Life in my family has been a journey of both joy and sorrow. Love and joy have often been overshadowed by loss of friends, failure in exams, changing schools and housing troubles. I have experienced great misery and loneliness throughout these trials, but despite this, I would cling to the help of Our Lady who would support and comfort me.
Starting high school was a great change in my life. Many of my friends and schoolmates from primary school had moved away to other high schools so I had to try to fit in with new people and find the ones who would be my friends. There was far more work and assessment in my new school and it was difficult without a close friend by my side.
As the months passed, I wondered if these hardships and trials would ever come to an end. I prayed to Mother Mary for comfort during these hard times and started a ‘Do-It-Yourself’ retreat by Fr Michael E. Gaitley called “33 Days to Morning Glory” to prepare for consecration to Mary. Each day of the retreat includes a daily reading from the saints. I was inspired by key passages from the teachings of Saint Louis De Montfort, Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Saint Teresa of Calcutta and Pope Saint John Paul II. This book deepened my relationship with Mary and trust in her motherly care as I reflected on what I read while I prayed the Rosary every day.
Now, when I am consumed by stress or worry, I simply pray the Rosary and I can sense Mother Mary’s comforting hand on my shoulder. “While I recite the Rosary, I am holding the hand of the Holy Mother. After the recital of the Rosary the Holy Mother holds my hand” (Pope John Paul II). As my love and trust for Mary deepened with each day of the retreat, I no longer felt sad and lonely at school. Praying the Rosary and other Marian prayers brought about a great change in my spiritual life. On the day of consecration, I woke up early in the morning to pray the consecration prayer. As the words passed my lips, my heart bubbled over with great joy and happiness as I revelled in the knowledge that I was finally consecrated to Mary.
Many of us, faced with similar difficulties in our lives are often unsure about what to do or where to go. Let us take this opportunity to trust in Our Lady’s intercession. We need to remember that Mary experienced many sorrows and hardships when she was on earth and can understand exactly how we feel. Taking her hand and asking her to accompany us in our sufferings can lead us to ‘a path of roses and honey.’
Let us pray this powerful prayer asking for Mary’s help during the difficulties in life:
Mother of God and our Mother,
Pray for us to God, our merciful Father,
That this great suffering may end and that hope and peace may dawn anew.
Eva Treesa is a high school student. Faith is her first priority and she deepens her relationship with Jesus through daily prayer and scripture readings. She lives with her family in Brisbane, Australia.
The popular historian Tom Holland has written an extraordinary book called Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World. The subtitle sums up his argument. Holland is deeply impatient with the secularist ideology that reigns supreme in the academy and that tends to regard Christianity as a debunked, outmoded religion, a holdover from a primitive, pre-scientific age, a block to progress both moral and intellectual. In point of fact, he argues, Christianity has been and continues to be the most powerful shaper of the Western mind, though its influence is so pervasive and so deep that it is easily overlooked. His very effective strategy for bringing this out into the open is first to de-familiarize Christianity through a brutally realistic accounting of what crucifixion meant in the ancient world. To be put to death on a Roman cross was just about the worst fate that anyone at that time could have imagined. The very fact that our word “excruciating,” which designates the most agonizing kind of pain, comes from the Latin ex cruce (from the cross) fairly gives away the game. But more than the awful physical suffering of the cross was its unsurpassed humiliation. To be stripped naked, nailed to two pieces of wood, left to die in the course of several hours or even days, while exposed to the mockery of passersby, and then, even after death, to have one’s body given over to be devoured by the birds of the air and the beasts of the field was just about as degrading an experience as possible. That the first Christians, therefore, proclaimed a crucified criminal as the risen Son of God could not have been a more comical, unnerving, and revolutionary message. It turned upside down all of the ancient world’s assumptions about God, humanity, and the right ordering of society. If God could be identified with a crucified man, then even the lowest and most forgotten members of the human family are worthy of love. And that the earliest followers of Jesus not only declared this truth but concretely lived it by caring for the homeless, the sick, the newborn, and the aged made their message even more subversive. Though he explores many other ways that the Christian philosophy influenced Western civilization, Holland identifies this idea, radiating out from the crucified Jesus, as the most impactful. That we take for granted that every human being is worthy of respect, that all people are bearers of equal rights and dignity, that compassionate love is the most praiseworthy ethical attitude is, quite simply, a function, whether we acknowledge it or not, of our Christian cultural formation. Proof of this can be found by looking back to ancient civilization, where none of these notions held sway, and by looking, even now, at societies unshaped by Christianity, where these values are by no means unquestioningly revered. The bulk of Holland’s book is taken up with analyses of key moments in Western history, which reveal the influence of the master idea of the cross. I would put special stress on his reading of the Enlightenment, whose political values are unthinkable apart from the Gospel, and of the contemporary “woke” movements, whose preoccupation with the suffering of victims and the marginalized is the fruit of a culture at whose heart, for two thousand years, has been a crucified and unjustly condemned man. I particularly appreciated his coverage of the Beatles’ famous 1967 Abbey Road recording of “All You Need is Love” in front of a live audience. The sentiment conveyed by that iconic song is one with which neither Caesar Augustus nor Genghis Khan nor Friedrich Nietzsche would be the least bit sympathetic, but which in fact is deeply congruent with the thought of St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Paul the Apostle. Like it or not, the Christian revolution massively shapes the way that we in the West continue to see the world. With this part of Holland’s argument—and it takes up 90% of the book—I am in complete agreement. The point he is making is not only true; it is of crucial importance at a time when Christianity is, so often, put down or set aside. That said, for me, the entire book unravelled at the end, when the author admitted that he believes neither in God nor, obviously, in the divinity of Jesus or his Resurrection. The revolutionary ethic that flowed from those beliefs he finds compelling, but the convictions themselves are, he feels, without warrant. This distilling of an ethical system out of deeply questionable dogmas is a familiar move among the modern philosophers. Both Immanuel Kant and Thomas Jefferson endeavored to do just that. But it is a foolish enterprise, for it is finally impossible to separate Christian ethics from metaphysics and from history. If there is no God and if Jesus did not rise from the dead, how in the world is it the case that every human being is worthy of infinite respect and a subject of inviolable rights? If there is no God and if Jesus did not rise from the dead, how could we not conclude that, through the power of his awful cross, Caesar won? Jesus might be vaguely admired as an ethical teacher with the courage of his convictions, but if he died and remained in his grave, then power politics prevails, and the affirmation of the dignity of every person is just a silly wish-fulfillment. It is instructive that, when the first Christians evangelized, they did not speak of human rights or the dignity of all or of other such abstractions; they spoke of Jesus risen from the dead through the power of the Holy Spirit. They insisted that the one whom Caesar’s empire put to death God had raised up. Tom Holland is absolutely right that many of the best ethical and political instincts of the West have come from Christ. But just as cut flowers will last only a short time in water, so those ideas will not long endure if we deracinate them from the startling facticity of the cross of Jesus.
Praying for your loved ones? Here's a story to keep you hopeful Only Yesterday I remember it like it was yesterday—sitting in a dimly-lit living room with my future father-in-law after a holiday meal. It was the first time I had met my boyfriend’s parents, and I was noticeably nervous. The family had scattered after dinner, leaving Harry and I to engage in small talk by the fire. I had heard so much about him and was excited to have this opportunity to converse. Harry was truly larger than life with an incredible sense of humor. He was the father of six children—hardworking, an equestrian record holder and a veteran of an elite military organization. I was dating his oldest son. I had admired him long before I met him and hoped to make a good impression. I, too, came from a large family, and was a devout Catholic—something I hoped he would view favorably. I knew that Harry had grown up in the Catholic Church, but left long before he married and started a family. This was something that piqued my curiosity and I wanted to know more—to understand why. What could have made him leave this faith that I, even as a teenager, loved so dearly? When the topic of religion eventually came up in conversation, I excitedly shared with him my devotion to the faith. His response was unexpected and heart-sinking. He nonchalantly, almost coldly, stated that he was once a Catholic—even an altar boy, but now he was not sure if he could even remember the Lord’s Prayer. Wanting to respond without sounding disrespectful, I quietly mentioned how sad that was—and I deeply felt it. This conversation left an impression on me and I kept this memory closely tucked away. Glimmering Lights The years came and went, and my husband and I held Harry close in prayer— hoping that one day he would return to the faith. Harry was there for my marriage to his son in the Catholic Church. He was there for the sacramental celebrations for our children, and he was even there the day his own son became a Catholic. Unable to hold back my tears of joy as I watched my husband’s baptism, the memory of my conversation with his father, ten years earlier, came flooding back and I felt the very slightest heat of anger—anger that my husband’s father had cheated him out of a faith-filled upbringing. My husband wanted more for his own children. He had not just been supportive of raising our family in the Catholic faith, he himself felt an inner longing for more. His initiation into the Catholic Church was a wonderful example of his own deep faith and trust. I saw small glimmers of faith in Harry over the years, and I always believed there was still some conviction buried deep in his heart. When my husband was diagnosed with cancer, my father-in-law told me in confidence that he was praying to Our Lady for him, as he had always had a deep devotion to her. This was something he had never told anyone, and he confided in me. I felt a genuine happiness in knowing that this dedication, although unseen, was still in there. Optimistically, my husband and I continued to pray for Harry’s full return to the faith. A Priceless Gift The year 2020 was cruel to many, and my dear father-in-law was one of its victims. Having taken a bad fall, he was placed in a rehabilitation facility with no personal contact for weeks. His health was beginning to fail, and this strong, vibrant man was beginning to shrink—in stature as well as in light—as the onset of dementia had also become clear. My husband decided to take a chance and ask his father if he would like a visit from a Catholic priest. To our utter surprise, he eagerly agreed—and asked me to supply a copy of the Lord’s Prayer to refresh his memory. Once again, my conversation with him as a teenager immediately came to mind, but this time I felt excitement and hope. In the days that followed, my husband accompanied a priest to his father’s home as mobility was limited now. Harry confidently participated in the Sacrament of Penance and accepted the offering of Holy Communion from his own son. Receiving both of these sacraments for the first time in nearly sixty years was a priceless gift. Harry received the Anointing of the Sick as well, and these precious sacraments indisputably gave him the graces to live out his final weeks in peace. In his final days, his son brought him a rosary, and prayed it around his bedside with our children—knowing that Harry was now walking the fine line between this life and the next. As a devoted child of Our Lady, this seemed a fitting goodbye. Harry passed away peacefully soon afterwards, and our hearts will forever be filled with gratitude to our merciful God and Our Lady for bringing Harry back to the faith before he passed on. Knowing that Harry is at peace with the heavenly angels is of great comfort to us. It may have taken him decades to acknowledge it, after years of unceasing prayers, and a final chance offer from his loving son, but his faith was there. It was always there.
One evening, my wife told me she had invited a Rosary group to our home. They would be bringing a statue of Our Lady and praying the Rosary. I shrugged it off because I had no belief in the power of prayer. I could not rationalize how uttering words could bring about a meaningful relationship with God. To prepare a beautiful setting for the statue of Our Lady, my wife bought two vases of brilliant red roses. The prayer group brought the beautiful statue of Our Lady. When they arrived, I fled to the background. But as the Rosary was recited, I stood at the rear of the room looking at the statue and wondering about the Rosary. Questions like: “Are we really praying to a statue?” popped into my mind. But I also found myself asking, “Are you really present here? I really need to know!” I felt like saying, “I need a sign to show me you are here”. My eyes fell on the brilliant red roses and I prayed, “If only you could change the color of one or two of those roses…” The next morning, I rushed to work. When I came home in the evening, my wife met me at the door exclaiming excitedly, “Have a look at the roses…Somebody must have asked for a sign.” When I glanced over to check them out, I was astounded to see pink roses instead of the brilliant red roses. It left me breathless. Regaining my composure, I told my wife, “Honey I think somebody did ask for a sign…and that somebody is me.” My wife burst out in delight, “It’s a miracle!” I examined them carefully to see if the pink roses were a different variety than the red roses, but they were clearly identical except for the colour. Truly it was sign from Our Lady telling me, “I am here. I am here to help you. Call on me”. From then on, I began to “pray” the rosary rather than “say” the Rosary. Every time I pray the Rosary with all my heart, it is an enormously powerful experience of our Heavenly Mother. She is always at my side, holding my hand, and walking with me on the journey of life.
As I sat in Mass listening to the priest proclaim the Gospel according to Luke (6:12-19), I heard the words with fresh ears and understood them in a way I never had before. The message of the Gospel: Jesus chose Twelve. Twelve! Out of all of His followers, he chose only Twelve. What did it take to become one of the Twelve? I wondered what Jesus prayed on the mountain the night before. Was the decision difficult to make or was the deliberation brief because the soon to be Twelve Apostles were an obvious choice? What criteria did Jesus use to make his decision? Then, all of a sudden, my heart started to pound and I saw RED. A bit of panic came over me as I placed myself inside the Gospel story. Imagining myself among the other disciples, standing there quietly waiting for the names of the chosen Twelve to escape the lips of the Son of God, I looked around at those beside me. Suddenly, I was struck by the gravity of every decision I had ever made, each action I had taken, and every word I had spoken. Jesus was choosing His core group of followers—the ones who would carry out His works. My mind ferociously scanned over my own life and I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Am I living in such a way that Jesus would have chosen me? Would I have made the cut?” Certainly, there were many disciples, not chosen to number in the Twelve Apostles, who accomplished incredible works in the name of the Lord. Good works were not exclusive to the Twelve, but we know the Apostles did play a very intimate, integral role as Jesus’ closest friends and followers. To have been selected was an unparalleled honor. Additionally, Jesus gave us a glimpse of His incredible love and mercy by including Judas Iscariot among the Twelve. Even though Judas would later betray Jesus I don’t think we can argue the Twelve were a very special, handpicked group of followers. What would it have been like to be one of the Twelve? Maybe the Apostles were grateful and excited, but also nervous about the path the Lord had chosen for them. Did the other disciples react in disappointment because they were not chosen among the Twelve, or was there a feeling of relief because the road laid out before Christ’s Apostles would certainly be difficult? Just to be chosen was a sacrifice. Becoming an Apostle would prove to be a heavy cross to carry. Being chosen was just the beginning. The Christian life isn’t easy, but the reward is divine. Do you live your life to be “chosen” or do you live your life to simply get by?
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