September 13, 2019

Thanking God for Birthdays

On Monday, 26 August, I celebrated my forty seventh birthday. Every birthday is for me a splendid occasion to say thank you, forgive me and please help me.

The first word that spontaneously comes into my heart is thank you! I have alot of “thank yous”  to say to many people. First and foremost, obviously to the Father of mercies who chose me to serve Him in his vineyard. I wholeheartedly tell Him thank you for his constant loving care that He shows me. I thank Him for his steadfast love for me in always encouraging, admonishing and teaching me to become the consecrated person and priest according to His merciful heart.

My thank you also goes to many people who helped and are helping me in my journey to follow Christ, poor, chaste and obedient to his Father’s will. How much I am grateful to my Capuchin brothers for their continual helpful presence in my life as well as to loads of people that the Holy Spirit has guided my way during my vocation journey. Through all these people the Spirit shows me the Father’s loving and surprising designs for me and for them too. Thanks to these people I am also pruned by the Father in order that, through me, a sinner, He keeps doing abundant good fruit.

The second word that such an occasion puts on the lips of my heart is forgive me. Yes! I need to ask the Lord to forgive me when I was not attentive to His life-giving Word proclaimed to me during the Eucharist celebration, the liturgy of the hours or even through my incessant encounters with people, starting from my brothers in the fraternity to the least of my brothers and sisters, especially the sick at the hospital where I spend the majority of my earthly time. Most of all, I humbly ask the Father to forgive me for not letting him eradicate from me all that hinders his grace from working as it should— in and through me.

Recently, when looking at St. Faustina’s Diary, precisely at entry 1702, I was really touched by these strong words that, noneother than Jesus himself, spoke to her as well as to each and every priest and consecrated person.

“Towards the end of the Way of the Cross which I was making, the Lord Jesus began to complain about the souls of religious and priests, about the lack of love in chosen souls. I will allow convents and churches to be destroyed. I answered, “Jesus, but there are so many souls praising You in convents.” The Lord answered, That praise wounds My Heart, because love has been banished from convents. Souls without love and without devotion, souls full of egoism and self-love, souls full of pride and arrogance, souls full of deceit and hypocrisy, lukewarm souls who have just enough warmth to keep them alive: My Heart cannot bear this. All the graces that I pour out upon them flow off them as off the face of a rock. I cannot stand them, because they are neither good or bad. I called convents into being to sanctify the world through them. It is from them that a powerful flame of love and sacrifice should burst forth. And if they do not repent and become enkindled by their first love, I will deliver them over to the fate of this world…”

Hence, and in view of such a perfect soul screening from Our loving Lord Jesus Christ, I simply ask him to forgive me for the times I let egoism, self-love, pride, arrogance, deceit, hypocrisy and lukewarmness poison my Franciscan Capuchin call. And, at the same time, I also address my repentant plea by asking forgiveness to all those that I might have hurt due to my letting these evil traits have their best on me.

The third phrase that I feel I have to say to the Lord is: please help me. This phrase reminds me of a similar plea levelled at Jesus by a man who brought his son who was possessed by a dumb spirit. At first this man was terrorised by the manifestation of this evil spirit. The latter’s cruelty and rigidity led the man to transmit a rigid faith to Jesus. And it has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us (Mark 9:22). In front of such hesitant and fearful faith Jesus had no choice other than asserting  his legitimate authority. If you can! All things are possible to him who believes (Mk 9:23). Empowered by Jesus authority the father’s child immediately … cried out and said to Jesus: I believe; help my unbelief! (Mark 9:24).

A powerful resource that greatly helps me believe in Jesus’ statement, namely that all things are possible to those who believe in Him, is the Word of God itself. Mary, the first and the greatest disciple ever, teaches me this through what Elizabeth herself said of her: And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord (Luke 1:45).

As I see it, God is gifting my forty-seventh year of life by these encouraging scriptural verses:

  • For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope (Jer 29:11). 
  • Thou dost show me the path of life; in thy presence there is fulness of joy, in thy right hand are pleasures for evermore (Ps 16:11). 
  • Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act (Ps 37:4-5).

Such scriptural verses make me realize that God’s Word, as Pope Francis said, gives me “the courage to go out of ourselves”, and away from comfort and protection. God’s Word instills me with that much-needed courage to look to the others’ needs. Maybe that’s why, as my last Bible portion for my forty-seventh birthday, the Lord has given me the following verse: For he will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways (Ps 91:11).

And who are these angels, if not, as the Holy Father wrote to us priests on August 4, 2019 on the occasion of the hundred and sixty years of St. John Mary Vianney? “The holiness of the faithful People of God, whom we are called to shepherd and through whom the Lord also shepherds and cares for us”

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Written by
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap

FR MARIO ATTARD OFM Cap was born in San Gwann on August 26 1972. After being educated in governmental primary and secondary schools as well as at the Naxxar Trade School he felt the call to enter the Franciscan Capuchin Order. After obtaining the university requirements he entered the Capuchin friary at Kalkara on October 12 1993. A year after he was ordained a priest, precisely on 4 September 2004, his superiors sent him to work with patients as a chaplain first at St. Luke's Hospital and later at Mater Dei. In 2007 Fr Mario obtained a Master's Degree in Hospital Chaplaincy from Sydney College of Divinity, University of Sydney, Australia. Currently, he is one of the six chaplains working at Mater Dei Hospital. Furthermore, he is a regular contributor in the MUMN magazine IL-MUSBIEĦ and hosts radio programmes about the spiritual care of the sick.

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1 comment
  • A blessed belated birthday, Fr. Mario! Thank you for sharing your reflections with us. May God continue to shower graces upon you to strengthen you in your ministry and life.

Written by Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap
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