*Readings from Catholic St Josemaria Escriva’s ‘Christ is Passing By’

A life of faith is a life of sacrifice. Our christian vocation does not take us away from our place in the world, but it requires us to cast aside anything that would get in the way of God’s will. The light that has just begun to shine is only the beginning. We have to follow it if we want it to shine as a star, and then like the sun. St John Chrysostom writes: “While the Magi were in Persia, they saw only a star. But when they left their homes behind, they saw the Sun of justice. We can say that they would not have continued to see the star if they had remained in their own country. Let us then hasten too; and even if everyone stands in our way, let us run to that child’s home.”

“‘We have seen his star in the East, and have come to adore him.’ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled and all Jerusalem with him.” This scene is still repeated today. Faced with the greatness of God or with a person who has made up his mind — with a decision both deeply human and profoundly christian — to live up to the demands of his faith, there are people who find it strange and in their surprise they even get scandalized. It seems they are unable to countenance a way of life which does not fit into their limited earthly horizons. They smirk at the generous actions of those who have heard God’s call. They are frightened by such dedication, and in some cases that appear frankly pathological, they do all in their power to thwart the holy determination of those who with complete freedom have given themselves to God.

Prayer:   O Lord, lead me not into temptation.

O Lord, grant me good thoughts.  (Hourly prayers or St John Chrysostom)


On some occasions I have witnessed what could be called a general mobilisation against those committed to dedicating their whole lives to the service of God and souls. Some people think that our Lord ought to ask their permission before choosing others for his service. Apparently they believe man is not free to say an unequivocal yes or no to this proposal of Love. To people who think that way, the supernatural life of each soul is something secondary. They do believe it has to be reckoned with, but only after petty comforts and human selfishness have been accommodated. If this were the case, what would be left of Christianity? Are the loving but demanding words of Jesus only to be heard? Or are they rather to be heard and put into practice? Did he not say, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”?

Our Lord asks all men to come out to meet him, to become saints. He calls not only the Magi, the wise and powerful. Before that he had sent, not a star, but one of his angels to the shepherds in Bethlehem. Rich or poor, wise or less so, all of us have to foster in our hearts a humble disposition that will allow us to listen to the word of God.

Prayer:  O Lord, grant me tears, and remembrance of death, and compunction.

O Lord, grant me the thought of confessing my sins.


Take the case of Herod. He ranked among the powerful of this world and had the opportunity of availing himself of the help of the learned. “And assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.” His power and knowledge do not lead him to recognize God. In his hardened heart, power and knowledge are instruments for evil. His futile desire is to annihilate God, and he has only contempt for the life of innocent children.

Let us turn again to the Gospel. “They told him, In Bethlehem of Judah; for so it is written by the prophet: And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are by no means the least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel.” We should not overlook these expressions of God’s mercy. He who was to redeem the world is born in an insignificant little village. And the reason is, as Scripture tells us again and again, that God is not a respecter of persons. When he invites a soul to live a life fully in accordance with the faith, he does not set store by merits of fortune, nobility, blood or learning. God’s call precedes all merits. “The star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest where the child was.”

Prayer: O Lord, grant me humility, chastity, and obedience.

O Lord, grant me patience, courage, and meekness.



Vocation comes first. God loves us before we even know how to go toward him, and he places in us the love with which we can correspond to his call. God’s fatherly goodness comes out to meet us. Our Lord is not only just. He is much more: he is merciful. He does not wait for us to go to him. He takes the initiative, with the unmistakable signs of paternal affection.Vocation comes first. God loves us before we even know how to go toward him, and he places in us the love with which we can correspond to his call. God’s fatherly goodness comes out to meet us. Our Lord is not only just. He is much more: he is merciful. He does not wait for us to go to him. He takes the initiative, with the unmistakable signs of paternal affection.

If vocation comes first, if the star shines ahead to start us along the path of God’s love, it is illogical that we should begin to doubt if it chances to disappear from view. It might happen at certain moments in our interior life — and we are nearly always to blame — that the star disappears, just as it did to the wise kings on their journey. We have already realized the divine splendour of our vocation, and we are convinced about its definitive character, but perhaps the dust we stir up as we walk our miseries — forms an opaque cloud that cuts off the light from above.

Prayer:  O Lord, implant in me the root of good, Thy fear in my heart.

O Lord, vouchsafe me to love Thee with all my soul and thoughts, and in all things to do Thy will.


What should we do if this happens? Follow the example of those wise men and ask. Herod made use of knowledge to act unjustly. The Magi use it to do good. But we Christians have no need to go to Herod nor to the wise men of this world. Christ has given his Church sureness in doctrine and a flow of grace in the sacraments. He has arranged things so that there will always be people to guide and lead us, to remind us constantly of our way. There is an infinite treasure of knowledge available to us: the word of God kept safe by the Church, the grace of Christ administered in the sacraments and also the witness and example of those who live by our side and have known how to build with their good lives a road of faithfulness to God.

Allow me to give you a piece of advice. If ever you lose the clear light, always turn to the good shepherd. And who is the good shepherd? “He who enters by the door” of faithfulness to the Church’s doctrine and does not act like the hireling “who sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees”; whereupon “the wolf snatches them and scatters them.” Reflect on these divine words, which are not said in vain, and on the insistence of Christ who so affectionately speaks of shepherds and sheep, of sheepfold and flock, as a practical proof of the need that our soul has of good guidance.


Prayer: O Lord, protect me from evil men, and demons, and passions, and from every other unseemly thing.

O Lord, Thou knowest that Thou doest as Thou wilt: Thy will be done also in me a sinner; for blessed art Thou unto the ages. Amen.



“If there be no bad shepherds,” says St Augustine speaking about the good shepherd, “he would not have described the hireling, who sees the wolf and flees. He seeks his own glory, not Christ’s glory. He does not dare to rebuke sinners with freedom of spirit. The wolf catches a sheep by the neck, the devil induces a man to commit adultery. And you are silent and do not rebuke. Then you are a hireling because you have seen the wolf and have fled. Perhaps you might say: No, I’m here, I haven’t fled. I answer: You have fled because you have been silent, and you have been silent because you were afraid.”

The holiness of Christ’s Spouse has always been shown — as it can be seen today — by the abundance of good shepherds. But our christian faith, which teaches us to be simple, does not bid us be simple-minded. There are hirelings who keep silent, and there are hirelings who speak with words which are not those of Christ. That is why, if the Lord allows us to be left in the dark even in little things, if we feel that our faith is not firm, we should go to the good shepherd. He enters by the door as of right. He gives his life for others and wants to be in word and behaviour a soul in love. He may be a sinner too, but he trusts always in Christ’s forgiveness and mercy.

Prayer:     Lord if it be that I have done a good thing I thank Thee for by Thy Grace is has been done.


If your conscience tells you that you have committed a fault — even though it does not appear to be serious or if you are in doubt — go to the sacrament of penance. Go to the priest who looks after you, who knows how to demand of you a steady faith, refinement of soul and true christian fortitude. The Church allows the greatest freedom for confessing to any priest, provided he has the proper faculties; but a conscientious Christian will go — with complete freedom — to the priest he knows is a good shepherd, who can help him to look up again and see once more, on high, the Lord’s star.

Prayer:   Lord have mercy upon us, Christ have mercy upon us, Lord have mercy upon us.