aspects of living the Faith, time for personal reflection and examination, and recitation of the Rosary, the Way of the Cross and Benediction. In his book, Furrow, St Josemara Escriv described days on retreat as "times of recollection in order to know God, to know yourself and thus to make progress." He also wrote of "a necessary time for discovering where and how you should change your life." Even two days in the continuous presence of God, praying and reflecting on our life's direction, gives us a totally fresh outlook. Chandler put a lot of importance on a well-made retreat as a source of "peace, vitality, and a youthful confidence: a singular regaining of the happiness we knew as children." During these days of silence, we talk intimately with God about the really important things in our lives, developing a new openness to what God chooses to reveal to us. While on the retreat, perhaps during a meditation, talk or while praying, some little story or phrase from the priest can touch us in a very personal way. Some people develop a new clarity or are struck by particular words that seem directed to them personally. It is in these moments that they can be sure that God's grace is working to speak to them through the words they've heard.

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The Eucharist, the reading of Scripture, the prayer, the time for reflection and repentance, the spiritual direction, even the routine of an early rise in the morning and retiring to the peace and quiet of one's room at 10 pm, gives the participants on the retreat a much needed injection of spiritual energy. Our encounter with God and his outpourings of grace inspire us to begin anew, to return to our families and our work with a new sense of meaning; a sense of the value of what we saw as tedious, of limited value or of little importance in the bigger scheme of things. A retreat is not just a passing high or a transitory emotional experience. The concrete resolutions we make like attending Mass more than once a week, devoting time each day to prayer, frequent recourse to God's forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation or incorporating devotion to the Blessed Virgin into our lives through the daily Rosary or other Marian prayers. These habits of service to God will give a previously ordinary life an extraordinary spiritual dimension. The resolutions from the retreat should lead to a definite plan of action that has a direct influence on our relationship with God and that demonstrates to us in renewed clarity how God intends our life to be. The retreat may provide a welcome rest, but its real purpose is to transform us into the effective, good and even saintly adults that God created us to be. Always Consideration of our divine filiation, presence of God, spiritual communions, acts of atonement, acts of thanks giving, aspirations, cheerfulness. Divine Filiation that adoption of man by God in virtue of which we become His sons and heirs. Is this adoption only a figurative way of speaking? Is there substantial authority to vouch for its reality? What idea are we to form of its nature and constituents? A careful consideration of the presentation of Holy Scripture, of the teachings of Christian tradition, and of the theories set forth by theologians relative to our adopted sonship, will help to answer these questions.

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