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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

Archive for the month “June, 2015”

LOURDES PILGRIMAGE

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 Over the next few weeks a number of friends of mine will be travelling to Lourdes here are a few thoughts on what the place and the people mean to me 34 years on from my 1st pilgrimage as a 14 year old in 1981.

When I think about Lourdes so many things like the cold water of the baths and people such as Fr. Leahy and Mrs. Smye and CLM all come to mind. After all the  years of coming and going so much has changed and so many people have gone to God both young and old and all the ages in between. There have been So many happy and sad times together with those who began to mean a lot to me way back at the start in August 1981 and many of those people mean so much more to me now they all know who they are and hopefully they might even be reading this !!!. Lourdes is the one thing that I have in common with all of my friends. The experiences that I have had over the years have changed me So much for the better I hope that I am more thoughtful and a less annoying person than before other people will have to tell me whether that is true or not. Lourdes has many meanings for everyone who visits the place but for me it means love, joy happiness and yes even sadness but above all else it is about the presence of Mary our mother in my life.

It is about Mary bringing all of us to Jesus who in turn brings us to the Father and the father’s house. Lourdes is not about me as an individual instead Lourdes is about giving yourself away in service for others the pilgrims of all nationalities who need your help physical, medical, spiritual or for many including myself it is simply about just sitting listening to what is important to someone which often times is a load of rubbish or at least it seems that way to you but to them it is the most important thing in their lives at that moment. One friend recently stated that Lourdes was the annual dose of steroids for her faith she said this in an interview on the radio and that is a great description of the Lourdes experience it certainly is a boost for those whose faith is strong to keep on going and a kick up the 90’s for those whose faith is not so strong to a start walking along on the road of faith.

In our pilgrimage to Lourdes all of us come with the sick, the fragile, those who long for many different kinds of healing perhaps body, mind or spirit. We place them at the heart of our pilgrimage week as a visible sign of our faith in God’s love for the weak and those in our modern world who count for little or nothing at all when in truth they are of great value more valuable than Gold and Silver.  Those of us, who are sick or weak or powerless, like Bernadette, teach the rest of the able bodied world something of great and vital importance. They teach us that God is with the weak and the powerless and through them he points us along the right road.  We may, at least for part of our lives, enjoy comfort, good health, various kinds of success; they are not what life is about. Life is about the journey we make to God, not about what we think of as our achievements or our plans. Remember the old saying that man proposes and god disposes, this means god does what he sees is good for all of us both as individuals and community. 

When I went overland to Lourdes for the 1st time August in 1981 I didn’t think that I would go back and yet here I am talking about the one thing that is so much of what I have become over the intervening years. There is a line of Patrick Kavanagh that says “Only they who fly home to God have flown at all” I certainly have flown high above the clouds and so many others have been in the flight with me and given me so much in relation to Lourdes and the life I have back as a result back home. I only hope that I have been able to give them something back.  So much good has come into my life as a result of Lourdes and all the experiences that I have had there and I will always be grateful for the people and the place that mean so much to me.

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13TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

In the Gospel reading for this Sunday we hear about the woman who had the hemorrhage and we also hear about the official’s daughter. Whilst the stories are about the faith of the people involved they are also about the mercy of Jesus towards them both. Jairus, the synagogue official and loving father of a ‘desperately sick’ twelve-year old daughter, is convinced that if only Jesus would place his hands on her ‘to make her better and save her life’ she will surely recover. The unnamed woman, suffering for twelve years from a condition for which she has spent her life-savings on one doctor after another, has one last hope. She is convinced that ‘if she can touch even his clothes’, surely she will ‘be well again’ and then she was able to get near to Jesus and touched his garments.  The poor woman and Jesus know that healing power has gone forth. Jesus turns around, inquiring who is the one who had touched him. Fearfully, the woman admits that she is the one. Jesus immediately calms her fear, telling her to go home in peace, for she is healed. Then, He proceeds to the house of Jairus, where He learns that the little girl has died. Quieting all the commotion, He goes in with the child’s parents and Peter, James, and John. Taking the hand of the girl, He brings her from death to life, ordering that some food be brought to her. How thoughtful of Him!

This gospel reading speaks of two things faith and mercy. Firstly we have the faith of the woman and Jairus the official, faith that Jesus would help them. Then we have the mercy of Jesus healing the woman telling her to go home in peace and then going on to the house of Jairus brings his daughter from death to life.May we have the courage to be people of faith and mercy. That is people who are not afraid to show our faith in Jesus to those around us as well as showing his mercy to those in our lives.

FEAST DAY OF ST JOHN THE BAPTIST

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Tomorrow we celebrate the Feast of the Birthday of St, John the Baptist. For the members of the Order of Malta it is the day when we celebrate our patron saint. John was the herald who went before Jesus to prepare the way for the Lord to make his paths straight. A desert prophet, he was outstanding for vigour, discipline and humility. In the Gospels the Baptist plays a unique roll he is the first witness who leads other people to Jesus who he identifies as the messiah, the Son of God.

As wondrous as the events of John’s birth may be, his greatness comes not from how he was born but from who he becomes a “light to the nations,” a herald of repentance His identity as light and herald is revealed and confirmed in his mission. Thus, his greatness derives from his fidelity to his mission: “I am not he.  Behold, one is coming after me and I am not worthy to undo the strap of his sandals.”

It is impossible to speak of John’s birth without noting his fidelity to his mission and his relationship to the Messiah. John the Baptist’s birth and mission remind us that God is always working in the world John is the manifestation of God’s working on behalf of all the world and its people.As the Apostles were witnesses to Jesus we to are called to be witnesses to Jesus, as members of the Church and members of the Order of Malta.  We need to be pointing away from ourselves to Jesus.

We are challenged to live lives of selfless service in defence of the faith and service of the sick and poor. In saying that many people have lost the courage to share their faith, their time and their talents. Being a caring and sharing individual within society means that we should give ourselves selflessly and without hesitation to people who need us without counting the cost this is what true service means. Service to those who are our Lord’s the sick and poor, is a great privilege and that is exactly what our service as members of the Order of Malta should be willingly and freely given to others.

May we as members of the Order of Malta be courageous in our defence of the faith and our service of the poor and the sick as we reflect on our mission on the feast of our patron John the Baptist.

12TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

JESUS CALMS THE STORM

In our gospel reading for this Sunday we hear Jesus asking the disciples in the midst of the storm, Why are you so frightened and why do you have so little faith. He could be saying the same thing to us today. The context of this passage is the calming of the storm when Jesus rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Quiet now! Be calm!’ And he says the same to us now in all our trials ‘Quiet now! Be calm! For many of us these days we are frightening with the various events that are ongoing throughout the world with so many people having little or no faith in god or anything else of lasting value.

Amongst all the hurt and devastation in the storms of life Jesus gives us peace in the storm of sadness and sorrow. When that storm comes he reminds us of the glory of the life to come. He tells us that there are many rooms in our Father’s house (Jn 14:2), and that he has gone ahead to prepare a place for us (Jn 14:2-3). He changes the darkness into the sunshine of everlasting life, and replaces our distress with comfort and peace.

Jesus gives us peace in the middle of our personal and family problems, when we don’t know either the best way forward or the best way out. At such a crossroads of life, we can ask him, ‘Lord, what road should I take?’ The best way may then become so much clearer, and bring us calmness and peace of mind as well in the knowledge of a decision well made.

Jesus gives us peace in the storm of anxiety. The chief enemy of peace is worry – worry about ourselves, worry about those we love, worry about our world, worry about our church community, and worry about the future.

 We have so many things to occupy our minds these days but if we remember that Jesus is with us in the good and bad times as a  gentle calming presence  we will get through the storms of life that affect all of us from time to time.

A REFLECTION ON RENEWAL IN THE IRISH CHURCH 3

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In To Live Is to Love, Ernesto Cardenal says, “If in everything you fulfil God’s will rather than your own, every encounter in the street, every telephone call, every letter you  receive, will be full of meaning, and you will find that everything has its good reason and obeys a providential design. Our God-given tasks are best done with joy. “Jesus in no way wants us to leave our many-faceted world. He wants us to live in it, but firmly rooted in the centre of all things who is Jesus himself.  Jesus does not speak of a change of activities or even a change of pace.  He speaks of a change of heart. This change of heart makes everything different, even while everything appears to be the same.  All our previous concerns will then become as “gifts or chal­lenges that strengthen and deepen the new life which we have discovered.” This doesn’t mean that things will become easier. “Sometimes; it is even more intense Poverty, pain, struggle, anguish, agony, and even inner darkness may continue to be part of our experience.

But life is no longer boring, resentful, depressing, or lonely because we have come to know that everything that happens is part of our journey along the road  to the house of the Father.” Emulating the sacred, tender heart of Jesus means that we make room in our own hearts for everyone, not just those who are natu­rally close to us or with whom we are most comfortable.This doesn’t mean that we don’t have a justified predilection for our family and friends.  It does mean that we are willing to break out of our usual family, work, and social groups to be present to those who seem alone or lost.  We need to die to our own selfish wants and needs. Dying to self means  caring enough to have room in our own hearts for all who come.

Faith is the assurance of things we hope for born from the conviction of things not seen”.(Hebrews: 11,1). We must be prepared to witness to things unseen, the unseen things of faith as an important part of life but of course it is difficult to be such a witness, precisely because they are things unseen, and  how can they believe in him if they have never heard of him?  And how will they hear of him unless there is a preacher for them? and how will there be a preacher for them if one is not sent?  So faith comes from hearing and what is  heard comes from the preaching of Christ. (Romans:10,14-17.17)

The spiritual life of faith cannot be lived only in a pew, in church because the hard bench will sooner or later become a soft bed.  It takes imagination to get out and do something and to come in to that pew for solace and spiritual rejuvenation every Sunday and on   many other occasions that arise for us to come together in prayer. The life of St. Therese of Lisieux on the surface seems serene and tranquil, but it took hard work  for her to live the life that became the little way. It took imagination to see a boring daily chore as a new challenge, a new way of transforming an ordinary event into an act of love in God.  Our lives in this world take on the character of a journey in very many ways, but none more so than the way of salvation.  In our pilgrimage of faith to our heavenly destination we sometimes fall or turn away. 

I believe that many people who have strayed away from faith and the Church are starting to return to faith. At times the steps necessary for our walk back to the Father may seem too many and too arduous for us and we hesitate even to make the first move. This is what the apostle Paul says: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead” (Eph 5,14).  Up you get, then, and hurry along: there is the Father, there the Son, there the Holy Spirit. He who hears you speaking in the intimate depths of your soul is coming to meet you, and when you are still far off he sees you and starts running. He sees your heart; he runs up lest anyone delay you and embraces you.He flings his arms around your neck to raise you up, you who were prostrate, burdened with sins, face to the ground.  He turns you over to face heaven so that you can seek your Creator there. Christ flings his arms around you so as to free your neck from slavery’s yoke and set his gentle yoke upon you.

Perhaps it is only when we  open our eyes and see, like the Prodigal Son, that we are then willing to rouse ourselves to take the path of conversion that leads to the merciful embrace of our heavenly Father, so rich in mercy.  Proper celebration of the faith and life of the Church should lead to unfailingly serenity and hope despite , all that life will throw at us.

We as Church will renew the faith community by creating new perspectives, new perceptions, new understandings, and new enthusiasms  and all of these will lead to renewed life.  Let us not be afraid to take up the challenge the challenge that will lead us to new perspectives, new perceptions, new understandings, and new enthusiasms that bring about renewal of ourselves and those around us. I do not believe that the church should be looking to get people back to sitting in Church the days of overflowing churches won’t be back any day soon I think that what we need to do is to help people realize that God is there in their lives as a the person who will be with them thought their lives in good and bad times journeying with them. It really is about giving our people food for their faith journey.

Then we will see people coming into Church on Sunday coming in for solace and spiritual rejuvenation every Sunday and on   many other occasions that arise. It was Pope Saint John Paul who called on all of us to open our hearts to the redeemer upon his election as pope in 1978. So now what are we waiting for the time for action is here  and it has been here for some time what that action will be for each person, each parish each diocese and each country will be different.

As I am writing this we are at the feast of Corpus Christi that is the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. If we are to have any success in our efforts we must commit ourselves and our ideas for renewal to prayer and the greatest prayer there is the Mass. As we move forward we pray that God will guide us through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and so we pray:

Glory to you, O Lord our God. Your love calls us to be your people.

By sharing our many and diverse gifts we share in your mission. We ask you, Lord, to shape us into a community of faith.

Nourish us by your word and sacraments that we may grow into the image of Jesus.

Through the power of your Holy Spirit, heal us that we, in turn, may heal the wounded.

Form us to be instruments of love, justice, and peace in our land , and send us to proclaim your saving work. renew us, Lord, that we may renew the face of the earth. Amen

11TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

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This weekend we celebrate the 11th Sunday of ordinary time and we hear once again the story of the mustard seed. Jesus seemed especially fond of using parables. In its form, the ancient Middle Eastern parable is an explicit comparison of one item or one person to another. Jesus’ parables tell his listeners what God is like by comparing God’s being or behavior to something familiar and known in the culture of the time. In olden days farmers would sow seeds in their lands and then simply wait. When a crop was ready they would reap it, using a scythe (“blade”).There followed a whole process, and the neighbors would gather with each farmer to help in each step. They would collect each other’s crops into stacks or “stooks” as they were called, so that by counting stooks each farmer could know how much grain to expect from his harvest. Threshing came next—separating the husks and straw from the grain—followed in these older cultures by winnowing, which detached the heavier grain from the lighter chaff.

The faith that we have handed down to us through the generations is represented in this Sundays Gospel by the mustard seed and it is something that all of us need to nourish. When the seed that is the Word of God takes root within us the Kingdom grows. We are called upon hearing the Word to meditate upon it in prayer so that it may take root in us and bear fruit in joy and virtue.

We are usually helped by books, and Christians do not want for them: the Sacred Scriptures, particularly the Gospels, holy icons, liturgical texts of the day or season, writings of the spiritual fathers, works of spirituality, the great book of creation, and that of history the page on which the ‘today’ of God is written. (CCC 2705)

The Kingdom of God is like a tiny seed within each of us. It’s a strong seed, like those that push their way through cement in order to grow toward the light. Sometimes we nurture it and have expectations. Sometimes our expectations are fulfilled, sometimes not. Other times, we don’t know how, but we find ourselves bearing the fruits of joy, compassion, peace, generosity, faith-fullness, gentleness, and thanksgiving for the wonder of it all. Then we know our growth is a partnership and, while we can care for the seed, we can’t make it grow or flower or reproduce. I’m reminded of St Therese of Lisieux, the “Little Flower” who considered freedom to be in forgetting self, and walked her “way” on a path of dedication and awareness of the Holy One in the rather ordinary, boring, and annoying little things that make up our daily lives. The parable of the seed growing of itself which we hear this Sunday in the gospel reading shows us that there is an almighty power working for us. Our part is to do a good job preparing the soil and sowing the seed. Then we must let God take over, as God usually does. God and God’s work in us and among us will ultimately triumph let us not be afraid.

A REFLECTION ON RENEWAL IN THE IRISH CHURCH 2

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Without strong preparation of prayer, fasting, and openness to the Holy Spirit, no sacred space of faith will be created, and there will be no genuine dialogue to enable the Spirit of God to renew the faith community by creating new perspectives, new perceptions, new understandings, and new enthusiasms that bring about new decisions, leading to renewed life. I believe very strongly that the seeds of faith are there in each and every person whether they are attending Church or not each Sunday. I also believe that we need to get out there and promote the message of the Joy of the Gospel and its great mercy.

The time for inaction is over and the time for constructive action with lasting results has arrived. Pope Francis in the Joy of the Gospel tells us: I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. At our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: “Give them something to eat” (Mk 6:37). (49).

We in Ireland at this time are that bruised and hurting Church for many reasons and as such we need to begin moving away from being confined to ourselves looking inwards staying in our own circles. We need to move away from clinging to our own security to  looking outwards in order to bring the joy of the Gospel to all those we meet. The question to be asked here is this are we the members of the church at the present time lay religious and clergy  giving the countless others whose faith is wavering or non-existent  food for the journey, the journey of faith?

 We need to speak frankly and openly with each other Seeking God’s will in our strengths and weaknesses and not be afraid of the message we have to share. I firmly believe that faith is really all about people and their personal journeys of faith and that includes you and me.  We need to renew the faith community by creating new perspectives, new perceptions, new understandings, and new enthusiasms relating to faith and all of these will lead to renewed life.  We need to reaffirm what we ourselves believe in so that we will inspire others to begin or continue their faith journeys. With a strong preparation of prayer, fasting, and openness to the Holy Spirit, a great sacred space of faith will be created it is a long journey that we need to embark on but a worthwhile journey none the less.

Pope Francis puts it well in the Joy of the Gospel when he says to us:

I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day.  No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord” (Pope Paul VI). The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Now is the time to say to Jesus: take me once more into your redeeming embrace”. How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost! God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. Christ, who told us to forgive one another “seventy times seven” (Mt 18,2) has given us his example… Time and time again he bears us on his shoulders (Lk 15,5). No one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by this boundless and unfailing love. With a tenderness which never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew.

As a matter of fact we have to constantly renew ourselves and in the same way the Church should be always renewing herself on an ongoing basis at personal, local, national and international levels. Renewal should not come as a result of scandal renewal should be engrained in the culture of faith and religion. So that we may tackle any of the problems of the day head on and not be afraid of what might happen. We need to begin to be a praying people both as community and individuals praying that the will of God will come, thy kingdom come thy will be done at the our Father puts it.

In his 2014 message for Lent Pope Francis says that The Gospel is the real antidote to spiritual destitution: The Lord asks us to be joyous heralds of this message of mercy and hope! It is thrilling to experience the joy of spreading this good news, sharing the treasure entrusted to us, consoling broken hearts and offering hope to our brothers and sisters experiencing darkness. It means following and imitating Jesus, who sought out the poor and sinners as a shepherd lovingly seeks his lost sheep. In union with Jesus, we can courageously open up new paths of evangelization and human promotion. As we look at the implications of the marriage referendum as a Church let us commit ourselves anew to the cause of renewal. The renewal of the church that GOD WANTS not the renewal that some within the Church want. If we are truly open to god we will pray and then act.

We cannot discount the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to make the right thing happen in the right time and place. As I said above some within the Church want their version of renewal which may well be a going back to the future, if we do go back let us remember that the Church did not begin with the Gold, Silver or Magnificent Vestments. We cannot forget that Jesus was born in the stable in Bethlehem. The Last Supper was in the upper room, Jesus washed his disciples feet there was no Gold on the Cross of Good Friday only the nails and the wood of the Cross.

A REFLECTION ON RENEWAL IN THE IRISH CHURCH 1

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As we all know the marriage referendum in southern Ireland was passed by a vote of 60% at this stage I am not going to dwell on this as many other people have done this since the referendum.  Instead I would like to offer my thoughts on the renewal of Faith that needs to take place in the Irish Church. Many people have said that this result is a wakeup call for the Church and this is what it should be As the apostle Paul says: “Awake, O sleeper, and” (Eph 5,14). I think we need to wake up as a Church or even as Irish Churches. For me as a Catholic in Ireland at the present time the Church needs to stand up for itself and start preaching the authentic teaching of Jesus Christ. Many people are now asking how do we as church people or people of faith reconnect with all the people within the church young and old and everyone else and this question needs to be addressed as there is a big disconnection between the Church as it is now and its people for many reasons not least the scandals which are well known and they are been addressed on an ongoing basis.

The referendum result is a wakeup call indeed it is one of many wake up calls in recent years and as such it should not be ignored. All of us who are the church the body of Christ need to stop  in order to take a reality check and look at where we are now and realize the ways of the past are gone and then take positive action for the future.

I thank God that many of the ways of past are gone as we now know in many cases they were proven to be shamefully wrong and a sham what has happened over the years certainly was not what we expect of the members of the church clergy or otherwise. Now is not the time for us to stick our heads in the sand ignoring what has gone on and what  is now going on around us. Instead it is time for us to rise up and start afresh looking for new ways to proclaim the old truths. The truths that were there at the beginning of the Church we cannot forget the Last supper in the upper room, the Cross of Good Friday and the Resurrection on Easter Sunday. We cannot forget all those who by their lives and witness over the centuries have brought many people to faith in God and also one another. We cannot forget that Jesus Christ was the beginning and will be there at the end the alpha and the omega. 

At times it would be so very easy for me and so many others to throw in the towel and that would be the easy solution and if the truth be told it would be no solution at all. Running away is easy but staying the course no matter how desperate the situation may seem to be at the time is what is required of all of us.

My faith in God is strong and my faith in other people is also strong but I sometimes find myself  asking God where are you in this that or the other situation and very often through the people around me I get an answer which is always I am here in the turmoil you are in  keep on going. With that in mind I believe that god is here at the present time in Ireland and all of us should keep on going with renewed heart and spirit remembering that the life lived in faith will never be easy and the renewal that will be required will be hard to undertake

I have had the privilege of journeying with a number of great people in my life who have taught me to pray that that the will of god will be done in our lives.  The message of God’s will entails more than the human awareness that we need to speak frankly and openly with each other.  Seeking God’s will in the concrete situation of our strengths and weaknesses means being open to the folly of the cross (1 Cor 1,18) and in the folly of the Cross we acknowledge that Jesus is Lord (1 Cor 12,4), being ready to change and be changed.

The cross reminds us that God is in charge and has a plan for our ultimate well-being. We trust God who has made a promise to be faithful to us, and through the cross, he guarantees to see that promise come to completion.We sign ourselves with the cross as we enter and leave church and as we begin and end our prayers. Each time we do that we remember the God of the Promise the god who was who is and will be the one who will always be part of our journey. Signing ourselves with the cross also “reminds us of God’s promise to be faithful to us.

Over the next few days I will complete this reflection which comes in 3 parts

as always your comments are receieved  with thanks

 

Corpus Christi 2015

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This Sunday we celebrate the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ also known as Corpus Christi. In many places throughout the world the Feast of Corpus Christi would have been celebrated last Thursday in many other places in the world  celebrate this feast on the weekend after Trinity Sunday.  When we see the Eucharistic Bread, we believe that it is Jesus who is there before us what is known as the real presence such is our faith in the Eucharist.  We are thus in the presence of the Resurrected One, He who has conquered death and who is now in Heaven, in the Glory of the Father!  The Church teaches that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” (CCC 1324) This means that, because Christ is really, truly and substantially present in the Eucharist, we recognize that all the graces we enjoy as Catholic Christians come from this great Sacrament, and all we aspire to, the fullness of the life of God, is contained in this Sacrament.

Corpus Christi is a Eucharistic solemnity that is, the solemn commemoration of the institution of that sacrament. It is, moreover, the Church’s official act of homage and gratitude to Christ, who by instituting the Holy Eucharist gave to the Church and to us as members of the Church our greatest treasure.

By following in our Lord’s footsteps. Christians over the centuries have sacrificed greatly, in a labor of love, for their faith, their Christian way of life and their families. Then as now, it begins with each individual humbly asking God to show the way and to provide the strength needed to follow in His footsteps. This strength comes from the Eucharist the Bread of Life which is the body of Christ.

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