Notre Père, qui êtes aux Cieux, que Votre Nom soit sanctifié, que Votre Règne arrive, que Votre Volonté soit faite sur la Terre comme au Ciel; Donnez-nous aujourd'hui notre pain quotidien, pardonnez-nous nos offenses comme nous pardonnons à ceux qui nous ont offensé, et ne nous laissez pas succomber à la tentation, mais délivrez-nous du mal. Ainsi soit-il.                           Je vous salue, Marie pleine de grâces, le Seigneur est avec vous. Vous êtes bénie entre toutes les femmes et Jésus, le fruit de vos entrailles, est béni. Sainte Marie, Mère de Dieu, priez pour nous pauvres pécheurs, maintenant et à l'heure de notre mort. Ainsi soit-il                          Gloire au Père, et au Fils, et au Saint-Esprit. Comme il était au commencement, maintenant et toujours, pour les siècles des siècles. Ainsi soit-il

When I was eighteen




At eighteen I was doing my military service. I was posted to Paris. For the first time in my life I was living with people of no belief. Of the thirty soldiers in our section I was the only one to go to church on a Sunday.
In that situation I began doubting. My comrades were basically sincere and friendly. And yet they had no thought for God or religion. So it was possible to get along without faith. And besides why should I alone be in the right and all the others in error ?
So I gradually became unbelieving at heart. Within me there was darkness. But God gave me a light in my night. I had an aunt I was very fond of, Aunt Teresa. She was a nurse and goodness itself. She had never married and had been all her life a quiet helper in all kinds of spiritual and material needs for innumerable people.
I took the opportunity of a furlough to go and visit Aunt Teresa. She lived in a small town near Paris.
In the afternoon I went out for a walk alone and sat for a while on the parapet of a bridge over a beautiful river. An old tramp came past and stopped for a rest. We got into conversation. All at once he pointed to my aunt's house : 'You see that little place over there ?' he said with emotion, 'the best woman in these parts lives there. She's hardly anything herself and yet she does everything she can to help our sort.'
In that instant it became clear to me : my aunt is by far the best person I know - and she is a committed Christian. Mustn't a faith which is such a power for love be true ? And that was how I found my way back to the faith.

The Apostles' Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

What does the Bible say about the mystery of God ?
God is love : Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one.

Why does God allow it ?

Max Ellerbusch, a young American engineer, gives the following autobiographical account :
It was one hectic Friday, six days before Christmas 1958. I was in my electrical workshop and working feverishly so as to have a holiday free to be with my family. Suddenly the telephone rang and a voice at the other end informed me that our five-year-old Craig had been run over by a car. I dropped everything and rushed to the spot.
Around him stood a crowd of people but as I approached they drew back. Craig lay in the middle of the road, his fair curls with not a hair out of place. That same afternoon he died in the children's hospital. It happened at the crossing by the school. A car had come up so quickly that no one saw it. One boy had shouted, made a sign, and had to leap out of the way to save his own life. The vehicle had not even slowed down.
My wife Grace and I drove home from the hospital through the streets decorated for Christmas. We just could not grasp what had happened. It wasn't until the evening when I went past his empty bed that the reality entered my consciousness. Suddenly tears came not only because of the empty bed   but above all on account of the emptiness and futility of life which I felt.
Of our four children it was especially Craig who helped us most to cope with the cares of life. As a baby he smiled so joyously on the world that people often stopped by his baby-carriage. When we were visiting, it was three-year-old Craig who would be the one to say : 'You have a lovely home.' When he was given a present he was moved to tears and he would give it to the next child he met that wanted it. If such a child has to die - I thought as I lay in bed and tossed from side to side during the night of that fatal Friday - if such a life can be snuffed out in one minute then life has no meaning and faith in God is self-deception. In the morning my state of helplessness had found an outlet : a blind hatred awoke in me of the man who had done this to us. The police had meanwhile arrested him in Tennessee. George Williams he was called, and he was aged fifteen.
The police learned that he came from a broken home. His mother had taken on night work and slept during the day. That Friday he had absconded from school, taken her keys as she slept and driven at top speed down the road. All my anger at this turn of fate seemed concentrated on the name George Williams. I called our solicitor and asked him to prefer the severest charges. 'Try to arrange for him to be dealt with as an adult. The juvenile courts are not strict enough.'
Such was my state of mind when something happened that changed my life entirely. I cannot explain, only describe.
Late on Saturday night I was pacing up and down in the room next to our bedroom, my fists pressed to my temples. I felt ill and dizzy and tired - so fearfully tired. 'O God,' I prayed, 'show me why this had to happen.'
And in that very instant, between one step and the next, my life was changed. By the inner light of that moment the realisation suddenly dawned on me that this life has only one single purpose. It is like a school year and we have just one subject : love.
'O Craig,' I thought out loud, 'little Craig, in your five short years you have learnt a lot. What rapid progress you made, how soon you were ready to move up to a higher class.'
Grace was sitting up in bed when I opened the bedroom door. She wasn't reading, wasn't doing anything. She simply stared in front of her as she had done almost the whole time since Friday.
I took her hand and tried to tell her that the world is not ruled by blind fate, that life has meaning, that suffering on this earth is not the end but leading to a happiness far beyond our wildest hopes.
'This evening,' I said to her, 'Craig doesn't need us any more. But somebody needs us. George Williams. And it's
Christmas. Perhaps there's no Christmas present for him in detention unless we send him one.'
Grace listened and stared at me silent and unmoved. Suddenly she burst into tears. 'Yes,' she said, 'that's right. It's the first thing that has been right since Craig's death.'
And that is how it was. George turned out to be an intelligent, lost and lonely boy who needed a father just as much as I needed a son. He had his Christmas present and his mother received a box of Grace's good Christmas fare. We applied for his release and managed it too a few days later, and our house became his second home.
After school now he works with me in the workshop, joins us for meals round the kitchen table and is elder brother to Diana, Michaela and Ruth Carol.

Who is Jesus ?
He is God's Son who became man for us.

One of us

It was 1950. The old Cardinal of Naples did not know what to think. He had already seen a thing or two, but this ! A young priest was sitting before him in his office. He was asking permission to be allowed to become a drop-out. He wanted to live on the streets of Naples with the alley-boys.
The old man could not take it in. He knew what the position was in Naples : 200,000 out of work. And all the young boys were hanging round the streets because their parents were without work and could not feed them. They lived by stealing, peddling stolen goods, black marketeering, and begging. They slept in some corner or other. They were like wild cats and dodged the police. This young priest, Mario Borelli, wanted to help them, give them a roof over their heads, bread, and a bit of human warmth.
That the cardinal could understand. But why must the priest become a drop-out himself ?
Mario knew exactly why : if I go to these boys as a priest they will spit in my face. They are fearfully distrustful.'
The cardinal considered. 'Give me ten days to think it over.'
After ten days the plan was approved.
Mario went on the streets, an old cap back to front on his head, in ragged clothes, a cigarette end in the corner of his mouth. He begged, collected cigarette butts and became a vagrant.
Gradually he won the hearts of these youngsters. Soon he was even the leader of a gang. When he found a primitive shelter his youths went with him. They weren't able to do otherwise - they were drawn to him. This Mario had something irresistible about him. They had no word for it because it was something they had never before experienced. How could they know that the word was love ?
Perhaps we can now better understand why God became man. He wanted to be one of us to save us. 'God with us' : that is Jesus.

Why did Jesus die on the cross ?
Jesus died on the cross to atone for our sins.

Love even to death

Auschwitz 1941 A prisoner had escaped from the concentration camp. In the evening camp commandant Fritsch stood before the prisoners. The fugitive has not been found,' he roared. 'Ten of you will die in his place in the starvation bunker.' He stepped up to the first row and looked sharply in the face of each one. Finally he raised a hand and pointed : 'That one.' Pale as a sheet the man stepped forward. 'You - and you - and you. .
Ten of them. Condemned to death. One wailed : 'Oh my poor wife and children.'
Suddenly something unexpected happened. A prisoner stepped from the ranks and stood before Fritsch. The commandant grasped his revolver. 'Halt ! What does this Polish swine want ?' The prisoner answered quietly : 'I would like to die in place of this man.'
'Who are you ?'
A brief reply : 'A catholic priest.'
A moment's silence followed. Finally Fritsch made his decision and said gruffly : 'Agreed. Go with the others.'
So died the Franciscan Maximilian Kolbe at only 47. A man who wanted to conquer the world through love. But he knew : 'Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends' (John 15 :13).

Did Jesus rise from the dead ?
Yes he rose again and we too rise with him.

The four-legged theologian

The sick man seized the doctor's hand. 'I'm so afraid to die. Do tell me, doctor, what is waiting for me when I die ? What will it be like on the other side ?' 'I don't know,' answered the doctor. 'You don't know ?' whispered the dying man. Without further reply the doctor opened the door into the corridor. A dog sprang in, jumped up to him and showed in every way his joy at seeing his master again.
Then the doctor turned back to the sick man and said : 'Did you see how the dog behaved ? He has never been in this room before and does not know the people here. But he knew his master was on the other side of the door and so he leaped joyously in as soon as the door opened. Now look : I don't know anything exactly about what is waiting for us after death either, but it is enough for me to know that my master and Lord is on the other side. So when the door opens one day I shall go in with great joy.'

Why should we specifically honour Mary ?
Because being the Mother of Jesus she is also the Mother of God.

Pray for us sinners

This passage comes from the diary of a U-boat sailor in the Second World War :
The day began quietly. The sea was calm. Nothing to be seen of the enemy. Suddenly the alarm bell shrilled. The commander at once gave the order to dive. 'Enemy in sight.'
Shortly afterwards the first torpedoes dropped. We were sitting in the crewroom in readiness. With grim pale faces we waited for the first hit. Each one knew that would be the last.
We heard the roar of the depth charges. The boat sped down through the water.
All at once Hein, opposite me, drew out a rosary from his pocket. He started to pray. That was the first time any of us had prayed in front of the others... but no one laughed.
'Hein, give me a bit. I'm a catholic.'
It looked odd ; a calloused hand reaching out for a piece of rosary.
Hein pulled off a decade and gave it to the other man.
The fight was raging up above.
'Give me a bit too.'
'Me too.'
Now Hein held only one decade and the cross in his hand.
Five men praying, . . and no one laughed at them. 'Give me the cross. I'm protestant.' Hein handed over the cross.
For some minutes we forgot the battle raging. After rather more than an hour we got away.

What is the Church ?
The Church is the community of those who believe in Christ.

Believe in Jesus

Racked for Christ is the title of the book by Richard Wurmbrand. He comes from Romania.
He tells how in 1948 he was taken by the communists. They shut him up because he declared his faith in Christ before all the world.
A short time afterwards his wife also was arrested. Michael, their nine-year-old son, was left alone. The boy had to struggle hard to live. He grew so embittered that he lost his faith in Christ. After two years he was allowed a short visit to his mother. He came into the prison and saw his mother behind the bars. Police officials stood by. They had strictly forbidden the mother to speak about religion.
The son scarcely recognised his mother. She was so changed by the ill-treatment in prison.
Her first words were : 'Michael, believe in Jesus.' In wild rage the guards tore her away and led her off.
Michael wept as he saw how his mother was dragged off before he could say a single word to her. But he never forgot what his mother had told him :'Michael, believe in Jesus.' And he found his way back to Christ.
There are more than nine hundred million Christians the world over. They believe in Jesus Christ and have received life through baptism.
Unhappily the Christians are split into different confessions : so there are Anglicans and Catholics, Orthodox and Evangelical Christians.
Let us often pray : 'Lord Jesus, give us your Spirit so that we may all be one.'

Who is the visible head of the Catholic Church on earth ?
It is the Pope, Bishop of Rome and successor of the Apostle Peter.

The Pope and the Mother Superior

Sister Portess' heart nearly stopped. Before the door stood the Pope himself waiting patiently after a gentle ring at the bell. Pope John XXIII was there to visit a sick priest in the Holy Ghost Hospital in Rome.
The sister pressed the button to let him in and ran off to inform her Mother Superior who came in great excitement. There had never been such an exalted visitor to Holy Ghost Hospital before. She wanted to introduce herself at once and said : 'I am the Mother Superior of the Holy Ghost.'
The Pope smiled benignly and replied : 'I've not got as far as that. I'm only the representative of Jesus Christ.'

What happens after death ?
The good go to heaven.

Hanged twice

Roger Warren, a weaver from Lancaster in the sixteenth century, was condemned to the gallows because he had aided catholic priests and given them shelter.
The rope was placed round his neck but when the ladder was withdrawn the rope broke and Warren fell to the ground.
After a few moments he recovered consciousness. He knelt and prayed silently, his eyes gazing heavenwards and his face radiant with joy.
The officer in charge of the execution again offered him his liberty if he would deny his faith. Warren rose and said : 'I am as before ever ready to die for Jesus Christ. Do with me what you will.' And he prepared to mount the ladder again.
'Why, what is this ?' cried the officer. 'Why all this haste ?'
To which Warren replied : 'Had you seen what I have just seen you too would be as eager to die as I.'
The hangman put a stronger rope on him and drew away the ladder. So died the martyr Roger Warren.

What happens to the wicked who refuse to repent ?
They go into the everlasting pains of hell.

No return

Two fishes, searching for food, saw before them a tasty worm. Then said one fish to the other :
'You see that worm ? It is stuck on a hook. The hook is fastened to a line. The line hangs from a rod. The rod is in a man's hand. If either of us swallows the worm, then the iron hook bores into his mouth, the man pulls him out and the poor fish ends in the frying-pan.'
Then the other fish said : 'Ha, ha ! My grandma used to tell me that tale when I was little. I don't believe such fairy stories. How can anyone know anything about it ? There's never been anyone come back from the frying-pan to tell us about it. If you won't eat this delicious worm, I'll finish it off.' And so he did and indeed ended in the frying-pan.
And he did not in fact come back to tell the tale.
Many people say : 'We know nothing about hell : no one has ever come back from there to tell us about it.'
True enough. But Jesus has warned about the everlasting fire. We ought not to take it lightly but try to live according to his word.

Who will stand firm at the Last Judgement ?
One who has lovingly stood by those in need.

The king and the peasant

This anecdote comes from the early Kingdom of Spain.
One day King Richard went hunting. When deep in the forest he was overtaken by a thunderstorm and found himself suddenly all alone. As it was evening he tried to find his way back to the royal palace but could not. All through the cold night he was out in the open. Tormented with hunger, he wandered endlessly round in the forest.
Wet and exhausted he at last came in the early morning, upon a lonely farmhouse. He knocked at the door, he knocked several times, but no one answered. In despair the king tried the door. It was not fastened and creaked open.
The peasant farmer leapt up from the kitchen table and shouted : 'You scoundrel, you're trying to steal something here. See that you get out or I'll set the dogs on you.'
The king begged and pleaded but the peasant only grew the more angry. Finally he struck the king in the face and slammed the door after him. However the king reached home thanks to some people who were passing by.
Three days later he had the peasant called to the palace. The peasant thought : 'Why am I to go to the king ? I've done nothing to him. I don't even know him.'
He had to enter the great hall all by himself and stand before the assembled princes of the kingdom. The king was in his royal robes, the sceptre in his righ hand, on his head the crown.
For a long time he gazed at the trembling peasant in silence. Then he spoke : 'Do you know me ?'
The peasant was so struck by these words that thereupon he died.
We too will hear these words at the Last Judgement :
'Do you know me ? I was hungry... I was sick... I was a stranger...'
Let us so live that Christ will not have to say to any of us : 'Away with you into everlasting fire ! What you did to the least of my brothers you did to me.'

Our Father

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name ; Thy kingdom come ;
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread ;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us ;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

Why did Jesus teach us such a short prayer ?
Because he knew how easily we are distracted at prayer.

Neither horse nor saddle

On this point there is a true story from St Francis de Sales. Francis de Sales was a very good bishop. He lived some 400 years ago.
One day he was riding through a village. There he met a peasant. The peasant said : 'Good morning, Lord Bishop. I must tell you something. Do you know that I can pray without thinking of anything else at all ?'
'That is wonderful,' answered the bishop. 4I have never met anyone who could do that. So I should like to give you a reward. Listen. If you can say a whole "Our Father" without thinking of anything else I will give you my fine horse.'
The peasant was very glad at this and began the prayer straight away.
'Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done... Do I get the saddle as well as the horse ?' he asked suddenly.
Then the bishop had to laugh. 'Alas, alas, neither horse nor saddle.'
The peasant saw that he had lost all. He could not even say this quite short prayer without a distraction.

Why may we say 'Our Father' to God ?
Because he created us and has adopted us as his children.

In the Palace of Versailles

King Louis XV of France had a daughter who was very haughty.
One day the princess could not find her gold chain. For no reason she accused her lady-in-waiting.
'Madam,' said the latter in self-defence, 'you do me great wrong.' Then the princess cried out incensed : 'How dare you ! Do you not know I am a king's daughter ?'
The lady-in-waiting answered calmly : 'And I am a child of God :

Why do we say 'in heaven' ?
Because we put our trust in God's power.

Is there anybody listening ?

The drills pounded crunching into stone, the chisel and pick hammered with measured thud. Everything was as usual in the French mine. In a fairly distant gallery deep down six miners panted and sweated at their toil.
They had hardly resumed drill and chisel after the breakfast break when Farel lowered his tool.
'I don't know,' he muttered, 'but the air seems a bit queer. Do you smell anything ?'
'I don't like it either,' nodded the foreman, 'perhaps we should...' Before he reached the end of the sentence a fearful crashing and splitting shook the mine. Then everything went dark and quiet. Only the light of a couple of miners' lamps struggled through the darkness.
'We're trapped,' stammered Farel, his lips trembling.
'We're all done for,' groaned Pierre, 'The whole mountain has caved in.'
'Nonsense ! They'll fetch us out,' countered Marcel. 'They'll have to get us ! I want to live !'
'Yes, they couldn't just leave us stuck down here like animals,' sobbed Farel. 'I've a wife and three children.'
'It can be several days before they get to us,' shrugged the foreman, and added softly : 'If they manage it at all.'
'Hey you !' Pierre sprang to his feet. 'What did you say ? If they manage at all. Is that what you said ?'
'Quieten down, Pierre ! You won't make things any better by shouting.'
'What is to become of us then ?' asked Marcel.
'If they don't rescue us we shall starve to death.'
'Just how long can a man last without food ?'
'A week,' cried one.
'Ten or twelve days,' another thought.
'Let's shout, tap out signals,' suggested Farel. 'Perhaps the rescue team is already near.'
'No sense in that. No one will hear us down here,' answered the foreman. 'First we have to hear they're there, then there's some point in giving signals.'
Time dragged by endlessly. Nobody knew whether they had passed minutes or hours in that fearsome tomb. The lamps began to flicker. One after the other they went out. Not a gleam of light pierced the horrid blackness.
Suddenly Pierre began raving, screaming aloud and beating his fists against the black walls. It was some time before they could overpower him and the young man sank down with a groan.
So time dragged on. Hunger and thirst began to torment them. Flasks and lunchboxes were empty. And again the driving thoughts ! Will they find us in fact ? How long will it be before they stumble on our gallery ? If only we could hear something going on !
'Doesn't anyone hear us, no one at all ?' wailed Marcel. 'There must be somebody listening.' 'If we could only believe there was a God...' suggested Farel hesitantly, 'if we only knew that.*
'And what then ?' put in Pierre.
'Then we could pray and he would hear us.'
'And ? And then ?'
'Then he could rescue us.'
'But there is no God. That's only priests' tales,' murmured Marcel dully.
'D'you think so ?' Farel asked slowly.
'Well, perhaps it's not a story at all, that about the good God, and if he does exist then he must hear us,' said the foreman almost to himself.
'And perhaps he will save us,' stammered Pierre, 'We ought to try and say a prayer.'
'Who knows how to pray ?' asked the foreman.
'I knew a prayer once,' said Farel, 'but now I only know the first two words : Our Father.'
'Our Father,' nodded the others. 'If we only knew how it goes on. Let's try and remember.'
Finally after much thinking the miners had put the whole text together. Over and over again now they prayed the 'Our Father' each one softly to himself, then again all together, devoutly as in church, beseeching, weeping, moaning, always repeating the same form of words : 'Our Father who art in heaven...' Hunger and thirst tortured them in their dungeon. Now and again one or another would cry out in despair. But then the great prayer could be heard again spoken by someone else : 'Our Father...'
No one could say how long the miners had been entombed when the digger Farel started up out of a dull half sleep. Was that a trick of his feverish senses or had he really heard drilling and hammering ?
'Hey all of you,' he croaked with painfully dry tongue. 'Listen !'
Now the others too caught the rattling and knocking in the stone.'They're there, they're there,' Pierre shouted hoarsely and began knocking in mad haste with a hammer on the black walls. The others followed his example.
Over and over they repeated their knocking signal, listening for an answer. No doubt of it, rescue was on the way. The hammering in the rockface was increasingly audible.
Then the last barriers broke through. Rocks, lumps of coal, broken timbers were cleared away, a man crawled into the gallery, shone a light and stammered : 'It's true, they're still alive.'
Hands stretched out to them. Ambulance men placed the completely exhausted men on stretchers and got them out of the shaft.
In hospital they learned that they had been shut in twelve days and nights and that no one had hoped to get them out alive.
'Amazing that you didn't lose your reason down there !' was the doctor's opinion when he examined them.
'I can explain that all right,' answered digger Farel, and the others agreed. 'We found faith in God again. That alone saved us : otherwise we would have despaired in the end and died - or gone mad.'

Why do we say : Hallowed be thy Name ?
Because we are in awe before the eternal greatness of God.

All by itself ?

An American professor tells the story :
I am a biologist. Every day I study the wonders of nature, from simple plant forms to the animals and the human race. I am always astonished over the secrets of creation.
I have a friend who is an astronomer. He spends many a night behind his telescope studying the millions of stars and the planets.
One night he took me with him stargazing. He pointed out a little bright fleck in the sky and then invited me to look at it through the giant telescope. It was a breathtaking picture. The bright fleck revealed itself as an unbelievable wealth of big and little stars in the shape of a gigantic spiral.
The astromoner explained : 'That is a galaxy with about a thousand million stars.'
Then I felt very small, overwhelmed by the greatness of creation.
'Who made all these stars ?' I had to ask my friend.
His opinion was : 'No one. They came about by themselves.' My friend is in fact an atheist. He does not believe in God.
Shortly afterwards I invited him to supper. In my living- room hangs a mobile : the sun and all its planets.
My friend was in an ecstasy of admiration. 'That is something,' he said. 'Each planet is going on its right path round the sun. That is really well done. Who made it ?'
I smiled at him and answered : 'No one. It came of itself.'

Why do we ask : 'Thy kingdom come' ?
So that there may be more love and justice on earth.

The papal car

In India there are some four million lepers. The leper is an outcast, in many cases simply driven away from home. For this reason people suffering from leprosy do everything possible to hide the fearful disease.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta wanted to overcome this prejudice. She dreamed of a 'peace town' where the lepers would be healed. But unfortunately she had no money for it.
One day she heard that the Pope was to come to India for the first time. Pope Paul VI did indeed go to Bombay in 1964. The enthusiasm of the Indian people was surprisingly great.
An American firm sent him a wonderful white car. In this car he drove from the airport to the city centre of Bombay. At the end of his visit he presented the car to Mother Teresa, the mother of the poor, for her 'unbounded works of love' as he said. What was she to do with it ? Mother Teresa knew very well what to do. She organised a lottery. The white car was the first prize. A widow bought ten tickets in the hope of winning the beautiful car for her son. She was lucky enough to get the first prize. But she soon realised that the upkeep of the car was too expensive. She sold it again and gave the greater part of the proceeds to Mother Teresa.
Now the dream became a reality. The Indian government granted the use of a large tract of land in the neighbourhood of Calcutta. With the money from the papal car Mother Teresa was able to build many small houses on this site for the lepers. She also built a hospital where many of the sick were cured. She put up workshops where those who had been cured could learn a trade.
So the Pope's gift brought about a whole city of hope. And today everyone knows that in Calcutta, capital city of misery, there is also a 'city of peace' where the lepers are not shunned but cared for, nursed and in many cases cured.

Why do we say : 'Thy will be done' ?
Because God intends the best for us by his commands and precepts.

Bach's favourite song

Johann Sebastian Bach went blind in his old age. One day a friend let him know that a famous eye surgeon had come to the town and had declared himself ready to put his skill at his disposal if he cared to undergo an operation.
'Yes, in God's name,' said the aged Bach. The day came. But the operation was not a success. When, after four long days, the surgeon removed the bandages from his eyes and the loving family standing round asked their father : 'Can you see ?' he replied : 'The Lord's will be done. I can see nothing.'
AH around wept, so grieving the old father's heart. He called out to cheer them : 'You will do better to sing my favourite song : What my God wills be done always, he knows best.'

Is God to blame if many do not get their daily bread ?
No, it is the fault of the selfish people who deprive others of bread.

Making a show

A 40-year-old Berliner has this to tell :
My husband is not a bad lot, he doesn't drink and does no harm to anybody. But he is a great one for keeping up appearances. Since we married I've had no peace, we are always in want and difficult circumstances and the bailiff is a constant visitor to our house. Whenever there's a ring at the door I think that again it's somebody wanting his money. I can't sleep at night any more for worrying. I always have to be thinking of the children who often don't get enough to eat.
My husband is certainly no great wage earner but he could get by. But for show he had to get a car that was far beyond his means. He couldn't pay and got into debt. Every day he leaves his limousine in front of his office like some managing director only to make a show and his whole paypacket goes on the car. And he's always running up new debts.
At the midday break he goes to a restaurant and we at home have to go hungry. Our son often begs his father : 'Dad, do sell that big car. You'll get us all into trouble.'
But he doesn't think of that, he only thinks of his prestige. What would his colleagues at work say if he came without a car ? They would be glad at his expense and laugh at him.
He couldn't bear that. But that we at home never have a happy minute, that simply leaves him cold.
There are such selfish people in many families and in many communities. Likewise in the great family of peoples there are rich countries which leave at most a few crumbs over for the poorest countries. Each of us ought to ask : 'Am I one of these selfish folk ?'

Why do we say : 'Forgive us... as we forgive' ?
Because only one who is merciful is deserving of God's mercy.

'And yet he forgave me'

The Civil War was raging ruthlessly across Spain. Churches desecrated, villages in flames, mutilated corpses marked the path of the Red Army. And the Nationals too fought with unparalleled doggedness. When one troop of National soldiers had cleared a village of their opponents they found in a corner of a wall a badly wounded Red, his breast pierced by a splinter from a grenade.
With glazed eyes the wounded man watched the approaching patrol. Then he feebly raised a hand and stammered : 'A priest ! Fetch me a priest.'
'Go to hell, Red rabble !' cursed one of the Nationals. But one of his comrades had pity : 'I will see if I can find a priest.'
And indeed he did return with a priest who bent compassionately over the wounded man, a youngster in the prime of life.
'You want to confess ?' he asked him.
'Yes I want to confess,' gasped the soldier. 'But tell me, are you the priest of this place ?'
'Yes I am.'
'My God !' stammered the boy.
It was a long time before the priest left the dying man. His hair was soaked in sweat and his face white as the wall when he returned to the waiting patrol.
'Brothers,' he told them, 'take the wounded man into the nearby house so that he does not die in the street.'
When the soldiers approached the young man he raised himself a little and signed to them.
'He forgave me ! He gave me absolution,' he gasped, struggling for breath.
'Why shouldn't he forgive ? That's his business,' said one of the Nationals.
'You don't know what I have done,' groaned the dying man. 'On my own I have killed thirty-two priests ; I stabbed, shot, struck down, throttled. In every village I forced my way first to the priest's house. I did it here too. The priest was not in, but I found his father and his two brothers. I asked them where the priest was. They refused to betray him. So I shot all three. Do you understand ? The priest who heard my confession : I killed his father and his brothers... And yet he forgave me.'

What does it mean : 'Lead us not into temptation' ?
It means strengthen our weakness so we do not offend you.

Gone up in smoke

In most of Africa people are still very poor. In the big town of Abidjan in the Ivory Coast there are thousands of abandoned children. Their parents have nothing themselves and cannot feed them. And so many of them end up on the streets where they take to begging or stealing.
In 1960 a young French priest, Fr Martin, began caring for some of these children. He rented a house for them and they were soon calling it 'our home.'
One day the boys brought a new youngster to the Father. He had belonged to a gang of pickpockets. The next evening a man brought a 100 Francs note for the new boy. That was his cut from the latest robbery.
The lad was going to pocket it straight away. But then he wondered whether that was right. He went to Paul, the leader of the boys in the home.
'That's dirty money,' said Paul, 'you ought not to keep it.'
He called the others together and asked what was to be done with the 100 Francs note. One suggested : 'We'll buy a football.' The others wanted to go to the cinema instead.
To that Paul suggested : 'But this money doesn't belong to us,' 'Let's give it back to the owner,' one called out. But they didn't know who the owner was.
Then Paul decided : 'That is stolen money. I tell you, it's dirty money. We should destroy it.'
All agreed. Paul fetched a cigarette lighter and burned the note.
When Fr Martin heard of it he thought : 'And I haven't ten Francs in hand to buy the new boy a sleeping mat !'
The next day he received quite unexpectedly a gift of 1500 Francs. The children saw in this the reward for the way they had withstood the temptation to pocket the dirty money. Fr Martin soon found work for the older boys. When one of them brought his first pay to the Father he said full of pride : 'That is clean money.'

Who can deliver us from evil ?
Christ the Saviour of all.

The 'International' in German

Russia, Christmas Eve 1946. In the German Prisoner of War camp all had gone quiet. Dead tired after the heavy work shift in the coal mine, most had stretched out on their bunks, their dirty miner's overalls pulled over their heads so as to drop off quickly into the land of dreams - a golden bridge leading home.
Only a few, undeterred, endeavoured to celebrate Christmas. A few texts and half remembered old carols, that was all. A miner's lamp threw a fitful light through the large room where so much longing and homesickness slumbered that day.
Then the heavy bolted door was suddenly thrown back and the commandant, the most feared by the prisoners, brought them all back to the harsh present. 'All out !' Obviously a roll call, standing for hours in the cold.
From the watchtowers searchlights played on the rows of figures standing freezing. Guards and camp commandant came forward in military great coat and fur hats. An interpreter was called out to the commandant. Phrase by phrase he translated into German ; 'Prisoners of war, today in your country you German reactionaries keep a festival lasting two days. In the Soviet Union we have no time for holidays. We work for the good of the proletariat of the world so that the hour of their deliverance will soon strike. So you will now sing the "International" as a sign of your solidarity with all workers.'
The interpreter was already beginning to lead : 'Condemned of the earth, awake...' But the thousand prisoners remained silent. At the back another song began, some taking it up, hesitatingly at first : 'Silent Night, Holy Night...' Then they all joined in loud and full. The first verse came to an end. The translator was just repeating the end of the "International" : 'Peoples, hear the signal...' and out rang the next verse of 'Silent Night' like a challenge and the final words were shouted out by a thousand throats in the stillness of the night : 'Christ our Saviour is born, Christ our Saviour is born.' It resounded as an enthusiastic expression of faith making its way through the triple barbed wire stockade and on through the endless Russian steppe.
Then a breathless silence reigned. The commandant put a question to the interpreter. The answer rang out loud : 'That was the "International" to the German tune.'

The Ten Commandments

You shall have no gods except me. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
Honour your father and mother.
You shall not kill.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
You shall not covet (that is, set your heart on)
your neighbour's wife. You shall not covet your neighbour's goods.

Why did God gives us the Ten Commandments as a signpost ?
Because he wants to lead his children to the fullness of life.

The blue light

On 3 February, 1959 at 11.12 p.m., 10,000 metres above the North Atlantic, Flight Captain Waldo Lynch took a last look at the flight panel of the Boeing 707. His co-pilot Sam Peters was studying a map. Captain Lynch wanted to stretch his legs a little, thinking the worst was over.
Shortly after leaving Paris they had run into a 120 km/ph headwind. Now they had managed to climb above the storm area. The captain turned on the automatic pilot, took off his headphones and stood up. He was 47 years of age, muscular and in his prime. He clapped Sam on the shoulder to let him know he was going off for a while.
The captain made his way down between the rows of passengers. They had not yet unfastened their seatbelts which they had fastened before the storm. At the back a baby was crying in the arms of its mother. Captain Lynch reassured her : 'It will be better now. Your baby will be able to sleep.'
What happened at that moment is hard to describe, and harder still to imagine. All at once the captain felt the plane's right wing tip. Lynch was lurched against the seats on the right and at the same moment all the lights went out. Then he literally floated in the air for two or three seconds. Finally he found himself lying on the floor. The captain, numbed with shock, thought it was the floor. But he soon realised it was the roof to which he was glued. There was only one explanation : the Boeing was on its back. The plane was dropping like a stone, head first. The screams of the 116 passengers sounded above the noise of the engines.
Captain Lynch had 15,000 flying hours to his credit. So he reacted as a seasoned pilot. He must leave the passengers to it and get straight back to the cockpit. But how could he reach Sam with the force of gravity pressing him against the roof !
Lynch had unbounded energy and with enormous effort he reached one seat rank and so pulled himself from seat to seat towards the cockpit. He heard the droning of the engines, so they were still working. There was a likelihood of saving the plane, but was there time ? He knew it was a question of seconds only. The plane must already have dropped some 6,000 metres, as it was back in the middle of the storm. Suddenly Lynch sensed a new movement of the plane : it straightened out then went into a spiral. This time the captain thought : That's it !' The Boeing 707 was now only a whirling leaf in the storm. The passengers were no longer screaming, being either unconscious or waiting for death.
But Lynch refused to give in. He had now reached the first class cabin at the front. With what remained of his strength he went on pulling himself from seat to seat. Suddenly the whole plane shuddered. 'Now we're going to break up.' That was the captain's final thought before he was thrown over. The Boeing was no longer turning like a leaf in the wind but was hurtling towards the ocean like a rocket. The howling of the engines was unbearable, the whole cabin was shaken by them. The plane was nearing the speed of sound. But it was no longer in the midst of the storm. The captain found hope again. How many seconds had he still ? With a superhuman effort he was able to work himself into the cockpit and felt hands seizing him and hauling him in. It was the mechanic and the navigator. Lynch grasped hold of the pilot seat and was able to get into it. At last he had his hands on the controls. Through the night and the storm he could see the wild sea. He would try to hold the altitude at 2,000 metres. But, in the single second it took him to think that, the plane had already fallen another 300 metres. As Lynch endeavoured to gain height he noticed the co-pilot was unconscious. He cried to the others : 'Help me !' The three men wrestled with the controls as though possessed. But in that vertical descent at the speed of sound they were thrown back at each time ; even with their concerted efforts they could not bring it off. And the raging sea was rushing up towards them.
Suddenly the co-pilot came to. The four of them managed to bring the Boeing to the horizontal.
A few more seconds and the plane would have crashed in the Atlantic. No one was injured. The whole thing had lasted no more than four minutes.
What had gone wrong ? The co-pilot had been studying the map and did not immediately notice the blue light on the indicator panel, the warning signal that the automatic pilot had stopped working.
God our Father has given us warning signals too : the Ten Commandments. He has imprinted them in general outline in every human heart. Let us not ignore them ! They can save us from many a disaster.

What are the first three commandments ?
No idols, no lip-service, no Sunday without worship of God.

Applause for Stalin (No idols)

In Russia until recently the marxists taught there is no God. But the leaders, especially Lenin and Stalin, were therefore treated like gods. With the result that almost unbelievable things took place. Alexander Solzhenitzyn tells this in his book The Gulag Archipelago :
In a small town in the neighbourhood of Moscow a political meeting was being held. On the podium sat the important people of the town.
Among the people in the auditorium were as always plainclothes secret police. Many speeches were given, culminating in a speech in praise of Stalin.
Hardly had the speaker finished than all stood up clapping entusiastically. They clapped and clapped. Three minutes, four minutes. Everyone knew the secret police were observing closely to see who would be the first to stop clapping. But nobody gave up. Six minutes, seven minutes, eight minutes. The older men had palpitations from so much clapping but didn't stop. Nine, ten minutes. Now everyone was fearful : how was it to end ? Eleven minutes. For the director of the paper mill standing on the podium it was getting too stupid. He was a courageous man. He stopped clapping and sat down.
During the following week the director was arrested on a charge of mismanagement. He was condemned to ten years imprisonment.
At the end of the trial the judge said to him on the side : 'Next time see that you are not the first to stop clapping if it's for Stalin.'
Of course it is not only the communists who have idols. We have false gods too : obvious ones such as cars, films, clothes, money and also secret ones like pleasure, power, success.

What is 'lip service' ?
Not meaning what we say.

Haselbauer

In Bavaria the following story is told :
Haselbauer was gravely ill and the priest was with him. First came confession. But the priest had to put a few questions because Haselbauer certainly knew many of his neighbour's sins but he had poor recall for his own.
'Now, Haselbauer, have you said any prayers since your last confession ?' asked the priest. 'Aye,' came the laconic reply.' 'What prayers then ?' 'Our Father.'
'So every day you said : "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive...",' put in the priest firmly. 'Aye.'
'Well then,' suggested the priest, 'have you in fact forgiven all your enemies ?'
'Aye - except Hansjorg. He let me down too badly.'
'Haselbauer, no exceptions will do, and once you're dead it will be too late.'
Haselbauer thought the matter over carefully : 'Aye, I forgive him too supposing I die. But things will remain as before if I get better.'
But that won't work !
When we speak to God there can be no 'lip service'. God is not to be mocked.

What is the sense of Sunday ?
To worship God and spend time with our families.

The two wills

This happened in Frankfurt, many years ago. A very wealthy man died. He had no near relatives. Everybody was eager to know : 'Who will have the millions now ?'
The man left two wills. One was to be opened immediately on his death, the other only after the funeral.
In the first will it said 'I will to be buried at 4 a.m. tomorrow.'
So this strange wish was carried out. Only five mourners accompanied the coffin.
Then the second will was opened. There it said : 'I will that my whole estate be divided among those who were present at my burial.'
Those five true friends were lucky ! We might almost envy them. But basically we have no call to do so. For we are luckier. How so ?
Every Sunday we come together because of a last will and testament. The will Jesus left when he said to us : 'Do this in memory of me.'
Many people find this will very strange and stay at home on Sundays. But we know that much more than a million will be given us in during the commemoration of Jesus' act of love. For at Mass we receive the light and the strength which will lead us to everlasting joy.

What are the next four commandments ?
To honour our parents, not to kill, not to commit adultery, not to steal.

All done for nothing (Honouring our parents)

Little Billy was sitting at the kitchen table, his tongue between his teeth, zealously writing in his exercise book. 'What are you so busy writing ?' asked his mother. 'A bill for you,' answered the boy without looking up. 'Well, you make me curious,' suggested his mother. 'You'll soon see when I've finished.' When he had filled up the whole page he showed it to his mother who began to read it aloud :
Account rendered by Billy Wood to his mother
3 x fetching the milk             30p
2 x cleaning the kitchen £1.20
3 x washing up             60p
5 x cleaning shoes             £1.50
4 x laying the table             80p
                              Total £4.40
The mother had to laugh on reading the unusual account. Then she picked up a pencil. Til write my bill on the opposite page,' she said.
'Your bill ?' asked Billy in amazement. 'Have you done something for me then ?' 'Well, just a bit,' nodded his mother. Then she wrote : Account rendered to Billy Wood by his mother.
8 years cooking for him 0.00
8 years washing             0.00
50 x jackets and socks mended 0.00
100 nights stayed up with him when he was sick 0.00
                                   Total £0.00
Carefully the little boy read his mother's account. 'But, Mummy, why have you written £0.00 for the lot ?'
'Because a mother does everything for her child for nothing,' the woman answered,' but now I'll give you the £4.40 which you did earn.'
So the boy said : 'No, Mummy, I don't want a penny, 'cos your bill must be a hundred times more than mine !'

Is abortion murder ?
Yes, because it is killing the unborn child.

A mother's enforced happiness

A gynaecologist in Tubingen tells of an interesting case :
A young woman came to consult me. She had married a scientist and helped her husband in his work. She told me that she was first time pregnant. But she did not want a child. Could I perform an abortion.
'Can you really not bear a child ?' I asked.
'I didn't get married to have children but to help my husband with his scientific work.'
'Perhaps,' I suggested, 'your husband would rather have a child than a research worker.'
'I don't think so,' she replied haughtily, 'and, besides, that is my affair and nothing to do with anybody else.'
'In any case,' I warned her, 'you cannot count on my assistance. And if you try elsewhere, think the matter over carefully first.'
'I have considered it for a long time.'
We sat looking at each other without a word. Then I said to her :
'So you want to kill your own child. You are a murderer !'
She went white with rage at that. She leapt up, seized her handbag and slammed the door behind her.
Seven months later a call came. It was this same woman : 'Can you assist at the birth of my child ?' I had to smile to myself.
Of course I went to her help. Then she could not find words enough to express her gratitude for her 'enforced motherhood'.
In the years to come she became the mother of three more children and for years she sent me regular Thank You cards and flowers.

What does adultery mean ?
It means : taking away another's wife or husband.

'You're not my Mummy !'

Nanette, a Frenchwoman, has this account :
I was born in a town on the Atlantic coast and had a happy childhood with my brother and sister.
When I was nine we children were sent to our grandfather's in the country for the holidays. A week later my mother called in. She did not go to the house but slipped into the garden to us and told us : 'Your father doesn't want me to talk to you.' That made a deep impression.
Later we learned that mother had left home that day. Only years later I heard why that was : Mother accused my faher of having relations with other women.
Then the holidays were over. Father came and took us away. I can remember it exactly. He was standing outside by his car. We had our bags and cases. A woman was standing next to Father. 'Come here, children, and greet your new mother.'
I refused to greet her. Father said : 'Oh, that will soon pass.' I still simply couldn't grasp that I hadn't my Mummy any more.
It was like a thunderbolt when I was told : 'Your parents have divorced. You have a new mother.' I couldn't take that. It was too much for me.
Because of my attitude, my stepmother hated me too. I would not obey her. I grew more and more bitter and withdrawn. My personality changed.
My stepmother and my father were very much in love. They often went to the theatre or the opera. We stayed at home, were anxious and told one another : 'You see, they don't love us.'
Once my stepmother struck me, again without cause, and screamed at me : 'You're not my child !' I screamed back : 'You're not my Mummy.'
Years passed, the situation got worse and worse. Then one day came the crunch.
My little sister was very sensitive to hot water. My stepmother had drawn her a hot bath. I put my elbow in and said : 'That water's too hot.' My stepmother heard this and said : 'Get in at once.' She grabbed my sister and plunged her in. My sister screamed with pain. Rage overwhelmed me. I threw myself on my stepmother. She fell backwards and hit her head against the wallcupboard. There she lay unconscious on the ground.
Stiff with fright I thought : 'You've done her in.' In my panic I rushed out of the house and ran off as fast as I could. At the station I got into the train and travelled as far as the terminus, without a ticket.
Then I stood there. Hundreds of people rushed right past in all directions. I must have looked completely lost. Then suddenly a smart young man spoke to me. He had clearly seen the straits I was in. He promised a fine life and plenty of money if I would work with him. I had no choice for I couldn't go back home, for anything. And so I became a call girl, at the age of fourteen.

It is only thieves who steal ?
No, everyone who keeps back what could be of use to many.

The scandal of hunger

French journalist France Lesprit tells her experience in one of the poorest countries in the world, Bangladesh :
A few days ago I saw a boy laying on the pavement and by him an empty tin plate. That was not unusual as there are hundreds of such poor people in Dacca. But this boy was in the midst of refuse and his last gasp. Around him ravens hopped clearly waiting for him to die.
His ribs stood out, covered in sores, his arms were like a skeleton's and full of festering wounds.
I bent down to offer him something to eat. He turned away ; he had come to the point when nothing matters and there is no desire for food. I took him to the home for the dying run by Mother Teresa's Sisters. But it was already too late. The following day he died quietly. Now we should ask ourselves :
- Why did this boy in Dacca have to die ?
- Why must at least 200 people starve to death daily in this city ?
- Yes, why must millions in the world go on starving ?
We in the rich countries of the world should be concerned. Although we are only twenty per cent of the human race, we use up eighty per cent of the world's resources.

What are the three last commandments ?
Not to lie, not to covet, not to envy others.

What if a lie is unavoidable ?

When all the men in a country are soldiers there are no workers. In 1943 Hitler needed foreign labour for his munition factories. So he had many young men from the occupied regions transported to Germany. Platoons of soldiers would descend on a residential district and carry off the young men by force.
A seventeen-year-old Dutchman, Peter van Woerden, tells how things went when there was one such raid on his family :
One thing was bothering my sister. What should she answer if the soldiers came by surprise and we brothers had hidden in the house ? Tell the truth ? Or make up some lie for the enemy and save us ? On this we were not agreed. Our mother sat there composedly waiting for the conclusion of our discussion. Then she repeated : 'Honesty is the best policy. Be honest, then you can be sure you have the Lord on your side.'
A few days later it happened. My younger sister Cocky was just cleaning an upstairs bedroom. When she opened a window to shake out the duster she saw the soldiers going from house to house nearby. In distress she ran down the stairs straight into my arms. 'Peter, quick ! Hide ! They're here.'
Under the floor of our kitchen, which had no cellar, we had made a hole for just such an eventuality. With shaking hands Cocky lifted the floorboards and helped me into my hiding hole. Then she laid the planks carefully back and covered them with a small carpet. Onto that went the table, which had a tablecloth hanging down low.
I could already hear the heavy tramp of nailed boots above me. My heart beat so hard I thought its knocking must betray me. I listened as a man's voice asked in broken Dutch : 'Any lads in the house ?'
There it was then, the question for which we had never been able to agree on the answer. What could Cocky do ? Tell the truth ? That would spell my arrest. But to say no wasn't a lie, was it ?
'Lord give her wisdom,' I prayed.
'Any young men in the house ? Yes or no !' repeated the soldier.
'Yes, sir,' I heard the clear young girl's voice say. 'Under the table.'
Hastily the soldier lifted up the tablecloth and looked underneath. Nothing.
Cocky broke out into loud laughter.
The man went red in the face at having let himself be hoodwinked by a slip of a girl and broke off the search.

What does 'to covet' mean ?
It means : we should not keep bad thoughts in our hearts.

The wish is father to the deed

It was 1902, in Italy. Two families lived next door to each other in the country : the Goretti family and the Serenellis.
Mamma Goretti was a widow and had to go out to work on the land along with her sixteen-year-old son in order to feed the five younger children. She could only manage this because twelve-year-old Maria had taken over the housework. She was a pretty, hardworking, cheerful girl.
In the Serenelli family things were different. Their father drank and had paid little attention to the upbringing of his twenty-year-old son Alessandro. He was a good for nothing who gave a wide berth to any honest work. He fancied the neighbours' good-looking girl.
One day he called Maria up to his room. He tried to persuade her to submit herself to his wishes, and became more and more pressing. Maria however remained firm. In his unbounded disappointment the young man grew angry. He seized a knife to threaten her. When Maria screamed out for help he lost all self-control. He threw himself on her and plunged the knife several times into her body.
Maria died a few days later in hospital after much suffering. Shortly before her death she forgave he murderer.
'Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God' (Matthew 5 :8).
What can we do about impure thoughts ?
Don Bosco suggests : If it occurs during the day take up some work or other at once, but if at night do not cease praying until you are overcome by sleep.
So Don Bosco recommends two things : distracting our attention and prayer.
But how are we to pray ? The best thing is to pray so as to be distracted. For example, we can pray for the different people in the world and, for instance, name a country at each breath :
'Lord, help England France Germany help China India Japan.'
When you run out of countries take towns and villages instead.
We should go on doing that as long as necessary - and begin again calmly and firmly as often as necessary.
In that way the temptation become a blessing for countless people in other parts of the world.

The Sacraments

Human beings need tangible signs. How are we to believe ourselves loved, for example, when no sign of love is given... even if it is only a smile ?
And so God also has given to the faithful tangible signs of his love - above all the seven sacraments. Through them we receive the fullness of the divine love. This life of the soul develops in the same way as the life of the body.
Baptism is birth.
Confirmation is reaching maturity. The Eucharist is food.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a remedy. The Anointing of the Sick is healing. The Priesthood is ministry to the people of God. The sacrament of Matrimony is growth.

What is Baptism ?
It is a purification which makes us children of God.

Helen Keller

Helen Keller lost sight and hearing when she was eighteen months old. So she was deaf, dumb and blind. How could a grown woman, open to the world, develop from that poor child who was buried alive, as it were ? Helen Keller tells us herself :
When I was six my desire to make myself understood grew from day to day. Since I could not break through this wall of silence surrounding me I grew more and more enraged by it. It was as though invisible hands were holding me back and I made despairing efforts to free myself. Usually my outbreaks of anger ended in my escaping completely exhausted and in tears to the arms of my mother.
My parents were deeply worried and totally at a loss about what to do. However after long searching they found help.
The most important day of my life was the one on which my teacher, Miss Sullivan, came. It was 3 March 1887, three months before my seventh birthday.
The morning after her arrival Miss Sullivan took me to her room and gave me a small doll. When I had played with it for a while Miss Sullivan slowly spelt out d-o-l-l in the palm of my hand. This finger game interested me at once and I began to imitate it. When I had at last succeeded in imitating the letters exactly I flushed with joy and childish pride. I ran downstairs to my mother, stretched out my hand and showed her the letters I had just learned to make. I did not yet know at the time that I was spelling a word nor even that words existed ; I simply moved my fingers in imitation. In this way I learned to spell a whole lot of words.
But it was not until a few weeks later that the miracle happened. It was like this :
We had had an argument over the words w-a-t-e-r and m-u-g. Miss Sullivan had tried to convince me that m-u-g was the container and w-a-t-e-r what was in it but I persisted in confusing the two. In desperation she let the matter drop.
She fetched me my hat and I knew that now we were to go out into the warm sunshine. The thought of it made me hop and skip for joy.
We took the path through the scented lilacs to the well. Someone was pumping water and my teacher held my hand under the spout while the cool stream splashed over my one hand and she spelt out in the other w-a-t-e-r, slowly at first and then quickly. I stood still and excitedly followed the movement of her fingers.
All at once a flash of realisation went through me - and the secret of language lay open to me : everything had a name !
I knew now that water meant the wonderful cool something streaming over my hand. This living word awoke my soul to life, gave it light, hope and joy, freed it from its bonds.
I left the well full of the desire to learn. Every thing had its name.
That day I learned a whole crowd of new words. I do not remember them all but I know that among them were mother, father, sister - words which brought the world to life for me.
Helen Keller was freed from her narrow prison through water, the water flowing over her hand.
'This living word,' she wrote, 'awoke my soul to life, gave it light, hope and joy, and freed it from its bonds,'
So does Baptism awaken our soul to new, divine life and free it from the bonds of original sin.

How is the Christian made firm in Confirmation ?
The laying of hands by a bishop fills a person with the Holy Spirit.

Confirmation means holding fast

In Russia the communists wanted by every means to destroy the faith. Here is the letter of a Christian schoolgirl in Lithuania :
When I was in fifth form the class teacher tried to force me to join the Pioneers. The Pioneers are the communist youth movement. When he saw me hesitate he said : 'If you refuse this year, next year you'll have to.' As later on I still refused he threatened me with bad marks and other punishments. Soon I had to realise that he spoke in earnest. My marks from some of the teachers got worse and worse.
On one occasion I met the teacher in the street. He asked me : 'Where are you going ?' I answered : 'I'm going to church.' Then he warned me : 'Just you put a stop to this running off to church.'
One day questionnaires were given out in class. The questions were :
- Do you go to church ?
- Who sends you to church ? etc.
I answered the questions as follows :
- Yes, I go to church.
- I go to church because I want to.
Shortly afterwards the teacher called me over and said : 'So you're still going to church. Go then ! But mind this : when the government people come and ask you whether you go to church and whether you believe, you must answer no.' I spoke about this at home to my parents and they counselled me never to lie to God.
In class we had to write essays against religion regularly. And so the teacher tormented me all through the school year about my faith.
That was a courageous girl.
A Christian has not only to accept the faith but also to grow in it in order to stand firm under mockery and persecution. So we see what a good thing it is for a young Christian to receive the necessary strength from on high in the Sacrament of Confirmation.

What happens at Mass ?
Jesus' sacrifice on the cross is offered to the Father for our salvation.

Willing to die

It was during the Second World War. Throughout Europe the Jews were hunted down, deported and murdered.
Jewish resistance fighters tried desperately to free their imprisoned brethren. By night they made lightning attacks on the dreaded SS. Wittenberg was the leader of these bold resistance fighters in Vilna. The SS had put a high price on his head.
One day he was taken. But the SS rejoiced too soon. Wittenberg was able to escape and go underground in the Jewish quarter of Vilna.
When the SS general heard that, he ordered the whole of the Jewish quarter to be closed off under strict guard. Then he sent a message to the Jews : Either Wittenberg is handed over or all inhabitants will be transported to extermination camps.
A dull fear lay over the unfortunate folk. But Wittenberg lifted it. They should not meet their end on his account. From mouth to mouth ran the news : 'He's giving himself up.'
When the time came both sides of the street leading to the town gate were lined with Jews : on one side the young fighters, on the other old men, women and children.
Wittenberg commissioned a man called Korner as his successor and gave him his pistols.
Then he strode down the empty roadway to the gate not looking to right or left. Bravely he went to a fearful death.
Jesus too went of his own free will to a fearful death, he did it to save us all. This sacrifice of the God-man, made once, has infinite value. In every Mass this same sacrifice is offered to God the Father for our sins.

How should we receive Jesus in Holy Communion ?
With a firm faith which expects everything from him.

A reward for trust

One day the Emperor Napoleon went to an inn. He was accompanied only by his adjutant. They did not want to be recognised and so were not in their usual clothes.
After the meal the old landlady brought the bill for 14 Francs. The adjutant took out his purse and went pale for his purse was in fact empty.
The emperor smiled condescendingly and said : 'Don't worry about it. I'll pay.' He went through his pockets but had to admit that he had not a Franc on him.
What were they to do ? The adjutant made the landlady a proposition : 'We have come without our money. But I will return within an hour and pay you.'
The old woman would not hear of it. She threatened to fetch the gendarmes on the spot if she was not paid at once.
The waiter, who had been following the argument, felt sorry for the two gentlemen. He spoke to the landlady : 'Why, that can happen to anyone, coming out without money. Don't do anything about the gendarmes. I'll pay the 14 Francs for them. They seem honest men.'
So they were able to leave the place.
The adjutant soon came back and said to the landlady : 'How much did you pay for this inn ?'
'30,000 Francs,' the old woman answered.
He took out his wallet and counted out 30,000 Francs onto the table. Then he explained : 'On the emperor's orders I am to present this inn to your waiter who helped us in our need.'
Now we can ask ourselves : How did the landlady lose her inn and why was the waiter so well rewarded ? Both took in the same eminent guest and attended to his needs. But the difference between them is great : the waiter trusted the unsuspected guests, the landlady did not.
We too receive Christ as our guest under the guise of the host. How is it that some draw profit from this and others do not ?
It comes from the fact that some put their trust in him but others do not. Some expect absolutely everything from him, others are indifferent and expect nothing.

How can we be rid of our sins ?
By repenting of them and confessing them.

The stolen diamond

A remarkable story is told of a king of Aragon in Spain : One day the king went with his courtiers to a jeweller's. While he was conversing with the dealer the courtiers were inspecting the jewellery.
After they left the shop the jeweller came running behind very upset. He informed the king that a costly diamond was missing. The king commanded his suite return to the shop. He told the jeweller to get a jug filled with salt. Then he ordered his retinue to plunge their fists into the jug in turn and draw them out with their hands open.
When all had done this the salt was poured onto the table. Lo and behold the diamond appeared.
This king was generous. He wanted to give the thief the opportunity to make good his dishonesty without being put to shame.
And that is how Jesus Christ acts with us. So long as we are on earth we can always receive his forgiveness under the seal of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Why should we repent of our sins ?
Because by our sins we have offended God.

Robbery with manslaughter

Portugal 1910 :
Midnight had just sounded from the tower of the parish church in the town. Fr Ribeira got up from his chair to leave his study when there was a ring at the doorbell. Probably a sickcall, he thought.
When he opened the door a man stepped in, his hat pulled down over his eyes, and said briefly : 'I want to go to confession.'
In spite of the late hour the priest answered : 'By all means.'
In the parlour the man declared : I accuse myself of robbery and manslaughter.'
The priest looked at him sharply : 'And are you sorry for it ?'
'Oh yes, it was a mistake. I shouldn't have done it at the station. It meant that somebody saw me and called the police.'
'But is it nothing to you that you have offended God ?' warned the priest.
'Not at all.'
'Then I cannot give you absolution.'
'No matter. The main thing is you have to hold your tongue - you can't report my crime because of the secret of the confessional. And besides I'll leave my pistol with the stolen wallet here. I'll fetch it later. Adios !'
The man jumped out of the window to the garden and disappeared into the night.
He was scarcely gone when there was a furious ring at the bell. The priest had only the time to push the wallet and pistol under his papers before opening the door.
A couple of armed police walked in and the officer in charge said without preamble : 'Near the station an hour ago a man was robbed and murdered. We have followed the trail here with bloodhounds. What have you to say about the matter ?'
'I know nothing about it,' stammered the priest, pale as death.
'You seem to have a bad conscience,' snarled the lieutenant. 'We have to search your residence.'
It was not long before the money and the weapon were found.
'How did these get here ?' asked the policeman.
'I have nothing to say,' replied the priest.
'Don't talk rubbish. You are under arrest.'
Fr Ribeira was condemned to life imprisonment with hard labour for robbery and manslaughter.
Six years later during the First World War a badly wounded soldier was brought into a field hospital. He asked for a priest. After his confession he declared before three officers that he was the murderer in whose place Fr Ribeira had been falsely convicted.
So the priest was freed after six years' forced labour, his innocence proven.

What happens at the Anointing of the Sick ?
The sick person is anointed with oil to gain strength.

'I renounce all'

'No priest at a deathbed.' That was the new law of the freemasons. This secret society is very active since the last century.
Verhaegen, Grand Master of the Belgian freemasons, had cunningly thought up how to ensure the new law : so that in future no sick freemason could receive the visit of a priest, three other freemasons were to remain by his bed.
Next Verhaegen meant to introduce the new law into France and Italy. For this he journeyed from town to town and spoke successfully on the subject.
When he was returning from Italy he had to cross the Alps in severe winter weather. By coach, sledge and mule he at last reached the Mont-Cenis pass. Half frozen, he went into the inn and ordered a hot drink.
The girl brought him a glass of grog. Verhaegen could hardly wait for it. Hastily he swallowed the grog down. Suddenly there was a cry and Verhaegen sprang up with an oath. The drink had been burning hot and he had not noticed. His throat, gullet and stomach were scalded.
With the greatest speed he made the journey to Brussels. The best doctors in the town were called in at once. But all they could do was to shake their heads doubtfully. There was nothing more to be done for him.
On the second day after his arrival in Brussels Verhaegen lost all hope of recovery, seeing the three freemasons who came unbidden into his room. They kept guard with stony faces, speaking no word. And disgust swept over Verhaegen at this religion of darkness and soon after an immense longing for the religion of his childhood, for the Church of Christ.
He called for a priest but the three watchers had barred the door and no priest came. So Verhaegen died without absolution, unfortified by the Last Sacraments.
On the day of his burial, traces were found of his lonely death struggle. On the wallpaper he had scratched with his fingernail : 'I renounce all and I repent. Verhaegen.'

What is the task of the ordained priest ?
To further Christ's work of salvation by word, by the sacraments and by his example.

On the Donau Canal

In 1950 the Russians wanted to construct a gigantic canal through Romania. This was to be a connecting waterway between Donau and the Black Sea. The communists were very proud of it.
Two hundred thousand prisoners worked on it. Each had to dig out eight cubic metres of earth daily with hand tools. Under the blows of overseers they dragged laden handcarts up steep cliffs. In winter the temperature fell to minus 25 degrees centigrade.
And yet even in this hell beautiful things occurred.
A young catholic priest, Fr Cristea, was an object of particular hatred to one 'squeak'. This man asked him :
'Why do you have your eyes closed ? Are you praying ? I order you to tell me the truth. Do you still believe in God ?'
An affirmative would at the least mean cracks with the whip. However Fr Cristea did not hesitate : 'Yes, I believe in God.'
The 'squeak' hastened to the lieutenant. He came over and ordered the priest to step forward. Fr Cristea was thin and exhausted. He was shivering in his ragged clothes. The lieutenant was well-fed, wrapped in a cloak and wearing a Russian fur cap.
'I hear you believe in God,' he said.
Fr Cristea answered : 'When I was ordained I already knew that many priests had paid for their faith with their lives. Each time I went up to the altar I said to God : I am serving you now in beautiful surroundings but even if I have to be thrown into prison I will still serve you. Lieutenant, prison is no argument against faith. I believe in God.'
The silence then was broken only by the sound of the wind. The lieutenant seemed to be at a loss for words. Finally he said : 'And do you stand by the Pope ?'
The answer was : 'Since St Peter there has always been a Pope and there will always be one until Jesus Christ comes again. Yes I stand by the Pope.'
Fr Cristea was shut up in solitary confinement for a week, where there was room only to stand and it was impossible to sleep. He was also severely beaten. He still refused to deny his faith. He was taken away. Nothing has been heard of him since.

What is effected by the partners' consent in the Sacrament of Matrimony ?
Man and woman are bound together indissolubly.

Until death

Katharina Jagello was the wife of Duke Wasa of Poland. When he was condemned to life imprisonment for treason she asked the Swedish King Eric to be allowed to share in her husband's incarceration. The king was horrified and tried to dissuade her.
' Do you realise that your husband will never see the light of day again ?'
'That I know, Your Majesty.'
'And do you realise that he will no longer be treated as a duke but as a traitor ?'
'Yes, that I know ; but whether free or in prison, guilty or not guilty, he remains my husband still.'
'But, after all, you are no longer bound to him. You are free again now.'
Katharina drew her wedding ring from her finger and handed it to the king : 'Read there, Your Majesty. There are but two Latin words engraved within the ring : Mors sola. Death alone can part us.'
Katharina went to prison with her husband and for seventeen years shared the hardships and privations with him, until King Eric died and her husband was freed.

How can we know when love is genuine ?
By the way in which it seeks the true happiness of the other.

Heart of gold

An old retired judge was taking his evening walk. He met a young acquaintance.
'Good evening, Paul,' said the old man, 'I hear you are soon to be married. That's grand. Tell me something about your fiancee.'
'Oh, she's a fine girl,' said the young man, 'pretty as a picture.'
The judge pulled a notebook out of his pocket and wrote a nought. 'What else ?'
'And she's very clever too.' The judge entered another nought. 'She'll be getting a good job in the autumn.' Again a nought. And so it went on until there were six of them.
'Besides,' said Paul, 'my bride-to-be has a heart of gold. I've often noticed that she's always around when help is needed.'
So the judge wrote the figure 1 in front of the six noughts and closed his little book. Then he shook the young man heartily by the hand.
'I congratulate you, Paul. Your bride is worth a million. You can venture your whole life with her.'

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