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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

"Hallowed be Thy name"(Lk 11:2) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Prayer of the Month

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"YOU WILL KNOW THE TRUTH AND THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE" (John 8:32) - By Alan Fernandes, India

I was born and brought up in a Roman Catholic family. All that my Catholic faith meant to me was to go to Church every Sunday for mass, do my night prayers regularly, and if at all I had a problem- ask my mom to pray for me. Other than this, God did not mean much to me. I was a very ignorant Roman Catholic. I did not know the importance of understanding and meditating on the Bible and living the Word of God. Yet, I would carry a Bible with me wherever I went, in my bag, considering it holy! When I was around 25 years old, I started to work in a new company. During one of the breaks of the Induction programme, a girl noticing the Bible in my bag, started a conversation with me. She asked me a few questions about the Catholic faith: 1. What does the word "Amen" mean? (It is usually used at the end of every prayer) 2. When you say "Our Father in heaven, holy be your name", whose name are you making holy? Or in other words- What is the name of God whom you call the Father? 3. When you say the "Hail Mary" prayer- how can you call Mother Mary as the "Mother of God"? (Because God is the Holy Trinity according to the Catholic doctrine teachings, so how can she be the mother of all three?) I could not answer any of these questions as I was obviously ignorant since my grasp of the bible was limited to hearing the readings at Holy Mass. She said it was not enough that I carry the Bible with me but I should know what it says and what is written in it! She invited me to join what she called a "Bible Study" with her and her family. As I could not answer her, I was convinced that I should learn more about the Bible myself. Thus, I started to study the bible with them and later started to associate myself with their congregation. The bible study was very effective and interesting and everything seemed to be based on the Word of God. But I also noticed that there were many doctrinal differences to what the Catholic Church taught us. For example, this denomination (which is called the "Jehovah's Witnesses") did not believe that Jesus was "God", and that He was inferior to God the Father whom they called "Jehovah". They did not believe in the Holy Spirit as a "Person" but claimed Him to be only an active force of Jehovah God. Hence, the Holy Trinity was rejected completely. Besides, they would not celebrate Christmas, New Year, Easter or other Church celebrations. They had many rules in practicing their faith, To specify a few examples: They would not accept blood transfusions, nor celebrate birthdays, or be part of defense and tobacco related establishments, they do not marry outside their denomination, and will not involve themselves in politics. They based their rules (teachings) on the Scriptures. Moreover, they would not join any invitations of festivities of other religions. They would quote the Scriptures so well to justify their claim that other religions/denominations especially the Catholic Church were wrong – only their followers would have salvation and eternal life. . As I learnt the Scriptures with them, I was convinced about what they preached because there were scriptural quotes for everything they taught. I had nothing that I could fall back on to challenge their teachings because I did not have enough knowledge of the Bible and the Catholic Church's tradition to fully understand God's Word. I was like "...a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined." (Matthew 7:26-27) Totally convinced of their teachings, I got baptized as one of Jehovah's Witnesses (JW), I started to preach door-to-door that if anyone needed to be saved they had to be part of our denomination (JW). The leaders ensured that the followers were adequately trained to pass on their message depending on the person's religious background, job profile, likes and dislikes and so forth. This was part of their training at what they called the Theocratic Ministry School. I wanted my parents to be ‘saved' as I love them! Hence, I started to make them understand the Scriptures from my new faith perspective slowly and steadily. But my parents were very pious Roman Catholics. One day, they made me sit in front of them and told me two things bluntly but with a lot of love. Firstly, they said they had brought me up in the Catholic faith, educated me and they loved me very much. Now that I was mature enough to make my own decisions and had moved out of the Catholic faith, they said they respected this decision. Nevertheless, they said the doors of the house would always be open to me! Secondly, they urged me not to preach about the Scriptures to them. They said - "We are born in the Catholic Church and we will die in the Catholic Church. At the near end of our lives, we will not like to or want to change our faith" (Romans 14:8). The deep love and non-judgemental Catholic faith of my parents caused a sudden jolt to my own plans of evangelizing them to the Jehovah Witness faith. The thoughts that God inspired me then were – If God is a God of Love (1 John 4:8), why will He not save my parents just because they are not part of a denomination called the ‘Jehovah's Witnesses'? After all, they have tried to live righteous lives, helped the Church in ministry work and often tried to help the poor. How can we judge that they will not be saved because they are Roman Catholics? Also, in the Word of God, Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus commanded His Apostles: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." I began to look deeper into which faith has the Truth of God. The Jehovah Witness faith started only in the year 1879 with a small bible study group which eventually grew into an organization. What was the connection of Jesus' commandment made 2000 years ago to 1879? I found it very difficult to comprehend that Jesus could have been sleeping for 18 long centuries and now has decided that the True Church should be the Jehovah Witness! I was in an utter state of confusion! There were reasons for this confusion. On one hand, I could see the true love was practiced in the Catholic Church because all those Catholics who knew that I had moved out of the Church, still loved me the same way as I was and respected me as much. Their attitude constantly reminded me of St. Paul's writing to the Church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians Chapter 13 when he speaks about the true characteristics of God's unconditional love for every person – including you and me!. But here was a denomination where, if I disassociate from them, they would not want to even look at my face! This approach was exactly opposite to Jesus' command of "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Matthew 5:45) But at the same time, what Scriptures I had learnt with the Jehovah Witness against the Catholic Church turned out to be a block as I believed that the Catholic Church was "scripturally wrong". I was hanging in between not knowing which faith was Jesus' true followers and was based on the Bible! I had lost all the faith I still had as a Roman Catholic and I was in a worse state now! It was at this point that I made an earnest prayer from the depth of my heart that "the Living God should Himself reveal to me about what faith to accept". God did answer my prayer! In His endless Mercy, Compassion and Love, I made a retreat at the Divine Retreat Centre. During the entire retreat, there was one Word of God that changed my entire being as a believer in Christ! On the confession day, Fr. Augustine Vallooran, preaching in-depth on the Sacrament of Confession, revealed the true meaning of the Scripture in John 20:19-23 and specifically John 20:23, "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain [the sins of] any, they are retained." God opened up my heart and mind to understand this Scripture verse which in fact is the greatest difference between the Roman Catholic Church and any other denomination. The Sacrament of Confession is based on the Word of God! And it was not practiced in the Jehovah Witness nor any other denomination in Christianity – yet it was crystal clear in the Holy Scriptures! I quickly realized my greatest mistake! I had never bothered to study the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the teachings that emanated from the Holy Scriptures and Traditions of the Church. To make an informed decision to leave the Catholic Church, I should have clearly understood the teachings of both faith – firstly of my own Catholic faith so that I could compare it to other denomination. The following bible verse was most apt for me - "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light." (Ephesians 5:14) Since then, God has helped me make a careful study of the Holy Scriptures of the Catholic Church, gave me opportunities to interact with the Bible Scholars involved in bible translations, enlightened me with His Holy Presence in the Blessed Sacrament, and brought me back to my Blessed Mother whom I had ceased to believe in. In fact, it was only after I started to pray the Rosary and believed in our Mother's intercession, that I received several revelations directly without even reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church! It has been a sweet spiritual journey for me the last 3 years. If today I have given up my job and serve the Lord full time at the Divine Retreat Centre, it is only because of the grace that God has convicted my heart totally that if any authority has interpreted the Holy Scriptures correctly, in totality, considering every minute detail of the Scripture, it is none other than the Roman Catholic Church Magisterium. There cannot be any other church/ denomination/ sect that has/can interpret the scriptures in the right manner as Jesus meant the Church He built to be. The sole task of giving the authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether it is in written form or in form of Tradition, is entrusted to the Church's Magisterium by our loving God. It is why the Catholic Church has stayed true to all of Jesus' teaching from the very beginning. Often we find the grass greener on the other side because we ourselves are weak and ignorant of our Catholic faith. The other denominations look organized, interesting, caring, religious, and strong on the Word of God. In fact, often we tend to look more into the human failings within the Church and blame it on the Catholic faith – an aspect which can be exploited by others convincingly because of our own ignorance of our faith. I thank God for this detour in my faith journey as it really made me search for Him and to know Him so that I can now live my Catholic faith fully. I have been to this other side- the so called "green" pasture - and I have come out with my final conclusion being on both sides- "THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH IS TRULY EVERGREEN"! I was born and brought up in a Roman Catholic family. All that my Catholic faith meant to me was to go to Church every Sunday for mass, do my night prayers regularly, and if at all I had a problem- ask my mom to pray for me. Other than this, God did not mean much to me. I was a very ignorant Roman Catholic. I did not know the importance of understanding and meditating on the Bible and living the Word of God. Yet, I would carry a Bible with me wherever I went, in my bag, considering it holy! When I was around 25 years old, I started to work in a new company. During one of the breaks of the Induction programme, a girl noticing the Bible in my bag, started a conversation with me. She asked me a few questions about the Catholic faith:

1. What does the word "Amen" mean? (It is usually used at the end of every prayer)

2. When you say "Our Father in heaven, holy be your name", whose name are you making holy? Or in other words- What is the name of God whom you call the Father?

3. When you say the "Hail Mary" prayer- how can you call Mother Mary as the "Mother of God"? (Because God is the Holy Trinity according to the Catholic doctrine teachings, so how can she be the mother of all three?)

I could not answer any of these questions as I was obviously ignorant since my grasp of the bible was limited to hearing the readings at Holy Mass. She said it was not enough that I carry the Bible with me but I should know what it says and what is written in it! She invited me to join what she called a "Bible Study" with her and her family. As I could not answer her, I was convinced that I should learn more about the Bible myself. Thus, I started to study the bible with them and later started to associate myself with their congregation. The bible study was very effective and interesting and everything seemed to be based on the Word of God. But I also noticed that there were many doctrinal differences to what the Catholic Church taught us.

For example, this denomination (which is called the "Jehovah's Witnesses") did not believe that Jesus was "God", and that He was inferior to God the Father whom they called "Jehovah". They did not believe in the Holy Spirit as a "Person" but claimed Him to be only an active force of Jehovah God. Hence, the Holy Trinity was rejected completely. Besides, they would not celebrate Christmas, New Year, Easter or other Church celebrations. They had many rules in practicing their faith, To specify a few examples: They would not accept blood transfusions, nor celebrate birthdays, or be part of defense and tobacco related establishments, they do not marry outside their denomination, and will not involve themselves in politics. They based their rules (teachings) on the Scriptures. Moreover, they would not join any invitations of festivities of other religions. They would quote the Scriptures so well to justify their claim that other religions/denominations especially the Catholic Church were wrong – only their followers would have salvation and eternal life. . As I learnt the Scriptures with them, I was convinced about what they preached because there were scriptural quotes for everything they taught. I had nothing that I could fall back on to challenge their teachings because I did not have enough knowledge of the Bible and the Catholic Church's tradition to fully understand God's Word. I was like "...a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined." (Matthew 7:26-27)

Totally convinced of their teachings, I got baptized as one of Jehovah's Witnesses (JW), I started to preach door-to-door that if anyone needed to be saved they had to be part of our denomination (JW). The leaders ensured that the followers were adequately trained to pass on their message depending on the person's religious background, job profile, likes and dislikes and so forth. This was part of their training at what they called the Theocratic Ministry School. I wanted my parents to be ‘saved' as I love them! Hence, I started to make them understand the Scriptures from my new faith perspective slowly and steadily. But my parents were very pious Roman Catholics. One day, they made me sit in front of them and told me two things bluntly but with a lot of love. Firstly, they said they had brought me up in the Catholic faith, educated me and they loved me very much. Now that I was mature enough to make my own decisions and had moved out of the Catholic faith, they said they respected this decision. Nevertheless, they said the doors of the house would always be open to me! Secondly, they urged me not to preach about the Scriptures to them. They said - "We are born in the Catholic Church and we will die in the Catholic Church. At the near end of our lives, we will not like to or want to change our faith" (Romans 14:8).

The deep love and non-judgemental Catholic faith of my parents caused a sudden jolt to my own plans of evangelizing them to the Jehovah Witness faith. The thoughts that God inspired me then were – If God is a God of Love (1 John 4:8), why will He not save my parents just because they are not part of a denomination called the ‘Jehovah's Witnesses'? After all, they have tried to live righteous lives, helped the Church in ministry work and often tried to help the poor. How can we judge that they will not be saved because they are Roman Catholics? Also, in the Word of God, Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus commanded His Apostles: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

I began to look deeper into which faith has the Truth of God. The Jehovah Witness faith started only in the year 1879 with a small bible study group which eventually grew into an organization. What was the connection of Jesus' commandment made 2000 years ago to 1879? I found it very difficult to comprehend that Jesus could have been sleeping for 18 long centuries and now has decided that the True Church should be the Jehovah Witness! I was in an utter state of confusion! There were reasons for this confusion. On one hand, I could see the true love was practiced in the Catholic Church because all those Catholics who knew that I had moved out of the Church, still loved me the same way as I was and respected me as much. Their attitude constantly reminded me of St. Paul's writing to the Church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians Chapter 13 when he speaks about the true characteristics of God's unconditional love for every person – including you and me!. But here was a denomination where, if I disassociate from them, they would not want to even look at my face! This approach was exactly opposite to Jesus' command of "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Matthew 5:45)

But at the same time, what Scriptures I had learnt with the Jehovah Witness against the Catholic Church turned out to be a block as I believed that the Catholic Church was "scripturally wrong". I was hanging in between not knowing which faith was Jesus' true followers and was based on the Bible! I had lost all the faith I still had as a Roman Catholic and I was in a worse state now! It was at this point that I made an earnest prayer from the depth of my heart that "the Living God should Himself reveal to me about what faith to accept".

God did answer my prayer! In His endless Mercy, Compassion and Love, I made a retreat at the Divine Retreat Centre. During the entire retreat, there was one Word of God that changed my entire being as a believer in Christ! On the confession day, Fr. Augustine Vallooran, preaching in-depth on the Sacrament of Confession, revealed the true meaning of the Scripture in John 20:19-23 and specifically John 20:23, "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain [the sins of] any, they are retained."

God opened up my heart and mind to understand this Scripture verse which in fact is the greatest difference between the Roman Catholic Church and any other denomination. The Sacrament of Confession is based on the Word of God! And it was not practiced in the Jehovah Witness nor any other denomination in Christianity – yet it was crystal clear in the Holy Scriptures! I quickly realized my greatest mistake! I had never bothered to study the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the teachings that emanated from the Holy Scriptures and Traditions of the Church. To make an informed decision to leave the Catholic Church, I should have clearly understood the teachings of both faith – firstly of my own Catholic faith so that I could compare it to other denomination.

The following bible verse was most apt for me - "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light."(Ephesians 5:14) Since then, God has helped me make a careful study of the Holy Scriptures of the Catholic Church, gave me opportunities to interact with the Bible Scholars involved in bible translations, enlightened me with His Holy Presence in the Blessed Sacrament, and brought me back to my Blessed Mother whom I had ceased to believe in. In fact, it was only after I started to pray the Rosary and believed in our Mother's intercession, that I received several revelations directly without even reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church!

It has been a sweet spiritual journey for me the last 3 years. If today I have given up my job and serve the Lord full time at the Divine Retreat Centre, it is only because of the grace that God has convicted my heart totally that if any authority has interpreted the Holy Scriptures correctly, in totality, considering every minute detail of the Scripture, it is none other than the Roman Catholic Church Magisterium. There cannot be any other church/ denomination/ sect that has/can interpret the scriptures in the right manner as Jesus meant the Church He built to be. The sole task of giving the authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether it is in written form or in form of Tradition, is entrusted to the Church's Magisterium by our loving God. It is why the Catholic Church has stayed true to all of Jesus' teaching from the very beginning.

Often we find the grass greener on the other side because we ourselves are weak and ignorant of our Catholic faith. The other denominations look organized, interesting, caring, religious, and strong on the Word of God. In fact, often we tend to look more into the human failings within the Church and blame it on the Catholic faith – an aspect which can be exploited by others convincingly because of our own ignorance of our faith. I thank God for this detour in my faith journey as it really made me search for Him and to know Him so that I can now live my Catholic faith fully.

I have been to this other side- the so called "green" pasture - and I have come out with my final conclusion being on both sides- "THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH IS TRULY EVERGREEN"!

 
Divine Updates

MAGNIFICAT in Chennai

Divine comes to Chennai with the 'Magnificat', on June 23, 2018. Fr. John Prince VC will lead the services. With special sessions for children.

Venue: Stella Maris College, Cathedral Road

Retreats at the Divine Retreat Centre, Somersby, Sydney

Divine Retreat Centre, Somersby to hold retreats throughout 2017. For bookings, email Fr Roni George, Director - drcsydney@gmail.com. Hurry, as admission is limited.

Date: January 2018 - December, 2018

Retreats in Divine Retreat Centre, UK

Divine Retreat Centre, Ramsgate UK, has announced several English and Malayalam language retreats to be led by Fr. George Panackal VC and Fr. Joseph Edattu VC. All are welcome.

Dates: Jan - Dec, 2018

POWER 2018 at Divine Retreat Centre

DRC is back with the highlight of the year: the 13th International Youth Conference - POWER 2018. The very best international preachers and gospel bands will be here to lead us into worship. Be there to experience a totally different atmosphere of prayer. A Couples' Retreat and a Kids' Retreat will be held simultaneously. Don't miss it.

Date: July 22 - July 27, 2018

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English retreats are held every week from Sunday to Friday. Special retreats are conducted for priests, religious and laity as well. Come and experience the Lord and grow in Him.

MALAYALAM RETREATS

Inner healing retreats, growth retreats, couples' retreats and youth retreats in Malayalam, are led by Fr. Mathew Elavumkal, Fr. Mathew Naickomparambil and Fr. Binoy Chackanikunnel.

OTHER LANGUAGES

Retreats in Konkani, Kannada, Tamil, Hindi and Telugu

Every week, retreats are held in five different regional languages of India, apart from in the local language - Malayalam. The retreats are led by Vincentian priests and supported by powerfully anointed laity of God.

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