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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

"Clothed with power from above" (Lk 24:49) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Prayer of the Month

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All Saints Day

All Saints Day, the day on which Catholics celebrate all the saints, known and unknown, is a surprisingly old feast that arose out of the Christian tradition of celebrating the martyrdom of saints on the anniversary of their martyrdom. When martyrdoms increased during the persecutions of the late Roman Empire, local dioceses instituted a common feast day in order to ensure that all martyrs, known and unknown, were properly honored.

The current date of November 1 was instituted by Pope Gregory III (731-741), when he consecrated a chapel to all the martyrs in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome and ordered an annual celebration. This celebration was originally confined to the diocese of Rome, but Pope Gregory IV (827-844) extended the feast to the entire Church and ordered it to be celebrated on November 1.

First Sunday of Advent

The season of Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of Christ at Christmas. The start of the liturgical year in the Roman Catholic Church begins on a different date each year.

By the middle of the sixth century, Christians had begun to observe Advent, the season of preparation for Christmas, with fasting; and the 12 days of Christmas, from Christmas Day to Epiphany, had become established.

Immaculate Conception

Many wrongly believe that the Feast of the Immaculate Conception celebrates the conception of Christ in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. That the feast occurs only 17 days before Christmas should make the error obvious.The Annunciation of the Lord is celebrated exactly nine months before Christmas; it was at the Annunciation, when the Blessed Virgin Mary humbly accepted the honor bestowed on her by God and announced by the angel Gabriel, that the conception of Christ took place.

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception goes back to the seventh century, when churches in the East began celebrating the Feast of the Conception of Saint Anne, the mother of Mary. In other words, this feast celebrates the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the womb of Saint Anne; and nine months later, on September 8, we celebrate the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

On December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX officially declared the Immaculate Conception a dogma of the Church, which means that all Christians are bound to accept it as true. As the Holy Father wrote in the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus, "We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful."

Christmas

The word Christmas derives from the combination of Christ and Mass; it is the feast of the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Second in the liturgical calendar only to Easter, Christmas is celebrated by many as if it were the most important of Christian feasts.

People are often surprised to find that Christmas was not celebrated by the earliest Christians. The custom was to celebrate a saint's birth into eternal life — in other words, his death. Thus Good Friday (Christ's death) and Easter Sunday (His Resurrection) took centre stage.

To this day, the Church celebrates only three birthdays: Christmas; the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary; and the Birth of John the Baptist. The common thread in the celebrations is that all three were born without sin:

Christ, because He was the Son of God; Mary, because she was sanctified by God in the Immaculate Conception; and John the Baptist, because his leap in the womb of his mother, Elizabeth, at the Visitation is seen as a type of Baptism (and thus, even though John was conceived with Original Sin, he was cleansed of that sin before birth)

While Christmas may have been celebrated in Egypt as early as the third century, it did not spread throughout the Christian world until the middle of the fourth century. It was first celebrated along with Epiphany, on January 6; but slowly Christmas was separated out into its own feast, on December 25. Many of the early Church Fathers regarded this as the actual date of Christ's birth.

Assumption of Mary

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her earthly life is a defined dogma of the Catholic Church. The Feast of the Assumption, celebrated every year on August 15, is a very old feast of the Church, celebrated universally by the sixth century. It commemorates the death of Mary and her bodily assumption into Heaven, before her body could begin to decay - a foretaste of our own bodily resurrection at the end of time. Because it signifies the Blessed Virgin's passing into eternal life, it is the most important of all Marian feasts and a holy day of obligation.

The feast was originally celebrated in the East, where it is known as the Feast of the Dormition, a word which means "the falling asleep." The earliest printed reference to the belief that Mary's body was assumed into heaven dates from the fourth century, in a document entitled "The Falling Asleep of the Holy Mother of God." The document recounts, in the words of the Apostle John, to whom Christ on the Cross had entrusted the care of His mother, the death, laying in the tomb, and assumption of the Blessed Virgin.Tradition places Mary's death at Jerusalem or at Ephesus, where John was living.

On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII, exercising papal infallibility, declared in "Munificentissimus Deus" that it is a dogma of the Church "that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory."

As a dogma, the Assumption is a required belief of all Catholics; anyone who publicly dissents from the dogma, Pope Pius declared, "has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith."

Corpus Christi

The Feast of Corpus Christi, or the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (as it is often called today), goes back to the 13th century, but it celebrates something far older: the institution of the Sacrament of Holy Communion at the Last Supper. While Holy Thursday is also a celebration of this mystery, the solemn nature of Holy Week, and the focus on Christ's Passion on Good Friday, overshadows that aspect of Holy Thursday.

For centuries after the celebration was extended to the universal Church, the feast was also celebrated with a Eucharistic procession, in which the Sacred Host was carried throughout the town, accompanied by hymns and litanies. The faithful would venerate the body of Christ as the procession passed by. In recent years, this practice has almost disappeared, though some parishes still hold a brief procession around the outside of the parish church.

Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday is celebrated a week after Pentecost Sunday in honor of the most fundamental of Christian beliefs—belief in the Holy Trinity. We can never fully understand the mystery of the Trinity, but we can sum it up in the following formula: God is three persons in one nature. The three persons of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — are all equally God, and They cannot be divided.

The origins of the celebration of Trinity Sunday goes all they way back to the Arian heresy of the fourth century, when Arius denied the divinity of Christ by denying that there are three Persons in God. To stress the doctrine of the Trinity, the Fathers of the Church composed prayers and hymns that were recited on Sundays as part of the Divine Office, the official prayer of the Church. Eventually, a special version of this office began to be celebrated on the Sunday after Pentecost, and the Church in England, at the request of St. Thomas à Becket (1118-1170), was granted permission to celebrate Trinity Sunday. The celebration of Trinity Sunday was made universal by Pope John XXII (1316-34).

Pentecost Sunday

Fifty days after Easter Sunday, Pentecost Sunday is one of the most ancient feasts of the Church, celebrated early enough to be mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (20:16) and St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians (16:8).

It is the 50th day after Easter (if we count both Easter and Pentecost), and it supplants the Jewish feast of Pentecost, which took place 50 days after the Passover and which celebrated the sealing of the old covenant on Mount Sinai.

The Acts of the Apostles recounts the story of the original Pentecost as well (Acts 2). Jews from all over were gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish feast. On that Sunday, ten days after the Ascension of Our Lord, the Apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary were gathered in the Upper Room, where they had seen Christ after His Resurrection: And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues of fire, and it sat upon every one of them: And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with diverse tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak. [Acts 2:2-4]

Christ had promised His Apostles that He would sent His Holy Spirit, and, on Pentecost, they were granted the gifts of the Spirit. The Apostles began to preach the Gospel in all of the languages that the Jews who were gathered there spoke, and about 3,000 people were converted and baptised that day.

That is why Pentecost is often called "the birthday of the Church." On this day, with the descent of the Holy Spirit, Christ's mission is completed, and the new covenant is inaugurated.

Ascension

Forty days after Easter Sunday marks the Ascension of Jesus Christ. The Ascension, which occurred 40 days after Jesus Christ rose from the dead on Easter, is the final act of our redemption that Christ began on Good Friday. On this day, the risen Christ, in the sight of His apostles, ascended bodily into Heaven (Luke 24:51; Mark 16:19; Acts 1:9-11). The reality of the Ascension is so important that the Apostles' Creed affirms that "He ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead." The denial of the Ascension is as grave a departure from Christian teaching as is denial of Christ's Resurrection. Christ's bodily Ascension foreshadows our own entrance into Heaven not simply as souls, after our death, but as glorified bodies, after the resurrection of the dead at the final judgment. In redeeming mankind, Christ not only offered salvation to our souls but began the restoration of the material world itself to the glory that God intended before Adam's fall.

The Feast of the Ascension marks the beginning of the first novena, or nine days of prayer. Before His Ascension, Christ promised to send the Holy Spirt to His apostles. Their prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit, which began on Ascension Thursday, ended with the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday, ten days later.

Today, Catholics recall that first novena by praying the Novena to the Holy Ghost between Ascension and Pentecost, asking for the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Divine Mercy Sunday

The Feast of Divine Mercy, celebrated on the Octave of Easter (the Sunday after Easter Sunday), is a relatively new addition to the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar. Celebrating the Divine Mercy of Jesus Christ, as revealed by Christ Himself to Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, this feast was extended to the entire Catholic Church by Pope John Paul II on April 30, 2000, the day that he canonised Saint Faustina.

A plenary indulgence (the forgiveness of all temporal punishment resulting from sins that have already been confessed) is granted on the Feast of Divine Mercy to all the faithful who go to Confession, receive Holy Communion, pray for the intentions of the Holy Father, and "in any church or chapel, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, take part in the prayers and devotions held in honour of Divine Mercy, or who, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (e.g. 'Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!')." A partial indulgence (the remission of some temporal punishment from sin) is granted to the faithful "who, at least with a contrite heart, pray to the merciful Lord Jesus a legitimately approved invocation."

Easter Sunday

Easter is the greatest feast in the Christian calendar. On this Sunday, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. For Catholics, Easter Sunday comes at the end of 40 days of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving known as Lent. Through spiritual struggle and self-denial, we prepare ourselves to die spiritually with Christ on Good Friday, the day of His crucifixion, so that we can rise again with Him in new life on Easter. Easter is a day of celebration because it represents the fulfillment of our faith as Christians.

Holy Saturday

Also known as the Easter Vigil (a name more properly applied to the Mass on Holy Saturday night), Holy Saturday has had a long and varied history. As the Catholic Encyclopedia notes, "in the early Church this was the only Saturday on which fasting was permitted." Fasting is a sign of penance, but on Good Friday, Christ paid with His own Blood the debt of our sins. Thus, for many centuries, Christians regarded both Saturday and Sunday, the day of Christ's Resurrection, as days on which fasting was forbidden.

As on Good Friday, there is no Mass offered for Holy Saturday. The Easter Vigil Mass, which takes place after sundown on Holy Saturday, properly belongs to Easter Sunday, since liturgically, each day begins at sundown on the previous day. Unlike on Good Friday, when Holy Communion is distributed at the afternoon liturgy commemorating Christ's Passion, on Holy Saturday the Eucharist is only given to the faithful as viaticum—that is, only to those in danger of death, to prepare their souls.

Good Friday

Good Friday, the Friday before Easter, commemorates the passion and death of Jesus Christ on the cross. No Mass is celebrated on Good Friday; instead, the Church celebrates a special liturgy in which the account of the Passion according to the Gospel of John is read, a series of intercessory prayers (prayers for special intentions) are offered, and the faithful venerate the cross by coming forward and kissing it. The Good Friday liturgy concludes with the distribution of Holy Communion. Since there was no Mass, hosts that were reserved from the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday are distributed instead. Good Friday is a day of strict fasting and abstinence.

Holy Thursday

The Thursday before Easter Sunday, Holy Thursday is the day that Christ celebrated the Last Supper with His disciples, four days after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Only hours after the Last Supper, Judas would betray Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, setting the stage for Christ's Crucifixion on Good Friday.

This feast, however, is more than just the lead-in to Good Friday; it is, in fact, the oldest of the celebrations of Holy Week. And with good reason: Holy Thursday is the day that Catholics commemorate the institution of the three pillars of the Catholic faith: the Sacrament of Holy Communion, the Priesthood, and the Mass. During the Last Supper, Christ blessed the bread and wine with the very words that Catholic and Orthodox priests use today to consecrate the body and the blood of Christ during the Mass and the Divine Liturgy. In telling His disciples to "Do this in remembrance of Me," He instituted the Mass and made them the first priests. After Judas had departed, Christ said to His disciples, "A new commandment I give unto you: that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another." The Latin word for commandment, 'mandatum' became the source for another name for Holy Thursday: Maundy Thursday.

On Holy Thursday, the priests gather with bishops to consecrate holy oils, which are used throughout the year for the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, and the Anointing of the Sick. This ancient practice, which goes back to the fifth century, is known as the Chrism Mass ("chrism" is a mixture of oil and balsam used for the holy oils) and stresses the role of the bishop as a successor to the apostles. Only one Mass other than the Chrism Mass is celebrated on Holy Thursday in each church: the Mass of the Lord's Supper, which is celebrated after sundown.It commemorates the institution of the Sacrament of Holy Communion, and it ends with the removal of the body of Christ from the tabernacle in the main body of the church. The Eucharist is carried in procession to another place where it is kept overnight, to be distributed during the commemoration of the Lord's Passion on Good Friday. After the procession, the altar is stripped bare, and all bells in the church are silent until the Gloria at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday.

Palm Sunday

The Sunday before Easter Sunday, Palm Sunday commemorates the triumphal entrance of Christ into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-9), when palm branches were placed in His path, before His arrest on Holy Thursday and His Crucifixion on Good Friday. It thus marks the beginning of the Holy Week.

Beginning in the fourth century in Jerusalem, Palm Sunday was marked by a procession of the faithful carrying palm branches, representing the Jews who celebrated Christ's entrance into Jerusalem. The procession begin in each church with the blessing of palms, proceed outside the church, and then returns to the church for the reading of the Passion according to the Gospel of Matthew. The faithful continue to hold the palms during the reading of the Passion. In this way, they recall that many of the same people who greeted Christ with shouts of joy on Palm Sunday called for His death on Good Friday - a powerful reminder of our own weakness and sinfulness that rejects Christ. The faithful traditionally decorate their houses with the palms from Palm Sunday, and palms are woven into crosses that are placed on home altars or other places of prayer. Since the palms have been blessed, they should not simply be discarded; rather, the faithful return them to their local parish in the weeks before Lent, to be burned and used as ashes for Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, the season of preparation for the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. Ash Wednesday always falls 46 days before Easter. While Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation, all Roman Catholics are encouraged to attend Mass on this day in order to mark the beginning of the Lenten season.

During Mass, the ashes (which give Ash Wednesday its name) are distributed.

The ashes are made by burning the blessed palms that were distributed the previous year on Palm Sunday; many churches ask their parishioners to return any palms that they took home so that they can be burned.

After the priest blesses the ashes and sprinkles them with holy water, the faithful come forward to receive them. The priest dips his right thumb in the ashes and, making the Sign of the Cross on each person's forehead, says, "Remember, man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return".

Ash Wednesday calls us to repentance. The ashes that we receive reminds us of our own sinfulness, and many Catholics leave them on their foreheads all day as a sign of humility. The Church emphasises the penitential nature of Ash Wednesday by calling us to fast and abstain from meat.

Solemnity of Mary

 

A very important Roman Catholic feast is celebrated on the Octave (eighth day) of Christmas - January 1: the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.

It is a holy day of Obligation when we are reminded that Christ's birth was made possible by the Blessed Virgin's fiat: "Be it done unto me according to thy word."

One of the earliest titles given by Christians to Mary was Theotokos -"Mother of God." In bearing Christ, Mary bore the fullness of the Godhead within her.

As we begin another year, we draw inspiration from the selfless love of the Theotokos and trust in her prayers to God for us, that we might, as the years pass, become more like her.

 
Divine Updates

37th National Youth Retreat

Our annual National Youth Retreat will be held at the Divine Retreat Centre. Come and let the word of God refresh you. Simultaneous retreats for couples, children and Bible nursery to be held. Contact Divine Youth for more details.

Date: May 14 - 19, 2017

Kannada Convention 2017

Divine Retreat Centre will conduct our annual Kannada convention next week. The convention will be blessed by the vibrant preaching of Fr. Mathew Naickomparambil, Fr. Augustine Vallooran and Fr Mathew Elavunkal, among many other servants of God. Please come.

Date: May 7 - May 12, 2017

Konkani Convention - Kuttumbutsov 2017

Divine Retreat Centre's annual Konkani Convention will be held at the centre. The convention will be led by Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC, Director. Talks to focus mainly on the renewal of the family. All are welcome.

Date: April 23 - April 28, 2017

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 2017 - December, 2017

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, 2017

POWER 2017 at Divine Retreat Centre

DRC is back with the highlight of the year: the 11th International Youth Conference - POWER 2017. 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. Couples' retreat and children's retreat will be held simultaneously. Don't miss it.

Date: July 23 - July 28, 2017

Hindi Convention Ojas 2017

The Divine Retreat Centre will conduct our seventh Hindi convention in 2017. Two retreats will be held simultaneously on the campus; one for adults/couples and another for youth. All are welcome.

Date: May 28 - June 2, 2017

Divine Retreat in California

Answer God's call and experience His burning love for you. A two-day retreat to be led by Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC, in California. All are welcome.

Dates: March 28 & 29, 2017

Divine Lenten Retreats in New York and Texas

Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC, along with Glen and Teresa La'Rive, will lead several Lenten retreats in the US. Please bring your family and friends.

Date: March 24 - 2 April, 2017

Lenten Retreat in Goa

Answer God's call and experience His burning love for you. A retreat to be led by Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC at the St. Francis Xavier Church, Duler, Mapusa, Goa.

Dates: March 17, 18 & 19, 2017

Divine Retreat Schedules

ENGLISH RETREATS

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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