Thursday, November 30, 2017

Saint John Paul II's Apostolic Letter Dies Domini on Keeping the Lord's Day Holy

Saint Pope John Paul II in Krakow, Poland, September 13, 1991
Saint John Paul II in Krakow, Poland, September 13, 1991. Photo: Grzegorz Gałązka via TotusTuus 2010 Calendar, Postulation of the Cause for the Beatification and Canonization of the Servant of God John Paul II.

Coming off a fresh reading of Dies DominiSaint John Paul II's apostolic letter on keeping the Lord's Day holy, I thought if fitting to publish today's post on what I consider to be an essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the Lord's Day.

Released on May 31, 1998, on the Solemnity of Pentecost, Dies Domini, was written in part to support the pastoral efforts of bishops around the world, and for the laity as a continuation of St. John Paul II's "lively exchange" with the faithful, inviting the laity to rediscover the full meaning of Sunday with a new intensity in the changing circumstances of the times and the "new situations" that had arisen from them.

Spotlighting the changing socio-economic conditions and the profound modifications in social behaviour St. John Paul II stressed the need to distinguish between the special character of the Lord's Day from the more widespread "custom of the weekend."

Although St. John Paul II acknowledged that there are positive aspects of the weekend's cultural, political, and sporting activities, he encouraged the disciples of Christ to, "...[A]void any confusion between the celebration of Sunday, which should truly be a way of keeping the Lord's Day holy, and the 'weekend', understood as a time of simple rest and relaxation." (4)

Drawing from the First Letter of Peter (1 Pt 3:15), St. John Paul II noted that avoiding such confusion will require a "genuine spiritual maturity" allowing Christians to, "...'[B]e what they are' in full accordance with the gift of faith, always ready to give an account of the hope which is in them." (4)

Another new situation that St. John Paul II spotlighted was the strikingly low attendance at the Sunday liturgy, which he attributed to sociological pressures, weakened faith, and the lack of priests in both mission countries and countries evangelized long ago.

Recognizing that some young Churches have illustrated how fervently Sunday can be celebrated, St. John Paul II presented what he believed to be the main causes for decreasing Mass attendance on the Lord's Day, "In the minds of many of the faithful, not only the sense of the centrality of the Eucharist but even the sense of the duty to give thanks to the Lord and to pray to him with others in the community of the Church, seems to be diminishing." (5)

Given these situations and the questions they have prompted, it was St. John Paul II's belief that there was an ever increasing necessity to recover the deep doctrinal foundations underlying the Church's precepts, so that the, "...[A]biding value of Sunday in the Christian life will be clear to all the faithful." (6)

It is through Dies Domini that St. John Paul II sought to do just that, identifying and elaborating on the many aspects of the Lord's Day and the duty to keep Sunday holy: the importance to remember God's creative work for six days, that He rested on the seventh day, blessed it and made it holy; the sacred value to rest in the Lord; keeping the Lord's Day holy by means of prayer, works of charity, and abstention from work; the Sunday obligation to attend Mass as stipulated in the Code of Cannon Law; and how the Lord's Day is a day of joy and solidarity.

Amongst the many different aspects of Dies Domini, one that stood out in my mind was—perhaps one of the most salient aspects considering the increasing secular landscape of so many Christian countries—the fact that keeping the Lord's Day holy is a Commandment, the Third Commandment to be precise which can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work."

Referring to the Third Commandment in the first chapter under the subheading, "God blessed the seventh day and made it holy" (Gn 2:3) , Saint John Paul II emphasized that the Lord's Day was so important for God's plan that it was included the Ten Commandments. Adding to this, he wrote the Lord's Day is a "...[D]efining and indelible expression of our relationship with God," and it is from this perspective that "...Christians need to rediscover the Sabbath precept today." (13)

Stressing how important that relationship is with God, Saint John Paul II wrote further in the same section, "...But man's relationship with God also demands times of explicit prayer, in which the relationship becomes an intense dialogue, involving every dimension of the person. 'The Lord's Day' is the day of this relationship par excellence when men and women raise their song to God and become the voice of all creation." (15)

It is worth mentioning that St. John Paul II dedicated the importance and sacredness of rest in sections 64-68 under the subheading, The Day of Rest. It is an especially important aspect for the Christian fulfillment to keep the Lord's Day holy. To get a sense of the richness of Dies Domini, here are a few excerpts from those respective sections: is something 'sacred', because it is man's way of withdrawing from the sometimes excessively demanding cycle of earthly tasks in order to renew his awareness that everything is the work of God. There is a risk that the prodigious power over creation which God gives to man can lead him to forget that God is the Creator upon whom everything depends. It is all the more urgent to recognize this dependence in our own time, when science and technology have so incredibly increased the power which man exercises through his work. (65)
In our own historical context there remains the obligation to ensure that everyone can enjoy the freedom, rest and relaxation which human dignity requires, together with the associated religious, family, cultural and interpersonal needs which are difficult to meet if there is no guarantee of at least one day of the week on which people can both rest and celebrate. (66)
Through Sunday rest, daily concerns and tasks can find their proper perspective: the material things about which we worry give way to spiritual values; in a moment of encounter and less pressured exchange, we see the true face of the people with whom we live. Even the beauties of nature — too often marred by the desire to exploit, which turns against man himself — can be rediscovered and enjoyed to the full.
Therefore, also in the particular circumstances of our own time, Christians will naturally strive to ensure that civil legislation respects their duty to keep Sunday holy. In any case, they are obliged in conscience to arrange their Sunday rest in a way which allows them to take part in the Eucharist, refraining from work and activities which are incompatible with the sanctification of the Lord's Day, with its characteristic joy and necessary rest for spirit and body. (67)
In order that rest may not degenerate into emptiness or boredom, it must offer spiritual enrichment, greater freedom, opportunities for contemplation and fraternal communion. Therefore, among the forms of culture and entertainment which society offers, the faithful should choose those which are most in keeping with a life lived in obedience to the precepts of the Gospel. (68)
During his inaugural homily in October 1978, Saint John Paul II encouraged the Church and the world, "Do not be afraid! Open, open wide the doors to Christ!" In Dies Domini, he renews that encouragement specifically with respect to the rediscovery of Sunday, "...Do not be afraid to give your time to Christ! Yes, let us open our time to Christ, that he may cast light upon it and give it direction." (7)

The rediscovery of the Lord's Day is a grace that one should pray for, which St. John Paul II specifically noted in the introduction:
The rediscovery of this day is a grace which we must implore, not only so that we may live the demands of faith to the full, but also so that we may respond concretely to the deepest human yearnings. Time given to Christ is never time lost, but is rather time gained, so that our relationships and indeed our whole life may become more profoundly human. (7)
This latest reading of Dies Domini proved to be just as intriguing when I first read it in May 2002. Given the growing secularism in Canada and so many other Christian countries around the world, this apostolic letter is even more relevant today.

May your reading of Dies Domini strengthen your resolve to "rest and remember" on the Lord's Day.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Ireland's Rosary on the Coast for Life and Faith

Coastline along the Slea Head Peninsula, the westernmost part of the Dingle Peninsula, located in the barony of Corca Dhuibhne in southwest County Kerry, Ireland. Photo: Pam Brophy/[CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

On Sunday, November 26, at 9:30am (2:30pm local time in Ireland), I will be uniting my recitation of the Rosary to the faithful Catholics in Ireland participating in the Rosary on the Coast for Life and Faith: a national prayer effort that will encircle Ireland with a "Human Rosary." 

Drawing inspiration from Poland's Rosary at the Borders and a similar Italian effort, participants will be praying for the preservation of the faith and the protection of life at all stages, including the developing human being in the womb.

It also draws encouragement from Matthew's Gospel, "For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them. (Matt 18:20)

Organized by a small, but faithful team of Catholics, this national prayer effort calls on all Catholics (the clergy, those in religious Orders, and the laity) to take part by selecting locations along the coast which they are prepared to travel to. It is a call that has been heard and well received throughout Ireland as much of the coastline is quickly filling up with several locations.

To form the "Human Rosary," organizers initially sought fifty-three locations for all the Hail Mary's of the Glorious Mysteries (including the three in the introductory prayers) and additional locations for the Apostles' Creed, Our Fathers, Glory Be, and the Fatima prayers. As of this blog post, there are almost 200 designated locations on the coast, and that number is growing. 

The date for this event was not randomly selected, but specifically chosen to be held on the Solemnity of Christ the King, which has a special significance for Ireland: Ireland was the first nation to be consecrated to Christ the King in the 1930s. As to the importance of this solemnity, the organizers point out that, "Acknowledging Christ as King has relevance for the spiritual, social, cultural, legal, and political life of Ireland. When we honour Christ as King, we are immediately brought to His Queen, Mary and her Immaculate Heart!"

It is Mary's Immaculate Heart that all participants will be appealing to for Her intercession to restore Ireland to a Culture of Life and rid the landscape of the moral disorder that has taken root in the past few decades.

Such an appeal highlights the importance and need for prayer, which organizers for this event have prepared an impressive prayer program that includes: recitation of the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary beginning at 2:30pm (local time in Ireland), in honour of Christ the King and His Queen the Immaculate Heart of Mary; prayer to Saint Patrick, the martyrs, saints and holy souls who preserved the faith through the years; prayer to Saint Michael, the angel of Ireland, and the guardian angels of the Irish living and dead; prayer for the protection of life in Ireland; prayer for the preservation of faith in Ireland; prayer of consecration to Christ the King; prayer of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary; prayer for the blessing of Ireland; the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3:00pm; and the planting of Miraculous Medals around the coast.

The Rosary on the Coast for Life and Faith is also an appeal, in particular, to the Catholic laity in Ireland, one that echoes the words of Saint Pope John Paul II's homily—during his Apostolic Journey to Irelandon October 1, 1979, at the Greenpark Racecourse, Limerick:
Lay people today are called to a strong Christian commitment: to permeate society with the leaven of the Gospel, for Ireland is at a point of decision in her history. The Irish people have to choose today their way forward. Will it be the transformation of all strata of humanity into a new creation, or the way that many nations have gone, giving excessive importance to economic growth and material possessions while neglecting the things of the spirit? The way of substituting a new ethic of temporal enjoyment for the law of God? The way of false freedom which is only slavery to decadence? Will it be the way of subjugating the dignity of the human person to the totalitarian domination of the State? The way of violent struggle between classes? The way of extolling revolution over God? 
Ireland must choose. You the present generation of Irish people must decide; your choice must be clear and your decision firm. Let the voice of your forefathers, who suffered so much to maintain their faith in Christ and thus to preserve Ireland's soul, resound today in your ears through the voice of the Pope when he repeats the words of Christ: "What will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his life?" (Mt 16 :26). What would it profit Ireland to go the easy way of the world and suffer the loss of her own soul? (3)
Your country seems in a sense to be living again the temptations of Christ: Ireland is being asked to prefer the "kingdoms of the world and their splendour" to the Kingdom of God (cf. Mt 4 :8). Satan, the Tempter, the Adversary of Christ, will use all his might and all his deceptions to win Ireland for the way of the world. What a victory he would gain, what a blow he would inflict on the Body of Christ in the world, if he could seduce Irish men and women away from Christ. Now is the time of testing for Ireland. This generation is once more a generation of decision. (4)
Saint Pope John Paul II's homily is ever more relevant today; a relevance that is also understood by many faithful Catholics from around the world. With each passing day, the Rosary on the Coast for Life and Faith is not only gaining momentum, but increased international attention and support. Bishop John Keenan of Paisley, Scotland has urged Scottish Catholics to follow in Ireland’s footsteps.

Confirmed locations as of November 14, 2017.
The Daughters of Mary Mother of Healing Love in the United States will be uniting their Rosary—and asking others especially of Irish descent to do likewise—encouraging everyone to "...[O]ffer this gift in honor of our Irish ancestors who suffered so much to hand on the great treasure of the Catholic faith to us!" 

Joining the effort will also be faithful Catholics from England: the Missionaries of Charity in London, and at the Basilica of Our Lady of Walsingham in Houghton Saint Giles, Norfolk.

The Catholic Herald in England also has reported on this national prayer effort with an article entitled, Irish Catholics plan mass-rosary prayer along coast.

Here in Canada, LifeSiteNews has reported this event with Dorothy Cummings McLean's article, Thousands to pray rosary on Irish coasts to protect nation from abortion.

This is an especially important time for Ireland; secularism has done much to wane and remove the faith from the hearts of minds of many, providing an opportunity for those—including international globalist and billionaire George Soros through his Open Society Foundation—who seek to usher in a Culture of Death and drastically change Ireland's Christian identity and culture.

Part of what the Rosary on the Coast for Life and Faith seeks to accomplish is the defeat of the Eighth Amendment repeal referendum scheduled for May or June 2018. Abortion advocates are hoping that a "successful" referendum will remove the pro-life provision in the constitution which reads, “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”

The Eighth Amendment was approved by 67% of the Irish population in a referendum on September 7, 1983. It came into effect on October 7, 1983, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Next year's referendum will be an opportunity for Ireland to, once again, positively respond to St. John Paul's homily of October 1, 1979, in Limerick:
And so I say to all, have an absolute and holy respect for the sacredness of human life from the first moment of its conception. Abortion, as the Vatican Council stated, is one of the "abominable crimes" (Gaudium et Spes, 51). To attack unborn life at any moment from its conception is to undermine the whole moral order which is the true guardian of the well-being of man. The defence of the absolute inviolability of unborn life is part of the defence of human rights and human dignity. May Ireland never weaken in her witness, before Europe and before the whole world, to the dignity and sacredness of all human life, from conception until death. (6) 
As to why all this is happening in Ireland one need only look to Ireland's history stemming from the last century up until the last few decades. It is not difficult to ascertain how the forces of darkness (the Evil One and his demons) have been waging a war to usher in a moral disorder that includes a Culture of Death:

  • Contraceptive devices and birth control pills have been available for decades
  • A referendum in 1992, resulted in the option for women to travel to another country (England) in order to have an abortion, as well as the availability of information regarding abortion "services" in other countries.
  • In 1995, Ireland's ban on divorce was removed through another referendum.
  • The referendum of 2015, ushered in "same-sex marriage." 
  • In 2016, the Irish government set up a "Citizens' Assembly" to "consider" the future of the Eight Amendment, which concluded in April 2017, that the Eight Amendment should be repealed. They voted overwhelmingly for abortion to be permitted on the grounds of a mental or physical threat to the life of the mother, in cases of disability, and for socio-economic reasons.

Those interested in further information about Ireland's moral decline, including a detailed report available for download, please read Voice of the Family's article, Ireland's Tragic Abandonment of Catholic Teaching.

The Eight Amendment repeal referendum is a disturbing development, but no matter what the problem, issue, or crisis may be, we as Catholics always have recourse to Divine Intervention through Our Lady of the Rosary who, throughout the history of the Catholic Church, has provided Her assistance to those who have put their trust in Her intercession.

Rosary on the Coast for Life and Faith speaks volumes about the trust in Our Lady's intercession, as well as to the understanding that the battle for Ireland is primarily a spiritual battle that must be fought with spiritual weapons; 
that a most efficacious way to fight the good fight is through group recitation of the Rosary.

Saint Louis De Montfort stated in his book, The Secret of the Rosary, Forty-Sixth Rose: Group Recitation, that not only is group recitation of the Rosary the method of prayer that the devil fears the most, but "...[I]t is far more formidable to the devil than one said privately, because in this public prayer it is an army that is attacking him." (98)

Utilizing the Rosary as a spiritual weapon has long been understood by the Church from the very beginning of its origin, when it was given to St. Dominic by Our Lady in 1214—which St. Louis De Montfort details in the same book, Second Rose: Origin—as a powerful means of converting the Albigensians and other sinners.

I cannot help but also think of Pope Leo XIII's encyclical, Supremi Apostolatus Officio, on devotion to the Rosary and its efficaciousness as a remedy for the many evils of society, who wrote, "It has always been the habit of Catholics in danger and in troublous times to fly for refuge to Mary, and to seek for peace in her maternal goodness; showing that the Catholic Church has always, and with justice, put all her hope and trust in the Mother of God." (2)

Written in 1883, Pope Leo XIII's encyclical not only encouraged devotion to the Rosary, but spotlighted how important it has been in the history of the Catholic Church when faced with several threats; namely, the violence of heresy, intolerable moral corruption, and aggressive Islamic attacks by the Ottoman Turks.

This encyclical is a historical lesson that has not lost its relevance for the many evils of today's world. It is in my view, a worthy addition to anyone's reading list on the Rosary that is sure to inspire Catholics in Ireland to join Rosary on the Coast for Life and Faith at a time in Ireland's history that is so dependent upon the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

May this national prayer effort inspire Catholics in Ireland—and throughout the world—to be united in prayer on November 26; that this day may draw God's Divine Intervention upon the nation, uproot and remove the moral disorder from the Irish landscape, and restore Ireland to a Culture of Life.