February 8.    Josephine Bakhita.  As a young girl she was sold on slave-markets in north Africa several times. Like other slaves she suffered indignity and abuse.  Eventually she was taken to Italy by a caring family where she converted to Christianity and later became a nun.  Because of and through their suffering some people are blessed with a particularly strong love of God for which she has been canonised.  Although there is much more awareness of human dignity and rights today human trafficking is a modern form of slavery conducted for financial gain in many countries and in many forms.   Women and girls, exploited and used as sex slaves, are particularly vulnerable. Suffering does help us to identify with Jesus and brings us closer to God.  However we are called to work for alleviation of all suffering.   O God, who led Saint Josephine Bakhita from abject slavery to the dignity of being your daughter and a bride of Christ, grant, we pray, that by her example we may show constant love for the Lord Jesus crucified, remaining steadfast in charity and prompt to show compassion. Collect for feast of St Josephine Bakhita.   Pope Francis:  The experience of mercy enables us to regard all human problems from the standpoint of God’s love.  MM 14

 February 10. Sunday 5C   World Marriage Day.  The parish marriage and family team had been planning a special liturgical event for this special Marriage Day to focus on the value of good marriages.  But they had found the response not what they had hoped for.  “Couples don’t seem to be very interested.  Are we doing this the right way, or planning the wrong kind of event?” James asked so they gathered to pray about it. “Why don’t we open it up wider and make it ‘Marriage Moments, past, present and future.’  That way we can involve everyone.”  Suddenly the project took off in a big way.  Jesus said to Simon, “Put out in the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And they enclosed a great shoal of fish.  Luke 5:1-11. Pope Francis:  As a social institution marriage protects and shapes a shared commitment to deeper growth in love and commitment to one another, for the good of society as a whole.   That is why marriage is more than a fleeting fashion; it is of enduring importance.  From AL131.     

February 11.   Our Lady of Lourdes.  Day of Prayer for the Sick.  Sickness is a normal part of family life. This they had always accepted and for many years the small illnesses were dealt with some anxiety but with patience and confidence.  When their 16year old developed multiple sclerosis it was very different. Fear, panic even, anger and impatience were stages the parents struggled through.  Her mom suggested they take the boy to Lourdes and even offered to pay and look after the other children.  It was an answer to the prayers of the whole extended family. There was no instant cure, but a growth in faith and acceptance that God was in control and all would be well.  Wherever he came in villages, cities or country they laid the sick in the market places and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment, and as many as touched it were made well. Mk 6:53-56.Pope Francis. Each child has a place in God’s heart from all eternity’ once he or she is conceived the Creator’s eternal dream comes true. Parents need to ask God for the wisdom fully top know their children and to accept them as they are. AL 168-170.    Also see Pope Francis Message for Day of Prayer for the Sick.

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