St. Mary’s Church, Ryde,
Monday, 9th January, 2016
Theme:- “Friends and foes in the spiritual life” . Led by Fr. Matthew Goddard FSSP
Fr. Matthew Goddard FSSP made a welcome return to the Isle of Wight, in January, at the invitation of Fr. Anthony Glaysher, parish priest of St. Mary’s, Ryde.
He gave three conferences during the Day of Recollection at St. Mary’s. In the first he concentrated mainly on “Temptation”; reminding us that everyone is tempted. Christ Himself was tempted in the desert by the devil. The apostles and many of the saints were also tempted.
There are three aspects to temptation which we should consider, – namely – suggestion, pleasures and consent.
The first two are not sinful. Various thoughts and suggestions come into our mind spontaneously on a daily basis. It is only sinful if we consent to these temptations and keep them in our minds for pleasure or enjoyment. We must remember that it is sinful to keep impure and uncharitable thoughts in our minds. It is the devil that frequently stimulates immoral thoughts in us. This often leads to a period of shame and further, to an alienation from Almighty God. The devil is always seeking to break our relationship with God.
Father reminded us of the necessity to express due sorrow for our sins with an Act of Contrition and by availing ourselves of the Sacrament of Penance (Confession) on a regular basis.
In the second conference Father spoke about the angels in heaven. They must be regarded as friends in our spiritual life. The angels are spirits. They have no bodies. Hence, they are incorruptible. They cannot die. The Book of Daniel records the victory of the angels led by St. Michael. The archangel is the leading prince of God’s army and the protector of Israel (Daniel 10:13). Similarly the Book of Revelations (12:7) records that St. Michael, together with the faithful angels defeats Satan and his followers and drives them out of heaven. In the Apocalypse St. John tells us that the Serpent was thrust down from his throne by St. Michael and his heavenly army. The Church therefore sees him as its champion in the ever-present fight against evil and its safeguard against the snares of the devil. This exemplifies the concern of the angels for the salvation of souls. We are reminded that Bishop Philip Egan has recently asked all churches in the Diocese of Portsmouth, to recite the traditional Prayer to St. Michael at the end of Mass.
There is a beautiful stained glass window in St. Mary’s beside the baptistery, which depicts the story from the Old Testament Book of Tobbit, with the archangel Raphael, leading the boy Tobias by the hand; – a reminder that we all have a guardian angel who is our protector, guide, friend and an aid to our spiritual wellbeing. Hence, angels are friends in our spiritual life.
In the third conference Fr. Goaddard focused on ‘Friends in the Spiritual World’, with special emphasis on the Souls in Purgatory. These souls constitute the ‘Church Suffering’ and, although destined eventually for heaven, are in the process of purging their imperfections and making reparation for whatever portion of the temporal punishment due for their sins was not satisfied before death. Once this is accomplished, these souls join the ‘Church Triumphant’ who behold the beatific vision of heaven.
Souls in purgatory can no longer merit for themselves and rely on those on earth, the ‘Church Militant’. St. Augustine teaches there are three ways we can assist them: offering Mass for them; offering prayers for them, especially indulgenced prayers and offering alms, for example in the ‘Holy Souls envelopes’ We do this particularly during the month of November when we pray for our dead. In St. Mary’s Church in Ryde, the faithful also pray specifically for the souls in purgatory when they recite the ‘Dolours Rosary’ before the Statue of Our Lady of Sorrows at the back of the church.
Father went on to describe the ‘Heroic Act’. This act is the complete offering to God of all the value of a person’s prayers and good works as well as the value of any that may be offered for that person after death. The intention is that God should use these for benefit of the souls in purgatory, rather than for the person who has offered them. Those who have made the Heroic Act may still pray for themselves, friends and other intentions. The Heroic Act is not a vow and can be taken back at any time. By making this act with purity of intention, the person is relying on the mercy of God and the prayers of the Communion of Saints to assist her/his soul after death. The Heroic Act was approved by Pope Benedict XIII (1724-1730)
When the souls in purgatory are released and reach heaven, they will surely pray for those on earth who prayed for their release.
This Day of Recollection was well attended, especially on a cold and wet January day. Fr. Goddard heard Confessions during Exposition, whilst the people recited the rosary; and concluded by offering Holy Mass. Afterwards, Father was able to bless some homes with Epiphany water.