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"Holiness is not the luxury of a few. It is everyone's duty: yours and mine."  ~Mother Teresa

LMC Holy Family Feast Novena

 

NOVENA IN PREPARATION FOR LMC HOLY FAMILY FEAST

Theme: Works of Mercy - cf. the book “Call to Mercy”

 

First day – Works of Mercy in general

“Jesus, the face of the father’s mercy” (Pope Francis)

“Be merciful as you Father in heaven is merciful” (Lk 6:36)

 

Read, reflect and share Lk 15:11-32:

The merciful father who waits, who welcomes his disobedient son unconditionally, without questions and enquiries, who reinstates, who celebrates the joy of finding his lost son back home.

See the contrast: his elder son’s attitude who refuses to enter his father’s house because his father is happy and is having a big celebration for his lost son. The father goes out to his elder son, invites him to come in, to join with the rest of the family, but he did not want.

See the abusive words that the elder son uses regarding his brother. The father is not worried about yesterday; instead he is happy for the safe return of his younger son. The elder son wastes his time brooding over the past, his slavish obedience to his father, and the unfaithfulness of his brother. The father lives the present and his elder son lives the past. The father concentrates on his lost son now found, the elder son concentrates on how his brother behaved and what he did with all his wealth.

There is much to learn, much to examine, and see our conscience. My attitude? My way of seeing, judging and acting? Whom do I resemble? The younger son? The elder one or the father?

See the mercy of the father in contrast to the cruelty of the elder son, the humility of the younger son, his readiness to return to his father’s house…Here we can compare ourselves with the elder/younger son, the unconditional acceptance of the father… (cf. CCC 1439)

 

Second day“You did it to me” (Mt 25:40; Mt 25:31-46)

Here please prepare a proper report of the various kinds of corporal works of mercy the group is doing, based on the above mentioned gospel passage.

Are there other works of mercy neglected knowingly or unknowingly?

What are the neglected works of mercy according to you that your group could do? Do you include your own family in the list of corporal works of mercy? What else can be included according to you at your place in the list of corporal works of mercy? Are there neglected, forgotten and abandoned people to be sought for, helped and served, even in your own family circles?

 

Third day – “Who is my neighbour?” (Lk 10:25-37 or 30-37; Lk 16:19-31)

What is the most serious sin committed in these two parables according to you?

In the first one we see “the wounded neighbour” and three people who see the victim lying on the ground helpless. Have you ever seen someone like the wounded person on your way to somewhere? How did you react? The priest, the Levite and the Samaritan who acquired the title for doing what he did, i.e. the “good Samaritan”

Have you ever felt like the Good Samaritan for doing something like him, even with the members of your family…your group? Are there any member like the wounded man on the Jerico road, and like the priest, the Levite or as the Samaritan in your family, in your group?

 

Fourth day – “Instructing the ignorant”

The first and immediate question that comes to my mind is: “Who are the ignorant people “? Thanks be to God I am not one of them, I could think!

In today’s so much advanced, scientific and technological world to speak of ignorance does not make much sense.

It is here precisely that we have to reflect upon the world of ignorance. No doubt, science and technology has reached its peak. But there is a corresponding ignorance in spiritual matters that has reached its peak as well. Here we have to be very honest to ourselves. All of us, from top to bottom, are in need of sound teaching and constant instructions.

A fast growing tendency can be seen in the Christian, spiritual, moral and ethical areas. There is a growing aversion towards what pertains to God, what pertains to the supernatural. There is a frightening indifference and lethargy towards the practice of virtues, which was not so natural before. The sense of the supernatural which was so natural before is no longer felt and desired. It is here that we are in need of clear and solid teaching.

No wonder that St. Teresa of Calcutta is so much sought for by thousands. Her life and teaching are sound and still continue to echo and re-echo in every corner of the world. The Christ centered life and spirituality which she constantly taught, based on the gospels, are to be reinforced. Let us not exclude ourselves from the need of being taught and instructed.

The fundamental values are to be defended, beginning with the right to life from the first moment of conception to the last natural breath. The Catechism of the Catholic Church can help anyone who is interested to know the real teaching of he Catholic and apostolic Church. It is a must for all Catholic Christians for all times and our turbulent and confused time in particular.

 

Fifth day – “Counselling the doubtful”

There is an age-old saying in Latin: “Nemo dat quod non habet”, “no one can give what he/she doesn’t have”. This general and very true dictum can be applied here in this spiritual work of mercy. The counsellor and the counselee are both to learn from each other. The counsellor must be humble, approachable and open to help the one who comes to him/her for help. Here we are not dealing with natural and worldly things, but we are dealing with supernatural and transcendental realities wrapped in mystery.

All of us are in need of clearing our genuine doubts. The members of our group may be in need of proper direction, solid counselling in order to motivate them to seek real perfection. Very often so many of our LMCs get confused with the person who called, for the purpose of the call.

The first and primary motive of our vocation is not to become this or that. God has blessed us in Jesus Christ with every spiritual blessing; he has chosen us in Jesus Christ to be holy, unblemished and predestined us to be his adopted children in Jesus Christ (cf. Eph 1:3-4).

There is a tendency and often felt temptation in us to compare ourselves with other groups or Movements , who could be better or worse than ourselves. None of us will grow in holiness unless we learn to compare ourselves with Jesus, who alone should be our mirror and model. The counsellor must help his counselee to become men/women of God. This cannot be done if he/she is not taught the art of prayer, contemplation; one has to be taught to grow in deeper intimacy with the Lord, to fall in love with Jesus, entering the very life of the Trinity. There is a Trinitarian dimension in every spiritual relationship. Never stop growing. Through genuine prayer we continue to grow and persevere in our holy vocation to be holy and righteous, after the image and pattern of Jesus Christ. Let us pray that we may learn the simple art of prayer.

 

Sixth day - “Admonish sinners”

Ever since we can remember, there is a spiritual battle in us between good and evil. God gave us a wonderful but very dangerous gift of freedom. If we do not know how to use properly the gift of our freedom, we will be like people driving cars without any training and practice, without a driving license. The driver when he drives has to be very attentive not to meet with accidents.

We have to learn to discipline ourselves and our freedom. In this spiritual work of mercy we are asked to admonish sinners. Here we must remember that all of us are weak, sinful and miserable. We all need periodic admonition and corrections. Fraternal correction is a must, but we must learn from our heavenly Father the art and way of correcting.

Here I would like you to take the passage from the second book of Samuel, chapter 12:1-15. Go through it meditatively. How gently God made David understand his faults and sins. We have to learn from God how to do fraternal correction. Here please read the reflections on “Fraternal correction” by Fr. Sebastian M.C.

 

TRIDUUM

Seventh day – “Bearing wrongs patiently”

This perhaps is one of the most difficult works of mercy to practice. And yet it is very important and absolutely vital for our spiritual growth and holiness of life to learn to bear wrongs and the many hurts we may receive. We are so used to accuse, to blame, to criticise, worse still to react, to retaliate and even to explode when such golden opportunities are being offered. How many times we have missed such wonderful chances in our everyday life, to accept the pin pricks of life as God’s gifts, as means to save souls. In the evening of our life, when we appear before God, we will be very sorry to see that we have wasted so many of the golden opportunities to become better, holier and above all to save souls. They are real means for us given by the Lord.

But then, without the virtue of humility we will never be able to bear wrongs patiently for the glory of God and for the good of souls. Let us remember the way Jesus defined the M.C. vocation: “Your vocation is to love and suffer and save souls”. That is the way Jesus saved souls. Now it is through us Jesus has to do it, as we are the extended body of Jesus Christ and Jesus is our head. St. Paul wrote: “I complete in my body what is lacking in the suffering of Christ…” (cf. Col 1:24).

Jesus’ teachings and his own examples found in the pages of the Gospels, in the teachings and the heroic examples of the apostles, martyrs and saints, and in our own foundresss, St. Teresa of Calcutta, are ample proof of how to bear patiently wrongs for, with and like Jesus, like the apostles, saints and martyrs.

The Sermon on the mount is a summary of our Christian life and our M.C./LMC life in particular. Let us meditate on the beatitudes (Mt 5.3-12).

 

Eighth day– “Forgiving offenses willingly”

This spiritual work of mercy touches the very core of our being, as we are so often called to forgive injuries that we constantly receive. Here we have to learn not to retaliate, to react violently, to remain calm and serene. Let us not forget that we too offend others and cause injuries knowingly or unknowingly.

Not only that all of us have deep wounds to be healed, which we might have received from our parents, brothers or sisters, from the so-called friends and school mates, from our neighbours, but we continually inflict wounds, even at times without wanting it or realizing it.

Some take religious life as a place of refuge, to flee away from the world of falsity, vanity and superficiality to the world of God. We carry with us all our wounds that we have received, and try to ignore and hide, pretending to be normal. Unless we learn to forgive as Jesus did and taught, our life can become very miserable.

We start blaming others, criticizing, accusing and finding ways of talking negatively about our group links or and our Movement. Such persons can neither be happy deep down nor can they make others happy, unless they in all humility implore God for one’s own healing instead of blaming others and judging them. There must be a transition from accusation to appreciation, from negativity to reality and positivity, from the world of darkness to the admirable and wonderful world of light. Let us keep in mind that “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness”.

Here is the moment of re-awakening. The art of forgiveness can never come without the special grace of God, as we can be filled with hurts and wounds which have become very painful and give expression to anger, resentment and even violent reaction. Let our meetings be a real forum of listening, dialogue, discernment and follow up according to our Statutes and Way of life.

Another important forum is to remain faithful to the monthly day of prayer. This too should be a forum to resolve and for the purpose of amendment.

 

Ninth day – “Comforting the afflicted”

This is our vocation. This is the vocation of all M.C.s and LMCs. The prophet Isaiah said: “Woe is me, I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among people of unclean lips…” (cf. Is 6:4-5).

Who are the afflicted ones? Here we need to make a distinction: The afflicted ones, the wounded ones who are within our group and the afflicted ones we are called to take care of. We have committed ourselves through our fourth vow of whole-hearted free service to the poorest of the poor. In a way it is so easy for us M.C.s/LMCs to comfort the afflicted as we live among, if not with them.

Charity begins at home. If we do not have real brotherly love for one another in the family, in the group and if we live like strangers and aliens, then instead of comforting we become a burden and a disturbance.

In all these we have to try not to be victims of self-pity, ego- centrism and the like. There is so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us.

 

Conclusion.

These are some of the reflections I tried to make, which, I confess, I did in such a haste. I know that each of the works of mercy could be explained and commented more in detail so that we could put them into practice more prayerfully. They can be made more existential. That would demand time, much more prayer and penance. Let us make maximum use of these few reflections, reading them very prayerfully. You could add your own reflections as well.

Through the practice of the works of mercy we become more and more humble and grateful to God. Our life on earth makes proper sense only when we learn to practice them like Jesus, Mary and Joseph practiced. Let us pray much and try to do everything more and more prayerfully, faithfully and perseveringly. Let us do ordinary things with extraordinary love.

 

N.B.  The following Litany to the Holy Family with the prayer should be prayed as usual at the end of the reflections on each day for nine days.

 

LITANY OF THE HOLY FAMILY

Lord, have mercy on us

Christ, have mercy on us

Lord, have mercy on us

Jesus, hear us

Jesus, graciously hear us

God, the Father of heaven

God the Son, Redeemer of the world

God, the Holy Spirit

Holy Trinity, one God                                    bless us and guide us

Holy Family, earthly representation of the heavenly Trinity,

Holy Family, protector and example of the Church,

Holy Family, terror of demons,

Holy Family, school and model of all families,

Holy Family, home and school of the contemplatives,             bless us and teach us

Holy Family, home of silence and solitude,

Holy Family, school of the virtues of humility and charity,

Holy Family, school of perfect love of God and of one's neighbour,

Holy Family, school of insatiable yearning for God,

Holy Family, school of forgiveness and mutual acceptance,

Holy Family, school of hard labour,

Holy Family, school of self-denial and sacrifice,

Holy Family, school of perfect acceptance of the will of God,

Holy Family, school of profound peace and perfect joy,

Holy Family, school of perpetual chastity,

Holy Family, school of evangelical poverty,

Holy Family school of perfect and prompt obedience,

Holy Family, school of whole-hearted loving service to all in need,

Holy Family, school of infinite and intense thirst for the salvation of souls,

Holy Family, school of warm welcome and generous hospitality,

Holy Family, school of good will and generosity,

Holy Family, school of faith, hope and charity,

Holy Family, school of prudence, fortitude, justice and temperance,

Holy Family, school of all virtues,

Holy Family, our heavenly patrons, protectors and intercessors,     bless us and protect us

Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,              spare us, O Lord

Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,             graciously hear us, O Lord

Let us pray

Holy Father, in the wonder of your wisdom and love you decreed that your Son should be born of a woman and be subject to the guidance of two of your humble creatures, Mary and Joseph. Grant that we may enter more and more into the mystery of the incarnate Word and with Him lead a hidden life on earth, until escorted by His Virgin Mother and Foster Father, we may joyously enter your home in heaven. Through our Lord, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Happy Holy Family Feast.

God bless you.

Fr. Sebastian Vazhakala, M.C.